[Footnote 269: Duke of Argyll, "Reign of Law," p. 203.]
The "true naturalist," therefore, recognizes two great principles pervading the universe—a principle of order—a unity of plan, and a principle of special adaptation, by which each object, though constructed upon a general plan, is at the same time accommodated to the place it has to occupy and the purpose it has to serve. In other words, there is homology of structure and analogy of function, conformity to archetypal forms and Teleology of organs, in wonderful combination. Now, in the Materialistic school, it has been the prevalent practice to set up the unity of plan in animal structures, in opposition to the principle of Final Causes: Morphology has been opposed to Teleology. But in nature there is no such opposition; on the contrary, there is a beautiful co-ordination. The same bones, in different animals, are made subservient to the widest possible diversity of functions. The same limbs are converted into fins, paddles, wings, legs, and arms. "No comparative anatomist has the slightest hesitation in admitting that the pectoral fin of a fish, the wing of a bird, the paddle of the dolphin, the fore-leg of a deer, the wing of a bat, and the arm of a man, are the same organs, notwithstanding that their forms are so varied, and the uses to which they are applied so unlike each other." All these are homologous in structure—they are formed after an ideal archetype or model, but that model or type is variously modified to adapt the animal to the sphere of life in which it is destined to move, and the organ itself to the functions it has to perform, whether swimming, flying, walking, or burrowing, or that varied manipulation of which the human hand is capable. These varied modifications of the vertebrated type, for special purposes, are unmistakable examples of final causation. Whilst the silent members, the rudimental limbs instanced by Oken, Martins, and others—as fulfilling no purpose, and serving no end, exist in conformity to an ideal archetype on which the bony skeletons of all vertebrated animals are formed, and which has never been departed from since time began. This type, or model, or plan, is, however, itself an evidence of design as much as the plan of a house. For to what standard are we referring when we say that two limbs are morphologically the same? Is it not an ideal plan, a mental pattern, a metaphysical conception? Now an ideal implies a mind which preconceived the idea, and in which alone it really exists. It is only as "an order of Divine thought" that the doctrine of animal homologies is at all intelligible; and Homology is, therefore, the science which traces the outward embodiment of a Divine Idea. The principle of intentionality or final causation, then, is not in any sense invalidated by the discovery of "a unity of plan" sweeping through the entire universe.
[Footnote 270: Carpenter's "Comparative Physiology," p. 37.]
[Footnote 271: Agassiz, "Essay on Classification," p. 10.]
[Footnote 272: Whewell's "History of Inductive Sciences," vol. i. p. 644; "The Reign of Law," p. 208; Agassiz, "Essay on Classification," pp. 9-11.]
We conclude that we are justly entitled to regard "the principle of intentionality" as a primary and necessary law of thought, under which we can not avoid conceiving and describing the facts of the universe—the special adaptation of means to ends necessarily implies mind. Whenever and wherever we observe the adaptation of an organism to the fulfillment of a special end, we can not avoid conceiving of that end as foreseen and premeditated, the means as selected and adjusted with a view to that end, and creative energy put forth to secure the end—all which is the work of intelligence and will. And we can not describe these facts of nature, so as to render that account intelligible to other minds, without using such terms as "contrivance," "purpose," "adaptation," "design." A striking illustration of this may be found in Darwin's volume "On the Fertilization of Orchids." We select from his volume with all the more pleasure because he is one of the writers who enjoins "caution in ascribing intentions to nature." In one sentence he says: "The Labellum is developed into a long nectary, in order to attract Lepidoptera; and we shall presently give reasons for suspecting the nectar is purposely so lodged that it can be sucked only slowly, in order to give time for the curious chemical quality of the viscid matter settling hard and dry" (p. 29). Of one particular structure he says: "This contrivance of the guiding ridges may be compared to the little instrument sometimes used for guiding a thread into the eye of a needle." The notion that every organism has a use or purpose seems to have guided him in his discoveries. "The strange position of the Labellum, perched on the summit of the column, ought to have shown me that here was the place for experiment. I ought to have scorned the notion that the Labellum was thus placed for no good purpose. I neglected this plain guide, and for a long time completely failed to understand the flower" (p. 262).
[Footnote 273: Carpenter's "Principles of Comparative Physiology," p. 723.]
[Footnote 274: Edinburgh Review, October, 1862; article, "The Supernatural."]
So that the assumption of final causes has not, as Bacon affirms, "led men astray" and "prejudiced further discovery;" on the contrary, it has had a large share in every discovery in anatomy and physiology, zoology and botany. The use of every organ has been discovered by starting from the assumption that it must have some use. The belief in a creative purpose led Harvey to discover the circulation of the blood. He says: "When I took notice that the valves in the veins of so many parts of the body were so placed that they gave a free passage to the blood towards the heart, but opposed the passage of the venal blood the contrary way, I was incited to imagine that so provident a cause as Nature has not placed so many valves without design, and no design seemed more probable than the circulation of the blood." The wonderful discoveries in Zoology which have immortalized the name of Cuvier were made under the guidance of this principle. He proceeds on the supposition not only that animal forms have some plan, some purpose, but that they have an intelligible plan, a discoverable purpose. At the outset of his "Regne Animal" he says: "Zoology has a principle of reasoning which is peculiar to it, and which it employs to advantage on many occasions; that is, the principle of the conditions of existence, commonly called final causes." The application of this principle enabled him to understand and arrange the structures of animals with astonishing clearness and completeness of order; and to restore the forms of extinct animals which are found in the rocks, in a manner which excited universal admiration, and has commanded universal assent. Indeed, as Professor Whewell remarks, at the conclusion of his "History of the Inductive Sciences," "those who have been discoverers in science have generally had minds, the disposition of which was to believe in an intelligent Maker of the universe, and that the scientific speculations which produced an opposite tendency were generally those which, though they might deal familiarly with known physical truths, and conjecture boldly with regard to unknown, do not add to the number of solid generalizations."
[Footnote 275: "History of Inductive Science," vol. ii. p. 449.]
[Footnote 276: "History of Inductive Science," vol. ii. p. 2, Eng. ed.]
[Footnote 277: Ibid., vol. ii. p. 491. A list of the "great discoverers" is given in his "Astronomy and Physics," bk. iii. ch. v.]
THE UNKNOWN GOD (continued).
IS GOD COGNIZABLE BY REASON? (continued).
"The faith which can not stand unless buttressed by contradictions is built upon the sand. The profoundest faith is faith in the unity of truth. If there is found any conflict in the results of a right reason, no appeal to practical interests, or traditionary authority, or intuitional or theological faith, can stay the flood of skepticism."—ABBOT.
In the previous chapter we have considered the answers to this question which are given by the Idealistic and Materialistic schools; it devolves upon us now to review (iii.) the position of the school of Natural Realism or Natural Dualism, at the head of which stands Sir William Hamilton.
It is admitted by this school that philosophic knowledge is "the knowledge of effects as dependent on their causes," and "of qualities as inherent in substances."
[Footnote 278: "Lectures on Metaphysics," vol. i. p. 58.]
[Footnote 279: Ibid., vol. i. p. 138.]
1. As to Events and Causes.—"Events do not occur isolated, apart, by themselves; they occur and are conceived by us only in connection. Our observation affords us no example of a phenomenon which is not an effect; nay, our thought can not even realize to itself the possibility of a phenomenon without a cause. By the necessity we are under of thinking some cause for every phenomenon, and by our original ignorance of what particular causes belong to what particular effects, it is rendered impossible for us to acquiesce in the mere knowledge of the fact of the phenomenon; on the contrary, we are determined, we are necessitated to regard each phenomenon as only partially known until we discover the causes on which it depends for its existence. Philosophic knowledge is thus, in its widest acceptation, the knowledge of effects as dependent on causes. Now what does this imply? In the first place, as every cause to which we can ascend is only an effect, it follows that it is the scope, that is, the aim, of philosophy to trace up the series of effects and causes until we arrive at causes which are not in themselves effects,"—that is, to ultimate and final causes. And then, finally, "Philosophy, as the knowledge of effects in their causes, necessarily tends, not towards a plurality of ultimate or final causes, but towards one alone."
[Footnote 280: Ibid., vol. i. p. 56.]
[Footnote 281: "Lectures on Metaphysics," vol. i. p. 58.]
[Footnote 282: Ibid., vol. i. p. 60.]
2. As to Qualities and Substance, or Phenomena and Reality.—As phenomena appear only in conjunction, we are compelled, by the constitution of our nature, to think them conjoined in and by something; and as they are phenomena, we can not think them phenomena of nothing, but must regard them as properties or qualities of something. Now that which manifests its qualities—in other words, that in which the appearing causes inhere, that to which they belong—is called their subject, or substance, or substratum. The subject of one grand series of phenomena (as, e.g., extension, solidity, figure, etc.) is called matter, or material substance. The subject of the other grand series of phenomena (as, e.g., thought, feeling, volition, etc.) is termed mind, or mental substance. We may, therefore, lay it down as an undisputed truth that consciousness gives, as an ultimate fact, a primitive duality—a knowledge of the ego in relation and contrast to the non-ego, and a knowledge of the non-ego in relation and contrast to the ego Natural Dualism thus establishes the existence of two worlds of mind and matter on the immediate knowledge we possess of both series of phenomena; whilst the Cosmothetic Idealists discredit the veracity of consciousness as to our immediate knowledge of material phenomena, and, consequently, our immediate knowledge of the existence of matter.
