This necessary relation between the a priori and a posteriori elements of knowledge is not a mere subjective law of thought. It is both a law of thought and a law of things. Between the a posteriori facts of the universe and the a priori ideas of the reason there is an absolute nexus, a universal and necessary correlation; so that the cognition of the latter is possible only on the cognition of the former; and the objective existence of the realities, represented by the ideas of reason, is the condition, sine qua non, of the existence of the phenomena presented to sense. If, in one indivisible act of consciousness, we immediately perceive extended matter exterior to our percipient mind, then Extension exists objectively; and if Extension exists objectively, then Space, its conditio sine qua non, also exists objectively. And if a definite body reveals to us the Space in which it is contained, if a succession of pulsations or movements exhibit the uniform Time beneath, so do the changeful phenomena of the universe demand a living Power behind, and the existing order and regular evolution of the universe presuppose Thought—prevision, and predetermination, by an intelligent mind.
If, then, the universe is a created effect, it must furnish some indications of the character of its cause. If, as Plato taught, the world is a "created image" of the eternal archetypes which dwell in the uncreated Mind, and if the subjective ideas which dwell in the human reason, as the offspring of God, are "copies" of the ideas of the Infinite Reason—if the universe be "the autobiography of the Infinite Spirit which has also repeated itself in miniature within our finite spirit," then may we decipher its symbols, and read its lessons straight off. Then every approach towards a scientific comprehension and generalization of the facts of the universe must carry us upward towards the higher realities of reason. The more we can understand of Nature—of her comprehensive laws, of her archetypal forms, of her far-reaching plan spread through the almost infinite ages, and stretching through illimitable space—the more do we comprehend the divine Thought. The inductive generalization of science gradually ascends towards the universal; the pure, essential, a priori reason, with its universal and necessary ideas, descends from above to meet it. The general conceptions of science are thus a kind of ideoe umbratiles—shadowy assimilations to those immutable ideas which dwell in essential reason, as possessed by the Supreme Intelligence, and which are participated in by rational man as the offspring and image of God.
Without making any pretension to profound scientific accuracy, we offer the following tentative classification of the facts of the universe, material and mental, which may be regarded as hints and adumbrations of the ultimate ground, and reason, and cause, of the universe. We shall venture to classify these facts as indicative of some fundamental relation; (i.) to Permanent Being or Reality; (ii.) to Reason and Thought; (iii.) to Moral Ideas and Ends.
(i.) Facts of the universe which indicate some fundamental relation to Permanent Being or Reality.
1. Qualitative Phenomena (properties, attributes, qualities)—the predicates of a subject; which phenomena, being characterized by likeness and unlikeness, are capable of comparison and classification, and thus of revealing something as to the nature of the subject.
2. Dynamical Phenomena (protension, movement, succession)—events transpiring in time, having beginning, succession, and end, which present themselves to us as the expression of power, and throw back their distinctive characteristics on their dynamic source.
3. Quantitative Phenomena (totality, multiplicity, relative unity)—a multiplicity of objects having relative and composite unity, which suggests some relation to an absolute and indivisible unity.
4. Statical Phenomena (extension, magnitude, divisibility)—bodies co-existing in space which are limited, conditioned, relative, dependent, and indicate some relation to that which is self-existent, unconditioned, and absolute.
(ii.) Facts of the universe which indicate some fundamental relation to Reason or Thought.
1. Numerical and Geometrical Proportion.—Definite proportion of elements (Chemistry), symmetrical arrangement of parts (Crystallography), numerical and geometrical relation of the forms and movements of the heavenly bodies (Spherical Astronomy), all of which are capable of exact mathematical expression.
2. Archetypal Forms.—The uniform succession of new existences, and the progressive evolution of new orders and species, conformable to fixed and definite ideal archetypes, the indication of a comprehensive plan(Morphological Botany, Comparative Anatomy).
3. Teleology of Organs.—The adaptation of organs to the fulfillment of special functions, indicating design(Comparative Physiology).
4. Combination of Homotypes and Analogues.—Diversified homologous forms made to fulfill analogous functions, or special purposes fulfilled whilst maintaining a general plan, indicating choice and alternativity.
(iii.) Facts of the universe which indicate some fundamental relation to Moral Ideas and Ends.
1. Ethical Distinctions.—The universal tendency to discriminate between voluntary acts as right or wrong, indicating some relation to an immutable moral standard of right.
2. Sense of Obligation.—The universal consciousness of dependence and obligation, indicating some relation to Supreme Power, an Absolute Authority.
3. Feeling of Responsibility.—The universal consciousness of liability to be required to give account for, and endure the consequences of our action, indicating some relation to a Supreme Judge.
4. Retributive Issues.—The pleasure and pain resulting from moral action in this life, and the universal anticipation of pleasure or pain in the future, as the consequence of present conduct, indicate an absolute Justice ruling the world and man.
Now, if the universe be a created effect, it must, in some degree at least, reveal the character of its Author and cause. We are entitled to regard it as a created symbol and image of the Deity; it must bear the impress of his power; it must reveal his infinite presence; it must express his thoughts; it must embody and realize his ideals, so far, at least, as material symbols will permit. Just as we see the power and thought of man revealed in his works, his energy and skill, his ideal and his taste expressed in his mechanical, artistic, and literary creations, so we may see the mind and character of God displayed in his works. The skill and contrivance of Watts, and Fulton, and Stephenson were exhibited in their mechanical productions. The pure, the intense, the visionary impersonation of the soul which the artist had conjured in his own imagination was wrought out in Psyche. The colossal grandeur of Michael Angelo's ideals, the ethereal and saintly elegance of Raphael's were realized upon the canvas. So he who is familiar with the ideal of the sculptor or the painter can identify his creations even when the author's name is not affixed. And so the "eternal Power" of God is "clearly seen" in the mighty orbs which float in the illimitable space. The vastness of the universe shadows forth the infinity of God. The indivisible unity of space and the ideal unity of the universe reflect the unity of God. The material forms around us are symbols of divine ideas, and the successive history of the universe is an expression of the divine thought; whilst the ethical ideas and sentiments inherent in the human mind are a reflection of the moral character of God.
The reader can not have failed to observe the form in which the Theistic argument is stated; "if the finite universe is a created effect, it must reveal something as to the nature of its cause: if the existing order and arrangement of the universe had a commencement in time, it must have an ultimate and adequate cause." The question, therefore, presents itself in a definite form: "Is the universe finite or infinite; had the order of the universe a beginning, or is it eternal?"
It will be seen at a glance that this is the central and vital question in the Theistic argument. If the order and arrangement of the universe is eternal, then that order is an inherent law of nature, and, as eternal, does not imply a cause ab extra: if it is not eternal, then the ultimate cause of that order must be a power above and beyond nature. In the former case the minor premise of the Theistic syllogism is utterly invalidated; in the latter case it is abundantly sustained.
Some Theistic writers—as Descartes, Pascal, Leibnitz, and Saisset—have made the fatal admission that the universe is, in some sense, infinite and eternal. In making this admission they have unwittingly surrendered the citadel of strength, and deprived the argument by which they would prove the being of a God of all its logical force. That argument is thus presented by Saisset: "The finite supposes the infinite. Extension supposes first space, then immensity: duration supposes first time, then eternity. A sudden and irresistible judgment refers this to the necessary, infinite, perfect being." But if "the world is infinite and eternal," may not nature, or the totality of all existence (to pan), be the necessary, infinite, and perfect Being? An infinite and eternal universe has the reason of its existence in itself, and the existence of such a universe can never prove to us the existence of an infinite and eternal God.
[Footnote 215: "Modern Pantheism," vol. ii. p. 205.]
[Footnote 216: Ibid, p. 123.]
A closer examination of the statements and reasonings of Descartes, Pascal, and Leibnitz, as furnished by Saisset, will show that these distinguished mathematicans were misled by the false notion of "mathematical infinitude." Their infinite universe, after all, is not an "absolute," but a "relative" infinite; that is, the indefinite. "The universe must extend indefinitely in time and space, in the infinite greatness, and in the infinite littleness of its parts—in the infinite variety of its species, of its forms, and of its degrees of existence. The finite can not express the infinite but by being multiplied infinitely. The finite, so far as it is finite, is not in any reasonable relation, or in any intelligible proportion to the infinite. But the finite, as multiplied infinitely, ages upon ages, spaces upon spaces, stars beyond stars, worlds beyond worlds, is a true expression of the Infinite Being. Does it follow, because the universe has no limits,—that it must therefore be eternal, immense, infinite as God himself? No; that is but a vain scruple, which springs from the imagination, and not from the reason. The imagination is always confounding what reason should ever distinguish, eternity and time, immensity and space, relative infinity and absolute infinity. The Creator alone is eternal, immense, absolutely infinite."
[Footnote 217: "The infinite is distinct from the finite, and consequently from the multiplication of the finite by itself; that is, from the indefinite. That which is not infinite, added as many times as you please to itself, will not become infinite."—Cousin, "Hist, of Philos.," vol. ii. p. 231.]
[Footnote 218: Saisset, "Modern Pantheism," vol. ii. pp. 127, 128.]
The introduction of the idea of "the mathematical infinite" into metaphysical speculation, especially by Kant and Hamilton, with the design, it would seem, of transforming the idea of infinity into a sensuous conception, has generated innumerable paralogisms which disfigure the pages of their philosophical writings. This procedure is grounded in the common fallacy of supposing that infinity and quantity are compatible attributes, and susceptible of mathematical synthesis. This insidious and plausible error is ably refuted by a writer in the "North American Review." We can not do better than transfer his argument to our pages in an abridged form.
