HotFreeBooks.com
Philosophy and Religion - Six Lectures Delivered at Cambridge
by Hastings Rashdall
Previous Part     1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

LITERATURE

As has been explained in this Lecture, many idealistic writers who insist upon the necessity of God as a universal, knowing Mind to explain both the existence of the world and our knowledge of it, are more or less ambiguous about the question whether the divine Mind is to be thought of as willing or causing the world, though passages occur in the writings of most of them which tend in this direction. 'God {57} must be thought of as creating the objects of his own thought' is a perfectly orthodox Hegelian formula. Among the idealistic writers (besides Berkeley) who correct this—as it seems to me—one-sided tendency, and who accept on the whole the view of the divine Causality taken in this Lecture, may be mentioned Lotze, the 9th Book of whose Microcosmus (translated by Miss Elizabeth Hamilton and Miss Constance Jones) or the third Book of his Logic (translation ed. by Prof. Bosanquet), may very well be read by themselves (his views may also be studied in his short Philosophy of Religion—two translations, by the late Mrs. Conybeare and by Professor Ladd); Pfleiderer, Philosophy and Development of Religion, especially chapter v.; and Professor Ward's Naturalism and Agnosticism.

Among the non-idealistic writers who have based their argument for the existence of God mainly or largely upon the consideration that Causality is unintelligible apart from a rational Will, may be mentioned—among older writers Reid, Essays on the Active Powers of Man, Essay I. (especially chapter v.), and among more recent ones Martineau, A Study of Religion. Flint's Theism may be recommended as one of the best attempts to state the theistic case with a minimum of technical Metaphysic.

Two little books by Professor Andrew Seth (now Seth Pringle-Pattison), though not primarily occupied with the religious problem, may be mentioned as very useful introductions to Philosophy—The Scottish Philosophers and Hegelianism and Personality.



[1] Of course deeply religious men like Green who have held this view did not admit, or did not realize, such consequences. The tendency here criticized is undoubtedly derived from Hegel, but passages suggestive of the opposite view can be extracted from his writings, e.g.: 'God, however, as subjective Power, is not simply will, intention, etc., but rather immediate Cause' (Philosophy of Religion, Eng. trans., ii. p. 129).

[2] The idea of Causality was by Kant identified with the idea of logical connexion, i.e. the relation of the premisses of a syllogism to its conclusion; but this does not involve time at all, and time is essential to the idea of Causality. For an admirable vindication of our immediate consciousness of Causality see Professor Stout's chapter on 'The Concept of Mental Activity' in Analytic Psychology (Book II. chap. i.).

[3] Excursion, Book IV.

[4] For the further development of this argument see Lecture IV.

[5] See especially the earlier chapters of The Philosophy of the Unconscious (translated by W. C. Coupland).

[6] Of course passages can be quoted from Hegel himself which suggest the idea that God is Will as well as Thought; I am speaking of the general tendency of Hegel and many of his disciples. Some recent Hegelians, such as Professor Boyce, seem to be less open to this criticism, but there are difficulties in thinking of God as Will and yet continuing to speak of ultimate Reality as out of Time.

[7] It may be objected that this is true only of 'conceptual space' (that is, the space of Geometry), but not of 'perceptual space,' i.e. space as it presents itself in a child's perception of an object. The distinction is no doubt from many points of view important, but we must not speak of 'conceptual space' and 'perceptual space' as if they had nothing to do with one another. If the relations of conceptual space were not in some sense contained or implied in our perceptions, no amount of abstraction or reflection could get the relations out of them.

[8] Sociology, vol. iii. p. 172.

[9] Naturalism and Agnosticism, vol. ii. pp. 191-2.

[10] For a further discussion of the subject the reader may be referred to my essay on 'Personality in God and Man' in Personal Idealism.



{58}

LECTURE III

GOD AND THE MORAL CONSCIOUSNESS

A course of purely metaphysical reasoning has led us up to the idea of God—that is to say, of a conscious and rational Mind and Will for which the world exists and by which that world and all other spirits are caused to exist. I have passed over a host of difficulties—the relation of God to time, the question whether or in what sense the world may be supposed to have a beginning and an end, the question of the relation in which God, the universal Mind, stands to other minds, the question of Free-will. These are difficulties which would involve elaborate metaphysical discussions: I shall return to some of them in a later lecture. It must suffice for the present to say that more than one answer to many of these questions might conceivably be given consistently with the view of the divine nature which I have contended for. All that I need insist on for my present purpose is—

(1) That God is personal in the sense that He is a {59} self-conscious, thinking, willing, feeling Being, distinguishable from each and all less perfect minds.

(2) That all other minds are in some sense brought into being by the divine Mind, while at the same time they have such a resemblance to, or community of nature with, their source that they may be regarded as not mere creations but as in some sense reproductions, more or less imperfect, of that source, approximating in various degrees to that ideal of Personality which is realised perfectly in God alone. In proportion as they approximate to that ideal, they are causes of their own actions, and can claim for themselves the kind of causality which we attribute in its perfection to God. I content myself now with claiming for the developed, rational human self a measure of freedom to the extent which I have just defined—that it is the real cause of its own actions. It is capable of self-determination. The man's actions are determined by his character. That is quite consistent with the admission that God is the ultimate cause of a self of such and such a character coming into existence at such and such a time.

(3) I will not say that the conception of those who regard the human mind as literally a part of the divine, so that the human consciousness is in no sense outside of the divine, is necessarily, for those who hold it, inconsistent with the conception of {60} personality both in God and man: I will only say that I do not myself understand such an assertion. I regard the human mind as derived from God, but not as being part of God. Further discussion of this question I reserve for my next lecture.

We have led up to the idea of God's existence. But so far we have discovered nothing at all about His character or purposes. And it is clear that without some such knowledge the belief in God could be of little or no value from any religious or moral point of view. How are we to learn anything about the character of God? I imagine that at the present day few people will attempt to prove the goodness or benevolence of God from an empirical examination of the facts of Nature or of History. There is, no doubt, much in History and in Nature to suggest the idea of Benevolence, but there is much to suggest a directly opposite conclusion. Few of us at the present day are likely to be much impressed by the argument which Paley bases upon the existence of the little apparatus in the throat by which it is benevolently arranged that, though constantly on the point of being choked by our food, we hardly ever are choked. I cannot help reminding you of the characteristic passage: 'Consider a city-feast,' he exclaims, 'what manducation, what deglutition, and yet not one Alderman choked in a century!' Such arguments look at the matter from the point {61} of view of the Alderman: the point of view of the turtle and the turkey is entirely forgotten. I would not for a moment speak disrespectfully of the argument from design. Darwinism has changed its form, but anybody who reads Edouard von Hartmann's Philosophy of the Unconscious is not likely to rise from its perusal with the idea that the evidences of design have been destroyed by Darwinism, whatever he may think of Hartmann's strange conclusion that the design can be explained by the operation of an unconscious Mind or Will. The philosophical argument of Mr. R. B. Haldane in The Pathway to Reality,[1] and the purely biological argument of Dr. John Haldane in his two lectures on Life and Mechanism, and still more recently the brilliant and very important work of M. Bergson, L'Evolution Creatrice have, as it seems to me, abundantly shown that it is as impossible as ever it was to explain even the growth of a plant without supposing that in it and all organic Nature there is a striving towards an end. But the argument from design, though it testifies to purpose in the Universe, tells us nothing about the nature of that purpose. Purpose is one thing; benevolent purpose is another. Nobody's estimate of the comparative amount of happiness and misery in the world is worth much; but for my own part, if I trusted simply to empirical evidence, {62} I should not be disposed to do more than slightly attenuate the pessimism of the Pessimists. At all events, Nature is far too 'red in tooth and claw' to permit of our basing an argument for a benevolent deity upon a contemplation of the facts of animal and human life. There is but one source from which such an idea can possibly be derived—from the evidence of our own moral consciousness.

Our moral ideals are the work of Reason. That the happiness of many ought to be preferred to the happiness of one, that pleasure is better than pain, that goodness is of more value than pleasure, that some pleasures are better than others—such judgements are as much the work of our own Reason, they are as much self-evident truths, as the truth that two and two make four, or that A cannot be both B and not B at the same time, or that two straight lines cannot enclose a space. We have every right to assume that such truths hold good for God as well as for man. If such Idealism as I have endeavoured to lead you to is well founded, the mind which knows comes from God, and therefore the knowledge which that mind possesses must also be taken as an imperfect or fragmentary reproduction of God's knowledge. And the Theist who rejects Idealism but admits the existence of self-evident truths will be equally justified in assuming that, for God as well as for man, two and two must make {63} four. We have just as much right to assume that our moral ideas—our ideas of value—must come from God too. For God too, as for us, there must exist the idea, the ultimate category of the good; and our judgements of value—judgements that such and such an end is good or worth striving for—in so far as they are true judgements, must be supposed to represent His judgements. We are conscious, in proportion as we are rational, of pursuing ends which we judge to be good. If such judgements reveal God's judgements, God must be supposed to aim likewise at an ideal of good—the same ideal which is revealed to us by our moral judgements. In these judgements then we have a revelation, the only possible revelation, of the character of God. The argument which I have suggested is simply a somewhat exacter statement of the popular idea that Conscience is the voice of God.

