Lectures on Philosophy

By Thomas Maguire















Preface

The following lectures are intended for Students in Logics and Ethics in Trinity College. They are all grounded on the fact familiar to anyone that understands Plato or Hegel, that all knowledge involves two opposite elements never separate, and always distinct. This is seldom seen even by professed mentalists. Until it is, Philosophy is impossible. The Student must cry νοῦν ἢ βρόχον.


Chapter I. Some Facts Relating to Perception

λόγου παντὸς ἀρχόμενον δοκέει μοι χρεὼν εἶναι τὴν ἀρχὴν ἀναμφισβήτητον παρέχεσθαι, τὴν δὲ ἑρμηνΐην ἁπλῆν. {"At the outset of every discourse, methinks, one should see to it that the basis laid down is unquestionable." – Diogenes of Sinope}

The Chair which I have the honour of holding takes its title from Moral Philosophy. None, however, of my predecessors have kept within the limits of ethical research, but have more or less indulged in metaphysical speculation. I shall deal similarly with my trust. For, even though usage were against such deviation, Moral Philosophy whether we regard it as the crowning result of all inquiry, or a mere branch of Natural History can, in my opinion, be safely approached only by the narrow track of Metaphysics.

This will be seen from the following considerations: Kant has told us there are three questions which Philosophy ought to answer:

What can I know?
What ought I to do?
What may I hope?

Professor Huxley, who is no mystic, points out that the answers to the two last resolve themselves into the answer to the first — What can I know? ‘For rational expectation and moral action are alike based upon beliefs; and a belief is void of justification unless its subject-matter lies between the boundaries of possible knowledge, and unless its evidence satisfies the conditions which experience imposes as the guarantee of credibility.’ – Hume, p. 48. It will also be seen from this that it is implied that there is, or ought to be, some criterion to distinguish truth from falsehood, mirage from reality.

This being so, the basis of the structure is not far to seek. Every system of philosophy rests ultimately on the theory it holds with regard to Perception. This is seen pre-eminently from the ancient Schools: Epicureans, Stoics, and Academics, who were nothing if not ethical, discuss minutely the rationale of Perception. The very word perception is a Stoic technicality older than Christianity. The facts and language of all other branches of knowledge, including Moral Philosophy, rest on the facts and language of Perception, and the facts of Perception may be [p3] dealt with largely, without absorption in the polemics of Ethics and Theology.

The difficulties which beset the giving a correct account of the state of our consciousness are so great, that professed thinkers, like Comte, and professional writers, like Dr. Maudsley, hold that introspection cannot yield materials for a scientific structure. On the other hand, G. H. Lewes has pointed out that internal states surpass external states in vividness; and a doctor, even though the extreme of scientists, would accept an intelligent patient’s account of what he felt the previous night. I ask no more, for I want no more. I shall accordingly in this Lecture consider the obvious facts of which the fact of Perception is made up, and point out their obvious consequences. I shall as much as possible avoid technicalities, and ask you merely to bear in mind the simplest description of being in this room at this moment. You are now here, and you can see the wall. You are accordingly in secure possession of complete and perfect consciousness. The importance of this fact will, I trust, be clear before I have done. Recollect, all I want is: you know you are here now, seeing colour or hearing sound. This state, as a whole, [p4] is termed consciousness, or mind, or knowledge, or experience; any of them will do; no pitfalls need be apprehended.

Consciousness is thus analyzed by Professor Huxley: —

‘When a red light flashes across this field of vision, there arises in the mind an "impression of sensation" — which we call red. It appears to me that this sensation, red, is a something which may exist altogether independently of any other impression, or idea, as an individual existence. It is perfectly conceivable that a sentient being should have no sense but vision, and that he should have spent his existence in absolute darkness, with the exception of one solitary flash of red light. That momentary illumination would suffice to give him the impression under consideration; and the whole content of his consciousness might be that impression; and, if he were endowed with memory, its idea.

‘Such being the state of affairs, suppose a second flash of red light to follow the first. If there were no memory of the latter, the state of the mind on the second occasion would simply be a repetition of that which occurred before. There would be merely another impression. [p5]

‘But suppose memory to exist, and that an idea of the first impression is generated; then, if the supposed sentient being were like ourselves, there might arise in his mind two altogether new impressions. The one is the feeling of the succession of the two impressions, the other is the feeling of their similarity.

‘Yet a third case is conceivable. Suppose two flashes of red light to occur together, then a third feeling might arise which is neither succession nor similarity, but that which we call coexistence.

‘These feelings, or their contraries, are the foundation of everything that we call a relation. They are no more capable of being described than sensations are; and, as it appears to me, they are as little susceptible of analysis into simpler elements. Like simple tastes and smells, or feelings of pleasure and pain, they are ultimate irresolvable facts of conscious experience; and, if we follow the principle of Hume’s nomenclature, they must be called impressions of relation. But it must be remembered, that they differ from the other impressions, in requiring the pre-existence of at least two of the latter. Though devoid of the slightest resemblance to [p6] the other impressions, they are, in a manner, generated by them. In fact, we may regard them as a kind of impressions of impressions; or as the sensations of an inner sense, which takes cognizance of the materials furnished to it by the outer senses’ (ib. pp. 68, 69).

We find thus two kinds of ingredients in our mature experience, sensations and their relations. As to the nature of sensations I shall again quote Professor Huxley: —

‘For example, I take up a marble, and I find it to be a red, round, hard, single body. We call the redness, the roundness, the hardness, and the singleness, "qualities" of the marble; and it sounds, at first, the height of absurdity to say that all these qualities are modes of our own consciousness, which cannot even be conceived to exist in the marble. But consider the redness, to begin with. How does the sensation of redness arise? The waves of a certain very attenuated matter, the particles of which are vibrating with vast rapidity, but with very different velocities, strike upon the marble, and those which vibrate with one particular velocity are thrown off from its surface in all directions. The optical apparatus of the eye gathers some of these together, and [p7] gives them such a course that they impinge upon the surface of the retina, which is a singularly delicate apparatus, connected with the termination of the fibres of the optic nerve. The impulses of the attenuated matter, or ether, affect this apparatus and the fibres of the optic nerve in a certain way; and the change in the fibres of the optic nerve produces yet other changes in the brain; and these, in some fashion unknown to us, give rise to the feeling, or consciousness, of redness. If the marble could remain unchanged, and either the rate of vibration of the ether, or the nature of the retina, could be altered, the marble would seem not red, but some other colour. There are many people who are what are called colour-blind, being unable to distinguish one colour from another. Such an one might declare our marble to be green; and he would be quite as right in saying that it is green, as we are in declaring it to be red. But then, as the marble cannot, in itself, be both green and red at the same time, this shows that the quality "redness" must be in our consciousness and not in the marble.

‘In like manner, it is easy to see that the roundness and the hardness are forms of our [p8] consciousness, belonging to the groups which we call sensations of sight and touch. If the surface very different notion of a round body from that which we possess now; and if the strength of the fabric, and the force of the muscles, of the body were increased a hundredfold, our marble would seem to be as soft as a pellet of bread crumbs …

‘But it may be said, the marble takes up a certain space which could not be occupied, at the same time, by anything else. In other words, the marble has the primary quality of matter, extension. Surely this quality must be in the thing, and not in our minds? But the reply must still be: whatever may, or may not, exist in the thing, all that we can know of these qualities is a state of consciousness. What we call extension is a consciousness of a relation between two, or more, affections of the sense of sight, or of touch. And it is wholly inconceivable that what we call extension should exist independently of such consciousness as our own’ (Descartes).

To our Berkeley is due the credit of having shown that sensation has no meaning except for a consciousness, just as x + y written on a wall has no meaning except for an intelligence. I do [p9] not ask you to accept all Berkeley’s conclusions; I am not discussing the rival claims of Collier, who stands to Berkeley much in the same light as Wallace does to Darwin, but the glory of Berkeley is ours; his common-place book shows that his philosophy was the direct product of his reading for Fellowship here. But this is a mere literary question. What I am concerned with is, one element of mature consciousness — sensation — is so far accounted for.

The other element, Relation, is not so easily disposed of. I shall accept, as above suspicion, Professor Huxley’s statement that ‘coexistence and succession are mental phenomena, not given in the mere sense-experience.’ Mr. James, of Harvard, is equally satisfactory. He holds that ‘the functions of comparison and memory are already at work in the first beginning of sensation, and that the simplest changes of sensation, moreover, involve consciousness of all the categories time, space, number, objectivity, causality.’ – Mind, xiii. p. 11, n. In fact, Mr. James ‘hopes that the reader will not understand him to profess adhesion to the old atomic doctrine of association, so thoroughly riddled of late by Professor Green.’ – ib. From these adverse [p10] admissions we may conclude that relations are non-sensational. In other words, that there is in sensation an element which is not sensation.

I recollect, when an undergraduate, hearing translated, amid scarcely suppressed laughter, the passage from the Phaedo, where of three men the second is shorter than the first and taller than the third. So in the Republic, the fourth finger is shorter than the middle and longer than the little. The point is this: in each case neither bulk nor pattern is altered, yet the second member in each set sustains opposite relations. Here Kant comes to the rescue. Kant has proved, once for all, that the element in experience which imposes relations comes from the understanding. Observe, I do not use the word in the specific sense of Kant, but as including the Categories and Forms, as I wish to avoid the mysticism which clings to the word Form. Kant has proved this in the best possible way — by showing that without the formal elements the sensational datum would be unintelligible. Here is the leading passage on the point. I give it from Mr. Mahaffy’s translation: —

‘The pure concepts of the understanding, if they quit objects of experience and would [p11] refer to things in themselves (noumena), have no signification whatever. They serve, as it were, only to spell phenomena, that we may be able to read them as experience; the principles which arise from their reference to the sensible world only serve our understanding for empirical use. Beyond this they are arbitrary combinations, without objective reality, and we can neither cognise their possibility a priori, nor verify their reference to objects, or make it intelligible by any example; because examples can only be borrowed from some possible experience, consequently the objects of these concepts can be found nowhere but in a possible experience.

‘This complete (though to its originator unexpected) solution of Hume’s problem preserves therefore to the pure concepts of the understanding their a priori origin, and to the universal laws of nature their validity, as laws of the understanding, yet so that their use is limited to experience, because their possibility depends solely on the reference of the understanding to experience; but not by deriving them from experience, but by deriving it from them, a completely reversed mode of connexion which never occurred to Hume’ (Kant, Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics 31). [p12]

But Kant’s doctrine must be taken with an express proviso. Kant was misled by Locke’s doctrine that simple ideas were the lowest terms of consciousness — what he calls ‘the original,’ a word which has been pertinaciously confounded with ‘origin’ by Cousin, Mill, and others. Were it not that the sensibility is stimulated by the thing in itself, nothing could save Kant from the merest subjective Idealism. But it will be seen on consideration that both Locke and Kant were misled by that object of Hegel’s immortal hate, Abstraction. Each of them considered that there was a minimum sensibile which was manipulated by the understanding — Kant more, and Locke less. But the true account of the matter is, that there is no separate sensation; each sensation is the result of certain relations, which relations remaining the same, the sensation remains the same. And so of all sensations. The sensation, therefore, as it may be the result of anything, may be objective. According to Locke and Kant, it can only be subjective, and cannot be objective in any sense worth talking about.

And now to my task. One of the oldest descriptions of perception is about the best. It is that of Aristotle. Aristotle’s statement is, [p13] αἰσθάνεσθαί γε ἀναγκαῖον τόδε τι καὶ ποὺ καὶ νῦν. (Posterior Analytics I. xxxi., i.) That is, we perceive the present somewhat as both somewhere and now. As to τόδε, I may remark that the particle δὲ always implies a μὲν somewhere, expressed or understood; so τόδε means this blank which is opposed to, but connected with, the speaker. Hence, τόδε is anything before me, and it is presented as both somewhere and now. Both Somewhere and Now is my text, and I hope to show you that there is something in it.

Ποὺ — somewhere — denotes a point in space where the corners of blocks of dimension meet the junction of solid right angles. Now Space is not limited or bounded by any other space. Mill’s notion, that a piece of music might be imagined as ending space, would only prove that the music distracted our attention from the endless addibility of space; just as a square in Euclid to a person of extravagant imagination might suggest a band. The parts of space are outside each other, and the objects in space are outside each other. That is, the parts and their contents are related to each other in the way of outsidedness. But they could not be outside each other if they were not equally related to a [p14] subject to which they are not outside a subject of which outsidedness to anything is not a possible attribute; which by its synthetic action constitutes that relation, but is not determined by it. Space is thus grasped as one, and as such is an object only to a Mind. Now the mind which has the whole of space for its object, in other words, so far as it is a subject for space, is not space, and therefore not in space in any way, not even as a point. It is therefore spaceless.

So of Now — the present. Now is a score in time — puncto tempore, as Lucretius says — and time is given us though a series. The Now has the past on the one side and the future on the other. But Time is not limited or bounded by any time, and ‘the relation of events to each other as in Time implies their equal presence to a subject which is not in Time.’ So, as before, Time is one whole, which is an object for a subject. That subject, consequently, which has the whole of time for its object, cannot be itself in time, and so is timeless.

I must point out that I do not require any mysticism with regard to Space and Time. All that is asked is what any intelligent child can see, viz., that space does not end space, or time end time. [p15]

Once more; take any series. A series has no meaning except for a subject which is not a series. The members of every series must be regarded as simultaneous, that is, as a whole. If there is a relation between A and B — even a relation of succession — A and B, while in relation, must be simultaneous. James Mill, who is no mystic, allows that a succession of feelings is very different from a feeling of succession. Aristotle has pointed out that time is not of the essence of geometrical demonstration. John Mill admits — an admission which is fatal to his philosophy — that the mind is something more than a series, or that it is a series which takes cognizance of itself. This latter view is an absurdity. The parts of a series must be held simultaneously, and that which holds several things simultaneously cannot keep dropping them successively. That thing, which clamps a series, is not a series.

But if the subject, quâ subject, is not in space nor in time, and is not a series, Materialism is cut up by the roots. It seeks to explain that which must be non-extended by that which is extended, while that which is extended has no meaning except for that which is non-extended. [p16] Materialism is thus in the strictest sense a hysteron-proteron — the cart before the horse.

What, then, is the immaterial subject? Kant, I will be told, has proved it to be a mere logical subject, and no substance. But here again Kant corrupts the youth. Kant took the common Logic as the type to which Metaphysic structure was to conform. There is a subject in Logic, so there must be a subject in Metaphysics. The ego, therefore, must be thinned down to a logical subject. But if we take substance to mean that which is steadfast amid change — the one among the many — the ego is most surely a substance; and it not only is steadfast, but sees itself to be steadfast amid change. Call it what you will — Mind — Soul — Spirit — the immaterial subject is as much a matter of fact as this desk before me. In one sense it is more so, if the expression be allowed; for without some subject the facts of common-sense and of science can have no existence. The subject, then, to use Plato’s test, being compared with the object, is πρότερον φύσει, prior in substantive order.

I shall recapitulate in Professor Green’s own words: —

‘If by nature we mean the object of possible [p17] experience, the connected order of knowable facts or phenomena — and this is what our men of science mean by it when they trace the natural genesis of human character — then nature implies something other than itself as the condition of its being what it is. Of that something else we are entitled to say positively that it is a self-distinguishing consciousness, because the function which it must fulfill in order to render the relations of phenomena, and with them nature, possible is one which, on however limited a scale, we ourselves exercise in the acquisition of experience, and exercise only by means of such a consciousness. We are further entitled to say of it, negatively, that the relations by which, through its action, phenomena are determined are not relations of it — not relations by which it is itself determined. They arise out of its presence to phenomena, or the presence of phenomena to it; but the very condition of their thus arising is that the unifying consciousness which constitutes them should not itself be one of the objects so related. The relation of events to each other as in time implies their equal presence to a subject which is not in time. There could be no such thing as time if there were not a self-consciousness which [p18] is not in time. As little could there be a relation of objects as outside each other, or in space, if they were not equally related to a subject which they are not outside; a subject of which outsideness to anything is not a possible attribute; which by its synthetic action constitutes that relation but is not itself determined by it. The same is true of those relations which we are apt to treat as independent entities under the names matter and motion. They are relations existing for a consciousness which they do not so condition as that it should itself either move or be material’ (Prolegomena to Ethics, pp. 54, 55).

If a second coup-de-grace be not a contradiction, it is easily given. The follower of Hume denies causation; causation is only sequence. The relation then, if any, which subsists between sensation and memories will be, on their own showing, one of sequence only. This is stated by Professor Huxley with his usual clearness: —

‘If we analyze the proposition that all mental phenomena are the effects of products of material phenomena, all that it means amounts to this — that whenever those states of consciousness which we call sensation, or emotion, or thought, come into existence, complete investigation [p19] will show good reason for the belief that they are preceded by those other phenomena of consciousness to which we give the names of matter and motion. All material changes appear, in the long run, to be modes of motion; but our knowledge of motion is nothing but that of a change in the place and order of our sensations; just as our knowledge of matter is restricted to those feelings of which we assume it to be the cause’ (Hume, pp. 80, 81).

If this be so, extension and motion would accompany thought, and thought certain extension and motion. So clear is this, that George Henry Lewes to avoid it flies in the face of Hume by proclaiming that there is a nexus between cause and effect, and the very best nexus too, that of identity. But if Hume’s view be sound, there cannot be even sequence, for sequence implies a permanence past which it moves. A march past passes something. The universe is not even a rope of sand. A rope implies some continuity; there is none for you. Sand implies cohesion: cohesion is an absurdity.

In a word, Professor Green has shown forever, that without substance and cause Hume’s Philosophy is impossible, and with them untrue. [p20] I need hardly remind you that to suppress Substance and Cause is the motive of Hume’s Philosophy.

Of course I am prepared to be told that I have ignored the relativity of knowledge. Let us hear Frederic Harrison: —

‘The truly relative conception of knowledge should make us habitually feel that our physical science, our laws and discoveries in Nature, are all imaginative creations — poems, in fact — which strictly correspond within the limited range of phenomena we have before us, but which we never can know to be the real modes of any external being. We have really no ground whatever for believing that these our theories are the ultimate and real scheme on which an external world (if there be one) works, nor that the external world objectively possesses that organized order which we call science. For all that we know to the contrary, man is the creator of the order and harmony of the universe, for he has imagined it.’

So Shadworth Hodgson: ‘From the vanity of speculation there is no refuge but in acquiescing in its relative nature, and accepting truth for what it is.’ And a friend of mine put it thus to me in [p21] conversation: ‘Hegel’s Philosophy is, no doubt, a very fine thing, but Hegel’s Philosophy is as relative to Hegel as Sambo’s would be to Sambo.’

Now the relativity of knowledge means two very different things. In one sense, it is an eternal truth in every meaning of the word. In the other, it is a quibble which would be rejected in a burlesque.

In the first sense, it means that there is no abstract knowledge. Knowledge does not fall in masses, like aerolites from the sky. Knowledge is an expression of the relation which must prevail between subject and object — someone to know, and something to be known. In this sense the one term implies the other, and one no more exists without the other than one end of a stick. In this sense, the subject is no more modified by the object than the concave is oppressed by the convex.

But what the objectors mean is, that the object is altered by the subject. At least, altered so far, that we are hopelessly immured within our own ideas.

In this other sense, which is the bulwark of agnosticism, Relativity was formulated by Protagoras — homo mensura — man is the measure of all things. {πάντων χρημάτων ἄνθρωπον μέτρον εἶναι. Plato, Theaetus 160d.} [p22] Variety of taste is proverbial, as well as variety of habits — savage and civilized. The straight stick bent in the pool, and the pigeon’s neck, are more than familiar. ‘Seeing the signal wrong,’ is stereotyped, and ‘the eye looks squarely.’ Dreams are true to the dreamer, and may act on others, as when a dreamer upsets a candle and fires a town. Helmholtz wishes to show that geometrical axioms must vary according to the kind of space inhabited. And the truths which such statements contain have been systematized as follows: —

Most writers hold that there are, prior to our consciousness, two things — a subject and an object — not correlatives, as explained above, like concave and convex, but physically and numerically as distinct as the man that bowls and the man that bats. These two things next affect each other, and the result is consciousness, i.e. all we know or may know. To the whole, consciousness, the one factor, the subject, contributes so largely, and its contributions so disfigure the contributions of the object, that we cannot possibly tell how much is due to either — we cannot appropriate the items. We may imagine what we please, but we cannot [p23] possibly know what it is that brings subject and object into connexion, and so the only resource is either agnosticism or blind belief.

The old theory of the interaction of the two Entities was mechanical. Locke, for instance, in the Essay Concerning Human Understanding tells us bodies act on us by impulse; and this was the view of the Epicureans. As Professor Caird has pointed out, the impulse theory is a circle; the process is material because the object is material; and the object is material because the process is material. One of my predecessors, Professor Abbott, has shown in Hermathena, that Locke held that our ideas accompanied certain movements in the body by the will of God. In other words, Locke’s theory is a kind of Pre-established Harmony or analogy. But the mechanical theory gradually has given way to what may be called the chemical, that is, that the new compound generated by the interaction of the two elements is all we know. The curtain is the picture. Behind the curtain either there is something unknown or unknowable; or there may be something, although we have no particular reason for believing that there is; or there may be nothing.

These various theories, all of which agree in [p24] maintaining that we only know the resultant, or the quasi-resultant, are generally coupled with the doctrine formulated by Heraclitus, of perpetual flux, a notion which is confounded with certain physical theories, such as what Mr. Barlow calls the Ultimatum of Physics — the swing of infinitesimal atoms. This would make no practical difference in psychology; what Brown would call a state, we should now call an aspect of oscillation; but the veil would be unlifted still.

Physiology, as popularly understood, appears to confirm this view. In this way: — in place of the common-sense objects which we talk of hearing and seeing, physiology is supposed to teach that the last-known antecedent in sensation is a certain state of the nervous system. Hence, when I say I see the moon, I really am affected by a state of my own nervous system, though that system may be, and is, stimulated into action by light, which is finally en rapport with the solid moon. Helmholtz shows that the object of perception is a great deal more than the actual stimulus. In fact Helmholtz has been hailed by the Kantians as an ally. They allege him to have given an experimental proof that there are a priori elements in the object. To this [p25] the ultra sensationists reply, that Helmholtz has only proved that the object is mainly built up of absent sensations. But it is all one. In sensation they include relation, and they must include it, as without relation even chaos is impossible. Helmholtz’s view is really all in favour of the anti-materialistic position that consciousness in perception is an integral whole — that is, it consists of relations which are unalterable.

But what does physiology really say? My friend, Professor Cleland, in his lecture on the relation of Brain to Mind, states that, ‘so far as is at present known, a nervous system has no constant connexion with anything of the nature of consciousness; nor for its completeness as a physical mechanism does it seem necessary that it should.’ His conclusion is remarkable: —

‘Has, then, the energy the conservation of which has become one of the greatest laws for the physicist a larger circuit here than the mere material universe? That is a startling question to present itself; but once presented, I see no escape from answering it in the affirmative. It does not seem to have generally occurred to thinkers to track sufficiently in detail the steps, physical and mental, from the stimulation of a sense-organ to the [p26] operations of mind and brain consequent on sensation, so as to see that there is a transition-point where such a question is inevitable. But the inexorable question having been raised, there are only two alternatives: — at this transition-point, either the physical results of the action in the nerve-cells amount to the same sum as they would in the case of the same action in cells unconnected with the mind, or they amount to a smaller sum: if to the same sum, then the change in the mind is a something which, while brought about by physical energy, is yet additional to the constant quantity, and to that extent transgresses the physicist’s law in a region external to his domain; if to a smaller sum, then the difference is transformed from physical to psychical energy, and the bridge looms vaguely between the physicist’s and that other territory. But it is difficult to imagine that the former alternative can be true, seeing that at any moment, without change of external circumstances, the volition can initiate physical operations leading to movements of the body, and similarly can stop the same, and must, therefore, start the brain-changes which are its own necessary accompaniment.

‘According to the reading of the mechanism of sensation to which [p27] this argument forces me, and which I put forward with all the diffidence which so startling a result suggests, a certain minute amount of energy in the production of sensation quits the physical for the psychical world, instantaneously to return again in the excitation effected by the sentient mind on the substance of the brain. While, as already said, the statement that thought is a form of physical energy cannot possibly convey any meaning, it is not only possible, but apparently necessary to admit that thought and physical energy are mutually convertible; nor will this statement long continue after all, perhaps, to wear a startling aspect to those who grasp that Spirit is the one substratum of everything.

‘It must also be observed that as soon as it is appreciated that mental action is either prior or subsequent to the physical change with which it is immediately associated, the important admission must follow that there is an element of mental existence independent of the body, namely, that on which the nerve-change acts in the case of sensation, and from which that volition comes whose action is linked with the brain. In that sphere, and not in the shape of potential vibrations laid past in nerve-cells, I believe it is that [p28] latent memories are stored; and I know not how much else there may be within it’ (Relation of Brain to Mind).

If this be so, ‘the production of sensation’ means that the physical antecedent and the psychical consequent are united in the causal nexus.

There is another argument which seems to favour the relativity of knowledge. Take the case put by Brown. If we were all always blind, astronomy would be a kind of chemistry; we should find that at certain seasons the temperature altered. Suppose such beings suddenly endowed with sight. What I say is, that no access of knowledge, however great it be, will ever supersede anything but theory. Newton supersedes Ptolemy; that is, he supersedes Ptolemy’s theories, but he cannot supersede Ptolemy’s facts. As another of my predecessors, Dr. MacIvor, has put it: a child, a man, and an angel may join in the same prayer without the superior knowledge of the man nullifying the thoughts of the child, and so of the angel.

Plato has, in my opinion, given a truer account of the progress of knowledge than most of the moderns; we see more and more of the universe through the medium of the senses, but in the progress of [p29] knowledge the data of the senses become of an importance that lessens with every step. In a word, we see better and better that the universe consists of relations. Relations are unalterable. The relation of the dream to the dreamer is as true as the relation of the Newtonian system to the material cosmos. ‘Seeing a signal wrong’ is as scientific and philosophical as seeing it right; but the right seeing has in itself wider relations. So, Newtonianism has wider relations than dreaming. Fuller knowledge will always compel us to alter the theories we build upon a limited basis, but it is the theory only will be altered, not the basis, without which it could not have been built.

With Hutchison Sterling, I do not believe that what I call a piece of wire may be a leech to an inhabitant of the moon. I know less about iron than some present, but the relations which constitute my knowledge of iron will be part of the notion iron to Omniscience. The variety of moral judgments only proves that the same overt act has more relations than one, and the geometers of different kinds of space must see the relations appropriate to the particular space in which they move. The familiar jingle, that the Infinite alone can know the [p30] infinite, amounts to this, and to this only, that as any one thing is related to everything else, Omniscience alone knows everything, while we know but a small fraction, but the fraction is part and parcel of what Omniscience knows. In other words, we know some of the relations which constitute the object for Omniscience, and we know them as universal and necessary. It is the unalterableness of relations that gives support to physical science; it is this that, to use Professor James’s graphic image, enables her ‘to hump her strong back’ against the phantoms around her.

It is the unalterableness of relations that explains why we credit a single experiment, and gives meaning to the conservation of Force and to Causality. Physical science postulates the uniformity of relations, and is therefore justified in taking for granted the constant element. A billiard-player does not weigh the ball after each stroke, because the weight does not vary; but card-players use fresh packs. It is rather ungrateful, then, on the part of certain Physicists to turn round and deny the postulates by which they work. Professor James, who is never dull, tells us the transcendental-ego-business is like interrupting a geographer by [p31] telling him every five minutes that he forgets to talk about Space. The reply is at hand: the geographer ought not to be interrupted until he denies the existence of space, or says he knows nothing about it. It is the unalterableness of relations that gives us as a fact at this moment the universe that crushes the materialist and the agnostic. So far as the materialist and the agnostic argue, they work with relations. Now, Subject and Object are abstractions from the integral whole consciousness: they are the widest relations of the universe; but to suppose that one acts in any way on the other is as absurd as if a geographer taught that the earth was the joint production of the North and South Poles. But, because our knowledge consists of relations, for that reason, to call our knowledge relative is a dull pun.

Herbert Spencer attempts to explain what Kant calls the a priori portion of consciousness by heredity. According to Spencer and his followers, the experience we ourselves acquire is variable; but the experience transmitted by innumerable ages of ancestry —human and otherwise — is invariable, that is, necessary. This might account for the persistence or obtrusiveness [p32] of notions, just as a hypochondriac cannot help fancying himself a parrot or an hour-glass. But this is not Kant’s necessity. Necessity to Kant means not only that we have the idea as a matter of fact, but that as a part and parcel of the idea we see that it could not be otherwise. It is not our having, but its being, that is concerned. In a word, Spencer does not account for constitutive necessity, i.e. the cognizance of the unalterableness of relations. In short, the relativity of knowledge, in the sense in which it is used to support agnosticism, is an absurdity. It is an attempt to account for the whole by something outside the whole. We can show the relation of parts to parts, but to suppose we can thus deal with the whole is a fallacy of composition. It is well put by Professor Caird: —

‘To proceed from sense to consciousness, and to explain consciousness by sense, is a gigantic hysteron-proteron; for it is only in relation to consciousness that sense, like every other object, becomes intelligible. And in the same way, to explain time and space psychologically or physiologically, is to explain them by phenomena which are known only under conditions of time and space. The "physiologist of mind" who [p33] asserts that mind is essentially a function of the material organism, may be fairly met by the objection of Kant that his explanation is transcendent. To go beyond the intelligence to explain the intelligence, is to cut away the ground on which we ourselves are standing. So, again, when the psychologist applies the law of association to the genesis of mind, he is obliged to presuppose a fixed and definite world of objects acting under conditions of space and time upon the sensitive subject, in order by this means to explain how the ideas of the world and of himself may be awakened in that subject And this is to suppose that the world exists, as it can exist only to mind, before the process whereby associations are produced. The necessity, which is at the basis of our consciousness of objects, is thus interpreted as the result of the repeated actions of these objects upon the subject; or, in other words, the theory is stated in terms of the consciousness it pretends to explain. Nor is the theory improved, as an ultimate explanation of the intelligence and the intelligible world, when the process of association is protracted, as it is by Mr. Spenser and others, through an indefinite series of generations, or even when the present [p34] consciousness of men is regarded as the result of a gradual adaptation of a race of the animals to its circumstances, and which has been going on for millions of ages. If it were proved tomorrow that man is developed from an Ascidian ancestor, it would still remain certain that the consciousness which makes us men is independent of time and development; and the Darwinian theory, like every other intelligible view of things, presupposes time and space, and all the forms of thought that are necessary to an intelligible experience’ (Kant, pp. 398-9).

The history of consciousness is another absurdity. Here, again, Professor Caird puts the point clearly: —

‘Observation of the genesis of knowledge or, what is the same thing, observation by the mind of its own genesis, is the crowning absurdity of speculation: for there is nothing to observe, unless the observer puts his own developed consciousness in the place of the undeveloped consciousness he is observing. And if he does thus introduce his developed consciousness, all he can possibly examine is the reciprocal dependence of its elements. He cannot possibly trace back knowledge to faculties or elements, which have a [p35] character independent of their relation in knowledge. We have no standing-ground outside of the universe of thought, from which we can determine the factors that produce it. ‘The mind is its own place,’ its place includes everything knowable, and, therefore, as no one did more than Kant to show, it is impossible to explain it by going out of itself’ (Kant, p. 374).

