Page images
PDF
EPUB

(b) The same may be said with regard to changes of internal state, produced by diseased or deranged organs, as in dreaming. They produce a sense of passing time; but they furnish no means of connecting those times into one, or of identifying them with any universal time.

(c) The case is the same with regard to real phenomenal experience. Sense and consciousness supply only an internal perception of succession of events and of passing time; but they do not measure the time; they do not supply the notion that these successive events are so for others, as well as for ourselves, and that they supply to them the sense of passing time. They do not inform us whether our time is identical with theirs; our only way of arriving at these conceptions is, in fact, by connecting the phenomena with the notion of some permanent substance, supplying the same perceptions to all, and giving occasion to the same series of modifications of the internal state. This notion is not supplied by the phenomena, which are continually changing, but is supplied by the understanding.

What has been hitherto said is intended to refer to universal space and time (although it seems not very strictly confined to it), but there is besides this the fixing of particular places and times for phenomena (p. 490).

Now, we never fix any phenomena in space, except by some mental movement which fixes the bearings and distances, and, therefore, in imagination, constructs the spaces. In order to do this, we must have some permanent point of departure; and such permanent point we have not in our internal perceptions, nor in our perceptions arising from sensation. The former are wholly within ourselves, and therefore have no place except in ourselves; and the latter, so far as they are sensations or perceptions from sensation, are in the same predicament. But if I contemplate my body, and conceive of it as a permanent object, then I can determine the bearings and distances of phenomena in it. In short, so far as you fill space with permanent substance, you can determine the relative place of phenomena: and if you could find a centre, round which everything revolves, and which never moves,—then you might fix, absolutely, the places of all phenomena. But substance and permanence are not supplied by the sense; they are supplied only by the understanding.

Similar observations may be made in regard to the ascertaining of particular relative times. With regard to simultaneous time, the only way in which it is in point of fact ascertained is by 'a comparison of the action and reaction of gravitating bodies in the diurnal revolution of the earth.'

Having thus confirmed, by the law which evidently pervades facts, the theory or science of the understanding which we had obtained by a priori reasoning, we have arrived at the means of strengthening the proof of tiie actual existence of the understanding, as independent of objective phenomena, but governed by certain laws (p. 522). For we may not only imagine phenomena by the internal sense, but we can connect them in things and events, and thereby possess an ideal world at pleasure. Yet we cannot conceive qualities to be fixed to any definite place, except by inhering in some substance; neither can we conceive them as fixed to a definite time, except by conceiving of them as attached to some enduring substance, or produced by some such substance as their cause, or produced in some such substances mutually acting on each other. So that the understanding, as a power of conceiving and determining facts, does really exist as a thing separate from the sense, and characterised and distinguished by the necessity of acting in a certain manner, and by certain laws.

And so, again, we can prove the existence of an external system of nature, independent of the understanding. For, although the understanding may form conceptions of universal space and time, and imaginations of things and events, there is no power existing in it, by which it can cause substances to exist, filling time and space, so as to define and fix things and events to definite places and periods. The understanding may conceive phenomena analogous to those of sense, but it cannot give them reality, by fixing them in their places and times, without the actual existence of an external world. Or, again, the understanding may receive actual phenomena from the sense; but it cannot fix them to their places and times, in connexion with each other, unless they are connected already in their substances, &c.

The conclusion is, that 'the existing nature of things' is not a mere accumulation of atoms, or sequence of appearances, or coincidence of facts, but * an intelligible universal system.'

The third branch of the subject is the Reason, which is beyond the sense and the understanding, and whose aid we have required in investigating their nature and conditions. 'The 'sense distinguishes quality and conjoins quantity; the under* standing connects phenomena; the reason comprehends the 'operation of both' (p. 534). Its whole field must therefore lie outside the province of either. Its objects of knowledge must be supersensible and supernatural. Moreover, we have attained by the sense the process for constructing phenomena, and by the understanding the process for connecting nature; and we now need a process for comprehending universal nature. For this purpose we must 'get for nature an origin and an end, and thus some existence above nature, and reaching beyond nature' (p. 543).

To accomplish this end, we must again take up an a priori position. We must dismiss all the phenomena and the operation of the understanding in connecting, and consequently dismiss all qualities. We retain only substances, causes, and reciprocal influences, as things in themselves; and since substances are forces differently modified, we will leave others out of consideration, and retain only the force of gravity (p. 555).

Let us, then, conceive a force everywhere antagonistic, and take any point in this primary space-filling force; and if it is not a centre, let it revolve round a centre of gravity, and this about another, until we arrive at the central point, round which we suppose the universe to revolve. The task of the reason is to show how it is possible that this centre, with the universal sphere which revolves round it, may be originated and sustained.

Suppose two pencils of congealed water to meet in a centre and press against each other; and that, as they press, they liquefy. The water will thus be pressed out from the centre towards the circumference. Drop the notion of water, and suppose simply two forces. If there be continued pressure and a continued supply of the antagonistic forces on both sides, the overflow may be extended so as to fill the universe; and each particle of it will still be a force.