Further to vindicate the idea of the existence, authority, objective validity of Conscience would lead us too far away into the region of Moral Philosophy for our present subject. I will only attempt very briefly to guard against some possible misunderstandings, and to meet some obvious objections:

(1) It need hardly be pointed out that the assertion of the existence of the Moral Consciousness is not in the slightest degree inconsistent with recognising its gradual growth and development. The {64} moral faculty, like every other faculty or aspect or activity of the human soul, has grown gradually. No rational man doubts the validity—no Idealist doubts the a priori character—of our mathematical judgements because probably monkeys and possibly primitive men cannot count, and certainly cannot perform more than the very simplest arithmetical operations. Still less do we doubt the validity of mathematical reasoning because not only children and savages, but sometimes even distinguished classical scholars—a Macaulay, a Matthew Arnold, a T. S. Evans,—were wholly incapable of understanding very simple mathematical arguments. Equally little do we deny a real difference between harmony and discord because people may be found who see no difference between 'God save the King' and 'Pop goes the Weasel.' Self-evident truth does not mean truth which is evident to everybody.

(2) It is not doubted that the gradual evolution of our actual moral ideas—our actual ideas about what is right or wrong in particular cases—has been largely influenced by education, environment, association, social pressure, superstition, perhaps natural selection—in short, all the agencies by which naturalistic Moralists try to account for the existence of Morality. Even Euclid, or whatever his modern substitute may be, has to be taught; but that does not show that Geometry is an arbitrary system {65} invented by the ingenious and interested devices of those who want to get money by teaching it. Arithmetic was invented largely as an instrument of commerce; but it could not have been invented if there were really no such things as number and quantity, or if the human mind had no original capacity for recognizing them. Our scientific ideas, our political ideas, our ideas upon a thousand subjects have been partly developed, partly thwarted and distorted in their growth, by similar influences. But, however great the difficulty of getting rid of these distorting influences and facing such questions in a perfectly dry light, nobody suggests that objective truth on such matters is non-existent or for ever unattainable. A claim for objective validity for the moral judgement does not mean a claim for infallibility on behalf of any individual Conscience. We may make mistakes in Morals just as we may make mistakes in Science, or even in pure Mathematics. If a class of forty small boys are asked to do a sum, they will probably not all bring out the same answer: but nobody doubts that one answer alone is right, though arithmetical capacity is a variable quantity. What is meant is merely that, if I am right in affirming that this is good, you cannot be likewise right in saying that it is bad: and that we have some capacity—though doubtless a variable capacity—of judging which is the true {66} view. Hence our moral judgements, in so far as they are true judgements, must be taken to be reproductions in us of the thought of God. To show that an idea has been gradually developed, tells us nothing as to its truth or falsehood—one way or the other.

(3) In comparing the self-evidence of moral to that of mathematical judgements, it is not suggested that our moral judgements in detail are as certain, as clear and sharply defined, as mathematical judgements, or that they can claim so universal a consensus among the competent. What is meant is merely (a) that the notion of good in general is an ultimate category of thought; that it contains a meaning intelligible not perhaps to every individual human soul, but to the normal, developed, human consciousness; and (b) that the ultimate truth of morals, if it is seen at all, must be seen immediately. An ultimate moral truth cannot be deduced from, or proved by, any other truth. You cannot prove that pleasure is better than pain, or that virtue is better than pleasure, to any one who judges differently. It does not follow that all men have an equally clear and delicate moral consciousness. The power of discriminating moral values differs as widely as the power of distinguishing musical sounds, or of appreciating what is excellent in music. Some men may be almost or altogether without such a power of moral discrimination, just as some men are wholly {67} destitute of an ear for music; while the higher degrees of moral appreciation are the possession of the few rather than of the many. Moral insight is not possessed by all men in equal measure. Moral genius is as rare as any other kind of genius.

(4) When we attribute Morality to God, it is not meant that the conduct which is right for men in detail ought to be or could possibly in all cases be practised by God. It is a childish objection (though it is sometimes made by modern philosophers who should know better) to allege with Aristotle that God cannot be supposed to make or keep contracts. And in the same way, when we claim universal validity for our moral judgements, we do not mean that the rules suitable for human conduct would be the same for beings differently organized and constituted. Our rules of sexual Morality are clearly applicable only to sexually constituted beings. What is meant in asserting that these rules are universally and objectively valid is that these are the rules which every rational intelligence, in proportion as it is rational, will recognize as being suitable, or conducive to the ideal life, in beings constituted as we are. The truth that permanent monogamous marriage represents the true type of sexual relations for human beings will be none the less an objectively valid ethical truth, because the lower animals are below it, while superior beings, {68} it may be, are above it. Universal love is none the less the absolute moral ideal because it would be absurd to say that beasts of prey do wrong in devouring other creatures, or because war is sometimes necessary as a means to the end of love at our present imperfect stage of social and intellectual development. The means to the highest good vary with circumstances; the amount of good that is attainable in such and such circumstances varies also; consequently the right course of conduct will be different for beings differently constituted or placed under different circumstances: but the principles which, in the view of a perfect intelligence, would determine what is the right course for different beings in different circumstances will be always the same. The ultimate principles of our moral judgement, e.g. that love is better than hate, are just as applicable to God as they are to us. Our conception of the highest good may be inadequate; but we certainly shall not attain to greater adequacy, or a nearer approach to ultimate truth, by flatly contradicting our own moral judgements. It would be just as reasonable to argue that because the law of gravitation might be proved, from the point of view of the highest knowledge, to be an inadequate statement of the truth, and all inadequacy involves some error, therefore we had better assume that from the point of view of God there is no difference whatever {69} between attraction and repulsion. All arguments for what is called a 'super-moral' Deity or a 'super-moral' Absolute are open to this fatal objection: moral judgements cannot possibly rest upon anything but the moral consciousness, and yet these doctrines contradict the moral consciousness. The idea of good is derived from the moral consciousness. When a man declares that from the point of view of the Universe all things are very good, he gets the idea of good from his own moral consciousness, and is assuming the objective validity of its dictates. His judgement is an ethical judgement as much as mine when I say that to me some things in this world appear very bad. If he is not entitled to assume the validity of his ethical judgements, his proposition is false or meaningless. If he is entitled to assume their validity, why should he distrust that same moral consciousness when it affirms (as it undoubtedly does) that pain and sin are for ever bad, and not (as our 'super-moral' Religionists suggest) additional artistic touches which only add to the aesthetic effect of the whole?

I shall now proceed to develop some of the consequences which (as it appears to me) flow from the doctrine that our belief in the goodness of God is an inference from our own moral consciousness:

(1) It throws light on the relations between Religion and Morality. The champions of ethical {70} education as a substitute for Religion and of ethical societies as a substitute for Churches are fond of assuming that Religion is not only unnecessary to, but actually destructive of, the intrinsic authority of the moral law. If we supposed with a few theologians in the most degenerate periods of Theology (with William of Occam, some extreme Calvinists, and a few eighteenth-century divines like Archdeacon Paley) that actions are right or wrong merely because willed by God—meaning by God simply a powerful being without goodness or moral character, then undoubtedly the Secularists would be right. If a religious Morality implies that Virtue means merely (in Paley's words) 'the doing good to mankind in obedience to the will of God and for the sake of everlasting happiness' (so that if God were to will murder and adultery, those practices would forthwith become meritorious), then undoubtedly it would be better to teach Morality without Religion than with it. But that is a caricature of the true teaching of Christ or of any considerable Christian theologian. Undoubtedly we must assert what is called the 'independence' of the moral judgement. The judgement 'to love is better than to hate' has a meaning complete in itself, which contains no reference whatever to any theological presupposition. It is a judgement which is, and which can intelligibly be, made by people of all religions or of none. But {71} we may still raise the question whether the validity of that judgement can be defended without theological implications. And I am prepared most distinctly to maintain that it cannot. These moral judgements claim objective validity. When we say 'this is right,' we do not mean merely 'I approve this course of conduct,' 'this conduct gives me a thrill of satisfaction, a "feeling of approbation," a pleasure of the moral sense.' If that were all that was meant, it would be perfectly possible that another person might feel an equally satisfactory glow of approbation at conduct of a precisely opposite character without either of them being wrong. A bull-fight fills most Spaniards with feelings of lively approbation, and most Englishmen with feelings of acute disapprobation. If such moral judgements were mere feelings, neither of them would be wrong. There could be no question of objective rightness or wrongness. Mustard is not objectively nice or objectively nasty: it is simply nice to some people and nasty to others. The mustard-lover has no right to condemn the mustard-hater, or the mustard-hater the mustard-lover. If Morality were merely a matter of feeling or emotion, actions would not be objectively right or objectively wrong; but simply right to some people, wrong to others. Hume would be right in holding the morality of an action to consist simply in the pleasure it gives to the person who {72} contemplates it. Rightness thus becomes simply a name for the fact of social approbation.[2] And yet surely the very heart of the affirmation which the moral consciousness makes in each of us is that right and wrong are not matters of mere subjective feeling. When I assert 'this is right,' I do not claim personal infallibility. I may, indeed, be wrong, as I may be wrong in my political or scientific theories. But I do mean that I think I am right; and that, if I am right, you cannot also be right when you affirm that this same action is wrong. This objective validity is the very core and centre of the idea of Duty or moral obligation. That is why it is so important to assert that moral judgements are the work of Reason, not of a supposed moral sense or any other kind of feeling. Feelings may vary in different men without any of them being in the wrong; red really is the same as green to a colour-blind person. What we mean when we talk about the existence of Duty is that things are right or wrong, no matter what you or I think about them—that the laws of Morality {73} are quite as much independent of my personal likings and dislikings as the physical laws of Nature. That is what is meant by the 'objectivity' of the moral law.

