Julius Schultz, the German philosopher, dramatist, historian, and philologist, was born in Göttingen. From 1888 until 1927 he taught at a high school in Berlin. Among Schultz’s numerous writings dealing with philosophy, the most important are Die Maschinentheorie des Lebens (1909) and Die Philosophie am Scheidewege (1922).
Schultz’s starting point is the question How must we conceive of consciousness, on the one hand, and the object, on the other, if we wish to understand from their combined action the world of phenomena? To answer the psychological part of this question, Schultz first studied the axioms and categories of ordinary and of scientific thinking in order to see what attitude toward the phenomena is forced upon our understanding by its own innermost essence.
At the same time he found a solution to the epistemological problem, namely, that if we desire not only to describe the world scientifically but also to understand it uniformly and completely, we must reduce all qualitative differences to quantitative ones. Accordingly, we must interpret the world of sense as a world of motion and explain all the happenings in the world in a mechanistic-dynamistic manner.
In epistemology, Schultz acknowledged special indebtedness to Immanuel Kant and Hans Vaihinger, whose views he interpreted and developed in a psychologistic fashion. His philosophy of nature is characterized by the attempt to outline a thorough and systematic causal-mechanistic worldview. The nucleus of this view is a “machine theory of life,” which Schultz developed on a broad scientific basis. The theory explains the phenomena of life with the help of the postulate of “biogenes.”
These are defined as unobservable molecules of submicroscopic size, which are not themselves alive but which build up the living forms. Schultz conceived of the “biogenes” in such a manner that from their joint action one can understand all the processes of life in their goaldirectedness and wholeness, and thus both the forms as well as the functions of organisms.
In this biomechanistic conception, organic forms are extremely complicated physicochemical systems. The goal-directed course of living processes arises out of the meaningful arrangement of these systems, and their structure and behavior are explained by strictly causal natural laws, making unnecessary the assumption of immaterial vital forces.
Schultz also contributed to the typology of philosophical thought. He sought to reduce all philosophical standpoints to two basic conceptions of the world and of life, corresponding to two different types of men. The first type pays homage to the value of conservation and prefers purposeful, useful activity; as a thinker, this practical-minded man professes an ethics of duty and believes in progress and in the efficacy of metaphysical forces.
The second type prefers the value of formation and as an aesthete or theorist playfully seeks a sympathetic understanding of forms, which he desires to behold in their abundance.He professes an ethics of character, or ethics of the beauty in life, and believes in an eternal recurrence of coming into being and ceasing to be. As an advocate of determinism and causality, he envisages a mechanistic picture of the world in order to understand it in its depth.
Schultz himself preferred the second standpoint, which determined his attitude in the philosophy of history. In particular, he took a pessimistic view of the future development of culture.He feared that man would become part of a machine, a socialized worker-ant— organized for common work down to the last detail, but, as in the early ages, without a history.