An abstract of the collected philosophical works of Reginald Kapp (1885-1966)
by his son, John Kapp
(quotations in italics)
Top of Page
We intend, instead, to start a new battle with a new challenge; for we propose to attack the materialist where he believes himself strongest, namely in the field of science We propose to show that every one of his scientific arguments when examined and properly understood, proves to be a weapon turned against himself ( Science versus Materialism 1940 p 5)
Those who would tread the rough road along which I think you are wanting me to lead you must be ever ready to accept the evidence of hard facts, even though the evidence refutes cherished convictions, even though it reverses conclusions that have the sanction of long established tradition. Facts are hard taskmasters. They have to be met with courage, particularly the unwelcome ones, those that threaten our complacency. And it is so much easier to dodge them than to face them. Logic is a still harder taskmaster. It demands that we interpret the facts according to its strict rules, and not according to our inclinations.
The scientific, the austerely intellectual, approach to the nature of reality must inevitably lead occasionally to a conflict between facts and faith. It is taken for granted that the theologian ignores the evidence of facts and bases his view of reality on faith alone, while his materialist opponent has achieved a philosophy that has no element of faith in it, but is in complete logical conformity with all the facts that science has succeeded in discovering. No reading of the situation could be further from the truth……
It is not true that fact dodging is practiced more assiduously by idealists than by materialists, more by dualists than by monists. Indeed it can be shown that every one of the sundry ‘isms’ that are or have been fashionable depends for its plausibility on ignoring some obvious facts. Quite a lot of simple faith goes into the making of all the’ isms’, be they idealistic or materialistic.
Materialisdm, for instance, as the name implies, a theory about the nature of matter. It asserts that it is in the nature of matter to accomplish everything that can be observed or experienced. The materialist denies that there are any influences other than those exercised by uncontrolled material systems on each other. When we think, when we feel, when we plan for the future, it is solely, according to him, the result of the interaction of material systems. The laws of physics, he tells us, suffice to explain all those things that the theologian attributes to the laws of God. He says that we consist of nothing but our material bodies and to think otherwise is a mere delusion. In saying this, he implies that matter, among its many accomplishments, has a capacity for entertaining delusions.
But we must realise that the materialists belief in the power of uncontrolled material systems to create order, to plan for the future, to think and to feel, to entertain delusions, is really based on pure faith, just as much as the theologian’s belief in the omnipotence of his God. The properties that the materialist ascribes to matter are not listed in textbooks of physics; the materialist simple faith is not supported by facts. The difference between the theologian and the materialist philosopher is. certainly not that the former relies wholly on faith, and the latter wholly on facts. The true difference is that the theologian consciously and deliberately recognises faith as one of the supports of his doctrine while the materialists lack of self-criticism allows him to ignore the prop of faith on which he leans so heavily…..
I propose to show in these lectures that there is a contradiction between a number of scientific facts and the materialist’s faith in the powers and accomplishments of matter. The contradiction is so complete that every form of monistic philosophy must be discarded. And I shall show that there does not seem to be a similar unavoidable contradiction between any known facts and a dualistic view of reality. What I hope to convince you of is this. It is arguable that dualism cannot be proved right; it is certain that monism can be proved wrong. (Facts and Faith 1955 Monism and Dualism )
Named issue 1 A paradigm is a ‘fortress’
He describes paradigms (unconscious underlying belief systems) as fortresses, manned by scientists promoting the vested interests in keeping the status quo. In ‘The Act of Creation’, you frequently bypass this fortress (number 7 below) and show what alluring territory lies behind it. When I am reading I repeatedly put the book down in frustration because I know that the ground you have gained cannot be consolidated…….. there are a cluster of fortresses that support each other. When one has fallen the others are more exposed to attack. And so long as one stands any conquered ground cannot be consolidated. Letter to Arthur Koestler 1964 Letter to Arthur Koestler 1964 )
Named issue (fortress) 2 A paradigm is a ‘credo incognitum’
What you believe (ie your credo) creates your reality. Furthermore, you may not know what you believe. (credo incognitum) because it may be in your unconscious mind.. ‘The defenders of the fortress are so convinced that facts and logic are on their side that they will ignore all the facts and logic produced by you as irrelevant. ( Letter to Arthur Koestler 1964 )
Named issue (fortress) 3 There is a naming taboo about paradigms
Even if you do know what you believe, you may not want to know it, so be in denial of it, to serve your interest in some way. You are then programmed to not admit it, which creates a naming taboo about your belief. Suppose someone wanted to refute one of your conclusions. He could begin with this statement: ‘In view of the generally accepted fact that what acts, acts from somewhere, (see fortress 7 below) it follows that….’ Step by step this reasoning would lead to the conclusion that there can be no such thing as an act of creation, that teleological statements are meaningless, that mind is no more than a synonym for brain, etc etc………… To name a credo incognitum is to risk that its walls will collapse as did the walls of Jericho to a blast of a trumpet. This is why Medawar is prohibited from using the arguments that he feels instinctively are sound ones. ( Letter to Arthur Koestler 1964 )
Named issue (fortress) 4, Non-material influences (‘Diathetes’) do not exist, so we do not need a new field of study of ‘diathetics’
Monistic religions exist. In some of them deities are identified with objects to be found in nature, with mountains, rivers, thunderstorms, the sun, the moon. In other monistic religions deities are identified with carved images. A religion in which the deity is believed to be non-material is a dualistic one. But dualists usually postulate other non-material influences in addition to a deity. Among these they mention mind, the soul, entelechy, elan vital. There is an advantage in having a collective word for the various non-material influences that can have a place in a dualistic philosophy, and such a word should preferably be non-evocative. For this and other reasons I have used the word ‘diathete‘* Dualism is the belief that the whole of reality is composed of two parts, one named matter and the other diathetes. Some events are held to happen because these two component parts act on each other. Facts and Faith 1955 ( Monism and Dualism )
Materialists have always vacillated between the two theories that either there are no diathetes, or matter is a diathete. Our purpose has been to reveal the absurdity of these two theories, and to shows that materialism cannot be maintained without the use of one or the other (Science v Materialism 1940 p278 What Next? )
One must define matter so as to include everything that is composed of molecules, atoms, electrons, protons, as well as light and other forms of radiation, as well as magnetic fields, …everything that belongs to the physicist’s universe of discourse…it is necessary to define matter so widely as to include everything that has location. As a consequence, a non-material influence, a diathete, does not have location; that if it lacks location it cannot be seen, heard, touched, or detected by any physical means; and lastly that one cannot escape from the disturbing consequences of this conclusion by using ‘everywhere’ as a synonym for ‘nowhere.
Diathetes can only be detected by their effect on matter. Their all-important attribute by which they may be distinguished from matter is their power of discrimination, selection and guidance.
* The derivation of the word is from the ancient Greek word ‘diathetic’ which may be found in Xenophon’s MemorabiliaII I 27, and means ‘capable of disposing to a specification’ He derived the following words from it, using them in Mind, Life and Body: ‘diathete’, ‘diatheme’, ‘diathehesis’ ‘diathetics’, I have made a prima facie case for a new field of study of ‘diathetics’ ‘adiathetous configuration’, and ‘eudiathetous mechanism’ (These are devices analogous to the controls of a machine and serve as the instruments that enable a diathete to influence the course of material events. (Facts and Faith 1955, Monism and Dualism but also called a ‘primary relay’ in Mind, Life and Body 1951),.
Named issue (fortress) 5 Belief that order is the result of the laws of physics in a Cosmic Statute Book
What is the source of order?…….When the brain is working its minute, indeed sub-microscopic component parts act on each other in specific, co-ordinated ways. The sequence of their movements is timed with precision; they behave like the component parts of a finely constructed, man-made machine…..Through the organs of sense perception the brain is continuously receiving stimuli from the outside world. …..They are not co-ordinated. They may arrive from anywhere. They are random, unselected, events……And yet the response of the brain is not random. Selection, discrimination, guidance, control do occur. How? ……….Dualists claim that in addition (to the determinacy of the laws of physics) a diathete, mind, acts. ……In short, monists say the source of order is matter, dualists that it is a diathete. …..If a monist can prove that the laws of physics make for order he has a very strong case
To ask about a Cosmic Statute Book is my way of prompting thought about a theme that has been too much neglected. I have noticed that even scientists are by no means consistent in the way they talk about the laws of physics. The remarks of a person will often imply at one moment that he accepts the notion of a Cosmic Statute Book and at another moment that he rejects it. I am hoping that use of this term will focus attention on an aspect of the philosophy of science that needs thorough consideration.
If I, myself, have, after long cogitation, reached the conclusion that there is no Cosmic Statute Book, it is not because I set myself the task of knocking away the strongest prop of monism. Nor is ist that I wanted either to support or to defy any theological doctrine. It is that I think it of the utmost importance that some of us should try to achieve a clear understanding of physical laws, and not be constrained by fear of the consequences to our tranquility. (Facts and Faith 1955 Is there a Cosmic Statute Book?)
In the rough untouched world of lifeless things there is probably one single unifying principle…the law that there are no laws……..The physicist’s inorganic world of lifeless things is singly determinate, obeying only the laws of physics, which result in chaos. The organic world of living things is doubly determinate, obeying also the biological laws of life which create order. Human beings are trebly determinate, also obeying the laws of mind.
Named issue (fortress) 6 Belief that order is the result of the unaided action of matter on matter.
When order is observed, its cause must be some non-material influence….. That which exercises control cannot exercise a force. That which exercises a force cannot exercise control. Diathetes perform the one function (control) and matter the other (force) and they can never change places or do each other’s jobs. (Science v Materialism 1940 )
How can diathetes control forces without applying any? ……… diathetes work by controlling the moment in time when a specific atom in a large organic molecule acquires the minimum energy to activate the vital process(Mind., Life and Body 1951 Towards a Solution )
Diathetes have the capacity to create order in living organisms. Purely objective facts provides evidence of the reality of one particular class of diathete called life. The evidence shows that it exercises so detailed a control over living substances that the arrangement of individual atoms is subjected to a specified order….. Except in the rarest instances the diathete life operates completely unconsciously. The exceptions are a small fraction of the activities of man, and perhaps some of the higher animals. (Facts and Faith A Dualistic Philosophy )
Named issue (fortress) 7 The belief that what acts, acts from somewhere
Matter is, by its nature, incapable of creating order. So only random events can be attributed to the unaided action of matter on matter. As space is inseparable from matter, diathetes cannot have their existence in space
Even if you can conceptualise angels dancing on the point of a needle, it is harder to imagine that the needle is nowhere
The notion that I put before you …of a non-material influence without location is probably by far the biggest obstacle to acceptance of any dualistic philosophy….The conviction that space is the container of all reality…has had to be rejected. To a physicist space is not a container at all. He no longer thinks it quite precise to say that matter is in space; he prefers to regard it as co-incident with space…. And that allows him to think of realities that do not form part of space.. But to accept all that is not to deny that the notion of an active influence without location calls for a very substantial intellectual effort. (Facts and Faith 1955 A Dualistic Philosophy )
Named issue (fortress) 8 Ignoring his Principle of Minimum Assumption
It was over thirty years ago (in the 1920s) that I first came to believe that this principle (derived from ‘Ockam’s Razor) deserved to be applied in the physical sciences with uncompromising consistency. I can trace this conclusion, or at least the clarification of it, to the impact made on me by Edington’s writings shortly after the first world war. Thus stimulated, I was led to notice how often in physics a scientist would, though perhaps hardly consciously, apply this principle and how fruitful the result invariably was. (Towards a Unified Cosmology 1960 Preface )
Named issue (fortress) 9 Ignoring his hypothesis of the Symmetrical Impermanence of Matter
What is the origin of matter? Among the many derivatives of the Principle of Minimum Assumption this was the one that soon claimed my particular attention; the hypothesis that matter is both originating continuously and continuously becoming extinct. If the Principle of Minimum Assumption was valid, I saw that all its consequences ought to be explored, including this one, and that exploration of this hypothesis was likely to lead to new fields for research. (Towards a Unified Cosmology 1960 Preface ).
The materialist can never hope to prove that matter created itself ….. ‘Particles of matter may come into existence at any time…and all the while ….some of the contents of the material universe occasionally disappear without leaving a trace behind….The universe would expand or contract according to whether creation of destruction was for the time being more rapid and disappearance……the once upon a time' theory (now known as the 'big bang') bristles with absurdities from which the 'at-any-time' theory is free. (Science v Materialism 1940 A Note on the Origin of Matter )
Named issue (fortress) 10 Ignoring his theory of gravitation, the half-life of matter and the decreasing weight of the earth and ‘g’, and the formation of galaxies and stars.
