On the Meaning of Life -- The Order of Nature and the Form of
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IN the course of our first chapter we traced a line of demarcation between the inorganic and the organized, but we pointed out that the division of unorganized matter into separate bodies is relative to our senses and to our intellect, and that matter, looked at as an undivided whole, must be a flux rather than a thing. In this we were preparing the way for a reconciliation between the inert and the living.
On the other side, we have shown in our second chapter that the same opposition is found again between instinct and intelligence, the one turned to certain determinations of life, the other molded on the configuration of matter. But instinct and intelligence, we have also said, stand out from the same background, which, for want of a better name, we may call consciousness in general, and which must be coextensive with universal life. In this way, we have disclosed the possibility of showing the genesis of intelligence in setting out from general consciousness, which embraces it.
We are now, then, to attempt a genesis of intellect at the same time as a genesis of material bodies--two enterprises that are evidently correlative, if it be true that the main lines of our intellect mark out the general form of our action on matter, and that the detail of matter is ruled by the requirements of our action. Intellectuality
(187) and materiality have been constituted, in detail, by reciprocal adaptation. Both are derived from a wider and higher form of existence. It is there that we must replace them, in order to see them issue forth.
Such an attempt may appear, at first, more daring than the boldest speculations of metaphysicians. It claims to go further than psychology, further than cosmology, further than traditional metaphysics; for psychology, cosmology and metaphysics take intelligence, in all that is essential to it, as given, instead of, as we now propose, engendering it in its form and in its matter. The enterprise is in reality much more modest, as we are going to show. But let us first say how it differs from others.
To begin with psychology, we are not to believe that it engenders intelligence when it follows the progressive development of it through the animal series. Comparative psychology teaches us that the more an animal is intelligent, the more it tends to reflect on the actions by which it makes use of things, and thus to approximate to man. But its actions have already by themselves adopted the principal lines of human action; they have made out the same general directions in the material world as we have; they depend upon the same objects bound together by the same relations; so that animal intelligence, although it does not form concepts properly so called, already moves in a conceptual atmosphere. Absorbed at every instant by the actions it performs and the attitudes it must adopt, drawn outward by them and so externalized in relation to itself, it no doubt plays rather than thinks its ideas; this play none the less already corresponds, in the main, to the general plan of human intelligence. To explain the intelligence of man by that of the animal consists
(188) then simply in following the development of an embryo of humanity into complete humanity. We show how a certain direction has been followed further and further by beings more and more intelligent. But the moment we admit the direction, intelligence is given.
In a cosmogony like that of Spencer, intelligence is taken for granted, as matter also at the same time. We are shown matter obeying laws, objects connected with objects and facts with facts by constant relations, Consciousness receiving the imprint of these relations and laws and thus adopting the general configuration of nature and shaping itself into intellect. But how can we fail to see that intelligence is supposed when we admit objects and facts? A priori and apart from any hypothesis on the nature of the matter, it is evident that the materiality of a body does not stop at the point at which we touch it: a body is present wherever its influence is felt; its attractive force, to speak only of that, is exerted on the sun, on the planets, perhaps on the entire universe. The more physics advances, the more it effaces the individuality of bodies and even of the particles into which the scientific imagination began by decomposing them: bodies and corpuscles tend to dissolve into a universal interaction. Our perceptions give us the plan of our eventual action on things much more than that of things themselves. The outlines we find in objects simply mark what we can attain and modify in them. The lines we see traced through matter are just the paths on which we are called to move. Outlines and paths have declared themselves in the measure and proportion that consciousness has prepared for action on unorganized matter-that is to say, in the measure and proportion that intelligence has been formed. It is doubtful whether animals built on a different plan-a mollusc or an insect, for instance--cut matter up
(188) along the same articulations. It is not indeed necessary that they should separate it into bodies at all. In order to follow the indications of instinct, there is no need to perceive objects, it is enough to distinguish properties, Intelligence, on the contrary, even in its humblest form, already aims at getting matter to act on matter. If on one side matter lends itself to a division into active and passive bodies, or more simply into coexistent and distinct fragments, it is from this side that intelligence will regard it; and the more it busies itself with dividing, the more it will spread out in space, in the form of extension adjoining extension, a matter that undoubtedly itself has a tendency to spatiality, but whose parts are yet in a state of reciprocal implication and interpenetration. Thus the same movement by which the mind is brought to form itself into intellect, that is to say, into distinct concepts, brings matter to break itself up into objects excluding one another. The more consciousness is intellectualized, the more is matter spatialized. So that the evolutionist philosophy, when it imagines in space a matter cut up on the very lines that our action will follow, has given itself in advance, ready made, the intelligence of which it claims to show the genesis.
Metaphysics applies itself to a work of the same kind, though subtler and more self-conscious, when it deduces a priori the categories of thought. It compresses intellect, reduces it to its quintessence, holds it tight in a principle so simple that it can be thought empty: from this principle we then draw out what we have virtually put into it. In this way we may no doubt show the coherence of intelligence, define intellect, give its formula, but we do not trace its genesis. An enterprise like that of Fichte, although more philosophical than that of Spencer, in that it pays more respect to the true order of things, hardly leads us any further. Fichte takes thought in a concentrated
(190) state, and expands it into reality; Spencer starts from external reality, and condenses it into intellect. But , in the one case as in the other, the intellect must be taken at the beginning as given-either condensed or expanded) grasped in itself by a direct vision or perceived by reflection in nature, as in a mirror.
The agreement of most philosophers on this point comes from the fact that they are at one in affirming the unity of nature, and in representing this unity under an abstract and geometrical form. Between the organized and the unorganized they do not see and they will not see the cleft. Some start from the inorganic, and, by compounding it with itself, claim to form the living; others place life first, and proceed towards matter by a skilfully managed decrescendo; but, for both, there are only differences of degree in nature-- degrees of complexity in the first hypothesis, of intensity in the second, Once this principle is admitted, intelligence becomes as vast as reality; for it is unquestionable that whatever is geometrical in things is entirely accessible to human intelligence, and if the continuity between geometry and the rest is perfect, all the rest must indeed be equally intelligible, equally intelligent. Such is the postulate of most systems. Any one can easily be convinced of this by comparing doctrines that seem to have no common point, no common measure, those of Fichte and Spencer for instance, two names that we happen to have just brought together.
At the root of these speculations , then, there are the two convictions correlative and complementary, that nature is one and that the function of intellect is to embrace it in its entirety. The faculty of knowing being supposed coextensive with the whole of experience, there can no longer be any question of engendering it. It is already given, and we merely have to use it, as we use our sight to
(191) take in the horizon. It is true that opinions differ as to the value of the result. For some, it is reality itself that the intellect embraces; for others, it is only a phantom. But, phantom or reality, what intelligence grasps is thought to be all that can be attained.
Hence the exaggerated confidence of philosophy in the powers of the individual mind. Whether it is dogmatic or critical, whether it admits the relativity of our knowledge or claims to be established within the absolute, a philosophy is generally the work of a philosopher, a single and unitary vision of the whole. It is to be taken or left.
More modest, and also alone capable of being completed and perfected, is the philosophy we advocate. Human intelligence, as we represent it, is not at all what Plato taught in the allegory of the cave. Its function is not to look at passing shadows nor yet to turn itself round and contemplate the glaring sun. It has something else to do. Harnessed, like yoked oxen, to a heavy task, we feel the play of our muscles and joints, the weight of the plow and the resistance of the soil. To act and to know that we are acting, to come into touch with reality and even to live it, but only in the measure in which it concerns the work that is being accomplished and the furrow that is being plowed, such is the function of human intelligence. Yet a beneficent fluid bathes us, whence we draw the very force to labor and to live. From this ocean of life, in which we are immersed, we are continually drawing something, and we feel that our being, or at least the intellect that guides it, has been formed therein by a kind of local concentration. Philosophy can only be an effort to dissolve again into the Whole. Intelligence, reabsorbed into its principle, may thus live back again its own genesis. But the enterprise cannot be achieved in one stroke; it is
(192) necessarily collective and progressive. It consists in an interchange of impressions which, correcting and adding to each other, will end by expanding the humanity in us and making us even transcend it.
But this method has against it the most inveterate habits of the mind. It at once suggests the idea of a vicious circle. In vain, we shall be told, you claim to go beyond intelligence: how can you do that except by intelligence? All that is clear in your consciousness is intelligence. You are inside your own thought; you cannot get out of it. Say, if you like, that the intellect is capable of progress, that it will see more and more clearly into a greater and greater number of things; but do not speak of engendering it, for it is with your intellect itself that you would have to do the work.
The objection presents itself naturally to the mind. But the same reasoning would prove also the impossibility of acquiring any new habit. It is of the essence of reasoning to shut us up in the circle of the given. But action breaks the circle. If we had never seen a man swim, we might say that swimming is an impossible thing, inasmuch as, to learn to swim, we must begin by holding ourselves up in the water and, consequently, already know how to swim. Reasoning, in fact, always nails us down to the solid ground. But if, quite simply, I throw myself into the water without fear, I may keep myself up well enough at first by merely struggling, and gradually adapt myself to the new environment: I shall thus have learnt to swim. So, in theory, there is a kind of absurdity in trying to know otherwise than by intelligence; but if the risk be frankly accepted, action will perhaps cut the knot that reasoning has tied and will not unloose.
Besides, the risk will appear to grow less, the more our point of view is adopted. We have shown that in-
(193) -tellect has detached itself from a vastly wider reality, but that there has never been a clean cut between the two; all around conceptual thought there remains an indistinct fringe which recalls its origin. And further we compared the intellect to a solid nucleus formed by means of condensation. This nucleus does not differ radically from the fluid surrounding it. It can only be reabsorbed in it because it is made of the same substance. He who throws himself into the water, having known only the resistance of the solid earth, will immediately be drowned if he does not struggle against the fluidity of the new environment: he must perforce still cling to that solidity, so to speak, which even water presents. Only on this condition can he get used to the fluid's fluidity. So of our thought, when it has decided to make the leap.
But leap it must, that is, leave its own environment. Reason, reasoning on its powers, will never succeed in extending them, though the extension would not appear at all unreasonable once it were accomplished. Thousands and thousands of variations on the theme of walking will never yield a rule for swimming: come, enter the water, and when you know how to swim, you will understand how the mechanism of swimming is connected with that of walking. Swimming is an extension of walking, but walking would never have pushed you on to swimming. So you may speculate as intelligently as you will on the mechanism of intelligence; you will never, by this method, succeed in going beyond it, You may get something more complex, but not something higher nor even something different,, You must take things by storm: you must thrust intelligence outside itself by an act of will.
So the vicious circle is only apparent. It is, on the contrary, real, we think, in every other method of philosophy. This we must try to show in a few words, if only
(194) to prove that philosophy cannot and must not accept the relation established by pure intellectualism between the theory of knowledge and the theory of the known, between metaphysics and science.
At first sight, it may seem prudent to leave the consideration of facts to positive science, to let physics and chemistry busy themselves with matter, the biological and psychological sciences with life. The task of the philosopher is then clearly defined. He takes facts and laws from the scientists' hand; and whether he tries to go beyond them in order to reach their deeper causes, or whether he thinks it impossible to go further and even proves it by the analysis of scientific knowledge, in both cases he has for the facts and relations, handed over by science, the sort of respect that is due to a final verdict. To this knowledge he adds a critique of the faculty of knowing, and also, if he thinks proper, a metaphysic; but the matter of knowledge he regards as the affair of science and not of philosophy.
But how does he fail to see that the real result of this so-called division of labor is to mix up everything and confuse everything? The metaphysic or the critique that the philosopher has reserved for himself he has to receive, ready-made, from positive science, it being already contained in the descriptions and analyses, the whole care of which he left to the scientists. For not having wished to intervene, at the beginning, in questions of fact, he finds himself reduced, in questions of principle, to formulating purely and simply in more precise terms the unconscious and consequently inconsistent, metaphysic and critique which the very attitude of science to reality marks out. Let us not be deceived by an apparent analogy between natural things and human things. Here we are not in the judiciary domain, where the description of fact and the
(195) judgment on the fact are two distinct things, distinct for the very simple reason that above the fact, and independent of it, there is a law promulgated by a legislator. Here the laws are internal to the facts and relative to the lines that have been followed in cutting the real into distinct facts. We cannot describe the outward appearance of the object without prejudging its inner nature and its organization. Form is no longer entirely isolable from matter, and he who has begun by reserving to philosophy questions of principle, and who has thereby tried to put philosophy above the sciences, as a " court of cassation" is above the courts of assizes and of appeal, will gradually come to make no more of philosophy than a registration court, charged at most with wording more precisely the sentences that are brought to it, pronounced and irrevocable.
Positive science is, in fact, a work of pure intellect. Now, whether our conception of the intellect be accepted or rejected, there is one point on which everybody will agree with us, and that is that the intellect is at home in the presence of unorganized matter. This matter it makes use of more and more by mechanical inventions, and mechanical inventions become the easier to it the more it thinks matter as mechanism. The intellect bears within itself, in the form of natural logic, a latent geometrism that is set free in the measure and proportion that the intellect penetrates into the inner nature of inert matter. Intelligence is in tune with this matter, and that is why the physics and metaphysics of inert matter are so near each other. Now, when the intellect undertakes the study of life, it necessarily treats the living like the inert, applying the same forms to this new object, carrying over into this new field the same habits that have succeeded so well in the old; and it is right to do so, for only on such
(196) terms does the living offer to our action the same hold as inert matter. But the truth we thus arrive at becomes altogether relative to our faculty of action. It is no more than a symbolic verity. It cannot have the same value as the physical verity, being only an extension of physics to an object which we are a priori agreed to look at only in its external aspect. The duty of philosophy should be to intervene here actively, to examine the living without any reservation as to practical utility, by freeing itself from forms and habits that are strictly intellectual. Its own special object is to speculate, that is to say, to see; its attitude toward the living should not be that of science, which aims only at action, and which, being able to act only by means of inert matter, presents to itself the rest of reality in this single respect. What must the result be, if it leave biological and psychological facts to positive science alone, as it has left, and rightly left, physical facts? It will accept a priori a mechanistic conception of all nature, a conception unreflected and even unconscious, the outcome of the material need. It will a priori accept the doctrine of the simple unity of knowledge and of the abstract unity of nature.
