The Revival of Scholastic Philosophy in the Nineteenth Century

Chapter III: Scholastic Metaphysics


The word Metaphysics was unknown to Aristotle. It is probably due to Andronicus of Rhodes, a compiler of Aristotle's works, who was unable to reduce the fourteen books actually known as Metaphysics either to ethics, logic or physics. The word had therefore originally no intended meaning beyond a classificatory purpose. Very soon, however, its connotation underwent a change and was taken to be, not what merely comes after, but what is essentially above physics. St. Thomas brings the two meanings together in the following words: "This science is called metaphysics because its study follows the study of physics, as we are naturally inclined to pass from sensible to supersensible things."[1]

General Metaphysics, also called Ontology, has often been defined by neo-Scholasties as: the science of Being in general, or of Being as Being. This definition has been opposed by Mgr. Mercier on the ground that the notion of being in general is analogical, and covers a multitude of things with which ontology has nothing to do. It embraces objects of totally diverse natures, such as substances and accidents. It even extends to the logical being. Now, the logical being has its proper place in logic. As for accident, it is not studied in metaphysics except in so far as it is related to substance. The proper object of metaphysics, according to Mercier, is thus real being or substance. Metaphysics is not concerned with what Hegel calls "Pure Being," and shows to be equal to nothing. It's vital problem, as Mr. Woodbridge points out, is the nature or c~haracter of reality,[2] and accident and logical being come within its field only in so far as they are regarded as real.

Scholastic metaphysics has met, in modern times, with powerful adversaries who have tried, not only to deprive her of the sovereignty which, as queen of the sciences, she had so long exercised, but to banish her altogether from the world of thought. She who, for centuries, had seen the most powerful geniuses prostrate at her feet, has been driven out, without mercy, from the field of human speculation. She has lingered for a long time, as an outlaw, in some obscure corner of her former realm, and to-day she reappears more resplendent than ever, and dares meet her old foes face to face.

The two great currents of thought which have rejected metaphysics as vain in its object and erroneous in its conclusions are Positivism and Kantism.

According to Auguste Comte, the attempt to grasp the essences of things is a futile endeavor. We cannot go beyond actual facts and laws of facts. Identical are the views of Herbert Spencer. For him, our knowledge is limited to appearances, and the reality lying behind those appearances is and must be unknown.[3]

Positivism thus rejects metaphysics, is even bound to reject it. A philosophy which professes not to step beyond the facts of sensible experience cannot reach the universal nature which is the object of all metaphysical speculation. It should even abandon all attempts at expressing the laws of facts, and be contented with the immediate, with the "this," which is the only thing devoid of all metaphysical element.

Kant, whose aim was to combat Hume's scepticism and thus to save metaphysics from utter destruction, has perhaps dealt her the most severe blows. He has taught that our knowledge is conditioned by our natural faculties, and that the reality which we see through the forms of sensibility and the categories of understanding is necessarily distorted by these subjective conditions and never appears to us as it is in itself. It is phenomena that we know. The noumenon, the thing-in-itself, is absolutely unknowable. A science professing to deal with reality as it is becomes therefore meaningless and absurd.

Both Kantians and Positivists labor under the same misconception. All facts of experience have come to be divided into two great classes. Some are known as real, others as apparent. We have observed that a stick which looks straight in ordinary conditions looks crooked when immersed in water. As our sense of touch does, not in this case corroborate the conclusions of our visual experience, we conclude that no real change has taken place in the stick itself, that it is still really straight, but appears crooked.

This division is swallowed up by all defenders of the absolute relativity of knowledge. They undo, as it were, the work of experience, and leave us at our starting-point, where we cannot escape the necessity of beginning our work over again. It reality lies altogether beyond our reach, it is as non-existent for us, and the appearances, the phenomena with which alone we have to deal, become the only possible object of research, the only reality. With them a new metaphysics must needs arise, which, upon close examination, will be found to be exactly the one we have rejected.

The positivistic and the Kantian positions are thus untenable. They are also illogical. Both positivists and Kantians reach conclusions that are metaphysical in themselves and unattainable without the help of metaphysics. They assert, for example, that all knowledge is relative and that reality is absolutely unknowable. This is a conclusion about the nature of reality itself, a conclusion which in so far is metaphysical. And if we go on saying with Spencer that the unknowable force lying beyond our experience is the cause of our sense-impressions, or, with Kant, that the thing-in-itself is the necessary condition of the existence of the phenomenal world, if we know and describe the effects which the absolute reality produces, we thereby profess to know a good deal about this reality, and can hardly describe it as absolutely unknowable.


One of the most enlightened among neo-Scholastics, Mr. Albert Farges, regards the doctrine of Act and Potency as the foundation-stone of the peripapetic and Thomistic metaphysics. "La theorie de l'acte et de la puissance, du moteur et du mobile est la clef de voûte de tout ce gigantesque édifice élevé à la gloire de la philosophie spiritualiste par le génie d'Aristote et de saint Thomas d'Aquin."[4] This doctrine has been, however, so often derided in modern times that Mr. Farges's words will it first savor of paradox. The Scholastics have been accused of introducing into their philosophy mysterious entities, occult causes, and of moving thereby, in the most strange way, as by means of invisible threads, the whole machinery of the world. In order to remove all possible prejudices, it will be well, before proceeding to explain the theory of Act and Potency, to quote the opinion of two men who are certainly not biased in favor of Scholasticism. The first of them is Mr. Vacherot. Speaking of the peripatetic philosophy, he expresses himself thus:

"It is the school of Aristotle especially, which is a school of science and of positive philosophy. . . . Nothing is less speculative than his philosophy, if the term speculative is meant for a priori conception. . . . The whole doctrine of Aristotle rests upon a formula, which is the most abstract and the highest expression of experience: Potency and Act, two words which sum up his thought and explain everything."[5]

Mr. Boutroux likewise, although a sincere Kantian, not only does full justice to Aristotle, but seems to prefer his teaching to the doctrine of Kant himself. He recognizes that Aristotle's philosophy answers particularly to the scientific preoccupations of our time, "répond particulièrement aux préoccupations scientifiques de notre époque."[6]

The exposition of the doctrine of Act and Potency demands, as an indispensable prerequisite, an analysis of the concept of motion.

The existence of motion or change was denied by the Old Eleatic school. It is said that Aristotle, in answer to certain sophists of his time, who endeavored to revive Parmendides's and Zeno's arguments, simply began to walk. This answer, so trivial in appearance, was as profound and irrefutable as could be. It meant that motion is a fact of our experience, and cannot be denied, because it is there and constantly forces itself upon us. Should it even be said that all movements and changes are deceitful appearances and that reality is immutable, one is compelled to admit that those appearances are still there, are real and must be explained.