Yet the genesis of consciousness receives apparent support from Natural History. Here we have more or less complex specimens of animality existing side by side. But it must not be forgotten that an animal is in the popular sense of the word an individual. We cannot find a sensation by itself as we do a jelly-fish on the shore. But even in Natural History, G. H. Lewes observes, ‘it is clear that we should never rightly understand vital phenomena were we to begin our study of Life by contemplating its simplest manifestations in the animal series; we can only understand the Amoeba and the Polypus by a light reflected from the study of man’ (Study of Psychology, p. 94).

Mr. T. Davidson, in my opinion, rightly points out the weak point in Locke’s Essay.

‘Unfortunately, however, he adopted an utterly [p36] false method of procedure, and one which the experience of ages might have shown him was futile. Instead of taking one act of knowledge and placing it under his mental microscope or in his mental crucible, he began in the old way with what, without any authority, he assumed to be the factors of knowledge, and tried to see whether he could not, by making these unite or interpenetrate, produce perception and knowledge. These factors were not only fully organized products of the very act he was trying to explain, but they were the results of one unacknowledged and most incorrect dismemberment of that act. In other words, Locke, instead of analyzing thought to find out its factors, undertook to construct thought out of what, without scientific analysis, he supposed to be its factors. It was just as if, in order to find out the nature of wine, he had said to himself: "Wine is a red liquid; led me see how water and red ink must be put together in order to make wine." He said: "Knowledge is the effect produced upon a sensitive tablet partly by external things and partly by itself. Let me see how this effect is produced." How it was produced he never did see and never could see, and his conclusion was: Knowledge is made up of [p37] ideas of sensation and ideas of reflection’ (Mind, October 1882).

This states the case too favourably for Locke. For it is easy to procure a jug of water and a bottle of red ink — each of them distinct — but we cannot obtain sensation or reflexion in separate vessels; we cannot bring them together; and if we could they would produce nothing. They are the creatures of abstraction. My illustration would be, Locke tried to make wine by combining redness and fluidity.

The condemnation of Locke carries the condemnation of all psychology — that is, as a basis for philosophy. In other words, the student of philosophy may pass at once from Plato to Hegel. Have, then, Aristotle, the Stoics, the Schoolmen, and the modern psychologists, from Descartes to Spencer, lived in vain? Not at all. They have thrown light on the natural history of man — a process which involves time. When I was a child I spoke as a child. Such is everyone’s experience. If the earth was once an incandescent mass, it is clear that the first organism was posterior to that incandescence. The scientist, or quasi-scientist — not science — hereon waxes jubilant. You must admit there [p38] was a time when you did not exist. But this is the old confusion between a series and a knowledge of that series. A series is relation to a consciousness only, and the cognizance of that series is consciousness. The terms of any and every relation must be simultaneous. No one term is before the other or behind it.

In a word, ‘an animal organism which has its history in time gradually becomes the vehicle of an eternally complete consciousness.’ Consciousness itself can have no history, for consciousness is the universe. The vehicle of consciousness — the nervous system — has a history, but that history presupposes the consciousness, which must be non-temporal and non-serial, that is, eternal and immutable. The immutable, in the act of consciousness, incorporates the series, and, in the act, the series becomes simultaneous, not in the chill of petrification, but in the clear expanse of higher being. Why the mutable coexists with the immutable requires no explanation; if we mean by an explanation of the universe — a part outside the whole. The Hegelian explanation is really an analysis of the universe itself: it makes explicit what is implicit in thought. Plato’s surpassing genius has shown by his formula that [p39] the universe is one and many. Physical science, or natural history, points out various relations between parts of the Many, but they presuppose the One. Thus Huxley’s imaginary being sees the vivid flash against a background of darkness — that is, he has space, time, and a series — a complete consciousness, always if, and only if, he views it as a whole.

If he views it as a whole. That is, if it is the spontaneous consciousness of man — the same in the negro as in Hegel. Of the consciousness of animals we know little; G. H. Lewes has given excellent reasons against appealing to the psychology of lower organisms (Study of Psychology, pp. 91-99). He then asks, Has the dog a priori Forms? On Kantian principles, the answer is easy: the dog may know distance between two objects, and yet have no idea of space, as necessary and universal. But the point is quite immaterial. The organism of the dog approaches the organism of man, but is far inferior to it as a medium for the inspection of the universe. Both organisms — of man and dog — find their place in the universe of which they are part — of that universe which dimly discloses itself to man. The human organism may be the first [p40] instrument which reveals the universe as a whole, and the inferior organism may be the specimens of the more rudimentary vehicle. They may be as Galileo’s optic tube is to its most modern descendant. Be this so or not, the universe reveals itself to man as a whole. And that is all I require.

With the answer to one objection I will conclude. Surely, it will be said, thought does not make fact; thought conforms to fact, but fact does not conform to thought. Is it not, as was actually said to Hutchison Sterling, — nonsense to say that granite is thought? In one sense, the man that used the strong language is right — the stimulus is not the nervous system. But the universe, of which the nervous system is the vehicle, and the block of granite is a part, is essentially thought. For this reason: Nature is a process of continual change, and as such is relative in the true sense of the word to something not a — series to a subject to the spirit. We know even now that the universe is a whole, but to know it in its wholeness requires omniscience — to know as we are known.

One sentence, and I have done. What I wish to convey is, that the statement that this page is [p41] now before me contains that which, in the most literal sense, inverts the position of the Materialist, puts physical science in her proper place, and forces the agnostic from the solitude of his own reflexions into the larger world he professes to ignore.

Appendix

The Rev. W. Hayden

This Lecture has been criticized by the Rev. W. Hayden. (Professor Maguire on Perception. By the Rev. W. Hayden, S. J., Dublin. M. H. Gill & Son. 1883.) I have been told that until the publication of his Criticism Mr. Hayden’s friends were unaware of his capacity for metaphysics. Their last state calls trumpet-tongued for sympathy.

1. Mr. Hayden’s title-page is misleading. I did not lecture on Perception, but on some facts the simplest of Perception. Any fact will do. Mr. Hayden’s title-page will serve my purpose as well as the morning stars singing for joy. From this fact or facts I deduce inferences as to the nature of the Universe. Mr. Hayden dwells on the psychology of the process, and imagines it concerns me. I might as well take his title-page, and give a lecture on paper-making and printing.

2. Mr. Hayden, still harping on psychology, mourns over my ‘tacit approval’ and my ‘frank acceptance’ of Professor Huxley’s doctrine, p. 12. I quoted Professor Huxley as ‘above suspicion,’ because anyone must see that Professor Huxley’s statement would not err on the side of transcendentalism. So I quote Professor James. That is, I take the statement that is likely to be most adverse to my conclusions, and from them draw my own conclusions, all the same. It [p42] used to be considered that there was some logic in the verse, ‘Out of thy own mouth I judge thee, thou wicked servant.’

3. Mr. Hayden tells us that ‘when a vessel floats upon the water, the water has to it the relation of outsidedness, independently of the mind,’ p. 13. If Mr. Hayden means by ‘the mind’ some particular individual, say himself, he is quite right; but this is psychology da capo. If, on the other hand, Mr. Hayden means ‘all mind,’ the position is atheistical. The members of the Society to which Mr. Hayden belongs are remarkable for what is called in theatrical circles ‘quick change.’ The supernumerary, who impressed us in one scene with his gravity as a cardinal, in the next is dancing with all the verve of a man-of-war’s man. But I believe this is the first time on which an ecclesiastic figures as an atheist. Aquinas teaches that the First Matter was created (Summa I., XLIV. ii.). The note is instructive ‘Ex hoc articulo refelluntur omnes haeretici qui voluerunt materiam a Deo factam non esse’ (vol. i., p. 382, ed. Paris, 1882). It may be alleged that Plato held that Matter was coeternal. This view is founded on a misconception of the Timaeus, which the old Academy rightly compared to a diagram (Aristotle, De Caelo, 279, b 32; Simplicius 488, b 15); what we call an allegorical description. Aquinas says the creation of the prima materia is by emanation, ‘a quâ quidem emanatione nee materia excluditur’ (Summa I. XLIV. ii.). Emanation is of course Neo-Platonic (Plotinus, Enneads III. 8, 9); though with the Neo-Platonists it is plainly metaphorical, and is only one amongst other metaphors. Their emanation has nothing to do with time, (Plotinus, Enneads V. i. 6). Aquinas holds that in ex nihilo fieri, ex denotes order only (Summa XLV. i.), apparently order in time, for the illustration is ex mane fit meridies.

4. In p. 14 Mr. Hayden takes Plato’s πρότεπον φύσει, as referring to design, whereas it, as Aristotle tells us (Metaphysics A. xi.), refers to logical order. But logical order is for Plato, and all philosophers, not psychologists, the highest law. In a word, if we have nothing but psychology, we can only escape temporarily from materialism by shrinking into subjective idealism.

Top ↑


Chapter II. The Will: In Reference to
Dr. Henry Maudsley’s ‘Body and Will’

The year which has passed since I first addressed you has been, I rejoice to say, fruitful in philosophy. Besides many treatises on the doctrines of Kant, one by our Professor Abbott, we have had the Prolegomena Ethica of the late Professor Green; a treatise on Logic by his editor, Mr. Bradley, and a notable volume of Essays by various writers, under the auspices of Professor Caird. But we have something more comforting still. Professor Robertson, in this year’s volume of Mind, laments that Psychology has not fulfilled the expectations of her admirers, and Mr. James Ward, of Cambridge, has in the same journal endeavoured to reconcile the respective claims of Psychology and Philosophy — an effort which can have only one result. And, amongst other events, ‘the friends of Ideas’ must congratulate themselves on the appointment of Mr. Wallace — the translator [p44] of Hegel to the Whyte’s Chair of Moral Philosophy in Oxford; and the appearance in Mind of Hutchison Sterling, the Scholarch of Thought wherever English is spoken, is ample warrant that Empiricism will not have it all its own way in the London Journal of Psychology. And the present year has given us the first volume of the works of St. Thomas Aquinas, with the sanction of His Holiness the present Pope, Leo XIII, who has authorized the teaching of Thomism in the colleges. The effects of the revival of Scholasticism cannot be overrated. The present age is devoted to the philosophy and science of Becoming, while the Schoolmen have elaborated what we want most — the philosophy of Being, and the study of Aristotle must involve that of Plato. The gain to Philosophy is sure.

But Empiricism dies hard. Dr. H. Maudsley, in his Body and Will, has made a systematic attack on the spiritual side of Human Nature; and it is the metaphysics of his book which I propose to examine in this day’s lecture. I hasten to add that Dr. Maudsley’s professional experience and position lend an interest to the argument, which is the result of ten years’ lectures and addresses; and as he declares, in his Preface, that his Essay will not [p45] be in vain, if it serve to bring home to mental philosophers the necessity of taking account of certain facts, the ‘mental philosopher’ is justified in dealing with the same facts from his own point of view — that is to say, in discussing Dr. Maudsley’s argument, we need not fear being warned off the preserve of the specialist. The book is written for our good. In that spirit let us accept it.

Dr. Maudsley’s Essay* is divided into three parts — Will in its metaphysical aspects; Will in its physiological, social, and evolutional relations; and Will in its pathological relations. It is with the first part chiefly I propose to deal. No one questions Dr. Maudsley’s full competence to handle the physiology or the pathology of the question.

(*Body and Will, being an essay concerning Will in its metaphysical, physiological, and pathological aspects, by Henry Maudsley, M.D. London: Kegan Paul. 1883.)

First, to show my own views: — In the first lecture which I gave here on Perception, the argument is brief: That, to which all space, all time, and all series are wholes, cannot be itself spatial, temporal, or serial; but as, in comprising Space, Time, and Series as wholes, it eo ipso [p46] distinguishes itself as self self is immaterial or spiritual. Mind, accordingly, is that which cognises itself; while Nature — the series — has no self; it only exists as object in relation to subject — to Mind.

To translate this into the language of action: the agent as acting, or will, is not the serial into which his act deploys. But, so far as his will is not serial, his will is not subject to the serial law of antecedence and consequence. His will is so far free of that law, and so far free. That is briefly: the non-empirical portion of man is not empirical; therefore free from empirical incidents. This may be called the metaphysical or transcendental freedom of man.

This is the only question for the Metaphysician. Does Sequence cover the whole field of thought, or is it merely an abstraction which cannot exist by itself? Is it only in Alice’s Wonderland that the grin exists without the cat?

Nearly twenty years ago, I pointed out that the question was embarrassed by metaphor — the pest of metaphysics. The statement ran thus: —

‘Two Idola Theatri — notions out of place have mainly, if not wholly, caused the prevalent confusion. These Idola are the legal notion of Freedom [p47] in at least two different senses, and the mechanical notion of Impulse; and this latter has gradually widened into the more general notion of Physical Causation.

‘For the legal metaphor Plato has paved the way. The Republic is one long comparison of the Individual to the Body Politic. Plato, besides, describes the soul of the tyrant — the vicious man — as filled with the very essence of slavery. Hence, the comparison of virtue to freedom was natural.

‘The significations of the word free which bear on the present question are two. The first denotes the condition of the Slave as opposed to that of the Free Man. The second denotes mere exemption from penalties, either at the hands of the State, or of the individual.

‘The term freedom in the first sense connoted the following notions, all of which are excluded from the term servitude. The law looked on the Freeman as the ultimate root and source of certain proceedings of which it took cognizance, and which it accordingly imputed to him. The Slave, on the other hand, had no locus standi; he was held to be the mere conduit of his master’s intentions. Even when the Slave fell under the power of the State, his master’s intention was either expressed or [p48] presumed. His master handed him over to the public authority. Freedom, therefore, in this sense, denotes merely the imputability of actions; and the metaphor, so restricted, is harmless enough. But no system of ethics, not even extreme necessitarianism, denies the ethical imputability of actions to the agent. What the extreme necessitarian denies is the justice of legal punishment, and not the moral reference of the action to the agent, with its moral consequences of praise and blame.

‘But freedom has another signification. Every law is really an alternative. Every law says, “Do or suffer,” “Forbear or suffer.” Now, the Sovereign is subject to no alternatives. Every moment of the Slave’s wretched life is subject to alternatives, either positive or negative, which emanate from his master’s caprice. The Freeman has, at least, some portion of his time unbroken by positive alternatives. But, as the Slave generally obeys the command, and escapes the penalty, extrinsic influence is the prominent portion of the notion slavery. The Slave is not as the Freeman — he is not free. But free in this sense is quite different from free in the former sense; for the Slave may prefer disobedience: in which case he will suffer the penalties of default. But in this sense the Slave is [p49] morally free. Prometheus, chained to the rock, defies the Autocrat of the universe. Even Omnipotence cannot be conceived as bending the will, save by infusing motives which the reason of the agent adopts as his own.

‘The two distinct meanings were mixed together in the controversies which arose out of the doctrine of Original Sin. On the one hand, Sin was to be imputed to man; man was, consequently, a source of action, and therefore free. On the other hand, metaphysical hypotheses as to the nature of the Deity excluded even the Promethean choice of obedience or disobedience. Man was, therefore, less free in the second sense than the Slave; and, therefore, according to the first sense, not responsible. The confusion was, and is still, increased by a misconception of mechanical Impulse.

‘A billiard ball, for example, would be considered as totally passive. Yet the weight of the ball is not only an antecedent to the beginning of motion, but also an antecedent which continues to act after the stroke is given. But, as the weight of the ball is constant, while the stroke is variable, the stroke is the only thing to be practically considered. In this way the analogy of Impulse is rather against than in favour of the extrinsic necessity [p53] of human action. But, as the stroke appears to be the sole agent in the case, the supposed analogy excludes the alternative of Freedom in the second sense, and consequently Responsibility in the first.

‘On the other hand, in the case of Motion, there is really an analogue to the outward motive. A mouse cannot move a train, but an engine can. Yet still the analogy fails in the most important point; for, to make it complete, the body moved should have a power of refusing to move at all according to circumstances. But, whenever the question of circumstances is raised, the reason must be appealed to. A thousand points of resemblance will not conceal the real diversity of a rational and self-conscious agent and an irrational and unconscious object.’ (The Platonic Idea, pp. 136-139.)

The result, so far, is that the term Freedom is a metaphor a metaphor, too, that may mislead: while the analogies of mechanical, of chemical, and of physical phenomena, are positively misleading. Metaphor, then, and false analogies must be discarded, and facts alone considered.

The ground being cleared of metaphor, the [p51] facts of the case are pretty clear: hear Professor Huxley: — ‘When people introduce Calvinism into science, and declare that man is nothing but a machine, I do not see any particular harm in their doctrine, so long as they admit that which is a matter of experimental fact — namely, that it is a machine capable of adjusting itself within certain limits.’

Hear Dr. Ward, the great Roman Catholic metaphysician. —

‘I am walking for health’s sake in my grounds on a bitterly cold day. My strongest present desire is to be back comfortably in the warm house; but I persistently refuse to gratify that desire; remembering the great importance of a good walk, not only for my general health, but for my evening’s comfort and my night’s sleep. Plainly, according to the Jesuit definition’ (Potentia libera est ea quce, positis omnibus requisitis ad agendum, potest agere et non agere, quoted p. 42, Dublin Review, April, 1879.) ‘my will acts with perfect freedom. My present action is resistance to my strongest present desire; and I have full proximate power to abstain, if I choose, from the continuance of this action, by resolving to go indoors. But no less plainly this act [p52] is free, according to that definition of Free-will which we ourselves set forth’ (Libertas est ea indifferentia activa agentis, quâ, positis omnibus ad agendum requisitis, potest agere et non agere, quoted from F. Palmieri, p. 42). ‘My soul and body, cooperating as blind causes, generate my preponderating spontaneous impulse towards going indoors; while my soul, acting as an originative cause, generates my continued resistance to that preponderating spontaneous impulse.

‘Conversely. I am sitting over the fire, with a novel in my hand; and my strongest present desire is to continue in my present position. I remember, indeed, that nothing in a small way can well be worse for me, and that I shall pay dearly for my self-indulgence. Video meliora proboque: deteriora sequor, and I stay just as I am. Here again, according to the Jesuit definition, I am undeniably free; for I am entirely able, without any further requisita ad agendum, either to continue my self-indulgent action or to abstain from it. And here again my freedom is equally manifest, according to our own definition of freedom. True, indeed, my soul is not at this moment acting as an originative cause; but it has the proximate power of so acting if it pleases.’ [p53]

Hear his opponent, Shadworth Hodgson: — ‘Freedom means the action and reaction of motives on each other within the mind, not fettered by external constraint, but free to exert each its own kind and degree of energy.’ (Mind, April 1880.)

Hear Hutchison Sterling: — ‘That only is free which is amenable to its own laws.’ And lastly Hegel: — ‘The genuinely free-will is conscious to itself that its own content is absolutely firm and fast, and knows it, at the same time, to be thoroughly its own.’ These, amongst a cloud of witnesses. The sum is, that man has a power of action in spite of all external motives. That is to say, man is not wholly a machine. It is obvious, that the smallest amount of this power suffices to raise the controversy, and, I may add, to settle it. In other words, if man, under any circumstances, for ever so brief a moment, can attach himself to one force — stimulus or motive rather than another, the battle is won. Selection is not direction. No one, as yet, has argued that a bullet selects the bull’s-eye: the man selects his rifle, and takes his aim. He selects some nervous and muscular agencies out of innumerable. The only fact required is — I deliberate with a view to selection. [p54]

Dr. Maudsley begins by describing the Will as an immaterial entity in a material world, the events of which it largely determines: and having alluded to the relation of motives to the Will, he proceeds to say: —

‘The initial difficulty is the capital one — namely, the conception, in any degree, of a power in nature so extraordinary, coming from an unknown without, having no genesis but an autogenesis, deriving its subsequent energy from nothing but itself, subject to no laws of growth, though manifestly growing in the individual with his mental growth; a power which, notwithstanding that it works as a part of nature, is not of the same kind nor has anything in common with anything else there is without sympathy, affinity, or relationship with the things which it works in and upon. It is not entirely right to describe it as supernatural since it thus works naturally and constantly in the events of the world: supernatural it is in the primal source and perpetual renewal of its energy, inscrutably unnatural in the mode of its union with the natural.’ – pp. 2-3.

If any of my hearers recollect the principle which underlay the Lectures I delivered here last year, the difficulty is not peculiar to Will. The [p55] Universe, as following the teaching of Plato and Hegel, I endeavoured to point out, consists of the inseparable union — union through antagonism — of τὸ ὄν and τὸ φαινόμενον — of the Universal and the Particular — of Permanence and Sequence: and the whole problem of the Will is the same antithesis transferred from Metaphysics, or Cognition, to Ethics, or Practice. The extraordinary thing would be, if we had two Universes, in place of one, and it is this apparently that Dr. Maudsley imagines he requires — I say imagines, for no one, if he thinks, can think two Universes. He cannot think of a streak of Sequence separated by an impassable chasm from a state of Permanence, without the chasm becoming abridge. Each in thought implies the other as certainly as the concave of the circle implies the convex.

The experimentalist is apt to assume that all he requires for his work is the Law of Sequence. On looking at the matter more closely, we see that Sequence is surreptitiously translated into Causation. Now, such Sequence is an abstraction: it is an abstraction of order in place or in time; but in experimental language it means Causation stolen, mutilated and disguised. Mere Sequence is per se unintelligible; to quote from a criticism of [p56] the Flux of Heraclitus, whose view was practically that of Hume: —

‘The several distinctions — Antecedent, Consequent, and Indifference — appear sharp enough. But the clearness of the analysis is more verbal than real. The notions Antecedent, Consequent, and Indifference, are essentially relative — relative not only inter se, but also with regard to the antecedents and consequents of other orders. Every antecedent is a consequent relatively to the preceding link in the chain; and so, conversely, the consequent. But the relativity of phenomena does not stop here. Every distinct sequent in each order may be considered as a phenomenon, which yields on resolution, as before, its complete set of sequents; and each of these may be subjected to a fresh analysis, which presents a similar result, and so on to infinity. Hence the Heraclitean doctrine, that all things are in a state of flux. The doctrine is not that a state of flux is a superficial aspect of phenomena, which involves a substantial residuum. The doctrine is, that flux and existence are coextensive, and properly, not metaphorically, identical. Flux is not an abstract description of all-things; all-things, on the contrary, is an abstract description of flux. Flux is the real essence; all-things, its mental analysis and synthesis. [p57] With this doctrine Plato does not quarrel, save as a statement of the whole truth. The doctrine of Heraclitus is true; but it is not, in Plato’s opinion, the whole truth.

‘Such being, in Plato’s eyes, the meaning of the sensual hypothesis, his criticism is obvious. Every sensation is a portion of an infinite sequence, which exists only during the collision of opposite sequents, antecedent and consequent, and of which it is the inevitable result. Such words as Permanence and Unity denote merely that the antagonism of contraries, antecedent and consequent, is apparently, but not really, prolonged by the intervention of a new train of sequents, each infinitely resolvable as before. The so-called subject — the percipient psychic principle — is essentially flux; the so-called object is essentially flux, and nothing more. All sensations — all modes of consciousness — are but ripples on the stream. That the law of antecedence and consequence binds sensible phenomena Plato admits, but he denies that it can be evolved from the sensual hypothesis. Strictly speaking, on that hypothesis the bare observation of physical sequence is, in Plato’s opinion, impossible. A sequence involves succession; succession involves number; and number, unity. Now, unity implies at least a [p58] provisional nucleus of permanence somewhere; but analysis show that every member of each series is, in the strictest sense, infinitely resolvable. Analysis sublimates into flux the quasi-permanence of the subject, of the organ, and of the extra-organic object: subject, organ, and object, alike melt away in the same potent solvent In the absence of unity, the percipient subject is an indefinite series of sequences, infinitely resolvable as before. Man is literally the creature of the moment — a chance formation of drift. On its most favourable showing, the hypothesis confines reality to the perception of transition; but, in strictness, there can be neither transition to observe, nor anyone to observe it. In the absence of unity, there is neither subject nor object, neither permanence nor transition, neither reality nor semblance. The result is nihilism, the negation of metaphysical substance and of every consequent result.’ (Platonic Idea, pp. 13-16.)

In brief, Sequence is not Causation. But the Humist is loud in his wail, if one hints that Causation is anything more. The wail rises to a shriek, if we assume that the effect resembles the Cause. Yet, in spite of this, the Materialist, to destroy [p59] thought, invests the nervous antecedent with causal power; it causes thought, and thought is a mere secretion. If not, what is meant by dwelling on the neural prerequisites of thought? The process is thus described by Dr. Maudsley: —

‘As the higher modes of consciousness unquestionably rest on the lower modes, we may properly, in trying to get to the nearest approach of consciousness to molecular motion, take for consideration the simplest mode of sensation that we ever experience. Now it is certain that a sensation that appears to consciousness to be perfectly simple is sometimes a compound of more simple sensations, none of which it really resembles; these more simple sensations are, in their turn, compounds of still more elementary sensations; and the elements of these, if not themselves, lie beneath the threshold of consciousness, contributing to the excitation which, when it reaches a certain height or a certain complexity, oversteps the threshold. In every conscious state there are thus at work conscious, subconscious, and infra-conscious energies, the last as indispensable as the first. We descend in our analysis of consciousness to the very borders of molecular motion — to the place where the two aspects of being meet and seem to coalesce; for, [p60] on the one hand, where sensation actually expires, the continuance of a connected reflex movement shall prove the persistence of molecular motion; and, on the other hand, the experiments of physiology prove a definite measurable period of molecular commotion, known as the "excitatory stage," to precede invariably the excitation of the sensation. Moreover, the same stimulus which when applied to the nerve suffices ordinarily to excite a sensation will not raise the "excitatory stage" into consciousness, but will leave it in the state of latent stimulation, if the temperature of the nerve be lowered a few degrees; so that a few degrees of temperature make all the difference between soul and not-soul in a process otherwise exactly the same. Here are combinations of infra-conscious energies to produce a subconscious or an elementary conscious state, and thereafter combinations of elementary consciousness to produce a conscious result that does not resemble any of them; not otherwise than as chemical elements combine to form a compound with new properties. What reason can be given why these infra-conscious factors of the period of latent stimulation may not resemble or be actually molecular movements? And if they be so, are they so only up to the [p61] moment when the spark of nascent consciousness appears, and do they then instantly take on a new character?’ – pp. 103-4.

Criticism is obvious: if ‘rest on’ does not involve causal action, and does not imply causal similarities, the materialistic doctrine comes down by the run. We have, moreover, the decisive argument in reserve, that the history of an individual structure, or brain, assumes all the problems of metaphysic; it takes for granted Space, Time, Cause, Relation, and Substance. With a batterie de cuisine like this, a very poor artiste can serve up a Universe at a moment’s notice. But where did he get the batterie? From Metaphysics, and from nowhere else.

From Metaphysics, or Philosophy, if you will. For Psychology professes only to give us the history of an individual consciousness. Philosophy or Metaphysics, on the other hand, deals with the science of the possibility of consciousness in general: Psychology gives the reproduction through the individual nervous organism of that consciousness which the consciousness of the individual presupposes. It is now one hundred and one years since Kant’s immortal Kritik has appeared. The distinction between Psychology and Metaphysic ought [p62] to be now as general as the casing air. Dr. Maudsley ignores it altogether, and looks to Psychology alone for light.

But, suppose we invest matter with causal efficiency, what becomes of your immaterial consciousness? Material Neurosis produces, and not merely precedes, Psychosis, and both are material.

The reply is, at hand. The psychosis — Consciousness — at once apprehends the Universe, of which Neurosis is a fraction — not only is, but must be a fraction — and in the light of consciousness the material Cosmos shrivels as a scroll, and the periods of astronomy and geology are a watch in the night. The marvels revealed by the microscope and telescope are not nothing, but they are not everything, and, like Psychology, exist on the data of Metaphysics. And the progress of physical science lessens our conception of the mysteriousness of the material Cosmos, for the spectroscope has shown — I quote Dr. Haughton (Earth-Moon System. S. Haughton. Salem. 1882, p. i.) — that the physical order of things is ‘composed of the same simple substances, and those very limited in number.’

To what do enlightened Materialists look as the ideal of knowledge? That, as is supposed in [p63] thought-reading, there should be a visible and outward register of the thought, a psychometer, as Dr. Maudsley suggests. What then? Would it not merely prove what Professor Huxley so clearly and candidly points out, that wherever we find thought we should always find some mode of Extension and Motion. But this would not identify the two. Castor and Pollux can hardly mean that Pollux is Castor, x + y is not x = y.

As to ‘temperature making soul,’ I ask Dr. Maudsley, Does the stethoscope make the heart? To the non-materialist the whole body is merely an instrument which discovers the Universe a pantoscope; and a scientist must admit that the instrument must be fit, if you want to use it. Heat does not make soul, but it may make or mar efficiency.

There is only one point of Dr. Maudsley’s physiology which I except to, and that on the authority and reasoning of other physiologists. It is this: the movements of a decapitated frog look purposive, while the decapitation destroys, according to Dr. Maudsley, intelligent design and will (p. 107). But my friend, Professor Cleland, states the case thus, quoting Professor Ferrier’s Functions of the Brain: — [p64]

‘“When a drop of acetic acid is placed on the thigh of a decapitated frog, the foot of the same side is raised, and attempts made with it to rub the part. On the foot being amputated, and the acid applied as before, the animal makes a similar attempt, but failing to reach the point of irritation with the stump, after a few moments of apparent indecision and agitation, raises the other foot, and attempts with it to remove the irritant. This experiment has been appealed to by Pflüger (who made it) and others as a proof of psychical or intelligent action on the part of the spinal cord.”’ (Functions of the Brain, p. 20.)

I accept Pflüger’s conclusion as not only that of a physiologist of the highest authority, but as being, on examination of the merits, obviously correct. Dr. Ferrier dissents from it. He simply asserts that "it is an established fact that adapted actions, such as intelligence would also dictate, are capable of being called into play through our spinal cord entirely without consciousness." That is an allegation rather than a fact, and one would like to know on what foundation "it is established." He proceeds to point out very properly that a reflex action is not necessarily confined to the side on which the irritation is applied, and that continuance of the irritation may bring the [p65] other leg into play by associated reflex action. No one will doubt this; but the action of the second limb ought, on that principle, to be exactly similar in kind to that of the first, in which case it would not cross the middle line, but would scratch the spot symmetrically corresponding on its own side with the point of irritation.’ (Journal of Mental Science, July 1883.)

I ask, as a benighted Mentalist, is it not rather unscientific to assume that decapitation destroys purpose, when the question is, do the facts as alleged prove or disprove purpose?

There is one fact bearing on the case of Motives which I have not seen urged elsewhere. If it has occurred to anyone else, I shall cheerfully acknowledge his priority; but Philosophy deals with what is said, and not with who said it.