The moment it does so, its fate is sealed. The philosopher has no longer any choice save between a metaphysical dogmatism and a metaphysical skepticism, both of which rest, at bottom, on the same postulate, and neither of which adds anything to positive science. He may hypostasize the unity of nature, or, what comes to the same thing, the unity of science, in a being who is nothing since he does nothing, an ineffectual God who simply sums up in himself all the given; or in an eternal Matter from whose womb have been poured out the properties of things and the laws of nature; or, again, in a pure Form which endeavors to seize an unseizable multiplicity, and which is,
(197) as we will, the form of nature or the form of thought. All these philosophies tell us, in their different languages, that science is right to treat the living as the inert, and that there is no difference of value, no distinction to be made between the results which intellect arrives at in applying its categories, whether it rests on inert matter or attacks life.
In many cases, however, we feel the frame cracking. But as we did not begin by distinguishing between the inert and the living, the one adapted in advance to the frame in which we insert it , the other incapable of being held in the frame otherwise than by a convention which eliminates from it all that is essential, we find ourselves' in the end, reduced to regarding everything the frame contains with equal suspicion. To a metaphysical dogmatism, which has erected into an absolute the factitious unity of science, there succeeds a skepticism or a relativism that universalizes and extends to all the results of science the artificial character of some among them. So philosophy swings to and fro between the doctrine that regards absolute reality as unknowable and that which, in the idea it gives us of this reality, says nothing more than science has said. For having wished to prevent all conflict between science and philosophy, we have sacrificed philosophy without any appreciable gain to science. And for having tried to avoid the seeming vicious circle which consists in using the intellect to transcend the intellect, we find ourselves turning in a real circle, that which consists in laboriously rediscovering by metaphysics a unity that we began by positing a priori, a unity that we admitted blindly and unconsciously by the very act of abandoning the whole of experience to science and the whole of reality to the pure understanding.
Let us begin, on the contrary, by tracing a line of de-
(198) -marcation between the inert and the living. We shall find that the inert enters naturally into the frames of the intellect, but that the living is adapted to these frames only artificially, so that we must adopt a special attitude towards it and examine it with other eyes than those of positive science. Philosophy, then, invades the domain of experience. She busies herself with many things which hitherto have not concerned her. Science, theory of knowledge, and metaphysics find themselves on the same ground. At first there may be a certain confusion. All three may think they have lost something. But all three will profit from the meeting.
Positive science, indeed, may pride itself on the uniform value attributed to its affirmations in the whole field of experience. But, if they are all placed on the same footing, they are all tainted with the same relativity. It is not so, if we begin by making the distinction which, in our view, is forced upon us. The understanding is at home in the domain of unorganized matter. On this matter human action is naturally exercised; and action, as we said above, cannot be set in motion in the unreal. Thus, of physics-so long as we are considering only its general form and not the particular cutting out of matter in which it is manifested-we may say that it touches the absolute. On the contrary, it is by accident-chance or convention, as you please--that science obtains a hold on the living analogous to the hold it has on matter. Here the use of conceptual frames is no longer natural. I do not wish to say that it is not legitimate, in the scientific meaning of the term. If science is to extend our action on things, and if we can act only with inert matter for instrument, science can and must continue to treat the living as it has treated the inert. But, in doing so, it must be understood that the further it penetrates the
(199) depths of life, the more symbolic, the more relative to the contingencies of action, the knowledge it supplies to us becomes. On this new ground philosophy ought then to follow science, in order to superpose on scientific truth a knowledge of another kind, which may be called metaphysical. Thus combined, all our knowledge, both scientific and metaphysical, is heightened. In the absolute we live and move and have our being. The knowledge we possess of it is incomplete, no doubt, but not external or relative. It is reality itself, in the profoundest meaning of the word, that we reach by the combined and progressive development of science and of philosophy.
Thus, in renouncing the factitious unity which the understanding imposes on nature from outside, we shall perhaps find its true, inward and living unity. For the effort we make to transcend the pure understanding introduces us into that more 'vast something out of which our understanding is cut, and from which it has detached itself. And, as matter is determined by intelligence, as there is between them an evident agreement, we cannot make the genesis of the one without making the genesis of the other. An identical process must have cut out matter and the intellect, at the same time, from a stuff that contained both. Into this reality we shall get back more and more completely, in proportion as we compel ourselves to transcend pure intelligence.
Let us then concentrate attention on that which we have that is at the same time the most removed from externality and the least penetrated with intellectuality. Let us seek, in the depths of our experience, the point where we feel ourselves most intimately within our own life. It is into pure duration that we then plunge back, a duration in which the past, always moving on, is swelling
(200) unceasingly with a present that is absolutely new. But, at the same time, we feel the spring of our will strained to its utmost limit. We must, by a strong recoil of our personality on itself, gather up our past which is slipping away, in order to thrust it, compact and undivided, into a present which it will create by entering. Rare indeed are the moments when we are self-possessed to this extent: it is then that our actions are truly free. And even at these moments we do not completely possess ourselves. Our feeling of duration, I should say the actual coinciding of ourself with itself, admits of degrees. But the more the feeling is deep and the coincidence complete, the more the life in which it replaces us absorbs intellectuality by transcending it. For the natural function of the intellect is to bind like to like, and it is only facts that can be repeated that are entirely adaptable to intellectual conceptions. Now, our intellect does undoubtedly grasp the real moments of real duration after they are past; we do so by reconstituting the new state of consciousness out of a series of views taken of it from the outside, each of which resembles as much as possible something already known; in this sense we may say that the state of consciousness contains intellectuality implicitly. Yet the state of consciousness overflows the intellect; it is indeed incommensurable with the intellect, being itself indivisible and new.
Now let us relax the strain, let us interrupt the effort to crowd as much as possible of the past into the present. If the relaxation were complete, there would no longer be either memory or will-which amounts to saying that, in fact, we never do fall into this absolute passivity, any more than we can make ourselves absolutely free. But, in the Emit, we get a glimpse of an existence made of a present which recommences unceasingly -- devoid of real
(201) duration, nothing but the instantaneous which dies and is born again endlessly. Is the existence of matter of this nature? Not altogether, for analysis resolves it into elementary vibrations, the shortest of which are of very slight duration, almost vanishing, but not nothing. It may be presumed, nevertheless, that physical existence inclines in this second direction, as psychical existence in the first.
Behind " spirituality" on the one hand, and " materiality" with intellectuality on the other, there are then two processes opposite in their direction, and we pass from the first to the second by way of inversion, or perhaps even by simple interruption, if it is true that inversion and interruption are two terms which in this case must be held to be synonymous, as we shall show at more length later on. This presumption is confirmed when we consider things from the point of view of extension, and no longer from that of duration alone.
The more we succeed in making ourselves conscious of our progress in pure duration, the more we feel the different parts of our being enter into each other, and our whole personality concentrate itself in a point, or rather a sharp edge, pressed against the future and cutting into it unceasingly. It is in this that life and action are free. But suppose we let ourselves go and, instead of acting, dream. At once the self is scattered; our past, which till then was gathered together into the indivisible impulsion it communicated to us, is broken up into a thousand recollections made external to one another. They give up interpenetrating in the degree that they become fixed. Our personality thus descends in the direction of space. It coasts around it continually in sensation. We will not dwell here on a point we have studied elsewhere. Let us merely recall that extension
(202) admits of degrees, that all sensation is extensive in a certain measure, and that the idea of unextended sensations, artificially localized in space, is a mere view of the mind, suggested by an unconscious metaphysic much more than by psychological observation.
No doubt we make only the first steps in the direction of the extended, even when we let ourselves go as much as we can. But suppose for a moment that matter consists in this very movement pushed further, and that physics is simply psychics inverted. We shall now understand why the mind feels at its ease, moves about naturally in space, when matter suggests the more distinct idea of it. This space it already possessed as an implicit idea in its own eventual detension, that is to say, of its own possible extension. The mind finds space in things, but could have got it without them if it had had imagination strong enough to push the inversion of its own natural movement to the end. On the other hand, we are able to explain how matter accentuates still more its materiality, when viewed by the mind. Matter, at first, aided mind to run down its own incline; it gave the impulsion. But, the impulsion once received, mind continues its course. The idea that it forms of pure space is only the schema of the limit at which this movement would end. Once in possession of the form of space, mind uses it like a net with meshes that can be made and unmade at will, which, thrown over matter, divides it as the needs of our action demand. Thus, the space of our geometry and the spatiality of things are mutually engendered by the reciprocal action and reaction of two terms which are essentially the same, but which move each in the direction inverse of the other. Neither is space so foreign to our nature as we imagine, nor is matter as completely extended in space as our senses and intellect represent it.
We have treated of the first point elsewhere. As to the second, we will limit ourselves to pointing out that perfect spatiality would consist in a perfect externality of parts in their relation to one another, that is to say, in a complete reciprocal independence. Now, there is no material point that does not act on every other material point - When we observe that a thing really is there where it acts, we shall be led to say (as Faraday was) that all the atoms interpenetrate and that each of them fills the world. On such a hypothesis, the atom or, more generally, the material point, becomes simply a view of the mind., a view which we come to take when we continue far enough the work (wholly relative to our faculty of acting) by which we subdivide matter into bodies. Yet it is undeniable that matter lends itself to this subdivision, and that, in supposing it breakable into parts external to one another, we are constructing a science sufficiently representative of the real. It is undeniable that if there be no entirely isolated system, yet science finds means of cutting up the universe into systems relatively independent of each other, and commits no appreciable error in doing so. What else can this mean but that matter extends itself in space without being absolutely extended therein, and that in regarding matter as decomposable into isolated systems, in attributing to it quite distinct elements which change in relation to each other without changing in themselves (which are "displaced," shall we say, without being "altered"), in short, in conferring on matter the properties of pure space, we are transporting ourselves to the terminal point of the movement of which matter simply indicates the direction?
What the Transcendental Aesthetic of Kant appears
(204) to have established once for all is that extension is not a material attribute of the same kind as others. We cannot reason indefinitely on the notions of heat, color, or weight: in order to know the modalities of weight or of heat, we must have recourse to experience. Not so of the notion of space. Supposing even that it is given empirically by sight and touch (and Kant has not questioned the fact) there is this about it that is remarkable that our mind, speculating on it with its own powers alone, cuts out in it, a priori, figures whose properties we determine a priori: experience, with which we have not kept in touch, yet follows us through the infinite complications of our reasonings and invariably justifies them. That is the fact. Kant has set it in clear light. But the explanation of the fact, we believe, must be sought in a different direction to that which Kant followed.
Intelligence, as Kant represents it to us, is bathed in an atmosphere of spatiality to which it is as inseparably united as the living body to the air it breathes. Our perceptions reach us only after having passed through this atmosphere. They have been impregnated in advance by our geometry, so that our faculty of thinking only finds again in matter the mathematical properties which our faculty of perceiving has already deposed there. We are assured, therefore, of seeing matter yield itself with docility to our reasonings; but this matter, in all that it has that is intelligible, is our own work; of the reality " in itself" we know nothing and never shall know anything, since we only get its refraction through the forms of our faculty of perceiving. So that if we claim to affirm something of it, at once there rises the contrary affirmation, equally demonstrable, equally plausible. The ideality of space is proved directly by the analysis of knowledge indirectly by the antinomies to which the opposite theory
(205) leads. Such is the governing idea of the Kantian criticism. It has inspired Kant with a peremptory refutation of "empiricist" theories of knowledge. it is, in our opinion, definitive in what it denies. But, in what it affirms, does it give us the solution of the problem?
With Kant, space is given as a ready-made form of our perceptive faculty-- a veritable deus ex machina, of which we see neither how it arises, nor why it is what it is rather than anything else. "Things-in-themselves" are also given, of which he claims that we can know nothing: by what right, then, can he affirm their existence, even as "problematic"? If the unknowable reality projects into our perceptive faculty a "sensuous manifold" capable of fitting into it exactly, is it not, by that very fact, in part known? And when we examine this exact fitting, shall we not be led, in one point at least, to suppose a pre-established harmony between things and our mind an idle hypothesis, which Kant was right in wishing to avoid? At bottom, it is for not having distinguished degrees in spatiality that he has had to take space ready-made as given-whence the question how the "sensuous manifold" is adapted to it. It is for the same reason that he has supposed matter wholly developed into parts absolutely external to one another; -whence antinomies, of which we may plainly see that the thesis and antithesis suppose the perfect coincidence of matter with geometrical space, but which vanish the moment we cease to extend to matter what is true only of pure space. Whence, finally, the conclusion that there are three alternatives, and three only, among which to choose a theory of knowledge: either the mind is determined by things, or things are determined by the mind, or between mind and things we must suppose a mysterious agreement.
But the truth is that there is a fourth, which does not
(206) seem to have occurred to Kant-in the first place because he did not think that the mind overflowed the intellect, and in the second place (and this is at bottom the same thing) because he did not attribute to duration an absolute existence, having put time, a priori, on the same plane as space. This alternative consists, first of all, in regarding the intellect as a special function of the mind, essentially turned toward inert matter; then in saying that neither does matter determine the form of the intellect, nor does the intellect impose its form on matter, nor have matter and intellect been regulated in regard to one another by we know not what pre-established harmony, but that intellect and matter have progressively adapted themselves one to the other in order to attain at last a common form. This adaptation has, moreover, been brought about quite naturally, because it is the same inversion of the same movement which creates at once the intellectuality of mind and the materiality of things.
From this point of view the knowledge of matter that our perception on one hand and science on the other give to us appears, no doubt, as approximative, but not as relative. Our perception, whose role it is to hold up a light to our actions, works a dividing up of matter that is always too sharply defined, always subordinated to practical needs, consequently always requiring revision. Our science, which aspires to the mathematical form, overaccentuates the spatiality of matter; its formulae are, in general, too precise, and ever need remaking. For a scientific theory to be final, the mind would have to embrace the totality of things in block and place each thing in its exact relation to every other thing; but in reality we are obliged to consider problems one by one, in terms which are, for that 'very reason, provisional, so that the solution of each problem will have to be corrected indefi-
(207) -nitely by the solution that will be given to the problems that will follow: thus, science as a whole is relative to the particular order in which the problems happen to have been put. It is in this meaning, and to this degree, that science must be regarded as conventional. But it is a conventionality of fact so to speak, and not of right. In principle, positive science bears on reality itself, provided it does not overstep the limits of its own domain, which is inert matter.
