The Faith of the Millions (2nd series)
by George Tyrrell
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It was only towards the close of last century when scepticism was beginning to reach the very root from which the Christian apologetic sprang, and the former philosophic methods had themselves fallen in disrepute, that the necessity of accommodating the remedy to the disease began to be recognized here and there, and of framing an argument that would appeal to the perverse and erratic mind of the day, rather than to an abstract and perfectly normal mind, which, if it existed, would "need no repentance." That a given medicine is the best, avails nothing if it be not also one which the patient is willing to take. If a man has closed his teeth against everything that savours of scholasticism, we must either abandon him or else see if there be any among the methods he will submit to, which may in any wise serve our purpose. And, indeed, among the jangle of philosophies there is surely in all something that is a common heritage of the human mind, a unity which a little skill can detect lurking under that diversity of form which unfortunately it is the delight of most men to emphasize. To suppose that Christianity is pledged to more than this common substratum which none deny, except through verbal confusion, that there is no road to faith but through what is peculiar to scholasticism, or that my first step in converting a man to Christ must be to convert him to Aristotle, is about as intelligent as to suppose that because the Church has adopted Latin as her official language she means to discredit every other.

It was then with a view of meeting the exigencies of the world as it is, not as it might or ought to have been, that such a work as the Genie du Christianisme strove to find an apologetic in what previously had been regarded as outside the domain of theology and more properly the concern of the preacher. The beauty, the solace, the adaptation to our higher needs of Christian teaching had been one thing; its truth, quite another. By dilating eloquently on the first, men might be won to the love of such an ideal, to wish that it might be true; and then disposed to profit by the distinct and independent labours of the apologist whose theme was, not the utility or beauty of the Catholic religion, but solely its truth.

But now that the "scholastic" [1] apologetic was in disgrace with all but those who stood least in need of it, some more acceptable method had to be sought out, and amongst many others there was that of Chateaubriand, which strove to find an argument for the intellect in the very appeal which Christianity made to the will and affections. Because a religion is fair and much to be desired, because, if true, it would give unity and meaning to man's higher cravings, and turn human life from a senseless chaos into an intelligible whole, therefore, and for this reason, it is true.

It is hardly wonderful that such a method should incur the charge of sentimentalism. "It would be so nice to believe it, therefore it must be true," sounds like a shameless abandonment of reasonableness. The fact that a belief is "consoling," quite independently of its truth or falsehood, creates a bias towards its acceptance. That it is pleasant to believe oneself very clever and competent will incline one to that belief until something important depends, not on our thinking ourselves so, but on our being so. Before an examination, the wish to succeed will make me sceptical about my prospects, much as I should like to think them the brightest; afterwards, when self-deception can only console and can do no harm, I shall be credulous of any flattery that is offered me. In one case, my interest depends upon the facts, and therefore the wish to believe makes me critical and even sceptical; in the other, on my belief concerning the facts, and the wish to believe, makes me uncritical and credulous.

It was seemingly a bold and hazardous venture to justify this same credulity, and to affirm that an argument could be drawn from the wish to believe in just those cases where its influence would seem most suspicious; yet this was practically what the new apologetic amounted to. It was an argument from the utility of beliefs to their truth; from the fact that certain subjective convictions produced good results, to the correspondence of such convictions with objective reality. The advantages to the individual and to society of a firm belief in God the righteous Judge, in the sanction of eternal reward and penalty, in the eventual adjustment of all inequalities, in the reversible character of sin through repentance, in the divine authority of conscience, of Christianity, of the Catholic Church, are to a great extent independent of the truth of those beliefs. No amount of hypnotic suggestion will enable a man to subsist upon cinders, under the belief that they are a very nutritious diet; for the effect depends upon their actual nature, and not wholly upon his belief concerning their nature; but the salutary fear of Hell or hope of Heaven, depends not on the existence of either state, but on our belief in its existence. The fact that the denial of these and many similar beliefs would bring chaos into our spiritual and moral life, that it would extinguish hopes which often alone make life bearable, that it would issue for society at large in such a grey, meaningless, uninspired existence as Mr. F. W. Myers prognosticates in his admirable essay on "The Disillusionment of France," [2] all this and much more makes it our interest, if not our duty, to cling to such convictions at all costs. "If these things are not true, it might be said, then life is chaos; and if life be chaos, what does truth matter? Why may not such useful illusions and self-deceptions be fostered? If we are dreaming, let our dreams be the pleasantest possible!"

Nor can it be urged that though some part of our interest thus depends on the beliefs, rather than on their being true, yet the consequences of self-deception are so momentous, as to create a spirit of criticism to balance or over-balance the said bias of credulity. For though the consequences of denial are disastrous if the beliefs are true, yet if they are false, the ill-consequences of belief are almost insignificant. It is sometimes said too hastily that if religion be an illusion, then religious people lose both this life and the next; and it is assumed that an unrestrained devotion to pleasure would secure a happiness which faith requires us to forego. But unless we take a gross, and really unthinkable view of the homogeneity of all happiness, and reduce its differences to degree and quantity, the shallowness of the preceding objection will be apparent. It is only through restraint that the higher kinds of temporal happiness are reached, and as confusions are cleared away in process of discussion, it becomes patent that such restraint finds its motive directly or indirectly in religion. When the religious influence with which irreligious society is saturated, has exhausted itself, and idealism is no more, the unrestrained egoistic pursuit of enjoyment must tend to its steady diminution in quantity, and its depreciation in kind. The sorrow and pain entailed by fidelity to the Christian ideal is, on the whole, immeasurably less in the vast majority of cases than that attendant on the struggles of unqualified selfishness, while the capacities for the higher happiness are steadily raised and largely satisfied by hope and even by some degree of present fruition. Even vice would be in many ways sauceless and insipid in the absence of faith. Who does not remember the old cynic's testimony (in the "New Republic") to the piquancy lent by Christianity to many a sin, otherwise pointless. If the moralist distinguishes between actions that are evil because they are forbidden, and those that are forbidden because they are evil, the libertine has a counter-distinction between those that are forbidden because they are pleasant, and those that are pleasant because they are forbidden. St. Paul himself is explicit enough as to this effect of the law.

Look at it how we will, even were religion unfounded our life would on the whole gain in fulness far more than it would lose, by our believing in religion. Hence some of our more thoughtful agnostics, however unable themselves to find support in what they deem an illusion, are quite willing to acknowledge the part religion has played in the past in the evolution of rational life, and to look upon it as a necessary factor in the earlier stages of that process whose place is to be taken hereafter by some as yet undefined substitute. If indeed Nature thus works by illusions and justifies the lying means by the benevolent end, it is hard to believe in a moral government of the universe, or to hope that an "absolute morality"—righteousness for its own sake—will be the outcome of such disreputable methods. But till the illusion of "absolute morality" is strong enough to take care of itself, and has passed from the professors to the populace, it is plainly for the interest and happiness of individuals and of society to hold fast to religion.

Undoubtedly then the advantages resulting from a belief in religion, whether valid or illusory, are such as to incline not only the higher and more unselfish minds, but even those which are more prudential and self-regarding, to wish to hold that belief—to be unwilling to hear arguments against it. But among the former class will be found many intellectually conscientious and even scrupulous persons, whom the recognition of this inevitable bias will drive to an extreme of caution. Not so much because the facts believed-in are of such intense moment, but rather because the belief itself, whether true or false, is so consoling and helpful, that there seems to them a danger of self-deception just proportioned to their wish to believe.

It were then no small rest and relief to such, could it be shown that what they deem a reason for doubt, is really a reason for belief; that the welcome which all that is best in them gives to a belief, affords some sort of philosophical justification thereof.

This particular argument had undoubtedly a more favourable hearing in the age of Chateaubriand, when unbelief stopped short at the threshold of what was called "Natural Religion," and the apologist's task was confined to the establishment of revelation. "It is now pretty generally admitted," says the author of Contemporary Evolution, "with regard to Christianity and theism that the arguments really telling against the first, are in their logical consequences fatal also to the second, and that a Deus Unus, Remunerator once admitted, an antecedent probability for a revelation must be conceded."

Given an intelligent and benevolent author of the universe, it is not perhaps very difficult to show that any further religious belief approximates to the truth in the measure that it satisfies the more highly developed rational needs of mankind. It is not seriously denied any longer that religion is an instinct with man, however it may be lacking in some individuals or dormant in others. We have savages at both ends of the scale of civilization, but man is none the less a political creature; nor does the existence of idiots and deaf mutes and criminals at all affect the fact that he is a reasoning and speaking and ethical animal. As soon as he wakes to consciousness, he feels that he is part of a whole, one of a multitude; and that as he is related to his fellow-parts—equals or inferiors—so also is he related to the Whole which is above him and greater than all put together. Religion, taken subjectively, in its loosest sense, is a man's mental and moral attitude in regard to real or imaginary superhuman beings—a definition which includes pantheism, polytheism, monotheism; moral, non-moral, and immoral religions; which prescinds from materialist or spiritualist conceptions of the universe. And by a religion in the objective sense, so far as true or false can be predicated of it, we mean a body of beliefs intended to regulate and correct man's subjective religion. It is to such systems and their parts that we think the above test of "adaptability" maybe applied as we have stated it.