[Footnote 283: Ibid., vol. i. p. 137.]
[Footnote 284: Ibid., vol. i. p. 137.]
[Footnote 285: Ibid., vol. i. p. 292.]
[Footnote 286: Ibid., vol. i. pp. 292, 295.]
The obvious doctrine of the above quotations is, that we have an immediate knowledge of the "existence of matter" as well as of "the phenomena of matter;" that is, we know "substance" as immediately and directly as we know "qualities." Phenomena are known only as inherent in substance; substance is known only as manifesting its qualities. We never know qualities without knowing substance, and we can never know substance without knowing qualities. Both are known in one concrete act; substance is known quite as much as quality; quality is known no more than substance. That we have a direct, immediate, presentative "face to face" knowledge of matter and mind in every act of consciousness is asserted again and again by Hamilton, in his "Philosophy of Perception." In the course of the discussion he starts the question, "Is the knowledge of mind and matter equally immediate?" His answer to this question may be condensed in the following sentences. In regard to the immediate knowledge of mind there is no difficulty; it is admitted to be direct and immediate. The problem, therefore, exclusively regards the intuitive perception of the qualities of matter. Now, says Hamilton, "if we interrogate consciousness concerning the point in question, the response is categorical and clear. In the simplest act of perception I am conscious of myself as a perceiving subject, and of an external reality as the object perceived; and I am conscious of both existences in the same indivisible amount of intuition." Again he says, "I have frequently asserted that in perception we are conscious of the external object, immediately and in itself." "If, then, the veracity of consciousness be unconditionally admitted—if the intuitive knowledge of matter and mind, and the consequent reality of their antithesis, be taken as truths," the doctrine of Natural Realism is established, and, "without any hypothesis or demonstration, the reality of mind and the reality of matter."
[Footnote 287: Philosophy of Sir William Hamilton, part ii.]
[Footnote 288: Ibid., p. 181.]
[Footnote 289: Ibid., pp. 34, 182.]
Now, after these explicit statements that we have an intuitive knowledge of matter and mind—a direct and immediate consciousness of self as a real, "self-subsisting entity," and a knowledge of "an external reality, immediately and in itself," it seems unaccountably strange that Hamilton should assert "that all human knowledge, consequently all human philosophy, is only of the Relative or Phenomenal;" and that "of existence absolutely and in itself we know nothing." Whilst teaching that the proper sphere and aim of philosophy is to trace secondary causes up to ultimate or first causes, and that it necessarily tends towards one First and Ultimate Cause, he at the same time asserts that "first causes do not lie within the reach of philosophy," and that it can never attain to the knowledge of the First Cause. "The Infinite God can not, by us, be comprehended, conceived, or thought." God, as First Cause, as infinite, as unconditioned, as eternal, is to us absolutely "The Unknown." The science of Real Being—of Being in se—of self-subsisting entities, is declared to be impossible. All science is only of the phenomenal, the conditioned, the relative. Ontology is a delusive dream. Thus, after pages of explanations and qualifications, of affirmations and denials, we find Hamilton virtually assuming the same position as Comte and Mill—all human knowledge is necessarily confined to phenomena.
[Footnote 290: "Lectures on Metaphysics," vol. i. p. 136]
[Footnote 291: Ibid., vol. i. p. 138.]
[Footnote 292: Ibid., vol. i. p. 58.]
[Footnote 293: Ibid., vol. i. p. 60.]
[Footnote 294: Ibid., vol. ii. p. 375.]
It has been supposed that the chief glory of Sir William Hamilton rested upon his able exposition and defense of the doctrine of Natural Realism. There are, however, indications in his writings that he regarded "the Philosophy of the Conditioned" as his grand achievement. The Law of the Conditioned had "not been generalized by any previous philosopher;" and, in laying down that law, he felt that he had made a new and important contribution to speculative thought.
The principles upon which this philosophy is based are:
1. The Relativity of all Human Knowledge.—Existence is not cognized absolutely and in itself, but only under special modes which are related to our faculties, and, in fact, determined by these faculties themselves. All knowledge, therefore, is relative—that is, it is of phenomena only, and of phenomena "under modifications determined by our own faculties." Now, as the Absolute is that which exists out of all relation either to phenomena or to our faculties of knowledge, it can not possibly be known.
2. The Conditionality of all Thinking.—Thought necessarily supposes conditions. "To think is to condition; and conditional limitation is the fundamental law of the possibility of thought. As the eagle can not out-soar the atmosphere in which he floats, and by which alone he is supported, so the mind can not transcend the sphere of limitation within and through which the possibility of thought is realized. Thought is only of the conditioned, because, as we have said, to think is to condition." Now the Infinite is the unlimited, the unconditioned, and as such can not possibly be thought.
3. The notion of the Infinite—the Absolute, as entertained by man, is a mere "negation of thought."—By this Hamilton does not mean that the idea of the Infinite is a negative idea. "The Infinite and the Absolute are only the names of two counter imbecilities of the human mind"—that is, a mental inability to conceive an absolute limitation, or an infinite illimitation; an absolute commencement, or an infinite non-commencement. In other words, of the absolute and infinite we have no conception at all, and, consequently, no knowledge.
The grand law which Hamilton generalizes from the above is, "that the conceivable is in every relation bounded by the inconceivable." Or, again, "The conditioned or the thinkable lies between two extremes or poles; and these extremes or poles are each of them unconditioned, each of them inconceivable, each of them exclusive or contradictory of the other." This is the celebrated "Law of the Conditioned."
[Footnote 295: "Discussions," p. 21.]
[Footnote 296: Ibid., p. 28.]
[Footnote 297: "Lectures on Metaphysics," vol. ii. pp. 368, 373.]
[Footnote 298: Ibid., vol. ii. p. 373.]
In attempting a brief criticism of "the Philosophy of the Conditioned," we may commence by inquiring:
I. What is the real import and significance of the doctrine "that all human knowledge is only of the relative or phenomenal?"
Hamilton calls this "the great axiom" of philosophy. That we may distinctly comprehend its meaning, and understand its bearing on the subject under discussion, we must ascertain the sense in which he uses the words "phenomenal" and "relative." The importance of an exact terminology is fully appreciated by our author; and accordingly, in three Lectures (VIII., IX., X.), he has given a full explication of the terms most commonly employed in philosophic discussions. Here the word "phenomenon" is set down as the necessary "correlative" of the word "subject" or "substance." "These terms can not be explained apart, for each is correlative of the other, each can be comprehended only in and through its correlative. The term 'subject' is used to denote the unknown (?) basis which lies under the various phenomena or properties of which we become aware, whether in our external or internal experience." "The term 'relative' is opposed to the term 'absolute;' therefore, in saying that we know only the relative, I virtually assert that we know nothing absolutely, that is, in and for itself, and without relation to us and our faculties." Now, in the philosophy of Sir William Hamilton, "the absolute" is defined as "that which is aloof from relation"—"that which is out of all relation." The absolute can not, therefore, be "the correlative" of the conditioned—can not stand in any relation to the phenomenal. The subject, however, is the necessary correlative of the phenomenal, and, consequently, the subject and the absolute are not identical. Furthermore, Hamilton tells us the subject may be comprehended in and through its correlative—the phenomenon; but the absolute, being aloof from all relation, can not be comprehended or conceived at all. "The subject" and "the absolute" are, therefore, not synonymous terms; and, if they are not synonymous, then their antithetical terms, "phenomenal" and "relative," can not be synonymous.
[Footnote 299: "Lectures on Metaphysics," vol. i. p. 148.]
[Footnote 300: Ibid., vol. i. p. 137.]
[Footnote 301: "Discussions," p. 21.]
It is manifest, however, that Hamilton does employ these terms as synonymous, and this we apprehend is the first false step in his philosophy of the conditioned. "All our knowledge is of the relative or phenomenal." Throughout the whole of Lectures VIII. and IX., in which he explains the doctrine of the relativity of human knowledge, these terms are used as precisely analogous. Now, in opposition to this, we maintain that the relative is not always the phenomenal. A thing may be "in relation" and yet not be a phenomenon. "The subject or substance" may be, and really is, on the admission of Hamilton himself, correlated to the phenomenon. The ego, "the conscious subject" as a "self-subsisting entity" is necessarily related to the phenomena of thought, feeling, etc.; but no one would repudiate the idea that the conscious subject is a mere phenomenon, or "series of phenomena," with more indignation than Hamilton. Notwithstanding the contradictory assertion, "that the subject is unknown," he still teaches, with equal positiveness, "that in every act of perception I am conscious of self, as a perceiving subject." And still more explicitly he says: "As clearly as I am conscious of existing, so clearly am I conscious, at every moment of my existence, that the conscious Ego is not itself a mere modification [a phenomenon], nor a series of modifications [phenomena], but that it is itself different from all its modifications, and a self-subsisting entity." Again: "Thought is possible only in and through the consciousness of Self. The Self, the I, is recognized in every act of intelligence as the subject to which the act belongs. It is I that perceive, I that imagine, I that remember, etc.; these special modes are all only the phenomena of the I." We are, therefore, conscious of the subject in the most immediate, and direct, and intuitive manner, and the subject of which we are conscious can not be "unknown." We regret that so distinguished a philosophy should deal in such palpable contradictions; but it is the inevitable consequence of violating that fundamental principle of philosophy on which Hamilton so frequently and earnestly insists, viz., "that the testimony of consciousness must be accepted in all its integrity".