Scientific knowledge, thus regarded, rises to a higher plane. In return, the theory of knowledge becomes an infinitely difficult enterprise, and which passes the powers of the intellect alone. It is not enough to determine, by careful analysis, the categories of thought; we must engender them. As regards space, we must, by an effort of mind sui generis, follow the progression or rather the regression of the extra-spatial degrading itself into spatiality. When we make ourselves self-conscious in the highest possible degree and then let ourselves fall back little by little, we get the feeling of extension: we have an extension of the self into recollections that are fixed and external to one another, in place of the tension it possessed as an indivisible active will. But this is only a beginning. Our consciousness, sketching the movement, shows us its direction and reveals to us the possibility of continuing it to the end; but consciousness itself does not go so far. Now, on the other hand, if we consider matter, which seems to us at first coincident with space, we find that the more our attention is fixed on it, the more the parts which we qaid were, laid side by side enter into each other, each of them undergoing the action of the whole, which is consequently somehow present in it. Thus, although matter stretches itself out in the direction of space, it does not completely attain it; whence
(208) we may conclude that it only carries very much further the movement that consciousness is able to sketch within us in its nascent state. We hold, therefore, the two ends of the chain, though we do not succeed in seizing the intermediate links. Will they always escape us? We must remember that philosophy, as we define it, has not yet become completely conscious of itself. Physics understands its role when it pushes matter in the direction of spatiality; but has metaphysics understood its role when it has simply trodden in the steps of physics, in the chimerical hope of going further in the same direction? Should not its own task be, on the contrary, to remount the incline that physics descends, to bring back matter to its origins, and to build up progressively a cosmology which would be, so to speak, a reversed psychology? All that which seems positive to the physicist and to the geometrician would become, from this new point of view, an interruption or inversion of the true positivity, which would have to be defined in psychological terms.
When we consider the admirable order of mathematics, the perfect agreement of the objects it deals with, the immanent logic in numbers and figures, our certainty of always getting the same conclusion, however diverse and complex our reasonings on the same subject, we hesitate to see in properties apparently so positive a system of negations, the absence rather than the presence of a true reality. But we must not forget that our intellect, which finds this order and wonders at it, is directed in the same line of movement that loads to the materiality and spatiality of its object. The more complexity the intellect puts into its object by analyzing it, the more complex is the order it finds there. And this order and this complexity necessarily appear to the intellect as a positive reality, since
(209) reality and intellectuality are turned in the same direction.
When a poet reads me his verses, I can interest myself enough in him to enter into his thought, put myself into his feelings, live over again the simple state he has broken into phrases and words. I sympathize then with his inspiration, I follow it with a continuous movement which is, like the inspiration itself, an undivided act. Now, I need only relax my attention, let go the tension that there is in me, for the sounds, hitherto swallowed up in the sense, to appear to me distinctly, one by one, in their materiality. For this I have not to do anything; it is enough to withdraw something. In proportion as I let myself go, the successive sounds will become the more individualized; as the phrases were broken into words, so the words will scan in syllables which I shall perceive one after another. Let me go farther still in the direction of dream: the letters themselves will become loose and will be seen to dance along, hand in hand, on some fantastic sheet of paper. I shall then admire the precision of the interweavings, the marvelous order of the procession, the exact insertion of the letters into the syllables, of the syllables into the words and of the words into the sentences. The farther I pursue this quite negative direction of relaxation, the more extension and complexity I shall create; and the more the complexity in its turn increases, the more admirable will seem to be the order which continues to reign, undisturbed, among the elements. Yet this complexity and extension represent nothing positive; they express a deficiency of will. And, on the other hand, the order must grow with the complexity, since it is only an aspect of it. The more we perceive, symbolically, parts in an indivisible whole, the more the number of the relations that the parts have between themselves necessarily increases, since the same undividedness of the real whole continues to hover over
(210) the growing multiplicity of the symbolic elements into which the scattering of the attention has decomposed it. A comparison of this kind will enable us to understand in some measure, how the same suppression of positive' reality, the same inversion of a certain original movement, can create at once extension in space and the admirable order which mathematics finds there. There is, of course, this difference between the two cases, that words and letters have been invented by a positive effort of humanity, while space arises automatically, as the remainder of a subtraction arises once the two numbers are posited. But, in the one case as in the other, the infinite complexity of the parts and their perfect coordination among themselves are created at one and the same time by an inversion which is, at bottom, an interruption, that is to say, a diminution of positive reality.
All the operations of our intellect tend to geometry, as to the goal where they find their perfect fulfilment.
(211) But, as geometry is necessarily prior to them (since these operations have not as their end to construct space and cannot do otherwise than take it as given) it is evident that it is a latent geometry, immanent in our idea of space, which is the main spring of our intellect and the cause of its working. We shall be convinced of this if we consider the two essential functions of intellect, the faculty of deduction and that of induction.
Let us begin with deduction. The same movement by which I trace a figure in space engenders its properties: they are visible and tangible in the movement itself; I feel, I see in space the relation of the definition to its consequences, of the premisses to the conclusion. All the other concepts of which experience suggests the idea to me are only in part constructible a priori; the definition of them is therefore imperfect, and the deductions into which these concepts enter, however closely the conclusion is linked to the premisses, participate in this imperfection. But when I trace roughly in the sand the base of a triangle, as I begin to form the two angles at the base, I know positively, and understand absolutely, that if these two angles are equal the sides will be equal also, the figure being then able to be turned over on itself without there being any change whatever. I know it before I have learnt geometry. Thus, prior to the science of geometry, there is a natural geometry whose clearness and evidence surpass the clearness and evidence of other deductions. Now, these other deductions bear on qualities, and not on magnitudes purely. They are, then, likely to have been formed on the model of the first, and to borrow their force from the fact that, behind quality, we see magnitude vaguely showing through. We may notice, as a fact, that questions of situation and of magnitude are the first that present themselves to our activity, those which in-
(212) -telligence externalized in action resolves even before reflective intelligence has appeared. The savage understands better than the civilized man how to judge distances, to determine a direction, to retrace by memory the often complicated plan of the road he has traveled, and so to return in a straight line to his starting-point. If the animal does not deduce explicitly, if he does not form explicit concepts, neither does he form the idea of a homogeneous space. You cannot present this space to yourself without introducing, in the same act, a virtual geometry which will, of itself, degrade itself into logic. All the repugnance that philosophers manifest towards this manner of regarding things comes from this, that the logical work of the intellect represents to their eyes a positive spiritual effort. But, if we understand by spirituality a progress to ever new creations, to conclusions incommensurable with the premisses and indeterminable by relation to them, we must say of an idea that moves among relations of necessary determination, through premisses which contain their conclusion in advance, that it follows the' inverse direction, that of materiality. What appears, from the point of view of the intellect, as an effort, is in itself a letting go. And while, from the point of view of the intellect, there is a petitio principii in making geometry arise automatically from space, and logic from geometryon the contrary, if space is the ultimate goal of the mind's movement of detension, space cannot be given without positing also logic and geometry, which are along the course of the movement of which pure spatial intuition is the goal.
It has not been enough noticed how feeble is the reach of deduction in the psychological and moral sciences. From a proposition verified by facts, verifiable consequences can here be drawn only up to a certain point, only in a
(213) certain measure. Very soon appeal has to be made to common sense, that is to say, to the continuous experience of the real, in order to inflect the consequences deduced and bend them along the sinuosities of life. Deduction succeeds in things moral only metaphorically, so to speak, and just in the measure in which the moral is transposable into the physical, I should say translatable into spatial symbols. The metaphor never goes very far, any more than a curve can long be confused with its tangent. Must we not be struck by this feebleness of deduction as something very strange and even paradoxical? Here is a pure operation of the mind, accomplished solely by the power of the mind. It seems that, if anywhere it should feel at home and evolve at ease, it would be among the things of the mind, in the domain of the mind. Not at all; it is there that it is immediately at the end of its tether. On the contrary, in geometry, in astronomy, in physics, where we have to do with things external to us, deduction is all-powerful! Observation and experience are undoubtedly necessary in these sciences to arrive at the principle, that is, to discover the aspect under which things must be regarded; but, strictly speaking, we might, by good luck, have hit upon it at once; and, as soon as we possess this principle, we may draw from it, at any length, consequences which experience will always verify. Must we not conclude, therefore, that deduction is an operation governed by the properties of matter, molded on the mobile articulations of matter, implicitly given, in fact, with the space that, underlies matter? As long as it turns upon space or spatialized time, it has only to lot itself go. It is duration that puts spokes in its wheels.
Deduction, then, does not work unless there be spatial intuition behind it. But we may say the same of induction.
(214) It is not necessary indeed to think geometrically, nor even to think at all, in order to expect from the same conditions a repetition of the same fact. The consciousness of the animal already does this work, and indeed, independently of all consciousness, the living body itself is so constructed that it can extract from the successive situations in which it finds itself the similarities which interest it, and so respond to the stimuli by appropriate reactions. But it is a far cry from a mechanical expectation and reaction of the body, to induction properly so called, which is an intellectual operation. Induction rests on the belief that there are causes and effects, and that the same effects follow the same causes. Now, if we examine this double belief, this is what we find. It implies, in the first place, that reality is decomposable into groups, which can be practically regarded as isolated and independent. If I boil water in a kettle on a stove, the operation and the objects that support it are, in reality, bound up with a multitude of other objects and a multitude of other operations; in the end, I should find that our entire solar system is concerned in what is being done at this particular point of space. But, in a certain measure, and for the special end I am pursuing, I may admit that things happen as if the group water-kettle-stove were an independent microcosm. That is my first affirmation. Now, when I say that this microcosm will always behave in the same way, that the heat will necessarily, at the end of a certain time, cause the boiling of the water, I admit that it is sufficient that a certain number of elements of the system be given in order that the system should be complete; it completes itself automatically, I am not free to complete it in thought as I please. The stove, the kettle and the water being given, with a certain interval of duration, it seems to me that the boiling, which experience showed
(215) me yesterday to be the only thing wanting to complete the system, will complete it to-morrow, no matter when to-morrow may be. What is there at the base of this belief? Notice that the belief is more or less assured, according as the case may be, but that it is forced upon the mind as an absolute necessity when the microcosm considered contains only magnitudes. If two numbers be given, I am not free to choose their difference. If two sides of a triangle and the contained angle are given, the third side arises of itself and the triangle completes itself automatically. I can, it matters not where and it matters not when, trace the same two sides containing the same angle: it is evident that the new triangles so formed can be superposed on the first, and that consequently the same third side will come to complete the system. Now, if my certitude is perfect in the case in which I reason on pure space determinations, must I not suppose that, in the other cases, the certitude is greater the nearer it approaches this extreme case? Indeed, may it not be the limiting case which is seen through all the others and which colors them, accordingly as they are more or less transparent, with a more or less pronounced tinge of geometrical necessity? In fact, when I say that the water on the fire will boil to-day as it did yesterday, and that this is an absolute necessity, I feel vaguely that my imagination is placing the stove of yesterday on that of to-day, kettle on kettle, water on water, duration on duration, and it seems then that the rest must coincide also, for the game reason that, when two triangles are superposed and two of their sides coincide, their third sides coincide also. But my imagination acts thus only because it shuts its eyes to two essential points. For the
(216) system of to-day actually to be superimposed on that of yesterday, the latter must have waited for the former, time must have halted, and everything become simultaneous: that happens in geometry, but in geometry alone. Induction therefore implies first that, in the world of the physicist as in that of the geometrician, time does not count. But it implies also that qualities can be superposed on each other like magnitudes. If, in imagination, I place the stove and fire of to-day on that of yesterday, I find indeed that the form has remained the same; it suffices, for that, that the surfaces and edges coincide; but what is the coincidence of two qualities, and how can they be superposed one on another in order to ensure that they are identical? Yet I extend to the second order of reality all that applies to the first. The physicist legitimates this operation later on by reducing, as far as possible, differences of quality to differences of magnitude; but, prior to all science, I incline to liken qualities to quantities, as if I perceived behind the qualities, as through a transparency, a geometrical mechanism. The more complete this transparency, the more it seems to me that in the same conditions there must be a repetition of the same fact. Our inductions are certain, to our eyes, in the exact degree in which we make the qualitative differences melt into the homogeneity of the space which subtends them, so that geometry is the ideal limit of our inductions as well as of our deductions. The movement at the end of which is spatiality lays down along its course the faculty of induction as well as that of deduction, in fact, intellectuality entire.
It creates them in the mind. But it creates also, in things, the "order" which our induction, aided by de-
(217) -duction, finds there. This order, on which our action leans and in which our intellect recognizes itself, seems to us marvelous. Not only do the same general causes always produce the same general effects, but beneath the visible causes and effects our science discovers an infinity of infinitesimal changes which work more and more exactly into one another, the further we push the analysis: so much so that, at the end of this analysis, matter becomes, it seems to us, geometry itself. Certainly, the intellect is right in admiring here the growing order in the growing complexity; both the one and the other must have a positive reality for it, since it looks upon itself as positive. But things change their aspect when we consider the whole of reality as an undivided advance forward to successive creations. It seems to us, then, that the complexity of the material elements and the mathematical order that binds them together must arise automatically when within the whole a partial interruption or inversion is produced. Moreover, as the intellect itself is cut out of mind by a process of the same kind, it is attuned to this order and complexity, and admires them because it recognizes itself in them. But what is admirable in itself, what really deserves to provoke wonder, is the ever-renewed creation which reality, whole and undivided, accomplishes in advancing; for no complication of the mathematical order with itself, however elaborate we may suppose it, can introduce an atom of novelty into the world, whereas this power of creation once given (and it exists, for we are conscious of it in ourselves, at least when we act freely) has only to be diverted from itself to relax its tension, only to relax its tension to extend, only to extend for the mathematical order of the elements so distinguished and the inflexible determinism connecting them to manifest the interruption of the creative act: in fact, inflexible determinism
(218) and mathematical order are one with this very interruption. It is this merely negative tendency that the particular laws of the physical world express. None of them, taken separately, has objective reality; each is the work of an investigator who has regarded things from a certain bias, isolated certain variables, applied certain conventional units of measurement. And yet there is an order approximately mathematical immanent in matter, an objective order, which our science approaches in proportion to its progress. For if matter is a relaxation of the inextensive into the extensive and, thereby, of liberty into necessity, it does not indeed wholly coincide with pure homogeneous space, yet is constituted by the movement which leads to space, and is therefore on the way to geometry. It is true that laws of mathematical form will never apply to it completely. For that, it would have to be pure space and step out of duration.
