INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHY
DALLAS M. ROARK
In an elementary way, naturalism may be defined as the philosophy that nature is the sum total of reality. There is nothing that is beyond nature with regard to a Supreme Being that is unseen. To adapt a phrase, what you see is what you get. But the definition above is too simple. Naturalism includes diverse modes of thought that range from materialism (the idea that matter only exists) to humanism (the view that man is the model of explaining reality). The diversity of philosophical modes is complicated further by the changing terms. For example, in ancient times a form of naturalism
Voltaire (1694-1778), the pen name of Francois-Marie Arouet, was born in Paris, educated by the Jesuits, eventually turned against the church, became an opponent of religious fanaticism. Probably his most famous work is Candide, published in 1759.
was called materialism and this meant that matter was composed of atoms operating in a cause-effect way. Even modern naturalists look with disdain at the ancient materialism because it was rather crude. But some modern philosophers call their naturalism "modern materialism" but do not mean the same as the ancient views.
Consequently, as we look at different types of philosophies beginning now with naturalism as one of six types, the reader must be aware that there is no single accepted definition of naturalism. Some naturalists admit freedom, others deny it; some admit the existence of gods in a qualified sense, others deny them. Thus there is always a problem of insisting upon one person or one type of philosophy as the adequate representation of the tradition in philosophy.
As a result, we are committed to giving at least two and then sometimes three or four examples of a philosophic tradition. In naturalism we will look at four examples of forms of naturalism: materialism, modern scientific naturalism, humanism, and dialectical materialism. We now turn to our first model.
The ancients held many views in common and we will draw upon Democritus, Epicurus, and Lucretius to give us a credo of naturalism which is basically materialistic in content. Materialism is the simple view that all objects are composed of atoms. The following may be considered a summary of these emphases in materialism.
What is man in a materialistic philosophy? Man is composed of the same type of atoms as the rest of the world with one exception. The early materialists spoke of a soul in man consisting of finer, smoother, more supple atoms. The soul is yet of atoms but a distinction in quality was accepted. Epicurus affirmed a soul, but in truly atomistic form he believed that when the body is dissolved, the soul is also dissolved. Although a soul concept sounds different or inconsistent with materialism, it was not for them inconsistent because it too was atomic.
Later materialists rejected the concept of a soul altogether. Julien Offrey Da La Mettrie (1709-1751) spoke of man being a machine in which the body was pictured more in mechanical/hydraulic terms. Still later, materialists viewed man from the standpoint of stimulus-response psychology in which man is reduced to a mechanistic basis.
Some materialists believed in gods, but god in an atomic world view is
only another conglomerate of atoms. The gods are not basically different
from humans: they too decompose. The gods are similar to man in form. They
are divided sexually, they eat and breathe as men do. The gods may be
honored for their excellence but fearing them is unnecessary and worship and
sacrifice is not required. Ethics is not necessarily related to the idea of
god. Many materialists spoke critically of God and religion. Lucretius
regarded religion as a product of terror and superstition. He believed that
"true piety lies rather in the power to contemplate the universe with a
quiet mind."1 Much later materialists regarded religion as the
chief source of all human corruption.
It is important to remember that the logical conclusion of the atomistic world view does not allow for values. If cause and effect govern the movement of all things, freedom is an illusion. But one must observe that neither Lucretius nor Democritus carried their views to their logical conclusions. Lucretius taught that "one is led after pleasure by 'the will of the individual'" who "originates the movements that trickle through his limbs."2 Democritus gave sage moral advice that sounds like he was the most ardent advocate of freedom of choice. "It is best for man to pass his life with as much cheerfulness as possible and with as little distress. And this he would do, did he not find his pleasures in mortal affairs."3
We must turn to later philosophers to see the logical conclusions of materialism. Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) gives us some comments that indicate the extent that values were regarded only as useful fictions.
For these words good and evil are ever used with relation to the person that useth them, there being nothing simply and absolutely so, nor any rule of good and evil to be taken from the nature of objects themselves; but from the man, where there is no commonwealth.4
Thus the materialist view emerges as a philosophy in which there is no meaning in a cosmic sense, no purposive agent creating it, and values are not real, but useful fictions to describe what I approve.
The criticisms will be considered shortly, but a word is necessary to see where materialism went in the history of philosophy. The earliest materialistic views were incorporated into the development of the physical sciences after the fifteenth century. Matter in motion in the atomic view of things seemed to make a lot of sense to the forerunners of modern science. Mechanism--viewing the world as a giant machine--seemed to explain much of the universe and machines began to contribute to man's life. It was easy to conclude that since mechanism combined with materialism can account and explain so much of the universe, why not push it to its logical conclusion? Why not make it the complete principle of interpreting the whole of the universe including man? The body-soul relation and the problem of accounting for an interaction between the body-soul is dismissed. There is no soul to account for. This form of naturalism enabled man to jettison moral responsibility, religion, God and values. It is no wonder that emerging forms of atheism were drawn to and found support in materialism with its new acceptability in science.
The strength of materialism is that it centers on one of the most evident elements in the world--matter. A study of matter is important. Probably the real source of contention comes when the materialistic views are applied to man, God, and values. Several criticisms may be raised on all levels. (l) The term "materialism" as understood by the ancients sounds very modern when it involved "atoms" but their knowledge of the atom was only hypothetical. With the advent of modern nuclear physics we have not only split the atom, but atomic physicists now talk about omega-minus particles and "quarks." The search for the basic substance of reality continues beyond and below the atom.
(2) The analogy of a machine, or mechanism is also a debatable term for explaining our world. Instead of a precise machine like world, as understood by earlier scientists, modern terminology involves the "potentiality, possibility, and the all-important relative viewpoint of the observer." The analogy of the machine is no longer the best way of talking about reality. Mechanism involves precise predictability. One may talk about the behavior of a million electrons and declare that 400,000 will react in a given way. One does not declare that 400,l93 will react that way. Predictions of electrons is not concerned with a few variations but is based upon the behavior of millions. As a result the analogy of the world as a machine is only useful to a general degree, and cannot be generalized to give an explanation to everything in existence.