[Footnote 302: Philosophy of Sir William Hamilton (edited by O.W. Wight), p. 181.]
[Footnote 303: "Lectures on Metaphysics," vol. i. p. 373.]
[Footnote 304: Ibid., vol. i. p. 166.]
It is thus obvious that, with proper qualifications, we may admit the relativity of human knowledge, and yet at the same time reject the doctrine of Hamilton, that all human knowledge is only of the phenomenal.
"The relativity of human knowledge," like most other phrases into which the word "relative" enters, is vague, and admits of a variety of meanings. If by this phrase is meant "that we can not know objects except as related to our faculties, or as our faculties are related to them," we accept the statement, but regard it as a mere truism leading to no consequences, and hardly worth stating in words. It is simply another way of saying that, in order to an object's being known, it must come within the range of our intellectual vision, and that we can only know as much as we are capable of knowing. Or, if by this phrase is meant "that we can only know things by and through the phenomena they present," we admit this also, for we can no more know substances apart from their properties, than we can know qualities apart from the substances in which they inhere. Substances can be known only in and through their phenomena. Take away the properties, and the thing has no longer any existence. Eliminate extension, form, density, etc., from matter, and what have you left? "The thing in itself," apart from its qualities, is nothing. Or, again, if by the relativity of knowledge is meant "that all consciousness, all thought are relative," we accept this statement also. To conceive, to reflect, to know, is to deal with difference and relation; the relation of subject and object; the relation of objects among themselves; the relation of phenomena to reality, of becoming to being. The reason of man is unquestionably correlated to that which is beyond phenomena; it is able to apprehend the necessary relation between phenomena and being, extension and space, succession and time, event and cause, the finite and the infinite. We may thus admit the relative character of human thought, and at the same time deny that it is an ontological disqualification.
It is not, however, in any of these precise forms that Hamilton holds the doctrine of the relativity of knowledge. He assumes a middle place between Reid and Kant, and endeavors to blend the subjective idealism of the latter with the realism of the former. "He identifies the phenomenon of the German with the quality of the British philosophy," and asserts, as a regulative law of thought, that the quality implies the substance, and the phenomenon the noumenon, but makes the substratum or noumenon (the object in itself) unknown and unknowable. The "phenomenon" of Kant was, however, something essentially different from the "quality" of Reid. In the philosophy of Kant, phenomenon means an object as we envisage or represent it to ourselves, in opposition to the noumenon, or a thing as it is in itself. The phenomenon is composed, in part, of subjective elements supplied by the mind itself; as regards intuition, the forms of space and time; as regards thought, the categories of Quantity, Quality, Relation, and Modality. To perceive a thing in itself would be to perceive it neither in space nor in time. To think a thing in itself would be not to think it under any of the categories. The phenomenal is thus the product of the inherent laws of our own constitution, and, as such, is the sum and limit of all our knowledge.
[Footnote 305: Martineau's "Essays," p. 234.]
[Footnote 306: M'Cosh's "Defense of Fundamental Truth," p. 106.]
[Footnote 307: Mansel's "Lectures on the Philosophy of Kant," pp. 21, 22.]
This, in its main features, is evidently the doctrine propounded by Hamilton. The special modes in which existence is cognizable" are presented to, and known by, the mind under modifications determined by the faculties themselves." This doctrine he illustrates by the following supposition: "Suppose the total object of consciousness in perception is=12; and suppose that the external reality contributes 6, the material sense 3, and the mind 3; this may enable you to form some rude conjecture of the nature of the object of perception." The conclusion at which Hamilton arrives, therefore, is that things are not known to us as they exist, but simply as they appear, and as our minds are capable of perceiving them.
[Footnote 308: Hamilton's "Lectures on Metaphysics," vol. i. p. 148.]
[Footnote 309: Hamilton's "Lectures on Metaphysics," vol. ii. p. 129; and also vol. i. p. 147.]
Let us test the validity of this majestic deliverance. No man is justified in making this assertion unless, 1. He knows things as they exist; 2. He knows things not only as they exist but as they appear; 3. He is able to compare things as they exist with the same things as they appear. Now, inasmuch as Sir William Hamilton affirms we do not know things as they exist, but only as they appear, how can he know that there is any difference between things as they exist and as they appear? What is this "thing in itself" about which Hamilton has so much to say, and yet about which he professes to know nothing? We readily understand what is meant by the thing; it is the object as existing—a substance manifesting certain characteristic qualities. But what is meant by in itself? There can be no in itself besides or beyond the thing. If Hamilton means that "the thing itself" is the thing apart from all relation, and devoid of all properties or qualities, we do not acknowledge any such thing. A thing apart from all relation, and devoid of all qualities, is simply pure nothing, if such a solecism may be permitted. With such a definition of Being in se, the logic of Hegel is invincible, "Being and Nothing are identical."
And now, if "the thing in itself" be, as Hamilton says it is, absolutely unknown, how can he affirm or deny any thing in regard to it? By what right does he prejudge a hidden reality, and give or refuse its predicates; as, for example, that it is conditioned or unconditioned, in relation or aloof from relation, finite or infinite? Is it not plain that, in declaring a thing in its inmost nature or essence to be inscrutable, it is assumed to be partially known? And it is obvious, notwithstanding some unguarded expressions to the contrary, that Hamilton does regard "the thing in itself" as partially known. "The external reality" is, at least, six elements out of twelve in the "total object of consciousness." The primary qualities of matter are known as in the things themselves; "they develop themselves with rigid necessity out of the simple datum of substance occupying space." "The Primary Qualities are apprehended as they are in bodies"—"they are the attributes of body as body," and as such "are known immediately in themselves," as well as mediately by their effects upon us. So that we not only know by direct consciousness certain properties of things as they exist in things themselves, but we can also deduce them in an a priori manner. "The bare notion of matter being given, the Primary Qualities may be deduced a priori; they being, in fact, only evolutions of the conditions which that notion necessarily implies." If, then, we know the qualities of things as "in the things themselves," "the things themselves" must also be, at least, partially known; and Hamilton can not consistently assert the relativity of all knowledge. Even if it be granted that our cognitions of objects are only in part dependent on the objects themselves, and in part on elements superadded by our organism, or by our minds, it can not warrant the assertion that all our knowledge, but only the part so added, is relative. "The admixture of the relative element not only does not take away the absolute character of the remainder, but does not even (if our author is right) prevent us from recognizing it. The confusion, according to him, is not inextricable. It is for us 'to analyze and distinguish what elements,' in an 'act of knowledge,' are contributed by the object, and what by the organs or by the mind."
[Footnote 310: "Lectures on Metaphysics," vol. ii. p. 129.]
[Footnote 311: Philosophy of Sir Wm. Hamilton, p. 357]
[Footnote 312: Ibid., pp. 377, 378.]
[Footnote 313: Mill's "Examination of Hamilton's Philosophy," vol. i. p. 44.]
Admitting the relative character of human thought as a psychological fact, Mr. Martineau has conclusively shown that this law, instead of visiting us with disability to transcend phenomena, operates as a revelation of what exists beyond. "The finite body cut out before our visual perception, or embraced by the hands, lies as an island in the emptiness around, and without comparative reference to this can not be represented: the same experience which gives us the definite object gives us also the infinite space; and both terms—the limited appearance and the unlimited ground—are apprehended with equal certitude and clearness, and furnished with names equally susceptible of distinct use in predication and reasoning. The transient successions, for instance, the strokes of a clock, which we count, present themselves to us as dotted out upon a line of permanent duration; of which, without them, we should have no apprehension, but which as their condition, is unreservedly known."
"What we have said with regard to space and time applies equally to the case of Causation. Here, too, the finite offered to perception introduces to an Infinite supplied by thought. As a definite body reveals also the space around, and an interrupted succession exhibits the uniform time beneath, so does the passing phenomenon demand for itself a power beneath. The space, and time, and power, not being part of the thing perceived, but its conditions, are guaranteed to us, therefore, on the warrant, not of sense, but of intellect."
"We conclude, then, on reviewing these examples of Space, and Time, and Causation, that ontological ideas introducing us to certain fixed entities belong no less to our knowledge than scientific ideas of phenomenal disposition and succession." In these instances of relation between a phenomenon given in perception and an entity as a logical condition, the correlatives are on a perfect equality of intellectual validity, and the relative character of human thought is not an ontological disqualification, but a cognitive power.
[Footnote 314: "Essays," pp. 193,194.]
[Footnote 315: Ibid., p. 197.]
[Footnote 316: Ibid., p. 195.]