We cannot insist too strongly that there is something artificial in the mathematical form of a physical law, and consequently in our scientific knowledge of things. Our standards of measurement are conventional, and, so to say, foreign to the intentions of nature: can, we suppose that nature has related all the modalities of heat to the expansion of the same mass of mercury, or to the change of pressure of the same mass of air kept at a constant volume? But we may go further. In a general way, measuring is a wholly human operation, which implies that we really or ideally superpose two objects one on another a certain number of times. Nature did not dream of this superposition. It does not measure , nor does it count. Yet physics counts, measures, relates "quantitative" variations to one another to obtain laws, and it succeeds. Its success would be inexplicable ,
(219) if the movement which constitutes materiality were not the same movement which, prolonged by us to its end, that is to say, to homogeneous space, results in making us count, measure, follow in their respective variations terms that are functions one of another. To effect this prolongation of the movement, our intellect has only to let itself go, for it runs naturally to space and mathematics, intellectuality and materiality being of the same nature and having been produced in the same way.
If the mathematical order were a positive thing, if there were, immanent in matter, laws comparable to those of our codes, the success of our science would have in it something of the miraculous. What chances should we have indeed of finding the standard of nature and of isolating exactly, in order to determine their reciprocal relations, the very variables which nature has chosen? But the success of a science of mathematical form would be no less incomprehensible, if matter did not already possess everything necessary to adapt itself to our formulae. One hypothesis only, therefore, remains plausible, namely, that the mathematical order is nothing positive, that it is the form toward which a certain interruption tends of itself, and that materiality consists precisely in an interruption of this kind. We shall understand then why our science is contingent, relative to the variables it has chosen, relative to the order in which it has successively put the problems, and why nevertheless it succeeds. It might have been, as a whole, altogether different, and yet have succeeded. This is so, just because there is no definite system of mathematical laws , at the base of nature, and because mathematics in general represents simply the side to which matter inclines. Put one of those little cork dolls with leaden feet in any posture, lay it on its back, turn it up on its head, throw it into the air: it will always
(220) stand itself up again, automatically. So likewise with matter: we can take it by any end and handle it in any way, it will always fall back into some one of our mathematical formulae because it is weighted with geometry.
But the philosopher will perhaps refuse to found a theory of knowledge on such considerations. They will be repugnant to him, because the mathematical order being order, will appear to him to contain something' Positive. It is in vain that we assert that this order Produces itself automatically by the interruption of the inverse order, that it is this very interruption. The idea persists, none the less, that there might be no order at all , and that the mathematical order of things, being a conquest over disorder, possesses a positive reality. In examining this point, we shall see what a prominent part the idea of disorder plays in problems relative to the theory of knowledge. It does not appear explicitly, and that is why it escapes our attention. It is, however , with the criticism of this idea that a theory of knowledge ought to begin, for if the great problem is to know why and how reality submits itself to an order, it is because the absence of every kind of order appears possible or conceivable. It is this absence of order that realists and idealists alike believe they are thinking of-the realist when he speaks of the regularity that "objective" laws actually impose on a virtual disorder of nature, the idealist when he supposes a "sensuous manifold" which is coordinated (and consequently itself without order) under the organizing influence of our undemanding, The idea of disorder, in the sense of absence of order, is then what must be analyzed first. Philosophy borrows it from daily life. And it is unquestionable that, when ordinarily we speak of disorder, we are thinking of something. But of what?
It will be seen in the next chapter how hard it is to determine the content of a negative idea, and what illusions one is liable to, what hopeless difficulties philosophy falls into, for not having undertaken this task. Difficulties and illusions are generally due to this, that we accept as final a manner of expression essentially provisional. They are due to our bringing into the domain of speculation a procedure made for practice. If I choose a volume in my library at random, I may put it back on the shelf after glancing at it and say, "This is not verse." Is this what I have really seen in turning over the leaves of the book? Obviously not. I have not seen, I never shall see, an absence of verse. I have seen prose. But as it is poetry I want, I express what I find as a function of what I am looking for, and instead of saying, "This is prose," I say, "This is not verse." In the same way, if the fancy takes me to read prose, and I happen on a volume of verse, I shall say, "This is not prose," thus expressing the data of my perception, which shows me verse, in the language of my expectation and attention, which are fixed on the idea of prose and will hear of nothing else. Now, if Mons. Jourdain heard me, he would infer, no doubt, from my two exclamations that prose and poetry are two forms of language reserved for books, and that these learned forms have come and overlaid a language which was neither prose nor verse. Speaking of this thing which is neither verse nor prose, he would suppose, moreover, that he was thinking of it: it would be only a pseudoidea, however. Let us go further still: the pseudoidea would create a pseudo-problem, if M. Jourdain were to ask his professor of philosophy how the prose form and the poetry form have been superadded to that which possessed neither the one nor the other, and if he wished the professor to construct a theory of the imposition of
(222) these two forms upon this formless matter. His question would be absurd, and the absurdity would lie in this, that he was hypostasizing as the substratum of prose and poetry the simultaneous negation of both, forgetting that the negation of the one consists in the affirmation of the other.
Now, suppose that there are two species of order, and that these two orders are two contraries within one and the same genus. Suppose also that the idea of disorder arises in our mind whenever, seeking one of the two kinds of order, we find the other. The idea of disorder would then have a clear meaning in the current practice of life: it would objectify, for the convenience of language, the disappointment of a mind that finds before it an order different from what it wants, an order with which it is not concerned at the moment, and which, in this sense, does not exist for it. But the idea would not admit a theoretical use. So if we claim, notwithstanding, to introduce it into philosophy, we shall inevitably lose sight of its true meaning. It denotes the absence of a certain order, but to the profit of another (with which we are not concerned); only, as it applies to each of the two in turn , and as it even goes and comes continually between the two, we take it on the way, or rather on the wing, like a shuttlecock between two battledores, and treat it as if it represented, not the absence of the one or other order as the case may be, but the absence of both together -- a thing that is neither perceived nor conceived, a simple verbal entity. So there arises the problem how order is imposed on disorder, form on matter. In analyzing the idea of disorder thus subtilized, we shall see. that it represents nothing at all, and at the same time the problems that have been raised around it will vanish.
It is true that we must begin by distinguishing, and even by opposing one to the other, two kinds of order
(223) which we generally confuse. As this confusion has created the principal difficulties of the problem of knowledge, it will not be useless to dwell once more on the marks by which the two orders are distinguished.
In a general way, reality is ordered exactly to the degree in which it satisfies our thought. Order is therefore a certain agreement between subject and object. It is the mind finding itself again in things. But the mind, we said, can go in two opposite ways. Sometimes it follows its natural direction: there is then progress in the form of tension, continuous creation, free activity. Sometimes it inverts it, and this inversion, pushed to the end, leads to extension, to the necessary reciprocal determination of elements externalized each by relation to the others, in short, to geometrical mechanism. Now, whether experience seems to us to adopt the first direction or whether it is drawn in the direction of the second, in both cases we say there is order, for in the two processes the mind finds itself again. The confusion between them is therefore natural. To escape it, different names would have to be given to the two kinds of order, and that is not easy, because of the variety and variability of the forms they take. The order of the second kind may be defined as geometry, which is its extreme limit; more generally, it is that kind of order that is concerned whenever a relation of necessary determination is found between causes and effects. It evokes ideas of inertia, of passivity, of automatism. As to the first kind of order, it oscillates no doubt around finality; and yet we cannot define it as finality, for it is sometimes above, sometime-, below. Tn its highest forms, it is more than finality, for of a free action or a work of art we may say that they show a perfect order, and yet they can only be expressed in terms of ideas approximately, and after the event. Life in its entirety, regarded as a
(224) creative evolution, is something analogous; it transcends finality, if we understand by finality the realization of an idea conceived or conceivable in advance. The category of finality is therefore too narrow for life in its entirety. It is, on the other hand, often too wide for a particular manifestation of life taken separately. Be that as it may, it is with the vital that we have here to do, and the whole present study strives to prove that the 'vital is in the direction of the voluntary. We may say then that this first kind of order is that of the vital or of the willed, in opposition to the second, which is that of the inert and the automatic. Common sense instinctively distinguishes between the two kinds of order, at least in the extreme cases; instinctively, also, it brings them together. We say of astronomical phenomena that they manifest an admirable order, meaning by this that they can be foreseen mathematically. And we find an order no less admirable in a symphony of Beethoven, which is genius, originality, and therefore unforeseeability itself.
But it is exceptional for order of the first kind to take so distinct a form. Ordinarily, it presents features that we have every interest in confusing with those of the opposite order. It is quite certain, for instance, that if we could view the evolution of life in its entirety, the spontaneity of its movement and the unforeseeability of its procedures would thrust themselves on our attention. But what we meet in our daily experience is a certain determinate living being, certain special manifestations of life, which repeat, almost, forms and facts already known; indeed, the similarity of structure that we find everywhere between what generates and what is generated-- a similarity that enables us to include any number of living individuals in the same group--is to our
(225) eyes the very type of the generic: the inorganic genera seem to us to take living genera as models. Thus the vital order, such as it is offered to us piecemeal in experience, presents the same character and performs the same function as the physical order: both cause experience to repeat itself, both enable our mind to generalize. In reality, this character has entirely different origins in the two cases , and even opposite meanings. In the second case, the type of this character, its ideal limit, as also its foundation, is the geometrical necessity in virtue of which the same components give the same resultant. In the first case, this character involves, on the contrary, the intervention of something which manages to obtain the same total effect although the infinitely complex elementary causes may be quite different. We insisted on this last point in our first chapter, when we showed how identical structures are to be met with on independent lines of evolution. But, without looking so far, we may presume that the reproduction only of the type of the ancestor by his descendants is an entirely different thing from the repetition of the same composition of forces which yields an identical resultant. When we think of the infinity of infinitesimal elements and of infinitesimal causes that concur in the genesis of a living being, when we reflect that the absence or the deviation of one of them would spoil everything, the first impulse of the mind is to consider this army of little workers as watched over by a skilled foreman, the "vital principle," which is ever repairing faults, correcting effects of neglect or absentmindedness, putting things back in place: this is how We try to express the difference between the physical and the vital order, the former making the same combination of causes give the same combined effect, the latter securing the constancy of the effect even when there is some wavering
(226) in the causes. But that is only a comparison; on reflection, we find that there can be no foreman, for the very simple reason that there are no workers. The causes and elements that physico-chemical analysis discovers are real causes and elements, no doubt, as far as the facts of organic destruction are concerned; they are then limited in number. But vital phenomena, properly so called, or facts of organic creation open up to us, when we analyze them, the perspective of an analysis passing away to infinity: whence it may be inferred that the manifold causes and elements are here only views of the mind, attempting an ever closer and closer imitation of the operation of nature, while the operation imitated is an indivisible act. The likeness between individuals of the same species has thus an entirely different meaning, an entirely different origin, to that of the likeness between complex effects obtained by the same composition of the same causes. But in the one case as in the other, there is likeness, and consequently possible generalization. And as that is all that interests us in practice, since our daily life is and must be an expectation of the same things and the same situations, it is natural that this common character, essential from the point of view of our action, should bring the two orders together, in spite of a merely internal diversity between them which interests speculation only. Hence the idea of a general order of nature, everywhere the same, hovering over life and over matter alike. Hence our habit of designating by the same word and representing in the same way the existence of laws in the domain of inert, matter and that of genera in the domain of life.
Now, it will be found that this confusion is the origin of most of the difficulties raised by the problem of knowledge, among the ancients as well as among the modems. The generality of laws and that of genera having been
(227) designated by the same word and subsumed under the same idea, the geometrical order and the vital order are accordingly confused together. According to the point of view, the generality of laws is explained by that of genera, or that of genera by that of laws. The first view is characteristic of ancient thought; the second belongs to modem philosophy. But in both ancient and modern philosophy the idea of "generality" is an equivocal idea, uniting in its denotation and in its connotation incompatible objects and elements. In both there are grouped under the same concept two kinds of order which are alike only in the facility they give to our action on things. We bring together the two terms in virtue of a quite external likeness, which justifies no doubt their designation by the same word for practice, but which does not authorize us at all, in the speculative domain, to confuse them in the same definition.
The ancients, indeed, did not ask why nature submits to laws, but why it is ordered according to genera. The idea of genus corresponds more especially to an objective reality in the domain of life, where it expresses an unquestionable fact, heredity. Indeed, there can only be genera where there are individual objects; now, while the organized being is cut out from the general mass of matter by his very organization, that is to say naturally, it is our perception which cuts inert matter into distinct bodies. It is guided in this by the interests of action, by the nascent reactions that our body indicates-that is, as we have shown elsewhere, by the potential genera that are trying to gain existence. In this, then, genera and individuals determine one another by a semi-artificial operation entirely relative to our future action on things. Nevertheless the ancients did not hesitate to put all genera
(228) in the same rank, to attribute the same absolute existence to all of them. Reality thus being a system of genera, it is to the generality of the genera (that is, in effect, to the generality expressive of the vital order) that the generality of laws itself had to be brought. It is interesting, in this respect, to compare the Aristotelian theory of the fall of bodies with the explanation furnished by Galileo. Aristotle is concerned solely with the concepts "high" and "low," "own proper place" as distinguished from "place occupied," "natural movement" and "forced movement ;" the physical law in virtue of which the stone falls expresses for him that the stone regains the "natural place" of all stones, to wit, the earth. The stone, in his view, is not quite stone so long as it is not in its normal place; in falling back into this place it aims at completing itself, like a living being that grows, thus realizing fully the essence of the genus stone. If this conception of the physical law were exact, the law would no longer be a mere relation established by the mind; the subdivision of matter into bodies would no longer be relative to our faculty of perceiving; all bodies would have the same individuality as living bodies, and the laws of the physical universe would express relations of real kinship between real genera. We know what kind of physics grew out of this, and how, for having believed in a science unique and final, embracing the totality of the real and at one with the absolute, the ancients were confined, in fact, to a more or less clumsy interpretation of the physical in terms of the vital.
But there is the same confusion in the moderns, with this difference, however, that the relation between the
(229) two terms is inverted: laws are no longer reduced to genera, but genera to laws; and science, still supposed to be uniquely one, becomes altogether relative, instead of being, as the ancients wished, altogether at one with the absolute. A noteworthy fact is the eclipse of the problem of genera in modern philosophy. Our theory of knowledge turns almost entirely on the question of laws: genera are left to make shift with laws as best they can. The reason is, that modern philosophy has its point of departure in the great astronomical and physical discoveries of modern times. The laws of Kepler and of Galileo have remained for it the ideal and unique type of all knowledge. Now, a law is a relation between things or between facts. More precisely, a law of mathematical form expresses the fact that a certain magnitude is a function of one or several other variables appropriately chosen. Now, the choice of the variable magnitudes, the distribution of nature into objects and into facts, has already something of the contingent and the conventional. But, admitting that the choice is hinted at, if not prescribed, by experience, the law remains none the less a relation, and a relation is essentially a comparison; it has objective reality only for an intelligence that represents to itself several terms at the same time. This intelligence may be neither mine nor yours: a science which bears on laws may therefore be an objective science, which experience contains in advance and which we simply make it disgorge; but it is none the less true that a comparison of some kind must be effected here, impersonally if not by any one in particular, and that an experience made of laws, that is, of terms related to other terms, is an experience made of comparisons, which, before we receive it, has already had to pass through an atmosphere of intellectuality. The idea of a science and of an experience entirely relative to the
(230) human understanding was therefore implicitly contained in the conception of a science one and integral, composed of laws: Kant only brought it to light. But this conception is the result of an arbitrary confusion between the generality of laws and that of genera. Though an intelligence be necessary to condition terms by relation to each other, we may conceive that in certain cases the terms themselves may exist independently. And if, beside relations of term to term, experience also presents to us independent terms, the living genera being something quite different from systems of laws, one half, at least, of our knowledge bears on the " thing-in-itself," the very reality. This knowledge may be very difficult, just because it no longer builds up its own object and is obliged, on the contrary, to submit to it; but, however little it cuts into its object, it is into the absolute itself that it bites. We may go further: the other half of knowledge is no longer so radically, so definitely relative as certain philosophers say, if we can establish that it bears on a reality of inverse order, a reality which we always express in mathematical laws, that is to say in relations that imply comparisons, but which lends itself to this work only because it is weighted with spatiality and consequently with geometry. Be that as it may, it is the confusion of two kinds of order that lies behind the relativism of the modems, as it lay behind the dogmatism of the ancients.
We have said enough to mark the origin of this confusion. It is due to the fact that the "vital" order, which is essentially creation, is manifested to us less in its essence than in some of its accidents, those which imitate the physical and geometrical order; like it, they present to us repetitions that make generalization possible, and in that we have all that interests us. There is no doubt that life as a whole is an evolution, that is, an unceasing
(231) transformation. But life can progress only by means of the living, which are its depositaries. Innumerable living beings, almost alike, have to repeat each other in space and in time for the novelty they are working out to grow and mature. it is like a book that advances towards a new edition by going through thousands of reprints with thousands of copies. There is, however, this difference between the two cases, that the successive impressions are identical, as well as the simultaneous copies of the same impression, whereas representatives Of one and the same species are never entirely the same, either in different points of space or at different moments of time. Heredity does not only transmit characters; it transmits also the, impetus in virtue of which the characters are modified, and this impetus is vitality itself. That is why we say that the repetition which serves as the base of our generalizations is essential in the physical order, accidental in the vital order. The physical order is " automatic;" the vital order is, I will not say voluntary, but analogous to the order "willed."
Now, as soon as we have clearly distinguished between the order that is "willed" and the order that is ,,automatic," the ambiguity that underlies the idea of disorder is dissipated, a-ad, with it, one of the principal difficulties of the problem of knowledge.
The main problem of the theory of knowledge is to know how science is possible, that is to say, in effect, why there is order and not disorder in things. That order exists is a fact. But, on the other hand, disorder, which appears to us to be less than order, is, it seems, of right. The existence of order is then a mystery to be cleared up, at any rate a problem to be solved. More simply, when we undertake to found order, we regard it as contingent, if not in things. at least as viewed by
(232) the mind: of a thing that we do not judge to be contingent we do not require an explanation. If order did not appear to us as a conquest over something, or as an addition to something (which something is thought to be the "absence of order"), ancient realism would not have spoken of a "matter" to which the Idea superadded. itself, nor would modern idealism have supposed a "sensuous manifold" that the understanding organizes into nature. Now, it is unquestionable that all order is contingent, and conceived as such. But contingent in relation to what.?
The reply, to our thinking, is not doubtful. An order is contingent, and seems so, in relation to the inverse order, as verse is contingent in relation to prose and prose in relation to verse. But, just as all speech which is not prose is verse and necessarily conceived as verse, just as all speech which is not verse is prose and necessarily conceived as prose, so any state of things that is not one of the two orders is the other and is necessarily conceived as the other. But it may happen that we do not realize what we are actually thinking of, and perceive the idea really present to our mind only through a mist of affective states. Any one can be convinced of this by considering the use we make of the idea of disorder in daily life. When I enter a room and pronounce it to be "in disorder," what do I mean? The position of each object is explained by the automatic movements of the person who has slept in the room, or by the efficient causes, whatever they may be, that have caused each article of furniture, clothing, etc., to be where it is: the order, in the second sense of the word, is. perfect. But it is order of the first kind that I am expecting, the order that a methodical person consciously puts into his life, the willed order and not the automatic: so I call the absence of this order "disorder." At bottom, all there is that is real, perceived and even
(233) conceived, in this absence of one of the two kinds of order , is the presence of the other. But the second is indifferent to me, I am interested only in the first, and I express the presence of the second as a function of the first, instead of expressing it, so to speak, as a function of itself, by saying it is disorder. Inversely, when we affirm that we are imagining a chaos, that is to say a state of things in which the physical world no longer obeys laws, what are we thinking of? We imagine facts that appear and disappear capriciously. First we think of the physical universe as we know it, with effects and causes well proportioned to each other; then, by a series of arbitrary decrees, we augment, diminish, suppress, so as to obtain what we call disorder. In reality we have substituted will for the mechanism of nature; we have replaced the "automatic order" by a multitude of elementary wills, just to the extent that we imagine the apparition or vanishing of phenomena. No doubt, for all these little wills to constitute a "willed order," they must have accepted the direction of a higher will. But, on looking closely at them, we see that that is just what they do: our own will is there, which objectifies itself in each of these capricious wills in turn, and takes good care not to connect the same with the same, nor to permit the effect to be proportional to the cause--in fact makes one simple intention hover over the whole of the elementary volitions. Thus, here again, the absence of one of the two orders consists in the presence of the other. In analyzing the idea of chance, which is closely akin to the idea of disorder, we find the same elements. When the wholly mechanical play of the causes which stop the wheel on a number makes me win, and consequently acts like a good genius, careful of my interests, or when the wholly mechanical force of the wind tears a tile off the roof and throws it on to my head, that is to say acts like
(234) a bad genius, conspiring against my person: in both cases I find a mechanism where I should have looked for, where, indeed, it seems as if I ought to have found, an intention. That is what I express in speaking of chance. And of an anarchical world, in which phenomena succeed each other capriciously, I should say again that it is a realm of chance, meaning that I find before me wills, or rather decrees, when what I am expecting is mechanism. Thus is explained the singular vacillation of the mind when it tries to define chance. Neither efficient cause nor final cause can furnish the definition sought. The mind swings to and fro, unable to rest, between the idea of an absence of final cause and that of an absence of efficient cause, each of these definitions sending it back to the other. The problem remains insoluble, in fact, so long as the idea of chance is regarded as a pure idea, without mixture of feeling. But, in reality, chance merely objectifies the state of mind of one who, expecting one of the two kinds of order, finds himself confronted with the other. Chance and disorder are therefore necessarily conceived as relative. So if we wish to represent them to ourselves as absolute, we perceive that we are going to and fro like a shuttle between the two kinds of order, passing into the one just at the moment at which we might catch ourself in the other, and that the supposed absence of all order is really the presence of both, with, besides, the swaying of a mind that cannot rest finally in either. Neither in things nor in our idea of things can there be any question of presenting this disorder as the substratum of order, since it implies the two kinds of order and is made of their combination.
But our intelligence is not stopped by this. By a simple sic jubeo it posits a disorder which is an "absence of order." In so doing it thinks a word or a set of words,
(235) nothing more. If it seeks to attach an idea to the word, it finds that disorder may indeed be the negation of order, but that this negation is then the implicit affirmation of the presence of the opposite order, which we shut our eyes to because it does not interest us, or which we evade by denying the second order in its turn-that is, at bottom, by re-establishing the first. How can we speak, then, of an incoherent diversity which an understanding organizes? It is no use for us to say that no one supposes this incoherence to be realized or realizable: when we speak of it, we believe we are thinking of it; now, in analyzing the idea actually present, we find, as we said before, only the disappointment of the mind confronted with an order that does not interest it, or a swaying of the mind between two kinds of order, or, finally, the idea pure and simple of the empty word that we have created by joining a negative prefix to a word which itself signifies something. But it is this analysis that we neglect to make.
We omit it, precisely because it does not occur to us to distinguish two kinds of order that are irreducible to one another. We said, indeed, that all order necessarily appears as contingent. If there are two kinds of order, this contingency of order is explained: one of the forms is contingent in relation to the other. Where I find the geometrical order, the vital was possible; where the order is vital, it might have been geometrical. But suppose that the order is everywhere of the same kind, and simply admits of degrees which go from the geometrical to the vital: if a determinate order still appears to me to be contingent, and can no longer be so by relation to an order of another kind, I shall necessarily believe that the order is contingent by relation to an absence of itself, that is to say by relation to a state of things " in which there is no order at all."
(236) And this state of things I shall believe that I am thinking of, because it is implied, it seems, in the very contingency of order, which is an unquestionable fact. I shall therefore place at the summit of the hierarchy the 'vital order; then, as a diminution or lower complication of it, the geometrical order; and finally, at the bottom of all, an absence of order, incoherence itself, on which order is superposed. This is why incoherence has the effect on me of a word behind which there must be something real, if not in things, at least in thought. But if I observe that the state of things implied by the contingency of a determinate order is simply the presence of the contrary order, and if by this very fact I posit two kinds of order, each the inverse of the other, I perceive that no intermediate degrees can be imagined between the two orders, and that there is no going down from the two orders to the "incoherent." Either the incoherent is only a word, devoid of meaning, or, if I give it a meaning, it is on condition of putting incoherence midway between the two orders, and not below both of them. There is not first the incoherent, then the geometrical, then the vital; there is only the geometrical and the vital, and then, by a swaying of the mind between them, the idea of the incoherent. To speak of an uncoordinated diversity to which order is superadded is therefore to commit a veritable petitio principii; for in imagining the uncoordinated we really posit an order, or rather two.
This long analysis was necessary to show how the real can pass from tension to extension and from freedom to mechanical necessity by way of inversion. It was not enough to prove that this relation between the two terms is suggested to us, at once, by consciousness and by sensible experience. It was necessary to prove that the geometrical
(237) order has no need of explanation, being purely and simply the suppression of the inverse order. And, for that, it was indispensable to prove that suppression is always a substitution and is even necessarily conceived as such: it is the requirements of practical life alone that suggest to us here a way of speaking that deceives us both as to what happens in things and as to what is present to our thought. We must now examine more closely the inversion whose consequences we have just described. What, then, is the principle that has only to let go its tension-may we say to detend-in order to extend, the interruption of the cause here being equivalent to a reversal of the effect?
For want of a better word we have called it consciousness. But we do not mean the narrowed consciousness that functions in each of us. Our own consciousness is the consciousness of a certain living being, placed in a certain point of space; and though it does indeed move in the same direction as its principle, it is continually drawn the opposite way, obliged, though it goes forward, to look behind. This retrospective vision is, as we have shown, the natural function of the intellect, and consequently of distinct consciousness. In order that our consciousness shall coincide with something of its principle, it must detach itself from the already-made and attach itself to the being-made. It needs that, turning back on itself and twisting on itself, the faculty of seeing should be made to be one with the act of willing -- a painful effort which we can make suddenly, doing violence to our nature, but cannot sustain more than a few moments. In free action, when we contract our whole being in order to thrust it forward, we have the more or less clear consciousness of motives and of impelling forces, and even, at rare moments, of the becoming by which they are organized into
(238) an act: but the pure willing, the current that runs through this matter, communicating life to it, is a thing which we hardly feel, which at most we brush lightly as it passes. Let us try, however, to instal ourselves within it, if only for a moment; even then it is an individual and fragmentary will that we grasp. To get to the principle of all life, as also of all materiality, we must go further still. Is it impossible? No, by no means; the history of philosophy is there to bear witness. There is no durable system that is not, at least in some of its parts, vivified by intuition. Dialectic is necessary to put intuition to the proof, necessary also in order that intuition should break itself up into concepts and so be propagated to other men; but all it does, often enough, is to develop the result of that intuition which transcends it. The truth is, the two procedures are of opposite direction: the same effort, by which ideas are connected with ideas, causes the intuition which the ideas were storing up to vanish. The philosopher is obliged to abandon intuition, once he has received from it the impetus, and to rely on himself to carry on the movement by pushing the concepts one after another. But he soon feels he has lost foothold; he must come into touch with intuition again; he must undo most of what he has done. In short, dialectic is what ensures the agreement of our thought with itself. But by dialectic-- which is only a relaxation of intuition-many different agreements are possible, while there is only one truth. Intuition, if it could be prolonged beyond a few instants, would not only make the philosopher agree with his own thought, but also all philosophers with each other. Such as it is, fugitive and incomplete, it is, in each system, what is worth more than the system and survives it. The object of philosophy would be reached if this intuition could be sustained, generalized
(239) and, above all, assured of external points of reference in order not to go astray. To that end a continual coming and going is necessary between nature and mind.
