Guide From Dust To Descartes: An Evolutionary and Mechanical Explanation of Consciousness

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Nonliving things and plants are generally categorized among insentient beings, although opinions about the inclusion of plants vary. Be that as it may, the sentient and the insentient form a continuity with human beings at one pole and minerals at the other. The primitive, prebiological Earth, a nonliving being, is believed to have had an innate predisposition to life.

The emergence of sentient beings from the insentient being of the primitive Earth and the birth of humanity are considered two parts of a continual process of evolution. The more we expand and deepen our understanding of ourselves and our environment—even to the cosmic level—the more we are compelled to realize that we are all parts of the same thing. In , at Moscow University, Oparin — presented his hypothesis that life emerged on Earth as a consequence of molecular evolution. Oparin scientifically demonstrated the progression from primitive organic molecules to colloidal substances to coacervated protoplasm and monocellular life forms.

Later scientific research substantiated his theory. According to these theories, winds and storms would have violently disturbed the primitive oceanic soup. Miller was a graduate student at the University of Chicago, and I believe the experiment was his idea. Their joint work demonstrated the originality and flexibility of a young man and the broadmindedness and extraordinary leadership of the professor who set his young collaborator on the right path.

Other scientists repeated it with similar results. Submitting a mixture of liquid water and the simple gases assumed to have been present in the initial atmosphere to vigorous electrical discharges produced alcohol, sugars, fats, and amino acids. This is put forth as the way the first molecules emerged on Earth, engaging in an astonishing ballet of combinations and dissociations—eventually called molecular activity—and giving rise to life forms that, by leaps and bounds, grew more complex in a ceaseless alternation of chance and necessity.

It was very unusual for so weighty a work to appeal to the general public. I remember reading it voraciously and pondering its message in relation to Buddhism. Today we know more about what I call the rules of the game—what we traditionally called the laws of nature. Still, as researchers admit—indeed more willingly than the general public—many things still elude scientific analysis. The living being itself is in a sense an unstable system. Does it elude science for that reason?

This applies to everything, from bacteria to animals and including plants. This could be a coincidence, but carbon is such a universally common base element that it is tempting to conclude that there is some degree of necessity involved. At least it is easier to tell ourselves that.

But for twenty years American and European—especially French—scientists have been studying what has been dubbed chaos and thereby eliminated from all scientific consideration. James Gleick, a scientific journalist for The New York Times , has related the fascinating adventure of this research in a work called Chaos , published in It quickly became a bestseller and, since , has been translated into seventeen languages. Please tell us more about it. They are designated risky—here again we see chance succeeding necessity. Now analyses have shown that simple systems give rise to complex behaviour and, moreover, that strange similarities—almost family ties—exist between the behaviours of different systems.

The laws of complexity would thus seem universal. Thereupon Chaos died. The story warns that if we manipulate nature thoughtlessly, we can kill it. Nature is highly complex and delicate. If we attempt to wrestle it into the box of necessity, we may destroy it in the long term. Everything emerges and recedes as a result of mutual relations between direct and contributory causes. Some of the most important causal relationships are considered to be examples of necessity or inevitability, but Buddhist thought takes account of the interplay between chance and inevitability in the relationships between beings and phenomena and other beings and phenomena.

In consequence, and given the Buddhist perspective of dependent causation, we are not bound by a dichotomy between the inevitable and the accidental. The important thing is to remember that, as you say, both simple and complex entities behave in complex ways. We could cite many other names and many other encounters. Once perceived, the complexity of reality requires boundaries between disciplines to be broken down. It is impossible to truly comprehend anything in reality without taking into account the dynamic play of interactions and the strikingly complex networks of interdependent factors that appear to proliferate upon each closer examination.

He gradually came to realize that advances in knowledge about those origins are due largely to discoveries made possible by two important instruments: the telescope and the microscope. Since then, the theory of biological evolution and natural selection that it propounds has had an immense impact not only on biology, but on all of society. Today, however, it is being re-evaluated from various angles in the light of recent advances in molecular biology and molecular genetics. First, living things generally reproduce in large numbers. Second, these large numbers give rise to fierce competition for survival.

Third, mutations occurring in some offspring sometimes prove advantageous in the competition for survival. Fourth, the mutated subjects have an increased possibility of surviving, however slight. And fifth, after centuries and millennia of repetitions of this process, the mutated forms come to account for the majority of the species, thus producing a new species. He offers no scientific explanation of the actual form the struggle for survival takes, the frequency with which mutations occur, or the specific application of the inherited traits.

They have been wrongly transferred to socio-politics to legitimize Nazi practices and, more recently, dyed-in-the-wool partisan neoliberalism that supports free enterprise leading to the triumph of the most powerful. But these misuses have not been entirely surprising. Today we understand the influence context exerts on scientific works of all kinds and on the way we view problems. We can interpret the application of Darwinism to social and political planes as a boomerang effect. Interpreting ideas like natural selection and the survival of the fittest as permission to victimize the weak is unpardonable.

But as the American psychologist Carl R. Rogers —87 pointed out, danger pursues all living creatures. Nonetheless, people go on thinking that incidents that leave a deep scar in the soul will never happen to them. This is what the psychologist Linda S. Even before rejecting the secular world at the age of nineteen, Shakyamuni was conscious that he must never be haughty and arrogant toward the weak, even though he was in a position of strength the social majority , because he realized that at any time he could become one of the weak the social minority.

After coming to this realization, Shakyamuni set out on a spiritual quest, making compassion the basic principle he lived by and insisting on the right of the weak to live with dignity. The weak are pushed to the margins of society for as long as they remain weak. They must become stronger and more cunning.

It is through experience and effort that people grow; acquired skills are much more important than natural skills. Thanks to this lack of constraint, molecular biology was able to develop freely. For instance, neutral evolution holds that the majority of sudden mutations are neither advantageous nor disadvantageous to living creatures but are only neutral changes.

The punctuated-equilibrium theory holds that evolution is not a continuing process but arises as a result of sudden changes over short periods, which are followed by long periods free of change. Although these new theories present hypotheses distinctly different from Darwinism, they, too, remain incomplete and require further proof. But they cannot be given definitive answers unless we are able to reply with a categorical yes to one alternative and an equally categorical no to the other—transmissible versus non-transmissible characteristics, teleology versus material and mechanistic determinism, chance versus necessity, competition versus adaptation, and so on.

I think that giving such categorical answers is either not possible—at least no longer possible—or largely unfruitful and only faintly heuristic. We must turn our attention to what you call the internal, interactive dynamism of living beings. With that in mind, I should like to go over some hotly debated issues. Many scientists reject this theory, but the American Nobel laureate in medicine and physiologist Howard M.

Temin — has advanced the idea that, though there is still no proof, retroviruses may manifest a mechanism for hereditary transmission of acquired traits. Perhaps this idea, too, was self-generated at a time when land inherited from the father was preserved undivided to be later transmitted to the grandson. For instance, we must try to explain why young North Americans today are taller than their parents.

