Jacob MoleschottIn hmolscience, Jacob Moleschott (1822-1893) was a Dutch physiologist noted for his philosophical advocation of “scientific materialism”, over that of spiritual life, and for his 1850 logic that “thought is a motion of matter” and famous motto:

“No thought without phosphorus.”

This dates the time when he and Ludwig Buchner believed they had determined phosphorous to be the primary chemical element required for all mental activity. [1]

In 1848, Moleschott attended Ludwig Feuerbach's “Essence of Religion” bi-weekly lectures given at the University of Heidelberg, Dec 1848 to Mar 1849; the two seemingly developing a mutual respect. [5]

In 1895, British psychiatrist Charles Mercier commented on this: [2]

“A German physiologist has said that there is no thought without phosphorus. He might as well have said that there is no thought without carbon, no thought without oxygen, without nitrogen, or without any one of the numerous elements which enter into the molecular constitution of the nervous system. There is no mental condition—no thought, and no feeling—which is not the mental shadow, or equivalent, or obverse, or accompaniment, of some process, some discharge, some disturbance of tension, or some molecular rearrangement in the nervous centers. This is the secret of the connection between body and mind.”

Prior to this Mercier comments the following rather decent reductionism view of feeling preceding movement and molecular movement arrangement preceding feeling:

“The feeling of thirst, the desire for water, precedes the movement. It is in these higher centers whose action also precedes the movement, that the feelings produce their effects. Well, mount as high as you like, whatever part of the brain you explore, you will find nothing but cells, fibers, and ground substance, and all alike are reducible to molecules—to molecules differently arranged and moving in different ways.”

In circa 1900, American philosopher-historian John Fiske commented on this phosphorus motto: [3]

“To me this seems a very barren piece of truism. I have no doubt that a century hence the fact that such a remark should have been regarded either as a valuable novelty or as an alarming heresy will be cited in evidence of the intellectual dullness of our time.”

The following are related quotes:

“The brain cannot exist without phosphorus-containing fat. The phosphorus is the origin, hence also established activity of the brain—without phosphorus no thought.”
— Jacob Moleschott (c.1849), cited by Ludwig Feuerbach, 1850 [4]

“Force is no impelling god, no entity separate from the material substratum ; it is inseparable from matter, is one of its eternal indwelling properties.”
— Jacob Moleschott (c.1850), cited by Ludwig Buchner (1855) in Force and Matter (pg. 1)

1. Smith, Douglas B. (2013). Every Wonder Why? (pg. #). Random House.
2. Mercier, Charles A. (1895). Sanity and Insanity (pg. 52). Walter Scott.
3. Fiske, John (1902). Outlines of Cosmic Philosophy: Based on the Doctrine of Evolution, with Criticisms on the Positive Philosophy (pg. 268). Cambridge.
4. (a) Feuerbach, Ludwig. (1850). “The Natural Sciences and the Revolution” (“Die Naturwissenschaft und die Revolution”) (GermanEnglish). Publisher.
(c) Feuerbach, Ludwig. (1975). Feuerbach’s Works, Volumes 1-6 (editor: Thies) (vol. 4, pgs. 243-65; quote, pgs. 253-54). Frankfurt.
5. Ludwig Feuerbach – Boston Collaborate Encyclopedia of Western Theology.

External links
‚óŹ Jacob Moleschott – Wikipedia.

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