‘There is an essential difference between the will and all mechanical forces in this respect. Every physical motion is the resultant of all the motive forces; no one force is without its distinct effect. In the province of the discursive faculty there is an analogue to this. The arguments on any one side are all real arguments, though their combined result may be less than the sum on the [p66] other side. Doubt is the exact analogue to a mechanical movement produced by different forces. But in the sphere of the will there is no such parallel. In all cases the question lies between one of two extremes. It is true that the will may adopt the mean course indicated by the intellect, but to the will that mean is an extreme. All the motives on one side are annihilated as soon as the will issues its fiat, and this fact no mechanical theory can account for.’ (Reviews, Dublin, 1867.)

In brief, the Materialistic doctrine is: the Will is effectuated by motives, and motives are merely phenomenal links in the endless chain of Cause and Effect: or, rather, so the wise it call Antecedence and Consequence. Waiving the identification of Causation with Sequence, the question is: Is Motive convertible with Phenomenon in the chain of Sequence? To this the most complete answer I know is given by Professor Green, in his Prolegomena Ethica; and the key to the book is found in the distinction between a Phenomenon as a sensible event, determined by Causation, and the same sensible event adopted by the agent as part and parcel of his Good. As Aristotle says, Sensation is not a beginning of action —

‘… to every action morally imputable, or of which a man can recognise himself as the author, the motive is always some idea of the man’s personal good — an idea absolutely different from animal want, even in cases where it is from anticipation of the satisfaction of some animal want that the idea of personal good is derived. Now a motive so constituted, like the perception which answers to it in the sphere of speculative intelligence, clearly admits of being considered in seemingly opposite ways. Two seemingly incompatible, yet equally true, sets of statements may be made in regard to it: which, however, are not really incompatible, because one relates to the motive in its full reality, which is not a sensible event, the other to a sensible event implied in it (as sensation is implied in perception), but which is not it. The sensible event or phenomenon, implied in the motive, like every other event, is determined by antecedent events according to natural laws. The motive itself, though it too is in its own way definitely determined, is not naturally determined. It is constituted by an act of self-consciousness which is not a natural event, an act in which the agent presents to himself a certain idea of himself — of himself doing or himself enjoying — as an idea of which the realisation [p68] forms for the time his good. It is true that the moral quality of this act, its virtue or its vice, depends on the character of the agent. It is this that determines what the kind of greatest personal good, which under any set of circumstances he presents to himself, shall be. This character, in turn, has had its history, just as a man’s developed intelligence, as it at any time stands, has had a history. But, just as this latter history, though to call it a history of an eternal consciousness would be a contradiction, has yet taken its distinctive nature, as a history of intelligence, from a certain action of an eternal self-distinguishing consciousness upon the processes of feeling; so the history of human character has been one in which the same consciousness has throughout been operative upon wants of animal origin, giving rise through its action upon them to the specific quality of that history.

‘The view which it is sought to convey may be made more plain by an instance. When Esau sells his birthright for a mess of pottage, his motive, we might be apt hastily to say, is an animal want. On reflection, if by “motive” is meant that which an action represents or expresses, the inner side of that of which the action is the outer, we shall find [p69] that it is not so. The motive lies in the presentation of an idea of himself as enjoying the pleasure of eating the pottage, or (which comes practically to the same thing) as relieved from the pain of hunger. Plainly, but for his hunger Esau could have no such motive. But for it, his presentation of himself as a subject of pleasure could have taken no such form. But the hunger is not the presentation of himself as the subject of pleasure, still less the presentation of that particular pleasure as under the circumstances his greatest good: and therefore it is not his motive. If the action were determined directly by the hunger, it would have no moral character, any more than have actions done in sleep, or strictly under compulsion, or from accident, or (so far as we know) the actions of animals. Since, however, it is not the hunger as a natural force, but his own conception of himself, as finding for the time his greatest good in the satisfaction of hunger, that determines the act, Esau recognises himself as the author of the act. He imputes it to himself, and it is morally imputable to him — an act for which he is accountable, to which praise or blame are appropriate. If evil follows from it — whether in the shape of punishment inflicted by a superior, or of calamity ensuing in the course of [p70] nature to himself or those in whom he is interested — he is aware that he himself has brought it on himself. Hence remorse, and with it the possibility of change of heart. He may “find no place for repentance” in the sense of cancelling or getting rid of the evil which his act has caused: but, in another sense, the recognition of himself as the author of the evil is, in promise and potency, itself repentance’ (pp. 98, 99).

If it be said that this merely passes on the difficulty from the will to the character, the answer is, just so. Esau’s character, so far as it bears the responsibility, is made up of separate acts, for each of which he is accountable. How far accountable is for Omniscience; that he is accountable is patent to himself and to the ordinary man. Guilty or not guilty is a question of fact: the sentence is for the Judge. And as the metaphysician is able to see that the Will is not of Cause, so he is able to see that psychologically each man is accountable, though he cannot tell how far.

I need hardly point out to the student of Ethics, how Professor Green’s doctrine is the Socratic tenet, οὐδεὶς ἑκὼν κακός, which I have vindicated elsewhere. It is simply this, that no one chooses Evil as an end, though he may as a means. It is [p71] that of Aristotle, when he tells us we choose the means, but wish the end (Nicomachaean Ethics, iii. i. 19). And so Aquinas: ‘Quinimo necesse est quod sicut Intellectus ex necessitate inhseret primis principiis, ita Voluntas ex necessitate inhaereat ultimo fini, qui est beatitudo’ (Summa i. Ixxxii. i.)

The distinction between a fact as phenomenon and the same fact as motive disposes of cases like the two bundles of hay. The Formula of choice always is, Of the many things presented, unless I take one, I get nothing, and I can take only one. The Greeks, with their usual insight, put the question thus — To do, and not to do. (Aeschylus, Suppliants 380.) Then comes the reflection, We cannot have the whole. Next, We can have a part, by taking a part. Lastly, Unless we take a part, we get nothing. To describe this complex process of formal logic as the same kind of movement as the course of a rifle bullet almost justifies Bolingbroke in saying that no man can deny that he has Free Will without lying. At the same time, we must see that liberum arbitrium is a much better expression than Free Will. Will and Motive are related as Reason and Consequence, and not as Cause and Effect, and ‘moral decision’ expresses all that is required. [p72]

The most extraordinary part of Dr. Maudsley’s book is his argument to show that the ego has extension. After stating that ‘sensation takes place through an extended part of the body’ a very different proposition Dr. Maudsley asks us to consider this: ‘That the moment an individual has said to himself I whether as I feel, or as I think, or as I am he has enunciated his own limitation. The very consciousness of the ego is the betrayal of its limitation in time and space, and the proof of its extension; for it is impossible to say I without positing a non-ego from which he is defined by limitation’ (p. 81). From which he is defined by negation, as he cannot distinguish himself from the non-ego, except by saying, I am not the non-ego. Further, he cannot distinguish himself from the non-ego without distinguishing himself from the whole of that non-ego by saying, I am none of the non-ego; and if the non-ego be spatial and temporal, he must say, I am none of the non-ego, spatial or temporal. According to Dr. Maudsley’s logic, a man accused of theft ought to defend himself by saying, I am the thief.

Dr. Maudsley’s philosophy rests on the principle that ‘intensely active molecules, imperceptible to sense, veritably extra-sensual, are the foundation of [p73] the properties of all visible matter.’ Yet Clerk Maxwell says, that the atoms appear either to have been made, or to have come from some previous break-up (Heat, p. 312). As some consolation, Dr. Maudsley tells us to look forward to the day when mind shall be known as invisible brain, and brain as visible mind; when psychology shall be the most certain of sciences, propped on introspection and buttressed by observation. But in another lecture I show that psychology, divorced from philosophy, must end in subjective Idealism — that is to say, that there are as many worlds as there are living things, each individual trundling his own universe before him like a huge goitre.

We may say, that given a man’s character and circumstances, his conduct is given. But this is just the fallacy of statistics. Statistics give the result of similar or dissimilar causes, and, therefore, may be used to show the force of either. e.g., the number of arrests for drunkenness may be used to show the tendency to inebriety, or the tendency to sobriety, or the vigilance, or the reverse, of the police. In the same way, a man’s character may agree with his circumstances, or disagree, and it is precisely the latter view that the fatalist leaves out. The word fatalism ought to [p74] be used, as necessity has no meaning except for an idealistic philosophy. The materialist or agnostic has no weapon unless he filches it from idealism. The meaning of the term necessity I discuss in another Lecture. And I will sum up the gist of this in a single question, Is a logical disjunctive a right line? When the pseudo-necessitarian proves that it is, he has disproved the Freedom of the Will. But not till then.

I have now concluded. My meaning is obvious. Man has a power of resisting pressure from outside. This is seen in Socrates, who disobeys the Thirty and the Assembly, and in the private of the Buffs who gets knocked on the head sooner than kneel to a Mandarin.

Top ↑


Chapter III. Materialism

I. The Materialism of the Block. In the preceding Lectures I stated that That to which a Whole was a whole was, eo ipso, itself excluded from that whole. In more concrete language, that to which nature is a series of never-ending change cannot itself change. This notion is due to the genius of Anaxagoras; ἀνάγκη ἄρα, ἐπεὶ πάντα νοεῖ, ἀμιγῆ εἶναι, ὥσπερ φησὶν Ἀναξαγόρας, ἵνα κρατῇ (Aristotle de Anima iii. iv. 4).

In my first Lecture I stated that the simplest fact of Perception crushes the materialist and the agnostic. Of these the materialist may hold a peculiar form of the doctrine called the Relativity of Knowledge, while the agnostic stands or falls by that doctrine in some shape or other. Any shape will do, as the agnostic position is that we cannot break through the lines of our consciousness, and reach anything outside of it. A materialist need not be an agnostic, but he may be one. And so [p76] the agnostic may be a materialist, but he need not.

I cited Professor Huxley to show that materialism simply means ‘that whenever those states of consciousness which we call sensation, or emotion, or thought, come into existence, complete investigation will show good reason for the belief that they are preceded by these other phenomena of consciousness to which he gives the names of Matter and Motion’ (Hume, pp. 80, 81).

Materialism has assumed two shapes: That which professes to explain everything by some mode of solidity, like the atom; or by some mode of process, say reflex action. The one may be termed the materialism of the Block: the other the materialism of the Process. I shall merely notice them so far as they profess to be substitutes for metaphysics.

I. I quoted from Professor Huxley a passage to show what materialism amounts to. I quote Professor Huxley, not because I agree with him in the main, but because I disagree with him; and his statements, therefore, may be used as the admission of an opponent of the highest eminence on the other side.

Materialism of the Block reduces everything [p77] ultimately to extension in three dimensions. In ancient times the most notable form of the theory was worked out by Epicurus. The Epicurean system has received considerable attention in our day, from its supposed affinity to the modern ultimatum of the higher Physics — atoms, molecules, and their relations. I do not think it will be loss of time to consider the views of Epicurus, before we pass judgment on the claims of modern atomism to a place in philosophy. Remember always, philosophy, not science.

What may be called the psychological School argues as follows: — There is a separate thing called an object; and there is another separate thing called a subject: These two by some reciprocal action or movement produce or generate all we know or can know. In this interaction, if the subject dominate the object, the result is idealistic. If, on the other hand, the object dominate the subject, the result is materialistic. In its most modern shape, materialism amounts to this, that certain processes of certain combinations of matter, i.e. extension and motion, eventuate in a nervous system; and that this nervous system, by way of Reflex Action is either Sensation or the basis of sensation in such a manner that the sensation is to [p78] its basis, to revive the Platonic illustration, merely the harmony of the instrument. (The New Phaedo, by G. H. Lewis. Blackwood, February, 1884.) In other words, materialism professes to explain what we call Consciousness. Consciousness is thus only a shadow of reality, and a very thin shadow too. My position is that consciousness, in the sense of actual and possible Thought, and the universe are convertible. The materialistic position is that thought is a very small section of the universe, and that it is no more indispensable to the universe than a man’s shadow is required to enable him to walk and talk. The materialist holds that it is as childish to say that thought constitutes fact, as to make the shadow cry to the man, It was I that made you.

Another point to be premised: The general view regarding the external world is that it is both independent of us, and non-conscious. Professor Abbott has pointed out that its independence is to be distinguished from continued existence a distinction not attended to by J. S. Mill. (Hermathena, No. vii., pp. 167, 168. Also ‘Berkeley’ (Mill’s Essays, Vol. iii.). Fortnightly Review, 59, p. 513.)

This is the belief of the nineteenth century, but the earlier creed was that it was independent but conscious witness Fetichism and early poetry, mountains and [p79] rivers are alive. That it was independent and unconscious, was the view of Epicurus, which he elaborated as follows:

The physics of Epicurus are a mere accident of his philosophy, as his object, as stated by Lucretius, was to crush all belief in anything beyond empirical data. This view is confirmed by the Κύριαι Δόξαι, or Articles of his Creed, X. and XI. These are to the effect that debauchery would be blameless if it freed us from our dread of the supernatural; and that if we had no fears we should need no physics. The genuineness of the remains preserved by Diogenes Laertius has been, of course, denied. But, in my opinion, they are genuine, because they are so much more exact than their adaptations by Cicero or Lucretius.

The result of his physics is, in the words of Lucretius, religio obteritur. Scholars are aware that the meaning of the word religio is doubtful. But we have one sure guide to its use — the Roman Law. Here the word is always applied to burying-ground, locum religiosum facere, by burying a corpse in it, so that we may suppose that religio implied fear of the buried dead — the laying apart the grave-yard, secernere sacra profanis; for, though cremation was in use, the Romans always buried a portion of [p80] the corpse, the os resectum. Now, Latin generally says specifically what Greek says generally, so that we may say that the object of Epicurus was to eradicate all consideration for the supernatural as a motive for action. To effect this, his Physics were worked out thus: —

The universe was resolvable into two elements: the negative or the Void, and the positive or the Atom. In the system of Democritus, to which Epicurus was largely indebted, the atoms appear as ἰδέαι — the first occurrence, as far as I am aware, of the word in philosophy — to signify the formative or prepotent element. The word ἄτομος is feminine, and this is instructive, the full expression being ἡ ἄτομος γραμμή the sensible line incapable of sub-division. Anyone who studies the early geometry and arithmetic of the Greeks will see the geometry of surfaces preceded arithmetic, and that the unit was the line of one foot. (Plato, Politicus, 266b, and Prof. L. Campbell’s Note.) The atom, consequently, was that portion of a line which was presented as incapable of division. Epicurus, like Berkeley, was thinking of the sensible line — a dividend — and not of the process of division abstracted from all divisible material, which might [p81] go on forever.

But as these elements, empty space and lineal fragments, did not appear very promising materials to create new worlds, Epicurus made Weight an absolute quantity of the atom, and gave the void an up and down. This being done, the atoms must fall thick as autumnal leaves, and their various adventures produced our present universe. There may be no top overhead, and no bottom under our feet, but there is an up and down in the void all the same, and the rain of atoms raineth every day. These contradictions being accepted, according to the Canonic or organon of Epicurus, nothing is real or true except an impression on the senses which is either confirmed or not contradicted by the deliverances of the other senses. On the other hand, that is false which is either contradicted or not confirmed by the deliverances of the other senses. This accounts for what may appear strange to the student of modern physics, that Lucretius offers inconsistent explanations for the same phenomena. Why not? Unless the Canonic be violated, any physical hypothesis will subserve the ethical end — the eradication of Regard for the Supernatural.

In the present day, the theory of Epicurus is [p82] supposed to be a remarkable anticipation of the modern doctrine of Atoms and Molecules. The Molecule, according to Professor Tyndall, is a group of atoms drawn together by chemical affinity. (Longman’s Magazine, No. I., p. 30.) It is sufficient for my purpose to say that the Molecule is a miniature Solar system, the atoms being the attendant bodies in their perpetual oscillation; but there is no central sun. It will be seen at once from this, that the Atoms and Molecules in their ceaseless swing mean the analysis of parts of the contents of Consciousness, namely, Matter and Motion. The modern Atom is not, like the Atom of Epicurus, a dark body outside and aloof from consciousness. The modern Atom has, and must have, bulk and room to swing. It therefore presupposes Space, Time, and Series; that is to say, Consciousness. Philosophy has nothing to fear from the Molecular hypothesis. Philosophy is as it was.

On the other hand, the Atom and Space as figments, which, as Epicurus conceived them, lie outside of Consciousness, are impossible monsters. The Void is pure Quantity without Quality. The Atom is all Quality and no Quantity. This is [p83] metaphysically impossible, for Quantity emerges from Quality, as was seen by Plato and by Hegel.

Recollect, the modern Molecule is Consciousness analyzed. The Atom, so called, is the Molecule analyzed, and is thus Consciousness reanalyzed. So far, so good: Molecular physics are inside the pale of philosophy, recollecting always that physics is only a general term for the analysis of the serial element in Consciousness. The serial element can apparently subsist alone, but its separate subsistence is due to abstraction only, for Thought at once sees that the serial is the correlative of an inevitable non-serial. But the Atom of Epicurus and the solid block of vulgar Materialism are outside the pale, and are thus, in Kant’s language, transcendent. There cannot possibly be a greater error than to suppose that Materialism receives support from Kant’s Ding-an-sich. This phrase, as pointed out by a writer in Mind, should be translated — The thing-by-itself and not in itself; the thing-by-itself being opposed to the thing in relation to the sensibility.

Kant was dominated by Aristotle. Aristotle in his Metaphysics had laid down that Sensation was produced by things which existed prior to Sensation, and were themselves devoid of Sensation — [p84] τὰ ὑποκείμενα ἃ ποιεῖ τὴν αἴσθησιν, καὶ ἄνευ αἰσθήσεως, Γ v. The process of Sensation is essentially one of motion. Psychologically, Aristotle supposes that the senses are in the first instance stimulated: the first effect of the stimulation — πάθος — is not pure passivity. The object of perception produces in the percipient a deprivation of the previous state, and next, the indwelling qualities of the percipient are thereby developed. We have here Kant’s Sensibility and the Ding-an-sich. We have in Kant Aristotle’s psychology turned into metaphysics with the usual nemesis. The Ding-an-sich stimulates the sensibility, and out springs the Form: that is, in Aristotle’s language, Sense is receptive of Form without Matter (de Anima ii. xii. i); in a word, Materialism as a philosophy receives no support from either the Psychology of Aristotle or the Critic of Kant.

The doctrine of Necessity is supposed to be a rigid consequence of Materialism. Popular Atheism, so far as it is argumentative, runs thus: — Things are necessary, because there is nothing but Matter, and there is Matter because there is nothing but Necessity. Nothing, however, can be more clear than that such an argument overturns the doctrine it professes to support. ‘Abstract [p85] ideas,’ says Butler, ‘can do nothing,’ and the Necessity so called would be hypothetic only; that is to say, given certain premises, certain results follow: e.g. given the law of gravity and the planets revolve; given Napoleon, and the Sections are disposed of. That is, in each case facts ensue in consequence of an arrangement which is patent to intelligence. But Necessity in the true sense belongs to Mind alone.

The student of Metaphysics is constantly confronted by the term Necessity, and its compounds, substantives, adjectives, and verbs. I will accordingly set before you in as concise a way as I can the meaning of these words: —

We know as a matter of experience that our consciousness consists of contents, feelings, imagination, and ideas. Now with these contents we can deal in three ways: they may be simply felt, imagined, willed. They may be felt with an admixture of thought, or they may be simply thought. With the latter process alone is Philosophy concerned.

The thought with which we are most familiar in this country is of the second kind, namely, sensations with an admixture of thought: that is, as Hegel expresses it, ‘we want to have in imagination [p86] a picture of that which is in the mind as a thought or notion.’ But in thought there is nothing to be thought further than the notion itself, Bacon, in his graphic language, compares those who reject Logics to the Israelites who loathed manna and yearned for the flesh-pots of Egypt; and so the mass of mankind, as far as experience can trace back, hankers after the pictured images of the fancy. But it is the business of philosophy to translate into pure thought the emblematic or symbolic picture.

We in Europe owe nearly everything to Greece. In the Parmenides of Plato we find the problem of Thought clearly stated. Is τὸ πᾶν — the aggregate — one, or many, or both? and the result of the discussion is, that it the aggregate — universitas rerum — is one and many, because many means a lot of ones, and these ones are so united as to make a whole — a one to thought. But if the aggregate is the whole of things, there can be nothing outside it to circumscribe it. It is therefore infinite, without bounds or limits.

It is also plain that that which is not dependent on anything else is ἀπομελυμένον — disengaged — absolute. We thus see that a glance will free us from the conundrums which certain writers make [p87] out of the two words Infinite and Absolute. So far as these terms agree, they exclude anything else, and include everything. So far as they differ, the Infinite negates extrinsic dependence, while the Absolute posits intrinsic independence. The one is untrammelled; the other is self-supporting. The Infinite accentuates Matter, and the Absolute, Form.

In either aspect, τὸ πᾶν must have some principle of cohesion. The counter-position — that there is no universe but a collection of single things — is impossible to thought, for the single things are given us in space, or in time, or in both: in either case they are unified by their frame, single or double — space or time, or both. But if this be so, we must reject the picture-image that there is nothing but a rag- and bottle-shop of odds and ends.

In the same way, we must discard the picture-image of a Chaos. A Chaos is a something where things follow without order. But observe, there is sequence, as I have before pointed out. Sequence is impossible without Unity somewhere. Chaos is a picture for the imagination only. Let anyone take Milton’s Chaos, and, like Martinus Scriblerus, he will discover all the categories. Thought therefore — the universe construed by thought — has and [p88] must have a principle of cohesion; and so far as the cohesion is intrinsic it is free. To use Hegel’s words, ‘Freedom essentially implies a meeting of elements now, and always, constituted by its own laws, and so far necessary. Necessity in a popular sense means determination from without only, as in finite mechanics a body moves only when it is struck by another body. This however is a merely external necessity, not the real inward necessity which is identical with freedom.’ – Wallace’s Hegel, p. 59.

So far, then, as thought is correlative with things, thought sees the necessity, i.e. the inward necessity of things. That is to say, it sees them as they are, because obedient to law that is, to thought. To put it in Kant’s words, Thought is apodictic, i.e. necessary and universal.

The position of those who impugn thought is peculiar. In order to assail thought they use thought, i.e. are guilty of logical felo de se. You are doubtless familiar with Butler’s chapter on Necessity, The Analogy of Religion, Natural and Revealed i. vi. The necessity with which the spiritual aspect of the universe is assailed is stolen from Thought. Thought is what it is, and cannot be otherwise than itself. The so-called necessitarian parodies this as follows: — Things are what [p89] they are because they are not themselves; that is, in other words, Thought is eviscerated of part of its contents, and these, when pictured in imagination as extrinsic, are supposed to dominate their original sphere. You can easily see that empiricism can yield no necessity. I find three billiard balls in some position on a table; that they are so is a matter of fact. Why are they so? The result the necessary result of another matter of fact, which falls back on τὸ ἀνυπόθετον. But Hume has perhaps unwittingly shattered, as with an iron mace, the necessity which observation furnishes. This being so, we must choose between Empiricism and Idealism. Empiricism in any and every shape is to thought as pure a contradiction as plusminus must be.


II. The Materialism of Process. The crudest form of Materialism is that which makes solidity in some shape the basis of thought. Today I treat of the Materialism of Process — that which makes Process the basis of Thought. And I hope to show that Process is a more shallow monster than the elder brother — the block.

The position of this — the most fashionable form of Materialism — is that a series of certain [p90] mechanical and chemical facts, which is devoid of consciousness, eventuates in a nervous system, and that this nervous system either, of its own virtue, secretes thought, or is its indispensable concomitant. In Professor Huxley’s admirable language, Psychosis is always preceded by Neurosis. You will recollect that Physicists and Scientists generally accept Hume’s position, that Causation as anything more than sequence is pro tanto a figment. If this view were pushed to the bitter end, I could believe in the clearness of those who accept with acclamation the doctrine of Hume. What I object to is, that they invest matter with causal power, for matter secretes thought, and in this way subordinate mind to matter; while they reject causal power in any statement which emphasizes the presence of mind. But it is obvious, if we accept Hume’s view, thought is a fact on its own basis, just as much as any matter — block or neurosis, as you will. If, on the other hand, we accept the position Hume denied, thought holds the keys. But in fact, as I pointed out long ago, if there is only sequence, sequence is impossible. (Lecture I. p. 15; Lecture II. p. 57.) To use the illustration of Heraclitus — the [p91] apostle of process — a man cannot plunge twice into the same river, for the best possible reason — there is no man, no river, no plunge, no twice.

I take as my text Professor Huxley’s description of Protoplasm — which he translates the physical basis of life. I quote Professor Huxley because no man writes more clearly, and to deduce one’s own views from the case of an opponent, has authority for its use, which most people who oppose Professor Huxley on religious grounds will perhaps accept.

Protoplasm is, he says, the scientific name of the substance which he translates into the physical basis of life. Before quoting from Professor Huxley, it may be remarked that protoplasm takes for granted the law of definite proportion, and all that this no small postulate involves. Taking the laws of chemistry for granted, his statement is as follows: —

‘I suppose that, to many, the idea that there is such a thing as a physical basis, or matter, of life may be novel — so widely spread is the conception of life as a something which works through matter, but is independent of it; and even those who are aware that matter and life are inseparably connected may not be prepared for the conclusion plainly suggested by the phrase, “the physical basis or matter of life,” that there is some [p92] one kind of matter which is common to all living beings, and that their endless diversities are bound together by a physical, as well as an ideal, unity. In fact, when first apprehended, such a doctrine as this appears almost shocking to common sense.

‘What, truly, can seem to be more obviously different from one another, in faculty, in form, and in substance, than the various kinds of living beings? What community of faculty can there be between the brightly-coloured lichen, which so nearly resembles a mere mineral incrustation of the bare rock on which it grows, and the painter, to whom it is instinct with beauty, or the botanist, whom it feeds with knowledge?

‘Again, think of the microscopic fungus — a mere infinitesimal ovoid particle, which finds space and duration enough to multiply into countless millions in the body of a living fly; and then of the wealth of foliage, the luxuriance of flower and fruit, which lies between this bald sketch of a plant and the giant pine of California, towering to the dimensions of a cathedral spire, or the Indian fig, which covers acres with its profound shadow, and endures while nations and empires come and go around its vast circumference. Or, turning to the other half of the world of life, picture to yourselves the great [p93] Finner whale, hugest of beasts that live, or have lived, disporting his eighty or ninety feet of bone, muscle, and blubber, with easy roll, among waves in which the stoutest ship that ever left dockyard would founder hopelessly; and contrast him with the invisible animalcules — mere gelatinous specks, multitudes of which could, in fact, dance upon the point of a needle with the same ease as the angels of the Schoolmen could, in imagination. With these images before your minds, you may well ask, what community of form, or structure, is there between the animalcule and the whale; or between the fungus and the fig-tree? And, a fortiori, between all four?

‘Finally, if we regard substance, or material composition, what hidden bond can connect the flower which a girl wears in her hair and the blood which courses through her youthful veins; or, what is there in common between the dense and resisting mass of the oak, or the strong fabric of the tortoise, and those broad discs of glassy jelly which may be seen pulsating through the waters of a calm sea, but which drain away to mere films in the hand which raises them out of their element?’

Protoplasm is described thus: —

‘Carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen, are [p94] all lifeless bodies. Of these, carbon and oxygen unite, in certain proportions and under certain conditions, to give rise to carbonic acid: hydrogen and oxygen produce water: nitrogen and hydrogen give rise to ammonia. These new compounds, like the elementary bodies of which they are composed, are lifeless. But when they are brought together, under certain conditions they give rise to the still more complex body, protoplasm, and this protoplasm exhibits the phenomena of life.’

But true to what he considers science, Professor Huxley tells us that when he calls thought a property of matter, all he means is, ‘that actually or possibly the consciousness of extension and that of resistance accompany all other sorts of consciousness’ (Descartes).

In a word, Professor Huxley proclaims that Materialism is really non-Materialism and explains nothing. And G. H. Lewes, to bridge the chasm between neurosis and psychosis, boldly robs Hegel of his view, that the cause is in the effect, and gains credit for his perspicacity at the expense of his consistency. For, how can that which precedes be identical with that which follows, both being differenced in time? Is one o’clock two o’clock? This to the Hegelian is a trifle light as air: to the [p95] mere empiricist the Hegelian notion is not merely a white elephant, but a white elephant which tosses and tramples his new driver non inferiora secutus.

If you tell a materialist that the neurosis, on his own showing, merely precedes psychosis, he will tell you probably to go dissect or work in a laboratory. As far as can be gathered by one who intends to do neither, the history of protoplasm is as follows: — It will be seen at a glance that it has nothing to do with philosophy; it belongs to physiology — psychology, if you will — but the metaphysician’s withers are unwrung.

Hunter, in his treatise on the nature of the blood, supposed that new growths depended on an exudation of the plasma of the blood: in the blood, by virtue of its own plasticity, new vessels formed, and so on. I wish to mark only the more important steps.

Schwann supposed a structureless exudation, in which granules either pre-existed or were formed, and by aggregation grew into nuclei. Round these singly a membrane gathered, and at length we had a cell complete.

From this cell emerged protoplasm, as follows: [p96] One school quashed the nucleus, and another the membrane: so, kernel and shell being subtracted, what was left was protoplasm.

Of protoplasm there are two conceptions: the one is, that protoplasm requires a certain measure or quantity; the other is, that any quantity of protoplasm is protoplasm still. Of the first, it may be observed, that, like the law of definite proportions, it surrenders the whole question. Mere quantity can never show why it is such and such a quantity, and no more and no less. If we adopt the second, we find that protoplasm varies not only from organization to organization, but from tissue to tissue. Granting the likeness between a chicken and Shakespeare, a good deal has been added on. But the basis of the chicken has never been given us in experience as identical with the basis of Shakespeare. In other words, protoplasm, as identical, is an abstraction only; while actual protoplasm is different in each kind, and is not uniform in itself. As far as we know at present, life comes from the egg; but the egg varies from kind to kind, and consists of different tissues.

Spontaneous generation could not, if proved, alter the matter. Spontaneous generation would amount to this, that life ensues on certain [p97] arrangements of molecules, cheese and turnip-juice being the most potent evocators. What would this show, save that cheese and turnip-juice were antecedents of life, and the egg subsumed under a wider law, leaving philosophy precisely where it was?

Observation teaches us two things: protoplasm alive differs from protoplasm dead; and protoplasm comes only of protoplasm alive. If this is so, the empiricist must assume that living protoplasm comes from dead protoplasm, which is contrary to experience; or he must postulate a blank time to be filled up with his unscientific fancies. In this blank, live protoplasm, we know not how, may have come of the dead basis of life. I can put anything I like on the off-side of the moon; there is no one to say me nay. It may, says Grote, have been raining on the site of New York, while men were fighting at Plataea; but we have no evidence either way. In a word, protoplasm is alive, and the question is as it was before; or protoplasm is dead, and then experience is at fault.

