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The Zofingia Lectures

Rational Psychology


“Well, that’s all just as nice as pie,” says the educated philistine, “but I don’t believe in things unless I see them with my own eyes.

And what you call metaphysics has been out of date for a long time, nobody takes it seriously any more, and if any metaphysical notions are still around today, it’s only in the form of an obsession that haunts people who are not yet at ease with themselves.

Everything in the life of a rational man unfolds on a completely physical and natural plane.”

Yes indeed, until we reach DuBois-Reymond’s stockade everything is perfectly clear and comprehensible, and everything which “the Lord God made” ought to be grateful that finally a public benefactor has built a stockade at this dangerous frontier.

One feels so safe and snug inside its four walls, and so let’s not have any miracles, for that would disturb the peace.

To be sure, there is nothing very wondrous in the life of the hidebound educated philistine.

He is born, he grows and develops himself, for a higher level of functioning demands differentiated organs.

Then he marries, in accordance with his character and aims.

He begets children through the union of the sperm cell with the egg cell.

His children are blessed with the attributes of their parents, in accordance with Hertwig’s theory of heredity.

Then little by little he grows old, even though this fact no longer fits so well into the system. And then, what happens then?

Then something happens that no longer fits into the system at all, that is completely incomprehensible, the clarification of a lie, the emendation of an error: he dies-! Why? For what purpose? His doctor cold-bloodedly records: death by violence, disease, old age.

In short, the game is over.

The corpse is lying there cold and stiff, and shortly thereafter protein decomposition sets in.

It is an incredible fact, and if it had happened only once, to only one person, no one in the world would believe it could happen at all.

But the same thing happens to us all, and it is irrevocable.

The average life lasts barely thirty years.

But why does death occur? Why should an organism constructed with infinite care and efficiency, whose innermost purpose it is to live, come to an end, wither and decay? Why is the purposeful drive to live cut off with such contempt?

Death impresses us as a brutal infringement on our most exalted and sacred right, our right to exist.

A sudden blow, and all our plans, all our hopes, all our joyous creativity lie shattered.

And how treacherously this infringement occurs! It is impossible to discover anything that is actually done to the organism or taken away from it.

If we weigh the dead body, it weighs exactly as much as it did when it was alive.

The entire organism is there, complete, ready to live, and yet it is dead and we know of no art to make it live again.

It is a strange Something that is removed from the body, a Something that contained the will to live, a force that in life maintained an accord between the organism and its environment.

It appears to be an elementary force, a vital principle.

In earlier times physiologists used to call it the life force, thereby making a correct application of the “category of causality.”

Kant says: “It appears that an intellectual being is intimately present with the matter to which it is joined, and that it does not act upon those forces by which the elements relate to each other but rather upon the inner principle of their state.”

Modern physiology has no name for this “intellectual being” that acts on the “inner principle,” for once again it naively confuses the effect with the cause-as I dare to assert despite the dressing-down I received in my semester report.

The physiologist Burdach, one of the much-despised vitalists, states in his work Physiologie als Erfahrungswissenschaft:

“Materialism presupposes that life which it sets out to explain. For the organization and the blend of components from which it derives the life processes, are themselves the product of a life process.”

The old vitalists made many mistakes, but never have they sacrificed the basic requirements of logic to the interests of their system.

The vital principle, which as long as life lasts confers on the body its power of resistance, is the enduring factor in the phenomenal realm.

As we know, all the molecules in the body are renewed approximately every seven years.

Thus the substance of the body is continually changing.

If the life-organizing, life-shaping force resided in matter, nothing would be more natural than a continual transformation of the appearance of the body.

But this does not actually occur, for the external traits of a man remain the same.

All down to the smallest details are preserved.

All the images in his memory remain constant, and his intellectual faculties maintain approximately the same level. In short, despite the change in his substance the individual remains the same.

Thus it appears that the principium vitae constitutes, so to speak, the scaffolding on which matter is built up.

Burdach states: “The matter of our bodies continually changes, whereas our life remains the same, remains one. Corporeal life is embraced in the continual, simultaneous destruction and formation of organic matter. Thus life is something higher, which dominates matter. … ”

But if we turn our attention to more recent physiology, what a strange spectacle we see.

Physiologists are struggling to explain life in terms of natural laws, when all the time it is clear that life exists despite these laws.

They try desperately to force life into the system of natural laws, when life contradicts every law of nature.

Spontaneous motion violates the law of gravitation; the very existence of the body violates the laws governing oxygen affinity and the biological laws governing bacterial activity.

In Volume I of The World as Will and Idea Schopenhauer aptly remarks:

“It is becoming increasingly apparent that a chemical phenomenon can never be explained in terms of a mechanical phenomenon, nor· the organic in terms of the chemical or electrical. Those who today are nevertheless striking out once more on this old false trail, will soon creep back, quiet and crestfallen, like all their predecessors.”

If we subject the phenomenon of organic life to the principle of sufficient reason-that is, if we apply the “category of causality” correctly-then it is as necessary for us to postulate the existence of a vital principle as it is to postulate the ether in the field of optics.

This postulate does not violate the first principle of the scientific method, namely that the principles used to explain a phenomenon must be kept to the barest minimum.

In the present case we are compelled to admit a new principle, for no previously existing principle furnishes an adequate explanation.

What is true of the individual is true of all: Darwin’s theory of natural selection cannot adequately explain evolution, and indeed, with regard to the evolution of new species it becomes a negligible factor.

In the field of phylogeny, more than in any other, it is necessary to postulate the existence of a vital principle.

The vital principle is more or less equivalent to the “life force” of the ancient physiologists.

It governs all bodily functions, including those of the brain, and hence also governs consciousness to the degree that consciousness is determined by the functions of the cerebral cortex.

Thus we ought not to seek for the principle of life within the consciousness, and most particularly not in the consciousness of the self, as Kant did.

The vital principle extends far beyond our consciousness in that it also maintains the vegetative functions of the body which, as we know, are not under our conscious control.

Our consciousness is dependent on the functions of the brain, but these are in turn dependent on the vital principle, and accordingly the vital principle represents a substance, whereas consciousness represents a contingent phenomenon.

Or as Schopenhauer says: “Consciousness is the object of a transcendental idea.”

Thus we see that animal and vegetative functions are embraced in a common root, the actual subject.

Let us boldly assign to this transcendental subject the name of “soul.” What do we mean by “soul”?

The soul is an intelligence independent of space and time.

  1. The soul must be intelligent. The criterion of intelligence is the purposefulness of its acts.

Undeniably our bodies impress us as highly purposeful, and thus we postulate the intelligence of the soul.

If the law of causality did not possess an a priori status, this postulate would be proven.

  1. The soul must be independent of space and time. The concepts of space and time are categories of the understanding and for this reason are not compelling with regard to the Ding an sick.

The soul eludes all sense perception and thus cannot constitute any form of material force.

Only forces in a material form constitute objects of perception.

But within the categories of space and time, judgment is based on sense perceptions.

Accordingly only forces in a material form can serve as objects of judgment, i.e., only forces in a material form move within the boundaries of space and time.

For example, let us consider the concept of velocity, which is equivalent to the space-time quotient. Or think of any of the basic mechanical laws of physics.

The soul does not represent a force in a material form, and thus there can be no judgment concerning it.

But everything that cannot be judged subsists outside the concepts of space and time.

Accordingly the soul is independent of space and time. Thus sufficient reason exists for us to postulate the immortality of the soul. ~Carl Jung, Zofingia Lectures, Pages 28-32