We must of course assume that our distinction of higher from lower states of rational development is valid; that we can really attach some absolute meaning to the terms "progress" and "decline;" that there is some vaguely conceived standard of human excellence which such terms refer to. Else we are flung into the very whirlpool of scepticism. Measured back from infinity it may be infinitesimal, but measured forward from zero, the difference of mental and, partly, of moral culture between ourselves and the aborigines of Australia is considerable, and is really to our advantage. Now if a given religion or religious belief suggests itself more readily, or when suggested commends itself more cordially in the measure that men's spiritual needs are more highly developed; if, furthermore, it tends to make men still better and to raise their desires still higher so as to prepare the way for a yet fuller conception of religious truth, it may be said to be adapted to human needs; and it is from such adaptability that we argue its approach to the truth. We say "its approach," for all our ideas of the Whole, of the superhuman, of those beings with which religion deals, are necessarily analogous and imperfect. What is admitted by all with regard to the strict mysteries of the Christian faith is in a great measure to be extended to the central or fundamental ideas of all religion. They are at best woefully inadequate, and if the unity between the parts of an idea be organic and not merely mechanical, they must be regarded as containing false mingled with true.[3] Still some analogies are less imperfect, less mingled with fallacy than others, and there is room for indefinite approximation towards an unattainable exactitude. For example, assuming theism, as we do in the argument under consideration, it is evident that man conceives the superhuman object of his fear and worship more truly as personal than as impersonal; as spiritual than as embodied; as one or few than as many; as infinite than as finite; as creator than as maker; as moral than as non-moral or immoral; as both transcendent and immanent than as either alone. If then it appears that as man's intelligence and morality develop in due proportion, he advances from a material polytheistic immoral conception of the All, to a spiritual and moral monotheism, it may be claimed that the latter is a less inadequate conception. And similarly with regard to other dependent religious beliefs which usually radiate from the central notion. It will be seen that we do not argue from the self-determined wishes or desires of any individual or class of individuals to their possible fulfilment,—to the existence in Nature of some supply answering to that demand; we do not argue that because many men or all men desire to fly, flying must for that reason alone be possible. We speak of the needs of man's nature, not of this individual's nature; of needs consequent on what man is made, and not on what he has made himself; of those wants and exigencies which if unsatisfied or insatiable must leave his nature not merely negatively imperfect and finite, but positively defective and as inexplicable as a lock without a key—not necessarily, of needs felt at all times by every man, but of those which manifest themselves naturally and regularly at certain stages of moral and social development; just as the bodily appetites assert themselves under certain conditions not always given.

Now there is one form in which this argument from adaptability is somewhat too hastily applied and which it is well to guard against. Were we to find a key accommodated to the wards of a most complicated lock, we should be justified in concluding, with a certainty proportioned to the complexity of the lock, that both originated with one and the same mind; and so, it is urged, if a religion, say Christianity, answers to the needs of human nature, we may conclude that it is from the Author of human nature with a certainty increasing as it is seen to answer to the higher and more complex developments of the soul.

Now if, like the key in our illustration, the religion in question were something given in rerum natura independent of human origination in any form, this argument would be practically irresistible. That besides those beliefs which lead man on to an ever fuller understanding of his better self, and stimulate and direct his moral progress, Christianity imposes others more principal, of which man as yet has no exigency, and which hint at some future order of existence that new faculties will disclose—all this, in no wise makes the argument inapplicable. The whole system of beliefs is accepted for the sake, and on the credit, of that part which so admirably unlocks the soul to her own gaze. "Now are we the sons of God, but it doth not yet appear what we shall be;" if besides satisfying our present ideal of religion, Christianity hints at and prepares us for such a transition as that from merely organic to sensitive life, or from this, to rational life, it rather adds to than detracts from the force of the argument.

Yet all this supposes that Christianity is something found by man outside himself, with whose origination he had nothing to do; but, if this be established, its supernatural origin, and therefore, supposing theism, its truth, is already proved, and can only receive confirmation from the argument of adaptability. If the Book of Mormon really came down from Heaven, my conviction that polygamy is not for the best, would seem a feeble objection against its claims. That the Judaeo-Christian religion is supernatural and is from without, not only with respect to the individual but to the race; that it is an external, God-given rule, awakening, explaining, developing man's natural religious instinct, correcting his own clumsy interpretations thereof, is just what gives it its claim to pre-eminence over all, even the most highly conceived, man-made interpretations of the same instinct.

Yet though claiming to be a God-made interpretation, it is confessedly through human agency, through the human mind and lips of the prophets and of Christ that this revelation has come to us. Moreover, it involves, though it transcends, all those religious beliefs of which human nature seems exigent and which are, absolutely speaking, attainable by what might be called the "natural inspiration" of religious genius. Viewing the whole revelation in itself, its adaptability is evident only in respect to that part which might have originated with those minds through which it was delivered to us. If the beliefs proposed seem to have anticipated moral and intellectual needs not felt in the prophet's own age or society, this might be paralleled from the inspiration of genius in other departments, and could not of itself be regarded as establishing the ab extra character of the revelation.

Plainly, then, so far as a religion claims to be from outside, its adaptability to our religious and moral instincts may confirm but cannot establish its Divine origin, which, given theism, is equivalent to its truth. For to show that it is from outside, is to show that it is from God.

It is only therefore with regard to man-made interpretations of our spiritual instincts, to the natural inspirations of religious genius, to the intuitions and even the reasoned inferences of the conscientious and clean-hearted, that the argument from adaptability can have any independent value. It is now no longer as one who argues from a comparison of lock and key to their common authorship; but rather we have a self-conscious lock, pining to be opened, and from a more or less imperfect self-knowledge dreaming of some sort of key and arguing that in the measure that its dream is based on true self-knowledge there must be a reality corresponding to it—a valid argument enough, supposing the locksmith to act on the usual lines and not to be indulging in a freak.

Such, in substance, is the argument from adaptability founded on the assumption of theism and applied to the criticism or establishment of further religious beliefs. It is indeed somewhat stronger when we remember that the self-consciousness, with which we fictitiously endowed the lock, plays chief part in the very design and structure of man; that his self-knowledge, his moral and religious instincts, his desire and power of interpreting them, are all from the Author of his nature.

Of this difference Tennyson takes note in applying the argument from adaptability to the immortality of the soul:

Thou wilt not leave us in the dust; Thou madest man, he knows not why; He thinks he was not made to die, And Thou hast made him, Thou art just.

But so far as the argument presupposes theism it cannot be made to support or even confirm theism. If, then, we want to make the argument absolutely universal with regard to religious beliefs—theism included and not presupposed—and so to make it available for apologetic purposes in regard to those whose doubt is more deep-seated, we must inquire whether any basis can be found for it in non-theistic philosophy; whether, prescinding from Divine governance and from an intelligent purpose running through nature, the adaptability of a belief to the higher needs of mankind can be considered in any way to prove its truth. So far we have only shown that such a conclusion results from a clearer insight into the theistic conception. Can we show that it springs, co-ordinately with theism, from some conception prior to both?


If what is usually understood by "theism" be once granted as a foundation, it is easy to raise thereon a superstructure of further religious beliefs by means of the argument drawn from their adaptability to the higher needs of mankind. However individuals may fail, yet it must be allowed that on the whole the human mind progresses, or tends to progress, from a less to a more perfect self-knowledge, to a fuller understanding of its own origin, its end and destiny, and of the kind of life by which that end is to be reached,—that is, if once we admit that man is a self-interpreting creature, and the work of an intelligent Creator. So far however as the Christian creed exceeds man's natural exigencies and aspirations, it plainly cannot be subjected to this criterion; and so far as it includes (while it transcends) the highest form of "natural religion," the argument from adaptability holds of it only if we suppose Christianity to be a natural product of the human mind, thus destroying its claim to be from without and from above. But if from other reasons we know Christianity to be a God-made and not a man-made religion, then, though its divinity and truth is already proved, yet it is in some sort confirmed and verified by its adaptability to the demands of our higher nature. In a word, this particular argument holds strictly only for man's own guesses at religious truth,—for "natural" religions; but for Christianity, only so far as we deny it to be supernatural as to its content and mode of origination.

But so far as this argument presupposes theism, it cannot be made to support or even confirm theism; if then we wish to make it available for apologetic purposes in regard to those whose doubt is more deep-seated, we must now inquire whether, prescinding from divine governance and from finality in nature, the adaptability of a belief (say, in God, or in future retribution) to the needs of mankind, can be considered in any way as a proof of its truth; whether that argument can find any deeper mental basis than theism; whether it can be rested on anything which in the order of our thought is prior to theism so as to support or at least to confirm theism itself.