But this is not all. The vast majority of plants and animals are systems of living beings, each of which is alive. ‘Life,’ says Virchow, ‘is the sum of the joint action of all parts, of the higher or vital ones as of the lower or inferior. There is no [p98] one seat of life, but every truly elementary part, especially every cell, is a seat of life.’ This was in 1881, and though definitions in physiology change more rapidly than bonnets, I read in the Report of our Biological Association the other night (1882) a similar statement by Professor Macalister: ‘Every particle of organism which contains independent protoplasm is thereby independently alive; and, to adopt the grandiloquent language of modern science, Man is a coalescence of aggregates of symbiosis.’

What I wish to call your attention to, in the descriptions of life by Virchow and Professor Macalister is, that they bring you up to the notion System or Whole.

Now, of systems there are, as Hegel tells us, three kinds: in the first, the end is, outside; as the end of a coffee-mill is to grind coffee. This is the end in Mechanism. In the second, the parts are, reciprocally, end and means. Water is the outcome of certain gases combined, and the gases are in turn the outcome of the water. This is the end in Chemistry. In the third, the end is inside, as in life, and pre-eminently in thought.

This being so, no aggregate of materials will account for the end. The metal and glass of a [p99] watch are not the watch, neither are the wheels; but the glass and brass make the watch when put together according to the thought of the man who planned it. The chemical compound involves its own end, but requires an initiative from without. But the living system of living beings contains its own end within, each part existing for the rest and for the whole. Observe the word symbiosis; the preposition σὺν is a small word, and yet it carries Space, Time, Cause, Substance and Life. When the physicist has the universe to conjure by, he can do a deal. But it is ungrateful in him to quarrel with the postulates which enable him to work. When any physical explanation of thought is submitted to you, ask this question: Does it presuppose any process in space or in time? If it does, it may be science or it may not. But it is certainly not philosophy.

Take for example reflex action. I take the following description of it from the work of a most eminent anatomist, who is at present professor of anatomy, teaching anatomy the greater part of the year: —

‘The simplest idea of the use of the nervous system is got from what is termed reflex action, because that is uncomplicated with consciousness. [p100]

In a reflex action an irritation is applied to a part, and produces in a nerve a change of condition, which is called an impression; this impression is termed sensory or centripetal, and travels to the nerve-centre with which the nerve is connected, and thence it is reflected along some other nerve-fibre, and takes a centrifugal course to a muscle or other organ, which it stimulates to action. If the organ so stimulated be a muscle, the nervous action is excito-motor; if it be a secreting cell, the action is excito-secretory; if it be an electric organ, such as exists in various fishes, the nervous action excites it to give a shock of electricity. But in every case it is one description of change which, under the name of an impression, passes up one nerve, through the nerve-centre, and down another nerve to reach the terminal organ; while the effect produced depends on the intrinsic properties of that organ.’ (Cleland’s Animal Physiology, pp. 178-179. For protoplasm, I am indebted to Hutchison Stirling’s Essays As Regards Protoplasm, 1872.) [p101]

From this we see that reflex action presupposes Space, Time, and all the apparatus of Causality.


III. External Things. External things are now admitted on all hands to have a very insecure footing. The ancient Sceptics denied the veracity of perception on the double ground that things are related, in the first place, to each other, and, in the second, to our organs — an anticipation of the relativity of our day. Extension, say the modern Schoolmen, is only the existence, and not the essence of body. The pure physicist will work with either Epicurus or Boscovich; and phenomenalists, like Brown, Mill, Bain, and Huxley, glory in their position that extension is mental.

But external things are reduced to their proper position by the idealist. Sensible things, according to Hegel, have correctness only, and not truth. That is, the qualities of each separate thing are ready to combine with those of their neighbour, and what we call distinct and independent qualities are in reality the joint relativities of everything. Qualities are thus ‘relations in disguise’ — relation writ small.

But, if this is true of each quality, so called, [p102] singly, it is a fortiori true of qualities in combination. As I pointed out, things or collections of qualities may have as a resultant a certain notion — end — purpose. The end is outside, as, suppose, a key; abolish locks, and keys are only so much old iron, and so of all machinery. But if the end be outside, the whole of the machine is only a means. The notion, according to which the machine was made, does not belong to the machine.

This was the view of things prevalent last century. Man, according to one of Butler’s views, was a machine made for virtue. The material world was a machine which God made, and the end could only be realized on its destruction. In chemistry we have the indifference of end and means; and it is not until we come to life that we meet the true end. That is to say, in the living thing each one of the parts exists for itself and for the whole. This will remind us of Butler’s notion of a system.

In man considered as a vital organism, there are two notions at work. The one notion is that of End — the particular form of life actualized in the body. In this sense, for example, the whole plant is the end of the organization plant. The second notion is the particular body or complexus [p103] of particles which are organic to that end. If then we take man as an organism working to an end, that end must be within. And if we judge of ends according to their complexity, the most complex adjustment of man is conduct. Hence conduct is the end of man, and moral philosophy is the ultimate aspect of man’s knowledge. Conduct, of course, includes social and political actions.

What of the Universe? Has it an end? It is obvious that there cannot be any item over and above the sum total. If then the Universe has an end, it cannot be a machine merely, as the end cannot be anything outside it. But if we hold, as we must, that the universe consists of relations related all and each to each other and to the whole — not related de facto merely but de jure — we must hold that the universe has an end. This is admitted even by Professor Huxley: ‘It is necessary to remember that there is a wider teleology, which is not touched by the doctrine of evolution, but is actually based on the fundamental proposition of evolution.’ It may be received then that the universe contains an end.

But we can know something more. The end cannot be evil. Why not? Cannot we imagine an all-powerful Demon using his omniscience and [p104] omnipotence to gratify his malignity? Milton’s Satan exclaims:

evil, be thou my good!

Why may not God Almighty do the same? Impossible, for the reason that evil is, as was seen by Plato, ὑπεναντίον τι — a subcontrary to good. We can imagine the Demon, but we cannot think him out, for evil is at variance with itself as well as with the good. Pirates, says Plato, hold together so far as they are just, not so far as they are unjust. Minus presupposes plus, but plus does not presuppose minus, and an all-pervading minus is an absurdity. Granting that we cannot see the end in its fullness granting that no man is, as Plato would say, wise, we are, for all that, as completely justified in denying its badness as if we did. Badness is putting a lower category partially above a higher, and this ex vi termini cannot be universal.

Now, if external things are mere relations to each other, it follows that the aggregate is a relativity, and being a relativity, it is eo ipso at last related to something else. But that which is not related to something else is related to itself, and that which is related to itself is Spirit, the only [p105] substratum. In other words, object quâ object is related to subject, but is not subject; while subject is object, and the highest object too.

Now, if subject be the ultimate referee, Idealism is the final aspect of Philosophy. But as object preserves its equipoise, and both subject and object are subsumed in the unity of thought, Philosophy is not subjective idealism, which is a barren objectification of the subject. Philosophy is the absolute Idealism, where subject and object in plenary distinctness are subsumed, but never lost, in a higher unity.

Top ↑


Chapter IV. Ethics Founded on End

I. Aristotle. The chief point I wish to impress on you is the difference between Philosophy and Psychology. This distinction is so capital, that when it is perceived one may say without exaggeration that there is nothing else to see. It is briefly this: Psychology is the counterpart of Physiology, and deals with the facts of sentience as states of feeling, but always as a branch of the history either of the individual or of the race; while Philosophy treats of the principles which this history pre-supposes — which it is obliged to pre-suppose, because it cannot explain them, and because without these its own special deliverances can neither be construed nor understood. Psychology is the history of the individual development: Philosophy is the analysis of the principles which underlie Psychology and everything else. Psychology is the history of a process: Philosophy assigns that [p107] process its place in the grand Whole. Today I wish to point out how that distinction bears upon the Ethics of Aristotle.

According to Plato, the empirical world consisted of two constituents — the sensitive elements and the idea. These two existed χωρὶς, that is to say, were patent to different faculties. Aristotle took Plato’s materials and used them in a different way, and made them apparently more precise.

In his First Philosophy, Aristotle considers the constituents common to all actuality. These are four — Form, Matter, Moving Cause, and End: that is to say, he breaks up the Idea into three, viz., Form, Moving Cause, and End; while Matter represents the Indefinite of Plato, the pabulum of the Senses, the determinable factor in the Idea.

Each individual thing — τόδε τι — is — σύνολον — the result of union between Matter and Form; and in organic things, Form includes Movement and End. Each organic thing consequently has an End, and therefore Man. It will be observed that End is the correlative of Beginning: Beginning initiates movement of some kind, and this movement eventuates in End; and End for the Will is good. The [p108] student of Kant will recollect his opening sentence: ‘Nothing can be called good except a Good Will.’ That is to say, for Will the end is Good, and for Will only.

This End is not the Utilitarian end, which is pleasure of some kind attainable by the proper means. The Aristotelian End, in things which are distinct from this utility, is in the product, as the end of weaving is the cloth; while in other things, of which the working, and not the product, is the end, the end is energy, ἐνέργεια — movement from possibility towards perfection; and movement so completed is perfection, the entelechy, ἐντελέχεια, or end complete the actus immanens of the schoolmen. Thus sight and hearing are the energies and entelechies of the eye and ear. The end of man is thus the completion of a working towards completion. In the organic world, Soul — ψυχὴ — is the unity of the three, Form, Movement, End. The remaining constituent, Matter, as opposed to Form, is στέρησις — negativity: there is in rerum natura no Matter pure or devoid of all Form. On the other hand, Form can exist pure without Matter that is to say, Form has a separable existence χωριστόν. Now Form includes Motion: we have, therefore, Form [p109] moving Matter. And this is the result of analysis: the Moving; the Moved; the Moving and Moved; the Moving and non-Moved. The Moving and not Moved is God — νοῦς = νόησις νοήσεως.

Into the organised body Νοῦς enters ab extra. Man is a microcosm which subsumes all the faculties of the other organisms: in addition to these, Man has Νοῦς. Νοῦς is of two kinds, active, and passive or receptive, παθητικός.

Man, accordingly, so far as he has in him Νοῦς, has in him to that extent Form, which includes Motivity and End. Hence, then, Man contains End, the proposition of the Ethics.

Νοῦς is of two kinds — active and passive — παθητικός. The latter is decomposible, the former not. In what relation Νοῦς in each of us stands to the absolute Νοῦς — the actus purus — God is not clear: that is to say, was Aristotle a Pantheist, or did he hold the distinct existence of the individual Soul.

Man, as we said, contains End, and End is ἀρετή. This notion is familiar to the readers of the Republic in the sense of efficiency — the common-sense notion of adaptation to an end or work, found in a man, a horse, an organ of sense, a vine-hook: that is to say, the end of Man is [p110] inner working — actus immanens — which does not pass into overt action or material result.

From Speusippus, the nephew and successor of Plato, Aristotle took the notion that virtue is εὐδαιμονίας ἐργαστική; while happiness, according to Speusippus, was ἕξις τελεία ἐν τοῖς κατὰ φύσιν ἔχουσιν. (Clement of Alexandria Stromateis ii., 418d.)

From Xenocrates, the successor of Speusippus, he took the notion that εὐδαιμονία was κτῆσις, ib. 419a.

In a well-known passage in the second book of the Ethics, Aristotle states that ethical virtue is one of three states of Soul. But, argues he, as it is not πάθος, and as it is not δύναμις, it must be ἕξις. It is obvious that this reasoning depends on the exhaustiveness of the division. But the division is exhaustive. It is not πάθος receptivity; it is not δύναμις, potentiality of action; it is, therefore, ἕξις, or relation in degree. That is to say, if ethical virtue has to do with pleasure and pain, virtue cannot consist of mere receptivity of such affections; nor can it consist of mere potentiality of action, which would turn us into conduits of mere action. It remains then that it be ἕξις, which is the abstract expression for the concrete τὸ ἔχειν ἑαῦτόν πως, that is, a relation of the agent to his task. Simplicius, in his [p111] commentary on the Categories, tells us that ἕξις admits of degree, more or less. Hence, then, Virtue is relation of degree between the Agent and his task: hence the doctrine of the Relative Mean.

What we should call the Moral Faculty is a species of Νοῦς. Νοῦς acts either as ἐπιστήμη or φρόνησις. The former relates to the logical and scientific conclusion; the latter to the Practical Good. Νοεῖν and φρονεῖν resemble sensible perception, in having as their object reality, τῶν ὄντων τι, while αἰσθάνεσθαι is never wrong. Νοῦς essentially admits of τὸ ὄρθως and τὸ μή: that is to say, the conceptions of φρονεῖν and ἐπιστήμη are of necessity either right or wrong, de Anima ii. iii. 3.

Νοῦς, we must remember, is the union of Form, Efficiency, and End: hence, the ἐνέργεια of Νοῦς is ζωή, life. Νοῦς is thus the principle of individuality in man, and is the source of the higher pleasures. It is pleasure to perceive inherent good, and existence is an intense good; for existence is either Thought or Perception. Aristotle, in language and sentiment, anticipates the famous Cogito ergo sum of Descartes τὸ γὰρ εἶναι ἦν αἰσθάνεσθαι ἢ νοεῖν, Nicomachean Ethics ix., ix. 9.

Aristotle’s theory of sensation is as follows: — Sensation is of the genus Motion or Passion, and of [p112] the species Change, de Anima ii. v. 7. We must recollect that Genus and Species in Logic are what Matter and Form are in his Philosophy, Metaphysics Z. xii. Change is defined as Alteration in Quality, Physics vii., 10. But Passion does not express pure Passivity. It signifies, first, that the object of perception produces in the percipient an alteration of his previous state; second, that the immanent qualities of the percipient are thereby evoked. The object brings about the first change only: de Anima ii., vii., 9. In the first change the mind is unlike its object; in the final change it is like it: de Anima ii. v. 4, 12. This is the meaning of receiving Form without Matter: de Anima ii., xii., i. Or as he puts it in the Metaphysics, that which is in energy comes of that which exists in potentiality through the action of reality which is in energy, Metaphysics viii. If we recollect that, in Aristotle, Νοῦς is the highest faculty: that Sense, when excited by the stimulus, protrudes its Forms; that the stimuli are things which pre-exist, i.e. are permanent and independent of us, and are without sensation, while they cause sensation, we can see the main features of Kant’s system, the Sensibility, the Form of the Sensibility, the Thing-by-itself, and the Faculty of Forms or Categories. [p113]

Aristotle’s criticism of the Platonic Idea is fatal to his pretensions as a metaphysician. Coleridge’s remark that every man is born a Platonist or an Aristotelean has more truth than epigrams in general. The idealist can understand the empiricist, but the empiricist gazes after him in vain with

white upturned wondering eyes
When he bestrides the lazy-puffing clouds
And sails upon the bosom of the air.

One can sympathise with Syrianus when he commented on Nicomachean Ethics. Aristotle’s worst sins appear concentrated in the Nicomachean Ethics, i., vi. The argument may be conveniently arranged thus: From section 2 to section 13 Aristotle argues from Plato’s principles, and from 13 to the end he argues on his own principles that the Good is not πρακτὸν οὐδὲ κτητὸν ἀνθρώπῳ. But of one sin, laid at his door by Liddell and Scott, Aristotle is guiltless; τὸ φαινόμενον ἀγαθὸν is not the seeming good, but the empirical good thing in course of presentation in space and time. Τὸ φαινόμενον ἀγαθὸν is the minor of the Practical Syllogism of the Seventh Book. Plato’s Good, like his Ideas, was transcendental in experience, constituting it, and beyond it, and to some extent, but never completely, grasped by man.


II. Butler’s Two Methods. The student of Butler is familiar with the passage which describes ‘the two ways in which the subject of Morals may be treated.’ The passage occurs in the preface to the second edition of the Sermons published in 1729, and is as follows: —

‘One begins by inquiring into the abstract relations of things; the other, from a matter of fact, namely, what the particular nature of Man is, in its several parts, their economy, or constitution; from whence it proceeds to determine what course of life it is which is correspondent to this whole nature. In the former case the conclusion is expressed thus, that Vice is contrary to the nature and reason of things; in the latter, that it is a violation or breaking in upon our own nature. Thus they both lead us to the same thing — our obligations to the practice of virtue: and thus they exceedingly strengthen and enforce each other. The first seems the most direct formal proof, and in some respects the least liable to cavil and dispute: the latter is in a peculiar manner adapted to satisfy a fair mind, and is more easily applicable to the several particular relations and circumstances in life’ (Preface, Tegg’s edition, p. x). [p115]

I propose to show that both methods agree in making fitness the test of virtue; fitness, in other words, being the ultimate reason that Butler would give for an action being right. This answer will make clear what is otherwise somewhat confused, and answer the objections of Butler’s later critics, Mr. Sidgwick and Professor Fowler.

The first method is taken from the system of Clarke. It is briefly this: Things exist; their relations, therefore, exist: things are therefore real, and therefore their relations are real; and things and their relations are as they appear. Now, Virtue and Vice are relations, and are therefore real. Therefore the distinction between virtue and vice is immutable.

In order to show how Clarke’s views bear fruit in Butler, I have reduced the system of the latter to a few propositions: —

I. Man has propensions.

II. These propensions seek their objects directly.

III. Man has a faculty which takes notice of the direct action of these propensions, and as such it is reflex.

IV. Some of these actions it perceives to be [p116] congruous with man’s system; some to be incongruous.

V. Congruity involves approbation, and incongruity disapprobation.

VI. Approbation and disapprobation are authoritative.

VII. Authority is involved in the notion of reflex action, as contrasted with the unreflecting or direct propension.

VIII. ‘Congruities and incongruities are as they appear’ (Clarke’s Attributes, prop. xii).

IX. Therefore the congruities and incongruities are real, and therefore the approbation and disapprobation.

What I wish to call your attention to is, that the proposition that congruities are as they appear is not explicit in Butler, but traces of it appear in all his writings. The following are reminiscences of Clarke: — The argument for the existence of God from ‘abstract reasonings,’ (Analogy, Introduction, p. xxviii, Tegg’s edition) the ‘intuitive proof of the intent of nature’ (Analogy, I. iii., p. 43), Moral government ‘falls in with our natural apprehension and sense of things,’ (Analogy, p. 35.) ‘the eternal and unalterable relations, the fitness [p117] and unfitness of actions,’ (Analogy, p. 54.) ‘the will of God is determined by what is fit, by the right and reason of the case’ (Analogy, p. 96. n.).

But the locus classicus in the last chapter of the Analogy — ‘I have argued on the principles of the Fatalists — which I do not believe; and I have omitted a thing of the utmost importance which I do believe — the moral fitness and unfitness of actions prior to all will whatever.’ (Sermons p. 249.) And he continues: — ‘Indeed, the principles of liberty, and that of moral fitness, so force themselves upon the mind, that moralists, the ancients as well as moderns — have formed their language upon it; and probably it may appear in mine, therefore I have endeavoured to avoid it’ (Sermons p. 249).

Again, in the Sermons we have: ‘Everything is what it is, and not another thing’ (Pref. p. xxi); ‘the favour and disapprobation, which respectively are due and belong to the righteous and the wicked, and which therefore must necessarily be in a mind which sees things as they really are’ (Sermons xv. p. 170). These, and other passages are, I contend, only intelligible when referred to the Fitness of Clarke — when it is taken as being what it appears. This is explicit in Clarke. (Attributes, prop. xii.) [p118]

But this mode of thinking, which is really Platonic, is not to be confounded with the other conception, or way of treating morals, which is Aristotelian. The argument is from adaptation or Final Cause τὸ ἑνέκα οὗ. ‘There is no doubt the eye was intended for us to see with’ (Sermons ii. p. 15). The argument from adaptation is often called the ‘reason of the thing,’ i.e. its purpose as gathered from observation, the argument strengthening directly as complexity. For example: a Chubb’s key shows adaptation more than a skeleton key. The reason of the thing is appealed to in the case of Compassion and in the case of Resentment.(Sermons, vi. and viii.) In each case it means purpose inferred from use. But purpose inferred from use is fitness as a matter of fact, and is thus quite distinct from the a priori fitness of Clarke. Both are true.

In short, the ‘second way’ is this: the object of the moral faculty is conduct. The method is a comparison of the conduct with the whole character of the agent (Dissertation on Virtue, p. 274). The details of the process are set forth in a passage little known. It occurs in the essay on Identity: ‘As upon two triangles being compared or viewed together there arises to the mind the idea of similitude; or upon twice [p119] two and four the idea of equality’ (p. 263). Now compare with this the passage — ‘Upon considering or viewing together our notion of Vice and that of Misery, there results a third, that of ill-desert’ (p. 273); and he tells us expressly in the Analogy (p. 95) that the sense of ill-desert is the explicit sanction of moral government. That Butler did not change his views in after life with regard to the distinct utility of each method is plain, from the admirable Sermon before the Lords, June 11, 1747; while London had not forgotten its panic at the approach of the Highlanders. In that civil government is treated as a publication and as an enforcement of the Law of Nature, and as a means to the end to which ‘the constitution of our nature carries us’ (Sermons, p. 243). That is, he dwells on the matter-of-fact fitness of man for civil government. In his Charge to the Clergy, in 1751, he recommends certain modes of behaviour ‘as due to ourselves and to our religion.’ (Sermons, p. 271.) Another reason for holding that we see relations as they are is derivable from Butler’s language. His language is that of Locke. We have ‘perceptions’ of various moral phenomena. Now, the student of Locke knows that perception means [p120] the notice which the mind takes of its own operations, in which case it is passive (Essay, II. ix. i.) — that is to say, the mind does not modify or alter the perception. Another trait of Locke’s language is where we are told to see what Resentment is when traced up to its ‘original,’ i.e. to its natural and unsophisticated state. In fact, Locke’s ‘original’ may be always rendered, to borrow from arithmetic, ‘when reduced to its lowest terms.’ I may add that Mr. Mill and M. Cousin have strangely confounded ‘original’ with ‘origin’ (Mill on Hamilton, p. 147. Cousin, Lectures, 2nd ser. vol. ii, xvi. p. 194).

But if we have perceptions of fitness as a matter of fact, and if some propensions are fitter for our own good, and some for the good of others, it follows that Butler’s ultimate rational is neither egoistic nor altruistic, but solely that of fitness, either a priori borrowed from Clarke, or infallibly inferred from matter of fact.

Mr. Sidgwick, in his Methods of Ethics, says he ‘only differs with Butler when he asks himself, “What among the precepts of our common conscience do we really see to be ultimately reasonable?”’ A question which he says Butler ‘does not seem to have put, and to which, at any rate, he has [p121] given no satisfactory answer’ (Preface, p. xii., 2nd edition). The answer may be found in his Twelfth Sermon, and elsewhere. In the Twelfth Sermon he says: ‘We are in a peculiar manner, as I may speak, entrusted with ourselves, and therefore care of our own interest, as well as of our conduct, particularly belongs to us’ (p. 138). And in the official passage on the nature of Virtue he tells us Prudence is a virtue, because it is approved, and approved of by the approving faculty, ἡ δοκιμαστική of that which approves with authority thereto the term being borrowed from Athenian Law, where it meant approval on the merits.

The following passages, amongst others, show what Butler is prepared to concede to Self-love: —

‘No one can act but from a desire, or choice, or preference of his own’ (p. xx).

‘All actions agree in this, that they both proceed from, and are done to gratify, an inclination in a man’s self’ (p. 116).

‘Our ideas of happiness and misery are, of all our ideas, the nearest and most intimately important to us; that they will nay, if you please, that they ought to prevail over those of order and beauty, and harmony and proportion, if there should ever be, as it is impossible there ever should be, any inconsistency between them’ (p. 128). [p122]

‘We can neither justify this or any other pursuit till we are convinced that it will be for our happiness, or at least not contrary to it’ (p. 128).

‘So far as the interests of virtue depend on the theory of it being secured from open scorn, so far its very being in the world depends on its appearing to have no contrariety to private interest and self-love’ (p. 128).

Man ‘would, in fact, and ought to, be more taken up and employed about himself and his own concerns, than about others and their interests’ (p. 137).

‘We are in a peculiar manner, as I may speak, entrusted with ourselves; and therefore care of our own interests, as well as of our conduct, particularly belongs to us’ (p. 138).

‘Nothing can be of consequence to mankind or any creature but happiness’ (p. 142).

‘Every man in every thing he does naturally acts upon the forethought and apprehension of obtaining good or avoiding evil’ (Analogy, part, ii., chap. ii., p. 22).

The fact is, Butler uses Self-love in two senses, and these he carefully distinguishes. ‘Self-love, considered merely as an active principle leading us to pursue our chief interest,’ and ‘Self-love considered merely as the desire of our own interest or [p123] happiness’ (Analogy, p. 83) may clash; but so far as they may clash, it is the latter only which may go astray.

We may now answer Mr. Sidgwick’s question, What is Butler’s ultimate rational? It is approval, i.e. a testing of the action by comparing it with the capacities of the agent; approval, meaning not acceptance in the commercial sense of ‘goods sent on approval,’ but in the sense pointed out, after scrutiny. Self-love, then, like everything else, is only right on scrutiny, and not before.

In his account of the authority of the approving faculty, Epictetus is superior to Butler. He gives a scientific reason why it approves ‘of all the faculties (except that which I shall soon mention), you will find not one which is capable of contemplating itself, and consequently not capable either of approving or disapproving.’ What faculty is it? ‘The rational faculty; for this is the only faculty that we have received which examines itself, and … all other faculties’ (Epictetus Diatribes i., i. xx).

Top ↑


Chapter V. Transition From Ancient to Modern Philosophy

I. Universals. Western Philosophy begins with Thales. Down to the time of Heraclitus, it was eminently objective. Heraclitus taught that all things were in a state of perpetual flux — πάντα χωρεῖν. But this flux was an objective law of the universe, and not a figment projected by our imagination on a blank. Socrates was struck by the difficulty, how, if πάντα χωρεῖν, there can be ἐπιστήμη. Philology has confirmed the view of the untutored Greek that ἐπιστήμη is connected with ἵστημι. This being so, the difficulty to a Greek was how there could be stop or stay in that which never stops or stays. Can there be a halting-place in Niagara? In opposition, then, to the flux of Heraclitus, Socrates affirmed the objectivity of γένη. To use the Greek metaphor, he arrested the movement. That is, the γένος was a halt in the torrent. The Socrates γένος was made [p125] more precise by Plato in his Idea. That is, the objectivity of the universal, which was left undefined by Socrates, was defined by Plato. Aristotle differed with Plato in certain points, but he agreed with Socrates and Plato as to the necessity of the universal element. And out of the controversy which raged for centuries as to the nature of universals, Modern Philosophy has emerged thus: —

Porphyry the Platonist, 232-304, A.D., wrote his Isagoge — an introduction to the Categories of Aristotle, which may be found in any edition of the Organon. This treatise was known to the mediaeval schoolmen in the translation of Boethius, one of the last of the Neo-Platonists: his date is 470-425 A.D.

The passage in Porphyry is as follows: — Αὐτίκα περὶ γενῶν τε καὶ εἰδῶν, τὸ μὲν, εἴτε ὑφέστηκεν, εἴτε καὶ ἐν μόναις ψιλαῖς ἐπινοίαις κεῖται, εἴτε καὶ ὑφεστηκοτα, σώματά ἐστιν, ἦ ἀσώματα, καὶ πότερον χωριστὰ, ἢ ἐν τοῖς αἰσθητοῖς, καὶ περὶ ταῦτα ὑφέστῶτα, παραι τήσομαι λέγειν, βαθυτάτης οὔσης τῆς τοιαύτης πραγματείας, καὶ ἄλλης μείζονος δεομένης ἐξετάσεως.

Boethius translates thus: Mox de generibus et speciebus illud quidem sive subsistant sive in solis nudis intellectibus posita sint, sive subsistentia corporalia sint [p126] an incorporalia, et utrum separata a sensilibus an in sensilibus posita et circa haec consistentia dicere recusabo.

This passage is the text of the philosophy of the schoolmen, from our countryman John Erigen to St. Thomas Aquinas, whose philosophy still dominates theology, and has received the sanction of the present Pontiff. It may be confidently asserted that no passage in any writer, sacred or profane, has evoked such intellectual activity as this single sentence of Boethius. It is the Helen of Logic.

Scholasticism was evolved thus: Dionysius the Areopagite is mentioned in Acts xvii. 34. To this Dionysius are attributed certain Neo-Platonic treatises which are appealed to in controversy of the year A.D. 532. These treatises were translated by John Erigen, and exercised very considerable influence on mediaeval thought. The Areopagitic writings blend Neo-Platonism with Christianity. John Erigen was born about 800 or 810, and died in 877, and from that date on, Christian writers applied the doctrines of Plato and Aristotle with regard to the objectivity of knowledge to the expositions of religion, natural and revealed.

Let us now go back to the text of Porphyry. In modern language it reads thus: Are the [p127] Predicables subjective or objective? Are they material or immaterial? and in either case do they exist in Particulars, or apart from Particulars? This precise anticipation of scholasticism in its various forms of Realism, Conceptualism, and Nominalism presupposes, like modern psychology, a Mind, like a trunk, to be packed on one side, and commodities to pack it on the other. And this, I need not remind you, is the view with which Locke’s Essay has made you familiar.

In Porphyry’s division the possibility of the predicables existing solely in the intellect is the only form which savours of Subjectivism. If the constitutive framework of things exists only in our intellect quâ subject, the shapeless pulp which serves as the matter of the universe will not detain us long. This is easily seen in Kant. In Kant the non-subjective cause of our sensations is unknown. But the ancients had not reached this phase. The Academics held that though something might always be said on the other side, yet the preponderance of opinion resulted in probability. And even the Sceptics in their Ten and Five Tropes did not argue against the objectivity of truth, but insisted that the equivalence of the arguments pro and con necessarily prevented the mind from [p128] drawing a conclusion. Of course this was virtually to assert that where argument precipitated, truth was formed. But from the Conceptualism of the schoolmen, and in some cases from their Nominalism, we have reached this point: We have knowledge: that knowledge is, at one side at least, subjective. Is it anything more? In other words, is knowledge anything more than the spectre of ourselves projected on blank nothingness?


II. Descartes. Taking perception as the basis of classification, the schoolmen may be classed accordingly. According to their view of the relation of the Universal to particulars, the Universal was said to exist ante rem, in re, post rem. Ante rem denoted the Platonists; in re the Aristotelians; and post rem the rest. Those whose key-note was post rem were either Nominalists or Conceptualists. With Conceptualism, Subjectivism properly begins. If Universals are merely modes of our human thinking, it is obvious we can place no great reliance on philosophy, and not much more on science. Physical science will, it is true, [p129] minister to our convenience, but that is not much. But the important point in the history of philosophy is that Conceptualism openly taught that universals could and did exist only inside the four corners of the human mind. That is to say, that the main constituents of the universe were mental modifications. It is curious that Conceptualism, as a possibility of thought, is stated in the clearest manner by Plato in the Parmenides.