Now, the question arises—'Can such an objectivity be asserted by those who take a purely materialistic or naturalistic view of the Universe?' Whatever our metaphysical theories about the nature of Reality may be, we can in practice have no difficulty in the region of Physical Science about recognizing an objective reality of some kind which is other than my mere thinking about it. That fire will burn whether I think so or not is practically recognized by persons of all metaphysical persuasions. If I say 'I can cloy the hungry edge of appetite by bare imagination of a feast,' I try the experiment, and I fail. I imagine the feast, but I am hungry still: and if I persist in the experiment, I die. But what do we mean when we say that things are right or wrong whether I think them so or not, that the Moral Law exists outside me and independently of my thinking about it? Where and how does this moral law exist? The physical laws of Nature may be supposed by the Materialist or the Realist somehow to exist in matter: to the Metaphysician there may be difficulties in such a view, but the difficulties are not obvious to common-sense. But surely (whatever may be thought about physical laws) the moral law, {74} which expresses not any matter of physical fact but what ought to be thought of acts, cannot be supposed to exist in a purely material Universe. An 'ought' can exist only in and for a mind. In what mind, then, does the moral law exist? As a matter of fact, different people's moral judgements contradict one another. And the consciousness of no living man can well be supposed to be a flawless reflection of the absolute moral ideal. On a non-theistic view of the Universe, then, the moral law cannot well be thought of as having any actual existence. The objective validity of the moral law can indeed be and no doubt is asserted, believed in, acted upon without reference to any theological creed; but it cannot be defended or fully justified without the pre-supposition of Theism. What we mean by an objective law is that the moral law is a part of the ultimate nature of things, on a level with the laws of physical nature, and it cannot be that, unless we assume that law to be an expression of the same mind in which physical laws originate. The idea of duty, when analysed, implies the idea of God. Whatever else Plato meant by the 'idea of the good,' this at least was one of his meanings—that the moral law has its source in the source of all Reality.

And therefore at bottom popular feeling is right in holding that religious belief is necessary to Morality. Of course I do not mean to say that, were {75} religious belief to disappear from the world, Morality would disappear too. But I do think Morality would become quite a different thing from what it has been for the higher levels of religious thought and feeling. The best men would no doubt go on acting up to their own highest ideal just as if it did possess objective validity, no matter how unable they might be to reconcile their practical with their speculative beliefs. But it would not be so for the many—or perhaps even for the few in their moments of weakness and temptation, when once the consequences of purely naturalistic Ethics were thoroughly admitted and realized. The only kind of objective validity which can be recognized on a purely naturalistic view of Ethics is conformity to public opinion. The tendency of all naturalistic Ethics is to make a God of public opinion. And if no other deity were recognized, such a God would assuredly not be without worshippers. And yet the strongest temptation to most of us is the temptation to follow a debased public opinion—the opinion of our age, our class, our party. Apart from faith in a perfectly righteous God whose commands are, however imperfectly, revealed in the individual Conscience, we can find no really valid reason why the individual should act on his own sense of what is intrinsically right, even when he finds himself an 'Athanasius contra mundum,' and when his own personal likings and inclinations {76} and interests are on the side of the world. Kant was at bottom right, though perhaps he did not give the strongest reasons for his position, in making the idea of God a postulate of Morality.

From a more directly practical point of view I need hardly point out how much easier it is to feel towards the moral law the reverence that we ought to feel when we believe that that law is embodied in a personal Will. Not only is religious Morality not opposed to the idea of duty for duty's sake: it is speculatively the only reasonable basis of it; practically and emotionally the great safeguard of it. And whatever may be thought of the possibility of a speculative defence of such an idea without Theism, the practical difficulty of teaching it—especially to children, uneducated and unreflective persons—seems to be quite insuperable.[3] In more than one country in which religious education has been banished from the primary schools, grave observers complain that the idea of Duty seems to be suffering an eclipse in the minds of the rising {77} generation; some of them add that in those lands crime is steadily on the increase. Catechisms of civil duty and the like have not hitherto proved very satisfactory substitutes for the old teaching about the fear of God. Would that it were more frequently remembered on both sides of our educational squabbles that the supreme object of all religious education should be to instil into children's minds in the closest possible connexion the twin ideas of God and of Duty!

(2) I have tried to show that the ethical importance of the idea of God is prior to and independent of any belief in the idea of future rewards and punishments or of a future life, however conceived of. But when the idea of a righteous God has once been accepted, the idea of Immortality seems to me to follow from it as a sort of corollary. If any one on a calm review of the actual facts of the world's history can suppose that such a world as ours could be the expression of the will of a rational and moral Being without the assumption of a future life for which this is a discipline or education or preparatory stage, argument would be useless with him. Inveterate Optimism, like inveterate Scepticism, admits of no refutation, but in most minds produces no conviction. For those who are convinced that the world has a rational end, and yet that life as we see it (taken by itself) cannot be that end, the hypothesis {78} of Immortality becomes a necessary deduction from their belief in God.

I would not disparage the educative effect of the belief in a future life even when expressed in the crude and inadequate metaphor of reward and punishment. Few of us, I venture to think, have reached the moral level at which the belief—not in a vindictive, retributive, unending torment, but in a disciplinary or purgatorial education of souls prolonged after death—is without its value. At the same time it is a mere caricature of all higher religious beliefs when the religious motive is supposed to mean simply a fear of punishment and hope of personal reward, even of the least sensuous or material kind. Love of goodness for its own sake is for the Theist identical with the love of God. Love of a Person is a stronger force than devotion to an idea; and an ethical conception of God carries with it the idea of Immortality.

The wages of sin is death: if the wages of Virtue be dust, Would she have heart to endure for the life of the worm and the fly?

She desires no isles of the blest, no quiet seats of the just, To rest in a golden grove, or to bask in a summer sky; Give her the wages of going on, and not to die.[4]

Belief in human Immortality is, as I have suggested, the postulate without which most of us cannot {79} believe in God. Even for its own sake it is of the highest ethical value. The belief in Immortality gives a meaning to life even when it has lost all other meaning. 'It is rather,' in the noble words of the late Professor Sidgwick, 'from a disinterested aversion to an universe so irrationally constituted that the wages of virtue should be dust than from any private reckoning about his own wages,' that the good man clings to the idea of Immortality. And that is not all. The value of all higher goods even in this life, though it does not depend wholly upon their duration, does partly depend upon it. It would be better to be pure and unselfish for a day than to be base and selfish for a century. And yet we do not hesitate to commend the value of intellectual and of all kinds of higher enjoyments on account of their greater durability. Why, then, should we shrink from admitting that the value of character really is increased when it is regarded as surviving bodily death? Disbelief in Immortality would, I believe, in the long run and for the vast majority of men, carry with it an enormous enhancement of the value of the carnal and sensual over the spiritual and intellectual element in life.

(3) A third consequence which follows from our determining to accept the moral consciousness as containing the supreme revelation of God is this. From the point of view of the moral consciousness {80} we cannot say that the Universe is wholly good. We have only one means of judging whether things are good or bad: the idea of value is wholly derived from our own ethical judgements or judgements of value. If we distrust these judgements, there is no higher court to which we can appeal. And if we distrust our most ultimate judgements of value, I do not know why we should trust any judgements whatever. Even if we grant that from some very transcendental metaphysical height—the height, for instance, of Mr. Bradley's Philosophy—it may be contended that none of our judgements are wholly true or fully adequate to express the true nature of Reality, we at all events cannot get nearer to Reality than we are conducted by the judgements which present themselves to us as immediate and self-evident. Now, if we do apply these judgements of value to the Universe as we know it, can we say that everything in it seems to be very good? For my own part, I unhesitatingly say, 'Pain is an evil, and sin is a worse evil, and nothing on earth can ever make them good.' How then are we to account for such evils in a Universe which we believe to express the thought and will of a perfectly righteous Being? In only one way that I know of—by supposing they are means to a greater good. That is really the substance and substratum of all the Theodicies of all the Philosophers and all the {81} Theologians except those who frankly trample on or throw over the Moral Consciousness, and declare that, for those who see truly, pain and sin are only additional sources of aesthetic interest in a great world-drama produced for his own entertainment by a Deity not anthropomorphic enough to love but still anthropomorphic enough to be amused.