[Footnote 219: "The Conditioned and the Unconditioned," No. CCV. art. iii. (1864).]
Mathematics is conversant with quantities and quantitative relations. The conception of quantity, therefore, if rigorously analyzed, will indicate a priori the natural and impassable boundaries of the science; while a subsequent examination of the quantities called infinite in the mathematical sense, and of the algebraic symbol of infinity, will be seen to verify the results of this a priori analysis.
Quantity is that attribute of things in virtue of which they are susceptible of exact mensuration. The question how much, or how many (quantus), implies the answer, so much, or so many (tantus); but the answer is possible only through reference to some standard of magnitude or multitude arbitrarily assumed. Every object, therefore, of which quantity, in the mathematical sense, is predicable, must be by its essential nature mensurable. Now mensurability implies the existence of actual, definite limits, since without them there could be no fixed relation between the given object and the standard of measurement, and, consequently, no possibility of exact mensuration. In fact, since quantification is the object of all mathematical operations, mathematics may be not inaptly defined as the science of the determinations of limits. It is evident, therefore, that the terms quantity and finitude express the same attribute, namely, limitation—the former relatively, the latter absolutely; for quantity is limitation considered with relation to some standard of measurement, and finitude is limitation considered simply in itself. The sphere of quantity, therefore, is absolutely identical with the sphere of the finite; and the phrase infinite quantity, if strictly construed, is a contradiction in terms.
The result thus attained by considering abstract quantity is corroborated by considering concrete and discrete quantities. Such expressions as infinite sphere, radius, parallelogram, line, and so forth, are self-contradictory. A sphere is limited by its own periphery, and a radius by the centre and circumference of its circle. A parallelogram of infinite altitude is impossible, because the limit of its altitude is assigned in the side which must be parallel to its base in order to constitute it a parallelogram. In brief, all figuration is limitation. The contradiction in the term infinite line is not quite so obvious, but can readily be made apparent. Objectively, a line is only the termination of a surface, and a surface the termination of a solid; hence a line can not exist apart from an extended quantity, nor an infinite line apart from an infinite quantity. But as this term has just been shown to be self-contradictory, an infinite line can not exist objectively at all. Again, every line is extension in one dimension; hence a mathematical quantity, hence mensurable, hence finite; you must therefore, deny that a line is a quantity, or else affirm that it is finite.
The same conclusion is forced upon us, if from geometry we turn to arithmetic. The phrases infinite number, infinite series, infinite process, and so forth, are all contradictory when literally construed. Number is a relation among separate unities or integers, which, considered objectively as independent of our cognitive powers, must constitute an exact sum; and this exactitude, or synthetic totality, is limitation. If considered subjectively in the mode of its cognition, a number is infinite only in the sense that it is beyond the power of our imagination or conception, which is an abuse of the term. In either case the totality is fixed; that is, finite. So, too, of series and process. Since every series involves a succession of terms or numbers, and every process a succession of steps or stages, the notion of series and process plainly involves that of number, and must be rigorously dissociated from the idea of infinity. At any one step, at any one term, the number attained is determinate, hence finite. The fact that, by the law of the series or of the process, we may continue the operation as long as we please, does not justify the application of the term infinite to the operation itself; if any thing is infinite, it is the will which continues the operation, which is absurd if said of human wills.
Consequently, the attribute of infinity is not predicable either of 'diminution without limit,' 'augmentation without limit,' or 'endless approximation to a fixed limit,' for these mathematical processes continue only as we continue them, consist of steps successively accomplished, and are limited by the very fact of this serial incompletion.
"We can not forbear pointing out an important application of these results to the Critical Philosophy. Kant bases each of his famous four antinomies on the demand of pure reason for unconditioned totality in a regressive series of conditions. This, he says, must be realized either in an absolute first of the series, conditioning all the other members, but itself unconditioned, or else in the absolute infinity of the series without a first; but reason is utterly unable, on account of mutual contradiction, to decide in which of the two alternatives the unconditioned is found. By the principles we have laid down, however, the problem is solved. The absolute infinity of a series is a contradiction in adjecto. As every number, although immeasurably and inconceivably great, is impossible unless unity is given as its basis, so every series, being itself a number, is impossible unless a first term is given as a commencement. Through a first term alone is the unconditioned possible; that is, if it does not exist in a first term, it can not exist at all; of the two alternatives, therefore, one altogether disappears, and reason is freed from the dilemma of a compulsory yet impossible decision. Even if it should be allowed that the series has no first term, but has originated ab aeterno, it must always at each instant have a last term; the series, as a whole, can not be infinite, and hence can not, as Kant claims it can, realize in its wholeness unconditioned totality. Since countless terms forever remain unreached, the series is forever limited by them. Kant himself admits that it can never be completed, and is only potentially infinite; actually, therefore, by his own admission, it is finite. But a last term implies a first, as absolutely as one end of a string implies the other; the only possibility of an unconditioned lies in Kant's first alternative, and if, as he maintains Reason must demand it, she can not hesitate in her decisions. That number is a limitation is no new truth, and that every series involves number is self-evident; and it is surprising that so radical a criticism on Kant's system should never have suggested itself to his opponents. Even the so-called moments of time can not be regarded as constituting a real series, for a series can not be real except through its divisibility into members whereas time is indivisible, and its partition into moments is a conventional fiction. Exterior limitability and interior divisibility result equally from the possibility of discontinuity. Exterior illimitability and interior indivisibility are simple phases of the same attribute of necessary continuity contemplated under different aspects. From this principle flows another upon which it is impossible to lay too much stress, namely; illimitability and indivisibility, infinity and unity, reciprocally necessitate each other. Hence the Quantitative Infinites must be also Units, and the division of space and time, implying absolute contradiction, is not even cogitable as an hypothesis.
"The word infinite, therefore, in mathematical usage, as applied to process and to quantity, has a two-fold signification. An infinite process is one which we can continue as long as we please, but which exists solely in our continuance of it. An infinite quantity is one which exceeds our powers of mensuration or of conception, but which, nevertheless, has bounds and limits in itself. Hence the possibility of relation among infinite quantities, and of different orders of infinities. If the words infinite, infinity, infinitesimal, should be banished from mathematical treatises and replaced by the words indefinite, indefinity, and indefinitesimal, mathematics would suffer no loss, while, by removing a perpetual source of confusion, metaphysics would get great gain."
[Footnote 220: By the application of these principles the writer in the "North American Review" completely dissolves the antinomies by which Hamilton seeks to sustain his "Philosophy of the Conditioned." See "North American Review," 1864, pp. 432-437.]
[Footnote 221: De Morgan, "Diff. and Integ. Calc." p. 9.]
[Footnote 222: Id., ib., p. 25.]
The above must be regarded as a complete refutation of the position taken by Hume, to wit, that the idea of nature eternally existing in a state of order, without a cause other than the eternally inherent laws of nature, is no more self-contradictory than the idea of an eternally-existing and infinite mind, who originated this order—a God existing without a cause. The eternal and infinite Mind is indivisible and illimitable; nature, in its totality, as well as in its individual parts, has interior divisibility, and exterior limitability. The infinity of God is not a quantitative, but a qualitative infinity. The miscalled eternity and infinity of nature is an indefinite extension and protension in time and space, and, as quantitative, must necessarily be limited and measurable, therefore finite.
The universe of sense-perception and sensuous imagination is a phenomenal universe, a genesis, a perpetual becoming, an entrance into existence, and an exit thence; the Theist is, therefore, perfectly justified in regarding it as disqualified for self-existence, and in passing behind it for the Supreme Entity that needs no cause. Phenomena demand causation, entities dispense with it. No one asks for a cause of the space which contains the universe, or of the Eternity on the bosom of which it floats. Everywhere the line is necessarily drawn upon the same principle; that entities may have self-existence, phenomena must have a cause.
[Footnote 223: "Science, Nescience, and Faith," in Martineau's "Essays," p. 206.]
IV. Psychological analysis clearly attests that in the phenomena of consciousness there are found elements or principles which, in their regular and normal development, transcend the limits of consciousness, and attain to the knowledge of Absolute Being, Absolute Reason, Absolute Good, i.e., GOD.
The analysis of thought clearly reveals that the mind of man is in possession of ideas, notions, beliefs, principles (as e.g., the idea of space, duration, cause, substance, unity, infinity), which are not derived from sensation and experience, and which can not be drawn out of sensation and experience by any process of generalization. These ideas have this incontestable peculiarity, as distinguished from all the phenomena of sensation, that, whilst the latter are particular, contingent, and relative, the former are universal, necessary, and absolute. As an example, and a proof of the reality and validity of this distinction, take the ideas of body and of space, the former unquestionably derived from experience, the latter supplied by reason alone. "I ask you, can not you conceive this book to be destroyed? Without doubt you can. And can not you conceive the whole world to be destroyed, and no matter whatever in existence? You can. For you, constituted as you are, the supposition of the non-existence of bodies implies no contradiction. And what do we call the idea of a thing which we can conceive of as non-existing? We call it a contingent and relative idea. But if you can conceive this book to be destroyed, all bodies destroyed, can you suppose space to be destroyed? You can not. It is in the power of man's thought to conceive the non-existence of bodies; it is not in the power of man's thought to conceive the non-existence of space. The idea of space is thus a necessary and absolute idea."
