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MECHANISM OR DESIGN?-A MISLEADING DILEMMA HERBERT L. STEWART Always towards perfection is the mighty movement-towards a complete development and an unmixed good.-HERBERT SPENCER Nature has no predetermined end, and final causes are only human fancies.-SPINOZA Through the Ages one increasing purpose runS.-TENNYSON THIS article is not meant to argue whether the universe is planned or unplanned. Its aim is far less ambitious, to discuss whether those who believe that the universe has a plan are disavowing, by implication, the explanatory method of the physical sciences. It was prompted by a recent book. Professor F. H. Anderson's Philosophy of Francis Bacon is rich in detail and vivid in description of a thinker who of late has had less than justice from historians of philosophy. But it has one astonishing chapter entitled "Bacon's Revival of Materialism." The author of the Novum Organum and the Advancement of Learning there appears with an "avowed intention to merge metaphysics with physics and to promulgate a materialistic philosophy.'" Many a startled reader must have thought of passages in which Bacon, far from avowing, denounces fiercely any such doctrine. For example: I had rather believe all the Fables in the Legend and the Talmud and the Alcoran than that this universall Frame is without a Mincle.. .. It is true that a little Philosophy inclineth Mans Minde to Atheisme. But depth in Philosophy bringeth Men's Mindes about to religion. For while the Minde of Man looketh upon Second Causes Scattered, it may sometimes rest in them, and goe no further; but when it beholdeth the Chaine of them, Confederate and Linked together, it must needs flie to Providence and Deitie.2 His reason for applying the epithet "materialist" is indeed made quite clear by Professor Anderson himself; but it involves a change in the significance of a familiar word which would surely be most inconvenient . Bacon certainly insists on mechanical causes for the scientific systematizing of experience (causes other than mechanical being beyond our scrutiny), though at the same time he not merely acknowlIF . H. Anderson, The Philosophy of Francis Bacon, (Chicago, 1948) , 48 fr. 2Francis Bacon, Essays (London, 1597), "Of Atheism." Vol. XXIII, no. 1, Oct., 1953 2 UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY edges but emphasizes a design to which such mechani3m is but an instrument. If we call a man who adopts this position a "materialist," I know not to what philosopher of our time the epithet would be inapplicable. Who would question the soundness of the argument that it is not only futile, but worse, a fault to guess at "design," because such spurious explanation is likely to block the way of real explanation? One recalls a passage from the Advancement of Learning: "The handling of final causes, mixed with the rest in physical enquiries, hath intercepted the severe and diligent enquiry of all real and physical causes, and given men the occasion to stay upon these satisfactory and specious causes, to the great arrest and prejudice of further discovery."· Enumerating some gross examples of this, Bacon proceeds to declare that ideas of design "are well enquired and collected in metaphysique, but in physique they are impertinent": "Nay, they are, indeed, remoras and hindrances to stay and slug the ship from further sailing; and have brought this to pass, that the search of the physical causes hath been neglected and passed in silence." My purpose in this article, however, is not to dispute about the proper meaning of a word. It is to press a question about the supposed conflict between a mechanical and a teleological account of the 'world process, on which Plato's Republic, VI, 511, re-read in the light of Bergson's Preface to Matiere et Memoire, supplies a text. Plato describes the third section of a journey for one proceeding upwards along the educational "Divided Line," as occupied with what in ancient terminology were known as "universals" and in modern are called "general concepts." He points out that these are all, initially, guesses, more or less serviceable for the arrangement of experience, and to be retained or discarded or amended according to the success with which they make the world of phenomena manageable...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 1-8
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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