I shall be told no doubt that this is limiting God. A human being may, it will be urged, without loss of goodness, do things in themselves evil, as a means to a greater good: as a surgeon, he may cause excruciating pain; as a statesman or a soldier, he may doom thousands to a cruel death; as a wise administrator of the poor law, he may refuse to relieve much suffering, in order that he may not cause more suffering. But this is because his power is limited; he has to work upon a world which has a nature of its own independent of his volition. To apply the same explanation to the evil which God causes, is to make Him finite instead of Infinite, limited in power instead of Omnipotent. Now in a sense I admit that this is so. I am not wedded to the words 'Infinite' or 'Omnipotent.' But I would protest against a persistent misrepresentation of the point of view which I defend. It is suggested that the limit to the power of God must necessarily spring from the existence of some other thing or being outside of Him, not created by Him or under His {82} control. I must protest that that is not so. Everybody admits that God cannot change the past; few Philosophers consider it necessary to maintain that God could construct triangles with their angles not together equal to two right angles, or think it any derogation from his Omnipotence to say that He could not make the sum of two and two to be other than four. Few Theologians push their idea of Freewill so far as to insist that God could will Himself to be unjust or unloving, or that, being just and loving, he could do unjust or unloving acts. There are necessities to which even God must submit. But they are not imposed upon Him from without: they are parts of His own essential nature. The limitation by which God cannot attain His ends without causing some evil is a limitation of exactly the same nature. If you say that it is no limitation of God not to be able to change the past, for the thing is really unmeaning, then I submit that in the same way it may be no limitation that He should not be able to evolve highly organized beings without a struggle for existence, or to train human beings in unselfishness without allowing the existence both of sin and of pain. From the point of view of perfect knowledge, these things might turn out to be just as unmeaning as for God to change the past. The popular idea of Omnipotence is one which really does not bear looking into. If we supposed the world {83} to contain no evil at all, still there would be in it a definite amount of good. Twice such a world would be twice as good. Why is there not twice that amount of good? A being who deliberately created only a good world of limited quantity—a definite number of spirits (for instance) enjoying so much pleasure and so much virtue—when he could have created twice that number of spirits, and consequently twice that amount of good, would not be perfectly good or loving. And so on ad infinitum, no matter how much good you suppose him to have created. The only sense which we can intelligibly give to the idea of a divine Omnipotence is this—that God possesses all the power there is, that He can do all things that are in their own nature possible.[5]

But there is a more formidable objection which I have yet to meet. It has been urged by certain Philosophers of great eminence that, if we suppose God not to be unlimited in power, we have no guarantee that the world is even good on the whole; we should not be authorized to infer anything as to a future life or the ultimate destiny of Humanity from the fact of God's goodness. A limited God might be a defeated God. I admit the difficulty. This is the 'greatest wave' of all in the theistic {84} argument. In reply, I would simply appeal to the reasons which I have given for supposing that the world is really willed by God. A rational being does not will evil except as a means to a greater good. If God be rational, we have a right to suppose that the world must contain more good than evil, or it would not be willed at all. A being who was obliged to create a world which did not seem to him good would be a blind force, as force is understood by the pure Materialist, not a rational Will. That much we have a right to claim as a matter of strict Logic; and that would to my own mind be a sufficient reason for assuming that, at least for the higher order of spirits, such a life as ours must be intended as the preface to a better life than this. But I should go further. To me it appears that such evils as sin and pain are so enormously worse than the mere absence of good, that I could not regard as rational a Universe in which the good did not very greatly predominate over the evil. More than that I do not think we are entitled to say. And yet Justice is so great a good that it is rational to hope that for every individual conscious being—at least each individual capable of any high degree of good—there must be a predominance of good on the whole. Beings of very small capacity might conceivably be created chiefly or entirely as a means to a vastly greater good than any that they {85} themselves enjoy: the higher a spirit is in the scale of being, the more difficult it becomes to suppose that it has been brought into existence merely as a means to another's good, or that it will not ultimately enjoy a good which will make it on the whole good that it should have been born.

I could wish myself that, in popular religious teaching, there was a franker conception of this position—a position which, as I have said, is really implied in the Theodicies of all the Divines. Popular unbelief—and sometimes the unbelief of more cultivated persons—rests mainly upon the existence of evil. We should cut at the roots of it by teaching frankly that this is the best of all possible Universes, though not the best of all imaginable Universes—such Universes as we can construct in our own imagination by picturing to ourselves all the good that there is in the world without any of the evil. We may still say, if we please, that God is infinite because He is limited by nothing outside His own nature, except what He has Himself caused. We can still call Him Omnipotent in the sense that He possesses all the power there is. And in many ways such a belief is far more practically consolatory and stimulating than a belief in a God who can do all things by any means and who consequently does not need our help. In our view, we are engaged not in a sham warfare with an evil that is really {86} good, but in a real warfare with a real evil, a struggle in which we have the ultimate power in the Universe on our side, but one in which the victory cannot be won without our help, a real struggle in which we are called upon to be literally fellow-workers with God.

LITERATURE

The subject is more or less explicitly dealt with in most of the works mentioned at the end of the last two lectures, and also in books on Moral Philosophy too numerous to mention. Classical vindications of the authority of the Moral Consciousness are Bishop Butler's Sermons, and Kant's Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals and other ethical writings (translated by T. K. Abbott). I have expressed my own views on the subject with some fullness in the third book of my Theory of Good and Evil.



[1] See especially Book II. Lect. iii.

[2] 'We do not infer a character to be virtuous, because it pleases: but in feeling that it pleases after such a particular manner, we in effect feel that it is virtuous.' (Treatise, Part I, Section ii., ed. Green and Grose, vol. ii. p. 247.) 'The distinction of moral good and evil is founded in the pleasure or pain, which results from the view of any sentiment, or character; and as that pleasure or pain cannot be unknown to the person who feels it, it follows that there is just so much virtue in any character as every one places in it, and that 'tis impossible in this particular we can ever be mistaken.' (Ibid. vol. ii. p. 311.)

[3] There are no doubt ways of making Morality the law of the Universe without what most of us understand by Theism, though not without Religion, and a Religion of a highly metaphysical character; but because such non-theistic modes of religious thought exist in Buddhism, for instance, it does not follow that they are reasonable, and, at all events, they are hardly intelligible to most Western minds. Such non-theistic Religions imply a Metaphysic quite as much as Christianity or Buddhism. There have been Religions without the idea of a personal God, but never without Metaphysic, i.e. a theory about the ultimate nature of things.

[4] Tennyson's Wages.

[5] The doctrine of St. Thomas Aquinas is 'Cum possit Deus omnia efficere quae esae possunt, non autem quae contradictionem implicant, omnipotens merito dicitur.' (Summa Theol., Pars I. Q. xxv. art. 8.)



{87}

LECTURE IV

DIFFICULTIES AND OBJECTIONS

In the present lecture I shall try to deal with some of the difficulties which will probably have been arising in your minds in the course of the last three; and in meeting them, to clear up to some extent various points which have been left obscure.

(1) Creation. I have endeavoured to show that the world must be thought of as ultimately an experience in the mind of God, parts of which are progressively communicated to lesser minds such as ours. This experience—both the complete experience which is in His own mind and also the measure of it which is communicated to the lesser minds—must be thought of as willed by God. At the same time I suggested as an alternative view that, even if we think of things as having an existence which is not simply in and for minds, the things must be caused to exist by a rational Will. Now the world, as we know it, consists of a number of changes taking place in time, changes which are undoubtedly represented in thought as changes happening to, or {88} accidents of, a permanent substance, whether (with the Idealist) we suppose that this substance is merely the object of Mind's contemplation, or whether (with the Realist) we think of it as having some sort of being independent of Mind. But what of the first of these events—the beginning of the whole series? Are we to think of the series of events in time as having a beginning and possibly an end, or as being without beginning or end? What in fact are we to make of the theological idea of Creation, often further defined as Creation out of nothing? It is often suggested both by Idealists and by Realists that the idea of a creation or absolute beginning of the world is unthinkable. Such a view seems to me to be a piece of unwarrantable a priori dogmatism—quite as much so as the closely connected idea that the Uniformity of Nature is an a priori necessity of thought. No doubt the notion of an absolute beginning of all things is unthinkable enough: if we think of God as creating the world at a definite point of time, then we must suppose God Himself to have existed before that creation. We cannot think of an event in time without thinking of a time before it; and time cannot be thought of as merely empty time. Events of some kind there must necessarily have been, even though those events are thought of as merely subjective experiences involving no relation to space. A beginning of existence is, {89} indeed, unthinkable. But there is no difficulty in supposing that this particular series of phenomena which constitutes our physical Universe may have had a beginning in time. On the other hand there is no positive evidence, for those who cannot regard the early chapters of Genesis as representing on such a matter anything but a primitive legend edited by a later Jewish thinker, that it had such a beginning. It is no doubt more difficult to represent to ourselves a beginning of space; and the notion of an empty space, eternally thought but not eternally filled up by any series of phenomena of the space-occupying kind, represents a rather difficult, though not (as it seems to me) an absolutely impossible conception. The question, therefore, whether there was a beginning of the series of events which constitute the history of our physical world must (so far as I can see) be left an open one.

Of course if the argument of Lord Kelvin be accepted, if he is justified in arguing on purely physical grounds that the present distribution of energy in the Universe is such that it cannot have resulted from an infinite series of previous physical changes, if Science can prove that the series is a finite one, the conclusions of Science must be accepted.[1] Metaphysic has nothing to say for or against such a view. That is a question of Physics on which {90} of course I do not venture to express any opinion whatever.