[Footnote 224: Cousin's "Hist. of Philos.," vol. ii. p. 214.]
Take, again, the ideas of event and cause. The idea of an event is a contingent idea; it is the idea of something which might or might not have happened. There is no impossibility or contradiction in either supposition. The idea of cause is a necessary idea. An event being given, the idea of cause is necessarily implied. An uncaused event is an impossible conception. The idea of cause is also a universal idea extending to all events, actual or conceivable, and affirmed by all minds. It is a rational fact, attested by universal consciousness, that we can not think of an event transpiring without a cause; of a thing being the author of its own existence; of something generated by and out of nothing. Ex nihilo nihil is a universal law of thought and of things. This universal "law of causality" is clearly distinguishable from a general truth reached by induction. For example, it is a very general truth that, during twenty-four hours, day is succeeded by night. But this is not a necessary truth, neither is it a universal truth. It does not extend to all known lands, as, for example, to Nova Zembla. It does not hold true of the other planets. Nor does it extend to all possible lands. We can easily conceive of lands plunged in eternal night, or rolling in eternal day. With another system of worlds, one can conceive other physics, but one can not conceive other metaphysics. It is impossible to imagine a world in which the law of causality does not reign. Here, then, we have one absolute principle (among others which may be enumerated), the existence and reality of which is revealed, not by sensation, but by reason—a principle which transcends the limits of experience, and which, in its regular and logical development, attains the knowledge of the Absolute Cause—the First Cause of all causes—God.
Thus it is evident that the human mind is in possession of two distinct orders of primitive cognitions,—one, contingent, relative, and phenomenal; the other universal, necessary, and absolute. These two distinct orders of cognition presuppose the existence in man of two distinct faculties or organs of knowledge—sensation, external and internal, which perceives the contingent, relative, and phenomenal, and reason, which apprehends the universal, necessary, and absolute. The knowledge which is derived from sensation and experience is called empirical knowledge, or knowledge a posteriori, because subsequent to, and consequent upon, the exercise of the faculties of observation. The knowledge derived from reason is called transcendental knowledge, or knowledge a priori, because it furnishes laws to, and governs the exercise of the faculties of observation and thought, and is not the result of their exercise. The sensibility brings the mind into relation with the physical world, the reason puts mind in communication with the intelligible world—the sphere of a priori principles, of necessary and absolute truths, which depend upon neither the world nor the conscious self, and which reveal to man the existence of the soul, nature, and God. Every distinct fact of consciousness is thus at once psychological and ontological, and contains these three fundamental ideas, which we can not go beyond, or cancel by any possible analysis—the soul, with its faculties; matter, with its qualities; God, with his perfections.
We do not profess to be able to give a clear explication and complete enumeration of all the ideas of reason, and of the necessary and universal principles or axioms which are grounded on these ideas. This is still the grand desideratum of metaphysical science. Its achievement will give us a primordial logic, which shall be as exact in its procedure and as certain in its conclusions as the mathematical sciences. Meantime, it may be affirmed that philosophic analysis, in the person of Plato, Aristotle, Kant, and Cousin, has succeeded in disengaging such a priori ideas, and formulating such principles and laws of thought, as lead infallibly to the cognition of the Absolute Being, the Absolute Reason, the Absolute Good, that is, GOD.
It would carry us too far beyond our present design were we to exhibit, in each instance, the process of immediate abstraction by which the contingent and relative element of knowledge is eliminated, and the necessary and absolute principle is disengaged. We shall simply state the method, and show its application by a single illustration.
There are unquestionably two sorts of abstraction: 1. "Comparative abstraction, operating upon several real objects, and seizing their resemblances in order to form an abstract idea, which is collective and mediate; collective, because different individuals concur in its formation; mediate, because it requires several intermediate operations." This is the method of the physical sciences, which comprises comparison, abstraction, and generalization. The result in this process is the attainment of a general truth. 2. "Immediate abstraction, not comparative; operating not upon several concretes, but upon a single one, eliminating and neglecting its individual and variable part, and disengaging the absolute part, which it raises at once to its pure form." The parts to be eliminated in a concrete cognition are, first, the quality of the object, and the circumstances under which the absolute unfolds itself; and secondly, the quality of the subject, which perceives but does not constitute it. The phenomena of the me and the not-me being eliminated, the absolute remains. This is the process of rational psychology, and the result obtained is a universal and necessary truth.
"Let us take, as an example, the principle of cause. To be able to say that the event I see must have a cause, it is not indispensable to have seen several events succeed each other. The principle which compels me to pronounce this judgment is already complete in the first as in the last event; it can not change in respect to its object, it can not change in itself; it neither increases nor decreases with the greater or less number of applications. The only difference that it is subject to in regard to us is that we apply it, whether we remark it or not, whether we disengage it or not from its particular application. The question is not to eliminate the particularity of the phenomenon wherein it appears to us, whether it be the fall of a leaf or the murder of a man, in order immediately to conceive, in a general and abstract manner, the necessity of a cause for every event that begins to exist. Here it is not because I am the same, or have been affected in the same manner in several different cases, that I have come to this general and abstract conception. A leaf falls; at the same moment I think, I believe, I declare that this falling of the leaf must have a cause. A man has been killed; at the same instant I believe, I proclaim that this death must have a cause. Each one of these facts contains particular and variable circumstances, and something universal and necessary, to wit, both of them can not but have a cause. Now I am perfectly able to disengage the universal from the particular in regard to the first fact as well as in regard to the second fact, for the universal is in the first quite as well as in the second. In fact, if the principle of causality is not universal in the first fact, neither will it be in the second, nor in the third, nor in the thousandth; for a thousandth is not nearer than the first to the infinite—to absolute universality. It is the same, and still more evidently, with necessity. Pay particular attention to this point; if necessity is not in the first fact, it can not be in any; for necessity can not be formed little by little, and by successive increments. If, on the first murder I see, I do not exclaim that this murder had necessarily a cause, at the thousandth murder, although it shall be proved that all the others had causes, I shall have the right to think that this murder has, very probably, also a cause, but I shall never have the right to say that it necessarily had a cause. But when universality and necessity are already in a single case, that case is sufficient to entitle me to deduce them from it," and we may add, also, to affirm them of every other event that may transpire.
[Footnote 225: Cousin, "True, Beautiful, and Good," pp. 57, 58.]
The following schema will exhibit the generally accepted results of this method of analysis applied to the phenomena of thought:
(i.) Universal and necessary principles, or primitive judgments from whence is derived the cognition of Absolute Being.
1. The principle of Substance; thus enounced—"every quality supposes a subject or real being."
2. The principle of Causality; "every thing that begins to be supposes a power adequate to its production, i.e., an efficient cause."
3. The principle of Unity; "all differentiation and plurality supposes an incomposite unity; all diversity, an ultimate and indivisible identity."
4. The principle of the Unconditioned; "the finite supposes the infinite, the dependent supposes the self-existent, the temporal supposes the eternal."
(ii.) Universal and necessary principles, or primitive judgments, from which is derived the cognition of the Absolute Reason.
1. The principle of Ideality; thus enounced, "facts of order—definite proportion, symmetrical arrangement, numerical relation, geometrical form—having a commencement in time, present themselves to us as the expression of Ideas, and refer us to Mind as their analogon, and exponent, and source."
2. The principle of Consecution; "the uniform succession and progressive evolution of new existences, according to fixed definite archetypes, suppose a unity of thought—a comprehensive plan embracing all existence."
3. The principle of Intentionality or Final Cause; "every means supposes an end contemplated, and a choice and adaptation of means to secure the end."
4. The principle of Personality; "intelligent purpose and voluntary choice imply a personal agent."
(iii.) Universal and necessary principles, or primitive judgments, from whence is derived the cognition of the Absolute Good.
1. The principle of Moral Law; thus enounced, "the action of a voluntary agent necessarily characterized as right or wrong, supposes an immutable and universal standard of right—an absolute moral Law."
2. The principle of Moral Obligation; "the feeling of obligation to obey a law of duty supposes a Lawgiver by whose authority we are obliged."
3. The principle of Moral Desert; "the feeling of personal accountability and of moral desert supposes a judge to whom we must give account, and who shall determine our award."
4. The pnnciple of Retribution; "retributive issues in this life, and the existence in all minds of an impersonal justice which demands that, in the final issue, every being shall receive his just deserts, suppose a being of absolute justice who shall render to every man according to his works."
A more profound and exhaustive analysis may perhaps resolve all these primitive judgments into one universal principle or law, which Leibnitz has designated "The principle or law of sufficient reason," and which is thus enounced—there must be an ultimate and sufficient reason why any thing exists, and why it is, rather than otherwise; that is, if any thing begins to be, something else must be supposed as the adequate ground, and reason, and cause of its existence; or again, to state the law in view of our present discussion, "if the finite universe, with its existing order and arrangement, had a beginning, there must be an ultimate and sufficient reason why it exists, and why it is as it is, rather than otherwise." In view of one particular class of phenomena, or special order of facts, this "principle of sufficient reason" may be varied in the form of its statement, and denominated "the principle of substance," "the principle of causality," "the principle of intentionality," etc.; and, it may be, these are but specific judgments under the one fundamental and generic law of thought which constitutes the major premise of every Theistic syllogism.
