Classics in the History of Psychology

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Christopher D. Green
York University, Toronto, Ontario
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Evolution and Personality [1]

James Gibson Hume (1922)
University of Toronto

First published in Philosophical Essays Presented to John Watson (pp. 298-330). Kingston, ON: Queen's University.[*]

Posted October 2001

Spencer in his Data of Ethics treated his subject from several successive standpoints entitled, The Physical, The Biological, The Psychological, the Sociological.   He also attempted to co-ordinate all these various stages into what he termed a Synthetic Philosophy.  This would give a fifth standpoint, the Philosophical. These five terms might be used to describe several different types of evolutionary theory. Let us note how these arose, that is, let us trace the evolution of evolutionary theory.

Physical Evolution.  Early Greek speculation was dominated by this standpoint which found its culmination in the Atomists.  Among these Empedocles is noteworthy.  He is quoted in the article 'Evolution' in the Encyclopaedia Britannica by J. Sully and T. H. Huxley.

After a general Cosmology dealing with the formation of the Cosmos from the four original elements, fire, air, earth, water, by love and discord (attraction and repulsion) he proceeds to treat of the first origin of plants and of animals including man. As the original elements entered into various combinations there arose curious aggregates, heads without [p. 299] necks, arms without shoulders. These got strangely combined. Men's heads on oxen's shoulders, heads of .oxen on men's bodies, etc. Most of these combinations could not survive and so disappeared. Only in the rare cases where the several parts that contingently came together were adapted to one another did they survive.

As man, lower animal, and plant, are all composed of the same elements in different proportions, there is an identity of nature in them all. They all have sense and understanding.

It is quite easy to trace here the early outlines of our modern theory of evolution.  Already we have the assertion of the identity of nature in man, lower animal and plant, the participation pf all in sense and understanding -- the survival of those suitably 'adapted.'

It was the attempt to level down a theory of knowledge to this account that guided or misguided the Sophists and awakened the critical or sarcastic comments of the great Socrates.

What is suggested in Socrates as a substitute for the Sophistic naturalism is built upon and extended in Plato and Aristotle.  In Aristotle we have a comprehensive 'synthesis' that might be termed philosophical, and as it was opposed to the naturalism it might be termed philosophical development rather than philosophical evolution.

It is obvious that there is a direct antagonism between the evolution of the naturalistic and sophistical writers and the development in Aristotle's idealistic constructions, and this antagonism between these two types can be traced through all succeeding speculation and it persists to-day.   Unfortunately many people uncritically confuse evolution  and development or imagine that if development is conceded or [p. 300] affirmed 'evolution' is admitted or affirmed.  Furthermore as in Aristotle, so now, the opposition between these is not equally balanced.   For Aristotelian development is wide enough to include evolution in nature within it as a part of the whole system, but evolutionary naturalism must exclude idealistic development or else level it down to naturalism. Development is tolerant, evolution is intolerant.

After the Atomists the interest shifts from the physical cosmos to the moral and religious puzzles for which Aristotelianism was more suited.  And throughout the middle ages the chief interest is in the moral and religious situation. Christianity utilizes Creek idealism in combating naturalism and eventually so divided matters that a moral dualism arose, nature seeming to fall under the domain of the Prince of Darkness, as in the legend of Faust.

Perhaps some of the popular prejudice against physical science, as also some of the enthusiasm for it, may in Christian countries have some root in the survival of the party spirit engendered in this old mediaeval dualism.

But with the rise of humanism and the new learning there is not only a revival of Greek literature but also a return at least to some extent of the Greek spirit of impartial inquiry and innocent wonder, and this allowed an opportunity for the rise of science· Now though Science and 'Naturalism' are not identical, the student who concentrates on physical science is more apt to be impressed by the theory of naturalism, and we soon find a recrudescence of the naturalistic theory side by side with the early scientific discoveries.

Very notable was the discovery of the circulation of the blood by the Englishman, William Harvey in 1628.  Although in 1651 Harvey tried to teach a form of Epigenesis, this was not welcomed, but what was then called evolution was preferred, [p. 301] because as evolution was then defined it was more simply, more mechanically conceived than Epigenesis. By this early evolutionary theory growth was merely the expansion of a miniature plant or animal into its full size.

Life itself was to be mechanically stated, mechanically explained; that is, we now have 'physical evolution' theory in the ascendant among the scientists. Descartes under the sway of this view eagerly dissects animals and after an ingenious mechanical account of the origin or conformation of the Cosmos from its original matter and motion, audaciously suggests that life in the animal is merely heat and expansion causing the blood to circulate, and that this heat arises naturally as in the fermentation of wet hay. Descartes, however, calls a halt when he comes to what he calls the 'reasonable soul' in man.  Here he turns to Dualism to save the situation, and he believes that the only way to get the soul, or to secure its immortality after he does get it, is to insist on an absolute separation between matter and spirit. This is doubtless the real source of his 'dualism', though he later claimed to derive it from 'clear and distinct' thought. Descartes' dualism grew out of a mechanical starting-point and a mechanistic method -- it became a great puzzle.

Thomas Hobbes, however, has an easy way out of the difficulty.  The soul is a body that thinks (occasionally) is all he could see in Descartes' 'Cogito ergo sum.' At bottom, in last analysis, everything is Motion.  Hence when the so-called object 'worketh on the eyes, ears and other organs of a man's body and by diversity of working produceth diversity of appearance', this 'appearance' in consciousness is and must be motion, for 'motion produceth nothing but motion.'  The original 'inner motion' is sensation, the parent of all the progeny that later appears.  Imagination is 'decayed sense' [p. 302] or retarded motion, memory is decayed sense or inner motion almost stopped. Reason consists in trains of imagination or combinations of inner motions.  Volition is an inner motion reappearing as an outer motion. Aristotle's celebrated deliberation is merely a conflict of inner motions.

But even Hobbes, in the onward march of his consistent and relentless materialism has intervals of repentance, or shall we call them deeper insights where he can assert that truth is not an attribute of things but of speech, and so though 'nature cannot err' man does run into error.  Also, though nature cannot err, yet 'passions unguided are mere madness', and life under mere nature or natural passions is one in which the life of man becomes 'solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, short', and so Hobbes sets out to find 'laws of nature' or of reason, to take control of 'rights of nature.'