(2) The time-series. I am incompetent to pronounce an opinion on the validity of such arguments as Lord Kelvin's. But, however we decide this question, there will still remain the further and harder question, 'Is the series of all events or experiences, physical or psychical (not merely the particular series which constitutes our physical Universe), to be thought of as finite or infinite? On the one hand it involves a contradiction to talk of a time-series which has a beginning: a time which has no time before it is not time at all; any more than space with an end to it would be space. On the other hand, we find equally, or almost equally, unthinkable the hypothesis of an endless series of events in time: a series of events, which no possible enumeration of its members will make any smaller, presents itself to us as unthinkable, directly we regard it as expressing the true nature of a positive reality, and not as a mere result of mathematical abstraction. Here then we are presented with an antinomy—an apparent contradiction in our thought—which we can neither avoid nor overcome. It is one of the classical antinomies recognized by the Kantian Philosophy—the only one, I may add, which neither Kant himself nor any of his successors has done anything to attenuate or to remove. {91} Kant's own attempted solution of it involved the impossible supposition that the past has no existence at all except in so far as it is thought by some finite mind in the present. The way out of this difficulty which is popular with post-Kantian Idealists is to say that God is Himself out of time, and eternally sees the whole series at once. But, in the first place, that does not get over the difficulty: even if God does see the whole series at once, He must see it either as limited or as endless, and the old antinomy breaks out again when we attempt to think either alternative. And secondly, when you treat a temporal series as one which is all really present together—of course it may all be known together as even we know the past and the future—but when you try to think of God as contemplating the whole series as really present altogether, the series is no longer a time-series. You have turned it into some other kind of series—practically (we may say) into a spacial series. You have cut the knot, instead of unravelling it. I have no doubt that the existence of this antinomy does point to the fact that there is some way of thinking about time from which the difficulty disappears: but we are, so far as I can see, incompetent so to resolve it. Philosophers resent the idea of an insoluble problem. By all means let them go on trying to solve it. I can only say that I find no difficulty in showing the futility {92} of any solution of the time-difficulty which I have so far seen. For the present at least—I strongly suspect for ever—we must acquiesce on this matter in a reverent Agnosticism. We can show the absurdity of regarding time as merely subjective; we can show that it belongs to the very essence of the Universe we know; we can show that it is as 'objective' as anything else within our knowledge. But how to reconcile this objectivity with the difficulty of thinking of an endless succession no Philosopher has done much to explain. For religious purposes it seems enough to believe that each member of the time-series—no matter how many such events there may be, no matter whether the series be endless or not—is caused by God. The more reflecting Theologians have generally admitted that the act of divine Conservation is essentially the same as that of Creation. A God who can be represented as 'upholding all things by the power of his word' is a creative Deity whether the act of creation be in time, or eternally continuous, or (if there were any meaning in that phrase) out of time altogether.[2]

{93}

(3) The creation of spirits. It may seem to some of you that I may have so far left out, or too easily disposed of, an important link in our argument. I have given reasons for thinking that the material world cannot be explained without the assumption of a universal Consciousness which both thinks and wills it. I have assumed rather than proved that the lesser minds, in which the divine experience is partially reproduced, are also caused to exist and kept in existence by the same divine Will. But how, it may be said, do we know that those minds did not exist before the birth of the organisms with which upon this planet they are connected? The considerations which forbid our thinking of matter as something capable of existing by itself do not apply to minds. A consciousness, unlike a thing, exists 'for itself,' not merely 'for another': a mind is not made what it is by being known or otherwise experienced by another mind: its very being consists in being itself conscious: it is what it is for itself. It is undoubtedly impossible positively to disprove the hypothesis of eternally pre-existent souls. Sometimes that hypothesis is combined with Theism. It {94} is supposed that God is the supreme and incomparably the most powerful, but not the only, self-existent and eternal Spirit. This hypothesis—sometimes spoken of as Pluralism[3]—has many attractions: from the time of Origen onwards the idea of Pre-existence has seemed to many to facilitate the explanation of evil by making it possible to regard the sufferings of our present state as a disciplinary process for getting rid of an original or a pre-natal sinfulness. It is a theory not incapable of satisfying the demands of the religious Consciousness, and may even form an element in an essentially Christian theory of the Universe: but to my mind it is opposed to all the obvious indications of experience. The connexion between soul and body is such that the laws of the soul's development obviously form part of the same system with the laws of physical nature. If one part of that system is referred to the divine Will, so must the whole of it be. The souls, when they have entered animal bodies, must be supposed to be subject to a system of laws which is of one piece with the system of physical laws. If the physical part of the world-order is referred to the divine Will, the psychical part of it must be equally referred to {95} that Will. The souls might, indeed, conceivably have an independent and original nature of their own capable of offering resistance to the divine intentions. But we see, to say the least, no indications of a struggle going on between an outside divine Will and independent beings not forming a part of the divine scheme. At all events, the result of this struggle, if struggle there be, is (so far as we can observe) a system, complete and orderly, within the psychical sphere as much as within the purely physical sphere. And in particular the body is exactly fitted to the soul that is to inhabit it. We never find the intellect of a Shakespeare in connexion with the facial angle of a negro; bodies which resemble the bodies of their parents are connected with souls between which a similar resemblance can be traced. If the souls existed before birth, we must suppose those souls to be kept waiting in a limbo of some kind till a body is prepared suitable for their reception. We must suppose that among the waiting souls, one is from time to time selected to be the offspring of such and such a matrimonial union, so as to present (as it were) a colourable appearance of being really the fruit of that union. Further, before birth the souls must be steeped in the waters of Lethe, or something of the kind, so as to rid them of all memory of their previous experiences. Such a conception seems to {96} me to belong to the region of Mythology rather than of sober philosophical thought. I do not deny that Mythology may sometimes be a means of pictorially or symbolically envisaging truths to which Philosophy vaguely points but which it cannot express in clearly apprehensible detail. But such a Mythology as this seems to be intellectually unmotived and unhelpful. It is not wanted to explain the facts: there is nothing in our experience to suggest it, and much which is prima facie opposed to it. It really removes no single difficulty: for one difficulty which it presents some appearance of removing, it creates a dozen greater ones. It is a hypothesis which we shall do well to dismiss as otiose.

(4) Non-theistic Idealism. Somewhat less unmotived, if we look upon it from a merely intellectual point of view, is the theory of pre-existent souls without a personal God. Many, if not most, of you probably possess more or less acquaintance with the views of my friend, Dr. McTaggart. I cannot here undertake a full exposition or criticism of one of the ablest thinkers of our day—one of the very few English thinkers who is the author of a truly original metaphysical system. I can only touch—and that most inadequately—upon the particular side of it which directly bears upon our present enquiry. Dr. McTaggart is an Idealist; he recognizes the {97} impossibility of matter without mind. For him nothing exists but spirits, but he does not recognize the necessity for any one all-embracing or controlling Spirit: the only spirits in his Universe are limited minds like those of men and animals. He differs, then, from the Pluralist of the type just mentioned in getting rid of the hypothesis of a personal God side by side with and yet controlling the uncreated spirits. And he differs further from all Pluralists in not treating the separate spirits as so many centres of consciousness quite independent of, and possibly at war with, all the rest: the spirits form part of an ordered system: the world is a unity, though that unity is not the unity which belongs to self-consciousness. He recognizes, in the traditional language of Philosophy, an Absolute, but this Absolute is not a single spiritual Being but a Society: or, if it is to be called a single spiritual Being, it is a Being which exists or manifests itself only in a plurality of limited consciousnesses.

This scheme is, I admit, more reasonable than Pluralism. It does, nominally at least, recognize the world as an ordered system. It gets rid of the difficulty of accounting for the apparent order of the Cosmos as the result of a struggle between independent wills. It is not, upon its author's pre-suppositions, a gratuitous theory: for a mind which accepts Idealism and rejects Theism it is the only {98} intelligible alternative. But I must confess that it seems to me open to most of the difficulties which I have endeavoured to point out in Pluralism, and to some others. In the first place, there is one, to my mind, great and insuperable difficulty about it. As an Idealist, Dr. McTaggart has to admit that the whole physical world, in so far as it exists at all, must exist in and for some consciousness. Now, not only is there, according to him, no single mind in which the system can exist as a whole, but even all the minds together do not apparently know the whole of it, or (so far as our knowledge goes) ever will. The undiscovered and unknown part of the Universe is then non-existent. And yet, be it noticed, the known part of the world does not make a perfectly articulated or (if you like the phrase) organic system without the unknown part. It is only on the assumption of relations between what we know and what we don't know that we can regard it as an orderly, intelligible system at all. Therefore, if part of the system is non-existent, the whole system—the system as a whole—must be treated as non-existent. The world is, we are told, a system; and yet as a system it has (upon the hypothesis) no real existence. The systematic whole does not exist in matter, for to Dr. McTaggart matter is merely the experience of Mind. What sort of existence, then, can an undiscovered planet possess till it is {99} discovered? For Dr. McTaggart has not provided any mind or minds in and for which it is to exist. At one time, indeed, Dr. McTaggart seemed disposed to accept a suggestion of mine that, on his view, each soul must be omniscient; and to admit that, while in its temporal aspect, each soul is limited and fallible in its knowledge, it is at the same time supertemporally omniscient. That is a conception difficult beyond all the difficulties of the most arbitrary and self-contradicting of orthodox patristic or scholastic speculations. But, as Dr. McTaggart does not now seem disposed to insist upon that point, I will say no more about it except that to my mind it is a theory which defies all intellectual grasp. It can be stated; it cannot be thought.