Aristotle, in his Physics, distinguishes three classes of movement: a movement purely local or of translation; a change in quality, which he calls alteration; a change in quantity, or development and reduction of mass.[7]

Movement is thus understood in a broad sense and cannot be identified with local motion. Change of place is rather an effect of motion than motion itself. The essence of motion rather consists, to use Farges's words, in a tendency, a becoming, an instrument of evolution for the material forces of nature, "une tendance, un devenir, un instrument d'évolution pour les fources matérielles de la nature."[8]

Now, the changes we observe in our universe do not take place at random, but according to definite laws. Whenever an object is placed in determinate conditions, it begins to act in such a

way as to show that it possesses a peculiar nature, that it is a unique individual. In other words, we are bound to admit the existence of purpose in our world. The word purpose has now come to mean a conscious scheme. It has been identified with design. The old Scholastics did not hesitate to use it in a broader sense. They spoke of intentio naturtaeor appetitus naturalis to designate the unconscious tendencies of lower beings.[9]

When we say that our universe is purposive, we do not therefore mean that it is made according to a plan; that it is designed by a supreme being who directs everything to his ends, who, hidden behind the scenes, moves the whole mechanism. Our world may be thus designed, it is true, but this is not the question now. We only mean that the individuals of our world are controlled by their own character, that they naturally tend to a definite result. We may thus consider in each individual two different states: the one in which it is still undeveloped, determinable, has not acquired the full perfection it naturally tends to; the other in which it is already determined, perfected, has reached its final goal. The first of these states is called potential by the Scholastics, the second actual. A potential being is thus an imperfect, but perfectible being. An actual being is a being already perfected. The acorn is potentially an oak.

No mysterious assumption, I believe, is needed to reach these conclusions. Potentiality is not an occult cause existing behind the acorn and acting upon it in some unthinkable manner; it is the peculiar character which the acorn possesses as an individual, and by which it is distinguished from all other individuals, the property which enables it to become an oak and nothing else. It may be impossible to tell beforehand the nature of the actuality toward which a potential being tends. A microscopical examination of the acorn will not show us anything resembling an oak. An analysis of the potential will not give us the actual. It is the actual itself that will evince the potentialities of the being which gave it birth. The very fact, however, that the

acorn, and the acorn alone, becomes an oak, compels us to admit that the acorn possesses some individual properties which a pea does not possess, that it contains potentially an oak, while the pea does not. Nothing further than this do the Scholastics maintain.

We are now in a position to understand Aristotle's famous definition of motion as "the act of the potential being as potential."

Between the purely potential state of the being which is not as yet tending towards an end, and its final condition after the end is reached, there are intermediate stages. The new-born child is potentially a Kantian philosopher, although he has not yet done anything towards an insight of the Kantian theory. Between the state of his mind then and its final condition when the three Critiques are adequately grasped, a long period of time will probably elapse. There will be the university stage, in which the young student will learn with amazement that space is in his mind, the following years of struggle against a thought strange in itself and untowardly presented, epochs of failure and discouragement, epochs of partial success.

The new-born child possesses the Kantian philosophy potentially; the full-grown philosopher who has mastered the three Critiques possesses it actually; the university student is in a state of movement.

Motion is thus an act of the potential being; an act, because the potential being which is merely potential does not yet tend towards its end, is not yet in motion; an act of the potential being, because if the being is already actual, has completed its evolutionary process, it is not in motion any longer. Motion is an act, but an imperfect act; an act which has not yet reached its full degree of actuality, and is now completing itself.


The simplest observation upon the objects of our experience, shows that they may be divided into two great classes. Some, as a horse, a tree, a man, we conceive as existing by themselves. Others, as walking, cannot exist but in something else. The former are called substances by the Scholastics; the second, accidents, qualities, attributes. Scholastic philosophy thus defines substance as that which exists by itself; accident as that which cannot exist by itself, but always exists in something else.

The etymology of the word substance (substantia) involves, it is true, a different meaning. It evokes the idea of a substratum, of some sort of recipient in which the attributes inhere. But, as we have elsewhere remarked, the etymology of a word does not always give us the key to its actual meaning. In our epoch of religious liberty, a Protestant may spend his whole life without actually protesting against any religious dogma. He still calls himself and really is a Protestant.

No doubt the accidents, being unable to exist by themselves, exist in something else; and substance may be thus correctly described as that which supports accidents. This is not, however, the primary meaning of the word substance, which strictly signifies that which exists by itself.

Before we proceed to a more detailed study of the concepts of substance and accident, it will be worth while to examine some of the modern theories which have rejected the term substance altogether, or have modified its meaning so as to render it unrecognizable.

Of the adversaries of substance, John Locke must head the list. Not because he is an open foe. He hesitates, feels dissatisfied with his bellicose attitude, would fain come to a compromise. But all the subsequent and more resolute adversaries have been at his school. It is his principles they follow; it is in his workshop they have found their most dreadful weapons.

Like many modern philosophers, John Locke regards substance as a support for accidents. It is from this point of view that he aims his missiles, so that, to a certain extent, he constantly misses the mark:

"They who first ran into the notion of accidents as a sort of real beings that needed something to inhere in," says he, "were forced to find out the word substance to support them. Had the poor Indian philosopher (who imagined that the earth also wanted something to bear it up), but thought of this word substance, he needed not to have been at the trouble to find an elephant to support it, and a tortoise to support the elephant: the word substance would have done it effectually."[10]

He consequently asserts that we have no clear idea of substance:

"We have no such clear idea at all, and therefore signify nothing by the word substance, but only an uncertain supposition of we know not what, i. e. (of something whereof we have no particular distinct positive) idea, which we take to be the substratum, or support, of those ideas we know."[11]

(Let us parenthetically point out a somewhat unexpected metamorphosis. We had believed substance to be a support of accidents. We are now told it is a support of ideas. Our author seems willing to prove by all possible means the truth of his assertion that he has no clear idea of substance.)

