one of its most distinguished critics,1 that "the positive mode of thought is not necessarily a denial of the supernatural, since it merely throws back the question to the origin of all things. If the universe had a beginning, its beginning by the very conditions of the case was supernatural; the laws of Nature cannot account for their own origin." This, we reply, is to renounce a legitimate function of man's intelligence,2 the " obstinate questionings of sense and outward things" ; and to quench within him an ever-rising instinct of inquiry into the origin of the world of nature. His understanding and reason, no less than his moral faculties, direct him to its solution. Of the

1 J. S. Mill, A. Comte and Positivism, p. 15.

1 Tentât enim dubiam mentem rationis egestas,

Ecquœnam fuerit mundi genitalis origo.—Lucret., v. 1210. See De Maistre, Soirées, VTM0 Entret. "Il ne dér>end nullement de nous de n'y pas regarder. Il est là devant nous," &c. M. Comte, Phil. Pos., IV. 669, calls it "an infantine curiosity which pretends to know the origin and end of all things." Not so Leibnitz. "Rien ne marque mieux l'imperfection d'une philosophie que la nécessité où le philosophe se trouve d'avouer qu'il se passe quelque chose suivant son système dont il n'y a aucune raison."—Tltiod., II. § 340. "Moi, je crois qu'il y faut reconnoitre des marques de la force de l'esprit humain qui le fait pénétrer dans l'intérieur des choses. Ce sont des ouvertures nouvelles et pour ainsi dire des rayons de l'aube du jour qui nous promet une lumière plus grande."—lb., Vise., § 81. Kant, though holding that no theological beliefs can be based on cosmological notions, Prolegg. § 44, yet finds a firm foundation in the ideas which are the offspring of Reason, such as the soul, the world, and God. Whewell, Bridgewater Tr., p. 159, ed. Bohn, observes that " the same reasoning faculty which seeks for the origin of the present state of things, and is capable of assenting to, or dissenting from, the hypothesis propounded, is necessarily led to seek in the same manner for the origin of any previous state of things," &c. See also Indications of the Creator, p. 153.

The alter- alternatives before him, the eternitv of matter is

native of m"

an eternity liable to many objections,1 one only of which needs

of matter , • i ^7., . ,

here to be noticed. While science nowhere contradicts the fact of a beginning, its absence is inconsistent and in the judgment of the highest authorities in physical philosophy incompatible with the state of our knowledge of Nature rejected (Werden) as a continuous effect, and of natural

by natural ,

phiio- agents and their mode of operation as causes. Thus astronomy, in the opinion of Professor Huxley2 " leads us to contemplate phenomena, the very nature of which demonstrates that they must have had a beginning, and that they must have an end." "The principle of the dissipation of energy," according to another distinguished professor,3 " as it alone is able to lead us by sure steps

1 As, for example, that it really explains nothing: ajteraitas quippe nullius rei causa intelligi potest.

2 Lay Sermons, p. 17, probably referring to the fact of the earth's retardation in a resisting medium. Comp. Whewell, Bridy. Tr., Ck. II. c. viii. Sir John Herschel, Disc. Nat. Phil., § 28, says: "If wo mistake not, then, the discoveries alluded to effectually destroy the idea of an eternal, self-existent matter, by giving to each of its atoms the essential characters at once of a manufactured article and a subordinate agent."

3 Professor Tait, Report of British Assoc., 1871. He adds," Sir William Thomson's splendid suggestion of Vortex Atoms implies the absolute necessity of an intervention of creative power to form or to destroy one atom even of dead matter." Dr. Whewell, Indications, pp. 14,17, 115, remarks, "A perpetual motion is impossible in chemistry as it is in mechanics; and a theory of constant change continued throughout infinite time is untenable when asserted upon chemical no less than upon mechanical principles." Liebig, 23 Brief ap. Lange, Oesch. des Mat., p. 342, considers the same to be proved by physiology. Die cxakte Naturforschung hat bewicscn, dass das organische Lcben auf Erdcn einen Anfang hatte.