The French Materialists, borrowing what suited them from Hobbes and from some portions of John Locke where he speaks of the mind 'for the most part passive', and still more relying on those parts of Descartes in which animals were treated as machine-like automata, took the bold step of declaring that man too was merely a machine-like automaton, without any so-called 'reasonable soul' being required. This is most clearly expressed in La Mettrie's 'L'homme Machine.'

The confidence in this plan of explanation became arrogance in the French Encyclopędists, who could scarcely believe a man could be a scientist unless he were also a pronounced materialist.  This probably marks the culmination of confidence in 'physical evolution' as a materialistic theory.  For Bishop Berkeley began to ask a few questions about the meaning of 'matter.' -- What does 'matter' mean? How do we know it? Do we know it at all? The Materialists found it exasperatingly difficult to answer these simple and seemingly [p. 303] quite reasonable questions.  Could it be that they, the leaders of enlightenment, were dealing in mysteries more occult and inscrutable than those taught by the theologians and mystics?

Even those who found it most convenient to answer Berkeley by kicking stones or by grinning felt in their hearts that Berkeley's destructive criticism of 'matter' could not be grinned away, let them grin never so wisely.  It thus soon came about that we find a remarkable, a sudden, a startling right about face on the part of the materialists.  They cannot prove a 'materialistic' substance, but they can sarcastically refer to the impossibility of knowing an 'immaterialistic substance.'[2]

The older, cruder materialistic doctrine, now gives place to a milder doctrine; it becomes transmuted into a 'Psychological Naturalism' following the lead of David  Hume's psychological 'gentle force that commonly prevails' elaborated by Hartley, Priestley, the Mills, Spencer, Bain, into the Association theory, the bulwark of the new naturalism, or what we shall call 'Psychological Evolution.' David Hume with the fear of Berkeley before his eyes is frankly agnostic about 'substance.' Herbert Spencer's 'unknowable' is already writ large in David Hume. David Hume proceeds to diminish [p. 304]

Causation by the method of Procrustes until it fits the dimensions his 'customary conjunction.' J. S. Mill continues the amputations, and Logic and Mathematics are also suitably diminished.  It soon becomes admitted by the psychological naturalistic evolutionists that they by their method are precluded from knowing reality as substantiality or truth as causality or mathematical certainty. Now if they would not, like the dog in the manger, try to prevent other methods being tried, surely no one could find fault with them for confessing their own lack of power.

While naturalistic 'psychological Evolutionism' was thus running into agnosticism and failure, Leibniz was trying to construct a very ambitious philosophical system, admittedly borrowing from Aristotle, but believing that he had reconciled materialism and idealism in his 'Monadology.'

There are many brilliant things in Leibniz, but instead of really discovering a new constructive method, he merely hitches up together in a double team empiricism and rationalism -- and only God is able to drive this team.

It is Kant who sees the situation clearly -- David Hume's Empiricism ending in scepticism -- Leibniz's system an external compromise.  Kant gives credit to David Hume for 'waking him from a dogmatic slumber'. He was, however, not a heavy sleeper.  David Hume points out how impossible it is to derive Causation by mere deductive analysis, but he tries something quite as unsatisfactory when he tries to reduce Causation to 'customary Conjunction'. It is both interesting and somewhat saddening to find how very near indeed the brilliant Scotchman came to stating the problem of Causation as Kant later stated it.   David Hume in his 'Treatise', Part III, Sec. 3, says 'since it is not from knowledge or any scientific reasoning that we derive the opinion of the necessity of a cause to every new [p. 305] production, that opinion must necessarily arise from observation and experience. The next question, then, should naturally be How experience gives rise to such a principle.'

This question if followed up might have led to Kant's discovery of 'Causality' as a 'condition of the possibility of experience', but unfortunately David Hume does not follow it up. The next sentence is a disappointing abandonment of the problem and the substitution of something quite different and much simpler, viz., how we as a matter of fact pass from a particular cause to a particular effect in our ordinary experience and how we are led to an expectation of something similar.  And putting the cart before the horse he concludes that because an expectation arises from the rule being found to obtain, the rule is derived from the expectation.

Kant, however, keeps at the central problem which had been abandoned by David Hume.  He reconsiders Experience more carefully and critically to try to discover the place, function and significance of causality within experience.  Let me quote from Morris in his Introduction to Kant:

'This is one of the oddities of the history of speculation, namely, that philosophic materialism with its mechanico-sensible theory of knowledge  (what I have termed psychological evolution in David Hume and his: successors) being always suicidal, not able to defend itself, turning all its ontological science into nescience and changing the real material universe it set out to magnify and defend into a spectre, has at last to· turn for protection or for its relative justification to another doctrine, apparently the precise opposite of itself.  It is spiritualistic idealism alone which finding in knowledge something more than mechanical sense, rescues the material universe for us as a sense of objective though dependent reality.' [p. 306]

Though Kant believes that he has proved the validity truth and reality of 'substance' and 'causality', he also believes that these are true within experience and are not the whole truth about experience.  Substantiality and Causality are true within what Kant calls the phenomenal, that is the experienced world.  They have no 'absolute' reality apart from such world.

We now turn from physical and psychological naturalistic evolution to the rise of the question of evolution or development -- one or the other within the realm of sociology and biology, and· here we find the idealistic development theory first attempted in Sociology, then the evolutionary (naturalistic) theory being introduced into Biology, and then the whole situation, viz., whether in a total synthesis or philosophical interpretation we shall follow naturalistic evolution or idealistic development, being keenly debated.

Leibniz by his theory of higher and lower grades of monads had a kind of premonition of later evolutionary methodology; but Kant, as we have seen, distrusted Leibniz's method. While Kant succeeded in substituting a synthetic constructive theory of the principles of physical science, he stops short at efficient Causality.  It is only after he has written his Critique of Practical Reason and returned to the Critique of Judgement, that the question of design or purpose within nature becomes an issue.