Let us not, however, misunderstand Locke. He would by no means maintain that we are in absolute ignorance as to what substances are; he even positively asserts that we have a real knowledge of them. But he adds the restricting clause that this knowledge does not go very far:

"Herein therefore is founded the reality of our knowledge concerning substances, that all our complex ideas of them must be such, and such only, as are made up of such simple ones as have been discovered to co-exist in nature. And our ideas being thus true, though not perhaps very exact copies, are yet the subject of real (as far as we have any) knowledge of them; which (as has been already shown) will not be found to reach very far; but so far as it does, it will still be real knowledge."[12]

Our knowledge of substance, which had been described as "nothing but an uncertain supposition of we know not what," is now confessed to be a real knowledge, as real as any knowledge we may have, and Locke's opponents may doubt whether his attacks were not merely the mock-fight of a stage performer. He will presently throw his weapons away, and we will hardly be able to repress a smile on reading the following terms of surrender:

"It is of the idea alone I speak here, and not of the being of substance. And having everywhere affirmed and built upon it, that a man is a substance, I cannot be supposed to question or doubt of the being of substance, till I can question or doubt of my own being."[13]

David Hume is, or tries to be, more consistent than his master. His rejection of substance seems at first sight well grounded and unanswerable, and has deserved him the credit of having delivered philosophy from a cumbersome and useless conception, of having done away with the soul-substance itself, as Berkeley had done with the bodily substance.

Hume's attack on ancient philosophy is a sharp attack indeed. He is careful, however, before engaging in the struggle, to tell us -- with a certain naiveté--that he does not understand ancient philosophy at all. " The whole system, says he, is entirely incomprehensible."[14] Now, it is perhaps too much to say that a system of philosophy is not understood until it is believed; but it cannot be denied that a system of philosophy is not understood until belief in it seems at least possible. Artistotle was a man whose mental shrewdness Hume certainly did not surpass, who devoted his whole life to study as earnestly as Hume did, who lived in a country not inferior as regards civilization to Hume's own country, who moved in a more intellectual atmosphere, who breathed a purer air. The system of philosophy Aristotle contrived was undoubtedly plain in his own mind. If it appears entirely incomprehensible to Hume, it simply means that Hume does not understand it as Aristotle did, does not, in point of fact, understand it at all.

For Hume, as for Locke, substance is primarily a kind of substratum, something unknown and invisible, which continues the same amid all variations:

"In order to reconcile which contradictions the imagination is apt to feign something unknown and invisible, which it supposes to continue the same under all these variations; and this unintelligible something it calls a substance, or original and first matter."[15]

But as, according to him, all qualities (such as the color, taste, flgure, solidity, etc., of a melon) may be conceived as distinct and separate, they do not need any support, and substance becomes an unintelligible chimera:

"Every quality being a distinct thing from another, may be conceived to exist apart, and may exist apart, not only from every other quality, but from that unintelligible chimera of a substance."[16]

Hume is decidedly a most interesting man. After devoting all his energies to drive away the notion of substance from the field of philosophy, he reduces to naught, by stroke of pen, his elaborate work, and presents to his amazed reader the following statement:

"If any one should evade the difficulty by saying that the definition of a substance is something which may exist by itself; and that this definition ought to satisfy us: Should this be said, I should observe, that this definition agrees to everything that, can possibly be conceived; and never will serve to distinguish substance from accident, or the soul from its perceptions."[17]

That substance is something existing by itself is indeed the only thing the supporters of the idea of substance maintain; and Hume, unconsciously, unwillingly perhaps, becomes one of their number. There is, it is true, in his statement, an inadmissible element of which I will speak in the sequel; but the fundamental principle it contains is in perfect harmony with the doctrine for which the supporters of the existence of substance contend.

A few more words before dismissing Hume. Substances have generally been divided into bodily and mental. Berkeley is commonly supposed to have done away with bodily substances; Hume, with mental substances. This view must be qualified. Hume acknowledges that he believes in bodies -- that is to say, in bodily substances -- and thus seems to go one step backwards, to destroy Berkeley's elaborate work:

"We may well ask," says he, "What causes induce us to believe in the existence of body? but it is vain to ask, Whether there be body or not? That is a point which we must take for granted in all our reasonings."[18]

As regards mind, it is true that he resolves it into a heap or collection of perceptions:

"Mind," he says, "is nothing but a heap or collection of different perceptions, united together by certain relations, and supposed, though falsely, to be endowed with a perfect simplicity and identity."[19]

Which means that there are perceptions, and there is no mind.

But when, in reading the Treatise on Human Nature, we find such expressions as these:

"It will always be impossible to decide with certainty, whether they (the impressions) arise immediately from the object, or are produced by the creative power of the mind, or are derived from the author of our being."[20] . . . "Upon the whole, necessity is something that exists in the mind, not in objects."[21]. . . "Impressions are naturally the most vivid perceptions of the mind."[22] . . . "The mind falls so easily from the one perception to the other, that it scarce perceives the change."[23] . . . "We may pronounce any quality of the mind virtuous which causes love or pride."[24] . . . "When I perceive the causes of any emotion, my mind is conveyed to the effects, and is actuated with a like emotion."[25] . . . "It being almost impossible for the mind to change its character in any considerable article, or cure itself of a passionate or splenetic temper, when they are natural to it,"[26]

we feel strangely perplexed as to what Hume's meaning really is. It sounds odd to speak of states of mind if there is no mind. The words I, our, us, themselves become meaningless if perceptions alone are and we are not.

These considerations may give us some suspicion as to the real worth of Hume's famous rejection of substance. They will not perhaps induce us to proclaim with Rickaby that "the acceptance of Hume's doctrine by so many of the philosophers in England is a disgrace to the sound sense of the nation";[27] but they will compel us to study the conception of substance once more, to examine whether the philosophy which advocates its legitimacy is not, after all, the philosophy of truth.

It would be useless to pass a review of the contemporary philosophers who reject substance from their system. They do little more than adopting Hume's principles and repeating his arguments. Those among our university professors who have not yet come back to Aristotle's point of view simply tell us in their own words what Hume said long ago. The Treatise on Human Nature is their profession of faith.

There is one contemporary writer, however, who deserves to be singled out from the throng, and whose philosophy will detain us for a moment. I speak of John Stuart Mill.