Further, I would remind you, the theory is open to all the objections which I urged against the Pre-existence theory in its pluralistic form. I have suggested the difficulties involved in the facts of heredity—the difficulty of understanding how souls whose real intellectual and moral characteristics are uncaused and eternal should be assigned to parents so far resembling them as to lead almost inevitably to the inference that the characteristics of the children are to some extent causally connected with those of the parents.[4] Now the Pluralist can {100} at least urge that for this purpose ingenious arrangements are contrived by God—by the One Spirit whom he regards as incomparably the wisest and most powerful in the Universe. Dr. McTaggart recognizes no intelligence capable of grappling with such a problem or succession of problems. But this particular matter of the assignment of souls to bodies is only a particular application of a wider difficulty. Dr. McTaggart contends that the Universe constitutes not merely a physical but a moral order. He would not deny that the Universe means something; that the series of events tends towards an end, an end which is also a good; that it has a purpose and a final cause. And yet this purpose exists in no mind whatever, and is due to no will whatever—except to the very small extent to which the processes of physical nature can be consciously directed to an end by the volitions of men and similarly limited intelligences. As a whole, the Universe is purposed and willed by no single will or combination of wills. I confess I do not understand the idea of a purpose which operates, but is not the purpose of a Mind which is also a Will. All the considerations upon which I dwelt to show the necessity of such a Will to account for the Universe which we know, are so many arguments against Dr. McTaggart's scheme. The events of Dr. McTaggart's Universe are, upon the view of Causality which I {101} attempted to defend in my second lecture, uncaused events.

Nevertheless, as a Philosopher, I am deeply grateful to Dr. McTaggart. Not only does his scheme on its practical side seem to me preferable to many systems which sound more orthodox—systems of vague pantheistic Theism in which Morality is treated as mere 'appearance' and personal Immortality deliberately rejected—but it has done much intellectually to clear the air. Dr. McTaggart seems to me right in holding that, if God or the Absolute is to include in itself all other spirits, and yet the personality or self-consciousness of those spirits is not to be denied, then this Absolute in which they are to be included cannot reasonably be thought of as a conscious being, or invested with the other attributes usually implied by the term God.

And this leads me to say a few words more in explanation of my own view of the relation between God and human or other souls. To me, as I have already intimated, it seems simply meaningless to speak of one consciousness as included in another consciousness. The essence of a consciousness is to be for itself: whether it be a thought, a feeling, or an emotion, the essence of that consciousness is what it is for me. Every moment of consciousness is unique. Another being may have a {102} similar feeling: in that case there are two feelings, and not one. Another mind may know what I feel, but the knowledge of another's agony is (fortunately) a very different thing from the agony itself. It is fashionable in some quarters to ridicule the idea of 'impenetrable' souls. If 'impenetrable' means that another soul cannot know what goes on in my soul, I do not assert that the soul is impenetrable. I believe that God knows what occurs in my soul in an infinitely completer way than that in which any human being can know it. Further, I believe that every soul is kept in existence from moment to moment by a continuous act of the divine Will, and so is altogether dependent upon that Will, and forms part of one system with Him. On the other hand I believe that (through the analogy of my own mind and the guidance of the moral consciousness) I do know, imperfectly and inadequately, 'as in a mirror darkly,' what goes on in God's Mind. But, if penetrability is to mean identity, the theory that souls are penetrable seems to me mainly unintelligible. The acceptance which it meets with in some quarters is due, I believe, wholly to the influence of that most fertile source of philosophical confusion—misapplied spacial metaphor.[5] It seems easy to talk about a mind being {103} something in itself, and yet part of another mind, because we are familiar with the idea of things in space forming part of larger things in space—Chinese boxes, for instance, shut up in bigger ones. Such a mode of thought is wholly inapplicable to minds which are not in space at all. Space is in the mind: the mind is not in space. A mind is not a thing which can be round or square: you can't say that the intellect of Kant or of Lord Kelvin measures so many inches by so many: equally impossible is it to talk about such an intellect being a part of a more extensive intellect.

The theory of an all-inclusive Deity has recently been adopted and popularized by Mr. Campbell,[6] who has done all that rhetorical skill combined with genuine religious earnestness can do to present it in an attractive and edifying dress. And yet the same Logic which leads to the assertion that the Saint is part of God, leads also to the assertion that Caesar Borgia and Napoleon Buonaparte and all the wicked Popes who have ever been white-washed by episcopal or other historians are also parts of God. How can I worship, how can I strive to be like, how can I be the better for believing in or revering {104} a Being of whom Caesar Borgia is a part as completely and entirely as St. Paul or our Lord himself? Hindoo Theology is consistent in this matter. It worships the destructive and the vicious aspects of Brahma as much as the kindly and the moral ones: it does not pretend that God is revealed in the Moral Consciousness, or is in any exclusive or one-sided way a God of Love. If it be an 'ethical obsession' (as has been suggested) to object to treat Immorality as no less a revelation of God than Morality, I must plead guilty to such an obsession. And yet without such an 'obsession' I confess I do not see what is left of Christianity. There is only one way out of the difficulty. If we are all parts of God, we can only call God good or perfect by maintaining that the deliverances of our moral consciousness have no validity for God, and therefore can tell us nothing about him. That has been done deliberately and explicitly by some Philosophers:[7] the distinguished Theologians who echo the language of this Philosophy have fortunately for their own religious life and experience, but unfortunately for their philosophical consistency, declined to follow in their steps. A God who is 'beyond good and evil,' can be no fitting object of {105} worship to men who wish to become good, just, merciful. If the cosmic process be indifferent to these ethical considerations, we had better (with honest Agnostics like Professor Huxley) make up our minds to defy it, whether it call itself God or not.

But it is not so much on account of its consequences as on account of its essential unmeaningness and intellectual unintelligibility that I would invite you to reject this formula 'God is all.' Certainly, the Universe is an ordered system: there is nothing in it that is not done by the Will of God. And some parts of this Universe—the spiritual parts of it and particularly the higher spirits—are not mere creations of God's will. They have a resemblance of nature to Him. I do not object to your saying that at bottom there is but one Substance in the Universe, if you will only keep clear of the materialistic and spacial association of the word Substance: but it is a Substance which reveals itself in many different consciousnesses. The theory of an all-inclusive Consciousness is not necessary to make possible the idea of close and intimate communion between God and men, or of the revelation in and to Humanity of the thought of God. On the contrary, it is the idea of Identity which destroys the possibility of communion. Communion implies two minds: a mind cannot have communion with itself or with part of itself. The two may also in a {106} sense be one; of course all beings are ultimately part of one Universe or Reality: but that Reality is not one Consciousness. The Universe is a unity, but the unity is not of the kind which constitutes a person or a self-consciousness. It is (as Dr. McTaggart holds) the unity of a Society, but of a Society (as I have attempted to argue) which emanates from, and is controlled by and guided to a preconceived end by, a single rational Will.[8]

(5) The intuitive theory of religious knowledge. In other quarters objection will probably be taken to my not having recognized the possibility of an immediate knowledge of God, and left the idea of God to be inferred by intellectual processes which, when fully thought out, amount to a Metaphysic. It will be suggested that to make religious belief dependent upon Reason is to make it impossible to any but trained Philosophers or Theologians. Now there is no doubt a great attractiveness in the theory which makes belief in God depend simply upon the immediate affirmation of the individual's own consciousness. It would be more difficult to argue against such a theory of immediate knowledge or intuition if we found that the consciousness of all or most individuals does actually reveal to them {107} the existence of God: though after all the fact that a number of men draw the same inference from given facts does not show that it is not an inference. You will sometimes find Metaphysicians contending that nobody is really an Atheist, since everybody necessarily supposes himself to be in contact with an Other of which he is nevertheless a part. I do not deny that, if you water down the idea of God to the notion of a vague 'something not ourselves,' you may possibly make out that everybody is explicitly or implicitly a believer in such a Deity.

