THE THIRD CANON OF THOUGHT
A KEY TO THE ENIGMAS OF THE WORLD
Analysis of phenomena. What determines for us different orders of phenomena? Methods and forms of the transition of phenomena of one order into another. Phenomena of motion. Phenomena of life. Phenomena of consciousness. The central question of our perception of the world: which kind of phenomena is primary and produces the others? Can motion lie at the beginning of everything? Laws of the transformation of energy. Simple transformation and the liberation of latent energy. Different liberating forces of different kinds of phenomena. The force of mechanical energy, the force of a living cell and the force of an idea. Phenomena and noumena of our world.
The order of phenomena is determined for us, first, by our method of perception and, second, by the form of the transition of one kind of phenomena into another. We distinguish three kinds of phenomena according to our method of perception and the form of their transition into other phenomena. Physical phenomena (i.e. all phenomena studied by physics and chemistry). Phenomena of life (all phenomena studied by biology and its sub-divisions). Psychological phenomena (thoughts, feelings, etc.). We perceive physical phenomena by means of our sense-organs or by means of
instruments. A great many recognized physical phenomena are not observed directly; they are only a projection of the presumed causes of our sensations, or the causes of other phenomena. Physics recognizes the existence of very many phenomena which have never been observed either by sense-organs or by instruments (for instance, the temperature of absolute zero, etc.). Phenomena of life are not observed as such. We cannot project them as the cause of definite sensations. But certain groups of sensations make us presume the presence of phenomena of life behind the groups of physical phenomena. It is possible to say that a certain grouping of physical phenomena makes us presume the presence of phenomena of life. We define the cause of phenomena of life as something imperceptible for the senses or for instruments and incommensurable with the causes of physical sensations. A sign of the presence of phenomena of life is the capacity of organisms to reproduce themselves, i.e. their multiplication in the same forms, the indivisibility of individual units and their capacity of adaptation which is not observed outside of life.
Psychological phenomena - feelings and thoughts - we know in ourselves by direct sensation, subjectively. We deduce their existence in others by analogy with ourselves; on the grounds of their manifestation in actions, and on the grounds of what we learn through communication by means of speech. But, as some philosophical theories point out, it is impossible to establish, strictly objectively, the presence of another consciousness, apart from one's own. A man usually establishes it on the grounds of an inner conviction.
Physical phenomena pass one into another completely. Heat may be transformed into light; pressure, into motion, and so on; any physical phenomenon may be created out of other physical phenomena; any chemical compound may be reproduced synthetically by combining the component parts in the required proportions and under the required physical conditions. Modern physics presumes that at the basis of all physical phenomena lie electro-magnetic phenomena. But physical phenomena do not pass into phenomena of life. By no combination of physical conditions can science create life, just as by chemical synthesis it cannot create living matter, protoplasm. We can tell what amount of coal is needed to obtain the amount of heat necessary to transform a given quantity of ice into water. But we cannot tell what amount of coal is required to create the life energy by the aid of which one living cell forms another living cell. In the same way physical, chemical and mechanical phenomena cannot, by themselves, produce psychological phenomena. Were it otherwise, a rotating wheel, by expendinga certain amount of energy, or in the course of a certain period of time, would generate an idea. Yet we know quite well that a wheel may go on rotating for millions of years, but no idea will result from it. We see therefore that phenomena of motion are fundamentally different from the phenomena of life and consciousness.
Phenomena of life pass into other phenomena of life, multiply in them infinitely and transform themselves into physical phenomena, producing awhole series of mechanical and chemical combinations. The phenomena of life manifest themselves to us in physical phenomena and in the presence of such phenomena.
Psychological phenomena are experienced directly and, having enormous potential force, pass into physical phenomena and into manifestations of life. We know that at the basis of our procreative force lies desire, i.e. a psychological state or a phenomenon of consciousness. Desire has a tremendous potential force. A whole people may be produced by the combined desire of a man and a woman. At the basis of the active, constructive, creative force of man, capable of altering the course of rivers, joining oceans, carving mountains, lies desire, i.e. again a psychological state or a phenomenon of consciousness. Thus psychological phenomena possess a still greater combining power in relation to physical phenomena than do the phenomena of life.
Positivist philosophy asserts that phenomena of life and psychological phenomena arise from one cause which lies within the sphere of physical studies. This cause is called by different names at different times, but is presumed to be identical with physical energy in general.
Seriously analysing this assertion, it is impossible to avoid seeing that it is completely arbitrary and unfounded. Within the scope of our being and observation, physical phenomena never produce phenomena of life and consciousness. Therefore we are more justified in assuming that phenomena of life and phenomena of consciousness contain something which is absent in physical phenomena.
Further, physical, biological and psychological phenomena cannot be measured by the same measure. Or, to be more exact, phenomena of life and phenomena of consciousness cannot be measured by us at all. And it is only the first, i.e. the physical phenomena, that we can assume to be measurable, though even that is very problematic.
At any rate we know without doubt that neither phenomena of life nor psychological phenomena can be expressed by us in the formulae of physical phenomena; and, generally speaking, we have for them no formulae at all.
If we wish to understand more clearly the mutual relationship of these different orders of phenomena, we must examine in greater detail the laws of their transition one into another.
First of all we should consider the physical phenomena and make a detailed study of all the conditions and characteristics of their transition one into another.