There is a thread of fallacy running through the whole of Hamilton's reasonings, consequent upon a false definition of the Absolute at the outset. The Absolute is defined as that which exists in and by itself, aloof from and out of all relation. An absolute, as thus defined, does not and can not exist; it is a pure abstraction, and, in fact, a pure non-entity. "The Absolute expresses perfect independence both in being and in action, and is applicable to God as self-existent." It may mean the absence of all necessary relation, but it does not mean the absence of all relation. If God can not voluntarily call a finite existence into being, and thus stand in the relation of cause, He is certainly under the severest limitation. But surely that is not a limit which substitutes choice for necessity. To be unable to know God out of all relation—that is, apart from his attributes, apart from his created universe, is not felt by us to be any privation at all. A God without attributes, and out of all relations, is for us no God at all. God as a being of unlimited perfection, as infinitely wise and good, as the unconditioned cause of all finite being, and, consequently, as voluntarily related to nature and humanity, we can and do know; this is the living and true God. The God of a false philosophy is not the true God; the pure abstractions of Hegel and Hamilton are negations, and not realities.
2. We proceed to consider the second fundamental principle of Hamilton's philosophy of the conditioned, viz., that "conditional limitation is the fundamental law of the possibility of thought," and that thought necessarily imposes conditions on its object.
"Thought," says Hamilton, "can not transcend consciousness: consciousness is only possible under the antithesis of a subject and an object known only in correlation, and mutually limiting each other" Thought necessarily supposes conditions; "to think is simply to condition," that is, to predicate limits; and as the infinite is the unlimited, it can not be thought. The very attempt to think the infinite renders it finite; therefore there can be no infinite in thought, and, consequently, the infinite can not be known.
[Footnote 317: Calderwood's "Philosophy of the Infinite," p. 179.]
[Footnote 318: "Discussions," p. 21.]
If by "the infinite in thought" is here meant the infinite compassed or contained in thought, we readily grant that the finite can not contain the infinite; it is a simple truism which no one has ever been so foolish as to deny. Even Cousin is not so unwise as to assert the absolutely comprehensibility of God. "In order absolutely to comprehend the Infinite, it is necessary to have an infinite power of comprehension, and this is not granted to us." A finite mind can not have "an infinite thought." But it by no means follows that, because we can not have infinite thought, we can have no clear and definite thought of or concerning the Infinite. We have a precise and definite idea of infinitude; we can define the idea; we can set it apart without danger of being confounded with another, and we can reason concerning it. There is nothing we more certainly and intuitively know than that space is infinite, and yet we can not comprehend or grasp within the compass of our thought the infinite space. We can not form an image of infinite space, can not traverse it in perception, or represent it by any combination of numbers; but we can have the thought of it as an idea of Reason, and can argue concerning it with precision and accuracy. Hamilton has an idea of the Infinite; he defines it; he reasons concerning it; he says "we must believe in the infinity of God." But how can he define the Infinite unless he possesses some knowledge, however limited, of the infinite Being? How can he believe in the infinity of God if he has no definite idea of infinitude? He can not reason about, can not affirm or deny any thing concerning, that of which he knows absolutely nothing.
[Footnote 319: "Lectures on History of Philosophy," vol. i. p. 104.]
[Footnote 320: "To form an image of any infinitude—be it of time or space [or power]; to go mentally through it by successive steps of representation—is indeed impossible; not less so than to traverse it in our finite perception and experience. But to have the thought of it as an idea of the reason, not of the phantasy, and assign that thought a constituent place in valid beliefs and consistent reasonings, appears to us as not only possible, but inevitable."—Martineau's "Essays," p. 205.]
The grand logical barrier which Hamilton perpetually interposes to all possible cognition of God as infinite is, that to think is to condition—to limit; and as the Infinite is the unconditioned, the unlimited, therefore "the Infinite can not be thought." We grant at once that all human thought is limited and finite, but, at the same time, we emphatically deny that the limitation of our thought imposes any conditions or limits upon the object of thought. No such affirmation can be consistently made, except on the Hegelian hypothesis that "Thought and Being are identical;" and this is a maxim which Hamilton himself repudiates. Our thought does not create, neither does it impose conditions upon, any thing.
There is a lurking sophism in the whole phraseology of Hamilton in regard to this subject. He is perpetually talking about "thinking a thing"—"thinking the Infinite." Now we do not think a thing, but we think of or concerning a thing. We do not think a man, neither does our thought impose any conditions upon the man, so that he must be as our thought conceives or represents him; but our thought is of the man, concerning or about the man, and is only so far true and valid as it conforms to the objective reality. And so we do not "think the Infinite;" that is, our thought neither contains nor conditions the Infinite Being, but our thoughts are about the Infinite One; and if we do not think of Him as a being of infinite perfection, our thought is neither worthy, nor just, nor true.
[Footnote 321: Calderwood's "Philosophy of the Infinite," pp. 255, 256.]
But we are told the law of all thought and of all being is determination; consequently, negation of some quality or some potentiality; whereas the Infinite is "the One and the All" (ti En kai Pyn), or, as Dr. Mansel, the disciple and annotator of Hamilton, affirms, "the sum of all reality," and "the sum of all possible modes of being." The Infinite, as thus defined, must include in itself all being, and all modes of being, actual and possible, not even excepting evil. And this, let it be observed, Dr. Mansel has the hardihood to affirm. "If the Absolute and the Infinite is an object of human conception at all, this, and none other, is the conception required." "The Infinite Whole," as thus defined, can not be thought, and therefore it is argued the Infinite God can not be known. Such a doctrine shocks our moral sense, and we shrink from the thought of an Infinite which includes evil. There is certainly a moral impropriety, if not a logical impossibility, in such a conception of God.
[Footnote 322: Hamilton's "Lectures on Metaphysics," Appendix, vol. ii. p. 531.]
[Footnote 323: "Limits of Religious Thought," p. 76.]
[Footnote 324: Ibid.]
The fallacy of this reasoning consists in confounding a supposed Quantitative Infinite with the Qualitative Infinite—the totality of existence with the infinitely perfect One. "Qualitative infinity is a secondary predicate; that is, the attribute of an attribute, and is expressed by the adverb infinitely rather than the adjective infinite. For instance, it is a strict use of language to say, that space is infinite, but it is an elliptical use of language to say, God is infinite. Precision of language would require us to say, God is infinitely good, wise, and great; or God is good, and his goodness is infinite. The distinction may seem trivial, but it is based upon an important difference between the infinity of space and time on the one hand, and the infinity of God on the other. Neither philosophy nor theology can afford to disregard the difference. Quantitative Infinity is illimitation by quantity. Qualitative Infinity is illimitation by degree. Quantity and degree alike imply finitude, and are categories of the finite alone. The danger of arguing from the former kind of infinitude to the latter can not be overstated. God alone possesses Qualitative Infinity, which is strictly synonymous with absolute perfection; and the neglect of the distinction between this and Quantitative Infinity, leads irresistibly to pantheistic and materialistic notions. Spinozism is possible only by the elevation of 'infinite extension' to the dignity of a divine attribute. Dr. Samuel Clarke's identification of God's immensity with space has been shown by Martin to ultimate in Pantheism. From ratiocinations concerning the incomprehensibility of infinite space and time, Hamilton and Mansel pass at once to conclusions concerning the incomprehensibility of God. The inconsequence of all such arguments is absolute; and if philosophy tolerates the transference of spatial or temporal analogies to the nature of God, she must reconcile herself to the negation of his personality and spirituality." An Infinite Being, quite remote from the notion of quantity, may and does exist; which, on the one hand, does not include finite existence, and, on the other hand, does not render the finite impossible to thought. Without contradiction they may coexist, and be correlated.
The thought will have already suggested itself to the mind of the reader that for Hamilton to assert that the Infinite, as thus defined (the One and the All), is absolutely unknown, is certainly the greatest absurdity, for in that case nothing can be known. This Infinite must be at least partially known, or all human knowledge is reduced to zero. To the all-inclusive Infinite every thing affirmative belongs, not only to be, but to be known. To claim it for being, yet deny it to thought, is thus impossible. The Infinite, which includes all real existence, is certainly possible to cognition.
The whole argument as regards the conditionating nature of all thought is condensed into four words by Spinoza—"Omnis determinatio est negatio;" all determination is negation. Nothing can be more arbitrary or more fallacious than this principle. It arises from the confusion of two things essentially different—the limits of a being, and its determinate and distinguishing characteristics. The limit of a being is its imperfection; the determination of a being is its perfection. The less a thing is determined, the more it sinks in the scale of being; the most determinate being is the most perfect being. "In this sense God is the only being absolutely determined. For there must be something indetermined in all finite beings, since they have all imperfect powers which tend towards their development after an indefinite manner. God alone, the complete Being in whom all powers are actualized, escapes by His own perfection from all progress, and development, and indetermination."
[Footnote 325: North American Review, October, 1864, article, "The Conditioned and the Unconditioned," pp. 422, 423. See also Young's "Province of Reason," p. 72; and Calderwood's "Philosophy of the Infinite," p. 183.]
[Footnote 326: Saisset, "Modern Pantheism," vol. ii. p. 71.]