of deductive reasoning to the necessary future ot the universe (necessary, that is, if physical laws for ever remain unchanged); so it enables us to say that the present order of things has not been evolved through infinite past time by the agency of laws now at work; but must have had a distinctive beginning, a state beyond which we are totally unable to penetrate; a state, in fact, which must have been produced by other than the now acting causes." "We may dismiss, then, the theory of the eternity of matter, and with it some ancient fancies which, while admitting a creation, supposed it to be coeval with the Creator as being of His essence.1 But if self-caused or altogether motive The First and yet material, the ultimate force in natural creative phenomena turns out to be wholly and inherently different from the effects for which it is required to account. It is contrary to all experience, and all our knowledge of matter, such as it is, is gained from experience.2 Its raison d'etre, therefore, dis

1 See Milraan, Lot. Christ., VI. 279. "Nature and Time were created together," is the truer thought of Scotus Erigena (ap. Guizot, Civil, en France, Lec. 28). See, however, Milmau (lb., III. 244), after Hanreau. Saisset indeed (Essais), while quoting Augustine and Leibnitz as inclining to the opiuion of the eternity and infinity of the universe, remarks, " Dieu a toujours ete avant les creatures sans jamais cxister sans elles; parce qn'il ne les precede point par un intervalle de temps, mais par une <5ternite fixe."

a "Laws of Matter" imply a distinction between matter and form, and by consequence an original conception of matter which is metaphysical rather than physical, and involves a whole theory. With the admission that we know nothing of 'physical causes materialism properly disappears.

appears. It is opposed to that great generalization of modern science, known as the conservation of energy or persistence of force. "A creation of power," says Faraday,1 "is like no other force in nature. . . . In no case, not even in those of the gymnotus or torpedo, is there a pure creation or a production of power without a corresponding and im- exhaustion of something to supply it." It must

material, _ ° rr J

then, this ultimate force or centre, or more strictly this origin of force, be other than material in character and essence. No theory of tension or pressure, or of their co-existence, is adequate to the case supposed. All motion with which we are acquainted has its commencement in some preexisting source of power. If physical, it is itself an effect. For all experience and observation, not to rest upon principles of reason, lead us to conclude that there is no phenomenon in nature which is uncaused. But if itself a cause and immaterial, a new mode of agency is introduced into the universe. True; and it is this consideration which answers the objection that if there can be something uncaused, there is no reason to assume a cause for anything. It is one, moreover, the mode of whose operation must always remain inacces

1 Life, II. p. 103. "Perpetual motion is deemed impossible, because it demands the creation of force, whereas the principle of conservation is no creation but infinite conversion." — Prof. Tyndall, Fragments, p. 35. Sir Isaac Newton in his Letters to Dcntley leaves it to his readers to determine whether the agent which produces gravitation is material or immaterial.

sible to our present living powers, one which may

be fitly termed super-essential. It answers, there- answering

fore, the criterion laid down by modern thinkers, notions of

1 • i • spiritual

of "an omnipresence of something which passes action, comprehension."1 The action of mind or spirit upon matter (whether properly to be considered supernatural or not) seems incapable of determination, if for no other reason, that it cannot even by reflection see itself.2 This cannot therefore


Into the eyo and prospect of the soul.

One thing only can we infer respecting it in the case of the Primal Mind or Eternal Spirit. This Prior to

A law and

cannot be subject to laws in the same sense as the free in

_ operation.

phenomena of Nature. It must be, as the type of pure action, free in operation; and, if not indifferent but capable of motive (for motives are not necessarily "symptoms of weakness"), it must be self-determined, "a law unto itself." It seems, then, impossible to assert that there can be

1 Herbert Spencer, First Princ, p. 45.

2 "Modus quo corporibus adhajret spiritus comprehendi ab hominibus non potest: et hoc tamen homo est."—Augustin. de Spir. et Anim. "Ubi igitur aut qualis est ista mens? Ubi tua aut qualis? Potesne dicere? . . . Non valet tantum animus ut scse ipso videat. At, ut oculus, sic animus, se non videns, alia cernit."—Cic, Tusc. Disp., L xxvii. "En un mot," says Leibnitz, " que l'Sme change la quantity de la force, et qu'elle change la ligue de la direction, co sont deux choscs egalement inexplicables." Hence his supposition of a parallelismus inter corpus et animam, and the several theories of a physical influx, of a Divine assistance, of occasional causes, due respectively to Thomas Aquinas, Descartes, and Malcbranche.

« ElőzőTovább »