Page images
PDF
EPUB

thing. If infallible foreknowledge of their future occurrence or non-occur. an event be a proof of its future oc- rence must be exactly equal, and there currence, then, as soon as any one must be absolutely no ground for exshall possess that foreknowledge, the pecting or predicting one alternative proof must exist in full force, whether in preference to the other. This, it is known to one or to many. But even presumed, is the definition of what is if declared, says Dr Coplestone, it does meant by absolute contingency, as apnot prove the event to be necessary. plied to a future event. If this be so, “ This (he goes on to observe) is an all propositions as to such events, example of the same error which per- whether affirmative or negative, must vades the stoical argument mentioned be equally uncertain. Supposing, then, in the treatise De Fato,' i. e. con- that it is affirmed of an absolutely confounding words with things. One tingent event, (as it is asserted to be,) proposition may be a necessary conse- for instance, of a person's laughing on quence of another proposition; but the a given day,-" one of the two is certbing denoted by it is not therefore tain, he will laugh, or he will not necessary.” If it be here meant that laugh ;" then this must be denied. the truth of the second proposition is For what is the meaning of the assernot necessary, this is an assertion at tion? not that one of the two proposiwhich logicians will a little startle. tions will ultimately become certain, That the truth of a proposition flow, but that one of them is, at the present ing from a true premiss should not be time, certain ; which is only an assernecessary, is something new in logic. tion opposed to the assertion of conThis paradox, however, is not needed tingency. The definition of a continto overturn the stoical sophism quoted gent event is, an event in its own nain the treatise “ De Fato.”* The ar- ture absolutely uncertain, and as to gument of the Stoics, which puzzled the occurrence or non-occurrence of the disciples of Epicurus, was an af- which, all propositions must consefirmation “of the certainty of either quently be uncertain. He, therefore, the affirmative or the negative of every who undertakes to prove the negative proposition that could be uttered con- of the assertion which says that both cerning what was to pass hereafter.” propositions, the affirming or denying The sophism lies in this, that in the the occurrence of a future event, are first assumption the question in dis- equally uncertain together with the pute is begged. One of these two event, and who begins with laying propositions—that, on a given day, it down as one of his premises, that one will rain, or will not rain, is now cer- of the two is now certain, is guilty of tainly true, says the fatalist; and this a petitio principii. The only difficulty the epicurean did not, it seems, take lies in distinguishing the falsehood of upon him to deny. He might have the position—“because one of the two done so, however, according to his will, ultimately, become absolutely own principles. If it be argued that certain ;" therefore one of the two there are such things as contingent must now, at this moment, be absoevents, the definition of such events lutely certain—which does not follow. must be, that they are future events, With respect to the possibility of such possible in themselves, but on the oc- things as contingent events, the excurrence or non-occurrence of which, istence of which is, after all, a mere there is no ground in nature for de- assumption, more hereafter. ciding beforehand. The chances for Dr Coplestone's distinction between

. It is evident that the philosophers of Cicero's time had no proper idea of the modern hypothesis of philosophical necessity, but were confused by the notion of a personified Fate, who exerted an extraneous influence upon the course of nature. This is evident in the following passage from the treatise - De Fato."-" Ne Hercule Icadii, quicem, prædonis video Fatum ullum. Nihil enim scribit ei prædictum. Quid mi. rum igitur, ex spelunca saxum in crura ejus incidisse? Puto enim, etiam si Icadius tum in spelunca non fuisset, saxum tamen illud casurum fuisse. Nam, aut nihil est omnino fortuitum aut hoc ipsum potuit evenire Fortuna. Quæro igitur, (atque hoc late patebit,) si Fati omninò nullum nomen,-nulla natura, nulla vis esset, et fortè temere casů aut pleraque fierent aut omnia ; num aliter ac nunc eveniunt evenirent ? Quid, ergo, attinet inculcare Fatum, cum, sine Fato, ratio omnium rerum ad Natu. ram, Fortunanve referatur ?” VOL. X.

