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race; he is not merely trusting to the deadweight of a conviction which has somehow come to be fixed in his own mind.
Take the case of the “laws of thought”; let us consider how these acquire certitude. There are certain principles which are postulates of knowledge, in the sense that without them even science cannot begin to work. If they are false, every fabric of knowledge falls to pieces, for they are the general bonds of connection which hold it together, and only through them has our knowledge even the small extent of coherence which it now possesses. Such postulates are, the existence of oneself as a rational or thinking being; the existence of a world beyond one's personal consciousness, which is relatively permanent and independent, and to which other similar rational beings are similarly related; and the trustworthiness of those logical principles which lie at the basis of scientific reasoning. Traditionally these are called “laws of thought” or “necessities of thought”; but we can find a more pregnant designation when we compare the general activity of thought to the activity
of a living organic body. Then the intellectual postulates appear as the vital processes or functions—e.g., digestion, circulation, respiration—by which the life of the organism is preserved and its growth effected; they are the vital functions of thought. If it is true, on the one hand, that they are products of the very structure of our intelligence, and on the other hand, that the known world is always found to conform to them, or that it is always possible to interpret our physical experience by their means, then we should expect beforehand that both the individual and the social mind would be so framed as to accept them with perfect readiness, so that what we might call the mental line of least resistance, or least friction, would lie in the direction of their adoption as principles trustworthy to think by and reliable to act upon. We should expect to find them handed down by social inheritance - i.e., embedded in those social forces of spoken and written language, tradition, education, and so forth, by which the mental furniture of the individual mind is largely organised. Above all, there is the
fact that the most fundamental of the intellectual postulates are of such a character that without them not only the activity of intelligence, but even the existence of men in any organised social communities, would be impossible. Such considerations explain how, when these postulates are stated in the form of definite propositions, the mind at once accepts them as “self-evident truths,” whose “ opposite is inconceivable," or as “ultimate certainties,” according to the current modes of description. This we may call practical certainty; the whole mind, as at once intellectual, emotional, and active, is so framed that all men with the utmost readiness accept and act upon certain general propositions; and this is “common sense.” In the same way a great number of beliefs of a less general kind come to be “practical certainties,” and form part of our common intellectual instincts.
This kind of “practical certainty” is Newman's only test of truth. The settled conviction that we have hold of the truth and can give some reasons for it is sufficient evidence that we have hold of it in reality.
The test of firm belief, that we cannot think the opposite, he takes as the test of truth. And since what is once true is always true, this view involves the assumption that certitude is “indefectible," hence Newman is compelled to attempt a proof of this.
Take once more the case of the “laws of thought.”. The certitude with which we hold them is indefectible; this may be granted. But this alone is no rational evidence of their truth. Their real trustworthiness, as a means of interpreting our sense - experience and thereby obtaining scientific knowledge, can only arise from the fact that they belong to the framework of our intelligence, and therefore are postulates which must be granted if science is to exist and knowledge be possible. If they do not thus rest upon the nature of intelligence, sharing in the general authority of Reason, their practical certainty” affords the strongest support for total scepticism; this is demonstrated with perfect clearness in Hume's Treatise of Human Nature. If these habits of belief are not a deposit from experiences that have been moulded
by the structure of Reason, they are simply the product of non-rational forces, the inAuence of social custom and “authority.” This is Hume's conclusion. The true philosopher yields gracefully to impressions and maxims which he finds as a matter of fact have most sway over himself. “I maynay, I must—yield to the current of nature in submitting to my senses and understanding, and in this blind submission I show most perfectly my sceptical principles;" for, after all, “ if we believe that fire warms or that water refreshes, 'tis only because it costs us too much pains to think otherwise.” If, on the other hand, reason has a structure of its own, and our habits of belief are a deposit moulded by its informing activity, then the best inquiry into the foundations of Belief will be to investigate that structure as thoroughly as possible. The coercive force of the “habits of belief” and “certitudes” will be irrelevant, we need not appeal to their practical necessity.
With regard to the “ certitudes ” of a less general character which we are constantly forming, Newman is seriously embarrassed