When we put back our being into our will, and our will itself into the impulsion it prolongs, we understand, we feel, that reality is a perpetual growth, a creation pursued without end. Our will already performs this miracle. Every human work in which there is invention, every voluntary act in which there is freedom, every movement of an organism that manifests spontaneity, brings something new into the world. True, these are only creations of form. How could they be anything else? We are not the vital current itself; we are this current already loaded with matter, that is, with congealed parts of its own substance which it carries along its course. In the composition of a work of genius, as in a simple free decision, we do, indeed, stretch the spring of our activity to the utmost and thus create what no mere assemblage of materials could have given (what assemblage of curves already known can ever be equivalent to the pencil-stroke of a great artist?) but there are, none the less, elements here that pre-exist and survive their organization. But if a simple arrest of the action that generates form could constitute matter (are not the original lines drawn by the artist themselves already the fixation and, as it were, congealment of a movement?), a creation of matter would be neither incomprehensible nor inadmissible. For we seize from within, we live at every instant, a creation of form, and it is just in those cases in which the form is pure, and in which the creative current is momentarily interrupted, that there is a creation of matter. Consider the letters of the alphabet that enter into the composition of everything that has ever been written: we do not conceive that new letters spring up
(240) and come to join themselves to the others in order to make a new poem. But that the poet creates the poem and that human thought is thereby made richer, we understand very well: this creation is a simple act of the mind, and action has only to make a pause, instead of continuing into a new creation, in order that, of itself, it may break up into words which dissociate themselves into letters which are added to all the letters there are already in the world. Thus, that the number of atoms composing the material universe at a given moment should increase runs counter to our habits of mind, contradicts the whole of our experience; but that a reality of quite another order, which contrasts with the atom as the thought of the poet with the letters of the alphabet, should increase by sudden additions, is not inadmissible; and the reverse of each addition might indeed be a world, which we then represent to ourselves, symbolically, as an assemblage of atoms.
The mystery that spreads over the existence of the universe comes in great part from this, that we want the genesis of it to have been accomplished at one stroke or the whole of matter to be eternal. Whether we speak of creation or posit an uncreated matter, it is the totality of the universe that we are considering at once. At the root of this habit of mind lies the prejudice which we will analyze in our next chapter, the idea, common to materialists and to their opponents, that there is no really acting duration, and that the absolute-matter or mind can have no place in concrete time, in the time which we feel to be the very stuff of our life. From which it follows that everything is given is given once for all, and that it is necessary to posit from all eternity either material multiplicity itself, or the act creating this multiplicity, given in block in the divine essence. Once this prejudice is eradicated, the idea of creation becomes more clear, for it is merged
(241) in that of growth. But it is no longer then of the universe in its totality that we must speak.
Why should we speak of it? The universe is an assemblage of solar systems which we have every reason to believe analogous to our own. No doubt they are not absolutely independent of one another. Our sun radiates heat and light beyond the farthest planet, and, on the other hand, our entire solar system is moving in a definite direction as if it were drawn. There is, then, a bond between the worlds. But this bond may be regarded as infinitely loose in comparison with the mutual dependence which unites the parts of the same world among themselves; so that it is not artificially, for reasons of mere convenience, that we isolate our solar system: nature itself invites us to isolate it. As living beings, we depend on the planet on which we are, and on the sun that provides for it, but on nothing else. As thinking beings, we may apply the laws of our physics to our own world, and extend them to each of the worlds taken separately; but nothing tells us that they apply to the entire universe, nor even that such an affirmation has any meaning; for the universe is not made, but is being made continually. It is growing, perhaps indefinitely, by the addition of new worlds.
Let us extend, then, to the whole of our solar system the two most general laws of our science, the principle of conservation of energy and that of its degradationlimiting them, however, to this relatively closed system and to other systems relatively closed. Let us see what will follow. We must remark, first of all, that these two principles have not the same metaphysical scope. The first is a quantitative law, and consequently relative, in part, to our methods of measurement. It says that, in a system presumed to be closed, the total energy, that
(242) is to say the sum of its kinetic and potential energy, reenergy mains constant. Now, if there were only kinetic energy in the world, or even if there were, besides kinetic energy, only one single kind of potential energy, but no more, the artifice of measurement would not make the law artificial. The law of the conservation of energy would express indeed that something is preserved in constant quantity. But there are, in fact, energies of various kinds, and the measurement of each of them has evidently been so chosen as to justify the principle of conservation of energy. Convention, therefore, plays a large part in this principle, although there is undoubtedly, between the variations of the different energies composing one and the same system, a mutual dependence which is just what has made the extension of the principle possible by measurements suitably chosen. If, therefore, the philosopher applies this principle to the solar system complete, he must at least soften its outlines. The law of the conservation of energy cannot here express the objective permanence of a certain quantity of a certain thing, but rather the necessity for every change that is brought about to be counterbalanced in some way by a change in an opposite direction. That is to say, even if it governs the whole of our solar system, the law of the conservation of energy is concerned with the relationship of a fragment of this world to another fragment rather than with the nature of the whole.
It is otherwise with the second principle of thermodynamics. The law of the degradation of energy does not bear essentially on magnitudes. No doubt the first idea of it arose, in the thought of Carnot, out of certain quantitative considerations on the yield of thermic
(243) machines. Unquestionably, too, the terms in which Clausius generalized it were mathematical, and a calculable magnitude, "entropy," was, in fact, the final conception to which he was led. Such precision is necessary for practical applications. But the law might have been vaguely conceived, and, if absolutely necessary, it might have been roughly formulated, even though no one had ever thought of measuring the different energies of the physical world, even though the concept of energy had not been created. Essentially, it expresses the fact that all physical changes have a tendency to be degraded into heat, and that heat tends to be distributed among bodies in a uniform manner. In this less precise form, it becomes independent of any convention; it is the most metaphysical of the laws of physics since it points out without interposed symbols, without artificial devices of measurements, the direction in which the world is going. It tells us that changes that are visible and heterogeneous will be more and more diluted into changes that are invisible and homogeneous, and that the instability to which we owe the richness and variety of the changes taking place in our solar system will gradually give way to the relative stability of elementary vibrations continually and perpetually repeated. Just so with a man who keeps up his strength as he grows old, but spends it less and less in actions, and comes, in the end, to employ it entirely in making his lungs breathe and his heart beat.
From this point of view, a world like our solar system is seen to be ever exhausting something of the mutability it contains. In the beginning, it had the maximum of possible utilization of energy: this mutability has gone on diminishing unceasingly. Whence does it come? We might at first suppose that it has come from some other point of space, but the difficulty is only set back, and for
(244) this external source of mutability the same question springs up. True, it might be added that the number of worlds capable of passing mutability to each other is unlimited, that the sum of mutability contained in the universe is infinite, that there is therefore no ground on which to seek its origin or to foresee its end. A hypothesis of this kind is as irrefutable as it is indemonstrable; but to speak of an infinite universe is to admit a perfect coincidence of matter with abstract space, and consequently an absolute externality of all the parts of matter in relation to one another. We have seen above what we must think of this theory, and how difficult it is to reconcile with the idea of a reciprocal influence of all the parts of matter on one another, an influence to which indeed it itself makes appeal. Again it might be supposed that the general instability has arisen from a general state of stability; that the period in which we now are, and in which the utilizable energy is diminishing, has been preceded by a period in which the mutability was increasing, and that the alternations of increase and diminution succeed each other for ever. This hypothesis is theoretically conceivable, as has been demonstrated quite recently; but, according to the calculations of Boltzmann, the mathematical improbability of it passes all imagination and practically amounts to absolute impossibility. In reality, the problem remains insoluble as long as we keep on the ground of physics, for the physicist is obliged to attach energy to extended particles, and, even if he regards the particles only as reservoirs of energy, he remains in space: he would belie his role if he sought the origin of these energies in an extraspatial process. It is there, however, in our opinion, that it must be sought.
Is it extension in general that we are considering in
(245) abstracto? Extension, we said, appears only as a tension which is interrupted. Or, are we considering the concrete reality that fills this extension? The order which reigns there, and which is manifested by the laws of nature, is an order which must be born of itself when the inverse order is* suppressed; a detension of the will would produce precisely this suppression. Lastly, we find that the direction, which this reality takes, suggests to us the idea of a thing unmaking itself; such, no doubt, is one of the essential characters of materiality. What conclusion are we to draw from all this, if not that the process by which this thing makes itself is directed in a contrary way to that of physical processes, and that it is therefore, by its very definition, immaterial? The vision we have of the material world is that of a weight which falls: no image drawn from matter, properly so called, will ever give us the idea of the weight rising. But this conclusion will come home to us with still greater force if we press nearer to the concrete reality, and if we consider, no longer only matter in general, but, within this matter, living bodies.
All our analyses show us, in life, an effort to re-mount the incline that matter descends. In that, they reveal to us the possibility, the necessity even of a process the inverse of materiality, creative of matter by its interruption alone. The life that evolves on the surface of our planet is indeed attached to matter. If it were pure consciousness, a fortiori if it were supraconsciousness, it would be pure creative activity. In fact, it is riveted to an organism that subjects it to the general laws of inert matter. But everything happens as if it were doing its utmost to set itself free from these laws. It has not the power to reverse the direction of physical changes, such as the principle of Carnot determines it. It does, however, behave absolutely as a force would
(246) behave which, left to itself, would work in the inverse direction. Incapable of stopping the course of material changes downwards, it succeeds in retarding it. The evolution of life really continues, as we have shown, an initial impulsion: this impulsion, which has determined the development of the chlorophyllian function in the plant and of the sensori-motor system in the animal, brings life to more and more efficient acts by the fabrication and use of more and more powerful explosives. Now, what do these explosives represent if not a storingup of the solar energy, the degradation of which energy is thus provisionally suspended on some of the points where it was being poured forth? The usable energy which the explosive conceals will be expended, of course, at the moment of the explosion; but it would have been expended sooner if an organism had not happened to be there to arrest its dissipation, in order to retain it and save it up. As we see it to-day, at the point to which it was brought by a scission of the mutually complementary tendencies which it contained within itself, life is entirely dependent on the chlorophyllian function of the plant. This means that, looked at in its initial impulsion, before any scission, life was a tendency to accumulate in a reservoir, as do especially the green parts of vegetables, with a view to an instantaneous effective discharge, like that which an animal brings about, something that would have otherwise flowed away. It is like an effort to raise the weight which falls. True, it succeeds only in retarding the fall. But at least it can give us an idea of what the raising of the weight was.
Let us imagine a vessel full of steam at a high pressure, and here and there in its sides a crack through which the steam is escaping in a jet. The steam thrown into the air is nearly all condensed into little drops which fall back, and this condensation and this fall represent simply the loss of something, an interruption, a deficit. But a small part of the jet of steam subsists, uncondensed, for some seconds; it is making an effort to raise the drops which are falling; it succeeds at most in retarding their fall. So, from an immense reservoir of life, jets must be gushing out unceasingly, of which each, falling back, is a world. The evolution of living species within this world represents what subsists of the primitive direction of the original jet, and of an impulsion which continues itself in a direction the inverse of materiality. But let us not carry too far this comparison. It gives us but a feeble and even deceptive image of reality, for the crack, the jet of steam, the forming of the drops, are determined necessarily, whereas the creation of a world is a free act, and the life within the material world participates in this liberty. Let us think rather of an action like that of raising the arm; then let us suppose that the arm, left to itself, falls back, and yet that there subsists in it, striving to raise it up again, something of the will that animates it. In this image of a creative action which unmakes itself we have already a more exact re-
(248) -presentation of matter. In vital activity we see, then, that which subsists of the direct movement in the inverted movement, a reality which is making itself in a reality which is unmaking itself.
Everything is obscure in the idea of creation if we think of things which are created and a thing which creates, as we habitually do, as the understanding cannot help doing. We shall show the origin of this illusion in our next chapter. It is natural to our intellect, whose function is essentially practical, made to present to us things and states rather than changes and acts. But things and states are only views, taken by our mind, of becoming. There are no things, there are only actions. More particularly, if I consider the world in which we live' I find that the automatic and strictly determined evolution of this well-knit whole is action which is unmaking itself, and that the unforeseen forms which life cuts out in it, forms capable of being themselves prolonged into unforeseen movements, represent the action that is making. itself. Now, I have every reason to believe that the other worlds are analogous to ours, that things happen there in the same way. And I know they were not all constructed at the same time, since observation shows me, even to-day, nebulae in course of concentration. Now, if the same kind of action is going on everywhere, whether it is that which is unmaking itself or whether it is that which is striving to remake itself, I simply express this probable similitude when I speak of a centre from which worlds shoot out like rockets in a fire-works display-provided, however, that I do not present this centre as a thing, but as a continuity of shooting out. God thus defined, has nothing of the already made; He is unceasing life, action, freedom. Creation, so conceived, is not a mystery; we experience it in ourselves when we act freely. That new things can join
(249) things already existing is absurd, no doubt, since the thing results from a solidification performed by our understanding, and there are never any things other than those that the understanding has thus constituted. To speak of things creating themselves would therefore amount to saying that the understanding presents to itself more than it presents to itself-a self-contradictory affirmation, an empty and vain idea. But that action increases as it goes on, that it creates in the measure of its advance, is what each of us finds when he watches himself act. Things are constituted by the instantaneous cut which the understanding practices, at a given moment, on a flux of this kind, and what is mysterious when we compare the cuts together becomes clear when we relate them to the flux. Indeed, the modalities of creative action, in so far as it is still going on in the organization of living forms, are much simplified when they are taken in this way. Before the complexity of an organism and the practically infinite multitude of interwoven analyses and syntheses it presupposes, our understanding recoils disconcerted. That the simple play of physical and chemical forces, left to themselves, should have worked this marvel, we find hard to believe. And if it is a profound science which is at work, how are we to understand the influence exercised on this matter without form by this form without matter? But the difficulty arises from this, that we represent statically ready-made material particles juxtaposed to one another, and, also statically, an external cause which plasters upon them a skilfully contrived organization. In reality, life is a movement materiality is the inverse movement, and each of these two movements is simple, the matter which forms a world being an undivided flux, and undivided also the life that runs through it, cutting out in it living beings all along its track. Of
(250) these two currents the second runs counter to the first, but the first obtains, all the same, something from the second. There results between them a modus vivendi, which is organization. This organization takes, for our senses and for our intellect, the form of parts entirely external to other parts in space and in time. Not only do we shut our eyes to the unity of the impulse which, passing through generations, links individuals with individuals, species with species, and makes of the whole series of the living one single immense wave flowing over matter, but each individual itself seems to us as an aggregate, aggregate of molecules and aggregate of facts. The reason of this lies in the structure of our intellect, which is formed to act on matter from without, and which succeeds by making, in the flux of the real, instantaneous cuts, each of which becomes, in its fixity, endlessly decomposable. Perceiving, in an organism, only parts external to parts, the understanding has the choice between two systems of explanation only: either to regard the infinitely complex (and thereby infinitely well-contrived) organization as a fortuitous concatenation of atoms, or to relate it to the incomprehensible influence of an external force that has grouped its elements together. But this complexity is the work of the understanding; this incomprehensibility is also its work. Let us try to see, no longer with the eyes of the intellect alone, which grasps only the already made and which looks from the outside, but with the spirit, I mean with that faculty of seeing which is immanent in the faculty of acting and which springs up, somehow, by the twisting of the will on itself, when action is turned into knowledge, like heat, so to say, into light. To movement, then, everything will be restored, and into movement everything will be resolved. Where the un-
(251) -derstanding, working on the image supposed to be fixed of the progressing action, shows us parts infinitely manifold and an order infinitely well contrived, we catch a glimpse of a simple process, an action which is making itself across an action of the same kind which is unmaking itself, like the fiery path torn by the last rocket of a fireworks display through the black cinders of the spent rockets that are falling dead.