2 B

absolute certainty and necessity is not claration to that effect must be abso-
new.* It is formally laid down, I lutely true; and that truth must be as
believe, in Kirwan's Metaphysical Es- necessary as any thing which now
says, and probably occurs, more or exists is necessary. It follows, then,
less directly, elsewhere. It seems to that he may declare of the event,
be this that though it may be known “ that it certainly shall be,” and also
that a future event certainly shall be, “ that it has an equal chance not to
yet it does not follow that such future be;" and that both these declarations
event necessarily must be. It is an are necessary, absolute, and existing
endeavour to shew that the terms, truths.
“ certainly shall be,” and “ necessari The doctrine of contingency must
ly must be," are not identical, or do not, however, be assumed, as it has
not include each other. Let us see generally been, without examination.
how this can consist. If it be gene. Of the existence of such things as ab-
rally and merely known to be not true solutely contingent events, there has
that a future event necessarily must never been the shadow of a proof.t
be, there is an equal chance for the con- Absolute contingency is a mere “ Ens
verse of the proposition being true, viz. Rationis,” (a phrase sufficiently clou-
that it necessarily must not be; and if dy;) nay, it is hardly even that. What
there is an equal chance that the pro- definition of contingency has ever been
position “ it necessarily must not be” offered, from which any distinct ideas
shall be true, then of course an assere can be drawn? What is to become of
tion, “ that the event may not hap- the reasonings founded upon cause and
pen," is as likely as “ that it may effect, if events may take place with-
happen." Now, if it be true of this out causes, or causes may be followed
same event, that it certainly shall be by no effects, or by contrary effects ?
this would exclude the truth of the Dr Coplestone, very properly no doubt,
negative, that it certainly shall not be, submits, (p. 40,) that “ if we mean
and also of the contingent, that it cer- by the word contingent, that which
tainly may not be. If, then, the Su- cannot be known beforehand; we only
preme Being know of a future sup- say that what cannot be known before-
posed event, that it is not necessary, hand, cannot be known beforehand-
he as certainly knows that it may not which is saying nothing; therefore no-
be; and, of course, if he knows also thing is denied of the Deity." Grant
that its non-occurrence is not necessary, ed: but what better meaning can the
then he has a complete knowledge of advocates of free-will put upon it?
its contingency; he knows that neither In fact, they are driven to assume, ei-
the assertion" it may be,” nor the ther this sort of absolute contingence,
assertion“ it may not be,” is necessa- which, as they allow, excludes the di-
rily untrue. If, in addition to this, vine foreknowledge ; or else another
he know that the event certainly shall sort, the definition of which includes a
.be, then he knows that a present de- contradiction; that is to say, they de-

* Hobbes, who, by the way, was perhaps the first who had clear ideas of necessity, complains of the want of novelty in the objections to it. In fact, most of the arguments against the doctrine are to be found in the older writers, however science may have suggested improved methods of answering them. The following passage from Baronius embodies the distinction in question. He endeavours to make out future certainty to be only a sort of contingent neccssity! It occurs in Sec. XII. “ De Necessario et Contingenti."

“ Hoc modo_necesse est "Socratem ambulare,' factâ hac suppositione quod ambulet' hoc item modo, necesse fuit · Adamum peccare,' suppositâ præscientiâ Divinâ, quia scil: Dei præscientia non potest falli. Interim, hujusmodi necessitas non accidit ratione alicujus principii motivi vel impulsivi; neque enim Deus per præscientiam suam effecit ut homo peccaret, sicut homo qui præscit aliquam Rem futuram, per suam præscientiam non efficit ut Res futura sit, sed, quia Res futura est, ideo præscit. Cum ergo, Necessarium variis modis dicatur, tenendum est, non omnes hos modos necessitatis comprehendi sub necessario proprie dicto, sed plerosque eorum nihil aliud esse quam modos quosdam contingentis, præ se ferentis specicm necessitatis." It is precisely South's distinction between the Church of Rome and that of England-one was infali. ble; the other never in the wrong!

+ See Edwards on Free-will, Chap. “ On Cause and Effect.” Berkeley “ De Motu," &c. &c.

fine a contingent event to be something, believe this to be a fair statement; the occurrence of which is certainly but it is not so. Before going into the known to be uncertain, and yet, of question, however, it is necessary to which the certain occurrence is, or extend the quotation, in order that the may be, certainly known. That the scope and drift of the argument may existence of absolutely contingent be fully understood. The Discourse events is a gratuitous supposition, can- proceeds thus: “ If we cast our eyes not be denied. No one has ever been upon the world, we readily perceive, able to point out any such event in that the activity and energy of men is nature. Experience, on the contrary, encreased by a persuasion, that they has constantly taught, that events hap- have it in their power to attain certain pen in a continued chain of cause and ends, and that they never think of ateffect. Nor has one single occurrence, tempting that which they know to be either of motion, thought, or existence impossible, or beyond their reach, or of any sort, been ascertained to have not capable of being obtained or avertshewn itself independent of some prior ed by any thing they can do. To be eonnecting event, which acted neces- taking measures for procuring a fertile sarily as a cause or reason. But a con- season, or for stopping the mouth of a tingent event is either without a cause, volcano, would be certain proof of inor else its cause co-exists with it, and sanity. Men do indeed often engage is included in it. On the latter sup- in vain and chimerical undertakings, position, the event would not be con- but it is under a belief of their practitingent, since it was influenced by cability; as soon as they discover their something else, and the contingency error, they leave off. * *** ****** would be transferred to the co-existent Of the two grand motives which actucause. There is no end of this; and ate reasonable beings, hope and fear, we must either at once boldly deny the the influence is always diminished, in doctrine of cause and effect, or be con- proportion to the opinion men have of tent to be lost (like the Niger in its the unalterable conditions under which sands) in the wilderness of infinite se- they are placed. ******** The ries.