I should prefer myself to say that, if that is all you mean by God, it does not much matter whether we believe in Him or not. In the sense in which God is understood by Christianity or Judaism or any other theistic Religion it is unfortunately impossible to contend that everybody is a Theist. And, if there is an immediate knowledge of God in every human soul, this would be difficult to account for. Neither the cultivated nor the uncultivated Chinaman has apparently any such belief. The ignorant Chinaman believes in a sort of luck or destiny—possibly in a plurality of limited but more or less mischievous spirits; the educated Chinaman, we are told, is for the most part a pure Agnostic. And Chinamen are believed to be one-fifth of the human race. The task of the Missionary would be an easier one if he could {108} appeal to any such widely diffused intuitions of God. The Missionary, from the days of St. Paul at Athens down to the present, has to begin by arguing with his opponents in favour of Theism, and then to go on to argue from Theism to Christianity. I do not deny—on the contrary I strongly contend—that the rational considerations which lead up to Monotheism are so manifold, and lie so near at hand, that at a certain stage of mental development we find that belief independently asserting itself with more or less fullness in widely distant regions of time and space; while traces of it are found almost everywhere—even among savages—side by side with other and inconsistent beliefs. But even among theistic nations an immediate knowledge of God is claimed by very few. If there is a tendency on the part of the more strongly religious minds to claim it, it is explicitly disclaimed by others—by most of the great Schoolmen, and in modern times by profoundly religious minds such as Newman or Martineau. Its existence is in fact denied by most of the great theological systems—Catholic, Protestant, Anglican. Theologians always begin by arguing in favour of the existence of God. And even among the religious minds without philosophical training which do claim such immediate knowledge, their creed is most often due (as is obvious to the outside observer) to the influence of environment, of education, of social {109} tradition. For the religious person who claims such knowledge of God does not generally stop at the bare affirmation of God's existence: he goes on to claim an immediate knowledge of all sorts of other things—ideas clearly derived from the traditional teaching of his religious community. The Protestant of a certain type will claim immediate consciousness of ideas about the forgiveness of sins which are palpably due to the teaching of Luther or St. Augustine, and to the influence of this or that preacher who has transmitted those ideas to him or to his mother: while the Catholic, though his training discourages such claims, will sometimes see visions which convey to him an immediate assurance of the truth of the Immaculate Conception. Even among Anglicans we find educated men who claim to know by immediate intuition the truth of historical facts alleged to have occurred in the first century, or dogmatic truths such as the complicated niceties of the Athanasian Creed. These claims to immediate insight thus refute themselves by the inconsistent character of the knowledge claimed. An attempt may be made to extract from all these immediate certainties a residual element which is said to be common to all of them. The attempt has been made by Professor James in that rather painful work, the Varieties of Religious Experience. And the residuum turns out to be something so vague that, if not {110} absolutely worthless, it is almost incapable of being expressed in articulate language, and constitutes a very precarious foundation for a working religious creed.

The truth is that the uneducated—or rather the unanalytical, perhaps I ought to say the metaphysically untrained—human mind has a tendency to regard as an immediate certainty any truth which it strongly believes and regards as very important. Such minds do not know the psychological causes which have led to their own belief, when they are due to psychological causes: they have not analysed the processes of thought by which they have been led to those beliefs which are really due to the working of their own minds. Most uncultivated persons would probably be very much surprised to hear that the existence of the friend with whose body they are in physical contact is after all only an inference.[9] But surely, in the man who has discovered that such is the case, the warmth of friendship was never dimmed by the reflection that his knowledge of his friend is not immediate but mediate. It is a mere prejudice to suppose that mediate knowledge is in any {111} way less certain, less intimate, less trustworthy or less satisfying than immediate knowledge. If we claim for man the possibility of just such a knowledge of God as a man may possess of his brother man, surely that is all that is wanted to make possible the closest religious communion. It is from the existence of my own self that I infer the existence of other selves, whom I observe to behave in a manner resembling my own behaviour. It is by an only slightly more difficult and complicated inference from my own consciousness that I rise to that conception of a universal Consciousness which supplies me with at once the simplest and the most natural explanation both of my own existence and of the existence of the Nature which I see around me.

(6) Religion and Psychology. I do not deny that the study of religious history, by exhibiting the naturalness and universality of religious ideas and religious emotions, may rationally create a pre-disposition to find some measure of truth in every form of religious belief. But I would venture to add a word of caution against the tendency fashionable in many quarters to talk of basing religious belief upon Psychology. The business of Psychology is to tell us what actually goes on in the human mind. It cannot possibly tell us whether the beliefs which are found there are true or false. An erroneous {112} belief is as much a psychological fact as a true one. A theory which goes on, by inference from what we observe in our own minds, to construct a theory of the Universe necessarily involves a Metaphysic, conscious or unconscious. It may be urged that the reality of religious experience is unaffected by the question whether the beliefs associated with it are true or false. That is the case, so long as the beliefs are supposed to be true by the person in question. But, when once the spirit of enquiry is aroused, a man cannot be—and I venture to think ought not to be—satisfied as to the truth of his belief simply by being told that the beliefs are actually there.

It may be contended, no doubt, that religious experience does not mean merely a state of intellectual belief, but certain emotions, aspirations, perhaps (to take one particular type of religious experience) a consciousness of love met by answering love. To many who undergo such experiences, they seem to carry with them an immediate assurance of the existence of the Being with whom they feel themselves to be in communion. That, on the intellectual presuppositions of the particular person, seems to be the natural—it may be the only possible—way of explaining the feeling. But even there the belief is not really immediate: it is an inference from what is actually matter of experience. And it is, unhappily, no less a matter of well-ascertained {113} psychological fact that, when intellectual doubt is once aroused, such experiences no longer carry with them this conviction of their own objective basis. The person was really under the influence of an intellectual theory all along, whether the theory was acquired by hereditary tradition, by the influence of another's mind, or by personal thought and reflection. When the intellectual theory alters, the same kind of experience is no longer possible. I will not attempt to say how far it is desirable that persons who are perfectly satisfied with a creed which they have never examined should (as it were) pull up the roots of their own faith to see how deep they go. I merely want to point out that the occurrence of certain emotional experiences, though undoubtedly they may constitute part of the data of a religious argument, cannot be held to constitute in and by themselves sufficient evidence for the truth of the intellectual theory connected with them in the mind of the person to whom they occur. They do not always present themselves as sufficient evidence for their truth even to the person experiencing them—still less can they do so to others. Equally unreasonable is it to maintain, with a certain class of religious philosophers, that the religious experience by itself is all we want; and to assume that we may throw to the winds all the theological or other beliefs which have actually been associated {114} with the various types of religious experience, and yet continue to have those experiences and find them no less valuable and no less satisfying. If there is one thing which the study of religious Psychology testifies to, it is the fact that the character of the religious experience (though there may be certain common elements in it) varies very widely with the character of the theoretical belief with which it is associated—a belief of which it is sometimes the cause, sometimes the effect, but from which it is always inseparable. The Buddhist's religious experiences are not possible to those who hold the Christian's view of the Universe: the Christian's religious experiences are not possible to one who holds the Buddhist theory of the Universe. You cannot have an experience of communion with a living Being when you disbelieve in the existence of such a Being. And a man's theories of the Universe always at bottom imply a Metaphysic of some kind—conscious or unconscious.

Sometimes the theory of a Religion which shall be purely psychological springs from pure ignorance as to the meaning of the terms actually employed by the general usage of philosophers. Those who talk in this way mean by Psychology what, according to the ordinary philosophic usage, is really Metaphysic. For Metaphysic is simply the science which deals with the ultimate nature of the Universe. {115} At other times attempts are made by people of more or less philosophical culture to justify their theory. The most widely influential of such attempts is the one made by M. Auguste Sabatier.[10] This attempt has at least this much in its favour—that it is not so much to the ordinary experience of average men and women that M. Sabatier appeals as to the exceptional experiences of the great religious minds. He lays the chief stress upon those exceptional moments of religious history when a new religious idea entered into the mind of some prophet or teacher, e.g. the unity of God, the Fatherhood of God, the brotherhood of Man. Here, just because the idea was new, it cannot (he contends) be accounted for by education or environment or any other of the psychological causes which obviously determine the traditional beliefs of the great majority. These new ideas, therefore, he assumes to be due to immediate revelation or inspiration from God. Now it is obvious that, even if this inference were well grounded, it assumes that we have somehow arrived independently at a conception of God to which such inspirations can be referred. The Psychology of the human mind cannot assume the existence of such a Being: if we infer such a Being from our own mental experience, that is not immediate but {116} mediate knowledge. It is a belief based on inference, and a belief which is, properly speaking, metaphysical. The idea of a Religion which is merely based upon Psychology and involves nothing else is a delusion: all the great Religions of the world have been, among other things, metaphysical systems. We have no means of ascertaining their truth but Reason, whether it assume the form of a rough common-sense or of elaborate reasoning which not only is Metaphysic but knows itself to be so. Reason is then the organ of religious truth. But then, let me remind you, Reason includes our moral Reason. That really is a faculty of immediate knowledge; and it is a faculty which, in a higher or lower state of development, is actually found in practically all human beings. The one element of truth which I recognize in the theory of an immediate knowledge of God is the truth that the most important data upon which we base the inference which leads to the knowledge of God are those supplied by the immediate judgements or intuitions of the Moral Consciousness.