(3) Materialism has difficulty with consciousness. Man is not merely a
bundle of nerves, sensations, and neural stimulations. These are important,
but are not adequate to explain reflection, purposeful, and forward-looking
planning. Moreover, it will be recalled that it was argued earlier (chapter
8) that the power of generalization appears to require more than the brain.
The jump from matter to thinking matter is enormous. The neural system is
necessary, but it is not the sufficient explanation of thinking.
(4) Materialism, if consistently held, forces the rejection of values whether conceived of in terms of freedom, morality, or of religion. The alternatives are: either reject these things as subjective products of the mind, or endow matter with personal attributes of goodness, love, and truth.
(5) Materialism based on the model of the machine, or the mechanistic view of the world is a crude form of reductionism when applied to the world as a whole. Certainly mechanisms have value in many realms, but to conclude that everything--including all of man's acts--must be so explained is a generalization that has little warrant.
(6) Finally, the analogy of a machine is an unfortunate choice. The materialists spoke of the world as a machine. There are no machines without a designer, inventor, or creator. The analogy actually gives meaning to a world involving the great Designer--God.
II. Modern Scientific Naturalism
Modern scientific naturalism was a philosophical movement arising out of the l9th century which viewed man within nature as opposed to his being against nature. Previous materialism was regarded as erroneous (l) in its reductionism of all reality to indestructible matter in motion as in the atom, (2) its quantitative view of "substance" rather than a qualitative view of reality,5 (3) its emphasis on the physical rather than the biological sciences, and (4) because it failed to explain "human knowing as a natural achievement."6 The new naturalism was greatly influenced by Darwin as well as the social factors in human development. The new naturalism accepted the "naturalistic principle" which meant that one must inquire into a set of facts by means of the verification principle in science and this was meant to bring objectivity to it. Moreover, the scientific method was to be applied to all areas of knowledge. One must not "advance any theory that is contrary to any established scientific fact."7 Thus, the scientific naturalist purports to make the scientific endeavor a part of his approach to philosophy.
We can now turn to the four ingredients of this philosophy.
Nature is the basic category of scientific naturalism. "Nature is the mother of mothers."8 By no means does this imply that nature also had a mother, but rather nature is the matrix out of which all things emerge. Naturalism now speaks of "events, qualities, and relations (or process and character, or essence and flux."9 This modified the old mechanical world view of past materialism.
Nature or reality is thus in a process of becoming. There are no permanent entities that exist forever. Reality is not of one kind and its actions are not simple, but complex.10
The becoming aspect of naturalism is nowhere seen more comprehensively than in the naturalistic theory of evolution. Krikorian declared: "The most important single event in the history of modern naturalism in America . . . was the publication . . . of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species . . . ."11 Special emphasis is given to the term "naturalistic" because evolution may be interpreted from many other philosophical stances. Nevertheless, evolution was seen as the key to a non-supernatural understanding of how reality is involved and developed from the inorganic to the organic with its great achievement in humanity. Evolution involves chance rather than a mechanical view of the older materialism. The use of evolution for philosophy is most relevant in the doctrine of man to which we now turn.
In the evolutionary picture of man, man is regarded as a continuity from sub-human species. Then what is special about man? Man is an animal that thinks. Man has a "mind." But what is mind? Philosophers who have not been naturalists regarded mind as an immaterial or spiritual principle in man. But the spiritual or immaterial cannot be subjected to scientific techniques. Thus the naturalist has to develop some explanation for man's thought life. How do you explain what appears to be spiritual by a non-spiritual device? Various suggestions are offered. (l) Some said that the brain is the seat of consciousness and some allowance is made for non-material symbols "as though it were an immaterial" operation of thought; (2) others regarded mind equal to behavior. Behavior can be examined experimentally, but mind cannot. Mind is then defined as "response to the meanings of stimuli."12 (3) Still others regarded mind as something that nature does. "Man thinks because nature is intelligible."13 This appears to personify nature and create some form of nature-mentalism, or mysticism.
In any case, thinking is regarded as the highest function of nature. Mind, if it exists in any meaningful way, is a product of the brain or some merely natural explanation.
Naturalists come with diverse responses to God and religion. On the one hand concession is made that the existence of God is too freely dismissed from the scene. This dismissal is unfair to both theism and naturalism. For if there is a cosmic ally to man, he should be welcomed as we welcome the friendship of other men.14 But on the other hand, naturalism stands or falls with the scientific or empirical method, and this method cannot prove God's existence.15 Again, it is freely admitted that belief in the supernatural aided progress in the "childhood" of the race, but now belief in the supernatural does not have value.16 Man has become the conqueror of nature and does not need the aid of gods anymore.
Naturalism rejects God, the supernatural, and life after death because these beliefs cannot be proven by the scientific method. Moreover, naturalism regards the gods as a product of fear.
Naturalism's attitude toward religion is more benign. Religion needs reforming and criticism, it needs to be made more humanistic, but it serves a worthy place in man's existence. Religion is the place for the "celebration, consecration, and clarification of human goals."17 Yet one must not be misled in the lauding of religion that belief in eternity and divinity are encouraged. These are only aspects of man's vision and imagination. Religion serves man's human functions: (l) it helps bring unity to man in the midst of nature's pluralism,18 (2) it brings personal integration in which there is a connection between impulse and conduct, desire and aspiration, wonder and wisdom, and (3) it helps conserve values that are not strictly scientific.
(l) Man has freedom to choose. The act of choosing is regarded as the essence of the ethical act. The reasons given for a choice are not as important as the fact of the choice.20 Freedom is the most recent of nature's developmental process. Its late appearance does not reduce its priority in importance.21 This emphasis on freedom liberates naturalism from the embarrassment associated with the older materialism and its machine-like world view in which freedom was an impossibility.
