« ElőzőTovább »
ency of Laplace's celebrated cosmological hypothesis, by which he seeks to construct a universe withont supernatural assistance; and also of the more recent Development theory, which, taking different shapes in the hands of different advocates, tends equally in each to banish all immediate divine agency from the department of organized nature. “It is superfluous,” says
, Comte, “ to establish specially the indispensable preliminary that all idea of creation, properly speaking, must be utterly rejected as in its nature wholly inconceivable, and that the only reasonable inquiry, if indeed that is attainable, must relate to successive transformations."* So speaks the hierophant of positivism, laying down a canon which embodies the true doctrine of his school. We are aware that many advocates of these theories of Laplace and Darwin deny their atheistical tendency, and find room, not only for an intelligent Creator, but for his special providence, and even his fatherly attribute as the hearer of prayer. They assume that far back in past eternity, or that inconceivably remote period when the Creator laid the plan of his works, he foresaw the exact conditions, wants, and characters of all his intelligent creatures, judged their deeds, beheld their sufferings and temptations, and listened in advance to their prayers; and then with special reference to each, instituted that series of causes which should in their distant future operations produce the specific results, whether of judgment or mercy, which his infinite wisdom decreed. This hypothesis may not be free from speculative difficulties to some minds; but it affords, perhaps, a possible basis for the support of personal religion, provided the emotions of the heart can be made to respond to the theoretical conclusion. But the natural desire is for a personal God, whose sympathy and approbation are an instant vital principle, not one whose relations to mankind would be the same if he had sunk into annihilation the moment the great universe, with its infinitely complex web of causalities, had been called into existence. Constituted as the human mind is, existing essentially in the associations to which its finite conditions have given birth, such a Deity must necessarily be, at least to the great majority,
* Philosophic Positivism, tome ii., p. 363.
but a cold and lifeless abstraction which could kindle no devotion in the soul.
The able treatise which stands at the head of this article asserts, as we have said, the absolute supremacy of natural law, but without detriment to the doctrine of special providence, to the historical truth of miracles, or to their decisire authority as the credentials of revelation. These dangerous consequences the author escapes by a somewhat peculiar definition of terms, to which we shall have occasion again to refer. At present we would extract some remarks on the relation of science to theology that in our opinion convey a grave and weighty truth which it is the duty of all parties fairly to confront.
“ We see the men of theology coming out to parley with the men of science, a white flag in their hands, and saying: 'If you will let us alone, we will do the same by you. Keep to your own province ; do not enter ours. The reign of law which you proclaim we admit-outside these walls, but not within them let there be peace between us.'
It is against this danger that some men would erect a faint and feelle barrier by defending the position that science and religion may be, and ought to be, kept entirely separate ;—that they belong to wholly different spheres of thought, and that the ideas which prevail in the one province have no relation to the other. This is a doctrine offering many temptations to many minds. It is grateful to scientific men who are afraid of being thought hostile to religion. " It is grateful to religious men who are afraid of being thought to be afraid of science. To these, and to all who are troubled to reconcile what they have been taught to believe with what they have come to know, this doctrine affords a natural and convenient escape. There is but one objection to it, but that is the fatal objection, that it is not true. The spiritual world and the intellectual world are not separated after this fashion ; and the notion that they are so separated does but encourage men to accept in each ideas which will at last be proved to be false in both. No man who thoroughly accepts a principle in the philosophy of nature which he feels to be inconsistent with a doctrine of religion can help having his belief in that doctrine shaken and
We may believe, and we must believe, both in nature and in religion, many things which we cannot understand; but we cannot really believe two propositions which are felt to be contradictory. It helps us nothing in such a difficulty, to say that the one proposition belongs to reason and the other proposition belongs to faith. The endeavor to reconcile them is a necessity of the mind.”
This is not only bold and frank, but the author takes the true ground. We fear there has been in this matter something of a disingenuous composition, not unlike that of which we read in Pascal's “Provincials," where two sects of Jesuits, to avoid embroilments, agreed to use a technical term of divinity without defining it. But this is worse than vain. The consciousness that these are reputed scientific truths, of dangerous import to some of the tenets of religion, which we dare not examine, tends to diffuse through the mind a secret corrosive doubt of the authenticity of revelation itself. By all means let the truth be examined. If Christianity is indeed divine, it has no assaults to fear, since no fact or principle can ever be established which is really in conflict with it. The faith of many may be shaken, it is unfortunately true, by the agitation of questions which are thought to concern the life of religion. That is one unhappy effect of the rash assertion of unproved hypotheses ; but the remedy that involves the least amount of evil is a thorough investigation, which may determine whether the obnoxious opinion rest on positive and sufficient proof, or merely on vague and precarious inference.
