1902 Encyclopedia > Evolution > Evolution in Philosophy: Metaphysical Interpretation: Prof. Clifford. Problems of Organic Evolution: G. H. Lewes. J. J. Murphy.

(Part 24)


Metaphysical Interpretation—Professor Clifford.—Of the very few who have dealt with the metaphysical interpretation of the scientific doctrine of evolution, Professor Clifford in themselves," published in Mind (No. ix.), as well as in other and earlier papers, Mr Clifford, starting from the basis of empirical idealism which asserts that material objects are nothing but states of consciousness, argues that reality answering to them to is in all cases something mental. Thus all existence—including what we call minds as well as bodies—consists in aggregates of elementary "mind stuff," the elements themselves corresponding to Mr Spencer’s units of feeling. The writer expressly argues that his idea of a continuity of mental existence through out the physical (phenomenal) world is the direct consequence of the doctrine of evolution. This theory is curious as providing a monistic and quasi-spiritualistic conception of evolution, which is at the same time a mechanical one.

Problems of Organic Evolution.—G. H. Lewes.—Among the writers who have worked on the lines laid down by our two great evolutionists, a high place must be given to Mr. G. H. Lewes, who in his biological and psychological writings, and more especially the Problems of Life and Mind, adopts a view of the relations of mind and life or organization closely resembling in its essentials that of Mr Spencer. To Mr Lewes consciousness is but a more complex form of mental life which is correlated with the actions of all the nervous centres, its lowest form being sentience. He appears to look on mind in all its grades as but the other side or face of the bodily processes which it accompanies. Yet he has not so far made use of this monistic conception in explaining the gradual evolution of conscious mental life. Indeed, though Mr Lewes’s writings are pervaded with the idea of organic evolution, his discussion of the nature and laws of organism in his last volume, The Physical Basis of Mind, might seem ever and again, by its sharp separation of organic and inorganic (mechanical) processes, to tell against the supposition of an evolution of life out of inorganic matter.

J. J. Murphy.—The question of the genesis of life and mind receives a peculiar treatment in Mr. J. J. Murphy’s Habit and Intelligence. In this work the teachings of the evolutionists are largely accepted, while an attempt is made to reconcile these with a teleological view of nature. The process of inorganic and of organic nature is each viewed as the result of mechanical principles, the latter is said to imply an intelligent or formative principle as well. Mechanical principles do indeed operate in organisms, this is the region of habit ; but over and above this, vital processes involved a controlling intelligence. The author adopts the hypothesis that the Creator endowed vitalized matter at the first with intelligence under the guidance of which it organized itself. Evolution is largely the result of this vital intelligent principle, only a small part being attributable to mechanical causes, such as natural selection.

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