The reaction against Scholasticism is due mainly, to Descartes, 1596-1650. With regard to the great question which divided the schoolmen, Descartes held that universals arose from making use of one and the same idea in thinking of all individual objects, between which there subsists a certain likeness; and when we comprehend all the objects represented by this idea under one name, this term likewise becomes universal (Principles of Philosophy i. lix.). From this we may see that Descartes was not a realist, and that he was accordingly prepared to seek for truth within the limits of his own mind. This being so, he proceeded as follows: —

We are occasionally deceived by the senses, for we dream. Can we then believe in anything? To answer this, he proceeded to discard every opinion of which he could doubt; and in this way [p130] reached the point, that though he could doubt of the validity of every opinion whatsoever, yet that he could not, while in doubt, doubt, and so deny, that he, the doubter, existed while doubting. That is, as he himself explained it, we are immediately conscious of what takes place in us; and when we refer the thought to the mind the knowledge is manifestly certain, and it is the mind alone which is conscious that it thinks, thinking including every mental mode (Principles of Philosophy i. ix.); that is to say, it includes intelligere entendre; velle; imaginari; sentire sentir (Principles of Philosophy). Cogito, ergo sum is thus an intuition of consciousness une connoissance intuitive (Letter 124, vol. iii. 639, ed. V. Cousin).

So much has been written on the famous Cogito ergo sum that Prof. Bain wonders people have not grown tired of trying to extract more sunbeams from this overgrown cucumber. It has been called a Syllogism; but, as Hegel remarked, the man who called it a Syllogism knew nothing about a Syllogism, except that it had an ergo in it. It is not, says Descartes in the letter quoted, a work of your reasoning, or a product of instruction. Here, at all events, we have an intuition which is clear and distinct, and this will furnish a criterion of other notions. But we must see what Descartes meant [p131] by the familiar terms clear and distinct. Everything in his philosophy rests on these two terms.

Clear is that which is present and manifest to the mind which gives attention to it, just as we are said to see objects clearly, when they are presented to the eye, and when they stimulate it with sufficient force, and it is disposed to regard them (Principles of Philosophy i. xlv.)

Distinct is that which is so precise and different from all other objects as to comprehend in itself only what is clear (Principles of Philosophy) That is to say, all that is distinct is clear, but all that is clear is not necessarily distinct. To take his own illustration, when one feels intense pain, the knowledge which he has of this pain is very clear, but it is not always distinct; for men usually confound it with the obscure judgment they form regarding its nature, and think there is in the suffering part something similar to the sensation of pain of which alone they are conscious (Principles of Philosophy) xlvi. But, before we can fully see the meaning of distinctness as a criterion, we must proceed to a further development of Cartesianism.

I exist, and when I think, amongst my thoughts I have, or am capable of having, the idea of a supremely perfect being: this supremely perfect being therefore exists. But it is one of the truths which [p132] exist in the mind that anything existing cannot have nothing for its cause. Therefore the idea of the supremely perfect being cannot have nothing for its cause: the idea is consequently caused in us by supreme perfection.

For, causes work two ways, formaliter and emineuter: formaliter, when the effect exactly reproduces the quantum of the cause: eminenter, when the quantum of cause exists in a more eminent degree than in the effect. Formaliter is a metaphor from a seal exactly fitting into its impression: eminenter signifies that the cause extends beyond the effect — is, in a word, too big for it. And this is exactly the argument of St. Anselm.

St. Anselm, 1033-1109, in his Proslogium argues as follows: — That a greater than which cannot be thought — concipi — grasped — cannot exist in the mind i.e., my mind, only. For, if it did, a greater is conceivable as existing beyond my mind. This can be illustrated thus: a maximum line cannot exist inside this room only: if it did, the line which runs out beyond the room is larger than the line cut off inside the room; but that was the maximum: Q. A. E.

But we have the idea of something a greater than which cannot be thought: it therefore exists [p133] out of any mind, as the Schoolmen said, re, as we say now, objectively. And this is the famous ontological argument for the existence of God; that is, the correlate of the idea is real.

The argument was attacked in Anselm’s own time by Gaunilo, a monk, who was also the Count of Montigni. His argument is the modern one, that from an idea you cannot infer existence; for, said he, Anselm’s argument would prove the existence of a perfect island. But the most fierce attack was made by Kant in his doctrine that existence was no part of an idea, but was a relation between the idea and us. But Hegel has vindicated the argument by showing that existence cannot be severed from thought, meaning by thought, not the pictured fancy, but the process of the universe. It is idle to ask what guaranties thought, for thought is the universe, and the universe is its own guaranty, for it has, and can have, no alternative. And Descartes, in the spirit of Hegel, says it is evident that all that is true is something [truth being identical with existence] (Meditations V). The words in brackets are not in the Latin edition of 1641, but are taken from the French edition of 1647.

I may remark that Kant’s famous illustration of the difference between the hundred actual dollars [p134] and the hundred possible dollars amounts merely to this, that unlike experiences are unlike. The propositions, I have £10 and I have not £10, differ in have and have not, and not in the symbol £10, which is exactly similar in each case. They are, in Kant’s language, synthetic judgments a posteriori, while the relation of thought and existence is synthetic a priori. Those who talk loudly of Kant having shattered forever the Ontological and Cosmological arguments quite forget that his argument depends on his technical distinction between the a priori element and the subjectivity of the sensibility. The criterion of the a priori element is Kant’s contribution to philosophy: the subjectivity of sense is a false assumption. Deny it, and Kant’s attack on metaphysics comes to nought. But the fashionable procedure is to throw over Kant where he is right, and to take him up where he is wrong.

Criticising the illustration, Hegel says, ‘Can there be anything pettier in knowledge than this? Above all, it is well to remember, when we speak of God, that we have an object of another kind than any hundred dollars, and unlike any particular notion, conceit, or whatever else it may be styled. The very nature of everything finite is expressed by saying that its Being in time and space is discrepant [p135] from its Notion. God, on the contrary, ought to be that which can only be thought as existing. His Notion involves Being. It is this unity of the Notion and Being that constitutes the notion of God’ (Logic, Encyclopedia 51, Wallace’s Translation p. 92).

To return to Descartes: —In his Fourth Meditation he thus describes his criterion of distinctness: ‘Every clear and distinct conception is doubtless something, and so cannot owe its origin to nothing, but must of necessity have God for its author — God I say, who, as supremely perfect, cannot without contradiction be the cause of any error, and consequently it is necessary to conclude that every such conception or judgment is true (Meditation IV.).

This passage is a complete answer to the criticism, that Descartes fails to distinguish between subjective and objective certainty. Clearness is the test of the one, and distinctness of the other, though clearness may receive the imprimatur of distinctness. I may add that Locke uses clear and distinct in the sense, as he tells us in his Epistle to the Reader, of determinate.

As a point of literary interest, cogito ergo sum occurs in almost identical expression in Aristotle (Nicomachean Ethics ix. ix. 9). [p136]

Starting then from cogito ergo sum, clearness and distinctness become criteria when clearness is subsumed in distinctness, and the latter is correlated with the causality of God. The order of notions is: a thing is distinct, it is therefore something; therefore not from nothing; therefore from God; and therefore true.

The value of the ontological argument is precisely this: subject and object — thought and existence — are inseparable moments of one process: these two moments being combined in the one process, the process is something more than the moments it combines. Philosophically, the ontological argument expresses the unity of thought and existence: theologically, it proclaims that God as the Supreme Spirit is revealed in and to the Universe. Nature is a series, and is therefore cognized by something which is not a series; and that by which Nature is cognized, must, in cognizing Nature, cognize itself: that is, must be an Eternal Spirit. [p137]


III. Leibniz. The ontological argument which Descartes used to prove the existence of God is found also in Leibniz. Leibniz was born in 1646, and died in 1716. His argument should be regarded like the similar argument in Descartes, not as a contribution to theology, but as the basis of metaphysics — philosophy — thought. As Hegel says: ‘The objects of philosophy are, on the whole, the same as those of religion. In both the object is Truth, in the supreme sense that God, and God only, is the Truth. In like manner, both religion and philosophy treat of the finite worlds of Nature and the human Mind with relation to each other and their truth in God.’ But he adds, that in dealing with the objects of religion, and with truth as a whole, the philosopher will have to show that philosophy is capable of apprehending them from its own resources.

Slightly to anticipate, all ideas, according to the modern psychologist, are of subjective import. All the ideas we have, says Locke, may be decomposed into simple ideas of sensation and reflection. Next, Kant makes the a priori constituents the sine quâ [p138] non of thought; I have quoted what may be called the locus classicus in my first lecture: it is from the Prolegomena, section 30. But as these constituents have no material save the impressions of the sensibility, it is plain that the a priori apparatus of the Kantian gives nothing more than the subjective machinery of the Lockist, save that we have the poor consolation of knowing that the range of the Kantian constituents is not in itself limited to its actual material. It is poor consolation to tell us we have arms of precision when there is nothing to hit. Then comes Hegel to rehabilitate the principle which gave, and still gives, vitality to scholasticism, that thought constitutes the essence of all that is (Wallace’s Hegel, p. 63). And this principle, which is the abstract expression of cogito ergo sum of the idea of the supremely perfect in Descartes, will be found to be also the expression of the similar argument in Leibniz.

According to Leibniz, we are in possession of truths of two kinds — a posteriori and a priori. The first truths we have a posteriori are the immediate apperception of our existence and of our thoughts; that is, our first experiences. The truths a priori are identical propositions which are also immediate. In the case of the first truths a posteriori, [p139] there is immediacy between the Understanding and the Object; in the truths a priori there is immediacy between the Subject and Predicate (Nouveaux Essais, iv. ix. 2).

If we take the truths a priori, and analyze them, we shall find that at each step back the proposition becomes wider and wider, until the last analysis rests ultimately on what, to borrow from Lucretius, maybe called the maximitas of God: in Hegel’s words, God must be simply and solely the ground of everything (Wallace’s Hegel, p. 62).

The second a priori argument is that God, if he is possible, must exist. That is to say, in the regress of analysis, every obstacle to existence disappears, and in this way existence is found to belong in the last analysis to the ultimate, unique, necessary, and universal being. That is, where there is no restriction from outside, possibility is paramount within. Again, to quote Hegel, the second argument of Leibniz expresses the inseparability of the thought of God from his being (Wallace’s Hegel, p. 92). The two a priori arguments are found in Nouveaux Essais, iv. x. 7, 8.

The a posteriori argument is as follows: — Contingent beings exist. Now, the Principle of the Sufficient Reason demands, that when a contingent [p140] being is in a particular state, there must be a particular and sufficient reason for its being in that state rather than in any other. Hence, then, the sufficient reason of everything contingent is the necessary being of God. The Sufficient, or ultimate reason of a series, must be out of the series, infinite though it be (Monadologie, 37). The three proofs are given in the same treatise (section 45).

The notion Sufficient Reason may be traced to Archimedes. Archimedes used it to bridge the chasm between Mathematics and Physics. Thus, if the scales of a balance are exactly alike, and equally weighted, they will not move; for there is no sufficient reason for their moving, and this is sufficient reason why they keep in equilibrium.

The Sufficient Reason or Ground becomes in Hegel’s hands most fruitful. ‘If we use the phrase sufficient ground, the epithet is either otiose or of such a kind as to carry us past the mere category of Ground. The predicate is otiose and tautological if it only states the capability of giving a ground or reason; for the ground is a ground only in so far as it has this capability. If a soldier runs away from battle to save his life, his conduct is certainly unconformable to duty, but it cannot be held that the ground which led him so to act was [p141] insufficient, otherwise he would have remained at his post’ (Encyclopedia 121, Wallace, p. 195). ‘Leibniz added the designation sufficient, in order to distinguish it sharply from the mechanical conception of cause as an external activity or impulse. … Mechanical causes are not sufficient for unity, because the final cause, as the unity of their determinations, does not lie at the basis of mechanical causes. Under the concept of sufficient cause, therefore, Leibniz has conceived a cause that sufficed for this unity, and therefore not a mere cause, but the final cause. The definition of ground, as understood by Leibniz, is the theological ground, which is a category of the Begriff’ (Logic, vol. II., Harris, p. 81). That is, sufficient reason is final cause, and final cause is the notion: the notion is development into the idea — the Absolute — the truth — the correspondence of objectivity with the Notion — the synthesis of subjectivity and objectivity.

To recapitulate: Socrates posits the Universal: the Universal sifted deposits the Ego as its counterpart: the Ego for experiment is made the whole by Descartes, Kant points out elements in the Ego which have an objective import; and, finally, Hegel subsumes these elements of double aspect into the whole — Thought.

Top ↑


Chapter VI. Kant

I. The Issue between Hume and Kant. Before we can get a clear view of the system of Kant, we must place ourselves in the position of Hume: his account of cognition is as follows: —

In the first place, he confines himself strictly to mental data; the phenomena of nervous action he commends to ‘the anatomists,’ while he holds that the objective cause of our sensations is ‘perfectly inexplicable by human reason.’ This being so, our mental furniture is catalogued as follows: — The complex facts of mind are compounded of two elements — impressions or functions of the senses, and their copies. These copies Hume calls ideas. But as our universe is, as he expressly tells us, a universe of the imagination only, it is obvious that the copy differs from the impression in vividness merely. The live lion in the Zoological Gardens differs from the rival pair in Bombastes Furioso in vivacity alone. The common heading of impressions [p143] and ideas is Perception, a term which I stated in my lecture on Butler to be borrowed from Locke. Locke says in his official chapter, ii. ix. i, ‘in bare naked perception the mind is passive’; hence in Locke, Hume, and Butler, perception means the unavoidable reception of a mental datum.

Between ideas and impressions there is this further relation: the idea ought always be capable of being tested by the impression, just as bank-notes ought to be convertible into gold. Hence, if we have any idea for which we cannot produce a corresponding impression or impressions, the idea, so far as it is not convertible into impressions, must be so far pronounced a figment.

But there are also relations between ideas; so that a relation may be called the copy of an impression intervening between other copies of impressions.

On relations our reasoning is founded, and conspicuous amongst relations is Cause and Effect. The relation of cause and effect is of all relations the most extensive, and it is the best guaranty of reasoning. We infer a cause immediately from its effect; and such an inference is not only a true species of reasoning, but the foundation of all the others. It is quite plain that if the [p144] supposed foundation is proved to be no foundation, Chaos is come again. And Hume makes ready the way, thus: —

If we test the relation — if we demand that it be converted into impression — we find that it cannot be converted. If there is no original there can be no copy. If, then, it is anything at all, it consists of relations, and of some figment from within. What relations? The relations of

Contiguity;
Succession; and
Constant conjunction.

But as this is not what we mean by Cause, it follows that Cause derives its potency from something internal besides, and this internal contribution Hume takes to be custom.

That is to say, our reasoning has no objective basis. For, though Hume makes our universe one of imagination only, he allows greater objectivity, i.e. vivacity, to the impression than to the idea, its copy. From all this it follows that we are not only prisoners for life in a very narrow oubliette, but that the only gleam that lights our cell is positively delusive. We live in a chaos of lawlessness, and [p145] the only law we can impose is weaker than its unruly subjects. The machine is not only not stronger than its weakest part, but derives its sole strength from the weakest part. Where all is lawless there can be no law.

Kant was struck with this, and reasoned as follows: — The proposition we both deal with, Hume and I, is, every effect must have a cause. Agreed. The matter of fact, which is part of every case of causation, is contingent. It might have been otherwise. An icicle hanging from a water-barrel might, for all we know, be as formidable a weapon as a red-hot poker. Agreed. Where, then, do we differ? Is it not whence comes the must? Quite so, says Hume: I say, faute de mieux, it comes from custom. Show me a better, and I am yours. It is not custom, replies Kant, but a category — a function of the Understanding which imprints on the data of the senses its own necessity and universality.

Hume might rejoin: You, Kant, hold Locke’s position, that we only know our own ideas; Locke’s faculties you call Categories: what I call custom, and set down to association, you appropriate to a Category, and call it necessity. In each case the vinculum is mental; I call it imaginary; you call it a priori; I don’t see you have gained much, for you acknowledge [p146] that, in the absence of impressions — your intuitions — your Category —

aequataque machina caelo

hangs idle. I say, where all is lawless there is no law: you say, because all is lawless there must be law. In the jargon of the Logicians, I say every effect is post hoc: you say it is propter hoc. To be more barbarous still, all propter, you say, is some post: how do you propterise my post?

To this I hold the Kantian, high and dry, can make no reply: on the other hand, I hold that Kant has provided us with a weapon, which shatters, as the potter’s vessel, Materialism and Agnosticism.


II. Kant’s Reply. Kant’s reply to Hume may be put thus: — The question between us is not confined to Cause; it contains many other cases in pari materia, as I have found in searching for my answer to you upon Causality. But as Cause is, as you allow, the foundation of all relations, and of our reasoning, Cause may be taken as a test-case, and my answer to you is, that whenever one perception is always preceded by another, and the order is never [p147] reversed, the Understanding stamps the antecedent as Cause, and the consequent as Effect. Now, as the hall-marks of the Understanding are Necessity and Universality, the relation of Cause and Effect bears the stamp of Necessity and Universality. But the category is a function of Understanding, and Understanding is nothing if not cognitive; hence the category is cognitive, necessarily and universally; and in this way my category

aequataque machina caelo

hoists us out of the mists of scepticism, and lands us, high and dry, in the clear light of objectivity.

The following are the ingredients of Causality, according to Kant:

I. Order in Time; mere before and after, e. g. A B.
II. Combination in imagination; mere compounding, A before, but along with, B, e. g. A + B.
III. Manipulation in the Schema as invariably and irreversibly Antecedent and Consequent.
IV. Translation by the Category of invariable and irreversible Antecedence and Consequence into Cause and Effect.
V. Unification by Apperception of the whole process. [p148]

To reverse the process:

I. The unknown noumenon, ego, imposes,
II. Through the logical ego,
III. The Categories;
IV. Through the Schema, on
V. The Form Time.

Now, the Form Time ripples past the Form Space, and the Form Space frames the impressions on the Sensibility: when the impressions on the Sensibility are referred to the Form of Sensibility, they are Kant’s intuitions: when the same impressions are referred to the Matter of the Sensibility they are sensations, and when referred to the subject they are Feelings (Introduction to the Metaphysics of Morals, Abbott, p. 266). Here it is open to anyone to call Kant’s Understanding and its Categories subjective, and we have Kant and Hume at one. For there is no outward bond between Cause and Effect, but an inward tie only. And yet Kant has forever rendered the philosophy of Hume impossible. That is, we may find in Kant ample materials for refuting Hume. With Hume down come all Psychologists, Positivists, and Agnostics, so far as they rest on any rational basis. Observe, materials are to be found in Kant for answering Hume and his progeny, but Kant cannot avail himself of [p149] the answer. For, take away from Kant’s Category its sensible pabulum, and, according to Kant himself, it is nothing, as he expressly tells us in the passage referred to in my first lecture. But to say that, in the absence of pabulum the Category is nothing, is to dogmatize in negation. The Category is not nothing: it is not nothing, because it displays the unmistakable characteristics, Necessity and Universality. It therefore does not belong to Subject quâ Subject merely, but is the law of Subject and Object subsumed into the higher and fuller unity — thought. Cut Kant’s Category loose from its subjective holdings, and it is the Universe.

Kant’s cumbrous machinery is purely technical; it is so technical that it stands or falls with certain peculiarities of Kant’s system. Kant’s real contribution to philosophy — that which has made him immortal — is his Criterion — Necessity and Universality. But his doctrine of Faculties is another thing. We have, according to Kant, two faculties, Sensibility and Understanding. The characteristics of these are opposite. We know not whence these faculties come. Their origin is unknown to us, but it is possible they may spring from a common root. We cannot then say whether the Sensibility is a casual acquaintance, a relative, or a parasite. But this [p150] we do know, that as long as we have the sensibility with us we can only see the curtain from the inside, and the Categories cannot help us, as they are nothing in the absence of intuitions. But in spite of all this, it would appear that Kant allowed the Category in the case of Cause an Ultra-intuitional validity; for he asks, “Is it absolutely necessary that, granting all effects to be phenomena, the causality of this cause, which cause is itself a phenomenon, must belong to the empirical world?” (Mahaffy’s Kant, iii., 278). So that the technical difficulty of confining the Category to empirical data, and at the same time attributing causality to the Ding-an-sich may be got over by considering the Category as cognitive, and as it is a priori, necessarily and universally cognitive. But this is vindicating Kant merely inside his own technicalities, and to a broader view the understanding and sensibility would be one subjective organ.

The fact, round which the battle rages, is simply this: I feel cold: I go to the fire, and I get warm: with the idolater in Isaiah, I say Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire. The man was an idolater, but he was a metaphysician. He refers the change in his condition to the fire. But, according to Hume, if the idolater found that the fire only made him [p151] colder, he ought to find his surprise lessened by the reflexion, though the fire had hitherto warmed him, that was no reason why it should do so again. For his mistake was ever to suppose that the fire did anything at all — that it either made him hot or cold.

The view of the idolater in abstract language would be: every change must have a cause. The proposition relates in the first instance to the causal nexus, and not in the first instance to our belief concerning it. More fully thus: in thinking of any change that takes place from A into B, we think as part and parcel of the case, and as an indispensable part and parcel of the case, that the whole change from A into B must be referred to something — say X. It is implied in this that if the change may be referred or not, according to circumstances, there is no problem at all. Change must be referred. That is the fact. Whence the must? That is the question.

The true account of the matter has, I think, been given by Hutchison Stirling, following out a hint of Hegel’s. This is, that the rain is the cause of the wetness, but it is the same water in the wetness that it was in the rain. This Dr. Stirling generalizes, and lays down that identity of force is [p152] the true nexus, and G. H. Lewes saw this, and accepted identity of force, but he did not see that such identity annihilated his empiricism. The order of the notions is thus: Change, cause and effect, identity of force, identity of substance; and, in spite of Mill, cessante causa, cessat et effectus is the negative expression of the true doctrine from the material side. Its expression from the ideal side is this: Change implies something changeless, and must do so. But Change from the material side is an aspect of force, and force is an aspect of motion. Now modern science — not the scientist — is profoundly spiritual. Any candid scientist, who does not want to turn his science into metaphysics, will admit that Boscovich’s theory of unextended centres of force will suit modern physics. In other words, extension even materially depends on the non-extended. But Boscovich’s central point may be resolved into the collision of opposite forces — force as before implying identity and negation. It is conceivable that opposing forces may produce a centre of resistance, just as two men of exactly equal strength, pushing from opposite sides a swinging door, might, unless one gave way, believe it bolted.

Mill defines Cause as the Sum of conditions [p153] [positive and negative] on the presence of which the effect unconditionally follows. Observe the word unconditionally. Mill’s Cause is Sequence + unconditionally. That is, Mill’s cause is some sequence. What sequence? The history of the word unconditionally will show.

The Roman Lawyers called a contract pure when there was no restriction attached to its performance, e.g. an undertaking to pay five sesterces. On the other hand, if the performance of the contract was made to hinge on the happening of some event independent of the contract itself, ‘the contract was binding sub conditione, e. g. a bet. If we do not meet Caius in an hour, will you pay me five sesterces? I will. Here, meeting Caius within the time, fulfilled the condition, and, in Scotch phrase, purified the contract. But if the condition is fulfilled, the transaction becomes pure or unconditional, so that unconditional sequence is simply sequence and nothing more.

To the Humist, the uniformity of Nature is merely a phrase covering a determinable number of cases. Ninety-nine cases give no reason for inferring anything of the hundredth, unless there is, what the Humist denies, something over and above the mere sequence. As a matter of fact, as Mill [p154] points out, to argue from mere sequence is superstition. If this is so, sequence is narrowed down to some sequence, and some involves the question of why some and not all, when, ex hypothesi, some and all are merely different quantities of the very same article? What gives the some its peculiar character? This neither the Scientist nor the Humist can answer; the oracles are dumb.

The source of Hume’s philosophy is not far to seek. Locke had laid down that the Simple Idea was one uniform and uncompounded appearance in the mind which is not distinguishable into different ideas, while the Complex Idea is made up of several simple ones put together. That is to say, the Simple Idea is an actual minimum in the mind. But if the Simple Idea is one uniform and uncompounded appearance, neither Hume nor anyone else could discover in it a power of producing another minimum. No one will object to x being x, but no one can extract from x, pure and simple, the means and matter of multiplication. Hence Hume falls foul of Locke’s doctrine of power. ‘Mr. Locke, in his chapter of power, says, that finding from experience that there are several new productions in matter, and concluding that there must somehow be a power capable of producing them, we arrive at [p155] last, by this reasoning, at his idea of power. But no reasoning can ever give us a new, original, simple idea; as this philosopher himself confesses. This, therefore, can never be the origin of that idea’ (Inquiry, vii., note). This being so, Hume sums up his attack on Cause as follows: — ‘Every idea is copied from some preceding impression, or sentiment; and where we cannot find any impression, we may be certain that there is no idea. In all single instances of the operation of bodies or minds there is nothing that produces any impression, nor consequently can suggest any idea of power or necessary connexion: but when many uniform instances appear, and the same object is always followed by the same event, we then begin to entertain the notion of cause and connexion. We then feel a new sentiment or impression, to wit, a customary connexion in the thought or imagination between one object and its usual attendant; and this sentiment is the original of that idea which we seek for. For as this idea arises from a number of similar instances, and not from any single instance it must arise from that circumstance in which the number of instances differ from every individual instance. But this customary connexion or transition of the imagination is the only circumstance in which they differ. In every other particular they are [p156] alike. The first instance which we saw of motion, communicated by the shock of two billiard-balls (to return to this obvious illustration), is exactly similar to any instance that may at present occur to us; except only that we could not, at first, infer one event from the other, which we are enabled to do at present, after so long a course of uniform experience’ (Inquiry, vii., note).

If Cause cannot be upheld, it is idle to talk of substance.

Whether Locke really was a phenomenalist is more than doubtful. He compares man to a worm shut up in the drawer of a cabinet. But the worm has some room and verge. If the cabinet fell down, like the walls of Jericho, the worm could connect his previous experience with his new and wider range. But Kant certainly took Hume’s view of Locke, and never questioned its truth. In a word, there are in Kant two principles — one true, the necessity of Thought; and one false, the subjectivity of Sense. Kant claims to have added to Locke’s view of Sensation his own peculiar doctrine, that the senses, as well as the understanding, could contemplate a priori (Appendix i., Prolegomena, p. 125), that is, the Sensibility impresses on its matter the a priori characteristics of Necessity and Universality.

It is popularly supposed that Scientific Materialism is supported by Kant’s avowal, ‘I grant by [p157] all means that there are bodies without us, that is things which, though quite unknown to us as to what they are in themselves, we yet know by the representations which their influence on our Sensibility procures us, and which we call bodies — a term signifying merely the appearance of the thing which is unknown to us, but not therefore less real’ (Prolegomena, xii., remark 2). This refers to the Ding-an-sich. What I consider to be the true theory I will state by-and-by.


III. The Fourth Antinomy. Kant’s main lines are those of Aristotle. In Aristotle, νοῦς is the Faculty of Principles, and accordingly, in Kant, Reason — Vernunft — is also the Faculty of Principles. But, as usual, the meaning of the words is changed. The change amounts to this, that Reason is not merely formal in the sense of abstraction of all contents, but also real in the sense of generating Concepts of its own.

Now Reason, quâ logical, gives us the three Syllogisms — the Categorical, the Hypothetic and the Disjunctive; and so, in its real function, Reason gives us Kant’s three Ideas — the Soul, the World, [p158] God. That is to say, Kant’s Idea is the Totality of the conditions of that which is conditioned.

The student of the Common Logic is familiar with the Extension and the Comprehension. This again Kant uses with a change. The extension is universality, and the comprehension is totality. It will be recollected that Socrates stayed the Heraclitean Flux with γένη, and in these γένη, as universals, Aristotle’s Logic and Physics effected their junction. The conception that a Series requires an End — τελος — is Aristotelian, and is the key to the Ethics of Kant.

Kant’s system may be roughly imaged as a series of focusings. The Forms focus the Manifold; the Categories focus the Forms; and the Categories in their turn, with reference to the subject, are focussed by Apperception, and, with reference to the object, by Reason.

Reason, in its logical function, gives us three syllogisms — the Categorical, the Hypothetic, and the Disjunctive; and in its real function Reason gives us three correspondencies — the unconditioned of the Categorical totalized as a subject; the unconditioned of the Hypothetic totalized as a series; the unconditioned of the Disjunctive totalized as a system. To apply this: — [p159]

Reason, with regard to objects in a series, proceeds by means of the Hypothetical Syllogism.

If the Conditioned is given, all its conditions are given. Amongst these conditions is included the Unconditioned. So that, if the Conditioned is given, the Unconditioned is given. This is the major premiss.

But the Conditioned is given —this is the minor.

Therefore the Unconditioned is given. It will be observed that the major argues regressively; if the consequent is given, its antecedent is given, and the purport of the antinomies is to show that in no way can we cognize the Antecedent.

There are four antinomies corresponding to the four main Categories — Quantity, Quality, Relation, Modality. Now, our sensible surroundings form a series of sequents; and so under each Category we must seek for that Unconditioned Antecedent to which regress will bring us. In the Hypothetic of quantity, regress brings us to Unconditioned Quantity: in that of quality, to Unconditioned Quality; in that of Relation, to Unconditioned Relation; and in that of Modality, to Unconditioned Modality. That is to say, Regress gives us completeness of Composition; completeness of Division; completeness of Origination; and completeness of Dependence. [p160]

Now, take these four Completenesses; assert each or deny each. This will give four assertions and four denials in all; pick any of the eight you please, and Kant undertakes to prove its opposite. That is to say, we cannot have, with regard to the phenomenal series, the completeness of antecedence which reason demands. In brief, a cosmical metaphysic is impossible, and this is the indirect proof of Transcendental Ideality (p. 316, Meiklejohn’s Translation).

Happily all the twelve Categories do not furnish Cosmological Ideas, but only those in which regress gives the several completenesses. Of the three Categories of Modality, the contingent presupposes the absolutely necessary — that is, in every respect unconditioned Necessity. And this is the serial antecedent which we require (p. 260).

Professor Mahaffy, following Professor Monck, found difficulties in the Fourth Antinomy, and these I wish now to discuss. But it must be premised that Kant considered the pro and con under each Category valid, provided we hold that phenomena are things by themselves (pp. 316, 313, 264). The Antinomies are not men of straw, waiting for the coup-de-grace at the pleasure of the master, like the auditor in the Tusculans. In fact, Kant, in his [p161] challenge to the philosophers, to be found in his Appendix to the Prolegomena, p. 129, states that every one of the eight opinions has been actually held by some philosopher. Hegel irreverently terms the antinomies sham demonstrations — Schein. But waiving the point of cogency, I submit that the Fourth Antinomy is practically complete.

The Thesis or affirmative side of the Fourth Antinomy runs thus: — There exists an absolutely necessary Being belonging to the world, either as a Part or as the Cause of it.

The Antithesis or negative side is: — There nowhere exists an absolutely necessary Being, either within or without the world, as the Cause of it.

Briefly: —

It exists somewhere:
It exists nowhere as a Cause.

The Antinomy will be seen to be practically complete. If strictly stated, it would run somewhat thus: — Necessary existence is either in the world or out of it. If in it, it is so either as a part or as its Cause. If out of it, it is either out of all relation to the world, or out of the particular relation of Causality. But the supposition that it is out of all relation is not discussed, because it is virtually refuted in the discussion of the second alternative, [p162] that it does not exist in the relation of Cause. That is, if it is not related as Cause, it is not related at all; but it is not related as Cause, for, if it were, it must be in the world. Nor can it be related to the whole without being related to the parts of which that whole is made up. It cannot coincide with the whole without coinciding with some part, which part in that case would become the paramount part, i.e. more than a part, and so not a part.