In this case, exchanges between living beings and their environment prove decisive. Changes in food and life style explain, in part, the observed transformation. In reality, however, the situation is decidedly more complex than the established rules—which must constantly be re-examined—allow us to foresee. Does the evolution of living beings have a goal or is it the mechanical reaction to changes in the environment? What is your opinion? The notion of a programme—or perhaps the image or allegory of a programme that I will outline in a moment—prompts us to re-examine the relationship, in the advent and evolution of life, between what is given—which is both predetermined and determinant—and what is to be accomplished, constructed or brought to maturity.

Implicitly, both teleology and mechanistic determinism reflect a programme that, in turn, reflects an intention. In the deterministic view, nothing can appear that was not already somehow present—written in advance, inscribed in the living being, ineluctable. The fate of the living being is determined from the outset, and there is no margin of freedom. This programme is open, not closed, since the design, even though not apparent—and here we return even more neatly to the idea of intention—inexorably, if discreetly, sets out the route to be followed.

Some Japanese Buddhist sects and new religions assert the importance of realizing that an absolute being—a god or Buddha—grants and maintains human life. Their point of view leaves no room for the autonomy of human existence, that is, for the notion that we follow our own direction.

We depend on nature and society for our basic needs. This is yet another reason for us to preserve our autonomy and contribute to our social and natural environment by the creation of nobler values. The teleological approach deprives the individual living entity of freedom and closes the door on independent creative activity. In the teleological view, no matter how things seem, everything is controlled by necessity. Nothing is left to chance. Really, however, the role of chance seems to have been decisive in the evolutionary dynamic. Which leads us to the question of whether evolution is accidental or inevitable.

Professor Atlan showed how, in our quest to understand and develop the theory of genetics, the computer can serve as a useful metaphor to help articulate the observable stable and changing elements in all living beings. The metaphor works from two angles, depending on whether emphasis is placed on the programme or the data. On the one hand there is the fixed, the predetermined, that is, the programme. On the other there are the changing, unforeseen, even unforeseeable data.

In short, order and disorder. Here, in apparently inverse relation, we encounter the interplay of the dynamic interactions—characteristic of living beings—of the chance and necessity that Jacques Monod spoke of.

Reward Yourself

We see clearly how insufficient the image or allegory of the programme is. And this revives secular philosophical debates about the relationship between being and movement, essence and existence, and nature and nurture. The issue of competition or adaptation, the last of our questions, probably cannot be dealt with in an either-or fashion, either. Even so, I would like to bring up the Japanese anthropologist Kinji Imanishi, who has proposed an original theory of evolution opposed to Darwinian competition for survival.

Imanishi holds that the species, not the individual, is the basic evolutionary unit and, rejecting natural selection and the idea of competition and survival of the fittest, he puts forth adaptation and biotope segregation as the basic evolutionary process. In my view, these two opposed dynamics have always been at work in human history, by turns and sometimes simultaneously.

We have conquered so-called new worlds and exploited their resources without concerning ourselves with either the wishes or the imminent fate of the local residents. Part of our current dynamic is the tribal struggles and destructive civil wars currently tearing so many countries apart, and competition among big transnational companies that becomes outright commercial warfare, eliminating the weakest. It is true that both competition and adaptation have helped weave the fabric of human history.

Now, however, as we face innumerable global issues, we must radically change gear and turn away from war and toward co-operation and harmonious coexistence. Recent developments in biology—especially in molecular biology and genetics—have clearly demonstrated how living beings are subject to the same physico-chemical laws as nonliving things. We must therefore take into consideration the ruptures as well. We must recognize the evolutionary non-continuity—at least in certain regards—between the living and the nonliving, and perhaps also between different classes of living things, in order to make room in a consistent theory for the autonomy of the living being and its necessary exchanges with its milieu.

At the same time, discontinuity is necessary for the specific integration of exterior contributions into a new dynamic of autonomous evolution. Without such a rupture, the living being ceases to be: only a cadaver remains. It explains the continuity and discontinuity between the sentient and the insentient in this way. Both the sentient and the insentient are made up of the temporary combination of what are called the five components of life—form, perception, conception, volition, and consciousness.

The five components temporarily unite to constitute individual beings, both sentient and insentient. Through continuous interaction with the environment in the evolutionary process, the four other latent components gradually became manifest. Conception is the function that creates ideas or mental images based on what was perceived. Finally, volition is the will that acts on the mental images and motivates an action in response to what was perceived.

Plants, too, are now thought to have perception, that is, sensitivity and emotion. It was only with the advent of humanity that the fifth component—consciousness—emerged. The autonomy or identity of humankind is firmly rooted in this function of discernment. In sum, I am in basic agreement with what you say about the autonomy of living beings and exchanges between them and their environments. But the appearance of humankind is an equally complex topic.

But now rapid advances in molecular biology allow scientists to date the phases of evolution through genetic analysis. By comparing the amino acid sequences of different species which are genetically determined by dna , we can calculate how long they have been separated from a common ancestor. It can show us how a specific evolutionary ramification occurred what split off from what and when the split occurred. The more differences found in the amino acid sequence, the more distantly related the species in question.

The Big Bang is estimated to have taken place about 15 billion years ago—or even more if we accept newer studies. Hominids made their appearance recently: only 3. With Australopithecus afarensis notably the fossil remains dubbed Lucy , our ancestors became bipedal. This stage was apparently important to the advent of the human being as known to us today. Sarich and A. Wilson of the University of California used molecular clocks to study primate evolution and came to the conclusion that humanoids branched from the gorillas and chimpanzees eight or nine million years ago.

Given the time required for evolution to take them to the hominid bipedal stage, I think your estimation of the time scale is correct. As the paleontologist Yvon Pageau notes, 9 to stretch out his hand and speak, man first had to take a step. The first humans were set apart by their manual skills in fashioning stone tools and by the growth of their cranial volume and complexity.

Next came the ability to speak and the discovery of fire. The adventure that is human history starts with these events. I gather you agree with the second hypothesis, the African origin of our species. Certain factors do support the one-place theory. For example, fossils of Homo sapiens have been discovered only in Africa. In addition, molecular-genetic data have revealed little difference in the genes of Caucasoids, Mongoloids, and Negroids.

Philosophy of mind

Of course, we are animals; but we are more than simple living organisms. We can create cultures and build societies. We are reflective, introspective creatures capable of self-control through will-power and reason. But you are right; with the human being, something new took shape. Remains excavated by Dr. Ralph Solecki at Shanidar in Iraq suggest that the Neanderthals conducted burials and sprinkled corpses with flowers. If this is true, they had already advanced beyond the animal stage and could view death introspectively and reflectively.