(2) Naturalistic ethics is statistically oriented. One must make a headcount to decide how many Americans are divorced each year. One can only assert that "divorce is wrong" after one has sampled opinions and attitudes, studied stress on families, the society and other factors.22 There are no principles of ethics that could be accepted beforehand.
(3) Scientific naturalism tends to be paternalistic in its social outlook. The older materialism was harsher and for a while naturalists linked the biological motif of the "survival of the fittest" with a competitive ethic. Men must struggle with one another in surviving. However, the naturalists on the modern scene tend toward some form of socialism. Seeley rejects competition in the economic sphere because it creates antagonism and strife between people.23 In addition, he delegates individual health to a national matter and urges the state to "prevent unhealthful practices, including the excessive use of alcohol, tobacco, and other things that injure health."24 He also advocates a compulsory health examination given by the state on a periodic basis.
If we have overgeneralized about the creeping socialism of some modern naturalists, other naturalists advocate an "ethical democracy." This means that all people should have equal opportunity, meaningful work, and peer relatedness.25
Perry speaks of this circulism in the naturalistic emphasis on the scientific method: "A certain type of method is accredited by its applicability to a certain type of fact; and this type of fact, in turn is accredited by its lending itself to a certain type of method."28
A second criticism of naturalism involves its view of man and values. We have seen that naturalism regards man as an animal that thinks. Is this a sufficient ground for building a meaningful ethic? It can be remembered that Aristotle built an ethic on rationality, but in his ethic man was special. In the modern naturalism man is not special, but has great similarity to other creatures of life. Are there any good reasons for saying that man is so special that one should not kill him, exploit, or tyrannize? Given the naturalist's view of man and the world, it is hard to find good reasons beyond expediency. Fortunately, the humanism of many naturalists is better than their philosophy. They denounce war, fight for better living conditions, and offer humane proposals to pressing problems, but this appears to go beyond the consistency of their world view.
III. Contemporary Humanism
Contemporary humanism flies under various name-flags. One might read of scientific humanism, democratic humanism, naturalistic humanism, or religious humanism. Regardless of the label, this specie of naturalism takes "human--ity" as its point of emphasis. Humanism does not attempt the reductionisms in other systems in which human motivation is reduced to simple economic terms, or to the sex drive, or to pleasure-pain alternatives. Humanism defends a genuine altruistic possibility, i.e., actions done for the sake of other people without selfish motives. Thus, humanists reject the materialistic approach of ancient naturalism.
Humanists view their philosophy as the philosophy enabling man to achieve happiness, integration of personality, the fulfillment of one's potential as well as the happiness of mankind. "The watchword of Humanism is happiness for all humanity in this existence as contrasted with salvation for the individual soul in a future existence . . . ."29 The good life for the individual is attained by "harmoniously combining personal satisfaction and continuous self-development with significant work and other activities that contribute to the welfare of the community."30
It may be said fairly that humanism is the most attractive form of naturalism. What are its tenets? To that we now turn.
Reality is conceived in pluralistic terms by the humanists. Nature is a term for the multi-verse. Man, the planets, and space are parts of the multi-verse. A reality beyond nature, that is, a super-natural being involved in reality, is rejected by the humanists. Not only is Nature all there is, but it is "a constantly changing system of matter and energy which exists independently of any mind or consciousness."31 Humanism does not affirm any purpose in the cosmos other than what man can create for himself and achieve. This enables him to by-pass the problem of evil.
The humanist concept of reality has been influenced by two items: the scientific method and the theory of evolution. We will look at both of these.
(l) The scientific method. The humanist believes that through the aid of reason and the scientific method man has the tools whereby he can know reality and achieve the good life. The scientific method emphasizes the verification principle and once verification has taken place anything may be accepted as truth. Other forms of knowing, intuition, rationalism, and authority, are rejected for they have no room for empirical verification.32 Some humanists accept the pragmatic approach to truth that if something works it is true, but if it does not work it is not true.33
If there is a reality beyond the discernible by the scientific method it will not be known and the humanist rests content in the assertion that no such reality exists.
(2) The theory of evolution. The humanist believes that evolution serves as the catch-all explanation for the origin of life. Evolution is used to explain what once was reserved for the role of God. Lamont declares:
To begin with, biology has conclusively shown that man and all other forms of life were the result, not of a super-natural act of creation by God, but of an infinitely long process of evolution probably stretching over at least two billion years. In that gradual evolutionary advance which started with the lowly amoeba and those even simpler things marking the transition from inanimate matter to life, body was prior and basic. With its increasing complexity, there came about an accompanying development, and integration of animal behavior and control, culminating in the species man and in the phenomenon called mind. Mind, in short, appeared at the present apex of the evolutionary process and not at the beginning.34
Lamont enthusiastically writes of Haeckel as showing "conclusively that the mind as well as the body of man has evolved from animal species."35 Evolution appears to give an explanation of life's origins that deletes God as a significant explanation of its origins. Any attempt to insist on God as the directing force of evolution, as advocated by some theologians, falls on the deaf ears of the humanists. No such attempt is needed or desired. Lamont does admit that the biologists have not solved the problem of explaining how inanimate matter could give birth to living forms. The humanist begins with the fact that reality is, and does not need further explanation. Life in nature is simply evolution. Matter is considered dynamic, versatile, and having potential. This is said to remove any mystery attached to life. God is not a part of the origin of life.
The humanist is also influenced by evolution in his understanding of men. It is agreed by many humanists that Darwin and others have shown that "no wide and impassable gulf exists between Homo Sapiens and the rest of Nature."36 Where does mind and reason enter? No explanation seems necessary except that the life form of man has evolved wherein a larger brain is possible. With a larger brain capacity, thinking and rationality are possible. Humanism rejects dualistic views of man whereby man is considered body, brain and soul, or the latter being an immaterial part of man's total existence. Lamont sums up the idea:
Humanism, drawing especially upon the laws and facts of science, believes that man is an evolutionary product of the Nature of which he is part; that his mind is indivisibly conjoined with the functioning of his brain; and that as an inseparable unity of body and personality he can have no conscious survival after death.37
Man is then, the thinking animal. But in spite of his rationality he is yet molded by his environment. This influence need not limit his capacity to transcend or change it.