So though Kuno Fischer finds much 'development' in Kant, I confess that I do not discover it so widely.  Nevertheless, Kant's treatment of the teleological judgement and definition of organism is a valuable contribution towards a re-instatement of something like Aristotelianism and does not rely on Deism and dualism as some of Kant's positions elsewhere do. And of course one must admit that in spite of the extreme [p. 307] individualism in the formulation of Kant's ethics, nevertheless he adds to his great maxim to 'treat personality in your own person and in the person of others as an end, never as a means', the further organic or social command that we should seek a 'kingdom of ends', and this obviously would involve persons being means as well as ends in mutually assisting one another within the 'kingdom'.

But it is not Kant, but his disciple Hegel who consciously sets to work to extend the organic or social implications in morality and in society as moral. Hegel quite consciously and explicitly carries over the Aristotelian conception of development into the domain of sociology. Continuity and progress is asserted as being found even through the discordant variations and successive controversies in History of Philosophy, and in Philosophy of History a great providential purpose is traced or at least attempted in his well-known summary of the significance of the various epochs of civilization.

Hegel published his Phenomenologie in 1807 and outlined this method of treatment.  Fifty-one years later appeared Darwin's Origin of Species.  D. G. Ritchie writes an illuminative comparison between Hegel and Darwin and with the Hegelian contempt fort mere chronology entitled it Darwin and Hegel instead of Hegel and Darwin.  Hegel always asserted that History must be more than description.  It must undertake 'the hard work' of interpretation.  Hence whether his interpretations were valid or otherwise he never tried, like some naturalistic evolutionists, to palm off a mere description of an effect as the elucidation or discovery of its cause.

Herbert Spencer some time later applied the method of 'naturalistic evolution' to the problem of sociology, and had made considerable headway along this line in this field, when [p. 308] everyone was startled by the irruption of this evolutionary explanation within the field of biology by Darwin and Wallace in 1858.  That is, if we may now be permitted a retrospect, the method and theory of evolution was not first proposed by Darwin in biology and then taken up in other realms. On the contrary both as evolutionary naturalism and idealistic development it had been attempted in all the other realms except biology.  Biology, instead of being the first to try this method of explanation, was in reality the last, and Darwin's work instead of making a beginning was rather a master-stroke as a finishing stroke.

Indeed the controversy between naturalistic evolution and idealistic development had occurred and persistently recurred, and just when the idealists had congratulated themselves on their extension of development into philosophy, history and sociology, the naturalistic evolutionists went them one better by having a naturalistic evolutionary system simply presented, ably applied in biology by a master workman, an outstanding man in science. Darwin himself was an extremely cautious writer. He had no ambition to write and all-comprehensive theory of evolution like Herbert Spencer. One thing he knew and knew thoroughly -- biology, and one thing and one only he attempted, namely, to give an account of biology along these lines.

Darwin was much like Wellington in the Peninsular war; he had too his 'Torres Vedras'; this for Darwin was biology. It is true he ventured at times a slight distance beyond his stronghold. Perhaps the most noteworthy of these excursions was in his attempt to throw light on the social instincts in men and lower animals. He tries to explain the possibility of 'remorse' occurring in animals, by a hypothetical case of a bird yielding to the migratory instinct to the neglect of the [p. 309] brooding instinct and later when too late recalling her dereliction. Here without doubt Darwin was putting forth suggestion of how to lift up the lower animal consciousness so as to give it a rudimentary conscience, and some of his followers by a similar interpretation of instincts tried to lower the level of the human conscience to a naturalistic basis. Darwin himself seemed to be quite aware of the uncertain and hypothetical character of this whole explanation but his followers greedily seized on the suggestion. Especially timely was this suggestion of a social-instinct conscience, for the empirical writers most inclined to naturalistic explanation had been compelled to exercise much ingenuity to get over the great transition from egoism to altruism, but with a semi-altruistic social instinct to start with, half their troubles disappeared.

Darwin, then, besides rewriting biology gave a tremendous impetus to 'naturalistic evolution' in every realm.

Spencer is the man who most widely exploited and applied the general principle in all directions, and though as attempting to co-ordinate all sciences into one great synthesis, he may, according to his own definition of philosophy, be marked as a philosophical organizer, he was scarcely to be ranked as a critical philosopher, and it soon appears that a kind of 'psychological evolution' is his fundamental solvent of all difficulties.

It can scarcely escape a careful reader that of all the grades and stages and transitions with which he busies himself Spencer's chief attention is focussed on the problem or difficulty of bridging over the seeming gap or chasm between the lower animals and the human animal. And the chief effort to bridge this gap is directed towards the attempt to secure a continuous unbroken psychological account that would begin [p. 310] with lower animals and by slight and imperceptible gradations pass over to and end in human psychological experiences. Now Spencer's work was made very much easier for him by the fact that before he began to level up sub-human experience in lower animals his predecessors from Hobbes through David Hume had spent a tremendous amount of ingenuity in levelling the human experience downwards towards the lower animals.

David Hume had claimed it as a special merit for some of his psychological principles that they could be equally well applied to lower animals and to man.  Indeed when Darwin started levelling up the bird consciousness of remorse there was a danger that the birds would secure consciences after human beings had lost them.

Without following the details of the well-known controversies that raged so fiercely for a time, let us simply call attention to the inherent inadequacy and fallacy involved in 'psychological evolution' as a naturalistic doctrine.