All real being must be determined; only pure Nothing can be undetermined. Determination is, however, one thing; and limitation is essentially another thing. "Even space and time, though cognized solely by negative characteristics, are determined in so far as differentiated from the existences they contain; but this differentiation involves no limitation of their infinity." If all distinction is determination, and if all determination is negation, that is (as here used), limitation, then the infinite, as distinguished from the finite, loses its own infinity, and either becomes identical with the finite, or else vanishes into pure nothing. If Hamilton will persist in affirming that all determination is limitation, he has no other alternatives but to accept the doctrine of Absolute Nihilism, or of Absolute Identity. If the Absolute is the indeterminate—that is, no attributes, no consciousness, no relations—it is pure non-being. If the Infinite is "the One and All," then there is but one substance, one absolute entity.
Herbert Spencer professes to be carrying out, a step farther, the doctrine put into shape by Hamilton and Mansel, viz., "the philosophy of the Unconditioned." In other words, he carries that doctrine forward to its rigidly logical consequences, and utters the last word which Hamilton and Mansel dare not utter—"Apprehensible by us there is no God." The Ultimate Reality is absolutely unknown; it can not be apprehended by the human intellect, and it can not present itself to the intellect at all. This Ultimate Reality can not be intelligent, because to think is to condition, and the Absolute is the unconditioned; can not be conscious, because all consciousness is of plurality and difference, and the Absolute is one; can not be personal, because personality is determination or limitation, and the Infinite is the illimitable. It is "audacious," "irreverent," "impious," to apply any of these predicates to it; to regard it as Mind, or speak of it as Righteous. The ultimate goal of the philosophy of the Unconditioned is a purely subjective Atheism.
[Footnote 327: "First Principles," pp. 111, 112.]
And yet of this Primary Existence—inscrutable, and absolutely unknown—Spencer knows something; knows as much as he pleases to know. He knows that this "ultimate of ultimates is Force," an "Omnipresent Power," is "One" and "Eternal." He knows also that it can not be intelligent, self-conscious, and a personality. This is a great deal to affirm and deny of an existence "absolutely unknown." May we not be permitted to affirm of this hidden and unknown something that it is conscious Mind, especially as Mind is admitted to be the only analogon of Power; and "the force by which we produce change, and which serves to symbolize the causes of changes in general, is the final disclosure of analysis."
[Footnote 328: "First Principles," p. 235.]
[Footnote 329: Ibid., p. 99.]
[Footnote 330: Ibid., p. 81.]
[Footnote 331: Ibid., pp. 108-112.]
[Footnote 332: Ibid., p. 235.]
3. We advance to the review of the third fundamental principle of Hamilton's philosophy of the Unconditioned, viz., that the terms infinite and absolute are names for a "mere negation of thought"—a "mental impotence" to think, or, in other words, the absence of all the conditions under which thought is possible.
This principle is based upon a distinction between "positive" and "negative" thought, which is made with an air of wonderful precision and accuracy in "the Alphabet of Human Thought." "Thinking is positive when existence is predicated of an object." "Thinking is negative when existence is not attributed to an object." "Negative thinking," therefore, is not the thinking of an object as devoid of this or that particular attribute, but as devoid of all attributes, and thus of all existence; that is, it is "the negation of all thought"—nothing. "When we think a thing, that is done by conceiving it as possessed of certain modes of being or qualities, and the sum of these qualities constitutes its concept or notion." "When we perform an act of negative thought, this is done by thinking something as not existing in this or that determinate mode; and when we think it as existing in no determinate mode, we cease to think at all—it becomes a nothing." Now the Infinite, according to Hamilton, can not be thought in any determinate mode; therefore we do not think it at all, and therefore it is for us "a logical Non-entity."
[Footnote 333: "Discussions," Appendix I. p. 567.]
[Footnote 334: "Logic," pp. 54, 55.]
It is barely conceivable that Hamilton might imagine himself possessed of this singular power of "performing an act of negative thought"—that is, of thinking and not thinking at once, or of "thinking something" that "becomes nothing;" we are not conscious of any such power. To think without an object of thought, or to think of something without any qualities, or to think "something" which in the act of thought melts away into "nothing," is an absurdity and a contradiction. We can not think about nothing. All thought must have an object, and every object must have some predicate. Even space has some predicates—as receptivity, unity, and infinity. Thought can only be realized by thinking something existing, and existing in a determinate manner; and when we cease to think something having predicates, we cease to think at all. This is emphatically asserted by Hamilton himself. "Negative thinking" is, therefore, a meaningless phrase, a contradiction in terms; it is no thought at all. We are cautioned, however, against regarding "the negation of thought" as "a negation of all mental ability." It is, we are told, "an attempt to think, and a failure in the attempt." An attempt to think about what? Surely it must be about some object, and an object which is known by some sign, else there can be no thought. Let any one make the attempt to think without something to think about, and he will find that both the process and the result are blank nothingness. All thought, therefore, as Calderwood has amply shown, is, must be, positive. "Thought is nothing else than the comparison of objects known; and as knowledge is always positive, so must our thought be. All knowledge implies an object known; and so all thought involves an object about which we think, and must, therefore, be positive—that is, it must embrace within itself the conception of certain qualities as belonging to the object."
[Footnote 335: "Logic," p. 55.]
[Footnote 336: "Philosophy of the Infinite," p. 272.]
The conclusion of Hamilton's reasoning in regard to "negative thinking" is, that we can form no notion of the Infinite Being. We have no positive idea of such a Being. We can think of him only by "the thinking away of every characteristic" which can be conceived, and thus "ceasing to think at all." We can only form a "negative concept," which, we are told, "is in fact no concept at all." We can form only a "negative notion," which, we are informed, "is only the negation of a notion." This is the impenetrable abyss of total gloom and emptiness into which the philosophy of the conditions leads us at last.
[Footnote 337: Whilst Spencer accepts the general doctrine of Hamilton, that the Ultimate Reality is inscrutable, he argues earnestly against his assertion that the Absolute is a "mere negation of thought."
"Every one of the arguments by which the relativity of our knowledge is demonstrated distinctly postulates the positive existence of something beyond the relative. To say we can not know the Absolute is, by implication, to affirm there is an Absolute. In the very denial of our power to learn what the Absolute is, there lies hidden the assumption that it is; and the making of this assumption proves that the Absolute has been present to the mind, not as nothing, but as something. And so with every step in the reasoning by which the doctrine is upheld, the Noumenon, everywhere named as the antithesis of the Phenomenon, is throughout thought as actuality. It is rigorously impossible to conceive that our knowledge is a knowledge of appearances only, without, at the same time, conceiving a Reality of which these are appearances, for appearances without reality are unthinkable.
"Truly to represent or realize in thought any one of the propositions of which the argument consists, the unconditioned must be represented as positive, and not negative. How, then, can it be a legitimate conclusion from the argument that our consciousness of it is negative? An argument, the very construction of which assigns to a certain term a certain meaning, but which ends in showing that this term has no meaning, is simply an elaborate suicide. Clearly, then, the very demonstration that a definite consciousness [comprehension] of the Absolute is impossible, unavoidably presupposes an indefinite consciousness of it [an apprehension]."—"First Principles," p. 88.]
Still we have the word infinite, and we have the notion which the word expresses. This, at least, is spared to us by Sir William Hamilton. He who says we have no such notion asks the question how we have it? Here it may be asked, how have we, then, the word infinite? How have we the notion which this word expresses? The answer to this question is contained in the distinction of positive and negative thought.
We have a positive concept of a thing when we think of it by the qualities of which it is the complement. But as the attribution of qualities is an affirmation, as affirmation and negation are relatives, and as relatives are known only in and through each other, we can not, therefore, have a consciousness of the affirmation of any quality without having, at the same time, the correlative consciousness of its negation. Now the one consciousness is a positive, the other consciousness is a negative notion; and as all language is the reflex of thought, the positive and negative notions are expressed by positive and negative names. Thus it is with the Infinite. Now let us carefully scrutinize the above deliverance. We are told that "relatives are known only in and through each other;" that is, such relatives as finite and infinite are known necessarily in the same act of thought. The knowledge of one is as necessary as the knowledge of the other. We can not have a consciousness of the one without the correlative consciousness of the other. "For," says Hamilton, "a relation is, in truth, a thought, one and indivisible; and while the thinking a relation necessarily involves the thought of its two terms,, so it is, with equal necessity, itself involved in the thought of either." If, then, we are conscious of the two terms of the relation in the same "one and indivisible" mental act—if we can not have "the consciousness of the one without the consciousness of the other"—if space and position, time and succession, substance and quality, infinite and finite, are given to us in pairs, then 'the knowledge of one is as necessary as the knowledge of the other,' and they must stand or fall together. The finite is known no more positively than the infinite; the infinite is known as positively as the finite. The one can not be taken and the other left. The infinite, discharged from all relation to the finite, could never come into apprehension; and the finite, discharged of all relation to the infinite, is incognizable too. "There can be no objection to call the one 'positive' and the other 'negative,' provided it be understood that each is so with regard to the other, and that the relation is convertible; the finite, for instance, being the negative of the infinite, not less than the infinite of the finite."