fact, it is presumed, will hardly be The next point to which the reve- denied, that when men really believe, rend author directs his attention, is and the belief is present in their minds, best gleaned from his own words. that a decree has passed upon them, “ Whatever has been, is, or will be, their own motives to action are weakcould (not as some say) be otherwise. ened, if not wholly extinguished.”* We, vain and insignificant creatures, The above sentences are probably full of our own importance, imagine, sufficient to shew, that the argument that we act from ourselves, that we can here intended is the favourite point in deliberate, choose, reject, command, the pamphlet of Mr Dawson, quoted obey, forbid, contrive, hasten, or hin- in the preface. It is of old standing, der a thousand things-when, in fact, and is neither more nor less than that this is all delusion. We are but mem-celebrated cavil with which the Epibers of the machine, like the rest; and cureans puzzled and twitted the Stoics, though we may please ourselves with and which is known by the name of thinking that we act an independent Ignava Ratio. It is plausible, and is part, the real truth is, we have no so from its including more than one voice, no power, no control, in what fallacy. The first fallacious supposiis going on ; all would take its course tion is that of the kind of necessity just the same, whether for good or for which the mind of the person subjectill, were we to give ourselves no con- ed to this principle of inaction, must cern whatever in the matter. Such, imagine to itself. The principle rests I believe, is a fair statement of the upon the mind assuming some insuladoctrine of philosophical necessity, or ted event or events, as being arbitrapredestination, confined to this life." rily fixed and decreed; without the The reverend author, no doubt, may necessity, also, of the means which are

* This branch of the controversy is considered at length in vol. VIII. p. 172 of this Magazine, article “ Ignava Ratio ;” and I take the opportunity of correcting a sentence in the first page, in which, from an inadvertence, the term “ fatalists” is applied to the followers of Epicurus, instead of the Stoics.

to lead to the occurrence of such events, in the mind of the necessitarian agent, being adverted to. Now, this is noto- it is not better known, and more freriously at variance with the necessi- quently pointed out? Why,-because tarian hypothesis, which supposes, men easily analyse their mental prothat causes are decreed as well as ef- cesses; and because men in general fects, and means as well as ends. And follow up the means to an end, inereunless this arbitrary and partial sort of ly because they evidently seem to lead necessity be supposed, the accusation to it. They do not stop to inquire of inaction being consequent on a be whether they are making a path, or lief in necessity, includes in itself this following a path already made for glaring and direct absurdity. It sup- them. This is the plain proximate poses a Necessitarian to reason with 'cause of men's actions. They are himself thus: that all events being taught, by perpetual experience, that, unalterable, and he being unable, by means are necessary to an end ; and, any action or exertion, either to ame- under this persuasion, they eagerly liorate or deteriorate his condition and take every preparatory step; each step, lot; therefore, he will ameliorate it by as far as it strengthens the evidence of the enjoyment of ease, and the omise the certainty of the desired event, and sion of labour :-a direct contradiction brings the agent nearer that event, in terms; as it is saying, I cannot al. being more and more devoutly wel. ter any thing, and therefore I shall comed. Nor is it of any consequence, alter something.

whether or not a man is told, that in The motives, however, under which tracing this chain, he is only fulfilling the Necessitarian acts, and rationally a prior decree. It is happiness be and unavoidably acts, are capable of wants, not liberty. Suppose, by way þeing pointed out. Let a given event of illustration, that a messenger knocks of importance, say death, be taken as at a man's door, and informs him that an example. If this, the objector says, government intends him a pension ; be absolutely fixed to take place at and further, that he is to go immedisome certain period, and then only, ately to some certain place, where he why do you trouble yourself about an should receive the first payment, it he event which can neither be hastened arrived in time; and that if he did nor retarded ? in short, why do you not go, he should be hanged. Supeat or drink, or distrust fire or water, pose further, that at every step of his or shun personal danger, from a fear progress, the delighted pensioner was of its tendency to produce the catas- reminded that he was only fulfilling a trophe in question? The answer is decree, would that alter his satisfacshortly thus: Whether my death is to tion? on the contrary, every step which take place now, or at some distant proved to him the certainty of the time, is, I know, already fixed and de- whole series, would be eagerly taken, termined; but, not knowing how it is as bringing nearer, and ratifying, the determined, my death, as to time, is certainty of the wished-for conclusion. to me a contingent event; for aught I To say, that a man, the events, good know, it may be now, or it may be and bad, of whose future life, were then. It will be allowed, however, decreed, and to whom the particulars that I very naturally would prefer the of that decree were known, would be latter decree to the former; and am subjected to inaction, is to put an unglad of all evidence which goes to prove natural and useless case. If the dethat the last supposed decree is, in fact, cree were independent of the will of the real decree. Now, I know that him concerning whom it was made, means are necessary to an end ; and then the supposition does not apply ; when I see means and the power of because philosophical necessity is laid using them afforded, I consider that down to be in the will itself. If the as the best evidence of the end being will be included in the decree, then intended. Therefore, I use every means there is no room for any supposcable in my power to retard the time of my alteration, either in conduct or dispodeath; using food, caution, &c. as sition. means directly tending to, and intima- Against the Ignava Ratio the appeal ting the probability of a desired end. to experience is decisive; and perhaps