These fundamental principles, primitive judgments, axioms, or necessary and determinate forms of thought, exist potentially or germinally in all human minds; they are spontaneously developed in presence of the phenomena of the universe, material and mental; they govern the original movement of the mind, even when not appearing in consciousness in their pure and abstract form; and they compel us to affirm a permanent being or reality behind all phenomena—a power adequate to the production of change, back of all events; a personal Mind, as the explanation of all the facts of order, and uniform succession, and regular evolution; and a personal Lawgiver and Righteous Judge as the ultimate ground and reason of all the phenomena of the moral world; in short, to affirm an Unconditioned Cause of all finite and secondary causes; a First Principle of all principles; an Ultimate Reason of all reasons; an immutable Uncreated Justice, the living light of conscience; a King immortal, eternal, invisible, the only wise God, the ruler of the world and man.
Our position, then, is, that the idea of God is revealed to man in the natural and spontaneous development of his intelligence, and that the existence of a Supreme Reality corresponding to, and represented by this idea, is rationally and logically demonstrable, and therefore justly entitled to take rank as part of our legitimate, valid, and positive knowledge.
And now from this position, which we regard as impregnable, we shall be prepared more deliberately and intelligibly to contemplate the various assaults which are openly or covertly made upon the doctrine that God is cognizable by human reason.
THE UNKNOWN GOD (continued).
IS GOD COGNIZABLE BY REASON?
"The abnegation of reason is not the evidence of faith, but the confession of despair."—LIGHTFOOT.
At the outset of this inquiry we attempted a hasty grouping of the various parties and schools which are arrayed against the doctrine that God is cognizable by human reason, and in general terms we sought to indicate the ground they occupy.
Viewed from a philosophical stand-point, we found one party marshalled under the standard of Idealism; another of Materialism and, again, another of Natural Realism. Regarded in their theological aspects, some are positive Atheists; others, strange to say, are earnest Theists; whilst others occupy a position of mere Indifferentism. Yet, notwithstanding the remarkable diversity, and even antagonism of their philosophical and theological opinions, they are all agreed in denying to reason any valid cognition of God.
The survey of Natural Theism we have completed in the previous chapter will enable us still further to indicate the exact points against which their attacks are directed, and also to estimate the character and force of the weapons employed. With or without design, they are, each in their way, assailing one or other of the principles upon which we rest our demonstration of the being of God. As we proceed, we shall find that Mill and the Constructive Idealists are really engaged in undermining "the principle of substance;" their doctrine is a virtual denial of all objective realities answering to our subjective ideas of matter, mind, and God. The assaults of Comte and the Materialists of his school are mainly directed against "the principle of causality" and "the principle of intentionality;" they would deny to man all knowledge of causes, efficient and final. The attacks of Hamilton and his school are directed against "the principle of the unconditioned," his philosophy of the conditioned is a plausible attempt to deprive man of all power to think the Infinite and Perfect, to conceive the Unconditioned and Ultimate Cause; whilst the Dogmatic Theologians are borrowing, and recklessly brandishing, the weapons of all these antagonists, and, in addition to all this, are endeavoring to show the insufficiency of "the principle of unity" and the weakness and invalidity of "the moral principles," which are regarded by us as relating man to a Moral Personality, and as indicating to him the existence of a righteous God, the ruler of the world. It is necessary, therefore, that we should concentrate our attention yet more specifically on these separate lines of attack, and attempt a minuter examination of the positions assumed by each, and of the arguments by which they are seeking, directly or indirectly, to invalidate the fundamental principles of Natural Theism.
(i.) We commence with the Idealistic School, of which John Stuart Mill must be regarded as the ablest living representative.
The doctrine of this school is that all our knowledge is necessarily confined to mental phenomena; that is, "to feelings or states of consciousness," and "the succession and co-existence, the likeness and unlikeness between these feelings or states of consciousness." All our general notions, all our abstract ideas, are generated out of these feelings by "inseparable association," which registers their inter-relations of recurrence, co-existence, and resemblance. The results of this inseparable association constitute at once the sum total and the absolute limit of all possible cognition.
[Footnote 226: J. S. Mill, "Logic," vol. i. p. 83 (English edition).]
[Footnote 227: In the language of Mill, every thing of which we are conscious is called "feeling." "Feeling, in the proper sense of the term, is a genus of which Sensation, Emotion, and Thought are the subordinate species."—"Logic," bk. i. ch. iii. Sec. 3.]
It is admitted by Mill that one apparent element in this total result is the general conviction that our own existence is really distinct from the external world, and that the personal ego has an essential identity distinct from the fleeting phenomena of sensation. But this persuasion is treated by him as a mere illusion—a leap beyond the original datum for which we have no authority. Of a real substance or substratum called Mind, of a real substance or substratum called Matter, underlying the series of feelings—"the thread of consciousness"—we do know and can know nothing; and in affirming the existence of such substrata we are making a supposition we can not possibly verify. The ultimate datum of speculative philosophy is not "I think," but simply "Thoughts or feelings are." The belief in a permanent subject or substance, called matter, as the ground and plexus of physical phenomena, and of a permanent subject or substance, called mind, as the ground and plexus of mental phenomena, is not a primitive and original intuition of reason. It is simply through the action of the principle of association among the ultimate phenomena, called feelings, that this (erroneous) separation of the phenomena into two orders or aggregates—one called mind or self; the other matter, or not self—takes place; and without this curdling or associating process no such notion or belief could have been generated. "The principle of substance," as an ultimate law of thought, is, therefore, to be regarded as a transcendental dream.
But now that the notion of mind or self, and of matter or not self, do exist as common convictions of our race, what is philosophy to make of them? After a great many qualifications and explanations, Mr. Mill has, in his "Logic," summed up his doctrine of Constructive Idealism in the following words: "As body is the mysterious something which excites the mind to feel, so mind is the mysterious something which feels and thinks." But what is this "mysterious something?" Is it a reality, an entity, a subject; or is it a shadow, an illusion, a dream? In his "Examination of Sir Wm. Hamilton's Philosophy," where it may be presumed, we have his maturest opinions, Mr. Mill, in still more abstract and idealistic phraseology, attempts an answer. Here he defines matter as "a permanent possibility of sensation," and mind as "a permanent possibility of feeling." And "the belief in these permanent possibilities," he assures us, "includes all that is essential or characteristic in the belief in substance." "If I am asked," says he, "whether I believe in matter, I ask whether the questioner accepts this definition of it. If he does, I believe in matter: and so do all Berkeleians. In any other sense than this, I do not. But I affirm with confidence that this conception of matter includes the whole meaning attached to it by the common world, apart from philosophical, and sometimes from theological theories. The reliance of mankind on the real existence of visible and tangible objects, means reliance on the reality and permanence of possibilities of visual and tactual sensations, when no sensations are actually experienced." "Sensations," however, let it be borne in mind, are but a subordinate species of the genus feeling. They are "states of consciousness"—phenomena of mind, not of matter; and we are still within the impassable boundary of ideal phenomena; we have yet no cognition of an external world. The sole cosmical conception, for us, is still a succession of sensations, or states of consciousness. This is the one phenomenon which we can not transcend in knowledge, do what we will; all else is hypothesis and illusion. The non-ego, after all, then, may be but a mode in which the mind represents to itself the possible modifications of the ego.
[Footnote 228: "Logic," bk. i, ch. iii. Sec. 8.]
[Footnote 229: "Examination of Sir Wm. Hamilton's Philosophy," vol. i. p. 243.]
[Footnote 230: Ibid., vol. i. p. 253.]
[Footnote 231: Ibid., vol. i. p. 246.]
[Footnote 232: Ibid., vol. i. pp. 243, 244.]
[Footnote 233: "Logic," bk. i. ch. iii. Sec. 3.]
And now that matter, as a real existence, has disappeared under Mr. Mill's analysis, what shall be said of mind or self? Is there any permanent subject or real entity underlying the phenomena of feeling? In feeling, is there a personal self that feels, thinks, and wills? It would seem not. Mind, as well as matter, resolves itself into a "series of feelings," varying and fugitive from moment to moment, in a sea of possibilities of feeling. "My mind," says Mill, "is but a series of feelings, or, as it has been called, a thread of consciousness, however supplemented by believed possibilities of consciousness, which are not, though they might be, realized."
[Footnote 234: "Examination of Sir Wm. Hamilton's Philosophy," vol. i. p. 254.]
The ultimate fact of the phenomenal world, then, in the philosophy of Mill, is neither matter nor mind, but feelings or states of consciousness associated together by the relations, amongst themselves, of recurrence, co-existence, and resemblance. The existence of self, except as "a series of feelings;" the existence of any thing other than self, except as a feigned unknown cause of sensation, is rigorously denied. Mr. Mill does not content himself with saying that we are ignorant of the nature of matter and mind, but he asserts we are ignorant of the existence of matter and mind as real entities.
The bearing of this doctrine of Idealism upon Theism and Theology will be instantly apparent to the reader. If I am necessarily ignorant of the existence of the external world, and of the personal ego, or real self, I must be equally ignorant of the existence of God. If one is a mere supposition, an illusion, so the other must be. Mr. Mill, however, is one of those courteous and affable writers who are always conscious, as it were, of the presence of their readers, and extremely careful not to shock their feelings or prejudices; besides, he has too much conscious self-respect to avow himself an atheist. As a speculative philosopher, he would rather regard Theism and Theology as "open questions," and he satisfies himself with saying, if you believe in the existence of God, or in Christianity, I do not interfere with you. "As a theory," he tells us that his doctrine leaves the evidence of the existence of God exactly as it was before. Supposing me to believe that the Divine mind is simply the series of the Divine thoughts and feelings prolonged through eternity, that would be, at any rate, believing God's existence to be as real as my own. And as for evidence, the argument of Paley's 'Natural Theology,' or, for that matter, of his 'Evidences of Christianity,' would stand exactly as it does.