Our present endeavour is to show that though this argument rests more easily and securely on theism, yet it need not rest upon it; but springs, co-ordinately with theism, from any conception of the world that saves us from mental and moral chaos. Hence it confirms theism and is confirmed by theism; but each is strictly independent of the other and rests on a conception prior to both; they diverge from one and the same root and then intertwine and support one another.

By prescinding from theism I do not mean to exclude or deny it; for it is, as I have just said, bound up with the same conception from which the "argument from adaptability" is drawn. I only mean that I do not need to build upon it as on a prior conception; that I can put it aside. Indeed, of these two off-shoots, theism is less near to the common root, as will appear later.

Our limited mind cannot take in at once all the consequences or presuppositions of a thought; for this would be to know everything; but as with our outward eye we take in the circle of the horizon bit by bit, so with our mind when we turn to one aspect of an idea we lose sight of another. Hence in studying some complex organism or mechanism I may be clear about the bearing of any part on its immediately neighbouring parts, and yet may have no present notion of the whole; or may prescind entirely from the question of its origin or its purpose. Thus our thoughts are always unfinished and frayed round the edges, and we do not know how much they involve and drag along with them. We can think of the mechanism, and the organism, and the design, without thinking of the mechanist, or the organizer, or the designer; and so in all cases where two ideas are connected without being actually correlative. What is commonly called a philosophical proof consists simply in showing us the implications of some part of the general conception of things that we already hold. It is to force us either to loosen our hold on that part or else to admit all that it entails by way of consequences or presuppositions; and so to bring our thoughts into consistency one way or the other. But until something sets our mind in motion it can rest very comfortably in partial conceptions, without following them out to their results.

Now as we can understand a mechanism to the extent of seeing the bearing of part upon part, and even of all the parts upon the work it does, without going on to think about the designer or his design; and without explicitly considering it as designed; so we can and do think of the world and recognize order in it, and see the bearing of part upon part without going back to God or forward to God's purposes. Indeed, so far as we use the argument from design to prove the existence of God, it means that we first apprehend this order and regular sequence of events, and then, as a second and distinct step, put it down to design. For although God is the prior cause of design and of all creation, yet design and creation is the prior cause of our knowing God, The conception of a rational and moral world leads us to the conception of a rational and moral origin, i.e., to theism. Further, it is plain that this same order and regularity is recognized by many who refuse to see design in it, and who invent other hypotheses to account for it; and of one of these hypotheses we shall presently speak at length.

Now, if I take any single organism and study it carefully, simply as a biologist or physiologist, I shall recognize in it certain regularities of structure and function and development, upon which I can found various arguments and predictions. I can argue from its general characteristics, to the nature of its environment and habits and modes of life; or from its earlier stages, to what it will be when more fully developed; and these arguments will be quite unaffected by any theory I may hold as to the origin of these changes, and as to the causes of these adaptations. The order and regularity on which my predictions are based is an admitted fact. Theism or materialism are only theories by which that fact is explained. Now, for mind in the abstract, theism is really as much a presupposition of that fact, as the predicted truth is a consequence of it. Both are logically connected with it, and yet neither is derived from it through the other.

If, however, we cannot thus observe and calculate on certain regularities and tendencies in the world as we know it, then, not only is the appearance of design and finality an illusion, not only is that particular argument for theism cut away, but with it goes all scientific certainty, all that stands between us and the most hopeless mental and moral scepticism.

It is not our immediate concern to prove the value of the "argument from adaptability," but simply to show that it is logically (though not really) unaffected by the question of theism and finality and design. As long as we admit those same effects and consequences of which design is one explanation, but of which others are prima facie conceivable; as long as we hold that the world works on the whole as though it were designed; that the present anticipates and prepares for the future; that the future and absent can be predicted from the present, so long do we hold all upon which the "argument of adaptability" is strictly based. And indeed, as has been said, if once it be admitted that the general progressive tendency on the part of living things is towards a greater harmony and correspondence with surrounding reality, then that argument is a more immediate inference from the existence of an orderly world, than is theism.

Though both are strictly independent deductions from the same principle (i.e., from an orderly world), yet theism and the argument from adaptability when once deduced, confirm one another. For it is not hard to show that theism is better adapted to man's higher needs, than atheism or polytheism or pantheism; while if theism be once granted, then, as we said in the last section, the argument from adaptability is much more easily established.

There have been at various times several philosophies or attempted explanations of the world, which have either denied or prescinded from theism and finality. These two conceptions may be considered as one; for by finality we mean the intelligent direction of means towards a preconceived end; and therefore to admit a pervading finality, is to imply a theistic origin and government of the universe.

Perhaps, the best and most finished attempt to explain the world independently of finality is the philosophy of Evolution, so widely popularized in our own day; and since it is in the region of organic existence, that finalism looks for its chief basis, it is especially by Darwinistic Evolution that its force is supposed to be destroyed.

Any form of "monism" gets rid of finality more easily than does any form of dualism; and again, any form of materialism, more easily than idealism; and therefore as monistic and materialistic (at least in some sense of the term), popular Evolutionism is the best plea for non-finalist philosophy. We propose therefore briefly to examine this philosophy, so far as it claims to be such, and to see whether it in any way touches the validity of the argument from adaptability.

Evolution may be considered both as an empirical fact and as an aetiological theory or philosophy. Considered as a fact, it is the statement of observed processes, and belongs to positive science like the observed courses of the planets, or any other observed regularities and uniformities. Science professes to have found everywhere as far as its experience has extended—in astronomy, geology, physiology, biology, psychology, ethics, sociology—a uniform process of change from the simple to the complex, from the indefinite and unstable to the stable and definite; and with this statement, so far as it can be verified, the positivist should rest content, seeking no theory, and drawing no generalization. But, the mind cannot hold together such collected facts without some binding theory, nor even observe a single fact without some preconception to give meaning to its suggested outlines: for what we really get from our senses bears but a slight ratio to what we fill in with our mind. Hence, answering to this supposed, but far from proven, universality of Evolution as a fact,[4] we have a certain philosophy of Evolution which takes us out of the sphere of facts into that of hypotheses and generalizations, and tries to give meaning and unity to the positive information that physical science has collected and classified; to finish, as it were, the suggested curves; to fill up the lacunae of observation; to extend to the whole world what is known of the part; and perhaps to erect into a cause what is only an orderly statement of facts. Undoubtedly it is this last fallacy that makes it more easy for evolutionists to dispense with or ignore finality. Law in its first sense is an expression of effectual human will. Call Evolution a law and the popular mind will soon vaguely conceive it as a rule or uniformity resulting from some kind of unconscious will-power at the back of everything; and this Will-Power stops the gap created in our thought by the exclusion of theism and finality. This confusion is furthered still more by not distinguishing between the cause of a fact and the cause of our knowledge of the fact. If I act in willing conformity with the civil law, I also act in obedience to it, in some way coerced by its authority and its sanctions. The law is really a cause of my action; because it represents the fixed will and effectual power of the ruler. But when this conception and name is transferred by analogy to physical uniformities of action, an event which conforms to the observed law or regularity of sequence, is not really caused by the law unless we suppose that law to be representative of something equivalent to a fixed will from which it originates. Yet we say loosely, such an event happens in consequence of the law of attraction; meaning only, in conformity with the law, so as to verify the law, to follow from it logically. Thus again the law comes to be mistaken for an effectual power of some kind, whereas it is merely a sort of regularity that might result either from an intelligent will or from something equivalent. But in thus adroitly slipping-in the conception of a governing force or tendency, or even in openly asserting it, with Schopenhauer or Hartmann, and in explaining the graduated resemblances of species by the origin of one from the other, and in extending this mode of Evolution in all directions from the known to the unknown so as to make it pervade the universe, we at once cease to be faithful positivists and, becoming philosophers, must submit to philosophic criticism, since these problems cannot be settled merely by an appeal to facts. Thus when Professor Mivart speaks of Evolution as "the continuous progress of the material universe by the unfolding of latent potentialities in harmony with a preordained end," the latent potentialities, the preordained end, the procession of one species from another, the extension of this law to every difference of time and place—all are matters of hypothesis or intuition; but by no means of exterior observation.

The most that observation gives us is the very imperfect suggestion of the track that such a movement would have left behind it, not unlike the scraps that boys litter along the road in a paper-chase. Similarly, if in the case of organic Evolution we deny all latent potentialities and preordained ends and throw the whole burden on accidental variations and natural selection; if we regard the whole process as no more intelligent or designed than that by which water seeks and finds its own level; yet as in the case of water we must perforce introduce "a gravitating tendency," so in the case of living organisms a "persisting" or "struggling tendency," as an hypothesis to give unity to our facts or to account for their uniformity. But these tendencies are as little matter of observation as the aforesaid latent potentialities or preordained ends. In fine, Evolution, whatever form it take, gets rid of theism and finality only by slipping into their place some tendency or indefinable power which it considers adequate to account for the facts to be explained.