The Humanist Manifesto, first published in 1933, affirmed the path that man should take. The eleventh proposition said:
Man will learn to face the crises of life in terms of his knowledge of their naturalness
and probability. Reasonable and manly attitudes will be fostered by education and supported by custom. We assume that humanism will take the path of social and mental hygiene and discourage sentimental and unreal hopes and wishful thinking.38
Man by reason and cooperation, according to the humanists, has unlimited potential. Rejecting an acquisitive and profit-motivated society the Manifesto advocated a "socialized and co-operative economic order" thus seeking a "free and universal society in which people voluntarily and intelligently cooperate for the common good. Humanists demand a shared life in a shared world."39 Humanists will argue that a collective, cooperative society harmonizes with the basic aspect of man's gregarious nature. An isolated, individualistic man is not a "full" or integrated man.
Man is the highest creature. Nothing surpasses him. He alone is the savior of himself while at the same time he alone is the destroyer of himself. Reason will direct him to the first and not the second.40
God and religion receives unusual treatment at the hands of different humanists. The Humanist Manifesto rejected creation, allowed the possibility of realities yet unknown, but in general affirmed that theism, or belief in God is out of date. In cases where the word God is retained, as in Henry Nelson Wieman, the idea of God is redefined. In his case God seems to be the basis for the realization of values. That appears fuzzy, but it seems to mean that values are God.
More generally, God is regarded as a projection of man which originated in the primitive mind along with "man's deep desire and longing for a continuation of life after death for himself and for those he loves."41 Rejecting God and the supernatural, many humanists redefine the facts of a religious life in new clothing. The Manifesto declared, in proposition seven:
Religion consists of those actions, purposes and experiences which are humanly significant. Nothing human is alien to the religious. It includes labor, art, science, philosophy, love, friendship, recreation--all that is in its degree expressive of intelligently satisfying human living. The distinction between the sacred and the
secular can no longer be maintained.42
Similarly with Huxley, religion is "a way of life, which follows necessarily from a man's holding certain things in reverence, from his feeling and believing them to be sacred."43 John Dewey in A Common Faith, rejected religion as a unique quality in human experience but maintained that any experience may be religious in quality. He noted: "Any activity pursued in behalf of an ideal and against obstacles and in spite of threats of personal loss because of conviction of its general and enduring value is religious in quality."44
God is not needed because evolution is regarded as presenting a comprehensive explanation of life. Huxley concluded, "If animals and plants have slowly evolved through hundreds of millions of years, there is no room for a creator of animals and plants . . . ."45
Huxley has one of the more thorough-going attempts to create a secular, humanistic religion. He uses the Trinity as a motif for interpreting religion without revelation.
`God the Father' is a personification of the forces of non-human nature; `God the Holy Ghost' represents all ideals; and `God the Son' personifies human nature at its highest, as actually incarnate in bodies and organized in minds, bridging the gulf between the other two, and between each of them and everyday human life.46
Dewey's attempt at religious content is more shallow. A Common Faith has specious conclusions such as since religions do conflict and not all of them can be true, therefore, none are true. While he abolishes God the Supernatural, he is reinstated (for all practical purposes) in the Natural. This shows up in the idea of adjusting to the universe in much the same way one man adjusts to God's will. His criticism of religion is dated. While believing that literary criticism, anthropology and history have all but exploded Christianity, the irony of such studies from the standpoint of archaeological history has given the Judaeo-Christian tradition more historical support. Dewey criticizes Supernaturalism as inimical to democracy because its idea of the elect and non-elect divides mankind. But is it not significant that democracy has prospered in countries where the Judaeo-Christian faith is strongest, particularly, those of the Reformation variety?
Many of the criticisms of humanism are directed to corruptions that have entered Christianity either in terms of tradition, or spiritual decadence, and there is justification for some of these criticisms. Lamont attacked, among other things, the idea of the resurrection of the flesh which he understands as a molecule for molecule resuscitation. While this may be the impression received and taught at times this is a straw man as far as Biblical Christianity goes. The Christian idea of the resurrection means that a new bodily existence is in man's future and this is called in the New Testament a "spiritual body." It has a continuity of identity with the old existence, but a discontinuity in its nature. The same type of misunderstanding can be found also in Dewey and in Huxley.
There is an interesting problem in the use of sources to explain the meaning and origin of religion. Huxley quotes naturalistic writers to give a "true definition" of religion. However, if one is not a naturalist or a humanist a different definition would be in the making. But Huxley presumes the naturalistic definition to be correct because it agrees with his naturalistic way of thinking.
We have strayed into a partial assessment of the humanist attitude toward religion because we will not have opportunity to return to it in the general criticism of humanism. The attitude of Huxley and others about religion is interesting for Huxley rejects complete skepticism, on the one hand, and supernaturalism, on the other. Yet he feels that religion fills certain emotional and aesthetic needs of man.
Perhaps the humanist view of values should begin with affirming personal freedom of choice.47 The humanist rejects the determinism of either materialism in its machine-like forms or religious predestination. Man is free and can make meaningful moral decisions in spite of limitations on certain aspects of his existence. Man is not free to choose his skin-color, but he can choose what kind of attitude he is going to have toward color.
The humanist does not believe in ultimate values as found in systems accepting the existence of God. Nor does the humanist advocate a system of relativism, or skepticism in ethics. Rather, "the good man is one who not only has good motives and acts according to reason, but who is also effective in the successful adjustment of means to ends."48 Some humanists admit that reason without compassion can be cruel and exploitative and they hasten to insist that actions be related to humane ends and standards.49 Thus the social good may be summed up in several headings:
Health, significant work, economic security, friendship, sex love, community recognition, educational opportunity, a developed intelligence, freedom of speech, cultural enjoyment, a sense of beauty, and opportunity for recreation.50
The pursuit of these with their fulfillment will bring happiness or the supreme good of the humanist.