The design argument is drawn from the analogies of human experience. From the relation which human works bear to human thoughts and feelings, it infers a corresponding relation between works more or less similar, but superhuman, and superhuman thoughts and feelings. If it prove these, nobody but a metaphysician needs care whether or not it proves a mysterious substratum for them. The argument from design, it seems to us, however, would have no validity if there be no external world offering marks of design. If the external world is only a mode of feeling, a series of mental states, then our notion of the Divine Existence may be only "an association of feelings"—a mode of Self. And if we have no positive knowledge of a real self as existing, and God's existence is no more "real than our own," then the Divine existence stands on a very dubious and uncertain foundation. It can have no very secure hold upon the human mind, and certainly has no claim to be regarded as a fundamental and necessary belief. That it has a very precarious hold upon the mind of Mr. Mill, is evident from the following passage in his article on "Later Speculations of A. Comte." "We venture to think that a religion may exist without a belief in a God, and that a religion without a God may be, even to Christians, an instructive and profitable object of contemplation."
And now let us close Mr. Mill's book, and, introverting our mental gaze, interrogate consciousness, the verdict of which, even Mr. Mill assures us, is admitted on all hands to be a decision without appeal.
[Footnote 235: "Examination of Sir Wm. Hamilton's Philosophy," vol. i. p. 254.]
[Footnote 236: "Examination of Sir Wm. Hamilton's Philosophy," vol. i. p. 259.]
[Footnote 237: Westminster Review, July, 1835 (American edition), p. 3.]
[Footnote 238: "Examination of Sir Wm. Hamilton's Philosophy," vol. i. p. 161.]
1. We have an ineradicable, and, as it would seem, an intuitive faith in the real existence of an external world distinct from our sensations, and also of a personal self, which we call "I," "myself," as distinct from "my sensations," and "my feelings." We find, also, that this is confessedly the common belief of mankind. There have been a few philosophers who have affected to treat this belief as a "mere prejudice," an "illusion;" but they have never been able, practically, so to regard and treat it. Their language, just as plainly as the language of the common people, betrays their instinctive faith in an outer world, and proves their utter inability to emancipate themselves from this "prejudice," if such it may please them to call it. In view of this acknowledged fact, we ask—Does the term "permanent possibility of sensations" exhaust all that is contained in this conception of an external world? This evening I remember that at noonday I beheld the sun, and experienced a sensation of warmth whilst exposing myself to his rays; and I expect that to-morrow, under the same conditions, I shall experience the same sensations. I now remember that last evening I extinguished my light and attempted to leave my study, but, coming in contact with the closed door, experienced a sense of resistance to my muscular effort, by a solid and extended body exterior to myself; and I expect that this evening, under the same circumstances, I shall experience the same sensations. Now, does a belief in "a permanent possibility of sensations" explain all these experiences? does it account for that immediate knowledge of an external object which I had on looking at the sun, or that presentative knowledge of resistance and extension, and of an extended, resisting substance, I had when in contact with the door of my study? Mr. Mill very confidently affirms that this belief includes all; and this phrase expresses all the meaning attached to extended "matter" and resisting "substance" by the common world. We as confidently affirm that it does no such thing; and as "the common world" must be supposed to understand the language of consciousness as well as the philosopher, we are perfectly willing to leave the decision of that question to the common consciousness of our race. If all men do not believe in a permanent reality—a substance which is external to themselves, a substance which offers resistance to their muscular effort, and which produces in them the sensations of solidity, extension, resistance, etc.—they believe nothing and know nothing at all about the matter.
[Footnote 239: "Examination of Sir Wm. Hamilton's Philosophy," vol. i. p. 243.]
Still less does the phrase "a permanent possibility of feelings" exhaust all our conception of a personal self. Recurring to the experiences of yesterday, I remember the feelings I experienced on beholding the sun, and also on pressing against the closed door, and I confidently expect the recurrence, under the same circumstances, of the same feelings. Does the belief in "a permanent possibility of feelings" explain the act of memory by which I recall the past event, and the act of prevision by which I anticipate the recurrence of the like experience in the future? Who or what is the "I" that remembers and the "I" that anticipates? The "ego," the personal mind, is, according to Mill, a mere "series of feelings," or, more correctly, a flash of "present feelings" on "a background of possibilities of present feelings." If, then, there be no permanent substance or reality which is the subject of the present feeling, which receives and retains the impress of the past feeling, and which anticipates the recurrence of like feelings in the future, how can the past be recalled, how distinguished from the present? and how, without a knowledge of the past as distinguished from the present, can the future be forecast? Mr. Mill feels the pressure of this difficulty, and frankly acknowledges it. He admits that, on the hypothesis that mind is simply "a series of feelings," the phenomena of memory and expectation are "inexplicable" and "incomprehensible." He is, therefore, under the necessity of completing his definition of mind by adding that it is a series of feelings which "is aware of itself as a series;" and, still further, of supplementing this definition by the conjecture that "something which has ceased to exist, or is not yet in existence, can still, in a manner, be present." Now he who can understand how a series of feelings can flow on in time, and from moment to moment drop out of the present into non-existence, and yet be present and conscious of itself as a series, may be accorded the honor of understanding Mr. Mill's definition of mind or self, and may be permitted to rank himself as a distinguished disciple of the Idealist school; for ourselves, we acknowledge we are destitute of the capacity to do the one, and of all ambition to be the other. And he who can conceive how the past feeling of yesterday and the possible feeling of to-morrow can be in any manner present to-day; or, in other words, how any thing which has ceased to exist, or which never had an existence, can now exist, may be permitted to believe that a thing can be and not be at the same moment, that a part is greater than the whole, and that two and two make five; but we are not ashamed to confess our inability to believe a contradiction. To our understanding, "possibilities of feeling" are not actualities. They may or may not be realized, and until realized in consciousness, they have no real being. If there be no other background of mental phenomena save mere "possibilities of feeling," then present feelings are the only existences, the only reality, and a loss of immediate consciousness, as in narcosis and coma, is the loss of all personality, all self-hood, and of all real being.
[Footnote 240: "Exam. of Hamilton," vol. i. p. 260.]
[Footnote 241: Ibid, p. 262.]
[Footnote 242: Ibid.]
2. What, then, is the verdict of consciousness as to the existence of a permanent substance, an abiding existence which is the subject of all the varying phenomena? Of what are we really conscious when we say "I think," "I feel," "I will?" Are we simply conscious of thought, feeling, and volition, or of a self, a person, which thinks, feels, and wills? The man who honestly and unreservedly accepts the testimony of consciousness in all its integrity must answer at once, we have an immediate consciousness, not merely of the phenomena of mind, but of a personal self as passively or actively related to the phenomena. We are conscious not merely of the act of volition, but of a self, a power, producing the volition. We are conscious not merely of feeling, but of a being who is the subject of the feeling. We are conscious not simply of thought, but of a real entity that thinks. "It is clearly a flat contradiction to maintain that I am not immediately conscious of myself, but only of my sensations or volitions. Who, then, is that I that is conscious, and how can I be conscious of such states as mine?"
[Footnote 243: Mansel, "Prolegomena Logica," p. 122, and note E, p. 281.]
The testimony of consciousness, then, is indubitable that we have a direct, immediate cognition of self—I know myself as a distinctly existing being. This permanent self, to which I refer the earlier and later stages of consciousness, the past as well as the present feeling, and which I know abides the same under all phenomenal changes, constitutes my personal identity. It is this abiding self which unites the past and the present, and, from the present stretches onward to the future. We know self immediately, as existing, as in active operation, and as having permanence—or, in other words, as a "substance." This one immediately presented substance, myself, may be regarded as furnishing a positive basis for that other notion of substance, which is representatively thought, as the subject of all sensible qualities.
3. We may now inquire what is the testimony of consciousness as to the existence of the extra-mental world? Are we conscious of perceiving external objects immediately and in themselves, or only mediately through some vicarious image or representative idea to which we fictitiously ascribe an objective reality?
The answer of common sense is that we are immediately conscious, in perception, of an ego and a non-ego known together, and known in contrast to each other; we are conscious of a perceiving subject, and of an external reality, as the object perceived. To state this doctrine of natural realism still more explicitly we add, that we are conscious of the immediate perception of certain essential attributes of matter objectively existing. Of these primary qualities, which are immediately perceived as real and objectively existing, we mention extension in space and resistance to muscular effort, with which is indissolubly associated the idea of externality. It is true that extension and resistance are only qualities, but it is equally true that they are qualities of something, and of something which is external to ourselves. Let any one attempt to conceive of extension without something which is extended, or of resistance apart from something which offers resistance, and he will be convinced that we can never know qualities without knowing substance, just as we can not know substance without knowing qualities. This, indeed, is admitted by Mr. Mill. And if this be admitted, it must certainly be absurd to speak of substance as something "unknown." Substance is known just as much as quality is known, no less and no more.
[Footnote 244: Hamilton, "Lectures," vol. 1. p. 288.]
[Footnote 245: "Logic," bk. i. ch. iii. Sec. 6.]
We remark, in conclusion, that if the testimony of consciousness is not accepted in all its integrity, we are necessarily involved in the Nihilism of Hume and Fichte; the phenomena of mind and matter are, on analysis, resolved into an absolute nothingness—"a play of phantasms in a void."