Let us now see if there be room in this philosophy for our argument from adaptability, and whether it will allow us to infer that because belief in theism and in future retribution are beliefs postulated by our higher moral aspirations, therefore they answer to reality more or less approximately; whether, in short, under certain conditions (specified in our last essay) the wish to believe may be a valid reason for believing.

Now Evolution as a philosophy or explanatory hypothesis owes its popularity to its apparent simplicity. Wrapped in its wordy envelope, the notion as formulated by Spencer needs no subtilty of apprehension, but only a dictionary. Nor is the Darwinian theory of Natural Selection more difficult.

Other things equal, the simpler hypothesis is to be preferred to the less simple where no proof can be had of either. But none the less, the simpler may be false and the other true. Cheapness is no proof of goodness. We are naturally impatient of troublesome and complex theories; but what we gain in the simplicity of an hypothesis, we commonly lose in the difficulty of getting the facts to square with it. It is a simple theory that circular motion is the most perfect, and that the planets being the most perfect bodies must move with the most perfect motion; but so many epicycles must be introduced to explain apparent exceptions that the modern astronomical hypothesis, however more complex in statement, is on the whole welcomed as a simplification. So we are disposed to think it is with regard to the popular form of Evolutionism. Its simplicity in statement is more than cancelled by its difficulty in application; and at last we are driven to conceive it in a form which at once deprives it of its title to popularity. So far as it is simple it is fallacious and proves incoherent on closer inspection, when we try to translate its terms into clear and distinct ideas; but when we get it into intelligible form it is no simpler than the theistic hypothesis which it wants to displace, except inasmuch as it prescinds from the question of origin and last end. But in this, its only intelligible form, it leaves the argument from adaptability intact, and even requires theism as its rational complement.

This is what we must now endeavour to show. We cannot illustrate our contention better than from the popular simplification of Ethics introduced by Bentham. Taking pleasure as a simple and ultimate notion he affirms that our conduct is always determined by a balance of pleasure on one side or the other. The problem of practical ethics is to construct a calculus of pleasures, a sort of ready-reckoner whereby men may be able to invest in the most profitable course of action. "When we have a hedonistic calculus with its senior wranglers," says Mr. Bain, "we shall begin to know whether society admits of being properly reconstructed." [5] It is assumed that pleasures differ only in quantity, i.e., in intensity, extent, and duration, just as warmth does, which may be of high or low temperature; diffused over a greater or less extent of body; and that, for a shorter or a longer time. On this assumption pleasure is every bit as mathematically measurable as is warmth, the whole difficulty being due to its subjective and therefore inaccessible nature. Simple in statement, this theory proves in application infinitely complex, and indeed on closer inspection breaks up into a mere verbal fallacy—as Dr. Martineau, amongst others, has shown in his Types of Ethical Theory. For "pleasure," though one simple word, has an endless variety of meanings, not indeed wholly disconnected, but bound together only by a certain kind of analogy. The eye, the ear, the palate, the mind, the heart, have each their proper pleasure; which is nothing else than the resultant of their perfect operation in response to the stimulus of some all-satisfying object—a fact which may be expressed differently by different philosophies, but with substantial identity of meaning. But not till we find some common measure for sound and colour and flavour and thought and affection, will it be possible to compare in any hedonistic scales the pleasures they produce. Yet colour is to the eye what music is to the ear; and therefore the one word pleasure is used not unreasonably of both.

Quite similar seems to us the fallacy to which Evolution owes its seeming simplicity and its popularity. The word "existence" or "life" (which is the existence of organic beings, about which we are chiefly concerned), is taken as having one homogeneous meaning, like "heat" or "warmth;" the only difference being quantitative—a difference of intensity, of breadth, of duration; not a difference of kind such as would destroy all common measure. Life is something which we predicate of the most diversely organized beings, and therefore would seem to be something the same in all, which they secure in a diversity of ways.

Thus Darwin defines the general good or welfare which should be the aim of our conduct as "the rearing of the greatest number of individuals in full health and vigour with all their faculties perfect;" upon which Mr. Sidgwick remarks[6] with justice: "Such a reduction of the notion of 'well-being' to 'being' (actual and potential) would be a most important contribution from the doctrine of Evolution to ethical science. But it at least conflicts in a very startling manner with those ordinary notions of progress and development" in which "it is always implied that certain forms of life are qualitatively superior to others, independently of the number of individuals, present or future, in which each form is realized.... And if we confine ourselves to human beings, to whom alone the practical side of the doctrine applies, is it not too paradoxical to assert that 'rising in the scale of existence' means no more than 'developing the capacity to exist'? A greater degree of fertility would thus become an excellence outweighing the finest moral and intellectual endowments; and some semi-barbarous races must be held to have attained the end of human existence more than some of the pioneers and patterns of civilization." Nor is it only in the region of ethics but in every region that this false simplification is fertile in paradoxes; and yet if it be disowned, the charm to which Evolution owes its popularity is gone.

It would be indeed a short cut to knowledge if we might believe life to be, as this theory imagines it, a simple, self-diffusing force with an irrepressible tendency to spread itself in all directions, like fire in a prairie. True we should not have altogether got rid of innate tendencies, but we should have reduced them to one, namely, to the struggling, or persisting, or self-asserting tendency; a simplification like that offered by the matter-and-force theory of Buchner.

This flame of life once kindled (we are told) endeavours to subdue all things to itself, and all that we find in the way of variety of organic structure and function has been shaped and determined by its struggle—much as a river channels a way for its waters in virtue of its own onward force, checked and determined by the nature of the obstacles it has to encounter. Every organism is related to life as the candlestick to the candle; it is simply a device for supporting and spreading as much life as is possible with the surrounding conditions. Often, when conditions are favourable, the simplest contrivance will be more effectual, more life-producing than the most complex in less favourable conditions. Where food is not present the animal that can move about in search of it will survive, and the stationary animal perish; and likewise those that can escape their foes will live down those rooted in one spot. And if to motion we add perception and intelligence, and associative instincts and the rest, we increase the appliances for dealing with difficulties; and therewith the means of survival when such difficulties exist. Still, in the hypothesis we are dealing with, all these contrivances—movement, consciousness, intelligence, will, society—are distinct from life and ministerial to it; they are instruments by which it is preserved, increased, and multiplied—like those contrivances by which heat or electricity is generated, sustained, and transmitted; with this difference, that no one has designed these life-machines, but they are simply the result of life's innate tendency to struggle and spread. A great deal of the form and movement of the inorganic world is due simply to the stress of gravitation and not to design, and so we are asked to believe that the human and every other organism has been shaped and quickened by the action of as blind a power; that it is in some sense a casual result.

Now if seeing and hearing and thinking do not constitute life, but are only chance discoveries helpful to life; if we do not live in order to eat and to see and to think, but only think, see, and eat in order to live, we ask ourselves, what then is this life which is none of these things and to which they are all subordinate? And when once we begin subtracting those functions which minister to life and which life has selected for its own service, we find there is absolutely nothing left to serve. Taking the very earliest forms, if we subtract movement, nutrition, growth, generation, we find there is nothing over called "life" distinct from these. This is the first and fundamental incoherence of the theory; life has simply no meaning apart from those functions which we speak of as ministering to life; unless we mean by life the mere cohering together of the bodily organism—an end more effectually secured without any such complex apparatus, by a stone or by an elementary atom.

If existence in that sense, be the force or principle whose persistence and self-assertion is the cause of all evolution, it is impossible to conceive how primordial atoms, which are assumed to be indestructible and constant in quantity, should trouble themselves to struggle at all; since the amount of that kind of existence can neither be lessened nor increased. And as motion is also assumed to be a constant quantity, it is plain that what struggles to be and to multiply, must be some special collocation and grouping of atoms with some correspondingly particular determination of motion, called "life;" but what "life" is, apart from the means it is supposed to have selected for itself, does not appear.

Another difficulty attendant on this false simplification is the complete subversion of that scale of dignity or excellence upon which we range the various kinds of living creatures, putting ourselves at the top—not merely in obedience to a pardonable vanity, but, as has hitherto been supposed, in obedience to a trustworthy intuition which, without attempting to apply a common measure to things incommensurable, judges life to be higher than death; consciousness than unconsciousness; mind than mere sensation; and in general, what includes and surpasses, than what is included and surpassed. We see that the organic world presupposes the ministry of the inorganic; and the animal world, that of the plant world; and that the human world depends on the ministry of all three; and our whole conception of this world as "cosmos" is simply the filling in of this hierarchic framework. Yet this old structure falls to pieces under the new simplification. If "life" (as vaguely conceived) be the first beginning and the last end (or rather result) of the whole process of evolution, if it be the summum bonum, then the "highest" creature means, the most life-producing.