In so far as this is restricted to descriptive treatment of various aspects in human or sub-human experience, it is not only not reprehensible, but most helpful both for science and philosophy; but when psychological descriptions of lower I animals are foisted upon human beings as an adequate statement of human experience, that is neither science nor philosophy. Human experience must be directly examined, not fitted into moulds borrowed from studying lower animals. And psychological descriptions of lower animals or higher animals or men as description is one thing, as a philosophy it is another·  It is, as philosophy, an interpretation or theory and must there stand the tests applicable to all theories or interpretations. Descriptions can take limited areas and stop there, but philosophy must always link up part with part into a coherent view. [p. 311]

The usual supposition that prevailed for a while that because lower animals are less complex and have a simpler experience, they should be more easily studied and the study of them should precede human psychology soon had to admit that however complex and difficult human experience may be it is more directly accessible to human investigators. In the field of interpretation or explanation the earlier evolutionists, including Spencer (though there were keen controversialists and debaters among them such as Huxley, were, however, very trustful about the adequacy of several principles assumed from Darwin, and only after the polemical dust cloud cleared away were they ready to reconsider their own principles critically. One fallacy they fell easily into was to use the term evolution quite ambiguously. The difference between naturalistic evolution and idealistic development was a refinement too subtle for most of them. Hence wherever development was conceded, it was supposed that naturalistic evolution must be conceded.  Professor Watson in his book, Comte, Mill and Spencer,[1] has directed much pertinent criticism against the misuse of the term 'design' by the evolutionists.   He specially charges them with making ostensibly a direct attack on all use of the conception of Design.  It turned out that they were really attacking the Deistic external design such as was advocated by Paley; but later theological writers (who were theistic, not deistic) had an indwelling design, and the evolutionists, though they thought they had discarded design altogether, were soon found themselves advocating an immanent design.

It by no means follows that the inner design held by theists is identical with the immanent design taught by the evolutionists, but the evolutionists were fighting a past system when [p. 312]  fighting Paley -- they were not meeting up-to-date theological views at all.

When one comes to think of it, it is somewhat amusing when we remember that the extraneous Deistic view of design that the evolutionists attacked, and so gleefully discarded, was in reality objectionable just because it was so naturalistically, even mechanically conceived. It had been borrowed by Paley from current science and utilized in his theological construction. Now the new immanent design to which evolutionists were committing themselves was measurably nearer to the philosophical view of design as it had been long before expounded even in Aristotle. In popular or semi-popular misconceptions about what 'evolution' is and means, we still  find a continuation of the original confusion. That this confusion needs clearing up is obvious. But we must diagnose before we can prescribe. Let us try to bring out the confusion or contradiction that is quite widespread in talking about 'evolution'. Let us like Berkeley, then, ask the question, what is meant by 'the natural law of evolution'? That phrase will cover what many people mean by Evolution.  Now to get  matters still more clearly focussed let us ask what we mean by the term 'natural law' and by 'of evolution'.

Natural Law? We must exclude many meanings often given to law when we use the term natural. We do not mean  civil law, for instance, nor what was meant during the middle ages when 'natural law' or 'law of nature' meant a Stoic principle of reason inherent in nature. We mean a law of nature as nature is now understood, but how is it now understood? Nature is understood as the objective realm from which volition or the artificial is excluded.  In this field everything is supposed to occur with a species of necessity or compulsion and this is usually called Causation. When the [p. 313] causes or sum of conditions are given the effect, must follow. Furthermore, it is still usually supposed that in this effect there is nothing beyond what is included in the sum of conditions; that is, there can be nothing additional in the effect. That would be quite miraculous and quite unaccountable or quite impossible.

Of Evolution.  But now turn to the usual conception attached to 'of evolution' and quite a new attitude of mind is found asserting itself. Now we are asked to think of a process extending over a longer or a shorter time -- if any difficulty arises in the shorter time, it is usually supposed that this will all disappear if we lengthen the time.  So on the whole it is safer to speak always of long times rather than short ones if you are to avoid awkward questions. At the end of this period of time something is supposed to emerge which instead of being equated with what we started from at the beginning is triumphantly declared to be far in advance, far beyond, quite superior to what was at the start.  Sully and Huxley in the article Evolution to which I have previously referred make this quite explicit.

Not only is an advance asserted by 'evolution' but this advance is an improvement, an increased value. 'At the same time, inasmuch as conscious and more particularly human life is looked on by the evolutionist as the highest phase of all development, and, since man's development is said to be an increase in well-being and happiness, we do not greatly err when we speak of evolution as a transition from the lower to the higher, from the worse to the better.'

'Evolution  is thus almost synonymous with progress, though the latter term is usually confined to processes of development in the moral as distinguished from the physical world.' [p. 314]

Now if we put together our results we find Natural Law -- of Evolution -- breaking into two quite discordant parts. In so far as we stress 'natural law' we think of physical nature and assume that the end will be on the same level as the beginning. But when we say 'of evolution' we slip away from the 'physical world' and its equivalence in cause and effect and' we run over into the moral world of progress and take this in, ·and here we assert a 'progress' or advance. But carrying over our view of necessity from the physical into the moral we have a necessary progress.

Altogether it is a great situation and most interesting. I am reminded of what used to be an old debating subject among the Canadian Scottish pioneers: 'What would happen if an irresistible force met an immovable object?'  In 'natural law' we have the immovable object, it cannot be budged beyond what was originally given in its sum of conditions, but in the 'of evolution' we have the irresistible force that must prevail in spite of all obstructions and gives us 'progress'.

Now most evolutionists alternate back and forward between the 'immovable object' and 'the irresistible force' in their views about naturalistic evolution. By the way, if the Naturalism is stressed can evolution ever escape the 'immovable object' standpoint'  For instance, try to conceive a fatalistically naturalistically compelled progress without volition or choice, and yet evolutionary writers toy with this folly whenever they try to write out a deterministic evolutionary ethics.

It is true that Sully and Huxley, wandering over the whole field in their article, recognize as one kind of 'evolution' the development theories.  But though certain limitations and difficulties are ·admitted as still confronting evolution, no hint [p. 315] is given towards coming to terms with these two fundamentally opposed philosophical interpretations.[3]

Kant, however, has given some glimpses at this 'antinomy' -- and though Kant's solution is not thorough-going, he provides for an irresistible force in his theory of duty and freedom -- and it would seem that when the 'irresistible force' of duty meets the 'immovable abject' of impulse, desire or nature ·in any of its forms, it was the object that was alleged to be immovable that had to move--or in other words, nature and natural law is a hypothetical imperative and as such sub-ordinated to or instrumental to the 'categorical imperative' of the subject or spirit as moral.