And here let me caution you against a very prevalent misunderstanding about the word Reason. It is assumed very often that Reason means nothing but inference. That is not what we mean when we refer moral judgements to the Reason. We do not mean that we can prove that things are right or {117} wrong: we mean precisely the opposite—that ultimate moral truth is immediate, like the truth that two and two make four. It might, of course, be contended that the same Reason which assures me that goodness is worth having and that the whole is greater than the part, assures us no less immediately of the existence of God. I can only say that I am sure I have no such immediate knowledge, and that for the most part that knowledge is never claimed by people who understand clearly the difference between immediate knowledge and inference. The idea of God is a complex conception, based, not upon this or that isolated judgement or momentary experience, but upon the whole of our experience taken together. It is a hypothesis suggested by, and necessary to, the explanation of our experience as a whole. Some minds may lay most stress upon the religious emotions themselves; others upon the experience of the outer world, upon the appearances of design, or upon the metaphysical argument which shows them the inconceivability of matter without mind; others, again, may be most impressed by the impossibility of accounting in any way for the immediate consciousness of duty and the conviction of objective validity or authority which that consciousness carries with it. But in any case the knowledge, when it is a reasonable belief and not based merely upon authority, involves {118} inference—just like our knowledge of our friend's existence. The fact that my friend is known to me by experience does not prevent his communicating his mind to me. I shall try to show you in my next lecture that to admit that our knowledge of God is based upon inference is not incompatible with the belief that God has spoken to man face to face, as a man speaketh to his friend.

At this point it may perhaps be well, for the sake of clearness, to summarize the position to which I have tried to lead you. I have tried to show that the material Universe cannot reasonably be thought of as having any existence outside, or independently of, Mind. It certainly does not exist merely in any or all of the human and similar minds whose knowledge is fleeting, and which have, there is every reason to believe, a beginning in time. We are bound then to infer the existence of a single Mind or Consciousness, which must be thought of as containing all the elements of our own Consciousness—Reason or Thought, Feeling, and Will—though no doubt in Him those elements or aspects of Consciousness are combined in a manner of which our own minds can give us but a very faint and analogical idea. The world must be thought of as ultimately the thought or experience of this Mind, which we call God. And this Mind must be thought {119} of as not only a Thinker, but also as a Cause or a Will. Our own and all other minds, no less than the events of the material Universe, owe their beginning and continuance to this divine Will: in them the thought or experience of the divine Mind is reproduced in various degrees; and to all of them is communicated some portion of that causality or activity of which God is the ultimate source, so that their acts must be regarded as due mediately to them, ultimately to God. But, though these minds are wholly dependent upon and in intimate connexion with the divine Mind, they cannot be regarded as parts of the divine Consciousness. Reality consists of God and all the minds that He wills to exist, together with the world of Nature which exists in and for those minds. Reality is the system or society of spirits and their experience. The character and ultimate purpose of the divine Mind is revealed to us, however inadequately or imperfectly, in the moral consciousness; and the moral ideal which is thus communicated to us makes it reasonable for us to expect, for at least the higher of the dependent or created minds, a continuance, of their individual existence, after physical death. Pain, sin, and other evils must be regarded as necessary incidents in the process by which the divine Will is bringing about the greatest attainable good of all conscious beings. The question whether our material Universe, {120} considered as the object of Mind, has a beginning and will have an end, is one which we have no data for deciding. Time-distinctions, I think, must be regarded as objective—that is to say, as forming part of the nature and constitution of the real world; but the antinomy involved either in supposing an endless succession or a beginning and end of the time-series is one which our intellectual faculties are, or at least have so far proved, incapable of solving. The element of inadequacy and uncertainty which the admission of this antinomy introduces into our theory of the Universe is an emphatic reminder to us of the inadequate and imperfect character of all our knowledge. The knowledge, however, that we possess, though inadequate knowledge, is real knowledge—not a sham knowledge of merely relative or human validity; and is sufficient not only for the guidance of life but even for the partial, though not the complete, satisfaction of one of the noblest impulses of the human mind—the disinterested passion for truth. 'Now we see in a mirror darkly'; but still we see.

The view of the Universe which I have endeavoured very inadequately to set before you is a form of Idealism. Inasmuch as it recognizes the existence—though not the separate and independent existence—of many persons; inasmuch as it regards both God and man as persons, without attempting {121} to merge the existence of either in one all-including, comprehensive consciousness, it may further be described as a form of 'personal Idealism.' But, if any one finds it easier to think of material Nature as having an existence which, though dependent upon and willed by the divine Mind, is not simply an existence in and for mind, such a view of the Universe will serve equally well as a basis of Religion. For religious purposes it makes no difference whether we think of Nature as existing in the Mind of God, or as simply created or brought into and kept in existence by that Mind. When you have subtracted from the theistic case every argument that depends for its force upon the theory that the idea of matter without Mind is an unthinkable absurdity, enough will remain to show the unreasonableness of supposing that in point of fact matter ever has existed without being caused and controlled by Mind. The argument for Idealism may, I hope, have at all events exhibited incidentally the groundlessness and improbability of materialistic and naturalistic assumptions, and left the way clear for the establishment of Theism by the arguments which rest upon the discovery that Causality implies volition; upon the appearances of intelligence in organic life; upon the existence of the moral consciousness; and more generally upon the enormous probability that the ultimate Source of Reality should resemble rather {122} the highest than the lowest kind of existence of which we have experience. That Reality as a whole may be most reasonably interpreted by Reality at its highest is after all the sum and substance of all theistic arguments. If anybody finds it easier to think of matter as uncreated but as always guided and controlled by Mind, I do not think there will be any religious objection to such a position; though it is, as it seems to me, intellectually a less unassailable position than is afforded by an Idealism of the type which I have most inadequately sketched.

Mr. Bradley in a cynical moment has defined Metaphysics as the 'finding of bad reasons for what we believe upon instinct.' I do not for myself accept that definition, which Mr. Bradley himself would not of course regard as expressing the whole truth of the matter. But, though I am firmly convinced that it is possible to find good reasons for the religious beliefs and hopes which have in fact inspired the noblest lives, I still feel that the greatest service which even a little acquaintance with Philosophy may render to many who have not the time for any profounder study of it, will be to give them greater boldness and confidence in accepting a view of the Universe which satisfies the instinctive or unanalysed demands of their moral, intellectual, and spiritual nature.

{123}

NOTE ON NON-THEISTIC IDEALISM

It may perhaps be well for the sake of greater clearness to summarize my objections—those already mentioned and some others—to the system of Dr. McTaggart, which I admit to be, for one who has accepted the idealistic position that matter does not exist apart from Mind, the only intelligible alternative to Theism. His theory is, it will be remembered, that ultimate Reality consists of a system of selves or spirits, uncreated and eternal, forming together a Unity, but not a conscious Unity, so that consciousness exists only in the separate selves, not in the whole:

(1) It is admitted that the material world exists only in and for Mind. There is no reason to think that any human mind, or any of the other minds of which Dr. McTaggart's Universe is composed, knows the whole of this world. What kind of existence then have the parts of the Universe which are not known to any mind? It seems to me that Dr. McTaggart would be compelled to admit that they do not exist at all. The world postulated by Science would thus be admitted to be a delusion. This represents a subjective Idealism of an extreme and staggering kind which cannot meet the objections commonly urged against all Idealism.

(2) Moreover, the world is not such an intellectually complete system as Dr. McTaggart insists that it must be, apart from the relations of its known parts to its unknown parts. If there are parts which are unknown to any mind, and which therefore do not exist at all, it is not a system at all.

(3) If it be said that all the spirits between them know the world—one knowing one part, another another—this is a mere hypothesis, opposed to all the probabilities suggested by experience, and after all would be a very inadequate answer to our difficulties. Dr. McTaggart insists {124} that the world of existing things exists as a system. Such existence to an Idealist must mean existence for a mind; a system not known as a system to any mind whatever could hardly be said to exist at all.

(4) If it be suggested (as Dr. McTaggart was at one time inclined to suggest) that every mind considered as a timeless Noumenon is omniscient, though in its phenomenal and temporal aspect its knowledge is intermittent and always limited, I reply (a) the theory seems to me not only gratuitous but unintelligible, and (b) it is open to all the difficulties and objections of the theory that time and change are merely subjective delusions. This is too large a question to discuss here: I can only refer to the treatment of the subject by such writers as Lotze (see above) and M. Bergson. I may also refer to Mr. Bradley's argument (Appearance and Reality, p. 50 sq.) against the theory that the individual Ego is out of time.

(5) The theory of pre-existent souls is opposed to all the probabilities suggested by experience. Soul and organism are connected in such a way that the pre-existence of one element in what presents itself and works in our world as a unity is an extremely difficult supposition, and involves assumptions which reduce to a minimum the amount of identity or continuity that could be claimed for the Ego throughout its successive lives. A soul which has forgotten all its previous experiences may have some identity with its previous state, but not much. Moreover, we should have to suppose that the correspondence of a certain type of body with a certain kind of soul, as well as the resemblance between the individual and his parents, implies no kind of causal connexion, but is due to mere accident; or, if it is not to accident, to a very arbitrary kind of pre-established harmony which there is nothing in experience to suggest, and which (upon Dr. McTaggart's theory) there is no creative intelligence to pre-establish. The theory cannot be absolutely refuted, but all Dr. McTaggart's ingenuity has not—to my own mind, {125} and (I feel sure) to most minds—made it seem otherwise than extremely difficult and improbable. Its sole recommendation is that it makes possible an Idealism without Theism: but, if Theism be an easier and more defensible theory, that is no recommendation at all.

Previous Part     1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse