Facts and Faith: The Dual Nature of Reality.
As their title suggests, these lectures are partly concerned with the conflict
between science and religion. But their main theme is better indicated by
the sub-title ' The Dual Nature of Reality '. The author's aim is to present
the case for a dualistic philosophy of nature and against a monistic one.
This issue, he argues, is of enormous importance for the philosophy of science,
but is less important for theology than is commonly thought. 'I doubt
indeed whether monism is bad religion. B ut I am sure that it is bad science'
Possibly his use of the word 'monism' may cause discomfort to some
of his readers. The monistic theories which are most familiar to students
of philosophy are idealistic ones, such as the philosophy of Hegel or of
Bradley. Professor Kapp is of course well aware of this. But he himself
means by 'monism' materialistic monism, and he says so explicitly on page 9.
The reader must not be misled by the word 'dualism' either. The dualism
which Professor Kapp advocates is not the classical dualism of Descartes.
He rejects Descartes's mechanistic biology. His own dualism, if we must
assign a label to it, is a form of vitalism, in which conscious mind is only one
among several kinds of 'diathetes’ or non-material controlling agencies
(διαθεται from the Greek verb διατιθεναι 'to arrange').
Thus the diathete
which controls the growth and other vegetative processes of an oak tree is
not a conscious mind. '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 those two component parts act on each
other '(p. 9).
Professor Kapp holds that a diathete is a non-spatial entity. It has no
location and a fortiori no shape nor size. We have to say of it that it exists
and yet is nowhere. He seems to think that this will be regarded as a serious
objection to his thesis. I do not quite see why. There is no a priori reason
why everything which exists must be somewhere. Moreover, it would
seem that some of the entities spoken of in modern microphysics are not
located in the plain unambiguous sense in which macroscopic objects such
as brickbats are located. And Professor Kapp himself insists that even though
a diathete is nowhere, what it does is somewhere. Thus Mr Jones's mind is
a dlathete, and the effects which it causes are located in Mr Jones's cerebral
cortex, even though it itself has no location. Again, God may be regarded
the supreme diathete. Religious people are accustomed to say that God
is everywhere ('omnipresent'). But as Professor Kapp points out, this can
be taken, to mean that He acts everywhere, that every event in physical space
is subject to His control.
How are we to decide between these two philosophies of Nature, materialistic monism on the one hand, and vitalistic dualism on the other? We
might try to do so by considering the properties of mind. 'The reality of
tliought and feeling, of all subjective experience, is used as a proof that the
objective world, as revealed by a study of matter, does not encompass the
whole of reality' (p. 16.) Professor Kapp admits that there is some force in
this argument, but thinks that it may lead to an incomplete picture of reality.
It may lead us to suppose, with Descartes, that the only diathetes are minds.
'The distinction between conscious behaviour and vegetative processes is
treated as basic, and the distinction between the organic and the inorganic
world as superficial.' But this is a mistake. 'The true dividing line…
separates all living from all lifeless substance' (pp. 16-17).
Nor must we suppose that the action of diathetes is only detectable when
we reflect upon specially valuable objects, such as Shakespeare's plays or
Beethoven's symphonies; nor again that it is only detectable when we consider very unusual phenomena, such as extra-sensory perception. On the
contrary, 'the most relevant facts . . . are the very familiar ones. They
are so familiar to us all that we tend to overlook their significance' (p. 18).
The crucial point is that some events display order and other events do not.
If matter has no properties but those which are listed in textbooks of physics
(and monists maintain that it has no others) monism has no means of explaining this empirically discoverable difference between the ordered and the non-ordered. We can only account for this difference by supposing that some
physical events are affected by non-material agencies, diathetes, while other
physical events are not. That is Professor Kapp's contention.
Evidently he must maintain that in what he calls 'the rough untouched
world of lifeless things' there is no order. He does not, of course, have to
hold that order is found only in living creatures. A building, a machine,
the row of pebbles along the side of a garden path, a bird's nest, an anthill
all these do display order in his sense of the term. But such material objects,
though lifeless, are not 'rough and untouched'. The order they display is
an effect of what living organisms have done to various pieces of non-living
matter, and is therefore an indirect effect of the operation of diathetes.