[Footnote 338: Logic, p. 73.]
[Footnote 339: Martineau's "Essays," p. 237.]
To say that the finite is comprehensible in and by itself, and the infinite is incomprehensible in and by itself, is to make an assertion utterly at variance both with psychology and logic. The finite is no more comprehensible in itself than the infinite. "Relatives are known only in and through each other." "The conception of one term of a relation necessarily implies that of the other, it being the very nature of a relative to be thinkable only through the conjunct thought of its correlative." We comprehend nothing more completely than the infinite; "for the idea of illimitation is as clear, precise, and intelligible as the idea of limitability, which is its basis. The propositions "A is X" "A is not X," are equally comprehensible; the conceptions A and X are in both cases positive data of experience, while the affirmation and negation consist solely in the copulative or disjunctive nature of the predication. Consequently, if X is comprehensible, so is not—X; if the finite is comprehensible, so is the infinite."
Whilst denying that the infinite can by us be known, Hamilton tells us he is "far from denying that it is, must, and ought to be believed." "We must believe in the infinity of God." "Faith—belief—is the organ by which we apprehend what is beyond knowledge." We heartily assent to the doctrine that the Infinite Being is the object of faith, but we earnestly deny that the Infinite Being is not an object of knowledge. May not knowledge be grounded upon faith, and does not faith imply knowledge? Can we not obtain knowledge through faith? Is not the belief in the Infinite Being implied in our knowledge of finite existence? If so, then God as the infinite and perfect, God as the unconditioned Cause, is not absolutely "the unknown."
[Footnote 340: Hamilton's "Logic," p. 73.]
[Footnote 341: North American Review, October, 1864, article "Conditioned and the Unconditioned," pp. 441, 442.]
[Footnote 342: Letter to Calderwood, Appendix, vol. ii. p. 530.]
[Footnote 343: "Lectures on Metaphysics," vol. ii. p. 374.]
A full exposition of Sir William Hamilton's views of Faith in its connection with Philosophy would have been deeply interesting to us, and it would have filled up a gap in the interpretation of his system. The question naturally presents itself, how would he have discriminated between faith and knowledge, so as to assign to each its province? If our notion of the Infinite Being rests entirely upon faith, then upon what ultimate ground does faith itself rest? On the authority of Scripture, of the Church, or of reason? The only explicit statement of his view which has fallen in our way is a note in his edition of Reid. "We know what rests upon reason; we believe what rests upon authority. But reason itself must rest at last upon authority; for the original data of reason do not rest upon reason, but are necessarily accepted by reason on the authority of what is beyond itself. These data are, therefore, in rigid propriety, Beliefs or Trusts. Thus it is that, in the last resort, we must, per force, philosophically admit that belief is the primary condition of reason, and not reason the ultimate ground of belief."
[Footnote 344: P. 760; also Philosophy of Sir William Hamilton, p. 61.]
Here we have, first, an attempted distinction between faith and knowledge. "We know what rests upon reason;" that is, whatever we obtain by deduction or induction, whatever is capable of explication and proof, is knowledge. "We believe what rests upon authority;" that is, whatever we obtain by intellectual intuition or pure apperception, and is incapable of explication and of proof, is "a belief or trust." These instinctive beliefs, which are, as it were, the first principles upon which all knowledge rests, are, however, indiscriminately called by Hamilton "cognitions," "beliefs," "judgments." He declares most explicitly "that the principles of our knowledge must themselves be knowledges;" and these first principles, which are "the primary condition of reason," are elsewhere called "a priori cognitions;" also "native, pure, or transcendental knowledge," in contradistinction to "a posteriori cognitions," or that knowledge which is obtained in the exercise of reason. All this confusion results from an attempt to put asunder what God has joined together. As Clemens of Alexandria has said, "Neither is faith without knowledge, nor knowledge without faith." All faith implies knowledge, and all knowledge implies faith. They are mingled in the one operation of the human mind, by which we apprehend first principles or ultimate truths. These have their light and dark side, as Hamilton has remarked. They afford enough light to show that they are and must be, and thus communicate knowledge; they furnish no light to show how they are and why they are, and under that aspect demand the exercise of faith. There must, therefore, first be something known before there can be any faith.
[Footnote 345: Ibid., p. 69.]
[Footnote 346: "Lectures on Metaphysics," vol. ii. p. 26.]
[Footnote 347: M'Cosh, "Intuitions," pp. 197, 198; Calderwood, "Philosophy of the Infinite," p. 24.]
And now we seem to have penetrated to the centre of Hamilton's philosophy, and the vital point may be touched by one crucial question, Upon what ultimate ground does faith itself rest? Hamilton says, "we believe what rests upon authority." But what is that authority? I. It is not the authority of Divine Revelation, because beliefs are called "instinctive," "native," "innate," "common," "catholic," all which terms seem to indicate that this "authority" lies within the sphere of the human mind; at any rate, this faith does not rest on the authority of Scripture. Neither is it the authority of Reason. "The original data of reason [the first principles of knowledge] do not rest upon the authority of reason, but on the authority of what is beyond itself." The question thus recurs, what is this ultimate ground beyond reason upon which faith rests? Does it rest upon any thing, or nothing?
[Footnote 348: Philosophy of Sir Wm. Hamilton, pp. 68, 69.]
The answer to this question is given in the so-called "Law of the Conditioned," which is thus laid down: "All that is conceivable in thought lies between two extremes, which, as contradictory of each other, can not both be true, but of which, as mutual contradictories, one must." For example, we conceive space, but we can not conceive it as absolutely bounded or infinitely unbounded. We can conceive time, but we can not conceive it as having an absolute commencement or an infinite non-commencement. We can conceive of degree, but we can not conceive it as absolutely limited or as infinitely unlimited. We can conceive of existence, but not as an absolute part or an infinite whole. Therefore, "the Conditioned is that which is alone conceivable or cogitable; the Unconditioned, that which is inconceivable or incogitable. The conditioned, or the thinkable, lies between two extremes or poles; and each of these extremes or poles are unconditioned, each of them inconceivable, each of them exclusive or contradictory of the other. Of these two repugnant opposites, the one is that of Unconditional or Absolute Limitation; the other that of Unconditional or Infinite Illimitation, or, more simply, the Absolute and the Infinite; the term absolute expressing that which is finished or complete, the term infinite that which can not be terminated or concluded."
"The conditioned is the mean between two extremes—two inconditionates, exclusive of each other, neither of which can be conceived as possible, but of which, on the principle of contradiction, and excluded middle, one must be admitted as necessary. We are thus warned from recognizing the domain of our knowledge as necessarily co-extensive with the horizon of our faith. And by a wonderful revelation, we are thus, in the very consciousness of our inability to conceive aught above the relative and the finite, inspired with a belief in the existence of something unconditioned beyond the sphere of all comprehensible reality." Here, then, we have found the ultimate ground of our faith in the Infinite God. It is built upon a "mental imbecility," and buttressed up by "contradictions!"
[Footnote 349: "Lectures on Metaphysics," vol. ii. pp. 368, 374. With Hamilton, the Unconditioned is a genus, of which the Infinite and Absolute are species.]
[Footnote 350: "Discussions on Philosophy," p. 22.]
[Footnote 351: The warmest admirers of Sir William Hamilton hesitate to apply the doctrine of the unconditioned to Cause and Free-will. See "Mansel's Prolegom.," Note C, p. 265.]
Such a faith, however, is built upon the clouds, and the whole structure of this philosophy is "a castle in the air"—an attempt to organize Nescience into Science, and evoke something out of nothing. To pretend to believe in that respecting which I can form no notion is in reality not to believe at all. The nature which compels me to believe in the Infinite must supply me some object upon which my belief can take hold. We can not believe in contradictions. Our faith must be a rational belief—a faith in the ultimate harmony and unity of all truth, in the veracity and integrity of human reason as the organ of truth; and, above all, a faith in the veracity of God, who is the author and illuminator of our mental constitution. "We can not suppose that we are created capable of intelligence in order to be made victims of delusion—that God is a deceiver, and the root of our nature a lie." We close our review of Hamilton by remarking:
[Footnote 352: Philosophy of Sir William Hamilton, p. 21.]
1. "The Law of the Conditioned," as enounced by Hamilton, is contradictory. It predicates contradiction of two extremes, which are asserted to be equally incomprehensible and incognizable. If they are utterly incognizable, how does Hamilton know that they are contradictory? The mutual relation of two objects is said to be known, but the objects themselves are absolutely unknown. But how can we know any relation except by an act of comparison, and how can we compare two objects so as to affirm their relation, if the objects are absolutely unknown? "The Infinite is defined as Unconditional Illimitation; the Absolute as Conditional Limitation. Yet almost in the same breath we are told that each is utterly inconceivable, each the mere negation of thought. On the one hand, we are told they differ; on the other, we are told they do not differ. Now which does Hamilton mean? If he insist upon the definitions as yielding a ground of conceivable difference, he must abandon the inconceivability; but if he insist upon the inconceivability, he must abandon the definition as sheer verbiage, devoid of all conceivable meaning. There is no possible escape from this dilemma. Further, two negations can never contradict; for contradiction is the asserting and the denying of the same proposition; two denials can not conflict. If Illimitation is negative, Limitation, its contradictory, is positive, whether conditional or unconditional. In brief, if the Infinite and Absolute are wholly incomprehensible, they are not distinguishable; but if they are distinguishable, they are not wholly incomprehensible. If they are indistinguishable, they are to us identical; and identity precludes contradiction. But if they are distinguishable, distinction is made by difference, which involves positive cognition; hence one, at least, must be conceivable. It follows, therefore, by inexorable logic, that either the contradiction or the inconceivability must be abandoned."