Mill accepts the common division of substances into bodies and minds. He defines a body as "the external cause to which we ascribe our sensation";[28] a mind as "the unknown recipient, or percipient of them."[29] At the first blush, this seems very clear; but, unlike many other writers, Mill possesses the peculiarity of appearing clear at a first reading and less clear when we read him again; and, strange to say, the more we read him, the obscurer he becomes. At one place, he tells us that,

"as we know not, and cannot know anything of bodies but the sensations which they excite in us or in others, these sensations must be all that we can at bottom mean by their attributes, and the distinction which we verbally make between the properties of things and the sensations we receive from them must originate in the convenience of discourse rather than in the nature of what is denoted by the terms"[30]

at another place, that

"a sensation is to be carefully distinguished from the object which causes the sensation; our sensation of white from a white object; nor is it less to be distinguished from the attribute whiteness, which we ascribe to the object in consequence of its exciting the sensation."[31]

Here, after explaining that a cause does not as such resemble its effects, that an east wind is not like the feeling of cold, nor heat like the steam of boiling water, that matter therefore does not necessarily resemble our sensations, he concludes that

"it may be safely laid down as a truth both obvious in itself, and admitted by all whom it is at present necessary to take into consideration,that, of the outward world, we know and can know absolutely nothing, except the sensations which we experience from it";[32]

and a little further he criticizes Locke for admitting

"real essences, or essences of individual objects, which he supposed to be the causes of the sensible properties of those objects."[33]

Mill's conception of substance is thus far from being clear. There is, however, one point which he has perfectly grasped. He admits that substance is primarily that which exists by itself:

"An attribute," says he, "must be the attribute of something: color, for example, must be the color of something; and if this something should cease to exist, or should cease to be connected with the attribute, the existence of the attribute would be at an end. A substance, on the contrary, is self-existant: in speaking about it, we need not put of after its name. A stone is not the stone of anything; the moon is not the moon of anything, but simply the moon."[34]

It is not easy to see why Mill, criticizing this conception, finds in it lessons of English, Greek, Latin or German, rather than of mental philosophy. When we say that a color is the color of something and that the moon is not the moon of anything, we do not apparently use meaningless words. We speak about the real objects of our world, and describe them just as our experience presents them to us. As we never find in nature a color existing by itself, and we find a moon existing by itself, we feel compelled -- not by the necessity of our language, but by the necessity of the kind of reality we have got -- to speak of a color as a color of something, and to speak of the moon as simply the moon. It is reality which obliges us to distinguish a substance from an attribute, to ascribe to the former a character which the latter does not possess.

Mill, however, tries to corroborate his views by the following argument:

"As for the self-existence of substances, it is very true that a substance may be conceived to exist without any other substance, but so also may an attribute be conceived to exist without any other attribute; and we can no more imagine a substance without attributes than we can imagine attributes without a substance."[35]

This reasoning seems obvious enough; and, when expressed in the antithetical language used by Mill, may even appear convincing. A little consideration, however, shows that it lies under a great confusion of ideas. If the clause "an attribute may exist without any other attribute" simply means that an agreeable odor may be indifferently joined to a red or to a blue color, it is undoubtedly true, but does not amount to much. If, on the contrary, it means that an attribute may exist by itself, without any other conjoined attribute, it must simply be denied on the ground that it involves a contradiction, inasmuch as the being thus described would not be an attribute, but a substance.

There is no doubt that we can no more imagine a substance without attributes than attributes without a substance. The attributes are the very elements of the substance, so that a substance without attributes would mean a substance without elements, or, in other words, a thing which would be equal to nothing. But the self-existence of a substance does not and cannot mean that it exists without attributes. It means that it exists by itself, while the attribute does not; and herein lies the essential difference between them.

Some philosophers, while admitting the validity of the concept of substance, have given more or less inadequate definitions of it. Descartes identifies substance with extension or thought; Leibniz, with activity. For Kant, the distinguishing character of substance is permanence: "In all changes of phenomena, substance is permanent, and the quantum thereof in nature is neither increased nor diminished."[36] This seems to be also the view which Hegel tries to convey in his usual, attractive language:

"The necessary is in itself an absolute correlation of elements, i.e., the process developed (in the preceding paragraphs), in which the correlation also suspends itself to absolute identity. In its immediate form, it is the relationship of substance and accident. The absolute self-identity of this relationship is substance as such, which as necessity gives the negative to this form of inwardness, and thus invests itself with actuality, but which also gives the negative to this outward thing. In this negativity the actual, as immediate, is only an accidental which through this bare possibility passes over into another actuality. This transition is the identity of substance, regarded as form- activity.[37]

Finally, a few authors have believed that substance is essentially a substratum, an unknowable something lying beyond the accidents, and have thus justified, to a certain extent, the confusion from which the thinkers who reject substance altogether have derived their greatest strength. Not otherwise is substance defined by the celebrated Spanish philosopher, James Balmes. He regards it as a substratum, "a thing which is no color, but lends itself to all colors; which is none of the qualities which we experience, but the subject and cause of them all";[38] a permanent substratum:

"a permanent being in which occur the changes which are presented to us in the sensible phenomena";[39]

an unknowable substratum:

"In vain you ask me, what is this being? Give me the intuition of the essence of corporeal things, and I will tell you; but while I know them only by their effects, that is, the impressions which they produce in me, I cannot answer you."[40]

St. Thomas and the Scholastics, however, regard substance primarily as that which exists by itself; and it is astonishing that Balmes, who, for four years, read no other book than the Summa of St. Thomas, saying that in it all truths are contained, should have departed from his master in this important point. St. Thomas says:

"Substantia est res, cujus naturae debetur esse non in alio; accidens vero est res, cujus naturae debetur esse in alio";[41]

and further:

"Illud proprie dicitur esse, quod habet ipsum esse, quasi in suo esse subsistens. Unde solae substantiae vere et proprie dicuntur entia."[42]

Neo-Scholastics universally adhere to this view, and are so far from regarding substance as a support of accidents that some of them describe God as a substance which exists by itself, and to which no accidents are nor can be joined.[43]

The Scholastic theory on this point is undoubtedly right. We cannot deny that experience presents us with two distinct classes of objects: some of which exist by themselves, while others cannot exist but in something else. An object existing by itself, as a lamb, a tree, gold, myself, is called an individual or a substance. An object existing only in something else, as walking, singing, good health, color, is called an accident or an attribute.

The words accident and attribute, although sometimes indiscriminately used, are not, strictly speaking, synonymous. The word attribute refers to an essential element of a substance, such as reason and a certain bodily form in man; accident, to an element which an individual may lose without ceasing to be what it is; such as health in man. The attribute is one of the constituent elements of a substance; the accident is not. As this distinction is not of capital importance for our present study, we shall not insist upon it any more.

Substance is thus identifiable with individual, and means a complete object. It is not an unknowable thing lying beyond the attributes; it is the attributes themselves. The essence, as Hegel says, must appear or shine forth. It is not proper, however, to call the substance a heap of attributes, because it is the substance, and not the attributes, that possesses individuality. Instead of defining the substance in terms of the attributes, we must define the attributes in terms of the substance.