Instead of frankly facing the dilemma in their contradictory conceptions of a 'natural law of evolution' later 'naturalistic evolutionists' dodge the issue by deriding philosophy.  They are scientists and so can slip in whatever aspect suits each case they are dealing with.  But this is the ostrich plan of hiding the head in the sand.

Let me now briefly sum up wherein naturalistic evolution as a philosophical explanation or complete world-view has failed all along the line.

1. Physical Evolution as Naturalism Fails. Because instead of maintaining the reality of its basis, the physical universe, it found itself in its account of knowledge on its [p. 316] own psychology compelled to abandon the validity of both substantiality and causality and had to fall back on the weak substitution of 'the unknowable' for substance and the 'customary conjunction' for Causation.

Idealistic development in Kant has to rescue the validity of substantiality and of causality and thus save the 'naturalistic' evolutionists from committing suicide.

2. Biological Evolution as Naturalism Fails.   It  runs into contradiction and failure in its treatment of design.  It attacks design, but this turns out to be an attack by biology on physics. It turns out that after it gets rid of physical mechanical dualistic design it slips in without any acknowledgement, an implicit, immanent design.

It is constructive idealistic development which faces this issue and agreeing with the naturalistic biological evolutionists that mechanical, physical design is inadequate also shows that merely biological explanations of design also fall short of the whole sweep of immanent design as it is found not merely in biology but also in psychology and sociology.

3. Psychological Evolution as Naturalism Fails. It lends itself to explaining away logic and mathematics without which science ceases to be science. If everything is reduced to the level of merely contingent sequences we have neither science nor coherent experience. The mechanical bias, or atomistic tendency misled the psychological evolutionist into reducing experience into atomistic experiences.

It is constructive development which shows us that experience is not a mere aggregation of experiences, and endeavours to trace the principles inherent in and valid for experience; thus restoring psychology to its honourable place as a contribution to the upbuilding of both science and philosophy instead [p. 317] of becoming a mere negative dissolvent as it became in the hands of the naturalistic psychological evolutionists.

4. Sociological Evolution as Naturalism Fails. For in so far as the naturalism prevails we run back to the immovable and static and so must deny human freedom and personal initiative.  But there can be no human society with a significant ethics in civil laws, or political organization, where all is mechanically accounted for.

It is constructive idealistic development which gives us a coherent statement of the principles involved in significant ethics, political progress and the realization of purposes, the significant 'designs' in human society.

Summing up, Naturalistic theory as philosophy appearing in various shapes as 'physical evolution, biological evolution, psychological evolution, and sociological evolution['?], in every case runs into bankruptcy and failure, and in each case the rescue is made by constructive idealistic development.

Let us now turn to our second problem: the bearing of these two types of explanation or theory, naturalistic evolution, or idealistic development on the problem of personality.





According to the view of naturalistic evolution we can very simply solve this problem. The answer is easy -- there is no such thing as personality. If we accept naturalistic evolution we must simply drive out personality as St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland. But is there not another alternative? A Frenchman who heard the story about St. Patrick is said to have exclaimed: 'Vy did he not leave the poor snakes alone and drive out the Irish instead?' So we may hesitate whether to drive out personality by naturalistic evolution or drive out [p. 318] naturalistic evolution by personality. Naturalistic evolution may have to mitigate its intolerance. When we recall how one principle after another had to be 'driven out' to satisfy 'naturalistic evolution', it will not seem strange to us that personality too must go if we hold to naturalistic evolution, and just as we had to turn to constructive idealistic development to rescue and restore other principles and actualities, so it is not unlikely that here too we may have to turn to constructive idealistic development if we are to maintain anything of the nature of personality.  If we look back over I the long history of philosophical polemics we shall always find that only in the case of constructive idealistic development have we any really serious attempt to strive towards, stumble towards, search for personality.

But here we need to pause to distinguish very carefully between two tendencies both often called 'Idealistic' but totally unlike.  We need to distinguish carefully between, constructive organizing development idealism, land  deductive  analytic rationalistic idealism.

The latter is probably at bottom quite as intolerant of personality as naturalistic evolution ever was, and so we must follow the pathway of constructive idealistic development assailed on one side by naturalistic evolution and on the other by rationalistic formalistic idealism. Let us note and contrast these in earlier speculation. In Greek speculation, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle were 'constructive idealists', asserting development and referring to a person who possessed regulative reason and deliberative will.

But in the Stoics we have a type of analytic formal rationalism in which personality is forced violently into ready-made moulds.  The Stoics speak mainly about laws of nature or laws of reason, but the levelling process is everywhere in evidence. [p. 319]

The Stoics kept speaking about 'law', 'law' -- sometimes this 'law of nature' or 'law of reason' means merely physical mechanical law, sometimes it means mathematical law involved in physical happenings, sometimes it means logical law involved in our experience of physical happenings in their mathematical relations and sometimes it means moral-social law or the order that should ideally obtain in our human experiences, however they may be related to physical nature with its mathematical aspects. Nevertheless, there is a steady drift of the 'should be' of the moral into the 'must be' of the logical-mathematical physical. Ultimately the necessity becomes explicit fatalism, and though the Stoic began bravely, even heroically, with the assertion of a proud even defiant will, gradually this will is hemmed in, circumscribed more and more, till at length it remains if at all only as mere resignation.

Now what happened long ago with Stoicism becomes repeated over and over again, with later rationalistic pantheistic systems. If personality ever seems to get a footing it always ends in mere resignation. The fact is that both Naturalism and Pantheism start at the wrong end. They have no use for Kant's 'Copernican revolution'.

Naturalism: Nature, or the world as a whole is impersonal. Man is a part of nature, therefore he is impersonal. Q.E.D. He thinks he is personal -- then let him read our demonstration and he will see he is mistaken, that is all.

Or Pantheism: The Universe as a whole is impersonal, man is a part of this Universe, therefore he is impersonal -- Q.E.D. Man imagines he is personal, well let him read our demonstration and correct his foolish imaginings, that is all.