Incidentally, scholarly opinion holds that the Neanderthals became extinct and have no relation to modern human beings. The novelty manifested or revealed in Neanderthal rituals is the ability to give meaning to life. The same capacity is demonstrated by the Cro-Magnon drawings dating back ten or twelve thousand years in the caverns of Altamira in Spain and Lascaux in France and others, dating back perhaps twenty-five or even thirty thousand years in the Chauvet cave at Ardeche in France.


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Buddhism makes a detailed analysis of the structure of self-consciousness. The Consciousness-Only school posits four divisions of consciousness: the object of consciousness, direct consciousness of that object, the self that is aware of this direct consciousness, and the self that is aware of that conscious self. This last self-conscious self can be said to engage in internal dialogue with the self. But self-consciousness, a trait inherent in human life, makes these characteristics possible. Henri Bergson — said that, in the narrow sense, tools are products of the intellect.

In other words, self-consciousness as a spiritual structure is unique to human beings. It is the very foundation of human nature as distinct from animal nature. It brings to mind the image of a mirror, reflecting and showing us ourselves as we live and then permitting us to choose, within certain constraints, the orientation we desire. Certainly we can find many non-human species with the capacity to react and adapt to their environments. The complex social organizations and behaviours we observe in ants, birds, whales, and porpoises bear witness to this.

These observations add weight to theories that emphasize continuity and blood ties. They even manifest the consciousness that integrates these three with the fourth component of life, form—at least in part. In the light of this similarity, it is possible to recognize continuity between human and non-human animals. The Australian physiologist Sir John Carew Eccles — suggested that even the creative process of evolution is incapable of bridging the gap between the physico-chemical processes of the cerebral cortex and the psychological processes of consciousness.

Penfield — wrote that somehow or other, nerve stimulation is transformed into thought and thought becomes nerve stimulation. That is all we know for sure. But the knowledge does nothing to explain the essential nature of our wonderful minds. Others see no need to resort to the spirit to account for something related to novel possibilities in a more complex living organization.

Penfield was not the first to make such an assessment; that is, to measure the physic-chemistry of human thought, sentiment, and emotion. But thought—or consciousness, to get back to our exact topic—is possible only because of the functioning of the complex organism that is the human being—more specifically because of the functioning of the human brain. For instance, today we use lithium to treat manic-depression by reducing and controlling excessive deviations of enthusiasm and anxiety.

And this brings us back to the manifest continuity—in spite of the ruptures—of matter and life, of matter and consciousness. Lithium physically and chemically influences the brain, the nervous system and the other bodily organs which comprise a unified physiological system. Physical and chemical changes in the body influence mental state. By like token, anxiety and worry influence hormone secretion, thus affecting physical and chemical conditions such as body temperature.

A similar relationship exists between the individual and the environment. It seems to me that we underestimate matter in both the living being—including humans—and in spiritual consciousness. Dichotomous thinking compels us to choose between realities that it would be better to reconcile and connect.

BY HENRI BERGSON

Meaning thus imparted is a mark not only of human life, both as individuals and as history-creating societies, but also of the future of the world itself. In other words, the mechanism of introspective, reflective self-awareness was possible only when human beings began to think about their position in relation to the universe and consider an eternal force propelling cosmic evolution. As I see it, this development constituted a creative input into cosmic biological evolution. From the standpoint of human evolution, it signified the fusion of humankind with the cosmos through an internal transcendence of physical evolution—an encounter with the eternal.

Existential angst and fear are nothing other than the subconscious emotions arising from the encounter between the finite self and the infinite eternal. What kind of mission? That the appearance of a vegetable or animal species is due to specific causes, nobody will gainsay. But this can only mean that if, after the fact, we could know these causes in detail, we could explain by them the form that has been produced; foreseeing the form is out of the question. But these conditions are built up into it and are part and parcel of its being; they are peculiar to that phase of its history in which life finds itself at the moment of producing the form: how could we know beforehand a situation that is unique of its kind, that has never yet occurred and will never occur again?

Of the future, only that is foreseen which is like the past or can be made up again with elements like those of the past. Such is the case with astronomical, physical and chemical facts, with all facts which form part of a system in which elements supposed to be unchanging are merely put together, in which the only changes are changes of position, in which there is no theoretical absurdity in imagining that things are restored to their place; in which, consequently, the same total phenomenon, or at least the same elementary phenomena, can be repeated.

But an original situation, which imparts something of its own originality to its elements, that is to say, to the partial views that are taken of it, how can such a situation be pictured as given before it is actually produced? Now , what is true of the production of a new species is also true of the production of a new individual, and, more generally, of any moment of any living form. For, though the variation must reach a certain importance and a certain generality in order to give rise to a new species, it is being produced every moment, continuously and insensibly, in every living being.

And it is evident that even the sudden mutations " which we now hear of are possible only if a process of incubation, or rather of maturing, is going. In this sense it might be said of life, as of consciousness, that at every moment it is creating something. But against this idea of the absolute originality and unforeseeability of forms our whole intellect rises in revolt. The essential function of our intellect, as the evolution of life has fashioned it, is to be a light for our conduct, to make ready for our action on things, to foresee, for a given situation, the events, favorable or unfavorable, which may follow thereupon.

Intellect therefore instinctively selects in a given situation whatever is like something already known; it seeks this out, in order that it may apply its principle that "like produces like. Science carries this faculty to the highest possible degree of exactitude and precision, but does not alter its essential character. Like ordinary knowledge, in dealing with things science is concerned only with the aspect of repetition. Though the whole be original, science will always manage to analyze it into elements or aspects which are approximately a reproduction of the past.

Science can work only on what is supposed to repeat itself-that is to say, on what is withdrawn, by hypothesis, from the action of real time. Anything that is irreducible. To get a notion of this irreducibility and irreversibility, we must break with scientific habits which are adapted to the fundamental requirements of thought, we must do violence to the mind, go counter to the natural bent of the intellect. But that is just the function of philosophy. In vain, therefore, does life evolve before our eyes as a continuous creation of unforeseeable form: the idea always persists that form, unforeseeability and continuity are mere appearance-the outward reflection of our own ignorance.

What is presented to the senses as a continuous history would break up, we are told, into a series of successive states. What you call an unforeseeable form is only a new arrangement of old elements. The elementary causes, which in their totality have determined this arrangement, are themselves old causes repeated in a new order.

Knowledge of the elements and of the elementary causes would have made it possible to foretell the living form which is their sum and their resultant. When we have resolved the biological aspect of phenomena into physico-chemical factors, we will leap, if necessary, over physics and chemistry themselves; we will go from masses to molecules, from molecules to atoms, from atoms to corpuscles: we must indeed at last come to something that can be treated as a kind of solar system, astronomically.