As an objection to the foregoing rea- the hastiest assertion in Dr Coplesoning, it may be asked, perhaps, why, stone's book is, that “the universul if this be the process which takes place and actual tendency of such belief as

the Necessitarian inculcates, is to re- vulgar !" Now, really, if the reverend lax our exertions, in proportion as that doctor had proved his own side of the belief predominates." Let the name question with the certainty of mathe. of one enlightened Necessitarian be matical demonstration, this would have quoted in corroboration. Dr Coplestone made a very pretty syllogism. All who allows, that “fatalists are ready to really believe necessity, relax in their quote instances of illustrious men, and exertions,--but these men did not reeven of whole sects, under the profes- lax; therefore, they did not really besion of fatalists, who lived exactly as lieve necessity. At present, it only other people do." Here is the testi- reminds one of the physician in one of mony of thousands; and how does the Voltaire's tales, who, when somebody reverend author get rid of these incon- recovered under treatment which was venient quotations ? he merely says, in opposition to his opinion, wrote a that " these illustrious individuals and pamphlet to prove that he ought to their sects do not really believe what have died. I am, &c. they profess,” and “ affect to talk like

T. D. philosophers," while they “ act as the

MARTIN, THE CARDER, A WEST-MEATHIAN TALE. MR Editor. In the summer of whom the government and the couneighteen hundred and sixteen, when try owe much. But I will not enter a lawless feeling was very general further into political discussion, it bethroughout Ireland, the counties of ing merely my purpose to record a noWestmeath and Longford were par- ble trait of Irish character, and a spe. ticularly disturbed. Secret associa- cimen of Irish eloíuence, somewhat diftions were formed, hostile at first, ferent from that vulgarly so called. more to the landlords and gentry than M artin was one of the chief of these to the government, though, in a little desperadoes, and had signalized himtime, from factious spirits, it no doubt self in taking vengeance on the marked grew into an organized plan of re- men, and in levying far and near vast bellion. The members gave them- contributions of arms, money being a selves the name of carders, from the booty which the fraternity disdained instrument with which they inflicted to take. One of their attacks was on punishment on their enemies, among the house of a man named Timms, which were numbered chiefly inform- who, retrcating up stairs, made a galers, and those who took or let land lant defence in the garret, killed some above what they considered the fair of them, and wounded Martin. The yaluation. Harassed by the unavoid wound, and the loss of blood in conseable distress of the country, and infla- quence, caused him to faint, unnoticed med by spokesmen, who had travel. by Timms, as his companions retreatled in England in search of harvest ed. When he came to his senses, still work, and had seen, and invidiously undiscovered, as the house was left alcompared, the comforts of the English together without light, he bethought husbandman with their own priva- himself of the best means of escaping, tions, they attributed their ills to left alone as he was, though unperceipartial government and oppression. ved, in the room with his enemy; he ir Worse nor I am I can't be," was concluded by making a rush at the the reasoning by which they prepared window, and leaping through it, very themselves for what they called a stir. probably not recollecting the height it Besides, various prophecies and myste- was from the ground. His back was rious bodings floated about the country, broken, it seems, by the fall, yet he that the reign of protestantism was to contrived to roll himself over the garterminate in the year seventeen; and an den, till he was taken by some of his interpretation of the Apocalypse, writ- friends, and conveyed to a place of seten by one Walmsey, entitled, Pastori- crecy, in one of the Islands of Lough ni's Christian Church, was spread not Ree. only by oral accounts, but by the vo He was traced by his blood from the lume itself, through the country. All place where he fell to where he rolled, their purposes, however, were happily and every exertion was used to discover frustrated by the vigilance of the ma- the lurking place of the wounded man. gistrates of the county, Lord C- , The search was vain for some time Captain D , Captain C , to till an account was brought to a

« PreviousContinue »