Chapter 11 World Purpose and Life Purpose

 
    Chapter 11 World Purpose
        and Life Purpose
       (The Destination Of Man)


        [1] Among the manifold currents
           in the spiritual life
               of mankind,
           there is
          one
              to be followed up which
             can be described
                as the overcoming
                   of the concept
                       of purpose
                          in spheres
             where
                 it does not belong.

    Purposefulness
        is a special kind
           of sequence
               of phenomena.

    True purposefulness
        really exists only if,
       in contrast
           to the relationship
               of cause
                  and effect
         where the earlier event
            determines the later,
       the reverse
          is
             the case
           and the later event
              influences
          the earlier one.

    To begin with,
       this happens only
           in the case
               of human actions.

    One performs
        an action
       of which
         one has previously made
            a mental picture,
      and
         one allows
            this mental picture
          to determine one's action.

    Thus
         the later (the deed) influences
            the earlier (the doer)
           with the help
               of the mental picture.

    For
         there
            to be a purposeful connection,
       this
          detour through the mental picture
             is absolutely necessary.
 
    [2] In a process
         which
            breaks down
           into cause
              and effect,
       we must distinguish percept
           from concept.

    The percept
        of the cause
            precedes the percept
                of the effect;
      cause
         and effect
       would simply remain side by side
          in our consciousness,
      if we
         were not able
            to connect them
          with one another
              through their corresponding concepts.
 
    The percept of the effect
        must always follow
           upon the percept
               of the cause.

    If the effect
        is to have
           a real influence
              upon the cause,
       it can do so only
           by means
              of the conceptual factor.

    For the perceptual factor
        of the effect
           simply does not exist
              prior to the perceptual factor
                 of the cause.

    Anyone who
        declares
           that the blossom
              is the purpose
                 of the root,
       that is,
          that the former
              influences the latter,
       can do so only
           with regard to that factor
              in the blossom
                 which
                is established
               in it
                  by his thinking.

    The perceptual factor
        of the blossom
       is not yet
          in existence
             at the time
       when
          the root originates.
 
    For a purposeful connection
          to exist,
       it is not only necessary
           to have an ideal,
       law-determined connection
           between the later
               and the earlier,
       but
          the concept (law)
             of the effect
          must really influence the cause,
       that is, by means
           of a perceptible process.

    A perceptible influence
        of a concept
            upon something else,
               however,
            is to be observed only
               in human actions.

    Hence
         this is
             the only sphere
         in which
             the concept
                of purpose is applicable.

    The naïve consciousness,
       which
          regards
             as real only
         what is perceptible,
       attempts
          -- as we
         have repeatedly pointed out --
             to introduce
                  perceptible elements
                 where only ideal elements
                    are to be found.

    In the perceptible course
        of events
       it looks
          for perceptible connections,
        or,
           failing
       to find them,
      it simply invents them.

    The concept
        of purpose,
       valid
          for subjective actions,
       is an element well
          suited for such invented connections.

    The naïve man
        knows how
           he brings an event
              about and from this
                 he
                    concludes that nature will do
                  it
                     in the same way.

    In the connections
        of nature
       which are purely ideal
          he finds not only
             invisible forces
            but also invisible real purposes.

    Man makes
        his tools
       according to his purposes;
      the naïve realist
         would have
            the Creator build organisms
          on the same formula.

    Only very gradually is
          this mistaken concept
             of purpose
            disappearing
               from the sciences.

    In philosophy,
       even today,
          it still does
             a good deal
           of mischief.

    Here people
          still ask
             after the extra-mundane purpose
                of the world,
       the extra-human ordering
           of man's destiny
        (and
           consequently also his purpose),
              and so on.
 
    [3] Monism
        rejects the concept
           of purpose
               in every sphere,
       with the sole exception
           of human action.

    It looks
        for laws
            of nature,
      but
         not for purposes
            of nature.

    Purposes
        of nature
           are
       arbitrary assumptions no
          less than are
               imperceptible forces.
 
    But even purposes
        of life
           not set
        by man
           himself are unjustified assumptions
        from the standpoint
            of monism.

    Nothing is purposeful
         except
             what man
                has first made so,
       for purposefulness
          arises only through
             the realization
                of an idea.

    In a realistic sense,
       an idea
          can become effective
             only in man.
 
    Therefore
         human life can only have
            the purpose and the ordering
           of destiny
         that man
            gives it.

    To the question:
       What is man's task
           in life?
       there can be
           for monism
         but one answer:
       The task
          he sets himself.

    My mission in the world
          is not predetermined,
       but is
           at every moment
              the one
                 I
               choose for myself.

    I do not set out
        upon my journey
            through life
                with fixed marching
                   orders.
 
    [4] Ideas
        are realized purposefully
           only by human beings.

    Consequently
         it is not permissible
            to speak
               of the embodiment
                  of ideas
                     by history.

    All such phrases
         as
        "history
            is the evolution
           of mankind
              towards freedom,'
           freedom,'or'...

    the realization
        of the moral world order,"
           and so on,
        are,
            from a monistic point of view,
        untenable.
 
    [5]
         The supporters
            of the concept
               of purpose
                  believe that,
                     by surrendering it,
       they would also have
           to surrender
         all order
            and uniformity
           in the world.

    Listen,
       for example,
          to Robert Hamerling:
 
    [6} As long
         as there are instincts
            in nature,
       it is folly to deny
          purposes therein.
 