Now if we put "money" instead of "life," and begin to classify men by this standard, we see how it inverts the old-world ideas of social hierarchy. True it is, the man of letters or of high artistic gifts can produce a certain amount of money, but has little chance against the inventor of a new soap or a patent pill. Honesty at once becomes the worst policy, and a thousand other maxims have to be reformed. Yet this is a trifling boule-versement compared with that which would have to be introduced into our scientific classification were "life-productivity" (in the vague) taken as the criterion of excellence.

For we cannot any longer determine the rank of an animal by its organic complexity, since, ceteris paribus, this is a defect rather than otherwise.

To secure life more simply is better than to secure the same amount by means of complex apparatus. Of course when the favouring conditions are altered, then any apparatus that makes life still possible is an advantage; but till that crisis arises it is only an encumbrance. When life can be secured only at the cost of greater labour and exertion and cunning, it is well to be capable of these things, but surely those animals are more to be envied that have no need of these things. It is only on the hypothesis of an unkindly environment that complexity of organization is an excellence.

Furthermore, although these accidental variations allow certain creatures to survive in crises of difficulty, yet they also make the conditions of their survival more complicated and hard to secure. All that differentiates man from an amoeba has enabled him to get safe through certain straits where the lower forms of life were left behind to perish; but it has also made it impossible for him to live in the simpler conditions he has escaped from; like a parvenu whose luxurious habits have gradually created a number of new necessities for him, which make a return to his original poverty and hardships quite impracticable. If the development of lungs has allowed animals to come out of the water into the air, it has also prevented their going back again. Furthermore, a considerable amount of vital energy is consumed in the production, support, and repair of all this supplementary, life-preserving apparatus; just as, much of the national wealth for whose protection they exist is absorbed by a standing army and other military preparations. And in fact of two countries otherwise equal in wealth, that is surely the better off which has no need of being thus armed up to the teeth. Thus man's superior organization may be compared to the overcoat and umbrella with which one sets out on a threatening morning; very desirable should it rain, but a great nuisance should it clear up.

It seems, then, that the highest organism is that which produces or secures the greatest quantity of life in the simplest manner, and at the cost of the least complexity of structure and function; while the lowest is that which yields the least quantity at the greatest cost; and between these two extremes organisms will be ranked by the ratio of their complexity to their life-productivity—life being measured mathematically (as something homogeneous) by its vigour, by its duration, and by the amount of matter animated, whether in the individual or in its progeny. It is obvious how, at this rate, our zoological hierarchy is turned topsy-turvy; and how difficult it will be to show that man is a better life-machine than, say, a mud-turtle with its centuries of vital existence.

It would be a monstrous allegation to say that any evolutionist would defend these conclusions in all their crudity; but is only by thus pushing implied principles to their results, that their incoherence can be made plain. Once more, if this simple uniform thing called life be the sole cause, determining organic Evolution and selecting accidental variations, just in so far as they favour its own maintenance and multiplication, then every organ, appliance, and faculty by which man differs from the simplest bioplast, is merely a life-preserving contrivance. To speak human-wise, Nature in that case has but one end—animal life; and chooses every means solely with a view to that end. She does not care about pain or pleasure, or consciousness, or knowledge, or truth, or morality, or society, or science, or religion, for their own sakes; she cares for life only, and for these so far as—like horns and teeth and claws—they are conducive to life. Evolution therefore is governed by a blind non-moral principle—as blind and ruthless as gravitation. This being so, the mind is for the sake of the body, and not conversely. Evolution is not making for truth and righteousness as for greater or even as for co-ordinate ends; but simply for life, to which sometimes truth and righteousness, but just as often illusion and selfishness, are means. There is nothing therefore in this process of Nature to make us trust that our mind really makes for truth as such, or that it has any essential tendency to greater correspondence with reality, beyond what subserves to fuller animal existence. The fact that a certain belief makes animal life possible is no proof of its truth, but only of its expediency. The extent to which many pleasures depend on illusion is proverbial; and pleasure is almost the note of vital vigour, according to this philosophy.

Plainly, our argument from the adaptability of a belief to man's higher moral needs, vanishes into thin air as soon as the key to the order of nature is thus sought in a blind non-moral tendency, and when that which is lowest is put at the top, and everything above it made to minister to it.

But then it is not only this particular argument that perishes, but all possibility of arguing at all, all faith in our mental faculties, except so far as they minister to the finding of food and the propagation of life. Thus the very attempt to prove such a system of Evolution is a contradiction, since it cuts away all basis of proof. On this I need not dwell longer, since it has been worked out so fully and clearly by others. We get rid of the argument from adaptability, by a conception of the order of Nature that reduces us to mental and moral chaos.

In its semblance of simplicity this form of Evolution-philosophy shows itself kin to those other old-world attempts to dispense with a governing mind, and to educe the existing cosmos from the blind strife of primordial atoms. It has indeed a more plausible basis, seeing how many things, too quickly attributed to design in a theological age, can really be explained by the struggle for existence. But in trying to make an occasional and partial cause universal and ultimate, it has undertaken the impossible task of bringing the greater out of the less; which really means bringing their difference out of nothing—and this is creation with the First Cause left out; that is, spontaneous creation. It is from first to last an "aggregation" theory, and has to face the insupportable burdens which such a theory brings with it. Haunted by a false analogy drawn from the political organism whose members are intelligent and self-directive, and who put themselves under an intelligent government to be marshalled and directed to one common end—haunted by this anthropomorphic conception, it tries to explain how independent and indestructible units, void of all intelligence, come together into polities with no assignable government; and how these groups or polities, which are nothing separate from the sum of their components, are aggregated to one another in like manner; until at last we come to the highest organism, which again is only the sum of its ultimate atoms, and its activity the sum of their activities—the whole distinction between highest and lowest organism being such as exists between a society of two and a highly complex civilized state. And all this political life is the spontaneous work of unintelligent units; that is to say, we have results exceeding the highest ever attained by human intelligence, long before intelligence or sentience has yet been evolved.

Nobody will care to support "Pangenesis" as a theory of generation. To suppose that there is a mysterious power which breaks a little fraction off each of the bioplasts of which we are asserted to be the sum; that having collected these fractions it arranges them all in the right order within the compass of a single germ, and from that germ reproduces the parent organism, is an hypothesis compared with which the creation of the world in its entirety six thousand years ago, including the fossils and remains of aeonian civilizations, is lucid and intelligible. This is no hyperbole. For if once we allow creation at all, the creation of the world at any stage of Evolution is just as conceivable as the creation of primordial atoms. If any living thing were now created (e.g., a grain of corn or a full ear) it would bear in itself the apparent evidence of having grown to its present state ab ovo; or the ovum itself would seem to ground a similar false inference of having come from a parent. Strange as such an idea may be, it is easy and pellucid compared with the hypothesis of Pangenesis—still more when we remember that this complex germ, which is a lion or a horse in small—itself the elaboration of aeons of Evolution—can replicate itself with ease and rapidity, reproducing in adjacent pabulum a "cosmos" which differs in degree, not in kind, from that described in the story of the Six Days. Yet the more we look into it, the more clear is it that Pangenesis (and not Polarigenesis or Perigenesis) is the inevitable outcome of the aggregation-theory of life.

And therefore to return to our former assertion, whatever we seem to gain in simplicity of statement by this form of the Evolution theory, we pay for dearly when we come to its application; nay more, as soon as we attempt to translate the words into clear and distinct ideas, we are left with nothing coherent that the mind can get hold of; and it is only at this price that we can cut away the basis of the "argument from adaptability," and with it the basis of all reason and morality. We must therefore go on to examine if there be any alternative form of the same philosophy more bearable.

I have forborne all criticism of the supposed facts on which Evolution is based; as others have dealt frequently with their various weaknesses. Nor do I think it necessary to deal with the extravagant subordinate hypotheses by aid of which facts are forced under the main hypothesis, e.g., those which explain how the horse grew out of the hipparion. The crudest finalists have been everywhere out-stripped by Evolutionists in dextrous application of the argument a posse ad esse.


Assuming still that the facts collected and arranged by experimental science in favour of the hypothesis are such as to demand some kind of Evolution-philosophy; assuming that the very imperfect serial classification of living things according to their degree of organic definiteness, coherence, and heterogeneity not merely represents a variety which has always coexisted since life was possible on this earth, but rather traces out or hints at the genetic process by which this variety has been produced, let us see if there be any other governing principle directing the process, more intelligible than the persistence of that mere organic life which cannot even be thought of as distinct from those appliances and functions which it is supposed to have evolved for its own service by "natural selection."