What Professor Kapp must maintain, and does in fact maintain, is that no
order is discoverable in those parts of the material universe which are
neither themselves living organisms nor affected by the activities of living
organisms. He rightly anticipates that this very radical contention will shock
some of his readers. Ever since the Psalmist exclaimed 'The heavens declare
the glory of God' religious people have liked to think that the physical universe is ordered through and through. Tough-minded materialistic persons
have liked to think so too, though from different motives. They have wanted
a deterministic world. And so they have held, like their religious opponents,
that there is what Professor Kapp calls 'a cosmic statute book', though they
have rejected the argument that if there are such cosmic statutes, there must
be a Sovereign of the Universe who wrote them.
In Lecture II, 'Is there a cosmic.statute book?’, Professor Kapp argues
that in actual fact there are no such statutes at all, or at any rate that the progress of physics, from Newton's time onwards, has reduced the cosmic
statute book to a very slim. volume indeed. Eddington has shown that the
law of gravitation, the laws of mechanics, and the laws of the magnetic
field can all be summed up in one principle, the Principle of Least Action,
and that this could equally well be called the Principle of Greatest Probability. Professor Kapp quotes Eddington's statement 'The law of nature
is that the actual state of the world is that which is statistically most probable'
and makes the following comment on it : 'This is the state in which the
traffic in our streets would be if there were no rule of the road ; it is the
state in which all things find themselves when everything is allowed and
nothing prohibited '(pp. 31-3 2).
If the physicists tell us that this is what the physical world is like, no
doubt the ordinary man will have to take their word for it. And yet he
will be inclined to protest that in the macroscopic physical world (the only
world which he can observe) there is plenty of order all the same. At
any rate there are discoverable regularities in it. If not, how could induction generalisations be made and relied upon for anticipating the future, or
more generally for inferring from the observed to what is not at present
observed? Indeed, how could men, or animals either, manage to learn
anything from experience at all? Physicists will no doubt point out to
us that inductive generalisations about the macroscopic physical world can
only tell us, at the best, that given die occurrence of A the occurrence of B is
exceedingly likely, not that it is absolutely certain. But this will not worry
tlie ordinary man at all. He will be quite content to believe that water
nearly always flows downhill and almost invariably boils at 212o Fahrenheit at sea level. If there is good ground for such generalisations as these (and surely there is), he will say that there is order in macroscopic lifeless things.
He does not ask for rigid determinism, but only for dependable and empirically discoverable regularities, and these he has. So far as I can see, the
progress of physics has done nothing to show that these macroscopic regularities do not exist. What it has done is to explain this macroscopic order
by showing that it can be inferred from statistical propositions about very
large aggregates of microphysical events which are individually unpredictable. And this is a very remarkable achievement. But after all, one does
not abolish empirical facts by giving an explanation of them.
When we reflect upon our experience of the macroscopic world, the
distinction which first strikes our minds is, surely, not the one which Professor Kapp emphasises, between the orderly and the orderless or random,
but rather the difference between two contrasted types of order or regularity,
the teleological type of order and the non-teleological type of order. It is
indeed difficult to understand how a monistic theory can account for this
difference, or how the teleological type of order could exist at all, given the
two assumptions (I) that the universe is wholly material, (2) that matter
has only those properties which are attributed to it in textbooks of physics.
In these lectures, however. Professor Kapp does not have much to say about
the concept of teleology. He sometimes gives the impression of holding
that all order is ipso facto teleological; and this would seem to be a. very
questionable assumption. Perhaps the difficulty here is partly one of terminology, and some other word than 'order' might have been used for
characterising that which is absent from the 'rough untouched world of
lifeless things' and present in organisms and their products.
There are a number of other interesting points in these lectures which the
present reviewer is not competent to discuss: for example, in the section
on 'Order and the Second Law of Thermodynamics' in Lecture III (pp. 41-
45) where it is suggested that this law provides 'an objective criterion of
order' and a measure of the intensity of the 'diathesis' to which a given
material system is subjected. But perhaps enough has been said to arouse
the curiosity of the reader. Anyone who is interested in the philosophy of
nature should read this little book. Professor Kapp lias stated an unfashionable thesis in a very forcible and downright manner. His arguments for
it are neither metaphysical nor theological, but scientific. He claims to
show that materialistic monism is 'bad science'. If his contention is to be
rejected, his arguments ought to be examined and answered.
H. H. PRICE
Professor of Logic, Oxford 1935-59
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Papers by Prof R.O. Kapp and any subsequent discussions and rejoinders are reproduced from the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science with the kind permission of the Oxford University Press.
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