But there are two forces; and we require a Unity which shall create them, set them in motion and continue them in operation, whose only end of action shall be found by himself in his own being. Such alone can stand above nature, and condition nature, without being again conditioned by nature; and nature can be comprehended in the reason in no other way than as encompassed in His being. In this 'pure ideal' we find our a priori position for overlooking nature, and thereby determining how its comprehension is possible (p. 581).

The first mark, and the very essence of this Ideal, is Personality, free from the limitations of time and place. If not a Person, it must be a thing, and so within nature. If not free from time and space, since nature is commensurate with them, it will still be within nature.

The first element of this Personality must be pure spontaneity; for this is the only pure simple activity, unconditioned by space and time, and disconnected from the notion of substance, cause, and reciprocal influence, which are inherent in nature.

But pure spontaneity is in itself blind and lawless. There must be some end to which its action is directed, and this end must give law to the action. Yet the end must be out of nature, and therefore in itself. It must arise from pure will in itself. He who comprehends nature must be self-active and self-directed. His own worthiness, and the satisfaction of that worthiness, must be his only end (p. 591). This is the second element.

The third element of this Ideal must be absolute liberty; for he could not be above nature, if any other thing could control him,—if every other end was not subordinate to his end (p. 603).

Having attained this Ideal of Personality, spontaneous in action, independent, and unfettered, we proceed to show how such a Personality might produce a system of nature.

The Absolute Person may originate simple acts, which have no counteragency, and therefore are unconnected with space or time: but he may also put two simple acts in counteraction (p. 608); and then, at their point of counteragency, a force will begin, which takes a position and occupies an instant. Thus space and time may begin, and obtain permanence. The force will ensphere itself about a centre, and thus space will be filled, which may be conjoined in a definite figure; and time will be occupied, which may be conjoined in a definite period; and an impenetrable substance is made, which may afford sensation and be conjoined in a definite phenomenon. In this substance place is determinable in its own whole of space; and in it as the source of successive events, period may be determined in its own whole of time. Distinct forces may be superadded, which shall produce or constitute all the various substances, and contain all their qualities, and exhibit all their phenomena.

It is evident that, according to this idea, nature is entirely the product of the Creator, and entirely external to Him; and yet wholly dependent upon Him, and not capable of reacting upon Him. It is likewise evident that, whatever be its end and consummation, He, and He alone, must carry it on to that consummation; and that it will be absolutely according to His will. Thus we sec how reason, by an a priori process, can discover an Ideal, in an independent Personality, who may originate nature with all that is in it; and by this means discovers in what manner it may perfectly comprehend all nature, and indeed all creation, physical and moral (p. 619).

This, however, at present, is entirely a conception, and it is necessary to ascertain, as in the two former cases, whether there is a law in the facts which corresponds to it;—whether the facts do show that we find the comprehension of things to be only so far as we apply the law of free personality, and always where we do so, and precisely in the degree in which we do so (p. 628).

Human nature is twofold; on the one side the appetitive,— the sentient nature; on the other the imperative,—the rational personality. In the sentient nature the object is happiness; in the rational personality the highest law is the inward witness of its own worthiness, called the love of right. Thus humanity is neither purely animal nor purely spiritual; and thus results the modification by which it makes and enjoys its own products in its own sphere; it delights and cheers itself with beauty and the truth of science, and thus raises itself up to the duties of morality and the sanctions of religion (p. 633). Now it is not in its appetitive aspect that humanity delights itself in beauty, and creates forms of beauty for itself, but in its free rational personality. The same may be said of the pursuit of mathematical and philosophical Truth; for truth rests in principles, and not in mere facts; and they are arrived at, not by the mere sentient nature, but by the free conceptions and judgments of his rational being. Moreover, we have a moral character, which rises above and controls all other portions of our character,— and a corresponding end, which overrules all other ends; and we have moral affections, and these again depend, both in their origin and in their consummation, on our free personality (p. 662). Again, virtuous men take a positive pleasure in communion in good deeds, and in the character of good men; and that is the highest kind of communion we are capable of: but in this feeling we distinctly recognise the free personality of each. Lastly, the recognition of what we ought or ought not to do, and the consequent curbing of our appetites, whilst it comprehends all moral facts in human nature, witnesses still to our free personality.

The conclusion (p. 675) is, that 'on the whole field of huma'nity, we never comprehend any portion of its facts in their 'origin and consummation, except as we bring them completely 'within the compass of a free personality.'

But this is merely subsidiary to the complete object of proof, viz. 'to show that all comprehension of nature has this one law, 'the recognised compass [or encompassing] of a free Personality, 'as the author and finisher of all that is thus comprehended; 'and wherever such encompassing Personality is recognised, 'there do we at once comprehend all the events in him.'

With this object, the first step is to show, by an induction of facts, a universal recognition of an absolute Personality above nature. These facts are—(1.) (p. 680), 'the ready assent of mankind to the fact of final causes in nature :' for, as Dr. Hickok argues, 'a final end to be attained in and by nature involves an

« PreviousContinue »