[Footnote 353: North American Review, October, 1864, pp. 407, 408.]
2. "The Law of the Conditioned," as a ground of faith in the Infinite Being, is utterly void, meaningless, and ineffectual. Let us re-state it in Hamilton's own words: "The conditioned is the mean between two extremes, two inconditionates exclusive of each other, neither of which can be conceived as possible, but of which, on the principle of Contradiction and Excluded Middle, one must be admitted as necessary." It is scarcely needful to explain to the intelligent reader the above logical principles; that they may, however, be clearly before the mind in this connection, we state that the principle of Contradiction is this: "A thing can not at the same time be and not be; A is, A is not, are propositions which can not both be true at once." The principle of Excluded Middle is this: "A thing either is or is not—A either is or is not B; there is no medium." Now, to mention the law of Excluded Middle and two contradictories with a mean between them, in the same sentence, is really astounding. "If the two contradictory extremes are equally incogitable, yet include a cogitable mean, why insist upon the necessity of accepting either extreme? This necessity of accepting one of the contradictories is wholly based upon the supposed impossibility of a mean; if a mean exists, that may be true, and both contradictories together false. But if a mean between two contradictories be both impossible and absurd, Hamilton's 'conditioned' entirely vanishes." If both contradictories are equally unknown and equally unthinkable, we can not discover why, on his principles, we are bound to believe either.
[Footnote 354: Hamilton's "Logic," pp. 58, 59; "Metaphysics," vol. ii. p. 368.]
[Footnote 355: North British Review, October, 1864, pp. 415, 416.]
3. The whole of this confusion in thought and expression results from the habit of confounding the sensuous imagination with the non-sensuous reason, and the consequent co-ordination of an imageable conception with an abstract idea. The objects of sense and the sensuous imagination may be characterized as extension, limitation, figure, position, etc.; the objects of the non-sensuous reason may be characterized as universality, eternity, infinity. I can form an image of an extended and figured object, but I can not form an image of space, time, or God; neither, indeed, can I form an image of Goodness, Justice, or Truth. But I can have a clear and precise idea of space, and time, and God, as I can of Justice, Goodness, and Truth. There are many things which I can most surely know that I can not possibly comprehend, if to comprehend is to form a mental image of a thing. There is nothing which I more certainly know than that space is infinite, and eternity unbeginning and endless; but I can not comprehend the infinity of space or the illimitability of eternity. I know that God is, that he is a being of infinite perfection, but I can not throw my thoughts around and comprehend the infinity of God.
(iv.) We come, lastly, to consider the position of the Dogmatic Theologians. In their zeal to demonstrate the necessity of Divine Revelation, and to vindicate for it the honor of supplying to us all our knowledge of God, they assail every fundamental principle of reason, often by the very weapons which are supplied by an Atheistical philosophy. As a succinct presentation of the views of this school, we select the "Theological Institutes" of R. Watson.
[Footnote 356: Ellis, Leland, Locke, and Horsley, whose writings are extensively quoted in Watson's "Institutes of Theology" (reprinted by Carlton & Lanahan, New York).]
1st. The invalidity of "the principle of causality" is asserted by this author. "We allow that the argument which proves that the effects with which we are surrounded have been caused, and thus leads us up through a chain of subordinate causes to one First Cause, has a simplicity, an obviousness, and a force which, when we are previously furnished with the idea of God, makes it, at first sight, difficult to conceive that men, under any degree of cultivation, should be inadequate to it; yet if ever the human mind commenced such an inquiry at all, it is highly probable that it would rest in the notion of an eternal succession of causes and effects, rather than acquire the ideas of creation, in the proper sense, and of a Supreme Creator." "We feel that our reason rests with full satisfaction in the doctrine that all things are created by one eternal and self-existent Being; but the Greek philosophers held that matter was eternally co-existent with God. This was the opinion of Plato, who has been called the Moses of philosophy."
For a defense of "the principle of causality" we must refer the reader to our remarks on the philosophy of Comte. We shall now only remark on one or two peculiarities in the above statement which betray an utter misapprehension of the nature of the argument. We need scarcely direct attention to the unfortunate and, indeed, absurd phrase, "an eternal succession of causes and effects." An "eternal succession" is a contradictio in adjecto, and as such inconceivable and unthinkable. No human mind can "rest" in any such thing, because an eternal succession is no rest at all. All "succession" is finite and temporal, capable of numeration, and therefore can not be eternal. Again, in attaining the conception of a First Cause the human mind does not pass up "through a chain of subordinate causes," either definite or indefinite, "to one First Cause."
[Footnote 357: Watson's "Institutes of Theology," vol. i. p. 273.]
[Footnote 358: Id., ib., vol. i. p. 21.]
[Footnote 359: See ante, pp. 181, 182, ch. v.]
Let us re-state the principle of causality as a universal and necessary law of thought. "All phenomena present themselves to us as the expression of POWER, and refer us to a causal ground whence they issue." That "power" is intuitively and spontaneously apprehended by the human mind as Supreme and Ultimate—"the causal ground" is a personal God. All the phenomena of nature present themselves to us as "effects," and we know nothing of "subordinate causes" except as modes of the Divine Efficiency. The principle of causality compels us to think causation behind nature, and under causation to think of Volition. "Other forces we have no sort of ground for believing; or, except by artifices of abstraction, even power of conceiving. The dynamic idea is either this or nothing; and the logical alternative assuredly is that nature is either a mere Time-march of phenomena or an expression of Mind." The true doctrine of philosophy, of science, and of revelation is not simply that God did create "in the beginning," but that he still creates. All the operations of Nature are the operations of the Divine Mind. "Thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust. Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created; and thou renewest the face of the earth."
[Footnote 360: The modern doctrine of the Correlation and Homogenity of all Forces clearly proves that they are not many, but one—"a dynamic self-identity masked by transmigration."—Martineau's "Essays," pp. 134-144.]
[Footnote 361: Martineau's "Essays," pp. 140, 141.]
[Footnote 362: Psalm civ.]
The assertion that Plato taught "the eternity of matter," and that consequently he did not arrive at the idea of a Supreme and Ultimate Cause, is incapable of proof. The term yle=matter does not occur in the writings of Plato, or, indeed, of any of his predecessors, and is peculiarly Aristotelian. The ground of the world of sense is called by Plato "the receptacle" (ypodoche), "the nurse" (tithene) of all that is produced, and was apparently identified, in his mind, with pure space—a logical rather than a physical entity—the mere negative condition and medium of Divine manifestation. He never regards it as a "cause," or ascribes to it any efficiency. We grant that he places this very indefinite something (opoionoun ti) out of the sphere of temporal origination; but it must be borne in mind that he speaks of "creation in eternity" as well as of "creation in time;" and of time itself, though created, as "an eternal image of the generating Father." This one thing, at any rate, can not be denied, that Plato recognizes creation in its fullest sense as the act of God.
The admission that something has always existed besides the Deity, as a mere logical condition of the exercise of divine power (e.g., space), would not invalidate the argument for the existence of God. The proof of the Divine Existence, as Chalmers has shown, does not rest on the existence of matter, but on the orderly arrangement of matter; and the grand question of Theism is not whether the matter of the world, but whether the present order of the world had a commencement.
2d. Doubt is cast by our author upon the validity of "the principle of the Unconditioned or the Infinite." "Supposing it were conceded that some faint glimmering of this great truth [the existence of a First Cause] might, by induction, have been discovered by contemplative minds, by what means could they have demonstrated to themselves that he is eternal, self-existent, immortal, and independent?" "Between things visible and invisible, time and eternity, beings finite and beings infinite, objects of sense and objects of faith, the connection is not perceptible to human observation. Though we push our researches, therefore, to the extreme point whither the light of nature can carry us, they will in the end be abruptly terminated, and we must stop short at an immeasurable distance between the creature and the Creator."
[Footnote 363: Plato, "Timaeus," Sec. xiv.]
[Footnote 364: Chalmers's "Natural Theology," bk. i. ch. v.; also Mahan's "Natural Theology," pp. 21-23.]
[Footnote 365: Watson's "Institutes of Theol.," vol. i. p. 274.]
[Footnote 366: Id., ib., vol. i. p. 273.]