    Just
         as the formation
            of a limb
               of the human body
                  is not determined
                     and conditioned
                        by an idea
                           of this limb,
       floating
           in the air,
       but
          by its connection
             with the greater whole,
       the body
          to which
             the limb belongs,
       so
          the formation
             of every natural
                object,
               be it plant,
                  animal or man,
               is not determined
        and conditioned
           by an idea
               of it floating
                   in the air,
       but
          by the formative principle
             of the totality
                of nature
              which unfolds and organizes itself
                 in a purposeful manner.
 
    And
         on page
             191
                of the same volume
                   we read:

    The theory of purpose
          maintains only that,
       in spite of
           the thousand discomforts
        and distresses
           of this mortal life,
       there is
          a high degree
             of purpose
                and plan unmistakably
              present
           in the formations
               and developments
                  of nature
       -- a degree
           of plan
               and purposefulness,
                  however,
               which
            is realized only
               within the limits
                   of natural law,
               and
             which
                does not aim
               at a fool's paradise
             where
                 life faces no death,
               growth no decay,
           with all their more
               or less unpleasant
             but
                quite unavoidable intermediary stages.
 
    [7] When
         the opponents
            of the concept
               of purpose
                  set
           a laboriously collected rubbish-heap
              of partial or complete,
       imaginary or real maladaptations
           against a whole world
               of miracles
                   of purposefulness,
       such as nature
          exhibits
             in all her domains,
       then
          I consider
             this
                just
               as quaint...
 
    [8] What
        is
           here meant by purposefulness?

    The coherence
        of percepts
            to form a whole.

    But
         since
             underlying all percepts
                there are laws (ideas)
             which we
                discover through our thinking,
       it follows
          that
             the systematic coherence
                of the parts
                   of a perceptual whole
                      is simply
               the ideal coherence
                  of the parts
               of an ideal whole contained
                   in this
                       perceptual whole.

    To say
          that an animal
             or a man
                is not determined
                   by an idea
                  floating in the air is
         a misleading way
            of putting it,
       and
          the point of view
             he is disparaging
          automatically loses
              its absurdity
                 as soon
               as the expression
                  is put right.

    An animal
        certainly is not determined
           by an idea
              floating
                 in the air,
       but
          it definitely is determined
             by an idea inborn
                in it
                   and constituting
                       the law of its being.

    It is just
         because
             the idea
                is not external
           to the object,
       but works
           within it
              as its very essence,
       that
          we cannot speak of purposefulness.

    It is just
          the person
             who
        denies that natural beings
           are determined from without
        (and
             it does not matter,
                in this context,
               whether
             it
                be by an idea
                   floating
                      in the air
                    or existing
                       outside the creature
                           in the mind
                              of a world creator)
           who must admit
              that such beings
                 are not determined
               by purpose and
          plan from without,
       but
          by cause and law
             from within.

    I construct a machine purposefully
        if
             I connect
                its parts together
               in a way
        that is not given
           in nature.

    The purposefulness
        of the arrangement
           consists
        in just this,
       that
          I embody the working principle
             of the machine,
           as its idea,
              into the machine
           itself.

    The machine
        becomes thereby an object
           of perception
               with the idea corresponding
                   to it.

    Natural
        objects
           are also entities
              of this kind.

    Whoever calls
         a thing purposeful simply
            because it
               is formed according to
                  a law,
                     may,
                   if
         he wish,
                   apply the same term
                      to the objects
               of nature.

    But
         he must not confuse
            this kind
           of lawfulness
               with
                  that
                     of subjective human action.

    For purpose
          to exist,
       it is absolutely necessary
          that the effective cause
              shall be a concept,
       in fact
           the concept
               of the effect.

    But
         in nature
            we can nowhere point
           to concepts
        acting as causes;
       the concept
          invariably turns out
             to be
                nothing
                   but the ideal link connecting
            cause and effect.

    Causes
        are
           present
              in nature
                 only in the form
                    of percepts.

    [9] Dualism
        may talk
           of world
              purposes
           and natural
              purposes.

    Wherever there is
        a systematic linking
           of cause and
         effect
            for our perception,
      the dualist
         may assume
            that
               we see only
              the carbon copy
          of a connection
        in which
           the absolute cosmic Being
              has realized its purposes.

    For monism,
       with the rejection
           of an absolute cosmic Being
       -- never experienced
          but only hypothetically inferred --
             all ground
                   for assuming purposes
                       in the world
                           and in nature
                              also falls away.
 
    Author's addition,
       1918

 
    [1] No one
         who has followed
            the preceding argument
           with an open mind
              will be able
                 to conclude
         that the author,
       in rejecting
           the concept
              of purpose
                 for extra-human facts,
       takes the side
           of those thinkers
         who,
       by rejecting this concept,
          enable themselves
             to regard
                everything outside human action â€"
       and thence human action
           itself â€"
       as no
          more than
             a natural process.

    He should be protected
        from this
           by the fact
      that
         in this book
       the thinking process
           is presented
              as a purely spiritual one.

    If
         here the concept of purpose
            is rejected
           even for the spiritual world,
       lying
          outside human action,
       it is
          because
             something
          is revealed in that world
         which is higher
            than the kind
           of purpose
              realized
                 in the human kingdom.

    And
         when we
            say that the thought
           of a purposeful destiny
               for the human race,
       modeled
           on human purposefulness,
              is erroneous,
           we mean
         that the individual
            gives himself purposes,
       and
          that the outcome
             of the working
                of mankind
           as a whole
          is compounded of these.

    This outcome
        is
           then
         something higher
            than
               its component parts,
       the purposes
           of men.