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The Eternal Life As Taught By Professor Munsterberg

Some philosophical pessimists undervalue life simply because it is
subject to limitation. They ascribe all evils to that condition,
forgetting that without limitation life is a mere blank. Suppose our
sight could see all things at once, then sight has no value nor use
for us, because it is life's purpose to choose to see one thing or
another out of many; and if all things be present at once before us
through sight, it is of no purpose. The same is true of intellect,
bearing, smell, touch, feeling, and will. If they be limitless, they
cease to be useful for us. Individuality necessarily implies
limitation, hence if there be no limitation in the world, then there
is no room for individuality. Life without death is no life at all.

Professor Hugo Munsterberg finds no value, so it seems to me, in
'such life as beginning with birth and ending with death.' He
says: "My life as a causal system of physical and
psychological processes, which lies spread out in time between the
dates of my birth and of my death, will come to an end with my last
breath; to continue it, to make it go on till the earth falls into
the sun, or a billion times longer, would be without any value, as
that kind of life which is nothing but the mechanical occurrence of
physiological and psychological phenomena had as such no ultimate
value for me or for you, or for anyone, at any time. But my real
life, as a system of interrelated-will-attitudes, has nothing before
or after because it is beyond time. It is independent of birth and
death because it cannot be related to biological events; it is not
born, and will not die; it is immortal; all possible thinkable time
is enclosed in it; it is eternal."

'The Eternal Life,' p. 26.

Professor Munsterberg tries to distinguish sharply life as the causal
system of physiological and psychological processes, and life as a
system of interrelated-will-attitudes, and denounces the former as
fleeting and valueless, in order to prize the latter as eternal and
of absolute value. How could he, however, succeed in his task unless
he has two or three lives, as some animals are believed to have? Is
it not one and the same life that is treated on the one hand by
science as a system of physiological and psychological processes, and
is conceived on the other by the Professor himself as a system of
interrelated-will-attitudes? It is true that science treats of life
as it is observed in time, space, and causality, and it estimates it
of no value, since to estimate the value of things is no business of
science. The same life observed as a system of
interrelated-will-attitudes is independent of time, space, and
causality as he affirms. One and the same life includes both phases,
the difference being in the points of view of the observers.

Life as observed only from the scientific point of view is bare
abstraction; it is not concrete life; nor is life as observed only in
the interrelated-will-attitude point of view the whole of life. Both
are abstractions. Concrete life includes both phases. Moreover,
Professor Munsterberg sees life in the relationship entirely
independent-of time, space, and causality, saying: "If you agree or
disagree with the latest act of the Russian Czar, the only
significant relation which exists between him and you has nothing to
do with the naturalistic fact that geographically 'an ocean lies
between you; and if you are really a student of Plato, your only
important relation to the Greek philosopher has nothing to do with
the other naturalistic fact that biologically two thousand years lie
between you"; and declares life (seen from that point of view) to be
immortal and eternal. This is as much as to say that life, when seen
in the relationship independent of time and space, is independent of
time and space-that is, immortal and eternal. Is it not mere
tautology? He is in the right in insisting that life can be seen
from the scientific point of view as a system of physiological and
psychological processes, and at the same time as a system of
interrelated-will-attitudes independent of time and space. But he
cannot by that means prove the existence of concrete individual life
which is eternal and immortal, because that which is independent of
time and space is the relationship in which he observes life, but not
life itself. Therefore we have to notice that life held by Professor
Munsterberg to be eternal and immortal is quite a different thing
from the eternal life or immortality of soul believed by common sense.

Next: Life In The Concrete

Previous: Retribution In The Past The Present And The Future Life

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