The Antinomy may be set forth in strict form, thus: —

Thesis — Necessary Existence exists somewhere; either

A, as a part; or
B, as a cause.

Antithesis — Necessary Existence exists nowhere, either

A, out of the world; or
B, in it.

A — Nowhere out of the world admits of two cases, viz: —

a, out of all relation (not discussed).
b, out of causal relation.

B — Nowhere in the world admits of three cases, viz: —

a, in relation with one part.
b, in relation with each part (not discussed).
c, in relation with the aggregate of parts. [p163]

Kant tells us expressly that each thesis and each antithesis represents opinions actually held by some philosopher. If now we take the thesis as containing the views of Descartes and Leibniz concerning the relation of God to the world, the antithesis is in answer to both. According to Descartes, God is part of the world, as motion and this is disposed of. Leibniz says in the Monadologie, ‘il faut que la raison suffisante ou derniere soit hors de la suite ou series de ce detail des contingences, quelqu’ inftni qu’ il pourroit etre,’ 37. If we apply part of the antithesis to Leibniz, we can see why Kant does not discuss the general supposition, that necessary existence does not exist out of the world in other than causal relations. Because, if Necessary Existence exist in any way not causal outside the world, it would, according to Leibniz, be in contact with the world; for, according to him, the world is a series, and a series in time. Now two existences, separated only by blank time, are in this position, that we cannot refute the assertion that they are in contact in duration (Nicomachean Ethics II. xv.). That is, non-causal existence out of the world is, for argumentative purposes, equivalent to existence in the world. Then if existence be in the world, Leibniz’ system excludes existence with one part, B, a, and, so, [p164] existence with each, B, b. The only necessity then left is the infinity of process, B, c; but this, as Kant says, is too small for the Reason, i.e. it is incomplete, and Reason must have completeness.

What proves that Kant is referring to Leibniz is, that Kant says we must place a Necessary Being in a time at an infinite distance from any given moment, p. 305, Meiklejohn’s Translation. Leibniz is thus turned against himself.

In brief, the difficulties are due to this, that the thesis and antithesis are not tabulated possibilities of Thought, but opinions actually held.


IV. The Criterion. The purpose of the three treatises of Kant was to point out what he called the a priori element in the True, the Good, and the Beautiful. If we ask what Kant meant by a priori, the answer is somewhat thus: — Kant takes his technical language from Aristotle, and uses it in the worst possible way, in an altered sense. A priori in Aristotle meant, amongst other things, an argument from principle to particular Metaphysics A xi.; and, as Kant regarded the Logic of Aristotle as complete, a priori would thus mean a principle presupposed. [p165] Then, again, Logic speaks of the six transcendentals — that is, the predicables of all real existences, and of real existences only, that went beyond the Categories. Kant calls his criticism transcendental, because it is applicable to objects that are both valid in experience, and have a further validity beyond experience. The Logicians termed the copula pure, as it had no reference to time past or future; and pure in Kant means that which has no empirical encrustation. And so on. But it may be taken for granted that a Kantian term originates with the Aristotelian Philosophy, and thus its original meaning will throw the best light on Kant’s variations.

Kant published his first edition of the Kritik in 1781. In 1783 appeared his Prolegomena, which is an outline of his Kritik; and in an answer to Garve, which makes an appendix, he gives a sketch of his system, hard to be misunderstood. It is translated in Bohn’s edition of the Prolegomena, and is given in part in Professor Mahaffy’s first volume, pp. 332-4.

Kant does not search outside consciousness for his criterion. The criterion is found inside the four corners of consciousness. Consciousness is furnished by two cognitive faculties, Sense and [p166] Understanding. In Kant’s own words, ‘there are two stems of human cognition, sprung, both, it may be, from a common but unknown root, namely, sense and understanding, by the former of which objects are given to us, and, by the latter, thought,’ page 137, Hutchison Stirling’s Text-book to Kant. If, then, the Sensibility and the Understanding spring from one common root, as Kant allows to be possible, it is obvious that we must be encased forever, like Agamemnon, ‘within the folds of the slitless pall.’

On the other hand, if the Sensibility, as Kant allows to be possible, be a parasite — a fungoid growth which twines around the Understanding, it is obvious that the Understanding might still project its Categories on a sensibility of a totally different kind. In other words, the disciple of Kant, high and dry, must hold that the material of knowledge would be in that case accidental only.

The contributions to consciousness are thus sent in by the two conduits. This being so, what criterion does Kant use? That is to say, what criterion does he use because he finds it inside consciousness? A criterion with a double aspect — Necessity and Universality. These terms he explains in his introduction to the second edition. If a [p167] proposition is ‘thought together its necessity, then it is a judgment a priori’: ii. Text-book to Kant, p. 117. Observe, necessity does not here mean what it is persistently mistaken for by Mill, Bain, and Herbert Spencer. It does not mean indissoluble association. It does not mean that a criterion is irrepressible or inevitable, like the persistent delusion of the hypochondriac. The necessity is constitutive. In thinking that the judgment is so, we likewise think that it could not be otherwise: that its contradictory would be meaningless. And yet writers of eminence tell us that Kant means a notion is true because we cannot imagine its opposite, or conceive, i.e. picture, its opposite. The world may be ruled with little wisdom, but it seems to me books are written with less. What we look to is, the state of the judgment, and not our attitude with regard to it. The other aspect of the criterion is the consequence of the first. Universality is the other aspect of Necessity. If a judgment ‘be thought in strict universality, or so — that is, that exceptions are impossible’ — it is the other aspect of the criterion. Observe, the judgment is thought as impossible to be otherwise; it is therefore thought as exceptionless.

If the criterion acts, it produces empirical [p168] universality; and it is the possibility that the criterion is at work which gives its value to the argument from universal consent. (Prolegomena, p. 69-70.)

Before grappling with Hume, Kant distinguishes between two kinds of judgments.

In analytic judgments the attribute is thought as explicitly contained in the subject.

In synthetic judgments the attribute is thought as not contained in the subject, but joined thereto as a predicate.

The difference between analytic and synthetic is presentative, i.e. not argumentative.

In an analytical judgment, a concept is viewed as a whole and posited as a subject: a portion of this is extracted, and tacked on to the subject as a predicate.

In a synthetic, the joinder by the understanding of two distinct wholes, by means of a third, is the essence of the mental position.

Unless these four terms, Necessary, Universal, Analytic, Synthetic, be thoroughly understood and kept in view, to read Kant is waste of time, and, to talk of him, imposture. [p169]


V. The Rational Will. Kant uses Will in three senses: as denoting the rational, the preferring, and the animal Wills. With the animal will we are not much concerned; it is the mere liking for one object of sensibility rather than another.

The second is the sphere of that ill-chosen expression Free-will in the popular sense, the various senses of which I noticed last Term. Will in the first sense is that which occasions the greatest difficulty to the student of Kant, and this I propose to treat of in connexion with the rest of his system.

The faculty of reason is one, but its applications are twofold: that of the speculative and the practical. The Speculative Reason determines objects: that is to say it imposes its categories on them — if the word will be allowed — it categorises them. The Practical Reason creates its objects: it enlarges our knowledge by way of enlarging the sphere of knowledge, but not by adding to the contents of knowledge. But Reason, creating its object, is another word for a will willing an end; for reason is causal, because it rules the will. [p170]

But if the reason is causal, it creates an end. Hence Kant’s first sentence in his Principles, that nothing can be called good without qualification, except a good will. For, the will is reason, i.e. causal; it’s end is rational, i.e. good; and it is determined by reason only, i.e. the categorical imperative. Everything else is good, propter aliud; the good will alone is good per se, for quâ will, it is so far good, because it wills good.

Again, the reason is causal; it therefore presents something to be done, πρακτόν τι. It is therefore imperative. But the reason is necessary; that is to say, any opposite of the end or πρακτόν τι is excluded; it is consequently universal, that is to say, exceptionless. Hence Kant’s fundamental law of morals — act so that the maxim of the will can always at the same time be used as a principle of universal legislation; that is to say, catholicise the maxim.

But the matter of the Speculative Reason is furnished by the sensibility alone. Hence the Practical Reason can furnish the Form only of morality, not the Matter. Now nearly every writer I know criticises Kant, as if he wished to build a system of morals, not to point out the a priori or apodeictic element in Ethics. That is, they hold [p171] him to Matter as well as Form, when he only deals in Form.

Again, the reason commands, and our will is thereby subordinated thereto. Hence the notion respect for the moral law. Kant’s respect is like the αἰδὼς of the Euthyphro, with a tinge of δἕος.

Again, the form is rational, consequently universal, and so imperative; and as imperative it subordinates the will. Hence the only rational motive for rational conduct is to obey the law for the sake of the law only, i.e. as subordinate, to be subordinate to the law. This is Kant’s autonomy. Conduct from any other motive is heteronomous; being heteronomous, it is not autonomous, and is non-moral.

In his Principle that the reason quâ causal wills an end, Kant is on the same lines as Aristotle, who posits an end as a necessity of reason, as the negation of an end would involve the absurdity of an endless series of means.

But Kant would certainly reject his second principle — the consent of men; for universal assent may be an accident, unless objective validity be the basis of the consensus.

From the subjective side there are two things to be distinguished — respect for the Law, and the [p172] pleasure arising from the consciousness that we are so determined. This latter state is produced by the working of the a priori element on the sensibility. The student of Kant must not forget that imagination, according to him, was a working of the inner noumenon on the sensibility through the Categories — that is, imagination is the action of the ego, and passion of the sensibility. In the same way the pleasure arising from virtuous conduct is the action of the Law on the sensibility. But to take this pleasure for the proper motive to morality is what Kant calls a vitium subreptionis. Subreptio is the word used by Kant in his Dreams of a Ghost-seer, 1766, for obscurer suggestions probably suggested by Leibniz’ doctrine of latent modifications — that is, the infinite degrees between well-marked shades in the scale of being.

Happiness is relative to the sensibility only. Hence the pursuit of the summum bonum has a meaning only for a creature compounded of reason and sensibility; and in saying that bliss or perfect well-being is never attainable by a finite being, Kant seems to make sensibility, and also particular sensibility, a necessary part of the notion of a creature. In the Kritik of the Speculative Reason it is not so, for there the possibility is suggested [p173] of their distinctness, and the peculiarities of our sensibility are, we are told, inexplicable, p. 89, Meiklejohn’s Translation.

It is obvious that a pure noumenon, quite destitute of sensibility, would be autonomous without any perturbing causes. The naked sensibility would likewise act without perturbation, and the conflict arises only when the reason wills the readjustment of sensible phenomena. It may be objected, that if the important postulates of Immortality and God depend on the particular relation which, as a matter of fact, prevails between our particular sensibility and the reason, what would become of them if a different sensibility were joined on to our reason? I raised the difficulty, but I think it can be laid in this way: that as the function of reason is to unify — ἕνωςις — so the function of all sensibility must be manifoldness — πολλαπλασιασμός. Hence, thus, whenever there is a sensibility, the subject must in its efforts at readjustment employ the postulates as before; it must readjust, and, in readjusting, it, eo ipso, postulates; and, if the subject must use them, the attacks of Materialism are nil.

Kant takes for granted all through his ethical treatises that the student is familiar with the [p174] language and matter of his Kritik of Speculative Reason. It will be well to run over the lines of that system.

The Thing-by-itself is per se unknowable; but as it would be absurd to suppose an appearance without something that appears, the Thing-by-itself is a necessity of reason; it is so far νοούμενον, an object of the highest faculty, νοῦς. The appearance is phenomenon. That which receives the phenomenon is the Sensibility, and in receiving the phenomenon the Sensibility is passive, and in protruding its latent forms it is spontaneity or activity. But no matter what may be the stimulus of our outer sense, it would evoke the form space. No matter what may stimulate the inner sense, it would evoke the form time. But space is only conceived through time; and the two senses, though united in one object, are different in kind. If the phenomenon be referred to the Form, it is the intuition; if it is referred to the Matter, it is sensation; if it is referable only to the Subject, it is feeling. So far of the sensibility: but it must be borne in mind that the form Space and Time are not general notions, but unique intuitions, and that the stimulus that causes them to spring out from sensibility is not imaginary. As far as regards the inner noumenon, its [p175] action is spontaneous, and its function is to unify: unifying through the Categories, it impresses its unifying activity on the inner sense; but between the action of the pure reason and the passion or receptivity of the pure sense, there intervenes a middle term — the schema which quâ rational is activity, and quâ receptive is receptivity of action. Hence, then, the schema is a rational rule for the construction of intuitions in the line of time and the field of space, in accordance with the functions of the several Categories. The schema is not a shape in the imagination, but a rule in the reason; it may be called a monogram of the reason.

In his Kritik, Kant divides his Logic into analytic and dialectic. The analytic is the sound logic, the term being taken from Aristotle’s plan of evolving the science by analysing reasoning, which is admitted to be sound.

Dialectic, on the other hand, relates to schein — illusion and the term appears to be taken from the disputes of the sophists. The student of Plato need not be reminded that the term is used in the Republic to denote the highest science, to which all others are ancillary the discernment of truth and reality, amid the disturbing illusion of the senses; it is ἕνωσις of τὰ πολλὰ. [p177]


VI. The Postulates. Kant, in a letter to Herz, February 21, 1772, declares his object was to give ‘an explanation of Theoretical and Practical Truth, so far as it is derived purely from the understanding.’ For truth he afterwards substituted reason. Reason as a faculty is one which has two diverse applications — speculative and practical. Speculative reason is that application of reason which determines or characterises objects when given from elsewhere. Practical reason is that application of the mind to the object it creates. In a word, the speculative reason is Form: the Practical is Form as well as Matter. The object of Kant, then, is to investigate reason or the a priori faculty, so far as it is applied to matter given already, and so far as it makes matter of its own. And as it is this latter function of reason which rescues Kant from Psychology and makes him the forerunner of Hegel, it is this I shall today set before you.

The latter part of the Kritik of Pure Reason prepares us for Kant’s Ethics. There is an inextinguishable desire in the human mind to find a firm footing in some region beyond the limits of [p177] the world of experience. (Principles, p. 483, Meiklejohn’s Translation.)

The only way to this consummation is the practical reason, and practical reason is the spontaneous rearrangement of inner and outer phenomena in accordance with ideas, with which it compels empirical conditions to agree (p. 339, Meiklejohn’s Translation.). In other words, practical reason rearranges experience according to ideas which are not empirical.

Of course, the outer and inner phenomena are the results of the outer and inner noumena impressing the sensibility. These phenomena are stamped by the Category as cause and effect in the chain of invariable and irreversible antecedence and consequence.

The chain of invariable and irreversible antecedence and consequence. But the practical reason demands the rearrangement of the invariable and the irreversible: there is, therefore, a stratum that is not bound by this chain, which therefore quâ not bound, is free.

Observe the order of the moral ideas. The practical reason declares I ought — that is to say, the practical reason represents a certain action as necessary of itself. Now, necessity means in Kant exceptionlessness. The practical reason, therefore, p[178] requires conduct of such a nature that it admits of no exception. Its exceptionless character proves it of noumenal origin. Being noumenal, it is not bound by cause and effect; it is therefore free — it is therefore moral. Necessary, noumenal, free, moral — more briefly, apodeictic therefore free, therefore moral.

Kant’s three moral postulates are Freedom, Immortality, God.

It has been said again and again, usque ad nauseam, that Kant makes these large demands, simply because his system requires them; but that, as a matter of fact, we do not get things because we want them. Professor Huxley, in his Hume, attacks the postulate of immortality thus: —

‘It is remarkable that Hume does not refer to the sentimental arguments for the immortality of the soul which are so much in vogue at the present day, and which are based upon our desire for a longer conscious existence than that which nature appears to have allotted to us. Perhaps he did not think them worth notice. For indeed it is not a little strange that our strong desire that a certain occurrence should happen should be put forward as evidence that it will happen. If my intense desire to see the friend from whom I have parted does not [p179] bring him from the other side of the world, or take me thither; if the mother’s agonised prayer that her child should live has not prevented him from dying; experience certainly affords no presumption that the strong desire to be alive after death, which we call the aspiration after immortality, is any more likely to be gratified. As Hume truly says, “All doctrines are to be suspected which are favoured by our passions”; and the doctrine, that we are immortal because we should extremely like to be so, contains the quintessence of suspiciousness’ (p. 179).

But Kant is not so very easily caught. The postulate Freedom is involved in that datum of the reason which presents the act as exceptionless; for that which is exceptionless in form cannot be modified by contingent matter, for that would be a contradiction in terms. Therefore the subject, being bound by the moral law, is, eo ipso, emancipated from his physical chains. Freedom then is the ratio essendi of the moral law.

But the other two postulates —Immortality and God — are not given as conditions of the moral law. If they were, they would be part and parcel of the exceptionless Form. But they are conditions of the exceptionless object of a will, which is determined by the moral law —that is to say, in [p180] willing the rearrangement of experience in conformity to the moral law, I, eo ipso, make use of endless time to actualise the Summum Bonum; because to actualise the Summum Bonum is the necessary object of the will determined by the Moral Law. Such actualisation is Holiness. But Holiness is never actualised at any given period of time; therefore, at any given time it means only a progress in infinitum; but a progress in infinitum in time is a time in infinitum, which is Immortality.

Again, as to the postulate God, the Law commands us to actualise the Summum Bonum. The Summum Bonum is, consequently, possible, but it is possible only in a universe which contains the binding principle of the Summum Bonum. This principle, therefore, not only sympathises with the will as a law commanding, but also with the will as obeying that law. The principle of connexion is thus both intelligence and will; it is therefore God.

Kant therefore calls Freedom, Immortality, and God postulates, not because they bind the object, which they do not, but because they bind the subject — that is, the subject finds involved in the notion of his obedience to the Moral Law Freedom, Immortality, and God. [p181]

Kant’s theory of Ethics has been perpetually misunderstood. As in the Kritik of Pure Reason he wishes to point out the a priori element in our cognitions; so in the Kritik of the Practical Reason he wishes to point out the a priori framework in moral rules. Now rules are determinable according to system. If the rule be modified by appetition, the rule is a maxim; if it be purified of appetition, it is a law. The maxim binds the subject only; while the law binds all rational beings. In each case the rule is set by reason, and quâ rational, the rule must have the characteristics of rationality, i.e. necessity, and therefore universality — that is to say, the rule, quâ formal, must be universal. But the matter is not rational; the matter consists of subjective facts; so that a moral rule, according to Kant, is appetite harmonised with reason by reason, i.e. by universalising. In some cases the maxim cannot be conceived as universal, in which case it is a patent contradiction; in others the maxim universalised does not contradict itself, but if made into a law, the act in that case would contradict itself. But in all cases the nature of the obligation remains the same — it is rational, therefore universal.

A question remains — What is a postulate of the [p182] Practical Reason? Kant’s contributions to the armamentaria caeli are as follows: —

To the Sensibility he has furnished the a priori Forms, Space and Time; and making Space and Time a priori he considers is the originality of his critical Idealism: not one, he declares, of the Idealists had even dreamt that ‘the senses also could intuit a priori’: note, Prolegomena, p. 125.

The Category is the result of the universalising process of the Understanding.

The Idea is the result of the totalising tendency of the Reason; and this view is also that of Aristotle, e. g. where he argues that there must be an end. (Nicomachean Ethics, i. ii.)

And lastly, the Postulate arises from the totalising tendency of the Reason applied to the Sensibility; e. g. totalise time in reference to the moral self, and we have immortality; totalise the universe in relation to the moral self, and we have God that is to say, in actualising the Summum Bonum in adjusting the sensibility to the reason we have already treated as true immortality and God; though as these totalisations are not padded with intuitions, they do not of course affect the empirical object: and, as they make use of the sensibility, they do not affect the Ding-an-sich. But they are [p183] necessary and universal, and exert their necessity and universality in the only possible way, i.e. in affecting the subject. The subject, in moralising the sensibility, finds that in such moralising it has already employed the postulates, just as in walking we have already employed nervous action: in a word, Kant’s postulates are necessities of the reason — have been used and are in use therefore they are. But his critics, such as Mill, Spencer, Huxley, and Sedgwick, insist on taking postulate as something to be used in futuro, if attainable. Hinc illae lacrimae. That Kant had nothing to learn from the objections of later critics will be seen by his reply to the criticisms of the ‘very subtle and clear-headed man, the late Wizenmann, whose early death is to be lamented, in which he disputes the right to argue from a want to the objective reality of its object, and illustrates the point by the example of a man in love, who, having fooled himself into an idea of beauty, which is merely a chimera of his own brain, would fain conclude that such an object really exists somewhere. I quite agree with him in this, in all cases where the want is founded on inclination, which cannot necessarily postulate the existence of its object even for the man that is affected by it, much less can it contain a demand valid for everyone, [p184] and therefore it is merely a subjective ground of the wish. But in the present case we have a want of reason springing from an objective determining principle of the will, namely, the moral law, which necessarily binds every rational being, and therefore justifies him in assuming a priori in nature the conditions proper for it, and makes the latter inseparable from the complete practical use of reason. It is a duty to realize the summum bonum to the utmost of our power, therefore it must be possible; consequently it is unavoidable for every rational being in the world to assume what is necessary for its objective possibility. The assumption is as necessary as the moral law, in connexion with which alone it is valid.’ (note, p. 242, Abbott.)

The error in Kant’s Ethics is the error of his Metaphysics. He makes the sensibility subjective only. We see it from the inside only. But like all great thinkers, he has furnished us with the means of correcting his mistake. He has discovered the category. That is to say, he has pointed out its characteristics — Necessity and Universality. And, as these give us an objective Universe — not objective in Kant’s sense — not subjective-objective, but objective-objective, the cumbrous machinery of Forms, Schemata, Categories, [p185] and Ideas falls away, and leaves us face to face with the opposites of Plato and Hegel — the finite and infinite — the αὐτὰ καθ’ αὐτὰ and τὰ γιγνόμενα — that which is relative to itself Spirit, and that which is relative to something else — Matter. When this is seen there is nothing more to see.

Top ↑


Chapter VII. Hegel and Professor C.C.J. Webb

Since my lecture on Kant, Professor Webb’s book, The Veil of Isis, has appeared. It is a most able and stimulating performance. But as the criticism of Hegel, which closes the volume, is directly at variance with the drift of my teaching here and elsewhere, I should deem myself unworthy the Chair I hold, if I declined to meet Professor Webb on the ground which he has himself selected. Any and every great work is open to misrepresentation directly in proportion to its greatness. Nothing is easier than to photograph a bit of the Great Pyramid, and to show that the architecture is not that of a villa in Rathmines. And so of Hegel. Professor Webb has completely misunderstood him, and in misunderstanding he has misunderstood Philosophy. But in saying this of Professor Webb, I only say of my brilliant predecessor what is equally true of Locke, Hume, [p187] Brown, Mill, Bain, Spencer, F. Harrison — in a word, of the whole British School. In brief, the British School takes for its postulate and its axiom that Psychology and Philosophy are identical. That there is any distinction between them is a notion which has never dawned upon the vast majority of the educated people with whom I come in contact.

Briefly but roughly to distinguish the two: —Psychology is a branch of Natural History, and traces the progress of a particular mental development from the cradle to the grave. It begins with a datum of vast importance — a universe, and that universe already cut in two. In technical language, it assumes as already in existence, an ego, a non-ego, and their correlation. We find a box on one side, and things to put in it on the other, and then proceed quietly to pack.

Philosophy, on the other hand, analyses what is. Amongst what is, it finds the data of the Psychologist, but along with his data it finds others which throw light on them, and reverse their position. In strict language, it sees that Space with its contents, Time with its contents, and an organisation with its development, are but strata or portions of the grand whole which Philosophy finds, but does [p188] not assume. But to take off one’s glove, to give a discourse on stitching, and to suppose that you have then explained Human Nature is not more ridiculous than to suppose that Psychology is Philosophy. They are so far from being identical, even in the loosest way as whole and part, that the procedure of each is the reverse of that of the other. Psychology, as history or science, works with the order in time — Genesis; Philosophy, as thought, deals with the order in thought Being. Philosophy is thus literally walking on your head. The issue may be joined thus: — Kant, in answering Hume, brought into prominence what he called the a priori element in human experience. That element Hegel cut loose from its subjective fastenings, and the universe, self-balanced, on its centre hung.

Now Professor Webb from first to last has never taken up the position of Philosophy. He is a Psychologist — always a Psychologist pure and simple. He puts down the empty box on one side, and a lot of things on the other, and asks, triumphantly, can we pack it. The bow of Ulysses not only has never been bent, but it is a delusion to suppose that it was made to be bent, or that it can [p189] be bent at all. This we might bear; but then, as Professor Webb most eloquently urges, perverse Human Nature will continue to believe that the bow can be bent. In a word, to anticipate, the Psychologist who is nothing but psychologist is the slave of abstraction. He assumes that different aspects are isolated things, and then, because they are isolated, he wants to bring them together. Like Hesiod, he banishes the rebel spirits to the other side of chaos, and then, because they are on the other side, he asks why are they not on this.

But the philosopher finds consciousness already given him as a whole, and unless it were so given him, he could never make it one. For the best reason —that in that case there would be no mind, no content, no anything.

I cannot be expected in a lecture to set forth the philosophy of Hegel. Men must think, as they must digest their food, for themselves. But Hegel’s purpose may be stated in a sentence, it was to make explicit the concatenation of thought.

What is Thought? To the British and French Schools thought is an abstraction from that which is the sole reality, sensation; it is the smallest and thinnest chip of the solid block. On the other hand, to the Platonist and Hegelian the sensation, [p190] though not illusive, has less truth or reality than the plenary reality or truth — thought. In other words, the sensation at its best has fewer relations than thought at its best. A farthing is less than a sovereign. This would be admitted, but it proves too much: for sensation, unlike the farthing, has not separate subsistence, but thought has.

What, then, is thought? To answer this in the briefest way presupposes a certain distinction, which is quite unknown to the British School. It may be familiar in so many words, like an answer at an examination, but its purport is practically unknown.

The distinction is: — We have Sensations; we have materialised Conceptions, which, though of universal range, are isolated, such as Justice, Duty, and God. These are connected only by a mere and, which the Greeks denoted by τέ. But under these materialised isolated concepts there lies that which characterises and connects them, and this, stript of all pictorial imagery, is Thought — ‘the diamond net-work of the universe.’

An example may make this more clear. Suppose we say, with Kant, that there are two Forms of the Sensibility — Space and Time, or that there are three Ideas of the Reason — the Soul, the [p191] World, and God, Hegel would not term these thoughts unless the concatenation between them was made explicit, and the evolution of all the others from any given one was shown to be a necessary process. Quocumque jeceris stabit is the motto of the Hegelian. Any point of the universe will do, and from that the whole may be evolved by the necessary process of thought. In a word, Hegel turns the improvised and (τέ) into must be.

What is ‘the diamond network’? What is the must be? It is the thorough-going application of Kant’s Criterion, not only to the concept itself, but also to its concatenation with the rest of the universe. And Kant’s Criterion, all would cry out, is Necessity and Universality. I say advisedly, cry out, for few — very few — understand these words

πολλοὶ μὲν ναρθηκόφοροι Βάκχοι δέ τε παῶροι.

This being so, we may listen to Professor Webb’s peroration: —

‘How, then, have the promises of Hegel been fulfilled? Has he exhibited the diamond net in which the universe is held? Has he given an exposition of God in His eternal essence? Has he exhibited truth without her veil? He has done none of these things. He professes to have [p192] displayed the diamond net in which the universe is held; but he has only shown that the universe is a mere evanescence with no diamond net to hold it. He professes to have given an exposition of God in His eternal essence; but he has only shown that God in His eternal essence is a shadowy universal. He professes to have exhibited the form of truth without a veil; but, like the Grecian painter, it is only the veil itself that he has painted. And what of the Sphinx enigmas of existence, and the problem of the painful earth? Hegel solves the enigma by declaring there is no enigma to be solved. He finds no difficulty in conceiving that things may subsist without a substance, and originate without a cause. He assumes the existence of our sensations without inquiry as to where they come from and how it is that they arise. He assumes their coexistences, and their successions and their laws without asking how the coexistences and successions are determined by what power those laws have been imposed. The logic of Hegel gives no answer to the questions which cannot be evaded by the philosopher any more than they can be evaded by the common man. “Where am I, or what? From what cause do I derive my existence, and to what condition shall I return? Whose [p193] favours shall I court, and whose anger must I dread?” Hume asked himself these questions, and professed himself to be confounded. Kant asked them, and left reason trembling on the verge of the abyss of necessity, which he regarded as the ultimate support of all existing things’ (Veil of Isis, p. 303-4).

In reply, I say emphatically Hegel has done all he has undertaken. The network is thought; God is thought; the truth behind the veil, so far as the veil has meaning, is thought. If the pictorial thoughts of poetry be preferred to prose, Idealism may be found complete in Tennyson’s Flower: —

Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
I hold you here, root and all in my hand,
Little flower but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and Man is.

This may be put into the most meagre prose ‘bald and naked,’ thus: any one fraction of the universe must give the rest; because, not only the things joined are necessary, but the joinder — the concatenation is necessary also, in Kant’s sense.

What sense is that? That is necessary which is construed to thought in such a way that we [p194] know that it cannot be otherwise. As, for example, a man who knows what a triangle is, is on the way of knowing that its angles are equal to two right angles; or, as Aristotle puts it, that two right angles are in its angles; and, knowing this, he likewise knows that they cannot but be equal to two right angles.

It is a favourite quibble with the Empiricist to say that the Idealist makes his own incapacity to think otherwise a positive quality of things — that is, he objectifies his own impotence.

The answer is at hand. Necessity is not mere negation, though, like all other notions, it involves negation. Necessity is not one of contradictories involving a mere blank as its opposite. Thought, of which necessity is the law, has no opposite. It is being analysed and stated — constituted, as a Roman Lawyer would say. Surely, if we know a thing as it is, the more we know it as it is, the more we see that its being consists in being what it is, and in not being anything else. And we may reduce the matter to absurdity: Newton knew more of the physical Cosmos than an idiot; but, according to the Empiricist, he only suffered from more intense impotence. Or, to put it in the plainest terms, Newton was a greater fool than a gibbering [p195] idiot. In Kant’s language, Necessity is constitutive and not regulative.