If you deny it, you oppose the very principle of scientific mechanism and you arbitrarily affirm that living matter is not made of the same elements as other matter. The only question is whether the. That life is a kind of mechanism I cordially agree. But is it the mechanism of parts artificially isolated within the whole of the universe, or is it the mechanism of the real whole? The real whole might well be, we conceive, an indivisible continuity. The systems we cut out within it would, properly speaking, not then be parts at all; they would be partial views of the whole.

And, with these partial views put end to end, you will not make even a beginning of the reconstruction of the whole, any more than, by multiplying photographs of an object in a thousand different aspects, you will reproduce the object itself. So of life and of the physico-chemical phenomena to which you endeavor to reduce it. Analysis will undoubtedly resolve the process of organic creation into an ever-growing number of physico-chemical phenomena, and chemists and physicists will have to do, of course, with nothing but these.

But it does not follow that chemistry and physics will ever give us the key to life. A very small element of a curve is very near being a straight line. And the smaller it is, the nearer. In the limit, it may be termed a part of the curve or a part of the straight line, as you please, for in each of its points a curve coincides with its tangent.

So likewise "vitality" is tangent, at any and every point, to physical and chemical forces; but such points are, as a fact, only views taken by a mind which imagines stops at various moments of the movement that generates the curve. In reality, life is no more made of physico-chemical elements than a curve is composed of straight lines. Such, for example, is the relation of modern to ancient geometry.

The latter, purely static, worked with figures drawn once for all; the former studies the varying of a function that is, the continuous movement by which the figure is described. No doubt, for greater strictness, all considerations of motion may be eliminated from mathematical processes; but the introduction of motion into the genesis of figures is nevertheless the origin of modern mathematics.

We believe that if biology could ever get as close to its object as mathematics does to its own, it would become, to the physics and chemistry of organized bodies, what the mathematics of the moderns has proved to be in relation to ancient geometry. The wholly superficial displacements of masses and molecules studied in physics and chemistry would become, by relation to that inner vital movement which is transformation and not translation what the position of a moving object is to the movement of that object in space.

And, so far as we can see, the procedure by which we should then pass from the definition of a certain vital action to the system of physico-chemical facts which it implies would be like passing from the function to its derivative, from the equation of the curve i. Such a science would be a mechanics of transformation, of which our mechanics of translation would become a particular case, a simplification, a projection on the plane of pure quantity.

And just as an infinity of functions have the same differential, these functions differing from each other by a constant,. But such an integration can be no more than dreamed of; we do not pretend that the dream will ever be realized. We are only trying, by carrying a certain comparison as far as possible, to show up to what point our theory goes along with pure mechanism, and where they part company.

Imitation of the living by the unorganized may, however, go a good way. Not only does chemistry make organic syntheses, but we have succeeded in reproducing artificially the external appearance of certain facts of organization, such as indirect cell-division and protoplasmic circulation.

It is well known that the protoplasm of the cell effects various movements within its envelope; on the other hand, indirect cell-division is the outcome of very complex operations, some involving the nucleus and others the cytoplasm. These latter commence by the doubling of the centrosome, a small spherical body alongside the nucleus. The two centrosomes thus obtained draw apart, attract the broken and doubled ends of the filament of which the original nucleus mainly consisted, and join them to form two fresh nuclei about which the two new cells are constructed which will succeed the first.

Now, in their broad lines and in their external appearance, some at least of these operations have been successfully imitated. If some sugar or table salt is pulverized and some very old oil is added, and a drop of the mixture is observed under the microscope, a froth of alveolar -structure is seen whose configuration is like that of protoplasm, according to certain theories, and in which movements take place which are decidedly like those of protoplasmic circulation.

The displacements of an amoeba in a drop of water would be comparable to the motion to and fro of a grain of dust in a droughty room. Its mass is all the time absorbing certain soluble matters contained in the surrounding water, and giving back to it certain others; these continual exchanges, like those between two vessels separated by a porous partition, would create an everchanging vortex around the little organism.

As for the temporary prolongations or pseudopodia which the amoeba seems to make, they would be not so much given out by it as attracted from it by a kind of inhalation or suction of the surrounding medium. But scientists are far from agreed on the value of explanations and schemas of this sort. Chemists have pointed out that even in the organic-not to go so far as the organized-science has reconstructed hitherto nothing but waste products of vital activity; the peculiarly active plastic substances obstinately defy synthesis.

One of the most notable naturalists of our time has insisted on the opposition of two orders of phenomena observed in living tissues, anagenesis and katagenesis.

Dualism in Descartes and Classical Philosophy

The role of the anagenetic energies is to raise the inferior energies. They construct the tissues. On the other hand, the actual functioning of life excepting, of course, assimilation, growth, and reproduction is of the katagenetic order, exhibiting the fall, not the rise, of energy. It is only with these facts of katagenetic order that physico-chemistry deals-that is, in short, with the dead and not with the living. As for the artificial imitation of the outward appearance of protoplasm, should a real theoretic importance be attached to this when the question of the physical framework of protoplasm is not yet settled?

We are still further from compounding protoplasm chemically. Finally, a physico-chemical explanation of the motions of the amoeba, and a fortiori of the behavior of the Infusoria, seems impossible to many of those who have closely observed these rudimentary organisms. Even in these humblest manifestations of life they discover traces of an effective psychological activity. Such is the conclusion of the truly admirable book which the histologist E.

To sum up, those who are concerned only with the functional activity of the living being are inclined to believe that physics and chemistry will give us the key to biological processes. This explains, in some measure, the mechanistic tendencies of physiology. On the contrary, those whose attention is concentrated on the minute structure of living tissues, on their genesis and evolution, histologists and embryogenists on the one hand, naturalists on the other, are interested in the retort itself, not merely in its contents.

They find that this retort creates its own form through a unique series of acts that really constitute a history. Thus, histologists, embryogenists, and naturalists believe far less readily than physiologists in the physico-chemical character of vital actions. The fact is, neither one nor the other of these two theories, neither that which affirms nor that which denies the possibility of chemically producing an elementary organism, can claim the authority of experiment. They are both unverifiable, the former because science has not yet advanced a step toward the chemical synthesis of a living substance, the second because there is no conceivable way of proving experimentally the impossibility of a fact.

But we have set forth the theoretical reasons which prevent us from likening the living being, a system closed off by nature, to the systems which our science isolates. But they acquire more when we consider a complex organism which goes through a regular cycle of transformations. The more duration marks the living being with its imprint, the more obviously the organism differs from a mere mechanism, over which duration glides without penetrating.

And the demonstration has most force when it applies to the evolution of life as a whole, from its humblest origins to its highest forms, inasmuch as this evolution constitutes, through the unity and continuity of the animated matter which supports it, a single indivisible history. Thus viewed, the evolutionist hypothesis does not seem so closely akin to the mechanistic conception of life as it is generally supposed to be.