Let us admit, what is really evident, that life is nothing distinct from the sum of those functions which minister to the preservation of life; and that therefore it is not the same thing in a man and in a mud-turtle. Man's superior faculties are not merely a more complicated machinery for producing an identical effect which the mud-turtle produces more simply and abundantly, but rather by their very play constitute an entirely different and higher kind of life. When Hume, in his Treatise on Human Nature, says: "Reason is and ought to be the slave of the passions and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them," he implies that the exercise of reason is no constituent factor of human life, but something outside it, subordinate to it, whereas that life itself consists in passion, or pleasurable sensation, of which man, in virtue of his reason and other advantages, secures more than do his fellow-animals. This is just the conception of life which we have seen to be incoherent on close inspection; and if it be so, then the evolutionary process is a struggle not for bare life or existence, but for the prevalence of the higher kinds of life and existence; and intelligence and morality are not only co-operative as instruments in maintaining and extending human life, but are themselves the principal elements of that complex life. True, the mind does minister to the body and preserve it; but still more does the body minister to the mind; or rather, each ministers to that whole in which the play of the mind is the principal function and the play of the body subordinate. If, then, we hold to the verdict of our common sense, and regard our mental life not as subordinate to our sensitive and vegetal life, but as co-ordinate and even superior, we must (so to speak) view it as no less "for its own sake," as no less an "end in itself" than they are, but rather much more; we must regard evolution as making for the life of truth and the life of righteousness even more principally than for bare existence or animal vitality. It is now no longer mere life that tries to assert itself, and in the struggle shapes things to what they are; but it is the very highest kind of life, that is trying to come to the birth. Nature inherently tends to the higher through the lower forms of life, and these minister to the higher and receive in return from them the means of a yet more efficacious ministry.

In this conception, every function of the organism has two aspects, under one of which it is its own end and exists for its own sake as an element of the life of the whole; under the other it is ministerial, serving other functions above and below it, as it in return is served by them. Correspondence with the environment is, similarly, not merely a condition of life, but also that wherein vitality principally consists. "Living" is spontaneous self-adaptation to surrounding reality, taken in the very widest sense. The more diverse and multiform this adaptability, the fuller and higher is the life; and thus our ordinary common-sense classifications are justified. Each new manifestation of life means some new correspondence with surrounding reality as we piss from mere vegetation, and then add local movement, and one sense after another, till we come finally to intelligence and the life of reason and right-doing, which again, consists in self-conformation to things as they really are. In all this we are in agreement with common sense and common language, which identify the fullest life with the fullest activity; all activity being of the nature of response to stimulus, that is, correspondence to reality. As soon as consciousness supervenes on the lower forms of life it is evident that the pleasures of sight, hearing, taste, mind, and affection all depend on, and consist in, the consciousness of this successful accommodation of the subject to the object; and that all pain and disease is simply the felt failure of such adaptation. What was anciently and very wisely called the "natural appetite" of living creatures is in this view nothing else but their response to the modifying attraction exerted upon them by the objective Reality which presses upon them on every side, and tends to draw them into conformity with itself so far as they have latent capacity for such a correspondence. It is the light that makes (or rather elicits) sight; and it is sound that develops the sense of hearing: and it is the ideas embodied in Nature that call our intellect into play. Hence it follows that, desire for truth and justice, for society and for religion, which assert themselves as invariably in the soul of man at certain stages of progress, as the desire for mere life asserts itself from the first, is simply the felt result of the as yet unsuccessful endeavour of Nature to draw man into a fuller kind of correspondence with herself.

Thus conceived, the course of evolution is comparable, not as before, to the gradual unveiling of a blank canvas, revealing simply a greater extent of the same appearance, but to the gradual unveiling of a picture whose full unity of meaning is held in suspense till the disclosure is completed. We do not now interpret the higher by the lower, but the lower by the higher; the beginning by the end. This may seem perilously near to finalism, yet it is no more necessarily so, than the process of photography; we only need a self-adaptive tendency in life-matter responsive to the stimulating-tendency of the environment. Not, of course, that this bundle of words really explains anything, but that like other formulae of the kind, it prescinds from the question of ends and origins, by making a statement of what happens serve as a cause of what happens, and calling it a Law or a Tendency, or a Latent Potentiality—thus filling the gap which mere agnosticism creates in our thought.

With this conception of Evolution our ordinary estimates of "higher" and "lower" are saved; also the value of our mental processes upon which rests whatever proof the theory may admit of; while the "argument from adaptability" is provided with a firm basis independent of finality. All our "natural," as opposed to our personal and self-determined appetites or cravings,—those which are, so to say, constitutional and inseparable from our nature in certain conditions, are evidence of the influence of some reality outside us seeking to draw us into more perfect correspondence with itself, and whose nature can be more or less dimly conjectured from the nature of those cravings. What are called "natural religions" represent man's self-devised attempts to explain the reality answering to his religious and moral cravings. Revelation is but a divine interpretation of the same; as though one with dim vision were to supplement his defect by the testimony of another more clear-sighted.

It may be practically admitted that no philosophy allows of strict demonstration, since, being a conception of the totality of things, it modifies our understanding of every principle by which one might attempt to prove or disprove it. Eventually it is its harmony with the totality of things as we perceive them that determines us to accept it, and no two of us perceive just the same totality, however substantial an agreement there may be in our experience; yet I think it can hardly be denied that this conception of evolution is far more in agreement with the world as most of us know it, and commonly think and speak of it, than the former; that it not merely satisfies our intellect, but offers some satisfaction to our whole spiritual nature. "Is it certain," asks Mr. Bradley, in a fairly similar connection, "that the mere intellect can be self-satisfied if the other elements of our nature remain uncontented?" And, again: "A result, if it fails to satisfy our whole nature, comes short of perfection: and I could not rest tranquilly in a truth if I were compelled to regard it as hateful.... I should insist that the inquiry was not yet closed and that the result was but partial. And if metaphysics" [for which we may substitute: any philosophy, such a& that of Evolution] "is to stand, it must, I think, take account of all sides of our being. I do not mean that every one of our desires must be met by a promise of particular satisfaction; for that would be absurd and utterly impossible. But if the main tendencies of our nature do not reach consummation in the Absolute, we cannot believe that we have attained to perfection and truth."[7] From this point of view there can be no doubt as to which of these conceptions of Evolution is the more rational and satisfactory; that which would explain it by a simple tendency in living matter to persist and spread, and would see in all organic variety only the selected means to that somewhat colourless end; or that conception which would explain it by a tendency in living matter to come into ever fuller correspondence with its environment, seeing in such spontaneous correspondence the very essence of life, and not merely a condition of life.

We need only add a few criticisms on this second conception.

1. It is true that every creature struggles more intensely and vigorously for the lower kind of life, or for "mere life," as we might say, than for any of those things which alone would seem to make life worth the having. But this only means that to live at all is the most fundamental condition of living well and fully and enjoyably. The higher life cannot stand without the lower, which it includes, but the lower is not therefore the better, nor is it the end for whose sake the higher is desirable; but conversely. Not until men have got bread enough to eat will they have leisure or energy to spare for the animal grades of vitality. When the means of bodily subsistence grow scarce, then the faculties that were previously set free to seek the bread of a higher and fuller life are diverted to the struggle for bare animal existence, and progress is thrown back; but when there is abundance for all, secured by the labour of a few from whom the remainder can buy, then fuller life becomes once more possible for that remainder. The struggle for bodily food gives an advantage to, and "selects" naturally, those mental and other powers which facilitate its attainment; but just as man does not only eat and labour in order to live, but also (however it may shock conventional ethics) lives in order to eat and labour; so the new energies called forth by competition do not merely secure that grade of life in whose interests they are evoked and perfected, but extend the sphere of vitality, in so much as their own play adds a new element to life and gives it a new form.

The part played by struggle and competition in this process of Evolution is naturally exaggerated by those who deny any latent tendency other than that of mere persistence in being; who repudiate an internal expansiveness towards fuller kinds of existence, drawn out or checked by the environment.

Competition plays a prominent part when there is question of the lower grades of life, in so far as these depend on a pabulum that is limited in quantity. In such cases competition, within certain limits, will secure the bringing-out of latent powers by which the lower level of life is maintained and a higher level entered upon; the lower being secured by the superimposition of the higher.

But how does it do so? Not by creating anything, but by giving the victory to those individuals who already were ahead of their fellows in virtue of a fuller development of their nature from within; in clearing the ground for them and letting them increase and multiply.

2. Again, we should notice that development in one direction may be at the cost of development in another. The struggle for any lower form of existence than that already attained, is inevitably at the cost of the higher. The degrading effects of destitution are proverbial. Craft, cruelty, selfishness, and all the vices needed for success in a gladiatorial contest are often the fruits of such competition. Also, commercial progress seems on the whole to be at the expense of progress in art and the higher tastes, sacrificing everything to the production of the greatest possible quantity of material comforts. If it sharpens the wits and sensibilities in some directions, it blunts them in others.

Now, the first sense suggested to us in these days by the word "progress," is material progress—all that came in with steam; and this narrow conception vitiates much of our reasoning. It is in this realm undoubtedly that competition is such a factor of rapid advance; but we forget that the food of what the best men have ever considered the best life, is not limited or divisible; but like the light and air is undiminished how many soever share it. Whatever advance there has been in the life of the mind and of the higher tastes and sensibilities, cannot directly be explained by competition, but simply by the quiet upward working of Nature's inherent forces. We look with scorn at the unprogressive East, satisfied that there can be no progress, no life worth living, where there is no rush for dollars. But I think we have yet to learn the meaning of ex Oriente lux.