From this point of view , the general considerations we have presented concerning the evolution of life will be cleared up and completed. We will distinguish more sharply what is accidental from what is essential in this evolution.
The impetus of life, of which we are speaking, consists in a need of creation. It cannot create absolutely, because it is confronted with matter, that is to say with the movement that is the inverse of its own. But it seizes upon this matter, which is necessity itself, and strives to introduce into it the largest possible amount of indetermination and liberty. How does it go to work?
An animal high in the scale may be represented in a general way, we said, as a sensori-motor nervous system imposed on digestive, respiratory, circulatory systems, etc. The function of these latter is to cleanse, repair and protect the nervous system, to make it as independent as possible of external circumstances, but, above all, to furnish it with energy to be expended in movements. The increasing complexity of the organism is therefore due theoretically (in spite of innumerable exceptions due to accidents of evolution) to the necessity of complexity in the nervous system. No doubt, each complication of any part of the organism involves many others in addition, because this part itself must live, and every change
(252) in one point of the body reverberates, as it were, throughout. The complication may therefore go on to infinity in all directions; but it is the complication of the nervous system which conditions the others in right, if not always in fact. Now, in what does the progress of the nervous system itself consist? In a simultaneous development of automatic activity and of voluntary activity, the first furnishing the second with an appropriate instrument. Thus, in an organism such as ours, a considerable number of motor mechanisms are set up in the medulla and in the spinal cord, awaiting only a signal to release the corresponding act: the will is employed, in some cases, in setting up the mechanism itself, and in the others in choosing the mechanisms to be released, the manner of combining them and the moment of releasing them. The will of an animal is the more effective and the more intense, the greater the number of the mechanisms it can choose from, the more complicated the switchboard on which all the motor paths cross, or, in other words the more developed its brain. Thus, the progress of the nervous system assures to the act increasing precision, increasing variety, increasing efficiency and independence. The organism behaves more and more like a machine for action, which reconstructs itself entirely for every new act, as if it were made of india-rubber and could, at any moment, change the shape of all its parts. But, prior to the nervous system, prior even to the organism properly so called, already in the undifferentiated mass of the amoeba, this essential property of animal life is found. The amoeba deforms itself in varying directions; its entire mass does what the differentiation of parts will localize in a sensorimotor system in the developed animal. Doing it only in a rudimentary manner, it is dispensed from the complexity of the higher organisms; there is no need here of
(253) the auxiliary elements that pass on to motor elements the energy to expend; the animal moves as a whole, and, as a whole also, procures energy by means of the organic substances it assimilates. Thus, whether low or high in the animal scale, we always find that animal life consists (1) in procuring a provision of energy; (2) in expending it, by means of a matter as supple as possible, in directions variable and unforeseen.
Now, whence comes the energy? From the ingested food, for food is a kind of explosive, which needs only the spark to discharge the energy it stores. Who has made this explosive? The food may be the flesh of an animal nourished on animals and so on; but, in the end it is to the vegetable we always come back. Vegetables alone gather in the solar energy, and the animals do but borrow it from them, either directly or by some passing it on to others. How then has the plant stored up this energy? Chiefly by the chlorophyllian function, a chemicism sui generis of which we do not possess the key, and which is probably unlike that of our laboratories. The process consists in using solar energy to fix the carbon of carbonic acid, and thereby to store this energy as we should store that of a water-carrier by employing him to fill an elevated reservoir: the water, once brought up, can set in motion a mill or a turbine, as we will and when we will. Each atom of carbon fixed represents something like the elevation of the weight of water, or like the stretching of an elastic thread uniting the carbon to the oxygen in the carbonic acid. The elastic is relaxed, the weight falls back again in short the energy held in reserve is restored, when, by a simple release, the carbon is permitted to rejoin its oxygen.
So that all life, animal and vegetable, seems in its essence like an effort to accumulate energy and then to let it
(254) flow into flexible channels, changeable in shape, at the end of which it will accomplish infinitely -varied kinds of work. That is what the vital impetus, passing through matter, would fain do all at once. It would succeed, no doubt, if its power were unlimited, or if some reinforcement could come to it from without. But the impetus is finite, and it has been given once for all. It cannot overcome all obstacles. The movement it starts is sometimes turned aside, sometimes divided, always opposed; and the evolution of the organized world is the unrolling of this conflict. The first great scission that had to be effected was that of the two kingdoms, vegetable and animal, which thus happen to be mutually complementary, without, however, any agreement having been made between them. It is not for the animal that the plant accumulates energy, it is for its own consumption; but its expenditure on itself is less discontinuous, and less concentrated, and therefore less efficacious, than was required by the initial impetus of life, essentially directed toward free actions: the same organism could not with equal force sustain the two functions at once, of gradual storage and sudden use. Of themselves, therefore, and without any external intervention, simply by the effect of the duality of the tendency involved in the original impetus and of the resistance opposed by matter to this impetus, the organisms leaned some in the first direction, others in the second. To this scission there succeeded many others. Hence the diverging lines of evolution, at least what is essential in them. But we must take into account retrogressions, arrests, accidents of every kind. And we must remember, above all, that each species behaves as if the general movement of life stopped at it instead of passing through it. It thinks only of itself, it lives only for itself. Hence the numberless struggles
(255) that we behold in nature. Hence a discord, striking and terrible, but for which the original principle of life must not be held responsible.
The part played by contingency in evolution is therefore great. Contingent, generally, are the forms adopted, or rather invented. Contingent, relative to the obstacles encountered in a given place and at a given moment, is the dissociation of the primordial tendency into such and such complementary tendencies which create divergent lines of evolution. Contingent the arrests and set-backs; contingent, in large measure, the adaptations. Two things only are necessary: (1) a gradual accumulation of energy; (2) an elastic canalization of this energy in variable and indeterminable directions, at the end of which are free acts.
This twofold result has been obtained in a particular way on our planet. But it might have been obtained by entirely different means. It was not necessary that life should fix its choice mainly upon the carbon of carbonic acid. What was essential for it was to store solar energy; but, instead of asking the sun to separate, for instance, atoms of oxygen and carbon, it might (theoretically at least, and, apart from practical difficulties possibly insurmountable) have put forth other chemical elements, which would then have had to be associated or dissociated by entirely different physical means. And if the element characteristic of the substances that supply energy to the organism had been other than carbon, the element characteristic of the plastic substances would probably have been other than nitrogen, and the chemistry of living bodies would then have been radically different from what it is. The result would have been living forms without any analogy to those we know, whose anatomy would have been different, whose physiology also would have been
(256) different. Alone, the sensori-motor function would have been preserved, if not in its mechanism, at least in its effects. It is therefore probable that life goes on in other planets, in other solar systems also, under forms of which we have no idea, in physical conditions to which it seems to us, from the point of view of our physiology, to be absolutely opposed. If its essential aim is to catch up usable energy in order to expend it in explosive actions , it probably chooses, in each solar system and on each planet, as it does on the earth, the fittest means to get this result in the circumstances with which it is confronted. That is at least what reasoning by analogy leads to, and we use analogy the wrong way when we declare life to be impossible wherever the circumstances with which it is confronted are other than those on the earth. The truth is that life is possible wherever energy descends the incline indicated by Carnot's law and where a cause of inverse direction can retard the descent-that is to say, probably, in all the worlds suspended from all the stars. We go further: it is not even necessary that life should be concentrated and determined in organisms properly so called, that is, in definite bodies presenting to the flow of energy ready-made though elastic canals. It can be conceived (although it can hardly be imagined) that energy might be saved up, and then expended on varying lines running across a matter not yet solidified. Every essential of life would still be there, since there would still be slow accumulation of energy and sudden release. There would hardly be more difference between this vitality, vague and formless, and the definite vitality we know, than there is, in our psychical life, between the state of dream and the state of waking. Such may have been the condition of life in our nebula before the condensation of matter was complete, if it be true that life springs forward
(257) at the very moment when, as the effect of an inverse movement: the nebular matter appears.
It is therefore conceivable that life might have assumed a totally different outward appearance and designed forms very different from those we know. With another chemical substratum, in other physical conditions, the impulsion would have remained the same, but it would have split up very differently in course of progress; and the whole would have traveled another road-whether shorter or longer who can tell? In any case, in the entire series of living beings no term would have been what it now is. Now, was it necessary that there should be a series, or terms? Why should not the unique impetus have been impressed on a unique body, which might have gone on evolving?
This question arises, no doubt, from the comparison of life to an impetus. And it must be compared to an impetus, because no image borrowed from the physical world can give more nearly the idea of it. But it is only an image. In reality, life is of the psychological order, and it is of the essence of the psychical to enfold a confused plurality of interpenetrating terms. In space, and in space only, is distinct multiplicity possible: a point is absolutely external to another point. But pure and empty unity, also, is met with only in space; it is that of a mathematical point. Abstract unity and abstract multiplicity are determinations of space or categories of the understanding, whichever we will, spatiality and intellectuality being molded on each other. But what is of psychical nature. cannot entirely correspond with space, nor enter perfectly into the categories of the understanding. Is my own person, at a given moment, one or manifold? If I declare it one, inner voices arise and protest-those of the sensations, feelings, ideas, among which my in-
(258) -dividuality is distributed. But, if I make it distinctly manifold, my consciousness rebels quite as strongly; it affirms that my sensations, my feelings, my thoughts are abstractions which I effect on myself, and that each of my states implies all the others. I am then (we must adopt the language of the understanding, since only the understanding has a language) a unity that is multiple and a multiplicity that is one; but unity and multiplicity are only views of my personality taken by an understanding that directs its categories at me; I enter neither into one nor into the other nor into both at once, although both, united, may give a fair imitation of the mutual interpenetration and continuity that I find at the base of my own self. Such is my inner life, and such also is life in general. While, in its contact with matter, life is comparable to an impulsion or an impetus, regarded in itself it is an immensity of potentiality, a mutual encroachment of thousands and thousands of tendencies which nevertheless are "thousands and thousands" only when once regarded as outside of each other, that is, when spatialized. Contact with matter is what determines this dissociation. Matter divides actually what was but potentially manifold; and, in this sense, individuation is in part the work of matter, in part the result of life's own inclination. Thus, a poetic sentiment, which bursts into distinct verses, lines and words, may be said to have already contained this multiplicity of individuated elements, and yet, in fact, it is the materiality of language that creates it.
But through the words lines and verses runs the simple inspiration which is the whole poem. So, among the
(259) dissociated individuals, one life goes on moving: everywhere the tendency to individualize is opposed and at the same time completed by an antagonistic and complementary tendency to associate, as if the manifold unity of life, drawn in the direction of multiplicity, made so much the more effort to withdraw itself on to itself. A part is no sooner detached than it tends to reunite itself, if not to all the rest, at least to what is nearest to it. Hence, throughout the whole realm of life, a balancing between individuation and association. Individuals join together into a society; but the society, as soon as formed, tends to melt the associated individuals into a new organism, so as to become itself an individual, able in its 'turn to be part and parcel of a new association. At the lowest degree of the scale of organisms we already find veritable associations, microbial colonies, and in these associations, according to a recent work, a tendency to individuate by the constitution of a nucleus. The same tendency is met with again at a higher stage, in the protophytes, which, once having quitted the parent cell by way of division, remain united to each other by the gelatinous substance that surrounds them-also in those protozoa which begin by mingling their pseudopodia and end by welding themselves together. The " colonial" theory of the genesis of higher organisms is well known. The protozoa, consisting of one single cell, are supposed to have formed, by assemblage, aggregates which, relating themselves together in their turn, have given rise to aggregates of aggregates; so organisms more and more complicated, and also more and more differentiated, are born of the association of organisms barely differentiated and elementary. In this extreme form, the
(260) theory is open to grave objections: more and more the idea seems to be gaining ground, that polyzoism. is an exceptional and abnormal fact. But it is none the less true that things happen as if every higher organism was born of an association of cells that have subdivided the work between them. Very probably it is not the cells that have made the individual by means of association; it is rather the individual that has made the cells by means of dissociation. But this itself reveals to us, in the genesis of the individual, a haunting of the social form, as if the individual could develop only on the condition that its substance should be split up into elements having themselves an appearance of individuality and united among themselves by an appearance of sociality. There are numerous cases in which nature seems to hesitate between the two forms, and to ask herself if she shall make a society or an individual. The slightest push is enough, then, to make the balance weigh on one side or the other. If we take an infusorian sufficiently large, such as the Stentor, and cut it into two halves each containing a part of the nucleus each of the two halves will generate an independent Stentor; but if we divide it incompletely, so that a protoplasmic communication is left between the two halves, we shall see them execute, each from its side, corresponding movements: so that in this case it is enough that a thread should be maintained or cut in order that life should affect the social or the individual form. Thus, in rudimentary organisms consisting of a single cell, we already find that the apparent individuality of the whole
(261) is the composition of an undefined number of potential individualities potentially associated. But, from top to bottom of the series of living beings, the same law is manifested. And it is this that we express when we say that unity and multiplicity are categories of inert matter, that the vital impetus is neither pure unity nor pure multiplicity, and that if the matter to which it communicates itself compels it to choose one of the two, its choice will never be definitive: it will leap from one to the other indefinitely. The evolution of life in the double direction of individuality and association has therefore nothing accidental about it: it is due to the very nature of life.