Substance is that which exists by itself. Here we must return for a moment to an assumption of David Hume, of which we have already spoken. We have seen that the author of the Treatise on Human Nature admits our theory in its essential principle. But, as he regards everything as capable of existing by itself, and hence denies the existence of attributes, the conception of substance becomes meaningless in his hands, just as the expression "relative knowledge," becomes meaningless in the system of absolute relativity, just as the conception of subjective fact becomes meaningless if we adopt the position of the subjectivist.

An analysis of the facts of our world convinces us that substance is not, as Hume maintains, each individual impression or quality. Experience shows that these individual impressions do not, in point of fact, exist apart from each other. Hume's capital fallacy consists in arguing that what we may conceive as existing apart, may and does exist apart. If color, etc., existed apart from any other sensible qualities, it would, indeed, be a substance. And we do not deny that it might possibly exist in this manner. But the question is not whether it could, but whether it does so exist. And our constant experience shows that it does not. Experience must be our guide as to the nature of reality. Hume overlooks this capital truth, and thus sorely confuses the possible with the actual. A railroad may be conceived as existing from here to the moon, but it does not exist. Hume's reasoning would tend to prove that it does.

Substance and attributes are thus valid conceptions, and bear to each other the relation of whole and part.

All other definitions of substance must be rejected as incomplete or erroneous. We cannot identify substance with a passive recipient, as Descartes did, because experience proves beyond the possibility of a doubt that substances, bodily as well as mental, are endowed with activity. Sugar acts upon our palate, a chemical product upon our blood, a peal of thunder upon our tympanum. No less active is mind. To its activity is due the whole progress, the whole civilization of the human race. Leibniz's definition of substance as "the being endowed with activity" is certainly the expression of a great truth. Passivity, however, is another element of our universe, indispensable to an adequate account of reality. Some of the properties of matter, such as extension and inertia, can hardly be explained without taking passivity into account. The fact of knowledge itself, although involving an activity on our part, forces us to regard our mind as a passive recipient, capable of being elected by all sorts of objects, and necessarily determined by the particular reality which possesses the character of evident truth.

Finally, with regard to Kant's identification of substance with the permanent in change, we will simply remark that a permanent element in the continuous flux of things is, indeed, generally admitted by scientists nowadays, and that, if we choose to call it substance, no great harm will ensue. In doing so, however, we depart from the usual acceptation of the word substance, and reduce ourselves to the necessity of inventing new terms for distinguishing things existing by themselves from things existing only in something else.

Our definition of substance as the being existing by itself may be interpreted in different ways. It may be said that finite beings cannot be properly defined as existing by themselves, inasmuch as they have not in themselves the ground of their existence. God has created them and continually preserves them; and this preservation is a continual creation, so that, if it should cease, all things would be reduced to nothing. Finite beings are thus essentially contingent. They depend upon the knowledge and power of God, who is the only being really existing by itself.

This remark was passed by Descartes, who confessed that his definition of substance properly applied to God alone. Unwilling, however, to depart from the ordinary use of language, he admitted two orders of finite substances: bodies and spirits, and supposed that the essence of body consists in extension, the essence of spirit in thought. Spinoza took up Descartes's idea, and was not dismayed by its pantheistic implications. He defined substance as "that which is in itself and is conceived through itself; in other words, that of which a conception can be formed independently of any other conception,"[44] and showed that God is the only substance. The same doctrine has been revived -- with some important modification@by Hegel and his school. All monistic idealists maintain that there is only one mind. They contend that, as all things are inter-related, they are parts of a single whole, which is the Absolute, and in which everything else has its reality, its meaning, its very being. A that, Bradley would say, is not a mere that: it also involves a what. And as any that is related to all the other thats, and hence to all the other whats, and thus comprises the whole series of thats and whats within its own what, it clearly follows that there is only one all-embracing what, which is the Absolute.

This view, which closely resembles the Christian doctrine of the Deity, may certainly contain much truth. If there is a creative mind, whose knowledge is the cause of all things, as St. Thomas teaches, and of whom we are, as it were, the dreams, it is strictly true that there is only one individual, one all-embracing substance. But, whatever good grounds we may have for the existence of a supreme mind, we do not know it by intuition, and it is upon our knowledge of our own world, of the world we possess here and now, that we build our Philosophical conceptions. In this world, we find many individuals which, although related to other beings, are complete by themselves in the sense that we can think of them as independent of any other individual. This leads us to the problem of individuality.

For the Monists, then, there is only one individual. All things, they claim, are so connected that any single object has no meaning apart from the rest. It is true that the same experience which presents us with individuality, obliges us to recognize continuity. We ought not, however, to insist upon one of the elements of our experience and unduly disregard the other. Continuity exists; but, besides the fact that it fails to prove the existence of a mind in which all things are one, the doctrine of the identity of all things in the Absolute cannot have much meaning for our practical life, and appears to us as the night in which all eows are black.

The recognition of a variety of individuals, or substances, becomes therefore a necessity. But the question arises as to what the individual will be; and, on this point, the greatest diversity of opinion still prevails. The most extreme view, would recognize as individuals nothing but the ultimate subdivisions of being: the atoms in the inorganic realm, the cell among organisms. Man would thus cease to be an individual and become a colony.

A closer investigation of the nature of reality might perhaps reconcile all opposite views. Scientific investigations seem to have (established that all material beings are made up of identical ultimate parts, or electrons. It is likewise admitted that the inorganic and organic realms present no fundamental difference, instead of dividing chemistry into inorganic and organic, as was done before, we now regard it as essentially one.

The conclusion to be derived from these scientific discoveries is that the electron is the ultimate individual, not only in the mineral, but also in the organic realm.

A whole organism, however, is with equal propriety an individual, because it is a unique and complete being, with its own life, its proper operations, its peculiar activity.

Finally, the molecule and the atom are also individuals; the former for the physicist, the latter for the chemist. The molecule cannot be divided by physical means. It possesses a unity of its own and is the individual about which the science of physics is concerned. Chemistry, on the other hand, operates upon the atoms themselves. It is by combining them in different ways that it effects the various chemical transformations, that it produces the immense variety of compound substances.

We are thus compelled to distinguish different classes of individuals or substances, which do not exclude one another, but exist in such a way that the individual of a lower class is at the same time an element in the constitution of the individuals of the higher class. (This principle, we must here observe, does not unqualifledly apply to God, as will be seen in the sequel.)

