1902 Encyclopedia > Evolution > Evolution in Philosophy: Mechanical Doctrines of Evolution. Lange. Noiré. Hartmann.

(Part 30)


Mechanical Doctrines of Evolution.—Over against these attempts to carry up a mechanical conception of evolution into a teleological must be set a number of works which content themselves, in the spirit of positive science, with expounding a doctrine of evolution on a strictly mechanical basis. Of these we may first mention C. Radenhausen (Isis), who, in his interesting work Der Mensch und die Welt, expounds the idea of a gradual evolution of the solar system, the earth, and organic life. In the growth of the individual man the past evolution of the world is represented. A temperate statement of the doctrine of modern evolution it to be found in Dr Ch. Wiener’s volume Die Grundzüge der Weltordnung. The problems of the origin of organic life and of the genesis of the nervous system are both said to be as yet insoluble. With this may be compared another interesting presentation of the doctrine of evolution,—namely, H. J. Klein’s Entwickelungs-geschichte des Kosmos. The mechanical causes of evolution are clearly set forth in a work of the Herbartian C. S. Cornelius, Ueber die Entstehung der Welt. Cornelius argues against Czolbe’s hypothesis of the past eternity of organic life. Organisms first arose under some quite special physical conditions. A very curious feature in this volume is the criticism of Mr Darwin’s doctrine of descent, which is said to involve mystical ideas, &c.

Lange.—Among later works touching on the problems of evolution the History of Materialism of Lange deserves mention here. Lange accepts the modern hypothesis of evolution, and justifies the mechanical conception of its various stages. It is true that in his criticism of Mr Darwin’s theory he assumed some internal formative principle (as held to by Nägeli and Kölliker) as supplementary to the factor of utility emphasized by Mr Darwin. Yet he does not appear to regard this process as other than a mode of mechanical action. Lange’s greatest difficulty in view of a consistent materialistic doctrine of evolution in view of a consistent materialistic doctrine of evolution is to explain the genesis of conscious life. The difficulty of the atomistic theory, even when we add a rudimentary sensibility to the elements, is to determine "where and how the transition is effected from the manifoldness of the collisions of the atoms to the unity of sensation." Lange supplements his mechanical view of the world by the Kantian conception of the adaptation of the world by reason of its generalities or uniformities to our intelligence. He argues, which Lotze, that in seeking to frame a theory of physical evolution we must always assume, over and above the eternal atoms, a special initial arrangement of these, without which the order of events would be inconceivable. This modest kind of teleology (he says) is not only not opposed to Mr Darwin’s doctrine ; it is its necessary pre-supposition. "The formal purposefulness of the world is nothing else than its adaptation to our understanding." Lange seems further disposed to accept Kant’s theory of organism as manifesting objective purpose, though he will not allow that this explains anything, all explanations being by way of the principle of mechanical causation.

Noiré.—In Ludwig Noiré we have a writer who accepts all the teaching of scientific evolutionists, and at the same time seeks to give to the doctrine a metaphysical and monistic interpretation. In his two volumes Die Welt als Entwickelung des Geistes and Der Monistische Gedanke, Noiré assumes the existence of elementary atoms or "modas" endowed with the twofold properties of motion and sensation. Time and space are not simply forms of intuition, but forms of appearance (Erscheinungsformen) of these fundamental properties. The process of evolution from the simple to the complex, has its ground in the latter property, sensation, which gives its direction to motion (which latter is unchangeable in amount), and which involves a tendency or impulse to further differentiation. The purposefulness of the process of evolution is due to its being the work of a mental principle (sensation). The formation of inorganic bodies is the preliminary step in the process, and involves an obscure mode of consciousness. The genesis of consciousness is said to be effected by means of a certain mode of collision among the atoms, though this point is not made very clear. Noiré doctrine of evolution appears to waver somewhat between a mechanical theory (atoms endowed with sensibility, but acting according to strictly mechanical laws) and a distinctly spiritualistic and teleological doctrine, and such as that of Schellling and Hartmann.

Hartmann.—The writings of E. von Hartmann have a special interest, as illustrating how Mr Darwin’s doctrine of organic development is regarded from point of view of a thorough-going metaphysical teleology. To Hartmann the world is a manifestation in time which is real as applying to activities of this principle—of an ontological principle, styled the unconscious, which is at once will and intelligence. The process of evolution, from the simplest material operations up to conscious human actions, depends on the progressive domination of will, which is the blind force, and answers to the mechanical aspect of the world, by intelligence, which gives to this force form and direction, and answers to the logical and teleological aspect of the world. The end of the process for which this unconscious makes is not, as Hegel says, self-consciousness, but non-existence, to which consciousness is the immediate precondition. Hartmann has devoted a separate volume to Mr Darwin’s theory (Wahrheit und Irrthum im Darwinismus), in which he shows himself disposed to accept the principle of natural selection as the mechanical means which the unconscious makes use of in order to effect a certain amount of the upward organic progress towards which it strives.

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