To this assertion that the connection of things visible and things invisible, finite and infinite, objects of sense and objects of faith, is utterly imperceptible to human thought, we might reply by quoting the words of that Sacred Book whose supreme authority our author is seeking, by this argument, to establish. "The invisible things of God, even his eternal power and god-head, from the creation, are clearly seen, being understood by the things which are made." We may also point to the fact that in every age and in every land the human mind has spontaneously and instinctively recognized the existence of an invisible Power and Presence pervading nature and controlling the destinies of man, and that religious worship—prayer, and praise, and sacrifice—offered to that unseen yet omnipresent Power is an universal fact of human nature. The recognition of an immediate and a necessary "connection" between the visible and the invisible, the objects of sense and the objects of faith, is one of the most obvious facts of consciousness—of universal consciousness as revealed in history, and of individual consciousness as developed in every rational mind.
That this connection is "not perceptible to human observation," if by this our author means "not perceptible to sense," we readily admit. No one ever asserted it was perceptible to human observation. We say that this connection is perceptible to human reason, and is revealed in every attempt to think about, and seek an explanation of, the phenomenal world. The Phenomenal and the Real, Genesis and Being, Space and Extension, Succession and Duration, Time and Eternity, the Finite and the Infinite, are correlatives which are given in one and the same indivisible act of thought. "The conception of one term of a relation necessarily implies that of the other; it being the very nature of a correlative to be thinkable only through the conjunct thought of its correlative; for a relation is, in truth, a thought one and indivisible; and whilst the thinking of one relation necessarily involves the thought of its two terms, so it is, with equal necessity, itself involved in the thought of either." Finite, dependent, contingent, temporal existence, therefore, necessarily supposes infinite, self-existent, independent, eternal Being; the Conditioned and Relative implies the Unconditioned and Absolute—one is known only in and through the other. But inasmuch as the unconditioned is cognized solely a priori, and the conditioned solely a posteriori, the recognition by the human mind of their necessary correlation becomes the bridge whereby the chasm between the subjective and the objective may be spanned, and whereby Thought may be brought face to face with Existence.
[Footnote 367: Hamilton's "Metaphysics," vol. ii. pp. 536, 537.]
The reverence which, from boyhood, we have entertained for the distinguished author of the "Institutes" restrains us from speaking in adequate terms of reprobation of the statement that "the First Cause" may be known, and yet not conceived "as eternal, self-existent, immortal, and independent". Surely that which is the ground and reason of all existence must have the ground and reason of its own existence in itself. That which is first in the order of existence, and in the logical order of thought, can have nothing prior to itself. If the supposed First Cause is not necessarily self-existent and independent, it is not the first; if it has a dependent existence, there must be a prior being on which it depends. If the First Cause is not eternal, then prior to this Ultimate Cause there was nothingness and vacuity, and pure nothing, by its own act, became something. But "Ex nihilo nihil" is a universal law of thought. To ask the question whether the First Cause be self-existent and eternal, is, in effect, to ask the question "who made God?" and this is not the question of an adult theologian, but of a little child. Surely Mr. Watson must have penned the above passage without any reflection on its real import.
[Footnote 368: In an article on "the Impending Revolution in Anglo-Saxon Theology" Methodist Quarterly Review, (July, 1863), Dr. Warren seems to take it for granted that the "aiteological" and "teleological" arguments for the existence of God are utterly invalidated by the Dynamical theory of matter. "Once admit that real power can and does reside in matter, and all these reasonings fail. If inherent forces of matter are competent to the production of all the innumerable miracles of movement in the natural world, what is there in the natural world which they can not produce. If all the exertions of power in the universe can be accounted for without resort to something back of, and superior to, nature, what is there which can force the mind to such a resort?" (p. 463). "Having granted that power, or self-activity, is a natural attribute of all matter, what right have we to deny it intelligence?" (p. 465). "Self-moving matter must have thought and design" (p. 469).
It is not our intention to offer an extended criticism of the above positions in this note. We shall discuss "the Dynamical theory" more fully in a subsequent work. If the theory apparently accepted by Dr. Warren be true, that "the ultimate atoms of matter are as uniformly efficient as minds, and that we have the same ground to regard the force exerted by the one innate and natural as that exerted by the other" (p. 464), then we grant that the conclusions of Dr. Warren, as above stated, are unavoidable. We proceed one step farther, and boldly assert that the existence of God is, on this hypothesis, incapable of proof, and the only logical position Dr. Warren can occupy is that of spiritualistic Pantheism.
Dr. Warren asserts that "the Dynamical theory of matter" is now generally accepted by "Anglo-Saxon naturalists." "One can scarcely open a scientific treatise without observing the altered stand-point" (p. 160). We confess that we are disappointed with Dr. Warren's treatment of this simple question of fact. On so fundamental an issue, the Doctor ought to have given the name of at least one "naturalist" who asserts that "the ultimate atoms of matter are as uniformly efficient as minds." Leibnitz, Morrell, Ulrici, Hickok, the authorities quoted by him, are metaphysicians and idealists of the extremest school. At present we shall, therefore, content ourselves with a general denial of this wholesale statement of Dr. Warren; and we shall sustain that denial by a selection from the many authorities we shall hereafter present. "No particle of matter possesses within itself the power of changing its existing state of motion or of rest. Matter has no spontaneous power either of rest or motion, but is equally susceptible to each as it may be acted on by external causes" (Silliman's "Principles of Physics," p. 13). The above proposition is "a truth on which the whole science of mechanical philosophy ultimately depends" (Encyclopaedia Britannica, art. "Dynamics," vol. viii. p. 326). "A material substance existing alone in the universe could not produce any effects. There is not, so far as we know, a self-acting material substance in the universe" (M'Cosh, "Divine Government, Physical and Moral," p. 78). "Perhaps the only true indication of matter is inertia." "The cause of gravitation is not resident in the particles of matter merely," but also "in all space" (Dr. Faraday on "Conservation of Force," in "Correlation and Conservation of Force." (p. 368). He also quotes with approbation the words of Newton, "That gravity should be innate, inherent, and essential to matter, is so great an absurdity, that I believe no man who has in philosophic matters a competent faculty of thinking can ever fall into it" p. 368). "The 'force of gravity' is an improper expression" (p. 340). "Forces are transformable, indestructible, and, in contradistinction from matter, imponderable" (p. 346). "The first cause of things is Deity" (Dr. Mayer, in "Correlation and Conservation of Force," p. 341). "Although the word cause may be used in a secondary and subordinate sense, as meaning antecedent forces, yet in an abstract sense it is totally inapplicable; we can not predicate of any physical agent that it is abstractedly the cause of another" (p. 15). "Causation is the will," "creation is the act, of God" Grove on "Correlation of Physical Forces," (p. 199). "Between gravity and motion it is impossible to establish the equation required for a rightly-conceived causal relation" ("Correlation and Conservation of Force," p. 253). See also Herschel's "Outlines of Astronomy," p. 234.
It certainly must have required a wonderful effort of imagination on the part of Dr. Warren to transform "weight" and "density," mere passive affections of matter, into self-activity, intelligence, thought, and design. Weight or density are merely relative terms. Supposing one particle or mass of matter to exist alone, and there can be no attractive or gravitating force. There must be a cause of gravity which is distinct from matter.]
3d. The validity of "the principle of unity" is also discredited by Watson. "If, however, it were conceded that some glimmerings of this great truth, the existence of a First Cause, might, by induction, have been discovered, by what means could they have demonstrated to themselves that the great collection of bodies which we call the world had but one Creator."
[Footnote 369: "Institutes of Theology," vol. i. p. 275.]
We might answer directly, and at once, that the oneness or unity of God is necessarily contained in "the very notion of a First Cause"—a first cause is not many causes, but one. By a First Cause we do not, however, understand the first of a numerical series, but an arche—a principle, itself unbeginning, which is the source of all beginning. Our categorical answer, therefore, must be that the unity of God is a sublime deliverance of reason—God is one God. It is a first principle of reason that all differentiation and plurality supposes an incomposite unity, all diversity implies an indivisible identity. The sensuous perception of a plurality of parts supposes the rational idea of an absolute unity, which has no parts, as its necessary correlative. For example, extension is a congeries of indefinitesimal parts; the continuity of matter, as empirically known by us, is never absolute. Space is absolutely continuous, incapable of division into integral parts, illimitable, and, as rationally known by us, an absolute unity. The cognition of limited extension, which is the subject of quantitative measurement, involves the conception of unlimited space, which is the negation of all plurality and complexity of parts. And so the cognition of a phenomenal universe in which we see only difference, plurality, and change, implies the existence of a Being who is absolutely unchangeable, identical, and one.
This law of thought lies at the basis of that universal desire of unity, and that universal effort to reduce all our knowledge to unity, which has revealed itself in the history of philosophy, and also of inductive science. "Reason, intellect, nous, concatenating thoughts and objects into system, and tending upward from particular facts to general laws, from general laws to universal principles, is never satisfied in its ascent till it comprehends all laws in a single formula, and consummates all conditional knowledge in the unity of unconditional existence." "The history of philosophy is only the history of this tendency, and philosophers have borne ample testimony to its reality. 'The mind,' says Anaxagoras, 'only knows when it subdues its objects, when it reduces the many to the one.' 'The end of philosophy,' says Plato, 'is the intuition of unity.' 'All knowledge,' say the Platonists, 'is the gathering up into one, and the indivisible apprehension of this unity by the knowing mind.'"