In an article on Wundt (The Northern Messenger, 1888) A. L. Volinsky, expounding the principles of Wundt's physiological psychology, writes:
The actions of sensation are called the actions of irritation. But these two actions need not be at all equal. One can burn down a whole town by a spark from a cigarette. One should understand why this is possible. Balance a board on the edge of some object, in the manner of scales, and see that it is in equilibrium. Now place equal weights on each end of the board. The weights will not fall; though they will lend to fall, they will balance each other. Now, if we take off the smallest weight from one end of the board, the other end will overbalance and the board will tip over, i.e. the force of gravity, which existed before as an invisible tendency, will become a visible driving force. But if we place the board with the weights on the ground, the force of gravity will no longer have an effect. Yet it will not be eliminated; it will merely be translated into other forces. The forces which are only tending to produce motion are called constrained or dead forces. The forces which are actually manifesting themselves in definite movements are called free or living forces. But, among the free forces it is necessary to distinguish the releasing, liberating forces from the forces which are released, liberated.
There is an enormous difference between the liberation of a force and its
transformation into another force.
If one form of movement passes into another, the amount of free force remains the same. But, when one force liberates another, the amount of free force changes. The free force of irritation releases the constrained forces of a nerve. And this liberation of the constrained forces of a nerve lakes place at every point of the nerve. The first motion grows, like a fire, like an avalanche, bearing along with it new and ever new drifts of snow. This is why the action (phenomenon) of sensation need not be exactly equal to the action of irritation.
Let us look more broadly at the relation of the freed and the freeing forces in different kinds of phenomena.
We shall see that, at times, an insignificant amount of physical force can set free an enormous, colossal amount of energy, also physical. But all the amount of physical force we can gather together will not set free a single drop of life energy necessary for the independent existence of a microscopic living organism.
The force contained in living organisms, the force of life, is capable of liberating infinitely great quantities of energy (compared with the force of motion), both life energy and simply physical energy.
A microscopic living cell is capable of infinite dissemination, of developing into new forms, of covering continents with vegetation, of filling oceans with seaweed, of building islands out of coral, of leaving behind itself vast layers of coal, and so on.
Concerning the latent energy contained in the phenomena of consciousness, i.e. in thoughts, in feelings, in desires, we see that the potentiality is still more immeasurable, still more limitless. From personal experience, from observation, from history we know that an idea, a feeling or a desire can, in manifesting, release boundless quantities of energy, create infinite series of phenomena. An idea may act for hundreds and thousands of years and only grow and deepen, producing ever-new series of phenomena, liberating ever-new energy. We know that thoughts continue to act and live when the very name of the man who produced them has become a myth, such as the names of the founders of ancient religions, the creators of immortal poetical works of antiquity, heroes, leaders, prophets. Their works are repeated by innumerable lips, their ideas are analysed, commented on. The works which have been preserved are translated, published, read, learnt by heart, recited, staged, illustrated. And this is so not only with the great masterpieces of universal geniuses. A single little verse may live for thousands of years, makinghundreds of men work for it, serve it in order to transmit it further.
Look how much potential energy there is in some small verse of Pushkin or Lermontoff. This energy affects not only men's feelings, but, by its veryexistence, it affects their will. Look how the words, thoughts and feelings of the semi-mythical Homer go on living - refusing to die - and how much 'motion' each of his words has produced in the course of its existence.
It is quite clear that each thought of a poet contains enormous potential force, similar to the potential power contained in a chunk of coal or in a living cell, but infinitely more subtle, imponderable and potent.
This remarkable correlation of phenomena may be expressed in the following formulation: the further a given phenomenon is removed from the visible and the tangible - from the physical - the further it is from matter, the more it contains of hidden force, the greater the number of phenomena it can produce and involve, the greater the amount of energy it can liberate, and the less it is dependent upon time.
If we connect all the above with the principle of physics that the amount of energy is constant, we must specify more precisely that all the preceding statements referred not to the creation of new energy, but to the liberation of latent energy. Moreover, we have found that the liberating force of life and thought is infinitely greater than the liberating force of mechanical motion and chemical influences. A microscopic living cell is more powerful than a volcano - an idea is mightier than a geological cataclysm.
Having established these distinctions between phenomena, let us try to find out what phenomena represent, taken by themselves, independently of our perception and feeling of them.
We shall see at once that we know nothing about this.
A phenomenon is known to the extent that it is an irritation, i.e. to the extent that it causes a sensation.
Positivist philosophy sees at the root of all phenomena mechanical motion or electro-magnetic energy. But the hypothesis of vibrating atoms or of units of energy -electrons - and of cycles of motion, different combinations of which create different 'phenomena' -all this is nothing but a hypothesis, based on a totally artificial and arbitrary assumption that the world exists in time and space. If we find that the conditions of time and space are only properties of our sense-perception, we absolutely abolish anypossibility of the hypothesis of 'energy' as the foundation of everything;because energy requires time and space, i.e. it requires the conditions of time and space to be the properties of the world and not properties of consciousness. Thus, in reality, we know nothing about the causes of phenomena. We know that certain combinations of causes, acting on our consciousness through the medium of the organism, produce a series of sensations which we are aware of as a green tree. But whether the representation of the tree corresponds to the real essence of the causes which have evoked these sensations, we do not know.
The question of the relation of a phenomenon to the thing in itself, i.e. to the essence contained in it, has been, since very remote times, the main and most difficult problem of philosophy. Can we, by studying phenomena, reach their causes, the very essence of things? Kant said definitely: No, in studyingphenomena we do not even come nearer to the understanding of a thing in itself. And, recognizing the correctness of Kant's view, if we wish to come nearer to understanding things in themselves, we should seek an entirely new method, a way completely different from the one followed by positivist science which studies events or phenomena.