We have, accordingly: 1. The absolute individual, or God. 2. The organic individual, as man. 3. The physical individual, or the molecule. 4. The chemical individual, or the atom. 5. The ultimate individual, or the electron.

Our list purposely omits finite spirits, as angels, because as they do not fall within our experience, and a knowledge of them cannot be reached by reason alone, philosophy is not concerned with them.


According to Scholastic philosophy, cause is the principle upon which a thing depends in its being or its becoming. "Causae dicuntur ex quibus res dependit secundum esse vel fieri."[45]

Aristotle and the Scholastics distinguish four kinds of causes: material, formal, efficient and final.

The material and the formal causes are the constitutive principles of beings. As we shall deal with them at great length in our chapter on cosmology, we shall abstain from treating of them now. Our present study will therefore be limited to the efficient and the final causes.

In the opinion of the plain man, an efficient cause is that which really produces an effect. When the laborer drinks a glass of water, and thus quenches his thirst, he believes that the thirst-quenching not only occurred after, but was produced by the action of the water.

It has become a fashion in philosophy to deride the notions of the plain man. A student nowadays is often smiled at for his naiveté if he believes that his book is really in his desk when nobody perceives it; he is looked upon as ignorant of the invariable laws of nature if he regards his will as free; he is ridiculed as a fetich-worshipper if he feels the slightest sympathy for the old doctrine of causal power. For my part, I confess that I can hardly part from these naive beliefs; and, at the risk of being mocked for not having yet bestridden the threshold of philosophy, I frankly take part with the plain man in his realism, his libertarianism, his belief in efficiency.

The Scholastic doctrine of efficient cause has met two classes of opponents: some, following Hume, have dropped out the concept of efficiency altogether and reduced causality to a mere invariable antecedence; others, with Malebranche, have accepted the genuine notion of cause, but they have limited it to the Supreme Being, denying all efficiency to created things.

Malebranche's occasionalism needs not detain us long. There is actually little danger of limiting causality to God alone. Inclined as we are to question the very existence of a supreme mind, we feel little sympathy for a system which considers this mind as the only efficient factor in the world.

We shall therefore limit ourselves to a few considerations which have been frequently urged against occasionalism.

1. Malebranche's fundamental principle that activity is proper to God alone and cannot be communicated to creatures, is devoid of foundation. God can do all that is intrinsically possible; and there is nothing so evidently possible as a creature endowed with activity. 2. God's wisdom manifests itself in the infinite variety of organisms we observe in the universe. From the molecule of the mineral to the elaborate body of man, there is a wonderful series of organized beings possessed of particular potentialities, endowed with a surprising adaptation of means to ends. The paw of the cat, for example, so perfectly adapted to the catching of the prey, is a marvel for the naturalist. Now, if finite beings possess no efficiency; if, when the cat stretches its paw, it is God that catches the mouse -- as Malebranche would maintain-- the intricate organization of created things becomes a useless machinery. The external world itself is altogether unnecessary; and, should it be annihilated, we would noways notice its disappearance.

3. Our own consciousness, which has been justly called the ultimate court of appeal in the science of mind, testifies that, whenever we act, our own course of action is in dependence upon our will. So little are we convinced that God acts in us, that we feel remorse whenever our action is not done in accordance with duty, and do not doubt that we can act otherwise in the future. It is true that Malebranche adinits the freedom of the will; but, in so doing, he obeys his theological prejudices rather than the logic of his system.

Let us now pass to Hume's theory of causation, which is not, like Malebranche's, an object of interest to the antiquarian alone, but is still vivid among us; and, despite its shortcomings, does not seem as yet doomed to a speedy disappearance.

Hume's analysis of the idea of causation is often honored as his greatest contribution to philosophy. And it cannot be denied that it is a superb piece of work, that it evinces a remarkable power of analysis in its author. If we grant the original assumptions from which Hume starts, we are irresistibly led, step by step, to his final conclusion. But, similar to an architect who would build a stately edifice upon a slender foundation, Hume has failed to probe, in a sufficient degree, the ground upon which he has been at work, so that his elaborately constructed mansion, in spite of the studied arrangement of its parts, affords no safe lodging to the traveler, who feels compelled to shun it as by a natural instinct.

The fundamental principle given by Hume at the outset, and which he keeps constantly in mind, is that all our ideas are derived from impressions.[46]

He accordingly asks what impression produces the idea of causation. It cannot be a quality of the object, "since, whichever of these qualities I pitch on, I find some object that is not possessed of it, and yet falls under the denomination of cause and effect."[47] It must therefore be a relation among objects;[49] and Hume is led to examine the different kinds of relation from which the idea of causation may arise. He at first discovers contiguity and succession.[49] He does not, however, attach much importance to this discovery; and, after a weak attempt to establish its truth by reasoning, he tells us that, if his argument appears satisfactory, it is well; if not, we are begged to suppose it such.[50]

He soon discovers, however, a necessary connection as the essential element of causation; but he does not at first find any light as to the real nature of this connection, and resolves "to beat the neighboring fields, without any certain view or design, with the hope that his good fortune will at last guide him to what he searches for."[51]

An examination of the proposition that "Whatever has a beginning has also a cause of existence" convinces him that it expresses a principle neither intuitively nor demonstrably certain, and he triumphantly refutes it by the following argument:

"As all distinct ideas are separable from each other, and as the ideas of cause and effect are evidently distinct, it will be easy for us to conceive any object to be non-existent this moment, and existent the next, without conjoining to it the distinct idea of cause or productive principle. The separation, therefore, of the idea of cause from that of a beginning of existence, is plainly possible for the imagination; and consequently the actual separation of these objects is so far possible, that it implies no contradiction nor absurdity."[52]

The conclusion is that our belief in the necessity of a cause must be derived from experience, and Hume proceeds to examine the particular note of our experience to which the idea of causation may be due. When he least expected it, he discovers a new relation in which he eagerly hails the long-sought-for answer, and we are told that the necessary connection between cause and effect is their constant conjunction.[53] At once, some interesting conclusions are drawn, viz., that we have no right to apply causation to future experience, inasmuch as we can conceive a change in the course of nature, and therefore that change is possible; also, that causal necessity is something that exists in the mind, not in objects.[54]

Hume does not, however, deny a power in the cause, nor a real production:

"We may remark," says he, "not only that two objects are connected by the relation of cause and effect when the one produces a motion or any action in the other, but also when it has a power of producing it";[55]

and further:

"It will always be impossible to decide with certainty whether they (the impressions) arise immediately from the object, or are produced by the creative power of the mind,[56] or are derived from the author of our being."[57]