(ii.) We turn, secondly, to the Materialistic School as represented by Aug. Comte.
The doctrine of this school is that all knowledge is limited to material phenomena—that is, to appearances perceptible to sense. We do not know the essence of any object, nor the real mode of procedure of any event, but simply its relations to other events, as similar or dissimilar, co-existent or successive. These relations are constant; under the same conditions, they are always the same. The constant resemblances which link phenomena together, and the constant sequences which unite them, as antecedent and consequent, are termed laws. The laws of phenomena are all we know respecting them. Their essential nature and their ultimate causes, efficient or final, are unknown and inscrutable to us.
[Footnote 246: Masson, "Recent British Philos.," p. 62.]
[Footnote 247: See art. "Positive Philos. of A. Comte," Westminster Review, April, 1865, p. 162, Am. ed.]
It is not our intention to review the system of philosophy propounded by Aug. Comte; we are now chiefly concerned with his denial of all causation.
1. As to Efficient Causes.—Had Comte contented himself with the assertion that causes lie beyond the field of sensible observation, and that inductive science can not carry us beyond the relations of co-existence and succession among phenomena, he would have stated an important truth, but certainly not a new truth. It had already been announced by distinguished mental philosophers, as, for example, M. de Biran and Victor Cousin. The senses give us only the succession of one phenomenon to another. I hold a piece of wax to the fire and it melts. Here my senses inform me of two successive phenomena—the proximity of fire and the melting of wax. It is now agreed among all schools of philosophy that this is all the knowledge the senses can possibly supply. The observation of a great number of like cases assures us that this relation is uniform. The highest scientific generalization does not carry us one step beyond this fact. Induction, therefore, gives us no access to causes beyond phenomena. Still, this does not justify Comte in the assertion that causes are to us absolutely unknown. The question would still arise whether we have not some faculty of knowledge, distinct from sensation, which is adequate to furnish a valid cognition of cause. It does not by any means follow that, because the idea of causation is not given as a "physical quaesitum" at the end of a process of scientific generalization, it should not be a "metaphysical datum" posited at the very beginning of scientific inquiry, as the indispensable condition of our being able to cognize phenomena at all, and as the law under which all thought, and all conception of the system of nature, is alone possible.
[Footnote 248: "It is now universally admitted that we have no perception of the causal nexus in the material world."—Hamilton, "Discussions," p. 522.]
Now we affirm that the human mind has just as direct, immediate, and positive knowledge of cause as it has of effect. The idea of cause, the intuition power, is given in the immediate consciousness of mind as determining its own operations. Our first, and, in fact, our only presentation of power or cause, is that of self as willing. In every act of volition I am fully conscious that it is in my power to form a resolution or to refrain from it, to determine on this course of action or that; and this constitutes the immediate presentative knowledge of power. The will is a power, a power in action, a productive power, and, consequently, a cause. This doctrine is stated with remarkable clearness and accuracy by Cousin: "If we seek the notion of cause in the action of one ball upon another, as was previously done by Hume, or in the action of the hand upon the ball, or the primary muscles upon the extremities, or even in the action of the will upon the muscles, as was done by M. Maine de Biran, we shall find it in none of these cases, not even in the last; for it is possible there should be a paralysis of the muscles which deprives the will of power over them, makes it unproductive, incapable of being a cause, and, consequently, of suggesting the notion of one. But what no paralysis can prevent is the action of the will upon itself, the production of a resolution; that is to say, the act of causation entirely mental, the primitive type of all causality, of which all external movements are only symbols more or less imperfect. The first cause for us, is, therefore, the will, of which the first effect is volition. This is at once the highest and the purest source of the notion of cause, which thus becomes identical with that of personality. And it is the taking possession, so to speak, of the cause, as revealed in will and personality, which is the condition for us of the ulterior or simultaneous conception of external, impersonal causes."
[Footnote 249: "It is our immediate consciousness of effort, when we exert force to put matter in motion, or to oppose and neutralize force, which gives us this internal conviction of power and causation, so far as it refers to the material world, and compels us to believe that whenever we see material objects put in motion from a state of rest, or deflected from their rectilinear paths and changed in their velocities if already in motion, it is in consequence of such an effort somehow exerted."—Herschel's "Outlines of Astronomy," p. 234; see Mansel's "Prolegomena," p. 133.]
[Footnote 250: "Philosophical Fragments," Preface to first edition.]
Thus much for the origin of the idea of cause. We have the same direct intuitive knowledge of cause that we have of effect; but we have not yet rendered a full and adequate account of the principle of causality. We have simply attained the notion of our personal causality, and we can not arbitrarily substitute our personal causality for all the causes of the universe, and erect our own experience as a law of the entire universe. We have, however, already seen (Chap. V.) that the belief in exterior causation is necessary and universal. When a change takes place, when a new phenomenon presents itself to our senses, we can not avoid the conviction that it must have a cause. We can not even express in language the relations of phenomena in time and space, without speaking of causes. And there is not a rational being on the face of the globe—a child, a savage, or a philosopher—who does not instinctively and spontaneously affirm that every movement, every change, every new existence, must have a cause. Now what account can philosophy render of this universal belief? One answer, and only one, is possible. The reason of man (that power of which Comte takes no account) is in fixed and changeless relation to the principle of causation, just as sense is in fixed and changeless relation to exterior phenomena, so that we can not know the external world, can not think or speak of phenomenal existence, except as effects. In the expressive and forcible language of Jas. Martineau: "By an irresistible law of thought all phenomena present themselves to us as the expression of power, and refer us to a causal ground whence they issue. This dynamic source we neither see, nor hear, nor feel; it is given in thought, supplied by the spontaneous activity of mind as the correlative prefix to the phenomena observed." Unless, then, we are prepared to deny the validity of all our rational intuitions, we can not avoid accepting "this subjective postulate as a valid law for objective nature." If the intuitions of our reason are pronounced deceptive and mendacious, so also must the intuitions of the senses be pronounced illusory and false. Our whole intellectual constitution is built up on false and erroneous principles, and all knowledge of whatever kind must perish by "the contagion of uncertainty."
[Footnote 251: "Essays," p. 47.]
Comte, however, is determined to treat the idea of causation as an illusion, whether under its psychological form, as will, or under its scientific form, as force. He feels that Theology is inevitable if we permit the inquiry into causes; and he is more anxious that theology should perish than that truth should prevail. The human will must, therefore, be robbed of all semblance of freedom, lest it should suggest the idea of a Supreme Will governing nature; and human action, like all other phenomena, must be reduced to uniform and necessary law. All feelings, ideas, and principles guaranteed to us by consciousness are to be cast out of the account. Psychology, resting on self-observation, is pronounced a delusion. The immediate consciousness of freedom is a dream. Such a procedure, to say the least of it, is highly unphilosophical; to say the truth about it, it is obviously dishonest. Every fact of human nature, just as much as every fact of physical nature, must be accepted in all its integrity, or all must be alike rejected. The phenomena of mind can no more be disregarded than the phenomena of matter. Rational intuitions, necessary and universal beliefs, can no more be ignored than the uniform facts of sense-perception, without rendering a system of knowledge necessarily incomplete, and a system of truth utterly impossible. Every one truth is connected with every other truth in the universe. And yet Comte demands that a large class of facts, the most immediate and direct of all our cognitions, shall be rejected because they are not in harmony with the fundamental assumption of the positive philosophy that all knowledge is confined to phenomena perceptible to sense. Now it were just as easy to cast the Alps into the Mediterranean as to obliterate from the human intelligence the primary cognitions of immediate consciousness, or to relegate the human reason from the necessary laws of thought. Comte himself can not emancipate his own mind from a belief in the validity of the testimony of consciousness. How can he know himself as distinct from nature, as a living person, as the same being he was ten years ago, or even yesterday, except by an appeal to consciousness? Despite his earnestly-avowed opinions as to the inutility and fallaciousness of all psychological inquiries, he is compelled to admit that "the phenomena of life" are "known by immediate consciousness." Now the knowledge of our personal freedom rests on precisely the same grounds as the knowledge of our personal existence. The same "immediate consciousness" which attests that I exist, attests also, with equal distinctness and directness, that I am self-determined and free.
[Footnote 252: "The inevitable tendency of our intelligence is towards a philosophy radically theological, so often as we seek to penetrate, on whatever pretext, into the intimate nature of phenomena" (vol. iv. p. 664).]
[Footnote 253: "Positive Philos," vol. ii. p. 648.]
In common with most atheistical writers, Comte is involved in the fatal contradiction of at one time assuming, and at another of denying the freedom of the will, to serve the exigencies of his theory. To prove that the order of the universe can not be the product of a Supreme Intelligence, he assumes that the products of mind must be characterized by freedom and variety—the phenomena of mind must not be subject to uniform and necessary laws; and inasmuch as the phenomena presented by external nature are subject to uniform and changeless laws, they can not be the product of mind. "Look at the whole frame of things," says he; "how can it be the product of mind—of a supernatural Will? Is it not subject to regular laws, and do we not actually obtain prevision of its phenomena? If it were the product of mind, its order would be variable and free." Here, then, it is admitted that freedom is an essential characteristic of mind. And this admission is no doubt a thoughtless, unconscious betrayal of the innate belief of all minds in the freedom of the will. But when Comte comes to deal with this freedom as an objective question of philosophy, when he directs his attention to the only will of which we have a direct and immediate knowledge, he denies freedom and variety, and asserts in the most arbitrary manner that the movements of the mind, like all the phenomena of nature, must be subject to uniform, changeless, and necessary laws. And if we have not yet been able to reduce the movements of mind, like the movements of the planets, to statistics, and have not already obtained accurate prevision of its successions or sequences as we have of physical phenomena, it is simply the consequence of our inattention to, or ignorance of, all the facts. We answer, there are no facts so directly and intuitively known as the facts of consciousness; and, therefore, an argument based upon our supposed ignorance of these facts is not likely to have much weight against our immediate consciousness of personal freedom. There is not any thing we know so immediately, so certainly, so positively, as this fact—we are free.