Of this mechanistic conception we do not claim, of course, to furnish a mathematical and final refutation. But the refutation which we draw from the consideration of real time, and which is, in our opinion, the only refutation possible, becomes the more rigorous and cogent the more frankly the evolutionist hypothesis is assumed. We must dwell a good deal more on this point.

But let us first show more clearly the notion of life to which we are leading up. The mechanistic explanations, we said, hold good for the systems that our thought artificially detaches from the whole. But of the whole itself and of the systems which, within this whole, seem to take after it, we cannot admit a priori that they are mechanically explicable, for then time would be useless, and even unreal. The essence of mechanical explanation, in fact, is to regard the future and the past as calculable functions of the present, and thus to claim that all is given.

On this hypothesis, past, present and future would be open at a glance to a superhuman intellect capable of making the calculation.

Laplace formulated it with the greatest precision: "An intellect which at a given instant knew all the forces with which nature is animated, and the respective situations of the beings that compose nature-supposing the said intellect were 'vast enough to subject these data to analysis-would embrace in the same formula the motions of the greatest bodies in the universe and those of the slightest atom: nothing would be uncertain for it, and the future, like the past, would be present to its eyes.

For time is here deprived of efficacy, and if it does nothing, it is nothing. Radical mechanism implies a metaphysic in which the totality of the real is postulated complete in eternity, and in which the apparent duration of things expresses merely the infirmity of a mind that cannot know everything at once. But duration is something very different from this for our consciousness, that is to say, for that which is most indisputable in our experience. We perceive duration as a stream against which we cannot go. It is the foundation of our being, and, as we feel, the very substance of the world in which we live.

It is of no use to hold up before our eyes the dazzling prospect of a universal mathematic; we cannot sacrifice experience to the requirements of a system. That is why we reject radical mechanism. But radical finalism is quite as unacceptable, and for the same reason. The doctrine of teleology, in its extreme form, as we find it in Leibniz for example. But if there is nothing unforeseen, no invention or creation in the universe, time is useless again.

As in the mechanistic hypothesis, here again it is supposed that all is given. Finalism thus understood is only inverted mechanism. It springs from the same postulate, with this sole difference, that in the movement of our finite intellects along successive things, whose successiveness is reduced to a mere appearance, it holds in front of us the light with which it claims to guide us, instead of putting it behind. It substitutes the attraction of the future for the impulsion of the past.

But succession remains none the less a mere appearance, as indeed does movement itself. In the doctrine of Leibniz, time is reduced to a. Yet finalism is not, like mechanism, a doctrine with fixed rigid outlines. It admits of as many inflections as we Eke. The mechanistic philosophy is to be taken or left: it must be left if the least grain of dust, by straying from the path foreseen by mechanics, should show the slightest trace of spontaneity. The doctrine of final causes, on the contrary, will never be definitively refuted. If one form of it be put aside, it will take another.

Its principle, which is essentially psychological, is very flexible. It is so extensible, and thereby so comprehensive, that one accepts something of it as soon as one rejects pure mechanism. The theory we shall put forward in this book will therefore necessarily partake of finalism to a certain extent. For that reason it is important to intimate exactly what we are going to take of it, and what we mean to leave. Let us say at once that to thin out the Leibnizian finalism by breaking it into an infinite number of pieces seems to us a step in the wrong direction. This is, however, the tendency of the doctrine of finality.

It fully realizes that if the universe as a whole is the carrying out of a plan, this cannot be demonstrated empirically, and that even of the organized world alone it is hardly easier to prove all harmonious: facts would equally well testify to the contrary. Nature sets living beings at discord with one another. She everywhere presents disorder alongside of order, retrogression alongside of progress.

But, though finality cannot be affirmed either of the whole of matter or of the whole of life, might it not yet be true, says the finalist, of each organism taken separately? Is there not a wonderful division of labor, a marvellous solidarity among the parts of an organism, perfect order in infinite. Does not each living being thus realize a plan immanent in its substance? It does not accept, indeed it ridicules, the idea of an external finality, according to which living beings are ordered with regard to each other: to suppose the grass made for the cow, the lamb for the wolf-that is all acknowledged to be absurd.

But there is, we are told, an internal finality: each being is made for itself, all its parts conspire for the greatest good of the whole and are intelligently organized in view of that end. Such is the notion of finality which has long been classic. Finalism has shrunk to the point of never embracing more than one living being at a time. By making itself smaller, it probably thought it would offer less surface for blows. The truth is, it lay open to them a great deal more. Radical as our own theory may appear, finality is external or it is nothing at all.

2. The Discipline of Phenomenology

Consider the most complex and the most harmonious organism. All the elements, we are told, conspire for the greatest good of the whole. Very well, but let us not forget that each of these elements may itself be an organism in certain cases, and that in subordinating the existence of this small organism to the life of the great one we accept the principle of an external finality. The idea of a finality that is always internal is therefore a selfdestructive notion.

An organism is composed of tissues, each of which lives for itself. The cells of which the tissues are made have also a certain independence. Strictly speaking, if the subordination of all the elements of the indiMual to the individual itself were complete, we might contend that they are not organisms, reserve the name organism for the individual, and recognize only internal finality. But every one knows that these elements may possess a true au-. To say nothing of phagocytes, which push independence to the point of attacking the organism that nourishes them, or of germinal cells, which have their own life alongside the somatic cells-the facts of regeneration are enough: here an element or a group of elements suddenly reveals that, however limited its normal space and function, it can transcend them occasionally; it may even, in certain cases, be regarded as the equivalent of the whole.

There lies the stumbling-block of the vitalistic theories. We shall not reproach them, as is ordinarily done, with replying to the question by the question itself: the " vital principle" may indeed not explain much, but it is at least a sort of label affixed to our ignorance, so as to remind us of this occasionally,[19] while mechanism invites us to ignore that ignorance.

But the position of vitalism is rendered very difficult by the fact that, in nature, there is neither purely internal finality nor absolutely distinct individuality. The organized elements composing the individual have themselves a certain individuality, and each will claim its vital principle if the individual pretends to have its own. But, on the other hand, the individual itself is not sufficiently independent, not sufficiently cut off from other things, for us to allow it a " vital princi-. An organism such as a higher vertebrate is the most individuated of all organisms; yet, if we take into account that it is only the development of an ovum forming part of the body of its mother and of a spermatozoon belonging to the body of its father, that the egg i.

Where, then, does the vital principle of the individual begin or end? Gradually we shall be carried further and further back, up to the individual's remotest ancestors: we shall find him solidary with each of them, solidary with that little mass of protoplasmic jelly which is probably at the root of the genealogical tree of life. Being, to a certain extent, one with this primitive ancestor, he is also solidary with all that descends from the ancestor in divergent directions.

In this sense each individual may be said to remain united with the totality of living beings by invisible bonds. So it is of no use to try to restrict finality to the individuality of the living being. If there is finality in the world of life, it includes the whole of life in a single indivisible embrace. This life common to all the living undoubtedly presents many gaps and incoherences, and again it is not so mathematically one that it cannot allow each being to become individualized to a certain degree.

