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:[FN#223] 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.

[FN#223] '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.

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