Some incidental outbursts of honesty even reveal him as identifying the causal action with real production:

"Should any one pretend to define a cause by saying it is something productive of another, it is evident he would say nothing. For what does he mean by production? Can he give any definition of it, that will not be the same with that of causation? If he can, I desire it may be produced. If he cannot; he here runs in a circle, and gives a synonymous term instead of a definition."[58]

Such passages as this might tempt us to go and shake hands with Hume at once, in the belief that we have at least come to an agreement. It would not be prudent, however, to act too hastily. In a subsequent chapter, the supposed power and efficacy of causes is examined at great length. Hume's original assumption that all ideas are copies of previous impressions, there convinces him that "we have no idea of power or efficacy";[59] that, when we use those words, we have really no distinct meaning;[60] finally, that the power which unites causes and effects resides in our mind."[61]

In his reduction of the causal action to a constant conjunction, Hume was -- if we believe him -- actuated by a most laudable purpose. He intended to rid philosophy of those mysterious entities, of those occult powers, which had so long crawled in the study of the learned, and had not yet been fully dispelled by the enlightenment of the new century.

Unfortunately, it often happens that a mystery is replaced by another mystery greater than the first; that a most unreasonable demand on our power of faith is made by the very men who are sometimes so difficult to satisfy in matter of proof. This is exactly the case with David Hume. Motions and changes were satisfactorily accounted for in the old causal theory, and become a perfect mystery in his. Let us suppose that the event A has been followed by the event B. As, according to Hume's assumption, the two events A and B may be conceived as unconnected, we may neglect the element A, and reduce the series, A, B, to the series not-B, B. If we maintain the necessity of an efficient principle, we will explain the production of B by the action of A; which, as Aristotle would say, contains B potentially. If we deny efficient action, we must maintain either that B comes from nothing, or that it comes from not-B. But, as, on the one hand, from nothing nothing can come; and as, on the other hand, not-B simply denotes beings in which B does not enter as an element, no shadow of reason is given for the production of B, and we find ourselves face to face with a reality incomparably more mysterious than the causal principle which had been discarded for its mysterious character.

Passing to a closer examination of Hume's theory, we will at once remark that his first principle: "all ideas are derived from impressions," not only is not self-evident, but is absolutely erroneous. It is true that all knowledge begins with sense- experience; but it does not follow that all ideas are copies of sense-impressions. If such were the case, we would never be able to step beyond the data of the senses; we would be incapable of forming universal concepts; even memories of past impressions would become inexplicable, and we could not attribute any reality but to the present instant. Our mental faculties are originally aroused into exercise by the data of the senses; but they possess an activity of their own which enables them to connect what sense-experience presents as unconnected; to reason about given data; to reach conclusions about nature which are implied in the natural facts, but are not directly given, and must be drawn by the active power of our mind.

Hume repeatedly maintains that the idea of cause implies a necessary connection.[62]

Now constant conjunction is unable to give us the idea of necessity. For, what does constant conjunction mean? Simply that in all singular past instances we observed, two events happened to be connected. Each instance was a contingent fact independent of all others. As we cannot step beyond the data furnished by sense-perception, we cannot reach any law of connection between the individual cases, which remain essentially singular and unconnected; so that their multitude, however great it may be, is unable to alter their contingent character. Hume, it is true, grasped this consequence, and tried to explain our idea of the necessary character of the cause, not from an accumulation of individual cases, but from a natural propensity of our mind to pass from the idea of one object to the idea of another.[63] It would be interesting to know whether this propensity of the mind is derived from sense-impressions or not. If it is, we hardly see how it can assume a character of necessity. It cannot certainly get it from the sense-impressions themselves, because each impression is a contingent fact unconnected with the rest. If, on the other hand, this propensity is not derived from sense-impressions; if it is a natural and innate disposition, we have an idea not derived from impressions, and Hume's fundamental principle falls to the ground.

Moreover, the resolution of cause into constant conjunction presents the capital blemish of disregarding, in the conception of cause, the causal element itself. Hume closely resembles a theatrical manager who would give the play of Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark.

Constant conjunction and efficiency are by no means identical concepts. Constant conjunction means that an event invariably comes after; efficiency means that the second event not only comes after, but is due to the first. There may be efficiency without constant conjunction, and constant conjunction without efficiency.

Constant conjunction between two events may take place without any action of the one upon the other when both events are due to a single cause. In nature, night is invariably followed by day; but is not, on that account, regarded as its cause. Their constant, conjunction is due to the fact that both night and day are produced by the successive positions of the sun.

In a mathematical series, such as:

(I X x)[n] = I + nx + Ax[2] + Bx[2] + ...,

a definite term, nx, is invariably followed by another definite term, Ax[2]. Their constant conjunction is due to the nature of the expression (I+ x)[n], and by no means to anything like efficient action.

Efficiency, on the other hand, may appear without constant conjunction. It is true that it cannot thus appear in the realm of the necessary. Objects of nature are determined by their own potentialities to some definite effects; and, whenever they are placed in suitable conditions, the reaction which occurs gives rise to these effects. The like does not hold with regard to free agents. Human beings are persuaded of their own efficient action in singular instances, even when similar cases have never taken place in the past and are not likely to take place in the future. Only once did Lincoln sign the Emancipation Proclamation. Nobody doubts the efficiency of his will in this momentous crisis of our history, although a similar conjuncture had never occurred before and will never occur again. Lincoln might then have acted otherwise; and, should our country be placed in identical circumstances once more, we clearly conceive that our president might take a different course of action. We would thus have identical antecedents, and different results, and would not hesitate, however, to attribute the result in both cases, to the efficient action of the head of the nation.

In physical nature itself, we often attribute efficient action to objects which have not been invariably conjoined. In all our past experience, we may have observed that quinine is an excellent remedy for fever. The ninety-nine patients to whom we administered it were in different circumstances with regard to age, physical constitution and general health; but all presented the identical character of being affected with fever; and all, on taking quinine, were suddenly relieved. We thus feel no doubt as to the efficient action of quinine, and a new patient having got the same disease, we have recourse to our nostrum again. Unfortunately, as soon as the sick man has swallowed our favorite remedy, he feels worse and dies. The result is unexpected. It is contrary to the previous course of things. There is certainly no constant conjunction. Still, we cannot help attributing to quinine the deplorable event. We feel sure that quinine has killed our sick man.