Judgement is passed on various actions from the standpoint of an act's consequence. The ethic is consequence-oriented. Proposed actions must be viewed from the effect that it will have on the individual as well as the society in which he lives.51 Humanists center down on reason as the means of formulating consequences rather than being directed by conscience, a document like the New Testament, or simple intuition.
Man can be described as ethically neutral. He can move in the direction of goodness or he may corrupt himself. Altruistic acts are considered possible. To reject altruism and to affirm that man is always selfishly motivated on the basis of profit motive as reflected in the philosophy of Ayn Rand is to affirm another expression of the idea of original sin. Humanists reject both of these views. "Humanism, then, follows the golden mean by recognizing that both self-interest and altruism have their proper place and can be combined in a harmonious pattern."52 Man needs to be trained in the area of his motives and emotions. If this training can be achieved he will have social empathy and compassion for others. Social conditioning can do for behavior what it has done for Madison Avenue advertising.
A good bit of space is spent by many humanists in rejecting God, ultimate values, and other religious beliefs. One particular doctrine is the idea of original sin. Humanism wants to make clear that it affirms man's goodness, his capacity to know and do the good, and nothing but man himself can help him in achieving the good. If he is thwarted in this goal it is because he is not using his reason. In summary, values are man-created, man-centered, and rationally recognized.
The humanist's great respect for the scientific method, his appeal to evolutionary theory will not be criticized again here. Previous chapters have already evaluated these two themes. It is sufficient to remember that much faith is involved in accepting these two views.
Our first criticism concerns the humanist chronicle of how mind appeared. In this the humanist concludes that since evolution is true, there was no mind before evolution brought it forth in man. Obviously man's mind is a late comer to the cosmic story. To conclude that there was no Mind master-minding the appearance of man's mind is another unwarranted generalization of humanism.
Evolution at best is a description of when life forms appeared and not
how they appeared. The humanist faith about the past is not a different
kind than the faith of the theist who says, "I believe God created life
and man's mind is a reflection of the mind of God."
The last criticism relates to the humanist view of values. The humanist sense of values are not unrelated to Christian values, but without the religious views. Can it be that the humanist is really parasitic in this? Is not the humanist too idealistic in his view of man's perfectability? Is man really the reasonable creature that humanism makes him out to be? Can humanism survive without its close relationship to Christian values? The common man with whom philosophy must also deal has not been philosophically oriented, nor has the common man had a history of being a humanist. The future of humanism may depend upon its close relationship in a cultural setting to Christian values.
IV. Dialectical Materialism
Dialectical materialism, existing in one form or another, is the official philosophy of the Soviet Union, China, and many satellite countries. The fathers of dialectical materialism are Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Marx is a paradoxical person who lived in near poverty at times and practiced financial parasitism on Engels who inherited considerable wealth. Indebted to Engels, Marx spoke of his literary works as "our theory."
The world of Marx and Engels was one of rising industrialism challenging a rural past. It was also a Romantic age. The Romantics were concerned with (l) a sensitivity to human beings, (2) a sense of man's alienation from "nature," (3) a sense of optimism of what man could be, and (4) an attempt to understand the evolution of history, man, social ideas and institutions.53 Understanding the Romantic background motif one can see many of the same feelings and emphases in Marx and Engels. We now turn to our four topics.
The Marxist world-view begins with a basic materialism, but with a twist.
The world of man and things is interpreted along three lines: (l) the
dialectic of Hegel applied to a materialistic view of the universe, the
interpretation of history, economic conflict, and truth, (2) an economic
theory of labor and monetary value which serves as the basis for conclusions
relating to economics, politics, government, and class struggle, and (3) a
theory of revolution.
1. Triangles 2. Steps
synthesis antithesis synth.
thesis antithesis thesis antithesis
If this be applied to Hegel it would involve the following examples:
Thesis (Being) 1 Antithesis (Non-Being) 2
The first example gives the story of Absolute Being becoming concrete and the world in a state of becoming. The second in an application of the dialectic to history with the conclusion that the German monarchy is justified as the outgrowth of the dialectical movement in history.
So much for its use in Hegel. Marx reversed the dialectic. The world is not idea or Spirit as in Hegel, but matter. Marx's view of matter is not greatly important. The world is accepted as real in a common sense realism sense. What takes place in the world and how it takes place is much more important. This is why dialectical materialism is sometimes called historical materialism. This means simply that the dialectic is applied to history. History is interpreted as a struggle from one part (thesis) of the dialectic to the opposite (antithesis) to the synthesis, and over again. The class struggle in history was interpreted in dialectical terms by Marx. Marx reflected upon the primitive societies presumably having all things in common. When private property was walled off this led to class divisions. Class divisions eventually create conflict. As an example, the middle age feudal system (thesis) gave way to capitalism (antithesis) and hopefully, with the revolution brought about by the un-class conscious proletariat, a new age (synthesis) or classless society will be ushered in. By the nature of the dialectic, the classless society should become a new thesis starting the process over again, but in Marxist thought this is where it stops because a classless society has no basis for continuing conflict.
Second, the economic theory of labor and value is really a "theory of exploitation, not of value, designed to show that the propertied class has always lived on the labour of the non-propertied class."55 A man works in a factory and in six hours produces enough to maintain himself. However, he must work an additional six hours because he is paid by the day or week rather than by his output. The additional six hours Marx called surplus labor which "will realize itself in a surplus value and a surplus produce."56 The capitalist creams off the surplus, for which he has not worked, and pockets the profits. This system reduces the worker's position to one of sheer dependence and all that he can do is reproduce himself in his children who in turn become exploited.57 Marx concluded that "rent, interest, and industrial profit are only different names for different parts of the surplus value of the commodity, or the unpaid labour enclosed in it . . . ."58 A system demanding man's time, labor and life reduces man to a machine and Marx believed that capitalism will remain true to its past and continue to degrade man in the future.59
The alternative to capitalism and the exploitation it brings was set forth, in part, in the conclusions to the Communist Manifesto. They are as follows: (l) Abolish the wage system. Marx did not adopt the slogan of a fair wage for a fair day's work. (2) Abolish capitalism; (3) nationalize the means of production; (4) abolish private property; (5) nationalize the banking and economic structures; and (6) control of agriculture and education.60
Marx and Engels were right to be concerned with exploitation. Their proposal ignores other alternatives such as (l) broadening of capital to include the laborers through shareholding, (2) the powerful bargaining position of unions to defend the rights of labor and to gain a leisure producing wage and working hours, and (3) the broadening of the middle class as the dominant class in the capitalist society.