But it forms a single whole, none the less; and we have to choose between the out-and-out negation of finality and the hypothesis which co-ordinates not only the parts of an organism with the organism itself, but also each living being with the collective whole of all others. Finality will not go down any easier for being taken as a powder. Either the hypothesis of a finality im-. The error of radical finalism, as also that of radical mechanism, is to extend too far the application of certain concepts that are natural to our intellect.

Originally, we think only in order to act. Our intellect has been cast in the mold of action. Speculation is a luxury, while action is a necessity. Now, in order to act, we begin by proposing an end; we make a plan, then we go on to the detail of the mechanism which will bring it to pass. This latter operation is possible only if we know what we can reckon on. We must therefore have managed to extract resemblances from nature, which enable us to anticipate the future. Thus we must, consciously or unconsciously, have made use of the law of causality.

Moreover, the more sharply the idea of efficient causality is defined in our mind, the more it takes the form of a mechanical causality. And this scheme, in its turn, is the more mathematical according as it expresses a more rigorous necessity. That is why we have only to follow the bent of our mind to become mathematicians. But, on the other hand, this natural mathematics is only the rigid unconscious skeleton beneath our conscious supple habit of linking the same causes to the same effects; and the usual object of this habit is to guide actions inspired by intentions, or, what comes to the same, to direct movements combined with a view to reproducing a pattern.

We are born artisans as we are born geometricians, and indeed we are geometricians only because we are artisans. Thus the human intellect, inasmuch as it is fashioned for the needs of human action, is an intellect which proceeds at the same time by intention and by calculation, by adapting means to ends and by thinking out mechanisms of. Whether nature be conceived as an immense machine regulated by mathematical laws, or as the realization of a plan, these two ways of regarding it are only the consummation of two tendencies of mind which are complementary to each other, and which have their orioin in the same vital necessities.

For that reason, radical finalism is very near radical mechanism on many points. Both doctrines are reluctant to see in the course of things generally, or even simply in the development of life, an unforeseeable creation of form. In considering reality, mechanism regards only the aspect of similarity or repetition.

It is therefore dominated by this law, that in nature there is only like reproducing like. The more the geometry in mechanism is emphasized, the less can mechanism admit that anything is ever created, even pure form.


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  • In so far as we are geometricians, then, we reject the unforeseeable. We might accept it, assuredly, in so far as we are artists, for art lives on creation and implies a latent belief in the spontaneity of nature. But disinterested art is a luxury, like pure speculation. Long before being artists, we are artisans; and all fabrication, however rudimentary, lives on likeness and repetition, like the natural geometry which serves as its fulcrum.

    Fabrication works on models which it sets out to reproduce; and even when it invents, it proceeds, or imagines itself to proceed, by a new arrangement of elements already known. Its principle is that "we must have like to produce like. If everything is in time, everything changes inwardly, and the same concrete reality never recurs. Repetition is therefore possible only in the abstract: what is repeated is some aspect that our senses, and especially our intellect, have singled out from reality, just because our action, upon which all the effort of our intellect is directed, can move only among repetitions.

    Thus, concentrated on that which repeats, solely preoccupied in welding the same to the same, intellect turns away from the vision of time. It dislikes what is fluid, and solidifies everything it touches. We do not think real time. But we live it, because life transcends intellect. The feeling we have of our evolution and of the evolution of all things in pure duration is there, forming around the intellectual concept properly so-called an indistinct fringe that fades off into darkness.

    Mechanism and finalism agree in taking account only of the bright nucleus shining in the centre. They forget that this nucleus has been formed out of the rest by condensation, and that the whole must be used, the fluid as well as and more than the condensed, in order to grasp the inner movement of life. Indeed, if the fringe exists, however delicate and indistinct, it should have more importance for philosophy than the bright nucleus it surrounds. For it is its presence that enables us to affirm that the nucleus is a nucleus, that pure intellect is a contraction, by condensation, of a more extensive power.

    And, just because this vague intuition is of no help in directing our action on things, which action takes place exclusively on the surface of reality, we may presume that it is to be exercised not merely on the surface, but below. This is already the case with our inner life. For each of our acts we shall easily find antecedents of which it may in some sort be said to be the mechanical resultant.

    And it may equally well be said that each action is the realization of an intention. In this sense mechanism is everywhere, and finality everywhere, in the evolution of our conduct. But if our action be one that involves the whole of our person and is truly ours, it could not have been foreseen, even though its antecedents explain it when once it has been accomplished.

    And though it be the realizing of an intention, it differs, as a present and new reality, from the intention, which can never aim at anything but recommencing or rearranging the past. Mechanism and finalism are therefore, here, only external views of our conduct. They extract its intellectuality. But our conduct slips between them and extends much further. Once again, this does not mean that free action is capricious, unreasonable action. To behave according to caprice is to oscillate mechanically between two or more ready-made alternatives and at length to settle on one of them; it is no real maturing of an internal state, no real evolution; it is merely -- however paradoxical the assertion may seem-bending the will to imitate the mechanism of the intellect.

    A conduct that is truly our own, on the contrary, is that of a will which does not try to counterfeit intellect, and which, remaining itself-that is to say, evolving-ripens gradually into acts which the intellect will be able to resolve indefinitely into intelligible elements without ever reaching. The free act is incommensurable with the idea, and its "rationality" must be defined by this very incommensurability, which admits the discovery of as much intelligibility within it as we will. Such is the character of our own evolution; and such also, without doubt, that of the evolution of life.

    Our reason, incorrigibly presumptuous, imagines itself possessed, by right of birth or by right of conquest, innate or acquired, of all the essential elements of the knowledge of truth. Even where it confesses that it does not know the object presented to it, it believes that its ignorance consists only in not knowing which one of its time-honored categories suits the new object.

    In what drawer, ready to open, shall we put it? In what garment, already cut out, shall we clothe it? Is it this, or that, or the other thing? And "this," and "that," and "the other thing" are always something already conceived, already known. The idea that for a new object we might have to create a new concept, perhaps a new method of thinking, is deeply repugnant to us. The history of philosophy is there, however, and shows us the eternal conflict of systems, the impossibility of satisfactorily getting the real into the readymade garments of our ready-made concepts, the necessity of making to measure.

    But, rather than go to this extremity, our reason prefers to announce once for all, with a proud modesty, that it has to do only with the relative, and that the absolute is not in its province. This preliminary declaration enables it to apply its habitual method of thought without any scruple, and thus, under pretense that it does not touch the absolute, to make absolute judgments upon everything.

    Plato was the first to set up the theory that to know the real consists in finding its Idea, that is to say, in forcing it into a pre-existing frame already at our disposal-as if we implicitly possessed uni-. But this belief is natural to the human intellect, always engaged as it is in determining under what former heading it shall catalogue any new object; and it may be said that, in a certain sense, we are all born Platonists.