Now at the outset, constructive idealistic development repudiates the method employed by both Naturalism and [p. 320] rationalistic Pantheism.   They start wrong, they reason wrong, they end wrong. But again and again, constructive idealistic development is misconstrued and it is supposed to be refuted by arguments that are really directed against analytical rationalism.

David Hume for instance thought he was once for all settling those ·who believed in a self, by claiming that he could never catch a particular state self, nor a substance self. Well, what of it? The particular state self is the empirical naturalistic misconception; the abstract substance 'I know not what' is the rationalistic misconception about the self. Locke who did believe in a 'something we know not what' immaterial substance, self, nevertheless in his chapter on personal identity did really come in sight of a truer view of a persisting principle through varying experiences, co-ordinating them into a coherent experience. And Berkeley replying to the claim that both material substance and immaterial substance were exploded, clearly stated the self as the 'one individual principle' who perceived both colour and sound and yet was not identical with either colour or sound.

Kant does not hesitate to accept David Hume's criticism of an 'immaterial substance' self, 'something we know not what', But Kant gives suggestions towards a constructive idealistic view of a self, especially in his development and proof of the synthetical functioning underlying or involved in all experience; in his insight that synthetical unity underlies and renders possible the shallower 'analytical identity' and Kant discovers the self not merely in knowledge but in conduct, where he sees that duty is an undeniable experience wherein 'I ought' involves 'I can.'

Hegel though at times swinging towards a pantheistic rationalism, on the whole is a keen critic of this fallacious [p. 321] procedure.  He insists that 'subject' is a more ultimate principle than 'substance' as usually understood, and that the formalistic method of the 'mere understanding' is the parent of countless errors and misconceptions in philosophy. Fortunately for us who have the great heritage of British speculation, the personal is seldom long forgotten.   The Oxford scholars who have so treasured Greek literature with its fine suggestiveness, easily grasped and extended hints taken from Kant and Hegel towards modernizing and extending the tendencies already dimly foreshadowed in Aristotle, and these so-called Neo-Hegelians, or Neo-Aristotelians, T. H. Green, the Cairds, Ritchie, Watson, along with the later constructive Scottish school thinkers, have gone a long way to develop the principles of constructive idealistic development and have all perceived how central, how fundamental personality must be in a constructive idealistic development theory.

Now if we may be permitted to indicate directions in which we may further extend their work and insight bearing on personality, we should be inclined to make the following suggestions :

First: We need to scrutinize very carefully our psychological foundations. Many early attempts to grapple with the problem of personality were baffled or nullified because they ran against a prevailing psychology which was really incorrect but which claimed a scientific ultimateness to which philosophy must submit. There are two erroneous tendencies that easily creep into and pervert scientific psychology.  Though claiming to describe and state facts of experience as they find them, one set of psychologists can never find anything but what they have pre-determined to find, and they pre-determine to find experience all broken up into the ultimate atomic elements, a psychological atomism, that easily lends itself to materialistic philosophical manipulation, ending with utter [p. 322] loss of vital principles and of course inevitably losing 'personality' in any attempted reconstructions.  The earlier 'rationalistic' bias carried over into psychology led to a discovery of 'faculties' separate, distinct and independent. Later psychologists have pretty well riddled these separate distinct and independent faculties, but they have run over to the other abstraction of separate distinct and independent ultimate elements of a simple kind like the ancient atomists, and they scarcely realize cell realize that this is a variation merely of the old mistake.  What is greatly needed at the present moment is not less but more psychology, psychology which while claiming not to philosophize will not slip in false philosophy, but truly describe the actual living, actively working, concrete consciousness. The believers in constructive idealistic development are quite willing to base their philosophical interpretations on a valid impartial and complete psychological foundation, but as philosophers they prefer to do their own theorizing, make their own constructions, formulate their own interpretations.

Let me very briefly note how personality will appear within any serious attempt to interpret human experience fairly and without explaining it away in favour of some preconceived misconceptions or assumptions.

1.·Consciousness. To begin with, as Descartes long ago suggested, instead of our deriving or deducing consciousness from something else which is supposed to be more real or better known, we should really discover that consciousness itself is what most directly, most certainly known, and until we have some test of what constitutes reality, we must assume consciousness to have some kind of reality, and in any case we will need consciousness both to discover and to prove reality wherever or however we claim to reach such reality. Kant's 'Copernican revolution' consists in his clear statement of the necessity for beginning with the actual concrete human [p. 323] experience as the basis and starting-point of all our investigations, reflections, and conclusions. It if turns out upon  critical re-consideration that objects and subjects are indispensably involved in this actual concrete human experience, that will constitute the proper proof of the validity and reality of such objects and subjects.

2. Self-Consciousness.  A predominant amount of investigation has centred on these objects involved in human experience, but we desire now to concentrate on the subjects also as certainly and indispensably involved and to try to state just what subject means; and reflectively reconsidering the actual experience, our human consciousness, we discover that the human conscious subject may become self-conscious: that is to say, it is characteristic of human consciousness that it may rise to an explicit awareness of the content of its own conscious life -- the knowing subject may dispassionately, even critically, view or review the known content within its consciousness, what Kant calls the 'Empirical Ego'.  In this dispassionate critical evaluating survey the human subject rises to the possibility of morality for there begins the power of discriminating between temptation and sin, and from this distinction we may rise to the emphasis or preference whereby one is endorsed and retained, the other condemned, opposed and eliminated.

3. Self-regulative Consciousness.  At such stage and exercising this function consciousness becomes self-regulative of the content of its accepted life-filling -- by approval holding fast to what it regards as good and lovely, by disapproval reacting against or trying to shun or escape what It views or regards as unworthy or undesirable.  And this approving and disapproving is no external re-arrangement of a foreign field extraneous to the self, it rather constitutes a building up [p. 324] or destroying of the conscious life itself.  This activity modifies the actor.

4. Self-modifying Consciousness.· By its selective emphasis the character of the approving, disapproving self becomes modified. It advances or. recedes, it is improved or is degraded. If the choice is of the unsuitable or unworthy, the self suffers loss and self-destruction or self-degradation; but if on the contrary the selective approval is in accordance with what is fitted for the subject, is what we term wise or well-considered, or right or good, we find the self issues after its choice in a self-developed increase.