Because these options were not regarded as viable alternatives, Marx was driven to the third element in our discussion--revolution. Capitalism was regarded as self-defeating in the long run by Marx. But it would not die without a struggle, nor would capitalists give up power without force. No group in history has given up power without struggling to keep it. But the economic collapse must come before the political revolution.
If the revolution came and the bourgeois state is brought down, then the dictatorship of the proletariat would take its place. The term "dictatorship of the proletariat" appears only a few times in Marx and Engels but was popularized by Lenin. It appears that the intent was a state ruled by the proletariat and involving a real democratic approach to government with frequent and open elections. It did not mean to Marx or even Lenin before 1917, "the dictatorship of the party over the proletariat and the rest of society."61 Both Marx and Engels regarded revolution as taking place around the world with the general destruction of capitalism when the time was right in each state. The ultimate aim of the revolution and the new society is the ultimate "withering away of the state."62
The subsequent development of Marxist thought under Lenin and Stalin is without doubt a corruption and modification due to power struggles. Stalin later wrote that the "Dictatorship of the proletariat is impossible without a party which is strong by reason of its solidarity and iron discipline."63 The Party is the "vanguard of the working class,"64 and for all practical purposes this is the dictatorship of the Party in the name of the Proletariat who do not know what is good for them. Under Lenin further refinement of the view came and the dictatorship of one man came about with the expelling of deviationists.65
Marx's view of man was eclipsed by his interest in class conflict and economics. The work of the young Marx reflects interests in the individual, particularly the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844. These and other manuscripts were overlooked and did not appear in German until 1932. Given the romantic background of thought involved in Marx and his concern for revolution, it brings forth a strong commitment to individualism. Man is not an entity viewed in the abstract, for man in the abstract does not exist. The famous statement of Aristotle that man is a rational animal is rejected by the Marxists for this views man in isolation. The unique thing about man is that he works, labors. Marx wrote:
Man can be distinguished from animals by
consciousness, by religion, or by anything else you like. They themselves begin to distinguish themselves from animals as soon as they begin to produce their means of subsistence, a step which is conditioned by their physical organization. By producing their means of subsistence men are directly producing their actual material life.66
Man's existence is explained biologically in which it is said that he evolved from the ape67 but his physical existence is not the only thing about man's nature. It is important to note that man creates man, not in biological, but in social terms. The primary unit is society and not the individual man. "Man is a product of society . . . it is society that makes him what he is."68
Because man is a product of society, it is immensely important to determine what society is going to be like. Man can determine this and this will in turn determine what people will be like. In Marx it is the proletariat, but in later Marxism it is the party that dictates what the society is going to be so that individual men will be reflections of society. Full personhood can be achieved presumably only under a Marxist society.
Because work determines what kind of man man will be, there is a great emphasis placed on the morality of work. Those who do not work are considered immoral parasites and those who live off the labors of others also fit into this category. The good man in the Marxist framework is a builder of communism, one who is a hard worker and in whom there is reflected society at large, the communist society. He is one who has cast off the bourgeois capitalistic traits of the past and is concentrating upon bringing about a communal society with its emphasis upon the society rather than the individual.
It is not to be presumed that the ideal man in Marxism is in existence. He is to be produced. Not only will work contribute but other factors also such as education and/or propaganda. The communist man is an immature man and must be created, or brought to maturity. Grant this and it easily follows as in later communist thought that the immature man must be guarded against error or deviation. Or, one may by necessity use force to insure conformity.
The place of labor in distinguishing man from other creatures is very important. Engels has a comment that labor
brought men in the making to the point where they had something to say to one another. The need led to the creation of its organ; the modulation, the undeveloped larynx of the ape was slowly but surely transformed . . . and the organs of the mouth gradually learned to pronounce one articulate letter after another.69
Engels seems to be saying in this passage that need is the mother of evolutionary development.
There seems to be a gap between the views of Marx and later Marxists or
communists. The dialectic implies opposition in the search of the truth, but
later Marxists rule out opposition politically and intellectually because
deviationism is at stake. Political dissent has been a problem in Marxist
countries. Marxist astronomers and philosophers have been committed to
rejecting any form of a universe theory that accepts the second law of
thermodynamics, i.e., the idea that the world is running down, or energy is
moving from available states to unavailable states. To commit themselves to
this theory would be almost admitting a theory of creation. Similar
impositions of scientific dogmas have held true for other disciplines.
Perhaps the best known comment on religion from Marx is that religion "is the opiate of the people."70 Marxists have been intensely critical of religion and God. Marx wrote:
To be radical is to grasp things by the root. But for man the root is man himself . . . The criticism of religion ends with the doctrine that man is the supreme being for man. It ends therefore with the categorical imperative to overthrow all those conditions in which man is an abased, enslaved, abandoned, contemptible being . . ."71
One ingredient in this rejection of God involved the church's role in the status quo. The church in Europe generally involved a state-church relationship in which the church was used for comforting but not bettering the conditions.