Essential also is the progress to reflextion. If our analysis is correct, it is consciousness, or rather supra-consciousness, that is at the origin of life. Consciousness, or supraconsciousness, is the name for the rocket whose extinguished fragments fall back as matter; consciousness, again, is the name for that which subsists of the rocket itself, passing through the fragments and lighting them up into organisms. But this consciousness, which is a need of creation, is made manifest to itself only where creation is possible. It lies dormant when life is condemned to automatism; it wakens as soon as the possibility of a choice is restored. That is why, in organisms unprovided with a nervous system, it varies according to the power of locomotion and of deformation of which the organism disposes. And in animals with a nervous system, it is proportional to the complexity of the switchboard on which the paths called sensory and the paths Called motor intersect -that is, of the brain. How must this solidarity between the organism and consciousness be understood?
We will not dwell here on a point that we have dealt with in former works. Let us merely recall that a theory
(262) such as that according to which consciousness is attached to certain neurons, and is thrown off from their work like a phosphorescence, may be accepted by the scientist for the detail of analysis; it is a convenient mode of expression. But it is nothing else. In reality, a living being is a centre of action. It represents a certain sum of contingency entering into the world, that is to say, a certain quantity of possible action -- a quantity variable with individuals and especially with species. The nervous system of an animal marks out the flexible lines on which its action will run (although the potential energy is accumulated in the muscles rather than in the nervous system itself); its nervous centres indicate, by their development and their configuration, the more or less extended choice it will have among more or less numerous and complicated actions. Now, since the awakening of consciousness in a living creature is the more complete, the greater the latitude of choice allowed to it and the larger the amount of action bestowed upon it, it is clear that the development of consciousness will appear to be dependent on that of the nervous centres. On the other hand, every state of consciousness being, in one aspect of it, a question put to the motor activity and even the beginning of a reply, there is no psychical event that does not imply the entry into play of the cortical mechanisms. Everything seems, therefore, to happen as if consciousness sprang from the brain, and as if the detail of conscious activity were modeled on that of the cerebral activity. In reality, consciousness does not, spring from the brain; but brain and consciousness correspond because equally they measure, the one by the complexity of its structure and the other by the intensity of its awareness, the quantity of choice that the living being has at its disposal.
It is precisely because a cerebral state expresses simply
(263) what there is of nascent action in the corresponding psychical state, that the psychical state tells us more than the cerebral state. The consciousness of a living being, as we have tried to prove elsewhere, is inseparable from its brain in the sense in which a sharp knife is inseparable from its edge: the brain is the sharp edge by which consciousness cuts into the compact tissue of events, but the brain is no more coextensive with consciousness than the edge is with the knife. Thus, from the fact that two brains, like that of the ape and that of the man, are very much alike, we cannot conclude that the corresponding consciousnesses are comparable or commensurable.
But the two brains may perhaps be less alike than we suppose. How can we help being struck by the fact that, while man is capable of learning any sort of exercise' of constructing any sort of object, in short of acquiring any kind of motor habit whatsoever, the faculty of combining new movements is strictly limited in the best-endowed animal, even in the ape? The cerebral characteristic of man is there. The human brain is made, like every brain, to set up motor mechanisms and to enable us to choose among them, at any instant, the one we shall put in motion by the pull of a trigger. But it differs from other brains in this, that the number of mechanisms it can set up, and consequently the choice that it gives as to which among them shall be released, is unlimited. Now, from the limited to the unlimited there is all- the distance between the closed and the open. It is not a difference of degree, but of kind.
Radical therefore, also is the difference between animal consciousness, even the most intelligent, and human consciousness. For consciousness corresponds exactly to the living being's power of choice; it is co-extensive with the fringe of possible action that surrounds the real action:
(264) consciousness is synonymous with invention and with freedom. Now, in the animal, invention is never anything but a variation on the theme of routine. Shut up in the habits of the species, it succeeds, no doubt, in enlarging them by its individual initiative; but it escapes automatism only for an instant, for just the time to create a new automatism. The gates of its prison close as soon as they are opened; by pulling at its chain it succeeds only in stretching it. With man, consciousness breaks the chain. In man, and in man alone, it sets itself free. The whole history of life until man has been that of the effort of consciousness to raise matter, and of the more or less complete overwhelming of consciousness by the matter which has fallen back on it. The enterprise was paradoxical, if, indeed, we may speak here otherwise than by metaphor of enterprise and of effort. It was to create with matter, which is necessity itself, an instrument of freedom, to make a machine which should triumph over mechanism, and to use the determinism of nature to pass through the meshes of the net which this 'very determinism had spread. But, everywhere except in man, consciousness has let itself be caught in the net whose meshes it tried to pass through: it has remained the captive of the mechanisms it has set up. Automatism, which it tries to draw in the direction of freedom, winds about it and drags it down. It has not the power to escape, because the energy it has provided for acts is almost all employed in maintaining the infinitely subtle and essentially unstable equilibrium into which it has brought matter. But man not only maintains his machine, he succeeds in using it as he pleases. Doubtless he owes this to the superiority of his brain, which enables him to build an unlimited number of motor mechanisms, to oppose new habits to the old ones unceasingly, and, by dividing automatism against
(265) itself, to rule it. He owes it to his language, which furnishes consciousness with an immaterial body in which to incarnate itself and thus exempts it from dwelling exclusively on material bodies, whose flux would soon drag it along and finally swallow it up. He owes it to social life, which stores and preserves efforts as language stores thought, fixes thereby a mean level to which individuals must raise themselves at the outset, and by this initial stimulation prevents the average man from slumbering and drives the superior man to mount still higher. But our brain, our society, and our language are only the external and various signs of one and the same internal superiority. They tell, each after its manner, the unique, exceptional success which life has won at a given moment of its evolution. They express the difference of kind, and not only of degree, which separates man from the rest of the animal world. They let us guess that, while at the end of the vast spring-board from which life has taken its leap, all the others have stepped down, finding the cord stretched too high, man alone has cleared the obstacle.
It is in this quite special sense that man is the " term" and the " end" of evolution. Life, we have said, transcends finality as it transcends the other categories. It is essentially a current sent through matter, drawing from it what it can. There has not, therefore, properly speaking, been any project or plan. On the other hand, it is abundantly evident that the rest of nature is not for the sake of man: we struggle like the other species, we have struggled against other species. Moreover, if the evolution of life had encountered other accidents in its course, if, thereby, the current of life had been otherwise divided, we should have been, physically and morally, far different from what we are. For these various reasons it would be wrong to regard humanity, such as we have it before our eyes, as
(266)pre-figured in the evolutionary movement. It cannot even be said to be the outcome of the whole of evolution, for evolution has been accomplished on several divergent lines, and while the human species is at the end of one of them, other lines have been followed with other species at their end. It is in a quite different sense that we hold humanity to be the ground of evolution.
From our point of view, life appears in its entirety as an immense wave which, starting from a centre, spreads outwards, and which on almost the whole of its circumference is stopped and converted into oscillation: at one single point the obstacle has been forced, the impulsion has passed freely. It is this freedom that the human form registers. Everywhere but in man, consciousness has had to come to a stand; in man alone it has kept on its way. Man, then, continues the vital movement indefinitely, although he does not draw along with him all that life carries in itself. On other lines of evolution there have traveled other tendencies which life implied, and of which, since everything interpenetrates, man has, doubtless, kept something, but of which he has kept only very little. It is as if a vague and formless being, whom we may call, as we will, man or superman, had sought to realize himself, and had succeeded only by abandoning a part of himself on the way. The losses are represented by the rest of the animal world, and even by the vegetable world, at least in what these have that is positive and above the accidents of evolution.
From this point of view, the discordances, of which nature offers us the spectacle are singularly weakened. The organized world as a whole becomes as the soil on which was to grow either man himself or a being who morally must resemble him. The animals, however distant they may be from our species, however hostile
(267) to it, have none the less been useful traveling companions, on whom consciousness has unloaded whatever encumbrances it was dragging along, and who have enabled it to rise, in man, to heights from which it sees an unlimited horizon open again before it.
It is true that it has not only abandoned cumbersome baggage on the way; it has also had to give up valuable goods. Consciousness, in man, is pre-eminently intellect. It might have been, it ought, so it seems, to have been also intuition. Intuition and intellect represent two opposite directions of the work of consciousness: intuition goes in the very direction of life, intellect goes in the inverse direction, and thus finds itself naturally in accordance with the movement of matter. A complete and perfect humanity would be that in which these two forms of conscious activity should attain their full development. And, between this humanity and ours, we may conceive any number of possible stages, corresponding to all the degrees imaginable of intelligence and of intuition. In this lies the part of contingency in the mental structure of our species. A different evolution might have led to a humanity either more intellectual still or more intuitive. In the humanity of which we are a part, intuition is, in fact, almost completely sacrificed to intellect. It seems that to conquer matter, and to reconquer its own self, consciousness has had to exhaust the best part of its power. This conquest, in the particular conditions in which it has been accomplished, has required that consciousness should adapt itself to the habits of matter and concentrate all its attention on them, in fact determine itself more especially as intellect. Intuition is there, however, but vague and above all discontinuous. It is a lamp almost extinguished, which only glimmers now and then, for a few moments at most. But it glimmers wherever a vital
(268) interest is at stake. On our personality, on our liberty, on the place we occupy in the whole of nature, on our origin and perhaps also on our destiny, it throws a light feeble and vacillating, but which none the less pierces the darkness of the night in which the intellect leaves us.
These fleeting intuitions, which light up their object only at distant intervals, philosophy ought to seize, first to sustain them, then to expand them and so unite them together. The more it advances in this work, the more will it perceive that intuition is mind itself, and, in a certain sense, life itself: the intellect has been cut out of it by a process resembling that which has generated matter. Thus is revealed the unity of the spiritual life. We recognize it only when we place ourselves in intuition in order to go from intuition to the intellect, for from the intellect we shall never pass to intuition.
Philosophy introduces us thus into the spiritual life. And it shows us at the same time the relation of the life of the spirit to that of the body. The great error of the doctrines on the spirit has been the idea that by isolating the spiritual life from all the rest, by suspending it in space as high as possible above the earth, they were placing it beyond attack, as if they were not thereby simply exposing it to be taken as an effect of mirage! Certainly they are right to listen to conscience when conscience affirms human freedom; but the intellect is there, which says that the cause determines its effect, that like conditions like, that all is repeated and that all is given. They are right to believe in the absolute reality of the person and in his independence toward matter; but science is there, which shows the interdependence of conscious life and cerebral activity. They are right to attribute to man a privileged place in nature, to hold that the distance is infinite between the animal and man; but the history of life is there,
(269) which makes us witness the genesis of species by gradual transformation, and seems thus to reintegrate man in animality. When a strong instinct assures the probability of personal survival, they are right not to close their ears to its voice; but if there exist "souls" capable of an independent life, whence do they come? When, how and why do they enter into this body which we see arise, quite naturally, from a mixed cell derived from the bodies of its two parents? All these questions will remain unanswered, a philosophy of intuition will be a negation of science, will be sooner or later swept away by science, if it does not resolve to see the life of the body just where it really is, on the road that leads to the life of the spirit. But it will then no longer have to do with definite living beings. Life as a whole, from the initial impulsion that thrust it into the world, will appear as a wave which rises, and which is opposed by the descending movement of matter. On the greater part of its surface, at different heights, the current is converted by matter into a vortex. At one point alone it passes freely, dragging with it the obstacle which will weigh on its progress but will not stop it. At this point is humanity; it is our privileged situation. On the other hand, this rising wave is consciousness, and, like all consciousness, it includes potentialities without number which interpenetrate and to which consequently neither the category of unity nor that of multiplicity is appropriate, made as they both are for inert matter. The matter that it bears along with it, and in the interstices of which it inserts itself, alone can divide it into distinct individualities. On flows the current, running through human generations, subdividing itself into individuals. This subdivision was vaguely indicated in it, but could not have been made clear without matter. Thus souls are continually being created, which, never-
(270) -theless, in a certain sense pre-existed. They are nothing else than the little rills into which the great river of life divides itself, flowing through the body of humanity. The movement of the stream is distinct from the river bed, although it must adopt its winding course. Consciousness is distinct from the organism it animates, although it must undergo its vicissitudes. As the possible actions which a state of consciousness indicates are at every instant beginning to be carried out in the nervous centres, the brain underlines at every instant the motor indications of the state of consciousness; but the interdependency of consciousness and brain is limited to this; the destiny of consciousness is not bound up on that account with the destiny of cerebral matter. Finally, consciousness is essentially free; it is freedom itself; but it cannot pass through matter without settling on it, without adapting itself to it: this adaptation is what we call intellectuality; and the intellect, turning itself back toward active, that is to say free, consciousness, naturally makes it enter into the conceptual forms into which it is accustomed to see matter fit. It will therefore always perceive freedom in the form of necessity; it will always neglect the part of novelty or of creation inherent in the free act; it will always substitute for action itself an imitation artificial, approximative, obtained by compounding the old with the old and the same with the same. Thus, to-the eyes of a philosophy that attempts to reabsorb intellect in intuition, many difficulties vanish or become light. But such a doctrine does not only facilitate speculation; it gives us also more power to act and to live. For, with it, we feel ourselves no longer isolated in humanity, humanity no longer seems isolated in the nature that it dominates. As the smallest grain of dust is bound up with our entire solar system, drawn along with it in that undivided move-
(271) -ment of descent which is materiality itself, so all organized beings, from the humblest to the highest, from the first origins of life to the time in which we are, and in all places as in all times, do but evidence a single impulsion, the inverse of the movement of matter, and in itself indivisible. All the living hold together, and all yield to the same tremendous push. The animal takes its stand on the plant, man bestrides animality, and the whole of humanity, in space and in time, is one immense army galloping beside and before and behind each of us in an overwhelming charge able to beat down every resistance and clear the most formidable obstacles, perhaps even death.