The questions at which Hume confessed himself confounded appear to have troubled him very little. All questions of nerves he ‘leaves to the anatomists.’ The questions, What am I? and Whence am I? may be left, so far as they are scientific questions, to ‘the anatomists,’ or, as we should call them, the physiologists. They involve time and sequence, and, in Hegel’s system, belong to Nature and not to Logic. Mr. Romanes has devoted the dark days before Christmas to making greater darkness, by endeavouring to evolve our consciousness from that of animals. All such attempts may, toties quoties, be crushed by Professor Caird’s unanswerable criticism:

‘To proceed from sense to consciousness, and to explain consciousness by sense, is a gigantic hysteron-proteron; for it is only in relation to consciousness that sense, like every other object, becomes intelligible. And, in the same way, to explain time and space psychologically, or physiologically, is to explain them by phenomena which are known only under conditions of time and space. The “physiologist of mind,” who asserts that mind is essentially a function of the [p196] material organism, may be fairly met by the objection of Kant that his explanation is transcendent. To go beyond the intelligence to explain the intelligence, is to cut away the ground on which we ourselves are standing. So again, when the psychologist applies the law of association to the genesis of mind, he is obliged to presuppose a fixed and definite world of objects acting under conditions of space and time upon the sensitive subject, in order by this means to explain how the ideas of the world and of himself may be awakened in that subject. And this is to suppose that the world exists, as it can exist only to mind, before the process whereby associations are produced. The necessity, which is at the basis of our consciousness of objects, is thus interpreted as the result of the repeated actions of these objects upon the subject; or, in other words, the theory is stated in terms of the consciousness it pretends to explain. Nor is the theory improved, as an ultimate explanation of the intelligence and the intelligible world, when the process of association is protracted, as it is by Mr. Spenser and others, through an indefinite series of generations, or even when the present consciousness of men is regarded as the result of a gradual adaptation of a race of [p197] the animals to its circumstances, and which has been going on for millions of ages. If it were proved tomorrow that man is developed from an Ascidian ancestor, it would still remain certain that the consciousness which makes us men is independent of time and development; and the Darwinian theory, like every other intelligible view of things, presupposes time and space, and all the forms of thought that are necessary to an intelligible experience.’

This criticism is unanswerable, if understood, and cannot be met with anecdotes of dogs who were admirable whist-players. Driven from his Comparative Psychology, the Empiricist will fall back on the genesis of human consciousness. The answer is the same, and has been thus given by Professor Caird, whom I cited in my first lecture: —

‘Observation of the genesis of knowledge, or, what is the same thing, observation by the mind of its own genesis, is the crowning absurdity of speculation: for there is nothing to observe, unless the observer puts his own developed consciousness in the place of the undeveloped consciousness he is observing. And if he does thus introduce his developed consciousness, all he can possibly examine [p198] is the reciprocal dependence of its elements. He cannot possibly trace back knowledge to faculties or elements which have a character independent of their relation in knowledge. We have no standing-ground outside of the universe of thought from which we can determine the factors that produce it. “The mind is its own place;” its place includes everything knowable, and, therefore, as no one did more than Kant to show, it is impossible to explain it by going out of itself.’

Yet the genesis of consciousness receives apparent support from Natural History. Here we have more or less complex specimens of animality existing side by side. But it must not be forgotten that an animal is in the popular sense of the word an individual. We cannot find a sensation by itself as we do a jelly-fish on the shore. But even in Natural History, G. H. Lewes observes, ‘it is clear that we should never rightly understand vital phenomena were we to begin our study of Life by contemplating its simplest manifestations in the animal series; we can only understand the Amoeba and the Polypus by a light reflected from the study of man.’

I shall conclude by suggesting a Short Way of Dealing with Empiricists. Anyone now alive, [p199] even though he knew the man who knew Harry Jenkins, who saw the cartloads of arrows going to Flodden, must disclaim personal knowledge of the Battle of the Boyne. In other words, he believes that a lot of things went on before his time, and he found himself brought into a world which he likewise believes was there before him: that is, he finds his being subjected to pre-existing conditions of Space and Time. If thus he is the outcome of these conditions merely, he ought to avow himself a Materialist, provided he has any capacity for thinking, and any honesty — two very, very bold assumptions. ‘Well, then, I am a Materialist, and what of it?’ Simply this, he must admit that, like Aristotle’s τόδε τι, he is here and now. This admits Space, Time, Sequence, Cause, Reality, God. The Idealist asks no more.

In fact the question is Philosophy or —. Plato has shown long ago that in the absence of the Rational element we cannot have even a Philosophy of Semblance.

Top ↑


Chapter VIII. Psychology

Every teacher of an abstract subject must be familiar with the following facts: — One man will see clearly a certain number of consecutive propositions, say A, B, and C. Another will see D and E, and so on. The clearness of the former may be the greater of the two, but a hot iron will not get him beyond C. Like the camel, nothing will make him move, and he must be left where he lies to perish in the parching sand.

This is the case with the psychologist. His writings may bristle with technicalities in which the propositions are marked with more than American emphasis. A huge volume — reading for a patriarch — is written to prove that so-and-so is wrong in calling a certain fact con-ception when he should have termed it juxta-ception, or some such inanity. And we have had to bear the history of infants — how one said di, another do, and a third dum, as if we lived in the days of Psammetichus, [p201] and the Medical Council had sanctioned the Papyrus-Ebers. I shall notice some recent defences of Psychology.


Part I. The periodical Mind is now in the tenth year of its existence. The tone of its articles was generally, with a few exceptions, that of advanced Empiricism. In the number for January 1883, appears an article by the Editor — Professor Croom Robertson — in favour of Psychology — of Psychology as contrasted with Philosophy. ‘Philosophy,’ says the writer, ‘has not only to give the ultimate analysis of things in abstract terms (of subjective import), but must render account of the concrete realities of every-day experience, which in the truest sense are for us all,’ p. 19. This looks fair, but the trail of the serpent is over it all. The words of subjective import conceal a time-honoured fallacy. Knowledge being correlation of subject and object, that which relates in any way to the subject is subjective, and must be so. But, as has been pointed out, usque ad nauseam, Empiricists use the word subjective to mean that an object is so transmuted and disfigured by the action of the subject as to be past recognition. When in this state it is ripe for explanation by mechanical and chemical metaphor, da capo. [p202]

Butler long ago exposed the very same fallacy lurking under words like selfish and self-love. Perhaps it has been best put by Professor Bradley: Self-love is a truism, a duty, or a sin. And so, in Metaphysics, subjective involves a truism or an absurdity. If every cognition be altogether subjective, we could never know it to be subjective, as subjective has no meaning unless contrasted with objective. Volumes could not add a tittle to this, and there I leave it.

One thing is consoling. It is clear from Professor Robertson’s article that in his opinion Psychology has not advanced during the last ten years. While deploring the fact, he wishes to show that Psychology may to a certain extent make common cause with Philosophy, but that Philosophy, as such, is metaphysical, in facing a problem that can be expressed in no terms of physical science. It is ontological in seeking to appreciate the ultimate meaning of whatever can be said to be, ib. p. 19.

If this be so, science is not everything; and if science be not everything, the pretensions of the scientist (not science) break down. Even the scientist must admit that a part is less than the whole.


Part II. Another vindication of Psychology has [p203] appeared in Mind, for April 1883. It is by James Ward, of Cambridge, and, like the Paper by Professor Croom Robertson, contains many valuable remarks, but leaves the question where it was. As far as Philosophy is concerned the results are as follows: —

The facts of Physics and the facts of Psychology are alike facts of Psychology, because known to somebody; and Psychology deals from its own point of view with the whole of experience. This point of view is individualistic: we are not accordingly bound to make this stand-point the centre of philosophy, unless we hold it to be the right point of view of philosophical speculation that the results of psychology are what Kant calls Judgments of Experience, that is judgments which are empirically true for everybody alike; and, finally, that the coordination of physical and psychical facts may be best attempted by that form of Psychology called Subjective Idealism.

But the mere phrase subjective idealism is a surrender of the point at issue. If subjective idealism be possible, more is possible. Subjective Idealism must mean an idealism confined to a subject, and a subject eo ipso posits an object as a necessary development. [p204]

The question for the student of Philosophy is — Do we know anything more than a disk of imagination? meaning by imagination — actual or possible presentation in space or time what Kant calls finite. Now it is obvious that in dissecting this disk we discover other constituents which cannot be pictured, i.e. imagined under forms of space. Imagination, therefore, does not coincide with knowledge — that is, we know or think what is not imaginable.

I have been told over and over again in conversation that the Idealist postulates Thought in the very same way as he asserts that the Materialist postulates Matter. The answer is not far to seek. The Idealist does not postulate Thought because he finds it. A man does not postulate his hat when it is on his head. He has got it on. But how of the Materialist? His Matter is a contradiction — it is active inaction; his atom is a monstrosity — all hardness and no size; and his system is an inversion of all that gives coherence to experience — we have not space because we have triangles; but we have triangles if, and if only, we have space.

But though the Materalist is dumb, yet I find a reluctance amongst people I know to admit that [p205] the ultimate is Thought. People cling to an atomism of some kind, forgetting that an atom has meaning only when contrasted with its environment. The counter-thesis of the Idealist seems so very shadowy and vicarious that it cannot do duty for such indispensable girders as cause or substance. But we must recollect that to the Idealist Thought or intelligence is a complete process of differentiation and integration, and that rest or halt in such process is only the movement of itself returning back upon itself; in strict language, in making its own process its own object — νοήσις νοήσεως. But rest, or the non-motive element, is not an atom visible or invisible — it is not the unknown of Herbert Spencer — it is not the Ding-an-sich of Kant. These and like figments strut and fret their hour; but so far as they mean anything, they mean that there is something that is the only thing that is related to itself, and that such self-related element is Thought, while that which is not related to itself, but only to something else, is Nature, τὰ φαινόμενα. That is to say, the Ding-an-sich, if it is related to itself, is Thought, and in this case is not an unknown tertium quid; and if it is related to something else it is Nature — neither shell nor kernel — and therefore not a tertium quid. But [p206] the absurdities of the unknowable are mild when contrasted with the absurdity of certain scientists not science who confound Kant’s Ding-an-sich with the material atom of Locke and his followers.


Part III. Professor W. James, who is one of the few writers on Metaphysics who is not lugubrious, furnishes his quota to Psychology in Mind, for January, 1885. He supposes ‘a feeling attached to no matter and localised in no space, but left swinging in vacuo, as it were by the direct executive fiat of a god. And let us also, to escape entanglement with difficulties about the physical or psychical nature of its object, not call it a feeling of fragrance or of any other determinant, but limit ourselves to assuming that it is a feeling of q.’ – ib. p. 28.

It may be taken for granted that where a letter is used in discussing a problem in Psychology or Philosophy that there is every possibility of its concealing a fallacy. The use of letters in algebra seems to justify this use in other places. But a in algebra means some quantity actually marked out — docketed and pigeon-holed — and the essence of quantity consists in its being so docketed and pigeon-holed. It is so many feet, say of rope, and so cut off actually or possibly from the rest. [p207] But we cannot find a sensation by itself like a shell on the sea-shore. A sensation per se has no meaning: whether expressed or implied it always means I feel this, or passively, and less correctly, this is felt by me. Professor James simplifies the expression by leaving out I and this. The simplicity will be appreciated if we try and think of a room without floor, or ceiling, or walls. I and this contain all the metaphysician requires, as I have attempted to show in my first lecture.

I quoted there a passage from Professor James to the effect that all systems, like Hume’s atomism, had been ‘riddled’ by the late Professor Green, and Professor James allows that categories are given along with sensation.

‘When I say Objects are wholly formed of associated and selected sensations, I hope the reader will not understand me to profess adhesion to the old atomic doctrine of association, so thoroughly riddled of late by Professor Green. The association of sensations of which I speak presupposes comparison and memory, which are functions not given in any one sensation. All I mean is, that these mental functions are already at work in the first beginnings of sensation, and that the simplest changes of sensation, moreover, involve consciousness of all the [p208] categories — time, space, number, objectivity, causality. There is not first a passive act of sensation proper, followed by an active production or projection (‘inference’) of the attributes of objectivity by the mind. These all come to us together with the sensible qualities, and their progress from vagueness and distinctness is the only process Psychologists have to explain. What I mean to say in the text is, that this process involves nothing but association and selection, all new production of either material or formal elements being denied.’ – Mind, January 1879, p. 11, n.

In Mind for January 1884, Professor James gives his own view of the relation of feeling to thought: —

‘The Nominalists say that, when we use the word man, meaning mankind, there is in the mind nothing more than either a sound or a particular image, plus certain tendencies which those elements have to awaken an indefinite number of images of particular men, or of other images (verbal or not) which “make sense” with mankind, but not with any individual. These “tendencies” are, however, for them mere physical facts, and not modes of feeling the word as it is uttered. The Conceptualists, on the other hand, see perfectly well that at the very moment of uttering the word, [p209] or even before uttering it, we know whether it is to be taken in a universal or a particular sense; and they see that there is some actual present modification of the mind which is equivalent to an understanding of the sense. But they call this modification, or conceptual character of the word, an act of pure intelligence, ascribe it to a higher region, and deem it not only other than, but even opposite to, all “facts of feeling” whatsoever.

‘Now why may we not side with the Conceptualists in saying that the universal sense of the word does correspond to a mental fact of some kind, but at the same time, agreeing with the Nominalists that all mental facts are modifications of subjective sensibility, why may we not call that fact a “feeling”? Man meant for mankind is in short a different feeling from man as a mere noise, or from man meant for that man, to wit, John Smith alone. Not that the difference consists simply in the fact that, when taken universally, the word has one of Mr. Galton’s “blended” images of man associated with it. Many persons have seemed to think that these blended, or as Prof. Huxley calls them, “generic,” images, are equivalent to concepts. But, in itself, a blurred thing is just as particular as a sharp thing; and the generic character of either [p210] sharp image or blurred image depends on its being felt with its representative function. This function is the mysterious plus the understood meaning. But it is nothing applied to the image from above, no pure act of reason inhabiting a supersensible and semi-supernatural plane. It can be diagrammatised as continuous with all the other segments of the subjective stream. It is just that staining, fringe or halo of obscurely felt relation to masses of other imagery about to come, but not yet distinctly in focus, which we have so abundantly set forth.

‘If the image come unfringed it reveals but a simple quality, thing, or event; if it come fringed it reveals something expressly taken universally or in a scheme of relations. The difference between thought and feeling thus reduces itself, in the last subjective analysis, to the presence or absence of “fringe.” And this in turn reduces itself, with much probability, in the last physiological analysis, to the absence or presence of sub-excitements of an effective degree of strength in other convolutions of the brain than those whose discharges underlie the more definite nucleus, the substantive ingredient, of the thought — in this instance, the word or image it may happen to arouse.’

Professor James, at the beginning of the article [p211] last cited, furnishes an apt illustration of what he means — ‘our mental life, like a bird’s life, seems to be made up of an alternation of flights and perchings. The rhythm of language expresses this, whose every thought is expressed in a sentence, and every sentence closed by a period,’ – p. 2. Now the Hegelian or the Platonist would answer this by pointing out that the flights and perchings are not alternative but concurrent — that is to say, that in thinking, if we think of flight, we must think of non-flight, i.e. perching, and that this gives us the fullest Notion — Begriff — Concept —Flight. Till this is seen Philosophy is impossible. It is just by assuming that rest and motion are alternative states, and not opposite ingredients, that Zeno attacks the fact of moving. Professor James must see that uniting sensations by means of their ‘fringes’ is more vague than to construct the universe out of oysters by platting their beards.

It may be said the order of Psychology is true, for it is a fact. Why not then follow it in preference to walking on your head, and following the order of thought?

That order was laid down as early as Plato, and the reason of it is eternal. A triangle presupposes space, but the converse is not true, and the reason [p212] why is, that such is the nature of the triangle; or, to put it in another way, in understanding what a triangle is we have already seen that it must presuppose space. And so of sensations: denying that a sensation can exist in vacuo, the Platonist asserts that, so far as sensation has any meaning, it presupposes space and time and all that is involved in this admission. ‘We may not,’ as Professor James says, ‘date or locate’ our q., but not the less it presupposes space and time. ‘Date and locate’ are fallacious, because they imply a special portion of space and time marked off from the rest; whereas the real question is, Can we have a sensation without Categories? These Kant considered from the subjective side, and Plato from the objective, while Hegel subsumes both in the unity of thought. Hamilton has almost ludicrously misconceived the unity of the idealist as an abstract blank: on the contrary, with each subsumption the content of the concept becomes more full, and consequently more diversified.

Now a ‘Sensation with a fringe’ is more misleading than a sensation on a bicycle. What is meant is, that in sensation there is something more definite and something less definite. But the Kantian — the Hegelian — the Platonist, would all agree [p213] in this, that, whether more or less definite, the object owes all its definiteness to a non-empirical element, or in other words to an element which is bigger than the function of the sense or senses. The next step is that the bigger element is found on examination to be inextricably concatenated with something else, and so on until we arrive at the inevitable result that

All are but parts of one stupendous whole.

If this is so, it follows that any one part cannot be known in all its functions until we or some one know all the other functions. But our ignorance of the sum-total of functions does not nullify our knowledge of some of the items. On the other hand, our knowledge of the sum would no doubt throw further light on what we do know, just as the savage’s knowledge of the wheel of a watch would be increased but not nullified if he learned watch-making. This is illustrated by the French mais — magis, which modifies by addition. I wish to insist on this, as it puts an end to the popular saw that the finite cannot grasp the infinite. Here again etymology assists us. The Latin finis represents two different Greek notions, τέλος and πέρας. The two are different: πέρας is the [p214] mechanical termination or cessation, say by cutting: τέλος is that which gives completeness and meaning. Now, to say in Greek, τὸ ἀτελές cannot comprehend τὸ ἄπειρον is scarcely instructive; for a match, if ἀτελές, will not light off the box or on it But to say τὸ πεπερασμένον cannot comprehend τὸ ἄπειρον is not true, for τὸ ἄπειρον is a postulate of τὸ πεπερασμένον. Read the Philebus.

Now Professor James, in Mind for April 1884, insists that what the Platonists call parts, or abstractions from the whole, are things which have existence after all the relations have been told off, and that things on this existence may live, like the winter bears, on their own fat, never entering relations at all, or, if entering them, entering possibly an entirely different set of relations, p. 282. This is the old fallacy of the empiricist from the days of Epicurus down to Huxley, that we have a set of sensible objects as distinct as billiard-balls, and that the idealist, not content with this set of things, insists that we know nothing of these objects until we know the categories under which they are to be docketed. Professor Huxley, in his Hume, illustrates Kant’s view by supposing that we could not know that a sparrow falls unless we know the law of gravity. It may be granted at once that if [p215] we know a sparrow without categories, we do not want categories at all, as a man drowning does not want, in addition to his circumstances, a separate law of specific gravity over and above them. But the Idealist insists that categories are alike involved in the fall of the single sparrow, and in the

crash of matter, and the wreck of worlds,

though the two phenomena are of unequal extent. Professor James is fond of illustrations, and his illustrations are always so good that I feel some diffidence in offering him one in return. Somebody advertises his lime-juice as possessing the property of being an excellent stimulant when blended with spirits; and so of Empiricism — it makes an excellent philosophy when blended with Idealism. Professor James will see that it is all in the blending.


Part IV. Mr. Shadworth Hodgson, in his Address to the Aristotelian Society, has given an admirable discourse on Method; and justifies the retention of the term Metaphysics. But

surgit amari aliquid:

he is influenced by the fallacy involved in the use of the word subjective. Metaphysic describes only: [p216] but it describes knowledge, and accordingly can only register what it finds. It finds in the whole Knowledge two members, Subject and Object, as two essential correlatives, like the concave and the convex. Now most moderns, influenced by what Mill calls heteropathic results, that is to say, cases where the effect is unlike the cause, suppose that Subject and Object are two causes, and that their interaction is heteropathic. If so, we cannot know anything except as a result, transfigured and transmuted by heteropathic causation. But this is, as I have frequently pointed out, an Idolon Theatri, an application of chemistry to the Universe — treating the cosmos as a Chemical Compound. And this brings us to a point, which must be insisted on.

Metaphysics or philosophy analyses the universe into Subject, Object, and their correlation. Psychology, on the other hand, divides a particular consciousness, say of Robinson Crusoe, into the me, and the not-me. Now to the Idealist the Universe — τὸ πᾶν — is thought. Hence the Subject of Metaphysics is a mind or me, and the subject of Psychology is admitted on all hands to be a me of some kind. Hence, the subjects of both Philosophy and Psychology are supposed identical. But in each case the order of notions [p217] is different: Psychology is Natural History, therefore is science, and therefore deals with Time. Philosophy puts Time and Science in their proper place.

Sir W. Hamilton’s Natural Dualism, together with his fierce polemic against Brown, is familiar to my readers. Idealism settles the whole controversy. To the Idealist the external world is the negation of the internal. As it is admirably put by Hutchison Stirling: —

‘On one side there is the world of externality, where all is body by body, and away from one another — the boundless reciprocal exclusion of the infinite object. On the other side, there is the world of internality, where all is soul to soul, and away into one another — the boundless reciprocal inclusion of the infinite subject. This — even while it is true that, for subject to be subject, and object object, the boundless intussuscepted multiplicity of the single invisible point of the one, is but the dimensionless casket into which the illimitable Genius of the other must retract and withdraw itself — is the difference of differences; and certainly it is not internality that can be abolished before externality.’

Therefore our knowledge of the negation — Externality — is immediate. So far the Natural Realist is right, [p218] but he has confounded philosophy with psychology. From the psychological point of view, externality is known by a mental act. So far the Hypothetical Realist is right.

Of course Physiology need not detain us. To describe ideas in ‘brain-terms’ is quite legitimate. So is to describe champagne in money-terms; but the money and the wine are two distinct things. The insight and courage of George Henry Lewes saved him from supposing that to emphasize the antecedent does give us the consequent. The clucking of the hen, however loud, is not the egg. But Lewes did not see that in proclaiming the identity of antecedent and consequent he had renounced his empiricism. And it is the identity without losing the diversity of Neurosis and Psychosis in cognition of any kind that brings Physiology and Psychology into their proper relation with Philosophy. Cognition is thus one-and-many — the Platonic Idea: it is the union of distinct opposites — the Hegelian Notion.

Top ↑


Chapter IX. J. S. Mill

The Daily Telegraph observed on some occasion that John Stuart Mill was a man to whom Plato in the largest sense of the word would have accorded the term σοφὸς or wise. It may be observed that as Plato held that no man was σοφὸς, he scarcely would have made an exception in favour of Mr. Mill above all men, as I shall attempt to show.

Mill, as you know, divides things into four classes: Sensations; their causes, i.e. Bodies; their recipients, i.e. Minds; and Relations (Logic i. iii.). Bodies and Minds are otherwise unknown, and the existence of body which is known only as a cause is thus made dependent on the Principle of Causality.

But the Principle of Causality is empirical only, being mere Enumeratio Simplex. It only covers observed or observable cases, and affords therefore no warrant for what we do not observe. [p220]

In his Examination of Hamilton’s Philosophy, Mill defines Matter as the Permanent Possibility of Sensation; but as he does not admit that Substance is anything more than an empirical coexistence of sensations, there cannot be anything permanent. So much for the first word of the famous definition.

Next, take the word possibility. We have nothing but sensations, i.e. actual subjective facts. ‘For we may say that every objective fact is grounded on a corresponding subjective one; and has no meaning to us (apart from the subjective fact which corresponds to it), except as a name for the unknown and inscrutable process by which that subjective or psychological fact is brought to pass’ (Logic i. iii). There is consequently nothing but the actual sensation; and in the absence of sensation there is mere vacuity, and so in the absence of substance of some kind or other, Possibility becomes impossible. So much for the second word.

Lastly, sensation belongs essentially to the subject, and not to the object; and so the definition involves a cross reference, and reads as if we defined money as a permanent possibility of pleasure, instead of commodities. The famous [p221] definition is thus on all fours with the less famous notice in our tram-cars, that the punch is to be used (presumably by the conductor) on payment (presumably not by the conductor) of the fare.

Let us now turn to Mind. Mind, according to Mill, is a series of feelings which is aware of itself as past and future, i.e. a series which is aware of itself as a series (Hamilton, xii.). Now a series, as Aristotle pointed out (Physics v. iii. 7), implies the continuance of the earlier members; and this is quite distinct from a succession in time — say, the clock strikes twelve, each stroke of which is gone forever before the next comes into ken. But, according to Mill, Mind ought only be a succession in time, Q., A. E.

We now come to the last of Mill’s categories — Relations. Of these Mill gives the following account: — ‘To have feelings at all implies having them either successively or else simultaneously. Sensations or other feelings being given, successive and simultaneous are the two conditions to the alternative of which they are subjected by the nature of our faculties, and no one has been able, nor need expect, to analyse the matter any further’ (Logic i. iii.).

I need hardly point out that Mill, like Hume [p222] and Locke, assumes that a sensation is a minimum incapable of reduction or analysis.

The result is, sensations come from nothing, and are received by an impossibility, and from this impossibility they receive the only framework that gives them cohesion or coherence.

Top ↑


Chapter X. Agnosticism

ἀλλὰ τὸ φαινόμενον πάντῃ σθένει, οὗπερ ἄν ἔλθῃ·

The Nineteenth Century for 1884 contains Papers by several contributors on the nature of Religion. Of these, the two most generally known are Herbert Spencer and Frederic Harrison. These two popular writers have come into collision, although their views, as far as religion is concerned, rest on a common basis. That the basis is common to both is easily seen. And I hope to show that the common basis is thoroughly unsound.

All are agreed that the business of the philosopher is to analyse consciousness. Now, of consciousness, there can be only two possible theories. The deliverances of consciousness may be believed or they may not. If they may not, we may hold with Mr. Harrison that ‘we have no ground whatever for believing that these, our theories, are the [p224] ultimate and real scheme on which an external world (if there be one) works, nor that the external world objectively possesses that order which we call science.’ That is to say, we do not know that there is an external world, and (a fortiori) we do not know whether our consciousness either resembles it or is in correspondence with it in any degree. We may and ought to set our house in order, but there is no use in looking out of the windows, for there are either no windows, or they open on thicker than Egyptian darkness. But the Comtist deserves all honour for his heroism. He does not make the darkness an excuse for not working, but rather makes it the reason and motive of his work.

Mr. Spencer, on the other hand, holds that there is an objective universe, but that it is unknowable. ‘We are brought round to the conclusion reached by other routes, that behind all manifestations, inner or outer, there is a power manifested. Here, as before, it has become clear that while the nature of this Power cannot be known — while we lack the faculty of framing even the dimmest conception of it — yet its universal presence is the absolute fact without which there can be no relative facts. Every feeling and thought [p225] being transitory — nay, the objects amid which life is passed, though less transitory, being severally in course of losing their individualities, quickly or slowly — we learn that the one thing permanent is the Unknowable Reality hidden under all these changing shapes’ (Principles of Psychology, vol. ii., pp. 489-503, 2nd ed.).

In another place he puts it in a stronger way:

‘In the very assertion that all our knowledge, properly so-called, is Relative, there is involved the assertion that there exists a Non-relative. We have seen how, from the very necessity of thinking in relations, it follows that the Relation is itself inconceivable, except as related to a real Non-relative. We have seen that unless a real Non-relative or Absolute be postulated, the relative itself becomes absolute; and so brings the argument to a contradiction. And on contemplating the process of thought, we have equally seen how impossible it is to get rid of the consciousness of an actuality lying behind appearances; and how, from this impossibility, results our indestructible belief in that actuality’ (First Principles, p. 97, 4th ed.).

In a word, Mr. Harrison, holding that our consciousness is entirely subjective, holds that the religious emotion has no known objective counterpart; [p226] but Mr. Spencer maintains that religion has an objective counterpart, while that counterpart is and must be unknown and unknowable. Both agree in holding that our consciousness is not a warrant for anything outside itself. In other words, both hold in a certain form what is called the Relativity of Knowledge.

In the first lecture I delivered here, I stated that the relativity of knowledge means two very different things. In the first sense, it is an eternal truth, in every meaning of the word; a truism, if you will. In the second, it is a quibble which would be groaned at in a burlesque. In the first sense, it means that there is no such thing as knowledge in the abstract. The relativity of knowledge expresses the truth that, since relation must exist between subject and object — between that which knows and that which is known — in this sense, the one term implies the other, and one can no more exist without the other than the concave can exist independently of the convex. But that the convex is correlative to the concave, and so conversely, is no reason why the concave is not real, or why the convex is less so. If there is knowledge there must be a correlation of subject and object, for the simple [p227] reason that knowledge without such correlation is quite unmeaning, and not merely a contradiction, not merely a cipher, but an impossibility without beginning, middle, or end.

And here I must quote from Hegel a vital distinction, which apparently has not dawned upon the British philosopher. ‘The contents of consciousness are merely felt, or felt with an admixture of thought, or merely simply thought’ (Wallace’s Hegel, p. 4).

‘Thought will not be satisfied with anything short of a proof that its contents or facts must be so, and cannot be otherwise’ (ib., p. i). The meaning of this has not dawned upon the empirical school, and unless it has, they are not in a position to criticise their opponents for a moment. Mill quotes with approbation Kant’s definition of Necessity — that of which the opposite is inconceivable. The expression is open to misunderstanding, as it may mean there may be an opposite, but that we do not believe in the possibility of its existence as a matter of fact. This is totally incorrect. What Kant and Hegel (after Aristotle) mean is, that an opposite cannot be so construed by thought as to be consistent. It is therefore nihil negativum, as a figure composed of two straight [p228] lines. But, in the pictorial images of the imagination, there is no limit to our powers of combination save the senses with their impressions. A man born blind cannot combine colours; but a person with sight can combine colours, as long as he does not outrage the laws of space. But in thinking, pure or mixed — necessity τὸ μὴ ἐνδεχόμενον ἄλλως ἔχειν is the test of reality. No one can make plus anything but plus, because it has no consistency as anything else.

The distinction between thought and a pictorial chaos will guide us well. Break up a sign-board, or a painter’s palette, and the fragments are, to a certain extent, coherent. But break up thought, that is, suppose it otherwise, and what have you? Simply nothing. If Romeo was cut out in little stars, as Juliet wished, the fragments would be something still, but thought broken disappears. To say that on the disappearance of thought, there may be something there, is like saying that when one’s money is gone, one may have some money. This is the position of the agnostic.

We may now approach existence. The agnostic will hardly contend that the reality of existence consists in being non-existent. We may then assert, with the Squire, that whatever is, is. But as [p229] all parts of existence are related to every other, we are justified in asserting, and not justified in denying, that existence is one; that, in other words, existence is a universe.

Recollect, this universe has for its opposite, not an existent blank, but a non-existent unmeaningness. There is no alternative — the universe is. We may look on this picture: but there is no that.

But if we know the universe as one, we know the absolute; for there is nothing outside it to give it support or frame. It is therefore, in Plato’s phrase, ἀνυπόθετον, self-sustained.

It is also infinite; for, as it is a universe, it has nothing outside it to set its limits or bounds. This was pointed out by Plato. Hegel has pointed out the nature of the real infinite. The real infinite is not a negation: but the finite is. The finite negates the infinite, and is therefore a true negation; but the infinite, in negating the finite, is the negative of a negation, and therefore a real affirmation.

Of this universe, one, absolute and infinite, all the parts are correlated. This is seen more clearly in proportion to our intelligence — that is, the clearness is directly as the intelligence. Archimedes, seeing something of the celestial movements, gives us an orrery; Newton, seeing more, gives us [p230] gravity, and so on. The most obstinate scientist never imagines that any of his discoveries is unique; if it were it would not be science, but a miracle.

Again, this One cannot be bad: because bad is a contradiction of what is consistent. In this way an omnipotent demon is a contradiction in terms; quâ consistent he wills inconsistency which presupposes consistency, and this as the motive of a universe is absurd.