Recent developments illustrate the lack of necessity that Marxism be atheistic. The phenomenon, known as the Marxist-Christian Dialogues has taken place in the 60's and indicates some new insights. Roger Garaudy, Professor of Philosophy in the University of Poitiers, was also a ranking member of the French Communist Party before being dropped for his criticism of the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia. Garaudy finds in Christian thought much that is important and which complements Marxist views. The criticism of religion is maintained, but the criticism is directed toward those strange imported elements from Platonism, or Aristotelianism which are alien to the Biblical faith. Garaudy finds in the New Testament Gospels a "good news," a word for man's future. He declared:
Man is able at any moment to begin a new future, to free himself from the laws of the world, of nature, and of society. The resurrection of Christ is the paradigm of this new liberty. Death, the very final frontier determining our inexorable finitude, death itself has been vanquished.72
Garaudy also finds in the Biblical creation the alternative to necessity. Because the world is not necessary, freedom is a possibility. "Breakaway and freedom are only possible by an act of creation, and one that is not inevitable."73 Garaudy also finds a link between Christian ideas of love and the humanism of Marxism. Just how far Garaudy can go in advocating creation, freedom and love will remain to be seen, and indeed, the whole movement appears to be languishing. However, it is an interesting possibility to see a positive relation between Marxism and Christianity.
Such a dialogue is only a drop in the bucket. The normal views of Marx have not been officially or unofficially changed.
It is difficult to sketch the ethic of dialectical materialism because there has been no great attempt to work out such. Neither Marx, Engels, or Lenin worked out an ethic to any degree. There are a few ideas that will help to see the direction that morality would go.
First, it was believed by Marx that morality tends to defend the economical system, or the class system. Customs of an autocratic system reflect the autocrats, democracy makes rules and laws reflecting a democracy, capitalists make laws and codes reflecting capitalism. Naturally a classless society should make morality conform to a classless society.
The rejection of unchanging principles may be seen in the comment of Engels on the commandment, thou shalt not steal.
Does this law thou shalt not steal become an eternal moral law? By no means. In a society in which the motive for stealing has been done away with, in which at the most only lunatics would ever steal, how the teacher of morals would be laughed at who tried solemnly to proclaim the eternal truth: thou shalt not steal.74
Engel's comment about the lack of static principles may be seen in another context, that of the dialectic. The dialectic, with its sweeping back and forth, affirming, negating, and synthesizing, cannot admit an eternal, fixed principle. There can be no immutable laws or right or wrong based on the dialectic.
Second, there is some emphasis on the moral view that the end justifies the means. This arises out of the view that the interests of the proletariat are a higher level of morality. A revolution would bring to pass improvement for the proletariat. Thus what promotes revolution for the improvement of the proletariat would be good. Whatever the party does to promote the common good would be good.
Ironically Marx was much better personally than his theory would appear. Even Lenin later was rather prudish in many things and his private life was disciplined.
Because of the lack of development in this area, later communism attempted to fill in the gap. A code of action was drawn upon in 1961 which expresses the current view. The code is teleological in nature, i.e., it is directed toward a goal, the Marxist state.
The party holds that the moral code of the builder of communism should comprise the following principles:
devotion to the communist cause; love of the socialist motherland and of the other socialist countries;
conscientious labor for the good of society--he who does not work, neither shall he eat;
concern on the part of everyone for the preservation and growth of public wealth;
a high sense of public duty; intolerance of actions harmful to the public interest;
collectivism and comradely mutual assistance; one for all and all for one;
human relations and mutual respect between individuals--man is to man a friend, comrade, and brother;
honesty and truthfulness, moral purity, modesty and unpretentiousness in social and private life;
mutual respect in the family, and concern for the upbringing of children;
an uncompromising attitude to injustice, parasitism, dishonesty, careerism and money-grubbing;
friendships and brotherhood among all peoples of the USSR; intolerance of national and racial hatred;
an uncompromising attitude to the enemies of communism, peace, and the freedom of nations;
fraternal solidarity with the working people of all countries, and with all peoples.75
In his work on Marxism, DeGeorge comments that the moral code has five basic features to it: (l) "the ultimate guide in guarding morality is the Communist Party; (2) Communist morality is essentially a work morality; (3) it is an exclusively social morality; (4) it is a completely externalized morality; and (5) it is an inherently provincial morality."76
In summary, the Marxist ethic is one in which theoretical freedom is
allowed, but since class struggles dictate what man is, freedom is more a
contradiction. Morality that is only "provincial" cannot have the appeal of
the universal mind of man.
The dialectic first, is an artificial device for interpreting history, class conflict, or whatever. Why should it stop at the classless society? What is the proper historical point to begin? History does not show a progressive betterment of man and society, but is mixed in its development.
When applied to truth the dialectic only relativizes truth unless one is to stop it arbitrarily at a future point. In reality, the Marxist stops the dialectic on the issue of his own truth. If applied to science, the dialectic would make it impossible to hold laws in physics and other areas.
Second, dialectical materialism's anti-revisionists' attitude fosters an anti-intellectualism. Marx himself could argue with his foes but he did not take opposition as a way to the truth. He broke with people and wrote violent attacks upon them. When Marx could not control completely the International Working Man's Association in his opposition to Bakunin, Marx had Bakunin expelled from the organization and moved it to New York where it was beyond his enemies' reach. This anti-intellectual tendency is seen in the words of Ignazio Silone, a former Italian communist and it expressed the attitude of many former communist intellectuals:
What struck me most about the Russian Communists, even in such really exceptional personalities as Lenin and Trotsky, was their utter incapacity to be fair in discussing opinions that conflicted with their own. The adversary, simply for daring to contradict, at once became a traitor, an opportunist, a hireling. An adversary in good faith is inconceivable to the Russian Communists.77
Growing out of this is the Marxist view of education which is for transmitting the beliefs compatible with Marxist rather than free-inquiry.
Third, the judgement has been made that dialectical materialism is really a secularized form of Christian eschatology.78 Christian eschatology refers to the idea of Kingdom of God, and one element is that of heaven. Heaven is sometimes caricatured as a class-less, property-less, poverty-less, hungry-less state of being. When it is viewed in this fashion it is not greatly related to God. What is suggested by this comment is this: heaven is not something "by and by" but it is now available in the Marxist hope of the state. It is classless, property-less, hungry-less, and poverty-less. It is regarded by the Marxists as a heaven on earth, and in this sense it is a secularized form of the Christian hope.