The word "force," representing as it does a subtile menial conception, and not a phenomenon of sense, must also be banished from the domains of Positive Science as an intruder, lest its presence should lend any countenance to the idea of causation. "Forces in mechanics are only movements, produced, or tending to be produced." In order to "cancel altogether the old metaphysical notion of force," another form of expression is demanded. It is claimed that all we do know or can possibly know is the successions of phenomena in time. What, then, is the term which henceforth, in our dynamics, shall take the place of "force?" Is it "Time-succession?" Then let any one attempt to express the various forms and intensities of movement and change presented to the senses (as e.g., the phenomena of heat, electricity, galvanism, magnetism, muscular and nervous action, etc.) in terms of Time-succession, and he will at once become conscious of the utter hopelessness of physics, without the hyperphysical idea of force, to render itself intelligible. What account can be rendered of planetary motion if the terms "centrifugal force" and "centripetal force" are abandoned? "From the two great conditions of every Newtonian solution, viz., projectile impulse and centripetal tendency, eject the idea of force, and what remains? The entire conception is simply made up of this, and has not the faintest existence without it. It is useless to give it notice to quit, and pretend that it is gone when you have only put a new name upon the door. We must not call it 'attraction,' lest there should seem to be a power within; we are to speak of it only as 'gravitation,' because that is only 'weight,' which is nothing but a 'fact,' as if it were not a fact that holds a power, a true dynamic affair, which no imagination can chop into incoherent successions. Nor is the evasion more successful when we try the phrase, 'tendency of bodies to mutual approach.' The approach itself may be called a phenomenon; but the 'tendency' is no phenomenon, and can not be attributed by us to the bodies without regarding them as the residence of force. And what are we to say of the projectile impulse in the case of the planets? Is that also a phenomenon? Who witnessed and reported it? Is it not evident that the whole scheme of physical astronomy is a resolution of observed facts into dynamic equivalents, and that the hypothesis posits for its calculations not phenomena, but proper forces? Its logic is this: If an impulse of certain intensity were given, and if such and such mutual attractions were constantly present, then the sort of motions which we observe in the bodies of our system would follow. So, however, they also would if willed by an Omnipotent Intelligence." It is thus clearly evident that human science is unable to offer any explanation of the existing order of the universe except in terms expressive of Power or Force; that, in fact, all explanations are utterly unintelligible without the idea of causation. The language of universal rational intuition is, "all phenomena are the expression of power;" the language of science is, "every law implies a force."
[Footnote 254: See Grote's "Essay on Correlation of Physical Forces," pp. 18-20; and Martineau's "Essays," p. 135.]
[Footnote 255: "Gravity is a real power of whose agency we have daily experience."—Herschel, "Outlines of Astronomy," p. 236.]
[Footnote 256: Martineau's "Essays," p. 56.]
It is furthermore worthy of being noted that, in the modern doctrine of the Correlation and Conservation of Forces, science is inevitably approaching the idea that all kinds of force are but forms or manifestations of some one central force issuing from some one fountain-head of power. Dr. Carpenter, perhaps the greatest living physiologist, teaches that "the form of force which may be taken as the type of all the rest" is the consciousness of living effort in volition. All force, then, is of one type, and that type is mind; in its last analysis external causation may be resolved into Divine energy. Sir John Herschel does not hesitate to say that "it is reasonable to regard the force of gravitation as the direct or indirect result of a consciousness or will exerted somewhere." The humble Christian may, therefore, feel himself amply justified in still believing that "power belongs to God;" that it is through the Divine energy "all things are, and are upheld;" and that "in God we live, and move, and have our being;" he is the Great First Cause, the Fountain-head of all power.
[Footnote 257: "Human Physiology," p. 542.]
[Footnote 258: "Outlines of Astronomy," p. 234.]
2. As to Final Causes—that is, reasons, purposes, or ends for which things exist—these, we are told by Comte, are all "disproved" by Positive Science, which rigidly limits us to "the history of what is," and forbids all inquiry into reasons why it is. The question whether there be any intelligent purpose in the order and arrangement of the universe, is not a subject of scientific inquiry at all; and whenever it has been permitted to obtrude itself, it has thrown a false light over the facts, and led the inquirer astray.
The discoveries of modern astronomy are specially instanced by Comte as completely overthrowing the notion of any conscious design or intelligent purpose in the universe. The order and stability of the solar system are found to be the necessary consequences of gravitation, and are adequately explained without any reference to purposes or ends to be fulfilled in the disposition and arrangement of the heavenly bodies. "With persons unused to the study of the celestial bodies, though very likely informed on other parts of natural philosophy, astronomy has still the reputation of being a science eminently religious, as if the famous words, 'The heavens declare the glory of God, had lost none of their truth... No science has given more terrible shocks to the doctrine of final causes than astronomy. The simple knowledge of the movement of the earth must have destroyed the original and real foundation of this doctrine—the idea of the universe subordinated to the earth, and consequently to man. Besides, the accurate exploration of the solar system could not fail to dispel that blind and unlimited admiration which the general order of nature inspires, by showing in the most sensible manner, and in a great number of different respects, that the orbs were certainly not disposed in the most advantageous manner, and that science permits us easily to conceive a better arrangement, by the development of true celestial mechanism, since Newton. All the theological philosophy, even the most perfect, has been henceforth deprived of its principal intellectual function, the most regular order being thus consigned as necessarily established and maintained in our world, and even in the whole universe, by the simple mutual gravity of its several parts."
The task of "conceiving a better arrangement" of the celestial orbs, and improving the system of the universe generally, we shall leave to those who imagine themselves possessed of that omniscience which comprehends all the facts and relations of the actual universe, and foreknows all the details and relations of all possible universes so accurately as to be able to pronounce upon their relative "advantages." The arrogance of these critics is certainly in startling and ludicrous contrast with the affected modesty which, on other occasions, restrains them from "imputing any intentions to nature." It is quite enough for our purpose to know that the tracing of evidences of design in those parts of nature accessible to our observation is an essentially different thing from the construction of a scheme of optimism on a priori grounds which shall embrace a universe the larger portion of which is virtually beyond the field of observation. We are conscious of possessing some rational data and some mental equipment for the former task, but for the latter we feel utterly incompetent.
[Footnote 259: In a foot-note Comte adds: "Nowadays, to minds familiarized betimes with the true astronomical philosophy, the heavens declare no other glory than that of Hipparchus, Kepler, Newton, and all those who have contributed to the ascertainment of their laws." It seems remarkable that the great men who ascertained these laws did not see that the saying of the Psalmist was emptied of all meaning by their discoveries. No persons seem to have been more willing than these very men named to ascribe all the glory to Him who established these laws. Kepler says: "The astronomer, to whom God has given to see more clearly with his inward eye, from what he has discovered, both can and will glorify God;" and Newton says: "This beautiful system of sun, planets, comets could have its origin in no other way than by the purpose and command of an intelligent and powerful Being. We admire him on account of his perfections, we venerate and worship him on account of his government."—Whewell's "Astronomy and Physics," pp. 197, 198.]
[Footnote 260: "Positive Philosophy," vol. ii. pp. 36-38; Tulloch, "Theism," p. 115.]
[Footnote 261: Chalmers's "Institutes of Theology," vol. i. pp. 117, 118.]
The only plausible argument in the above quotation from Comte is, that the whole phenomena of the solar system are adequately explained by the law of gravitation, without the intervention of any intelligent purpose. Let it be borne in mind that it is a fundamental principle of the Positive philosophy that all human knowledge is necessarily confined to phenomena perceptible to sense, and that the fast and highest achievement of human science is to observe and record "the invariable relations of resemblance and succession among phenomena." We can not possibly know any thing of even the existence of "causes" or "forces" lying back of phenomena, nor of "reasons" or "purposes" determining the relations of phenomena. The "law of gravitation" must, therefore, be simply the statement of a fact, the expression of an observed order of phenomena. But the simple statement of a fact is no explanation of the fact. The formal expression of an observed order of succession among phenomena is no explanation of that order. For what do we mean by an explanation? Is it not a "making plain" to the understanding? It is, in short, a complete answer to the questions how is it so? and why is it so? Now, if Comte denies to himself and to us all knowledge of efficient and final causation, if we are in utter ignorance of "forces" operating in nature, and of "reasons" for which things exist in nature, he can not answer either question, and consequently nothing is explained.