Much of our immorality and our social evil comes from the fact that those who have developed the faculties of a higher grade of life, seek the lower as an end in itself, and not simply so far as it is a condition of the higher and no further. The Gospel precept, as usual, enunciates only the law of reason and nature, when it bids us to "Seek first the Kingdom of God and its justice," that is, to put our best life in the front, and to make it the measure and limit of any other quest. The neglect of this principle gives us high living and plain thinking, instead of "high thinking and plain living;" and takes the bread out of the mouths of the poor. The competition for pleasures and luxuries and amusements, may indeed develop certain industries and cause progress in certain narrow lines, but it is at the cost of the only progress worth the name.

The conflict between this "struggle-theory" and ethics has been freely acknowledged by Professor Huxley and others; every attempt to educe unselfishness from selfishness has failed. The moral man even in our day has rather a bad time of it; what chance would he have had of surviving to propagate his species in the supposed pre-moral states of human society? Who can possibly conceive mere rottenness being cured by progress in rottenness; or a man drinking himself into temperance? On the other hand, it is at least conceivable that in the wildest savage there is some little seed of a moral sense—weak, compared with the lowest springs of action, just because it is the highest and therefore only struggling into being; and that in the slow lapse of time events may here and there prove that honesty is the best policy; and that honesty once tasted may be found not only useful for other things, but agreeable for itself, and may be cherished and strengthened by social and religious sanctions.

There is, however, a reaction on foot which tends to reconcile the breach between ethics and evolution, by reducing the part played by competition within reasonable bounds, and making it subservient to the survival, not of the most selfish, but of the most social individuals. Definite variations from within, modified between narrow limits by accidental variation from without, is coming to be acknowledged as the chief factor of progress. But we should not forget that to allow an internal principle of orderly development is, not merely to modify the popular evolution theory by a slight concession to its adversaries; it is rather to make it no longer the supreme explanation of development, but at most a slight modification of the more mysterious theory which it was its boast and merit to have supplanted. According to Geddes and Foster and others of their school, it is the species-subserving qualities that Nature selects; and these, in the higher grades of life, are equivalent to the altruistic, social, and ethical qualities. It is in virtue of the parental and maternal instincts of self-sacrifice, self-diffusion, self-forgetfulness in the interests of the offspring, that species are preserved and prevail. Selfish egoism leads eventually (as we see in some modern countries where laizzez-faire liberalism prevails) to social disruption, decadence, and chaos; and this is the universal law of life in every grade. At first indeed the unit struggles to live, for life is the condition of propagation; but the root of this instinct is altruistic; it is the whole asserting itself in the part; and all "self-regarding" instincts are to be likewise explained as subordinate to the "other-regarding" instincts. As soon as this sub-ordination is ignored in practice, regress takes the place of progress. The transit, we are told, from the unicellular to the multicellular organism cannot be explained by individualism, but implies a diminution of the competitive, an increase of the social and subordinative tendency. The argument from economics to biology and back again, is said to be nearing exposure; the "progress of the species through the internecine struggle of its individuals at the margin of subsistence," is the outgoing idea. Yes, and with it goes out all that made Evolution a simple and therefore popular explanation of the world; and there comes in that "organic" conception of the process which clamours for theism and finalism as its only coherent complement.

3. But though Evolution so conceived makes the "argument from adaptability," as well as the arguments for theism, stronger rather than weaker; we must not shut our eyes to the difficulty created by the fact (too little insisted upon by Evolutionists) that there is no solid reason for thinking that progress is all-pervading. We have already said that progress in commerce may be regress in art or in religion or in morality. Also, progress in benevolence may co-exist with regress in fortitude and purity; progress in one point of morality with regress in another; progress in ethical judgment with regress in ethical practice. And in every realm, growth and decay, life and death, seem so to intertwine and oscillate that it is very gratuitous to designate the total process as being one or the other. Spencer confesses that the entire universe oscillates between extremes of integration and disintegration. Why we should consider the universe at present to be rising rather than falling, waxing rather than waning, one cannot say. The easier presumption is that it is equally one and the other, and always has been. Even were we rash enough to pronounce progress to be on the whole prevalent within the narrow field of our own experience, surely it were nothing but the inevitable "provincialism" of the human mind to pass per saltum from that, to a generalization for all possible experience. Our optimism, our faith that right, truth, and order will eventually prevail, can find only a delusive basis in actual experience, and must draw its life from some deeper source.

Why then should we so presume that our moral and religious ideas are really progressive and not regressive, as to regard their interpretation as approximating to the truth? The answer is simply that our argument from adaptability does not require the assumption in question, but only that we should be able to distinguish higher from lower tendencies, progressive from regressive movements, without holding the optimistic view that on the whole the forward tendency is at present prevailing. It is not because we live in the nineteenth century that we consider our moral perceptions truer than those of the ancient Hebrews, but because we at once comprehend and transcend their ideas (in some respects), as the greater does the less. In many points surely the relation is inverted and we feel ourselves transcended (or may at least suspect it), by those who lived or live in ruder conditions than our own. David has perhaps taught us more than we could have taught him; and there are other vices than those proper to semi-barbarism. It is not by reference to date or country, or grade of material progress, that we assess the value of moral judgments, but by that subjective standard with which our own moral attainments supply us in regard to all that is equal or less, similar or dissimilar. To deny this discernment is to throw the doors open to unqualified scepticism; to admit it, is all that we need for the validity of our inference.

4. If Evolution is really of this oscillatory character; if at all times much the same processes have been going on in different parts of this universe as now—one system decaying as another is coming into being; is it not more reasonable to imagine (for it is only a question of imagining) that the primordial datum was not uniform nebula, but matter in all stages of elaboration from the highest to the lowest—the same sort of result as we should get from a cross-section at any subsequent moment in the process? What reason is there for assuming primordial homogeneity, since every backward step would show us, together with the unravelling of what is now in process of weaving, a counter-balancing weaving of what is now in process of disintegration? Were this earth all, we might dream of universal advance by shutting our eyes to a great many incompatible facts; but when our telescopes show us the co-existence of integration and disintegration everywhere, what can we conclude but that in the past as in the future, no alteration is to be looked for beyond the shifting of the waves' crest from side to side of the sea of matter—the total ratio of depressions to elevations remaining exactly constant.

Were the other view of an original universal homogeneity correct, how conies it that we have still co-existent every stage of advance from the lowest to the highest, and that there is not a greater equality?—a difficulty which does not exist if we suppose things to have been on the whole, as they are now, from the very first. But whichever view we take; whether we suppose all things collectively to oscillate between recurring extremes of "sameness" and "otherness;" or every stage of the wave of progress from crest to trough, to be simultaneously manifested in the universe at all times, the old difficulty of "the beginning" will force itself upon us. A process ab aeterno is at least as unimaginable as the process of creation ex nihilo; if it be not altogether inconceivable to boot. And the alternative is, either a primordial state of homogeneous matter which contains the present cosmos in germ, and from which it is evolved without the aid of any environment—such a germ claiming a designer as much as any ready-made perfect world; or else, a primordial state of things like that which we should get at any cross-section of the secular process, in which every stage of life and death, growth and decay, evolution and involution, is represented as now. This would include fossils and remains of past civilizations which (in the hypothesis) would never have existed; and would be in all respects as difficult as the crudest conception of the creation-hypothesis. And if this absurdity drives us back to primordial homogeneity, as before, we must remember that here, too, though not so evidently, we should have all the signs of an antecedent process that was non-existent. Life and death, corruption and integration, are parts of one undulatory process. Cut the wave where you will its curve claims to be finished in both directions and suggests a before as well as an after. If, in the very nature of things, the pendulum sways between confusion and order, chaos and cosmos, each extreme intrinsically demands the other, not only as its consequent, but as its antecedent; and the first chaos, no less than any succeeding one, will seem the ruin of a previous cosmos. Therefore we are driven back upon a process ab aeterno with every stage of evolution always simultaneously represented in one part or other of the whole. Whatever mitigation such a conception may offer, surely we may be excused for still adhering to that simpler explanation which involves a mystery indeed, but nothing so positively unthinkable as a process without a beginning.

5. This same conception of a process without beginning, favours the notion that since life was possible on our globe all species may well have co-existed in varying proportions. From the sudden spread of population through almost accidental conditions, we can imagine how certain species might have been so scarce as to leave no trace in geological strata, whereas those which enormously preponderated at the same time would have done so. A change of conditions might easily cause the former to preponderate, and their sudden appearance in the strata would look as though they had then first come into being. In a word, we can have good evidence for the extinction of species, but scarcely any for their origination.

This supposition is not adverse to the derivation of species from a common stock, but rather favours the notion that as in the case of the individual the period of plasticity is short compared with that of morphological stability, so if there was such an arboreal branching out of species from a common root, it took place rapidly in conditions as different from ours as those of uterine from extra-uterine life; and that the stage of inflexibility may have been reached before any time of which we have record.