Fourth, there is the problem of realism. The romantic view of man in Marxist though is naive. Sin and crime did not just enter the world through capitalism. Even education will not root out the selfishness of man. In a sense Marx acknowledged the idea of universal sin in admitting the role of the capitalist society in his dialectical view of history, but the issue is: can men be transformed by propaganda and education to bring about a classless society? It has not been done yet, and its likelihood gets less all the time.
We have looked at four types of naturalism beginning with ancient materialism, modern scientific naturalism, humanism, and dialectical materialism. The four varieties give considerable range to naturalism. We have also looked at various topics, reality, man, God, and values. The simplified chart may help in making comparisons.
Reality Man God Values
For Further Study
DeGeorge, Richard T. The New Marxism. New York: Pegasus, 1968.
1Lucretius, The Nature of the Universe, Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1951, p. 208.
2Ibid., p. 67.
3Quoted in Frederick Mayer, A History of an Ancient and Medieval Philosophy, Boston: American Book Co., 1950, p. 74.
4Alburey Castell, An Introduction to Modern Philosophy, New York: Macmillan Co., sec. ed., 1963, p. 112.
5Ralph Barton Perry, Present Philosophical Tendencies, New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1912, p. 75.
6Roy Wood Sellars, The Philosophy for the Future (The Quest of Modern Materialism), New York: Macmillan Co., 1949, p. 101.
7Charles S. Seely, Modern Materialism, A Philosophy of Action, New York: Philosophical Library, 1960, p. 14.
8Yervant H. Krikorian (ed.), Naturalism and the Human Spirit, New york: Columbia University Press, 1959, p. 124.
9ibid., p. 270.
10Cf. Sterling P. Lamprecht, The Metaphysics of Naturalism, New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1967, p. 202.
11Krikorian. op. cit., p. 347.
12Sellars, op. cit., p. 103.
13Lamprecht, op. cit., p. 187.
14Krikorian, op. cit., p. 30.
15Ibid., p. 36.
16Seely, op. cit., p. 13.
17Krikorian, op. cit., p. 358.
18Lamprecht, op. cit., p. 194.
19Ibid., p. 195.
20Krikorian, op. cit., p. 69.
22Krikorian, op. cit., p. 81.
23Seely, op. cit., p. 37.
24Ibid., pp. 56-57.
25Krikorian, op. cit., p. 49.
26Perry, op. cit., p. 9.
27A story attributed to the philosopher Royce concerns a little boy who asked his older brother, "What is the sky?" With a tendency toward reductionism the brother answered, "There ain't no sky." After looking intently at the immense space above the boy asked, "Yes, but what is it what ain't?" Krikorian, op. cit., p. 295.
28Perry, op. cit., p. 81.
29Corliss Lamont, The Philosophy of Humanism, Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1965, p. 227.
30Ibid., pp. 12-14.
32Ibid., pp. 195-196.
33Ibid., p. 221.
34Ibid., p. 83.
35Ibid., p. 42.
36Ibid., p. 36.
37Ibid., pp. 12-14.
38Ibid., p. 287.
39Ibid., p. 288.
40Ibid., p. 283.
41Julian Huxley, Religion Without Revelation, New York: Mentor Books, 1957, p. 18.
42Lamont, op. cit., p. 287.
43Huxley, op. cit., p. 20.
44John Dewey, A Common Faith, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1934, p. 27.
45Huxley, op. cit., p. 28.
46Ibid., p. 37.
47Lamont, op. cit., p. 159.
48Ibid., p. 235.
49Ibid., pp. 225-226.
50Ibid., p. 251.
51Ibid., p. 232.
52Ibid., p. 245.
53Francis B. Randall, in the introduction to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto, New York: Washington Square Press, 1964, pp. 12-14.
54From Henry B. Mayo, Introduction to Marxist Theory, New York: Oxford University Press, 1960, p. 35.
55R.N. Carew Hung, The Theory and Practice of Communism, New York: Macmillan Co., 1951, p. 60.
56Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Works in Two Volumes, Vol. I., Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1950, p. 387.
57Ibid., p. 388.
58Ibid., p. 391.
59Ibid., p. 398.
60Ibid., p. 94.
61Mayo, op. cit., p. 158.
62Ibid., p. 164.
63Joseph Stalin, Leninism, London: Lawrence and Wishart, Lt., 1940, p. 80.
64Ibid., p. 70.
65Ibid., p. 82.
66Adam Schaff, Marxist and the Human Individual, trans. Olgierd Wojtasiewwicz, New York: McGraw Hill, 1970, p. 75.
67Richard T. DeGeorge, The New Marxism, New York: Pegasus, 1968, p. 59.
68Schaff, op. cit., p. 64.
69Quoted in Gustav A. Wetter, Dialectical Materialism, trans. Peter Heath, New York: Friedrich A. Praeger, 1958, p. 472.
70Quoted in Robert Freedman (ed.), Marxist Social Thought, New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, Inc., 1968, p. 230.
71Quoted in Schaff, op. cit., p. 168.
72Quoted in Paul Oestreicher, ed., Roger Garaudy, "Creative Freedom," The Christian-Marxist Dialogue, New York: Macmillan Co., 1969, p. 148.
73Ibid., p. 150.
74Mayo, op. cit., p. 237. Quote from AntiDuhring, Handbook, p. 248.
75The Road to Communism; Documents of the 22nd Congress of CPSU, Moscow, 1961, pp. 556-567, quoted in Richard T. DeGeorge, The New Marxism, pp. 159-60.
76DeGeorge, op. cit., p. 109.
77Andre Gide, The God that Failed, Richard Crossman (ed.), New York: Bantam Books, 1952, p. 102.
78Reinhold Niebuhr, The Nature and Destiny of Man, Vol. II, New York: Scribners, 1963, p. 318.
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