    Nowhere is the inadequacy of this method so obvious as in theories of life. If, in evolving in the direction of the vertebrates in general, of man and intellect in particular, life has had to abandon by the way many elements incompatible with this particular mode of organization and consign them, as we shall show, to other lines of development, it is the totality of these elements that we must find again and rejoin to the intellect proper, in order to grasp the true nature of vital activity. And we shall probably be aided in this by the fringe of vague intuition that surrounds our distinct-that is, intellectual -representation.

    For what can this useless fringe be, if not that part of the evolving principle which has not shrunk to the peculiar form of our organization, but has settled around it unasked for, unwanted? It is there, accordingly, that we must look for hints to expand the intellectual form of our thought; from there shall we derive the impetus necessary to lift us above ourselves. To form an idea of the whole of life cannot consist in combining simple ideas that have been left behind in us by life itself in the course of its evolution.

    How could the part be equivalent to the whole, the content to the container, a by-product of the vital operation to the operation itself? Such, however, is our illusion when we define the evolution of life as a "passage from the homogeneous to the heterogeneous," or by any other concept obtained by putting fragments of intellect side by side. We place ourselves in one of the points where evolution comes to a headthe principal one, no doubt, but not the only one; and.

    The truth is, that to represent this the entire intellect would not be too much-nay, it would not be enough. It would be necessary to add to it what we find in every other terminal point of evolution. And these diverse and divergent elements must be considered as so many extracts which are, or at least which were, in their humblest form, mutually complementary. Only then might we have an inkling of the real nature of the evolution movement; and even then we should fail to grasp it completely, for we should still be dealing only with the evolved, which is a result, and not with evolution itself, which is the act by which the result is obtained.

    Such is the philosophy of life to which we are leading up. It claims to transcend both mechanism and finalism; but, as we announced at the beginning, it is nearer the second doctrine than the first. It will not be amiss to dwell on this point, and how more precisely how far this philosophy of life resembles finalism and wherein it is different. Like radical finalism, although in a vaguer form, our philosophy represents the organized world as a harmonious whole.

    But this harmony is far from being as perfect as it has been claimed to be. It admits of much discord, because each species, each individual even, retains only a certain impetus from the universal vital impulsion and tends to use this energy in its own interest. In this con sists adaptation. The species and the individual thus think only of themselves-whence arises a possible conflict. Harmony, therefore, does not exist in fact; it exists rather in principle; I mean that the original impetus is a common impetus, and the higher we ascend the stream of life the more do diverse tendencies appear complementary to each other.

    Thus the wind at a street-corner divides into diverging currents which are all one and the same gust. Harmony, or rather " complementarity, " is revealed only in the mass, in tendencies rather than in states. Especially and this is the point on which finalism has been most seriously mistaken harmony is rather behind us than before. It is due to an identity of impulsion and not to a common aspiration.

    It would be futile to try to assign to life an end, in the human sense of the word. To speak of an end is to think of a pre-existing model which has only to be realized. It is to suppose, therefore, that all is given, and that the future can be read in the present. It is to believe that life, in its movement and in its entirety, goes to work like our intellect ' which is only a motionless and fragmentary view of life, and which naturally takes its stand outside of time. Life , on the contrary, progresses and endures in time.

    Of course, when once the road has been traveled, we can glance over it, mark its direction, note this in psychological terms and speak as if there had been pursuit of an end. Thus shall we speak ourselves. But, of the road which was going to be traveled, the human mind could have nothing to say, for the road has been created pari passu with the act of traveling over it, being nothing but the direction of this act itself.

    At every instant, then, evo lution must admit of a psychological interpretation which is, from our point of view, the best interpretation; but this explanation has neither value nor even significance except retrospectively. Never could the finalistic interpretation, such as we shall propose it, be taken for an. It is a particular mode of viewing the past in the light of the present.

    In short, the classic conception of finality postulates at once too much and too little: it is both too wide and too narrow. In explaining life by intellect, it limits too much the meaning of life: intellect, such at least as we find it in ourselves, has been fashioned by evolution during the course of progress; it is cut out of something larger, or, rather, it is only the projection, necessarily on a plane, of a reality that possesses both relief and depth. It is this more comprehensive reality that true finalism ought to reconstruct, or, rather, if possible, embrace in one view.

    But, on the other hand, just because it goes beyond intellect-the faculty of connecting the same with the same, of perceiving and also of producing repetitions-this reality is undoubtedly creative, i. These effects were therefore not given in it in advance, and so it could not take them for ends, although, when once produced, they admit of a rational interpretation, like that of the manufactured article that has reproduced a model.

    In short, the theory of final causes does not go far enough when it confines itself to ascribing some intelligence to nature, and it goes too far when it supposes a pre-existence of the future in the present in the form of idea. And the second theory, which sins by excess, is the outcome of the first, which sins by defect.

    In place of intellect proper must be substituted the more comprehensive reality of which intellect is only the contraction. The future then appears as expanding the present: it was not, therefore, contained in the present in the form of a represented end.

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    And yet, once realized, it will explain the present as much as the present explains it, and even more; it must be viewed as an end as much as, and more than, a result. Our in-. It is true that the cause may then seem beyond our grasp.


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    • Already the finalist theory of life eludes all precise verification. What if we go beyond it in one of its directions? Here, in fact, after a necessary digression, we are back at the question which we regard as essential: can the insufficiency of mechanism be proved by facts? We said that if this demonstration is possible, it is on condition of frankly accepting the evolutionist hypothesis.

      We must now show that if mechanism is insufficient to account for evolution, the way of proving this insufficiency is not to stop at the classic conception of finality, still less to contract or attenuate it, but, on the contrary, to go further. Let us indicate at once the principle of our demonstration. We said of life that, from its origin, it is the continuation of one and the same impetus, divided into divergent lines of evolution.

      Something has grown, something has developed by a series of additions which have been so many creations. This very development has brought about a dissociation of tendencies which were unable to grow beyond a certain point without becoming mutually incompatible. Strictly speaking, there is nothing to prevent our imagining that the evolution of life might have taken place in one single individual by means of a series of transformations spread over thousands of ages.

      Or, instead of a single individual, any number might be supposed, succeeding each other in a unilinear series. In both cases evolution would have had, so to speak, one dimension only. But evolution has actually taken place through millions of individuals, on divergent lines, each ending at a crossing from which new paths radiate, and so on indefinitely.

      Roads may fork or by-ways be opened along which dissociated elements may evolve in an independent manner, but nevertheless it is in virtue of the primitive impetus of the whole that the movement of the parts continues. Something of the whole, therefore, must abide in the parts; and this common element will be evident to us in some way, perhaps by the presence of identical organs in very different organisms.