But in truth when we see in the world of chemical substances an altogether similar sedation of species where there can be no question of common descent as its cause, we may well suspend our judgment till the established facts have excluded the many hypotheses other than Evolution by which they may be explained.

As long as Evolution claims to be no more than a working scientific hypothesis, like ether or electric fluid—a sort of frame or subjective category into which observed facts are more conveniently fitted, it cannot justly be pressed for a solution of ultimate problems; but when it claims to be a complete philosophy and as such to extrude other philosophies previously in possession, it must show that it can rest the mind where they leave it restless; or that it has proved their proffered solutions spurious. This, so far, it has absolutely failed to do. At most it may determine more accurately the way in which God works out His Idea in Creation. It can stand as long as it is content to prescind from the question of ends and origins; but then it is no longer a complete philosophy. As soon as it attempts to solve those problems it becomes incoherent and unthinkable. Its true complement is theism and finality, which flow from it as naturally, if not quite so immediately as the "argument from adaptability." Deus creavit is so far the only moderately intelligible, or at least not demonstrably unintelligible, answer given to the problem of In principio.

We have then in this second and soberer form of the philosophy of Evolution, an attempt to explain the order of the universe without explicit recourse to the hypothesis of an intelligent authorship and government of the world: that is to say, independently of theism and finality; and so far as this explanation admits all the effects and consequences of an intelligent government, without ascribing them to that cause, it admits among their number the value of the "argument from adaptability," and allows us to infer that the postulates of man's higher moral needs correspond approximately to reality, of which they are in some sense the product; and that the "wish to believe" is less likely to be a source of delusion in proportion as the belief in question is higher in the moral scale.

But it is also clear how unsuccessful this attempted philosophy is in many ways; and with what difficulties and mysteries it is burdened. At best it can prescind from finalism by a confession of incompleteness and philosophical bankruptcy; by resolutely refusing to face the problem of the whole—of the ultimate whence and whither. If it would positively exclude theism or finalism it must ascribe all seeming order and adaptation to the persistence of some blind force, subduing all things to itself, to "existence," or to "life" striving to assert and extend itself. It is this conception that seems best to bring the mystery of the universe within the comprehension of the popular mind, and is more in keeping with those "aggregation theories" of our day which regard dust as the one eternal reality whose combination and disguises delude us into believing in soul and intelligence and divinity. But on closer examination the words "life" and "existence" answer to no simple reality or force which can be regarded as governing nature, and from this radical fallacy of language a whole brood of further absurdities spring up which make the popular form of Evolution-philosophy utterly incoherent.

June, Aug. Sept. 1899.


[Footnote 1: This will perhaps be the most convenient term. In the Summa of Aquinas, the elaborate treatise De vera religione, called into existence by more recent exigencies, had no place. Still, in so far as it is constructed roughly on the same scheme and presupposes the same philosophy, and (were it not a deepening of the roots rather than an extension of the branches) might almost be regarded as a development of scholasticism, it may rightly be called "scholastic" to distinguish it, say, from such a work as the Grammar of Assent.]

[Footnote 2: Science and a Future Life, By F. W. Myers.]

[Footnote 3: i.e., If an object be adequately and exhaustively conceived under the predicates A.B.C.D., it is inadequately conceived as A.B.x.x. But if each of these properties be permeated and modified by the rest, then A in this object is not as A in any other combination, but is A as related to and modified by B.C.D.; and similarly, the other properties are each unique. Hence any part is somewhat falsely apprehended till the whole be apprehended, when we are dealing with organic as opposed to mechanical totalities.]

[Footnote 4: Not that the transmutation of one species into another has yet been detected in any instance, or perhaps, even were it a fact, could be detected; but that such a serial graduation has been observed as might be commodiously explained by that supposition,—and also by fifty others.]

[Footnote 5: Mind, 1876, p. 185.]

[Footnote 6: Mind, 1876, p. 9.]

[Footnote 7: Appearance and Reality.]



"Can any good come out of Trinity?" is a question that has been asked and answered in various senses during the recent Catholic University controversies in Ireland; but for whatever other good Catholics might look to that staunchly Elizabethan institution, they would scarcely turn thither for theological guidance. Yet all definition is negative as well as positive; exclusive as well as inclusive; and we always know our position more deeply and accurately in the measure that we comprehend those other positions to which it is opposed. The educative value of comparing notes, quite apart from all prospect of coming to an agreement, or even of flaying our adversaries alive, is simply inestimable; we do not rightly know where we stand, except in so far as we know where others stand—for place is relative.

The Donnellan Lecturer for 1897-8 [1] took for his subject the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity in relation to contemporary idealistic philosophy. The scope of these lectures is, not to prove the doctrine of the Trinity philosophically, but to show that the difficulty besetting the conception of a multiplicity of persons united by a superpersonal bond, is just the same difficulty that brings idealistic philosophy to a dead-lock when it endeavours (1) to escape from solipsism, (2) to vindicate free-will,(3) to solve the problem of evil. He naturally speaks of Idealism as "the only philosophy which can now be truly called living," in the sense in which a language is said to live; that is, which is growing and changing, and endeavouring to bring new tracts of experience under its synthesis; which is current in universities of the day. Of the Realism which survives in the seminaries of the ecclesiastical world he naturally knows nothing; addressing himself to a wholly different public, he speaks to it on its own assumptions, in its own mental language; and indeed he knows no other. But having weighed idealism in the balance of criticism, he finds it far short of its pretensions to be an adequate accounting for the data of experience; he finds that it leads the mind in all directions to impassable chasms which only faith can overleap. It does not demand or suggest the mystery of the Trinity, but reveals a void which, as a fact that doctrine alone does fill. The convinced Realist will not be very interested about the problem of solipsism which for him is non-existent, but the proposed relief from the difficulties of free-will and of the existence of evil may be grateful to all indifferently; or at least may suggest principles adaptable to other systems. In his Trinitarian theology Mr. D'Arcy is in many points at variance with the later conclusions of the schools; and in some instances his argument depends vitally on this variance; but not in the main. For his main point is that as our own personality—the highest unity of which we have experience—takes under itself unities of a lower grade; so the doctrine of the Trinity implies what the hiatuses of philosophy require, namely, that personal unity is not the highest; that, beyond any power of our present conception, the personally many can be really (not only morally or socially) one thing. "A wonderfully unspeakable thing it is," says Augustine, "and unspeakably wonderful that whereas this image of the Trinity" (sc., the human soul), "is one person, and the sovereign Trinity itself, three persons, yet that Trinity of three persons is more inseparable than this trinity" (memory, understanding, and will) "of one person." This "superpersonal" unity is of course a matter of faith and not of philosophy, yet it is a faith without which subjective philosophy must come to a stand-still; it is as much a postulate of the speculative reason as God and immortality are of the practical reason.

"If man is to retain the full endowment of his moral nature, we must make up our minds to accept for ourselves an incomplete theory of things." A philosophy which should unify the sum-total of human experience, including the supernatural facts of Christianity, is impossible; but even excluding these facts there is always need of some kind of non-rational assent, which, however reasonable and prudent in the very interests of thought, is not necessitated by the laws of thought—is not, in the strictest sense philosophical. Idealism, like other philosophies, "is not satisfied with an imperfect knowledge of the greatest things. It must rise to the Divine standpoint and comprehend the concrete universal," and so, of course, it breaks down. "But it would surely be a hasty inference," says Mr. D'Arcy, "that philosophy must needs be exhausted because idealism has done its work and delivered its message to mankind," that is, has explored another blind alley, and has arrived at the cul de sac. In fact, if idealism is a living philosophy, it is nevertheless showing signs of age and decay. Ptolemaic astronomy, as an explanation of planetary movements, proved its exhaustion by a liberal recourse to epicycles as the answer to all awkward objections; and philosophies show themselves moribund in an analogous way, by a monotonous pressing of some one hackneyed principle to a degree that makes common-sense revolt and fling the whole theory to the winds—chaff and grain indiscriminately. But philosophy must be distinguished from philosophies, as religion from religions. The imperfection of the various concrete attempts to satisfy either spiritual need, may make the desperate-minded wish to cut themselves free from all connection with any particular system; but the desire and effort to have a knowledge of the whole (i.e., a philosophy) is as natural and ineradicable as the desire to live and breathe. In this general sense, philosophy "takes human experience, sets it out in all its main elements, and then endeavours to form a plan of systematic thought which will account for the whole. It has one fundamental postulate, that there is a meaning, or, in other words, that there is an all-pervading unity." This "faith" in the ultimate coherence and unity of everything is the presupposition and motive of the very attempt to philosophize or to determine the nature of that unity. It is not, therefore, itself a product of philosophy; it is an innate conviction that can be denied only from the teeth outwards, but can neither be proved nor disproved by the finite mind.

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