1902 Encyclopedia > Evolution > Combination of Mechanical and Teleological View of Evolution. Czolbe. G. T. Fechner. Lotze.

(Part 29)


Combination of Mechanical and Teleological View of Evolution.—After the materialist we come to a number of writers, who, under the influence of advancing physical and physiological science, have sought to construct at mechanical conception of the order of the world. Some of these have contended themselves with sketching a natural history of the cosmos, others, have connected their mechanical conception with peculiar philosophical ideas.

Czolbe.—A curious combination of the mechanical and teleological conceptions of the world is to be met with in the system of Czolbe. In his first works, Die neue Darstellung des Sensualismus and Die Entstehung des SelbstBewusstsein’s, Czolbe regards the world as a product of elementary matter and organic forms both of which are eternal. According to this view, sensation and consciousness are products of particular combinations of movements (circular). To these two original principles he adds, later on, feelings and sensations themselves, which exist in a latent state throughout space, and form a kind of world-soul. Still later, he finds the substantial support of atoms and sensations alike in space, in which feelings are located no less than the material elements. To Czolbe our visible world, together with conscious minds, is thus a mosaic formed out of these elements, which group themselves according to mechanical laws in bodies and conscious minds. He thus adopts a theory of natural evolution which evades the difficulty of explaining the organic as a product of the inorganic, and mind as a product of matter. But he only achieves this by assuming the eternity of all organic forms, and by conceiving of the elementary sensations as themselves spatial or "extensional." Though the mechanical view of the world-order is most prominent in Czolble, he combines with this a teleological and optimistic view, according to which all things make for the greatest possible perfection of conditioned happiness in every sentient creature.

G. T. Fechner.—Another writer who combines the mechanical view of the world with a curious metaphysical system is G.T. Fechner. Passing by his earlier works, in which he develops his idea of the world as a gradation of souls (including those of plants, an earth spirit. &c.), we may best turn to his later work Einige Ideen zur Schöpfungs-und Entwickelungs-Geschichte der’ Organismen. Fechner takes a thoroughly mechanical view of the difference between organic and inorganic matter. But by help of this very difference he seeks to prove that the latter is a product of the former, and not conversely. The great law which determines the evolution of the world is the tendency to greater and greater stability, which law at once supplies a mechanical and a teleological conception of the universe. Organic bodies differ from inorganic in that their molecules are in a less stable condition in that their molecules Hence we must suppose that the original source of the

FOOTNOTE (p.767)

5 See especially an article on "Cosmic Emotion," in the Nineteenth Century, October 1877.

material world is an organism, namely a primitive "cosmorganic" condition of our earth. This primitive matter has gradually differentiated itself into the regions of the organic and the inorganic, and the former again into the animal and vegetable and vegetable kingdoms. Consciousness was breathed into the cosmorganic matter by the Creator and so presses out, as though from the bellows of an organ, into all living creatures. This process of evolution is directed towards an end, namely the greatest possible degree of mutual adaptation of parts, or the most stable condition ; and conscious action is but the subjective side of this tendency.1

Lotze.—The mechanical view of the world, as wrought out by modern science, fully recognized and yet surmounted in the cosmological doctrine put forth by Hermann Lotze in his Mikrokosmus. Lotze defends the mechanical method as applicable to all departments of phenomena, and insists on this way of viewing organic processes. At the same time he holds that the mechanical interpretation of nature is limited at every point. The inadequacy of this view may be seen in the attempt to apply it to the question of the genesis of the world and its order. On the one hand, Lotze accepts the teachings of modern speculation respecting the evolution of the solar system, the genesis of the organic out of the inorganic, the continuity of man with the lower animal world ; and his exposition and defence of this idea of evolution as the result of mechanical laws is extremely able and interesting. Again Lotze seeks to bridge over the gulf between material and spiritual evolution by bringing human development into close relation to the processes of nature as a whole. Yet, while thus doing justice to the mechanical conception of the gradual genesis of the world, Lotze strenuously affirms the limitations of this kind of explanation. In the first place, he maintains that the mechanical processes themselves cannot be understood except by help of ideas respecting the real internal nature of the elements cercerned. This nature he described as life, and thus he endows all parts of matter with feeling (though he distinctly rejects Czolbe’s idea of a world-soul which includes these feelings)., In this internal activity Lotze finds a teleological element, viz., a striving towards self-preservation and development. This idea he seeks to blend with that of mechanical relations among the elements, so as to make the whole upward process of physical evolution the product of purposeful impulses. Thus the first genesis of organisms is represented as a combination of elements (accidentally meeting), through which there is effected a summation of the separate ends of the elements, to a purposeful equilibrium of a composite whole.2 This may be called the first stage of his teleology. In addition to this, Lotze looks at the world-process as a gradual unfolding of a creative spiritual principle, which is sometimes figuratively describes as the world-soul, more commonly, however, as the infinite substance. This assumption, he says, is necessitated by the very process of cosmic evolution, the absolute beginning and end of which we are wholly unable to conjecture. However far back the evolutionist may go he always has to assume some definite arrangement of parts,—some general laws of action of which he can give no account. The conception of the atomists, that in the beginning of things there was an indefinite number of possibilities, is unthinkable, and the modern doctrine of evolution, by conceiving of the existing world as a survival of certain from among many others actually produced, but lacking in the conditions of stability, plainly makes no such absurd supposition. Hence, there must always be a certain order to be accounted for, and science is wholly inadequate to effect this explanation. This conducts to a teleological view of the world-process, as directed by mind towards some end which we cannot distinctly recognize. Lot’ze criticisms of previous attempts to formulate the end of the world-process are not the least valuable part of his discussion of the problems of evolution. He shows that neither the notion of a progressive effort towards the highest unfolding of mental life, nor that of an impulse towards the greatest variety of manifestations of one and the same fundamental form, adequately represents the order of organic forms. Here Lotze shows again a due recognition of the mechanical aspect of the world-process, and argues that the evolution of the organic world is no immediate consequence of the self-evolving ideas, but only form in which the commands of these ideas are capable of being realized on our earth,—that is to say, with our terrestrial conditions. A somewhat similar view of cosmic and organic evolution, as at once a mechanical and a teleological process is to be found in Ulrici’s Gott und die Natur.

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