5. Self-developing Consciousness. The normal or hopeful or proper tendency should be, we assume, self-development, so much so that many writers find it almost impossible to state coherently how it is possible for a self to commit suicide, except perchance by inadvertence and misconception, and hence self-development is more easy to formulate than self-degradation, nevertheless there is one kind of choice that seems to enter not abnormally or viciously or pathologically but normally into self-developing consciousness, this is the paradoxical choice and action termed self-sacrifice, namely, that to save our life, we must lose it, in some manner.

6. Self-sacrificing Consciousness.  Not alone in some of the great crises of life but in its lesser moments and ordinary routine, self-sacrifice seem to enter in some way as an integral factor within the normal moral developing active consciousness.  For whenever the consciousness first comes in sight of a line of action or an ideal of conduct that surpasses what formerly it had sought, the higher nobler way if approved or adopted will seem to come into conflict with the plan of life or content of life with which the self had previously identified itself.  There will seem to arise a conflict between [p. 325] the old lesser ideal and the new greater, higher ideal.  Thus every acceptance of a higher level will seem to involve a struggle or require a sacrifice of the lower in favour of the higher, a sacrifice or seeming sacrifice.  Hence therefore we meet what seems to me a perverted and false view of this sacrifice taught by many ascetic writers.  Those writers turn all the attention on the negative aspect in the transition which they represent as a rejection or casting out of the lower level, but as a matter of fact in a real advance from a lower to a higher level what we need to stress is not the giving up of the lower level, but the taking up of the effort towards the higher level and with this the inclusion of the good in this higher level as our good, which if secured and obtained and incorporated will end in self-fulfilment not self-loss, in any sacrifice of self in that sense.  The self, as it were, dedicates itself to this new purpose or ideal and if this is really nobler it must if followed and attained bring real self-fulfilment.

7. Self-dedicating fulfilment of Consciousness.  When we follow up this new line of investigation, it soon turns out that as a rule such self-dedicating fulfilment is usually when we turn from a purpose or plan which while bringing some pleasure or advantage to us does it unduly at the expense of other selves.  So that this level cannot be discussed or understood without implicating a social reference or reference to other selves-self-deciding fulfilment then means co-operating with others in a good that they can share with us, this is the field Kant referred to as a 'kingdom of ends.'

8. Co-operating  Consciousness -- or  selves  mutually assisting.  This is the point where we reach special difficulties. At first ethical investigators could only represent the one as benefiting at the expense of the other, and one set of writers advocated that others were means to the one self, who should [p. 326] seek his own welfare.  Others advocated 'benevolence' in sacrifice as a plain duty.  But if our analysis of self-sacrifice be correct as a positive including a wider content, then we are not really asked to give up altogether the legitimate demand of the individual for self-maintenance of welfare, but we widen the content of welfare to the self.

It must be in this widening social co-operative moral consciousness that we get the key to the religious life with its marvellous uplift and completion of the moral consciousness. So it wild not surprise us that some writers advocate a giving up of the human self, to the Divine, but may we not rather speak of this momentous transition in the moral consciousness as an including or taking up in our approval and well-being, the association with and acceptance of the Divine person as necessary for the realization of our self-hood?

It will be seen that I now have reached a point where the moral consideration reaches the religious, where human personality touches on Divine personality.  I do not propose to follow further.  But I have gone far enough to indicate that the religious life so intimately vital in human experience involves and implies a personal Divine good being, who should be explicitly accepted in the moral experience of human persons.

As to the proofs of the existence of such a Divine personality, I can merely add that this to me means more than the usual proofs of existence given in some discussions.  It is God as person that I am interested in, if there be such a person, as I believe there is.  It is quite true that since Kant refuted the ancient 'proofs' many have regarded it as vain and foolish to attempt any proofs of God's existence. But as a matter of fact what Kant showed was that the usual rationalistic deductive method and the usual empirical method are alike [p. 327] incapable of proving God's existence, but many forget that Kant has shown ad nauseam, that these two methods are equally incapable of proving anything whatsoever.  And if Kant found other methods, constructive methods, for proving other things, might not these same constructive methods be used in dealing with the question of God's existence? As a matter of fact we may point to some of these attempts.

Royce's book, The Religious Aspect of Philosophy, while it rejects the abstract formal ontological proof, turns attention to the meaning of truth as truth, as always a truth for an adequate or trustworthy judge of truth.

T. H. Green in his Prolegomena to Ethics rejects the old cosmological argument because of its narrow and extraneous conception of Causality.  But basing his views on the Kantian view of substance and causality in a phenomenal world, Green argues to the 'eternal consciousness' as the implied basis of the phenomenal world.[4]

The defenders then of design or purpose have long ago abandoned the extraneous design as a proper statement of nature.  Even naturalistic evolution  has been compelled however to slip in an indwelling tendency in nature, and in spite of the former scorn heaped on the 'anthropomorphism' of those who assumed that nature had some purpose fulfilled in mankind, Sully and Huxley admit the following:

'In a sense it may be said that the theory of evolution helps to restore the ancient sentiment toward nature as our parent the source of our life. It is well to add, however, that the theory of evolution, by regarding man as the [p. 328] last and highest product of nature, easily lends support to the idea that all things exist and have existed for the sake of our race.  This seems, indeed, to be an essential element in any conception we can form of a rationally evolved universe.'

This is indeed far from meeting the whole case but it certainly tends towards the persistent claim of idealistic development that we cannot level man down to physical nature.

But to discover God as implicated in man as well as physical nature we must pass from physical descriptive science to the moral experience of mankind and what is implicated in man's power of choice and moral aspiration, and moral advancement.

When we take into account not merely our sentient life but also our intellectual, artistic and social activities, and especially our moral distinctions and moral actions and moral ideals, it would seem to be more reasonable to say 'God is our parent and the source of our life,' than to say with naturalistic evolution 'nature is our parent and the source of our life.'