      Suppose, for an instant, that the mechanistic explanation is the true one: evolution must then have occurred through a series of accidents added to one another, each new accident being preserved by selection if it is advantageous to that sum of former advantageous accidents which the present form of the living being represents. What likelihood is there that, by two entirely different series of accidents being added together, two entirely different evolutions will arrive at similar results?

      The more two lines of evolution diverge, the less probability is there that accidental outer influences or accidental inner variations bring about the construction of the same apparatus upon them, especially if there, was no trace of this apparatus at the moment of divergence. But such similarity of the two products would be natural, on the contrary, on a hypothesis like ours: even in the latest channel there would be something of the impulsion received at the source.

      Pure mechanism, then, would be refutable, and finality, in the special sense in which we understand it, would be demonstrable in a certain aspect, if it could be proved that life may manufacture the like apparatus, by unlike means, on divergent lines of evolution; and the strength of the proof. It will be said that resemblance of structure is due to sameness of the general conditions in which life has evolved, and that these permanent outer conditions may have imposed the same direction on the forces constructing this or that apparatus, in spite of the diversity of transient outer influences and accidental inner changes.

      Biologists certainly do not all make the same use of it. Some think the outer conditions capable of causing change in organisms in a direct manner, in a definite direction, through physico-chemical alterations induced by them in the living substance; such is the hypothesis of Eimer, for example. Others, more faithful to the spirit of Darwinism, believe the influence of conditions works indirectly only, through favoring, in the struggle for life, those representatives of a species which the chance of birth has best adapted to the environment.

      In other words, some attribute a positive influence to outer conditions, and say that they actually give rise to variations, while the others say these conditions have only a negative influence and merely eliminate variations. But, in both cases, the outer conditions are supposed to bring about a precise adjustment of the organism to its circumstances.

      Both parties, then, will attempt to explain mechanically, by adaptation to similar conditions, the similarities of structure which we think are the strongest, argument against mechanism. So we must at once indicate in a general way, before passing to the detail, why explanations from "adaptation" seem to us insufficient. Let us first remark that, of the two hypotheses just described, the latter is the only one which is not equivocal. But, just because it attributes to the outer cause which controls evolution a merely negative influence, it has great difficulty in accounting for the progressive and, so to say, rectilinear development of complex apparatus such as we are about to examine.

      How much greater will this difficulty be in the case of the similar structure of two extremely complex organs on two entirely different lines of evolution! An accidental variation, however minute, implies the working of a great number of small physical and chemical causes. An accumulation of accidental variations, such as would be necessary to produce a complex structure, requires therefore the concurrence of an almost infinite number of infinitesimal causes. Why should these causes, entirely accidental, recur the same, and in the same order, at different points of space and time?

      No one will hold that this is the case, and the Darwinian himself will probably merely maintain that identical eff ects may arise from different causes, that more than one road leads to the same spot. But let us not be fooled by a metaphor. The place reached does not give the form of the road that leads there; while an organic structure is just the accumulation of those small differences which evolution has had to go through in order to achieve it. The struggle for life and natural selection can be of no use to us in solving this part of the problem, for we are not concerned here with what has perished, we have to do only with what has survived.

      Now, we see. How can accidental causes, occurring in an accidental order, be supposed to have repeatedly come to the same result, the causes being infinitely numerous and the effect infinitely complicated? The principle of mechanism is that "the same causes produce the same effects. That two walkers starting from different points and wandering at random should finally meet, is no great wonder.

      But that, throughout their walk, they should describe two identical curves exactly superposable on each other, is altogether unlikely. The improbability will be the greater, the more complicated the routes; and it will become impossibility, if the zigzags are infinitely complicated. Now, what is this complexity of zigzags as compared with that of an organ in which thousands of different cells, each being itself a kind of organism, are arranged in a definite order? Let us turn, then, to the other hypothesis, and see how it would solve the problem.

      Adaptation, it says, is not merely elimination of the unadapted; it is due to the positive influence of outer conditions that have molded the organism on their own form. This time, similarity of effects will be explained by similarity of cause. We shall remain, apparently, in pure mechanism. But if we look closely, we shall see that the explanation is merely verbal, that we are again the dupes of words, and that the trick of the solution consists in taking the term " adaptation" in two entirely different senses at the same time.

      If I pour into the same glass, by turns, water and wine, the two liquids Will take the same form , and the sameness in form will be due to the sameness in adaptation of content to container. Adaptation, here, really means mechanical adjustment. The reason is that the form to which the matter has adapted itself was there, ready-made, and. But, in the adaptation of an organism to the circumstances it has to live in, where is the pre-existing form awaiting its matter? The circumstances are not a mold into which life is inserted and whose form life adopts: this is indeed to be fooled by a metaphor.

      There is no form yet, and the life must create a form for itself, suited to the circumstances which are made for it. It will have to make the best of these circumstances, neutralize their inconveniences and utilize their advantages-in short, respond to outer actions by building up a machine which has no resemblance to them. Such adapting is not repeating, but replying,-- an entirely different thing. If there is still adaptation, it will be in the sense in which one may say of the solution of a problem of geometry, for example, that it is adapted to the conditions.

      I grant indeed that adaptation so understood explains why different evolutionary processes result in similar forms: the same problem, of course, calls for the same solution. But it is necessary then to introduce, as for the solution of a problem of geometry, an intelligent activity, or at least a cause which behaves in the same way. This is to bring in finality again, and a finality this time more than ever charged with anthropomorphic elements. In a word, if the adaptation is passive, if it is mere repetition in the relief of what the conditions give in the mold, it will build up nothing that one tries to make it build; and if it is active, capable of responding by a calculated solution to the problem which is set out in the conditions, that is going further than we do-too far, indeed, in our opinion -- in the direction we indicated in the beginning.

      But the truth is that there is a surreptitious passing from one of these two meanings to the other, a flight for refuge to the first whenever one is about to be caught in flagrante delicto of finalism by employing the second. It is really. In any particular case one talks as if the process of adaptation were an effort of the organism to build up a machine capable of turning external circumstances to the best possible account: then one speaks of adaptation in general as if it were the very impress of circumstances, passively received by an indifferent matter,. But let us come to the examples. It would be interesting first to institute here a general comparison between plants and animals.

      One cannot fail to be struck with the parallel progress which has been accomplished, on both sides, in the direction of sexuality. Not only is fecundation itself the same in higher plants and in animals, since it consists, in both, in the union of two nuclei that differ in their properties and structure before their union and immediately after become equivalent to each other; but the preparation of sexual elements goes on in both under like conditions: it consists essentially in the reduction of the number of chromosomes and the rejection of a certain quantity of chromatic substance.

      Here are two great series which have gone on diverging. On either line, thousands and thousands of causes have combined to determine the morphological and functional evolution. Yet these infinitely complicated causes have been consummated, in each series, in the same effect.