We Dublin men have had much, probably enough, of Hamilton and Mansel. Herbert Spencer quotes with approbation Hamilton’s dictum, ‘to think is to condition,’ a sentence which is enough to show Hamilton’s ignorance of the higher or true thought. In the German philosophy, a finite spirit is that which thinks subject to space and time. But even time and space are instances of the correlation of finite and infinite. The instances given by Hamilton to prove his philosophy of the conditioned are taken from things in Space, Time, and Degree. The most hasty reader of Aristotle well knows that Plato called the infinite the undetermined Dyad, as bifurcating to greater and less; but then to Plato quantity was the nearest approach to pure thought. Hegel treats the infinite given by expansion of number [p231] with scant respect. Kant, he says, describes it as awful. He adds, the only really awful thing about it is the awful wearisomeness of ever fixing, and anon unfixing, a limit, without advancing a single step. And this infinite of addition and subtraction he terms the false infinite. But pure thought knows no condition or limitation save position and negation, each involving the other unto perfection.

I may sum up: if we think a universe as unique, independent, self-sustained, and intelligible — as one, infinite and absolute and if this intellectual aspect is interfused with emotive warmth and colour, Religion is not of the unknown — it is positive and eternal. ‘Agnosticism,’ says Mr. Harrison, ‘perfectly legitimate as the true answer of science to an effete question, has shown us that religion is not to be found anywhere within the realm of cause’ (Nineteenth Century, 85, 496). It would not be more ridiculous to say heraldry has shown that religion is not to be found anywhere within the realm of blue dragons. And this brings us to the point on which Mr. Harrison and Mr. Spencer agree, and which I hold to underlie any rational Agnosticism that is.

Mr. Spencer and Mr. Harrison agree in this: that our consciousness is subjective only. Mr. [p232] Harrison says, ‘all observation and meditation, science and philosophy, bring us to the practical belief that man is ever in the presence of some energy or energies of which he knows nothing, and to which, therefore, he would be wise to assign no limits, conditions, or functions. This is, doubtless, what Mr. Spencer himself means. For my part, I prefer his old term, the Unknowable. Though I have always thought that it would be more philosophical not to assert of the Unknown that it is Unknowable. And, indeed, I would rather not use the capital letter, but stick literally to our evidence, and say frankly “the unknown” (Nineteenth Century, 85, p. 495).

Mr. Spencer holds that ‘the activities constituting consciousness, being rigorously bounded, cannot bring in amongst themselves the activities beyond the bounds, which therefore seem unconscious, though production of either by the other seems to imply that they are of the same essential nature; this necessity we are under to think of the external energy in terms of the internal energy, gives rather a spiritualistic than a materialistic aspect to the Universe: further thought, however, obliging us to recognize the truth that a conception given in phenomenal manifestations of this ultimate energy can in no wise [p233] show us what it is’ (Nineteenth Century, 83, p. 10).

That is, Mr. Spencer holds that our consciousness comes of something outside it; while Mr. Harrison’s consciousness is as if it came from energies extrinsic to it. ‘Our scientific conceptions within have a good working correspondence with an (assumed) reality without we having no means of knowing whether the absolute correspondence between them be great or small, or whether there be any absolute correspondence at all’ (Fortnightly Review, 1874, p. 89). ‘To that,’ says Mr. Harrison, ‘I adhere; whilst I accept the doctrine of an unknown substratum, I cannot assent to the doctrine that the unknowable is the absolute Reality’ (Nineteenth Century, 91, p. 357).

Now, whether we take the extra-consciousness sort of a something to be an energy or a substratum, actual to Mr. Spencer — possible to Mr. Harrison — it is plain that both take consciousness to be heteropathic, that is, unlike its coefficients. I need scarcely remind you that Mill points out that some effects resemble their causes, while others are unlike them (Logic iii.) Water is as unlike its component gases as it is unlike its expression, H2 O1. But even the heteropathic effects are subject to the composition of causes as to weight, and it is possible to resolve the heteropathic into its elements. [p234] Besides the heteropathic may start a new series of similar effects. But even inside chemistry, conceptions have been much modified since Mill wrote. Prof. Williamson purposes to apply the mechanical term displace to chemical phenomena; and the chemistry of the mind, so popular in the early part of this century, has been thoroughly exploded by my immediate predecessor, Professor Monck. From a scientific point of view to treat consciousness as really heteropathic is unscientific. ‘There let him lay.’ But Philosophy will have her say, and that say is of no uncertain sound. Causation is part of the correlated whole — consciousness, and to explain that whole by one of its parts is to explain a chess-board by one of its squares, cut out and glued outside it. But this is not all; you can cut out a square from the board, and glue it on the back, but you cannot take one jot or one tittle from thought without annihilating the whole. Anyone can try. Begin with any fact of consciousness, and we find in it the choir of heaven and earth. Science, says the scientist, is sequence. No, science, says the philosopher, is sequence pregnant with cause and substance: and these have baffled a greater than the agnostics of our day — Hume. [p235]

What does science say? Science, not the scientist. Science, in Professor Huxley’s admirable language, tells us that neurosis merely precedes psychosis. G. H. Lewes saw the difficulty, and, to evade it, borrowed from Hegel his view that the cause was in the effect. Granting this, I believe that the final neurosis is the point where science or consciousness in sequence is subsumed by philosophy or consciousness in simultaneity; and that the true answer to the agnostic was given by Plato, when he proved with geometrical precision that everything is finite and infinite, each and both. What Plato had made objective Kant made subjective, while Hegel made room for both in the paramount unity of thought.

If it be thus, if this is so, why do men generally believe in something mysterious behind all we know, in something behind the veil of Isis — the incomprehensible spirit evoked by Faust — the thing-by-itself of Kant; the unknowable of Herbert Spencer, the unknown of Frederic Harrison? The cause is the very prosaic one — abstraction. Analysing knowledge into Subject and Object, we suppose that one can subsist apart from the other. But a little reflection will show that subject and object are correlatives: when we talk of the [p236] object, we accentuate that which is known. And so of the subject, we accentuate that which knows; and in this way we suppose something external to all consciousness — that is, an object dissevered from its correlated subject; but this (though possible to imagination) is impossible to thought. Hume impugned the value of the ideas — Substance and Cause; but things may be set right by considering Cause as Substance in action, and Substance as Cause in reserve, while Being is the meagre abstraction enfolding both. But thought will see that that which thought has joined, abstraction shall not set asunder, and thought will show that agnosticism owes its precarious existence to confusion of abstractions with reality —

Invalidique patrum referunt jejunia nati.

Published, November 1884.


It may be said, ‘surely Mr. Harrison and Mr. Spencer have some reason for the faith that is in them.’ But that no one may be in doubt as to what their metaphysical foundation is, I annex the following extracts from the official papers in the Contemporary.

First, let us take Mr. Spencer’s objections: — [p237]

‘Passing over the familiar difficulties that sundry of the implied divine traits are in contradiction with the divine attributes otherwise ascribed — that a god who repents of what he has done must be lacking either in power or in foresight; that his anger presupposes an occurrence which has been contrary to intention, and so indicates defect of means; we come to the deeper difficulty that such emotions, in common with all emotions, can exist only in a consciousness which is limited. Every emotion has its antecedent ideas, and antecedent ideas are habitually supposed to occur in God: he is represented as seeing and hearing this or the other, and as being emotionally affected thereby. That is to say, the conception of a divinity possessing these traits of character, necessarily continues anthropomorphic; not only in the sense that the emotions ascribed are like those of human beings, but also in the sense that they form parts of a consciousness which, like the human consciousness, is formed of successive states. And such a conception of the divine consciousness is irreconcilable both with the unchangeableness otherwise alleged, and with the omniscience otherwise alleged. For a consciousness constituted of ideas and feelings caused by objects and [p238] occurrences cannot be simultaneously occupied with all objects and all occurrences throughout the universe.

‘To believe in a divine consciousness, men must refrain from thinking what is meant by consciousness — must stop short with verbal propositions; and propositions which they are debarred from rendering into thoughts will more and more fail to satisfy them. Of course like difficulties present themselves when the will of God is spoken of. So long as we refrain from giving a definite meaning to the word will, we may say that it is possessed by the Cause of All Things, as readily as we may say that love of approbation is possessed by a circle; but when from the words we pass to the thoughts they stand for, we find that we can no more unite in consciousness the terms of the one proposition than we can those of the other. Whoever conceives any other will than his own must do so in terms of his own will, which is the sole will directly known to him — all other wills being only inferred. But will, as each is conscious of it, presupposes a motive — a prompting desire of some kind: absolute indifference excludes the conception of a will. Moreover will, as implying a prompting desire, connotes some end contemplated as one to be achieved, and ceases with the achievement of it: [p239] some other will, referring to some other end, taking its place. That is to say will, like emotion, necessarily supposes a series of states of consciousness. The conception of a divine will, derived from that of the human will, involves, like it, localization in space and time: the willing of each end, excluding from consciousness for an interval the willing of other ends, and therefore being inconsistent with that omnipresent activity which simultaneously works out an infinity of ends.

‘It is the same with the ascription of intelligence. Not to dwell on the seriality and limitation implied as before, we may note that intelligence, as alone conceivable by us, presupposes existences independent of it and objective to it. It is carried on in terms of changes primarily wrought by alien activities — the impressions generated by things beyond consciousness, and the ideas derived from such impressions. To speak of an intelligence which exists in the absence of all such alien activities is to use a meaningless word. If to the corollary that the First Cause, considered as intelligent, must be continually affected by independent objective activities, it is replied that these have become such by act of creation, and were previously included in the First Cause; then the reply is, that in such case the First Cause [p240] could, before this creation, have had nothing to generate in it such changes as those constituting what we call intelligence, and must therefore have been unintelligent at the time when intelligence was most called for. Hence it is clear that the intelligence ascribed answers in no respect to that which we know by the name. It is intelligence out of which all the characters constituting it have vanished.

‘These and other difficulties, some of which are often discussed but never disposed of, must force men hereafter to drop the higher anthropomorphic characters given to the First Cause, as they have long since dropped the lower. The conception which has been enlarging from the beginning must go on enlarging, until, by disappearance of its limits, it becomes a consciousness which transcends the forms of distinct thought, though it forever remains a consciousness.’ – Nineteenth Century, January, pp. 6-8.

Next let us take Mr. Harrison’s statement: —

‘One need not repeat all the metaphysical objections arrayed by Mr. Spencer himself against connecting the ideas of the Absolute, the Infinite, First Cause, and Creator with that of any one Power. How can Absolute Power create? How can the [p241] Absolute be a Cause? The Absolute excludes the relative; and Creation and Cause both imply relation. How can the infinite be a Cause, or create? For if there be effect distinct from cause, or if there be something uncreated, the Infinite would be thereby limited. What is the meaning of All-Being? Does it include, or not, its own manifestation? If the Cosmos is a mere show of an Unknown Cause, then the Unknown Cause is not infinite, for it does not include the Cosmos; and not Absolute, for the Universe is its manifestation, and all things proceed from it. That is to say, the Absolute is in relation to the Universe, as Cause and Effect.

‘Again, if the “very notions, beginning and end, cause and purpose, relative notions belonging to human thought, are probably irrelevant to the Ultimate Reality transcending human thought” (Spencer, Nineteenth Century, p. 12), how can we speak of the Ultimate Cause, or indeed of Infinite and Eternal? The philosophical difficulties of imagining a First Cause, so admirably put by Mr. Spencer years ago, are not greater than those of imagining an Ultimate Cause. The objections he states to the idea of Creation are not removed by talking of a Creative Power rather than a Creator God. If Mr. Spencer’s new Creative [p242] Power “stands towards our general conception of things in substantially the same relation as the Creative Power of Theology,” it is open to all the metaphysical dilemmas so admirably stated in First Principles. Mr. Spencer cannot have it both ways. If his Unknowable be the Creative Power and Ultimate Cause, it simply renews all the mystification of the old theologies. If his Unknowable be unknowable, then it is idle to talk of Infinite and Eternal Energy, sole Reality, All-Being, and Creative Power. This is the slip-slop of theologians which Mr. Spencer, as much as any man living, has finally torn to shreds.’ – Nineteenth Century, September 1884, pp. 358-9.

These, as anyone can see, are what Sir W. Hamilton urged in the Edinburgh Review for 1829, against any knowledge of the Absolute and the Infinite. Their futility was seen by J. S. Mill. ‘It is surely possible to maintain that the Deity is known to us only as he who feeds the ravens, without supposing that the Divine intelligence exists solely in order that the ravens may be fed,’ Hamilton, c. iv. Again, he asks, ‘in what manner is a possible existence out of all relation incompatible with the notion of a cause? Have not causes a possible existence apart from their [p243] effects?’ – ib. c. vii. In fact the same kind of objection was, as I have noticed, urged against Anselm, and may be traced to the Megarics, who held that distinct predicates were incompatible. They are all provided for in Hegel’s Aufhebung. Thought consists essentially of opposite constituents, all of which are contained in distinctness, but in subordination, in the paramount Notion which unites them. Thus he takes the Infinite: — The Infinite is not a negation of the Finite, but the Finite negates the Infinite, and so is the not-Infinite. The Infinite thus posits itself as that which is not not-Infinite, and so includes the Finite as one of its constituents. That determination is limitation, and therefore mutilation, is a pun.

Take again the objections to a Creator: — Here again the scientific order in time is assumed to control the logical order in thought;

What God after better would build worse?

may serve as the text of all such objections. That they are not peculiar either to disbelief, or belief, may be shown by the fact that they are common to Sir William Hamilton, Dean Mansel, Mr. Spencer, and Mr. Harrison. Yet what do they amount to? [p244]

That at a certain point in Time God determined to create, just as a man would determine to build a new house. But what force has this, if, as every Idealist holds, Time is only one aspect of the Universe? Time, like Space, is no separate thing. It is one of the many constituents of a complex whole, and to suppose the logical nexus subordinate to time is as absurd as to suppose it is subordinate to glue. Mr. Spencer and Mr. Harrison agree also in utterly ignoring the order, that is to say the process, of Thought.


Since writing the above, a paper has appeared in the Contemporary for July. It is by S. Rowe Bennett, and reviews the opposing doctrines. It does not allude to the metaphysical basis of Agnosticism, but traces the views of Mr. Harrison, Mr. Spencer, as well as of Mr. Matthew Arnold, to a ‘horror of Anthropomorphism,’ p. 207. This, being translated into philosophical language, means that they will not apply the order of Empiricism to Thought. And they are right. If anyone does, and if he can think, he must be a Materialist. We must be such stuff as stuff is made of. But, as I have shown before, we cannot, [p245] if we think, acquiesce in Materialism, because in investigating the claims of Materialism we find the order of Materialism inverted in the order of Thought. And it is this order that renders the essays in the Nineteenth Century, from the metaphysical point of view, so much waste paper.

Top ↑


Chapter XI. Mind and Motion

The subject of this lecture is Motion in its metaphysical aspect, or as we may term it, the notion Motion. That is, I wish to describe Motion, or what it is we mean when we use the word. I do not mean to inquire how we obtain the notion, or whether it is made up of contributions from within or without. In other words, I do not consider the psychological aspect of Motion, but what it is, as opposed to how it comes.

The reasons for selecting this topic are, that Motion is the connecting link between Physics and Metaphysics, and that it has in this aspect given rise to an exact statement by Dr. G. J. Stoney, describing the notion from the physical side.

In discussing the subject of this lecture, I have had unusual advantages — advantages which do not often fall to the lot of a lecturer. The subject has, [p247] as I have said, been discussed, from the physical side, by a most eminent physicist, who has himself largely added to the matter on which he treats. His statement of the case is worthy of all praise, and of the more sincere flattery of imitation; the propositions are numbered, and in each case the reasons on which they severally rest are specifically marked and pointed out. I cannot, I regret to say, pretend to any authority in the department of physical research — my knowledge on this point being altogether second-hand — but I am glad to say my only difference with Professor Stoney is with reference to the question, What are the metaphysical constituents of the notion Motion?

Speculation for Europe and America begins with Greece. The Greeks endeavoured to find some principle which enters into and accounts for all phenomena much in the way that, verification apart, Newton’s Law of Gravitation enters into and accounts for the facts of Mechanics and Astronomy. Amongst early Greek speculators, Parmenides laid down that Unity was the fullest existence, while Plurality never attained such rank, and formed only a basis for probability. It must be borne in mind that Motion — κίνησις — according to Greek thinkers would be a mode of Plurality — the order [p248] of ideas being in their logic, Plurality, Diversity, Change, Movement. Zeno, the disciple of Parmenides, defended his master’s position by developing the absurdity of the consequences involved in the fact or facts of Motion; that is, his line of argument was — Motion contains contradictions, therefore the idee mere Plurality is contradictory; therefore its opposite — Unity — which is not contradictory is true, and real.

From Zeno’s time to the present various efforts have been made to answer his arguments — to answer them either by a common-sense appeal to facts, such as walking about, which is as absurd as Dr. Johnson’s kicking a stone, or by showing that some mathematical or logical fallacy lurked in his reasonings.

But the fact is, that Zeno’s argument rests on the profound truth seen by Plato and developed by Hegel, that all thinking is based on contradiction, that is, in logical terms, to think affirmation is to think negation, and to think negation is again to think affirmation; and this is the essence and nexus of all intelligence whatsoever.

One of Zeno’s most celebrated arguments was the case of the arrow in flight. The arrow while in flight rests, and this is so far true as to develop [p249] the contradiction inherent in the notion. At any given instant the arrow is opposite its own counterpart in length, and might be pinned to the wall by an instantaneous shaft at right angles to its course.

So also in the photograph of the galloping horse, the horse for one instant must be in exact focus. That is to say, in each case there is a point of rest or identity relative to which motion or diversity takes place. Motion, according to Aristotle, exists only as in time, while what is at rest is apprehended by not being moved (de Anima iii. i.), and this is the statement of the empirical aspect of the case by the greatest champion of empiricism.

But if rest is non-motion, it is evident that in thinking of motion we must, if we make our thought explicit, think of non-motion as the indispensable and irrepressible correlative of motion.

In Plato, likewise, Rest is presupposed by Motion, and the Hegelian aspect of the case is explicit. In Greek metaphysics, Motion is a result of Difference, and so Rest and Motion make up an Idea in the strictest sense, one and many — ἕν καὶ πολλὰ.

In Hegel the notion is evolved thus: Space or Otherness must, like everything else, be negated, and this necessary negation is Time; and the indifference of Space and Time is Motion. [p250]

Kant’s paradox is well known: the permanent only is changed; the changing itself suffers no change, but only an alteration, that is, certain determinations ceasing others begin. – Meiklejohn, p. 140. Better translated by Max Müller: the permanent only (substance) is changed, the changing itself suffers no change, but only an alteration, certain determinations ceasing to exist, while others begin, p. 165.

As a general principle it is obvious that that which is related to another cannot be explicitly described without bringing in that other as part and parcel of the description; and so I venture to think that everyone who sets down explicitly what he means by Motion will find that Motion, quâ Motion, is relative to non-Motion.

I shall now read you these portions of Dr. Stoney’s pamphlet which approach the confines of Metaphysics, and I think the result will be, that while Dr. Stoney’s view of Motion will be sufficient for working the organon of the Physicist, yet that Motion when analysed contains the negative element insisted on by the Platonist and Hegelian the notion containing the negative element, for the best possible reason, that it is an essential and inseparable part of its totality, though it may be [p251] discarded by the Physicist, who has other ends in view. I give Dr. Stoney’s own abstract:

‘Every phenomenon which a human being can perceive may be traced by scientific investigation to motions going on in the world around him. This is obvious to every scientific man in regard to such phenomena as those of colour and sound, and these simpler cases were first adduced by the lecturer. Dr. Stoney then pointed out that the statement is also true of all other material phenomena, and he specially dwelt on the phenomena investigated in the science of Mechanics, showing that all the quantities treated of in that science, such as force and mass, prove, when the investigation is pushed far enough, to be expressible in terms of mere motion. He also showed that the prevalent conviction that motion cannot exist unless there is some “thing” to move will not not stand examination. It proves to be a fallacious conviction, traceable to the limited character of the experience of motions which we and our ancestry, from the first dawn of organized thought on the earth, have had within reach of our senses. This conviction accordingly has no authority with respect to molecular motions and to some others that have been brought to light by scientific study. [p252] He also showed that the “thing” which in common experience moves proves in every case to be nothing else than these underlying molecular motions, the transference of which from place to place is the only kind of motion which common experience can reach, when unassisted by science.

‘The intermediate steps between the world external to our bodies and the brain, which take place in our organs of sense and nerves, can also be ascertained to be motions. And, finally, a change consisting of motions takes place in the brain itself, whereupon we become conscious of thought: i.e. a change occurs within the brain which would be appreciated as motions by a bystander who could search into our brains while we are thinking, and could witness what is going on there: while all the time the change that we experience is thought. It must be borne in mind that our brain is a part of the external world to the bystander whom we have supposed to be observing what is going on in it. It thus appears that every phenomenon of the external world is reducible to motions and their modifications, while all that is in the mind is thought.

‘Now this motion to which all other material phenomena are reduced — this motion as it exists in nature, must be distinguished from man’s conception [p253] of motion, which, after all, is one of his thoughts — a very complex one, no doubt, but not part of the external world. This particular conception in our minds is one remote effect of the motion as it exists outside us, and what we really know of that external cause is, that it is a cause which does unfailingly produce this effect if the intermediate appliances of our senses and nerves are also present. Motion, the cause, must no doubt stand in absolutely rigorous relations to its effect, viz. our conception of motion; but it need not be like its effect, the presumption being quite the other way. The lecturer pointed out that, under these circumstances, the simplest and so far the most probable hypothesis that can be advanced is the monistic hypothesis, that this unknown cause is itself thought; and he pointed out that it is no objection to this view that we are unconscious of all the thought here supposed, for this is only to say that it is external to that particular group of interlacing and organized thoughts which we call our own mind, just as the thoughts of the many millions of our fellow-men and of all other animals are external to our little group.

‘The lecturer accordingly recommended the following hypothesis: (i) as consistent with everything [p254] we know; (2) as the simplest hypothesis; (3) as an hypothesis which dispels all the difficulties that encumber the dualistic supposition that there are two kinds of existence, viz. the hypothesis that if a bystander were armed with adequate appliances to ascertain what is going on in our brain while we are thinking, then what we should experience to be thought is itself the remote cause, with several intermediate causes, of that change within the observer’s brain which determines his having that complex thought which he would call perceiving some of the motions in our brain — in short, that what he appreciates as motion we experience to be thought.

‘If this view be correct, it will follow that the thoughts of which we are conscious are but a small part of the thought going on even in our own brain, and which would be seen by a beholder as motions, the rest being unconscious cerebration, and as much outside our consciousness as are the thoughts of other people. We are led also to the conclusion that the thought which is going on in the brains of all the animals that exist is but the “small dust of the balance” compared with what is going on throughout the rest of the mighty universe.’

In reply to this we have a letter from the Duke of Argyll: —

To the Editor of “Nature.”

‘In your paper of the 5th you give a short abstract of a recent lecture at the Royal Institution by Mr. G. Johnstone Stoney, on the question “How Thought presents itself among the Phenomena of Nature.” In this abstract I observe an assertion which is quite new to me, and, I must add, quite unintelligible. It occurs in the first paragraph. The assertion seems to be that there is an absolute distinction between molar and molecular motion: there is no authority for the conviction that there must be some “thing” to be moved. The conception of motion involves the conception of matter as a necessary or inseparable concomitant — although the abstract idea of motion may, in a sense, be separately entertained. Is there any difference in this respect between molar and molecular” motion? A molecule is a group of atoms, and an atom is only conceivable as an ultimate particle of matter. I hope that some further explanation may be given upon this point, which is one of the highest interest and importance both as a matter of physical and metaphysical speculation.

Argyll
Inverary, March 8

It may at once be conceded to Dr. Stoney, in opposition to the Duke of Argyll, that no thing in the ordinary sense of the word is needed for the primary motions. That is, we need not imagine a stake driven into the ground, and round which the motion circles like a baited bull. And the relation between molar and molecular motions is clearly given by Dr. Stoney. But to show that a fixed element, not thing, is necessary, let us take a common instance: a train leaves Dublin at a certain hour, and another leaves Kingstown at the same hour: they will pass each other at some point, and this point will toties quoties represent any and every non-motive element in the idea of motion.

It will be said the point is imaginary. It is imaginary in the sense that you will not fall over it on a dark night. But in two other senses it is not imaginary, and has not any relation to the imagination. First, it cannot be depicted; and, second, it is most real. Why is it real? Because a point is an abstraction from a line, a line from a surface, and surface from a solid; and these are all realities which have their being from rational space. I submit, therefore, that the rational point satisfies the exigencies of the Duke of Argyll, leaving untouched the question of matter of fact, that all [p257] extended bulks, whether molar or molecular, involve at least three points in space, and they as a matter of fact may be in motion from and for all eternity. Motion is, as Plato put it, φορά ποθέν ποι — from point to point — while in thought there is no physical ποθέν ποι, but logical order only. The point or points then, being constant and presupposed, may be discarded by the physicist who records the motion, i.e. that constituent of the notion which is non-rest. Non-rest does not exist by itself, because it cannot, as it has no meaning except as relative to a point d’appui, and the non-motive element is always the logical prius of the moving. A similar question occurs in Ancient Philosophy; Heraclitus laid down πάντα ῥεῖν, but this physically is possible, while metaphysically it involves the unthinkability of a series without unity. Here it may be said, you make unthinkability a test of reality: you argue from a deficiency in yourself to something positive in rerum natura. Not so. The unthinkability of motion without non-motion arises from no incapacity in the thinker, but solely from the essential property of thought, that given one part the rest must follow. It is surely not incapacity but capacity that enables us to follow a demonstration. We follow it because [p258] what we follow is there to be followed. It is not incapacity but capacity which enables us to see that a triangle, because it is a triangle, has angles equal to two right.

Physicists may do without Metaphysics in the sense of not explicitly employing them, but they cannot do without them in the sense of rejecting them. Dr. Stoney’s views detached from his empirical explanation of necessity is pure idealism, and as such may be warmly welcomed by every metaphysician. But any and every attempt to build up a system of Metaphysics without a non-sensible element must fail, whether we take the simple idea of Locke, the impression of Hume, or the q of Professor James. The apparent success of such attempts is due to the fact that the authors use unwittingly a non-sensible, i.e. an ideal, element, and in this way build up their disguised idealism.

Professor Romanes, in his Rede Lecture, 1885, published in Contemporary for August, has the merit of seeing that Materialism is impossible, because it makes the effect prior to its cause. Spiritualism, he alleges, is not impossible but unsatisfactory. Spiritualism is unsatisfactory because, he says, it is opposed to the whole momentum of science.

‘For if mind is supposed, on no [p259] matter how small a scale, to be a cause of motion, the fundamental axiom of science is impugned. This fundamental axiom is that energy can neither be created nor destroyed that just as motion can produce nothing but motion, so, conversely, motion can be produced by nothing but motion. Regarded, therefore, from the standpoint of physical science, the theory of Spiritualism is in precisely the same sense as the theory of Materialism; that is to say, if the supposed causation takes place, it can only be supposed to do so by way of miracle,’ – p. 88.

‘Spiritualism being thus unsatisfactory, and Materialism impossible,’ Professor Romanes asks, ‘Is there yet any third hypothesis in which we may hope to find intellectual rest?’ He says there is.

‘If we unite in a higher synthesis the elements, both of Spiritualism and Materialism, we obtain a product which satisfies every fact of feeling on the one hand, and observation on the other. We have only to suppose that the antithesis between mind and motion — subject and object — is itself phenomenal and apparent; not absolute or real. We have only to suppose that the seeming duality is relative to our modes of apprehension, and, therefore, that any change taking place in the [p260] mind, and any corresponding change taking place in the brain, are really not two changes but one change.’ – pp. 88-89.

This passage really testifies to the truth of Idealism — Spiritualism. In the first place, Professor Romanes only notices the scientific, physical, psychological order. In this order there are two changes in time: first, neurosis; second, psychosis. As these are reckoned in time, and one is before the other, they must so far be two — πολλά. But then Idealism says the two must be subsumed as one in the causal act itself to be in turn subsumed in the all-devouring Notion — Idea. And more surely than the Revolution devours its children, the order of Thought will devour the order of Science. Both are true and real, for both are facts. But applying Plato’s test, we see that Science presupposes Thought, while Thought not only does not presuppose Science, but actually inverts its order by employing that to which Science owes its coherence —Thought.

By ‘the momentum of science’ — a rather vague phrase — Professor Romanes means the Conservation of Energy. Now the Conservation of Energy has borne metaphysical fruit; for it has shown that heteropathic causation is not a cosmical law. It [p261] has therefore left Positivism and Agnosticism without a basis, as its very essence is that the effect resembles the cause: motion produces nothing but motion. But in another aspect it is purely metaphysical, as it asserts that there is identity in diversity — one and many. And Professor Bain points out that it furnishes the means of distinguishing Causation from mere Concomitance, that is to say, Causation implies a transfer of energy, while Concomitance does not. If this is so, what becomes of Hume’s reduction of Causation to Concomitance — the corner-stone of Empiricism and Positivism? Behold thy gods, O Israel!


Dr. Stoney, in the full report of his lecture,* gives a clear view of the scientific aspect of the case, and this will give a clear view of the philosophy of the case. In this instance the philosophy of the case is the philosophy of the Universe. (*How Thought presents itself in Nature. Royal Institution, February 6, 1885.)

‘A small part of what takes place in the outer world affects my senses, and through them indirectly affects me.

‘The result of a successful scrutiny of what is [p262] going on in the outer world may for convenience be called the z part of the scientific explanation of what I witness.

‘The result of a successful scrutiny of the change which the z occasions within my organs of sense would be the y part of the explanation.

‘The result of a successful scrutiny of the changes that ensue along the associated nerves would be the x part of the explanation.

‘And, finally, the result of a successful scrutiny of the physical changes which this x produces within my brain would be the w part of the explanation; and the explanation of the phenomenon from the naturalist’s point of view would be then complete.

‘The state of my own mind while I am witnessing what is going forward consists of sensations, perceptions, and conceptions, or some combination of these with reflections, reminiscences, associations, feelings, emotions, and so on, and may be called the a part of the inquiry, as it is the known part, known as fully before as after the investigation.

‘The whole of a scientific inquiry starts with this a, and is concerned in discovering the z, the y, the x, and the w.’ – p. 18.

This is the scientific order, i.e. that of psychology, [p263] physiology, and cinetics. But if philosophy be represented by φ, φ represents zyxwa as one whole of coexisting and inseparable constituents, any one of which is unintelligible without the rest.

The End

Top ↑




Thomas Maguire, 1831–1889, classical scholar and metaphysician, was the first Roman catholic fellow of Trinity College, Dublin. A thorough idealist in philosophy, Maguire’s chosen masters were Plato and Berkeley. His published works are: Essays on the Platonic Idea, 1866; Essays on the Platonic Ethics, 1870; The Parmenides, with Notes, etc., 1882; and Lectures on Philosophy, 1885.


Reference

Maguire, Thomas. Lectures on Philosophy. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, and Co., 1885. This work is in the public domain.


Search Our Site