Efficiency and constant conjunction go together in the physical world when one single agent is at work. But when several causes are acting in different directions, they may incidentally meet, and, by their conjunction, give rise to an unexpected result, which presents no necessary connection with any of the particular causes, and is simply attributed to chance, although the causes at work have been efficient factors. This is exactly what happens in the case of our sick man. A chemist could tell us beforehand the result of his experiments, because he has to do with materials directly acting upon one another, and whose action is not thwarted by appreciable contrary forces. But the chemical products used by the physician do not necessarily act in accordance with his expectation because the inner nature of the patient reacts and often produces effects which had not been anticipated. Had Hume been interested in medicine, he might have felt some suspicion as to the value of his identification of efficiency with constant conjunction.

What he has missed is the reaction itself which takes place as soon as the two agents are brought together. He has seen the antecedent conditions, the subsequent result; he has overlooked the very instant in which the causal action occurs.

The philosophy of invariable sequence thus falls heavily to the ground under the weight of its unfounded assumptions and absurd consequences, without any hope of ever being able to rise again. The efficient action of Aristotle and the schoolmen, proud of its decisive victory, appears on the field anew as the only theory capable of giving a satisfactory account of experience. It shows us that in all cases in which a reaction takes place, a result not only follows some definite antecedents, but is due to their natural potentialities; that the quenching of fire follows the application of water precisely because water is endowed with a capacity for quenching fire; a capacity which other agents, such as cotton, do not possess, inasmuch as these agents, being placed in similar conditions, similar results do not follow.

The much ridiculed answer that opium causes sleep because it possesses a dormitive virtue, is not only the expression of common sense, but a highly philosophic truth. It is the best, nay the only answer that could possibly be given. Since Molière wrote his play, and the Parisian theatre-goers stupidly laughed at what the talent of the poet was able to present in so comical a light, the burst of laughter has spread all over the world. Everybody has jeered at the foolish reply: but, for powerful reasons, no one has ever been able to correct it.

The problem of final causes has been sometimes formulated in the following picturesque form: The bird has wings, and it flies. Does it fly because it has wings, or has it wings to fly? As Mgr. Mercier remarks,[64] is formulation of the problem is unfortunate. It seems to imply that the efficient and the final causes exclude each other; a principle which all advocates of finality would undoubtedly reject.

The final cause may be defined as the good for the sake of which the efficient cause acts, "hoc dicimus esse finem in quod tendit impetus agentis."[65]

The final cause may be considered in rational and irrational beings. In rational beings, it is a known and accepted end which determines their present acts. In irrational beings, it is a controlling factor, a natural end to which they irresistibly tend.

All beings act for an end, and it is this end that determines their activity. If an agent were not tending to a definite end, it would be indifferent towards acting in this or that way, and consequently would never begin to act.

The existence of final causes, thus demonstrable a priori, may equally be proved from experience. There is little doubt that conscious beings act with an end in view. The young man who wants to become a skilful physician begins by studying chemistry and anatomy; afterwards submits to a long and perhaps wearisome course in a medical school; voluntarily abstains from numberless enjoyments towards which he feels naturally inclined, but which would divert his attention from the goal he wants to reach; spends his days and a good part of his nights perusing bulky volumes which, in other circumstances, he would regard as sovereignly tedious. Why does this young man submit to such an irksome task? What enables him to throw off his natural indolence? Simply the end he has in view, the good he purposes to obtain. This good which, by its attraction, exercises such a powerful influence upon the activity of the student, is evidently a cause.

In unconscious beings, there exists a similar determining principle. The acorn buried in the ground tends to a definite end. If placed in a favorable environment, it will not act at random, but will insensibly approach the goal it has been assigned by nature. Every succeeding day will witness a more complete actualization of the oak, which at first existed only in a potential form. Only when this end is reached shall the tendency of the acorn cease; only then shall its final purpose be realized.

These considerations forcibly impose the final cause upon the attention of the philosopher. Even among defenders of modern thought, the old Scholastic problem of finality reappears. In a remarkable essay published in the Hibbert Journal, Mr. George Henslow quite recently developed a theory at bottom identical with the teaching of the schoolmen. He gave to the old causa finales the name of "directivity":

"Suppose a kitten and a young hawk are brought up on precisely the same animal food, both being carnivorous, one develops into a cat, with fur, having bones and muscles, etc., of totally different character from those of the adult hawk, with feathers, etc. The same molecules of food supplied the materials for the building up of their bodies: why are the results so totally different? So, too, in all animals and vegetables: why should certain substances be guided to certain places -- salts of lime to bones, silica to teeth and claws, phosphate to brain, etc. The molecules are first driven about mechanically in the blood by certain forces; various chemical combinations are made under the action of other forces; but what directs all the forces which finally impel the new-made molecules to take up certain positions and no others in the building up of a body? Directivity is a useful word to express the fact. It commits one to nothing as to its source; but it at least supplies a term to express the analogy between the chemist's mind and Nature's -- what?"[66]

Scientists, it may be observed, leave final causes entirely out of account, and feel little more sympathy for efficient causes. It is the scientific development of modern times that has contributed more than anything else to the apparent discredit of the causal theory. It might even be added that the wilful neglect of causal action has been a most efficient factor in the development of science. Why, then, should the metaphysician cling to a theory whose downfall has been such a blessing to mankind? Would it not be better to discard efficiency and finality from the field of philosophy as well as from the field of science?

No doubt this is a real difficulty. It is the point which empiricists and positivists love to emphasize, and it gives them so strong a foothold that, despite the ungrounded assumptions and irrational consequences of their system, they bravely hold their own. It must be remarked, however, that the scientist and the metaphysician have very different problems to face. Science is concerned merely with facts and results. The cbemist has simply to establish the fact that, if two grams of hydrogen and sixteen grams of oxygen are brought together and submitted to the action of the electric spark, water will invariably follow. The biologist needs not go beyond the actual conditions necessary to the duplication and development of the cell. For him, a monster is no less natural than a normal organism. Science, as Pasteur clearly pointed out, is essentially positivistic.

But, does the scientific position solve the enigma of the world? Does it satisfy our thirst for knowledge? Are there not many genuine problems which science does not approach? Why is the proportion 2 to 16 necessary for the production of water? Why do organisms usually reach a normal development, and are monsters so rare? These are questions which the metaphysician alone is able to answer. He alone is concerned with the ultimate nature of reality. He alone professes to make a thinking study of things. The scientist formulates the law that an embryo placed in such and such circumstances will develop into such an organism. The metaphysician takes up these scientific facts, studies their mutual connections and implications, and is led by the facts themselves to the conclusion that the embryo does not develop at random, but is constantly controlled and tends to a definite result.

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