In a region large enough to be a fair sample of the whole material universe the rate of origin per unit volume is constant. Hence most origins occur in extragalactic space. The resulting atoms of hydrogen find themselves in the very faint gravitational potential gradients that are caused by existing nebulae….
Our understanding of gravitation is more defective than that of most natural phenomena, and eight questions of major significance are listed to which answers cannot yet be provided. Among these is why an accumulation of inert mass is the source of a gravitational field. A new theory of gravitation is provided that gives an answer to this question as well as to the other seven. This theory is based on two physical principles. One is the Symmetrical Impermanence of matter, the other the relativistic concept of curved space
If the new theory is true, a particle does not carry an extensive gravitational potential gradient around with it, as has been hitherto supposed. The gradient occurs only as a consequence of the extinction of the particle and as a momentary pulse. Gravitation is quantized and could be described as the swan song of matter and not, as supposed by tradition, as its signature tune……if the pulses in a very tenuous gas are significantly intermittent, the formation of stars as well as their rotation and the rotation of the spiral nebulae can be accounted for. (Towards a Unified Cosmology 1960 Summary )
The appendices (80 pages of them) are to be regarded as research programmes. One of the subjects is the half-life of matter. A reason has been given in appendix C why this cannot be much greater than 4X10 to the power of 8 years, (four hundred million years) and why it is probably not much less than 3X10 to the power of 8 years. (three hundred million years) ……This means that the mass of the earth and with it the value of g is and has been continuously becoming smaller. ……….the weight of everything was 3 times its present weight two billion years ago (Towards a Unified Cosmology 1960 The Shrinking Earth ).
Astronomical, geological and biological implications of this finite half-life of matter are worked out, and it is shown that it helps to explain a number of facts that have, hitherto, defied explanation. If the mass of the atomic nucleus is a region of intensely curved space the hypothesis of a nuclear force in order to explain the cohesion of the nucleus is shown to be unnecessary. It is concluded from this that the units becoming extinct are electrons and complete atomic nuclei. (TUC Summary )
From this loss of mass (which could have been a factor of 10 in 4 billion years) he gives detailed rational explanations of many previously unexplained phenomena, such as the formation of mountain ranges, continental drift, biological evolution. He predicted the lower density of comets like Tempel 1, (which is due to be impacted on 4.7.05). because they have lost most of their mass to extinctions, but are not subject to the compacting forces of gravity, which keeps the density up on bigger bodies like the earth and the moon.
The objectives of his life’s work
I am not content with by-passing fortresses. In other words, I should feel frustrated if this or that theory of mine were welcomed and the fortress were to remain garrisoned. I see my task as three-fold, but the different parts of it are inter-dependent. One part cannot be accomplished unless each of the other two is also accomplished. The parts are as follows.
First I want to bring about a change in the attitude of scientists, such as they will be on the lookout for any credo incognitum that stands in the way of progress. I should like it to become a routine matter for those metaphorical fortresses to be the subject of reconnaissance and eventually attack. To avoid metaphorical language, I should like the scientific world to be better aware of the many occasions where something that is accepted blindly as a fact is in truth no more than a hypothesis that needs to be tested for its validity.
Secondly, I should like those fortresses that I have attacked in my various books to be abandoned by their garrisons. Put differently, I want my Principle of Minimum Assumption, my hypothesis of Symmetrical Impermanence, (non-indestructibility of matter) and my theory about the reality of diathetes to be accepted, together with all their implications.
Thirdly, I should be reassured if the various implications from the above theories that I have developed were proved true, but I regard such things as my Theory of Gravitation, my Theory of the Formation of Galaxies and of Stars, my Theory of the Nature of the Atomic Nucleus, the theory that I have presented very tentatively in Mind, Life, and Body concerning the way in which a diathete may interact with matter – I regard all these primarily as promises of the reward to be obtained from giving up an untenable credo incognitum. ( Letter to Arthur Koestler 1964 )