Practically, however, Comte regards gravitation as a force. The order of the solar system has been established and is still maintained by the mutual gravity of its several parts. We shall not stop here to note the inconsistency of his denying to us the knowledge of, even the existence of, force, and yet at the same time assuming to treat gravitation as a force really adequate to the explanation of the how and why of the phenomena of the universe, without any reference to a supernatural will or an intelligent mind. The question with which we are immediately concerned is whether gravitation alone is adequate to the explanation of the phenomena of the heavens? A review in extenso of Comte's answer to this question would lead us into all the inextricable mazes of the nebular hypothesis, and involve us in a more extended discussion than our space permits and our limited scientific knowledge justifies. For the masses of the people the whole question of cosmical development resolves itself into "a balancing of authorities;" they are not in a position to verify the reasonings for and against this theory by actual observation of astral phenomena, and the application of mathematical calculus; they are, therefore, guided by balancing in their own minds the statements of the distinguished astronomers who, by the united suffrages of the scientific world, are regarded as "authorities." For us, at present, it is enough that the nebular hypothesis is rejected by some of the greatest astronomers that have lived. We need only mention the names of Sir William Herschel, Sir John Herschel, Prof. Nichol, Earl Rosse, Sir David Brewster, and Prof. Whewell.
But if we grant that the nebular hypothesis is entitled to take rank as an established theory of the development of the solar system, it by no means proves that the solar system was formed without the intervention of intelligence and design. On this point we shall content ourselves with quoting the words of one whose encyclopaedian knowledge was confessedly equal to that of Comte, and who in candor and accuracy was certainly his superior. Prof. Whewell, in his "Astronomy and Physics," says: "This hypothesis by no means proves that the solar system was formed without the intervention of intelligence and design. It only transfers our view of the skill exercised and the means employed to another part of the work; for how came the sun and its atmosphere to have such materials, such motions, such a constitution, and these consequences followed from their primordial condition? How came the parent vapor thus to be capable of coherence, separation, contraction, solidification? How came the laws of its motion, attraction, repulsion, condensation, to be so fixed as to lead to a beautiful and harmonious system in the end? How came it to be neither too fluid nor too tenacious, to contract neither too quickly nor too slowly for the successive formation of the several planetary bodies? How came that substance, which at one time was a luminous vapor, to be at a subsequent period solids and fluids of many various kinds? What but design and intelligence prepared and tempered this previously-existing element, so that it should, by its natural changes, produce such an orderly system"? "The laws of motion alone will not produce the regularity which we admire in the motion of the heavenly bodies. There must be an original adjustment of the system on which these laws are to act; a selection of the arbitrary quantities which they are to involve; a primitive cause which shall dispose the elements in due relation to each other, in order that regular recurrence may accompany constant change, and that perpetual motion may be combined with perpetual stability."
[Footnote 262: "Astronomy and Physics," p. 109.]
[Footnote 263: Chalmers's "Institutes of Theology," vol. i. p. 119.]
The harmony of the solar system in all its phenomena does not depend upon the operation of any one law, but from the special adjustment of several laws. There are certain agents operating throughout the entire system which have different properties, and which require special adjustment to each other, in order to their beneficial operation. 1st. There is Gravitation, prevailing apparently through all space. But it does not prevail alone. It is a force whose function is to balance other forces of which we know little, except that these, again, are needed to balance the force of gravitation. Each force, if left to itself, would be the destruction of the universe. Were it not for the force of gravitation, the centrifugal forces which impel the planets would fling them off into space. Were it not for these centrifugal forces, the force of gravitation would dash them against the sun. The ultimate fact of astronomical science, therefore, is not the law of gravitation, but the adjustment between this law and other laws, so as to produce and maintain the existing order. 2d. There is Light, flowing from numberless luminaries; and Heat, radiating everywhere from the warmer to the colder regions; and there are a number of adjustments needed in order to the beneficial operation of these agents. Suppose we grant that by merely mechanical causes the sun became the centre of our system, how did it become also the source of its vivifying influences? "How was the fire deposited on this hearth? How was the candle placed on this candlestick?" 3d. There is an all-pervading Ether, through which light is transmitted, which offers resistance to the movement of the planetary and cometary bodies, and tends to a dissipation of mechanical energy, and which needs to be counter-balanced by well-adjusted arrangements to secure the stability of the solar system. All this balancing of opposite properties and forces carries our minds upward towards Him who holds the balances in his hands, and to a Supreme Intelligence on whose adjustments and collocations the harmony and stability of the universe depends.
[Footnote 264: Duke of Argyll, "Reign of Law," pp. 91, 92.]
[Footnote 265: M'Cosh, "Typical Forms and Special Ends," ch. xiii.]
The recognition of all teleology of organs in vegetable and animal physiology is also persistently repudiated by this school. When Cuvier speaks of the combination of organs in such order as to adapt the animal to the part which it has to play in nature, Geoffroy Saint Hilaire replies, "I know nothing of animals which have to play a part in nature." "I have read, concerning fishes, that, because they live in a medium which resists more than air, their motive forces are calculated so as to give them the power of progression under these circumstances. By this mode of reasoning, you would say of a man who makes use of crutches, that he was originally destined to the misfortune of having a leg paralyzed or amputated. "With a modesty which savors of affectation, he says, "I ascribe no intentions to God, for I mistrust the feeble powers of my reason. I observe facts merely, and go no farther. I only pretend to the character of the historian of what is." "I can not make Nature an intelligent being who does nothing in vain, who acts by the shortest mode, who does all for the best." All the supposed consorting of means to ends which has hitherto been regarded as evidencing Intelligence is simply the result of "the elective affinities of organic elements" and "the differentiation of organs" consequent mainly upon exterior conditions. "Functions are a result, not an end. The animal undergoes the kind of life that his organs impose, and submits to the imperfections of his organization. The naturalist studies the play of his apparatus, and if he has the right of admiring most of its parts, he has likewise that of showing the imperfection of other parts, and the practical uselessness of those which fulfill no functions." And it is further claimed that there are a great many structures which are clearly useless; that is, they fulfill no purpose at all. Thus there are monkeys, which have no thumbs for use, but only rudimental thumb-bones hid beneath the skin; the wingless bird of New Zealand (Apteryx) has wing-bones similarly developed, which serve no purpose; young whalebone whales are born with teeth that never cut the gums, and are afterwards absorbed; and some sheep have horns turned about their ears which fulfill no end. And inasmuch as there are some organisms in nature which serve no purpose of utility, it is argued there is no design in nature; things are used because there are antecedent conditions favorable for use, but that use is not the end for which the organ exists. The true naturalist will never say, "Birds have wings given them in order to fly;" he will rather say, "Birds fly because they have wings." The doctrine of final causes must, therefore, be abandoned.
[Footnote 266: Whewell, "History of Inductive Sciences," vol. ii. p. 486.]
[Footnote 267: Id., ib., vol. ii. p. 490.]
[Footnote 268: Martin's "Organic Unity in Animals and Vegetables," in M. Q. Review, January, 1863.]
It is hardly worth while to reply to the lame argument of Geoffroy, which needs a "crutch" for its support. The very illustration, undignified and irrelevant as it is, tells altogether against its author. For, first, the crutch is certainly a contrivance designed for locomotion; secondly, the length and strength and lightness of the crutch are all matters of calculation and adjustment; and, thirdly, all the adaptations of the crutch are well-considered, in order to enable the lame man to walk; the function of the crutch is the final cause of its creation. This crutch is clearly out of place in Geoffroy's argument, and utterly breaks down. It is in its place in the teleological argument, and stands well, though it may not behave as well as the living limb. The understanding of a child can perceive that the design-argument does not assert that men were intended to have amputated limbs, but that crutches are designed for those whose limbs are paralyzed or amputated.
The existence of useless members, of rudimentary and abortive limbs, does seem, at first sight, to be unfavorable to the idea of supremacy of purpose and all-pervading design. It should be remarked, however, that this is an argument based upon our ignorance, and not upon our knowledge. It does not by any means follow that because we have discovered no reasons for their existence, therefore there are no reasons. Science, in enlarging its conquests of nature, is perpetually discovering the usefulness of arrangements of which our fathers were ignorant, and the reasons of things which to their minds, were concealed; and it ill becomes the men who so far "mistrust their own feeble powers" as to be afraid of ascribing any intention to God or nature, to dogmatically affirm there is no purpose in the existence of any thing. And then we may ask, what right have these men to set up the idea of "utility" as the only standard to which the Creator must conform? How came they to know that God is a mere "utilitarian;" or, if they do not believe in God, that nature is a miserable "Benthamite?" Why may not the idea of beauty, of symmetry, of order, be a standard for the universe, as much as the idea of utility, or mere subordination to some practical end? May not conformity to one grand and comprehensive plan, sweeping over all nature, be perfectly compatible with the adaptation of individual existences to the fulfillment of special ends? In civil architecture we have conformity to a general plan; we have embellishment and ornament, and we have adaptation to a special purpose, all combined; why may not these all be combined in the architecture of the universe? The presence of any one of these is sufficient to prove design, for mere ornament or beauty is itself a purpose, an object, and an end. The concurrence of all these is an overwhelming evidence of design. Wherever found, they are universally recognized as the product of intelligence; they address themselves at once to the intelligence of man, and they place him in immediate relation to and in deepest sympathy with the Intelligence which gave them birth. He that formed the eye of man to see, and the heart of man to admire beauty, shall He not delight in it? He that gave the hand of man its cunning to create beauty, shall He not himself work for it? And if man can and does combine both "ornament" and "use" in one and the same implement or machine, why should not the Creator of the world do the same? "When the savage carves the handle of his war-club, the immediate purpose of his carving is to give his own hand a firmer hold. But any shapeless scratches would be enough for this. When he carves it in an elaborate pattern, he does so for the love of ornament, and to satisfy the sense of beauty." And so "the harmonies, on which all beauty depends, are so connected in nature that use and ornament may often both arise out of the same conditions."