Naturalistic evolutionists in recent times have somewhat abandoned their allegiance to Herbert Spencer's formulations, which so closely followed Hobbes's 'inner motion' determinism and David Hume's 'customary conjunction' with some 'unknowable' in the agnostic abyss, and have turned more to the new explanations set forth in Pragmatism.  In so doing they have made appreciable progress away from materialism and agnosticism and towards constructive idealism. William James s many jibes and merry quips at rationalistic formalism and intellectualism may have some pertinence against formalistic pantheistic rationalism, they do not touch constructive idealistic development.  Then when James insists that from the outset psychological experience has in it unity and coherence essentially and not accidentally or artificially or by constructive [p. 329] some subsequently superimposed logical relatings, this too rejects the rationalistic theories but is quite in harmony with Kantianism and modern constructive idealistic development. Only of course James thinks this unity is an ultimate fact, yet a fact in some vague way accounted for by the sentient organism in relation to the world. Here he merely glances at an explanation that does not explain.  Then when James repudiates the implicit fatalism in rationalistic theories and passionately pleads for an indeterministic even arbitrary volitional action or will in man, he does not oppose constructive idealism, but he not merely by this rejects rationalism, he also overturns the whole naturalistic evolutionary psychology and ethics from Hobbes through Hume and Mill up to Spencer and Bain. All the naturalistic expositors were determinists in their account of volition, and James has gone over to the ranks of the constructive idealists, who have long before him developed the significance of volition and moral freedom much more fully and adequately than James has done.[5]

And lastly when James proposes to test the truth of their theories by their serviceability for life, though this is somewhat vague and looks more like corroboration than proof, yet it is a test that will never stagger a believer in the appeal to actual concrete experience.  In short all James's emendations are really abandonments of naturalistic evolution as materialistic.  They are distinct approaches towards a constructive idealism.

Our claim is tat the theistic hypothesis or interpretation, if we so call it, is amore adequate and satisfactory explanation of the facts and all the facts of human experience than the [p. 330] hypothesis or theory of materialism or the hypothesis or theory of Pantheism.

If we add James's practical test as to how each theory when applied in practice would work out on 'a further life', we may remind ourselves that Christianity, though often crudely expressed by pantheistic or mechanically minded expositors, is quite clearly a theory of life that assumes human responsible personality and a Divine Person. As to the effects of this theory on life and conduct we can see that where it has been accepted and life has been governed by principles in accordance with this theory, civilization has advanced.  To me it seems beyond controversy that personality in man is the only reasonable inference to draw from human experience and any theory like materialism or pantheism that ignores this or explains away the personality in man because it does not harmonize with their preconceived ideas is guilty of making assumptions take precedence over facts.  If we speak at all or think at all of human antecedents as 'parentage' we will need to look for such parentage higher than some impersonal naturalistic principle or some impersonal pantheistic principle.

Christ's teaching that God is our Father, we are His children, seems to be the interpretation that would best explain the stubborn facts.




[1] During the years between 1891 and 1900, in connexion with the University Extension Course in the University of Toronto, I gave a series of lectures under the title 'Eras of Doubt and Triumphs of Faith', in which I traced five great turning points in human civilization, showing the connexion of these upheavals with speculative thought, viz., The Sophists and Socrates; Stoicism, Epicureanism and Christianity; Medięvalism and The Renaissance; French Materialism, The French Revolution and the beginnings of Modern Democracy; Evolution and Development.  During the Session of 1905-1906, the lecture on Evolution and Personality was given at Queen's University, Kingston, before the Philosophical Society, Professor John Watson presiding.  I have added a few footnotes. James Gibson Hume.


[*] Classics Editor's Note: J. G. Hume delivered a paper with the same title as the present one to the Philosophical Society of Queen's University (where John Watson was professor of philosophy for nearly 50 years) on 25 January 1907. Judging by the abstract of that address, which was published in the University of Toronto Monthly (vol. 7, 1907, p. 130) the contents of the two were quite similar, and Hume says they are  virtually identical in footnote [1] above.  It is not known why Hume waited some 15 years to publish the paper, which is probably the most substantial philosophical work of his career.

[2] That Berkeley anticipated this counter-attack on 'immaterial substance' and had an answer is shewn in Dialogue III:

'Hylas: Words are not to be used without a meaning, and as there is no more meaning in spiritual substance than in material substance, the one is to be exploded as well as the other.

Philonous: How often must I repeat that I know or am conscious of my own being; and that I myself am not my ideas, but somewhat else, a thinking active principle that perceives, knows, wills, and operates about ideas. I know that I, one and the same self, perceive both colours and sounds: that a colour cannot perceive a sound, nor a sound a colour; that I am therefore one individual principle, distinct from colour and sound, and, for the same reason, from all other sensible things and inert ideas.  But I am not in like manner conscious of either the existence or essence of matter.'

[1][sic] The later edition is entitled An Outline of Philosophy.

[3] Sully and Huxley under Metaphysical Systems note Dualism and Materialism and Pantheism, then Spiniozistic parallelism and a 'double aspect' curve, materialistic on one side, pantheistic on the other.  But they never come in sight of constructive idealistic development, possibly because in terminology they use evolution and development as synonymous; and when in theory they get a glimpse of idealistic development, they regard it as a subordinate aspect of naturalistic evolution.  As a matter of fact naturalistic evolution as a lesser aspect might get included within the greater constructive idealistic development but we cannot include a greater under a lesser.  In short, they pluck the feathers off the peacock and think they have changed it into a jackdaw, then they stick the feathers on a jackdaw and think they have changed it into peacock.

[4] While Green rejects the extraneous 'design' argument, in his ethical writing, he tries to justify a belief in an indwelling purpose, and points as a 'condition of the possibility' of our moral 'self-realization' or moral development, our affinity with, our co-operation with, our dependence on, a 'spiritual principle' that possesses in actuality what is in us as yet possibility or partially developed actualization.

[5] William James revolts against Pantheistic fatalism, and in place of its monism puts dualism, pluralism, Deism -- he does not rise to Theism. Bergson in Creative Evolution seems to be reviving Schopenhauer's ingenious attempt to describe a creation without any Creator.