The Duke of Argyle strongly insists that no truth, theological or other, which is really such, can ever have a contradictory proposition proved against it. To ordinary apprehension nothing can be more self-evident than this, or less in need of a distinct and formal enunciation ; yet there are men who are not daunted even by such a paradox. Thus, his grace mentions a late eminent professor and clergyman of the English Church, who was so deeply impressed with the inexorable reign of law that he believed no place was left for special providence or for answers to prayers; yet “he went on, nevertheless, preaching high doctrinal sermons from the pulpit until his death. He did so on the ground that proposi
tions which were contrary to his reason were not necessarily beyond his faith. The inconsistencies of the human mind are indeed unfathomable, and there are men so constituted, as honestly to suppose that they can divide themselves into two spiritual beings, one of whom is sceptical, and the other believing,”-p. 59. This apparent self-contradiction is by no
We are informed that no principle was more insisted on by Bayle, than that the insolubility of objections against a dogma was no legitimate reason to reject it. On this Leibnitz remarks, that it is in effect to say that an unanswerable argument against a thesis is no legitimate reason to reject it. For what other legitimate reason to reject an opinion can there be, if an opposing argument of invincible force is not such ? and what other means nains of demonstrating the falsity, or even the absurdity, of any proposition?"* Bayle's principle, if by “insolubility” be meant conclusiveness of objections, appears to surrender the mind to absolute Pyrrhonism, making it as impossible to prove the truth as the falsehood of any proposition; for on his assumption no demonstration, however seemingly perfect, can exclude the possible existence of other facts from which a counter-demonstration of equal force miglit be deduced. Yet it is well known that a similar principle is maintained by Kant in his celebrated Antinomies, from whom it passed to Sir William Hamilton, and in his philosophy plays an important part. From a paper entitled “ Contradictions proving the psychological theory of the conditioned,” + we cite several examples of what Sir William regards as contradictory demonstrations, from which the reader may surmise wliat ground he has to assert a principle which tends so directly to subvert the foundations of all knowledge: “ Infinite maxi
“ mum, if cut in two, the halves cannot be each infinite, for nothing can be greater than infinite; nor finite, for thus two finite lalves would make an infinite whole.” From his postulates it would result that the halves are neither finite nor infinite, but something distinct from both. That, however, is not his meaning, for he intends a double demonstration,
* Discours de la Conformité de la Loi avec la Raison, $ 58. + Metophysics: Appendix, No. V, note (G).
proving them to be both finite and infinite. The fallacy appears to be in assuming that “nothing can be greater than infinite;" or, in other words, that all infinites are equal. A bar an inch square, if infinite in length, would contain an infinite quantity of matter; but one two inches square would contain four times as much. Or, add a single pound to one of the bars, and the infinite quantity is increased by a pound. To deny this contradicts our most elementary conceptions, and deprives the terms we use of all definite meaning—“An infinite number of quantities must make up either an infinite or a finite whole. I. The former.-But an inch, a minute, a degree, contain each an infinite number of quantities, therefore an inch, a minute, a degree, are infinite wholes; which is absurd. II. The latter.—An infinite number of quantities would thus make up a finite quantity; which is equally absurd.” As the number of parts increases, each is diminished in the same exact proportion; and when the number becomes infinite, each part is infinitely small; so that the same infinite enters both the numerator and denoininator of the fraction expressing the quantity. Let the finite magnitude be m, and the number of parts n; then is one part, and = m, represents the whole; thus showing, what is indeed self-evident, that dividing the magnitude into even an infinity of parts leaves the quantity unchanged. The fallacy seems to be in ascribing some actual magnitude to each part, even when the division is infinite. If it be objected that parts without magnitude are inconceivable, we reply that the infinite division first assumed is not less so, as it involves the same difficulty. “A quantity, say a foot, has an infinity of parts.
' Any part of this quantity, say an inch, has also an infinity. But one infinity is not larger than another. Therefore an inch is equal to a foot.” If the inch bas an infinity of parts, the foot which contains it has that infinity, with the infinities belonging to eleven other inches superadded. The aggregate of the latter is therefore larger than the former, and the inch is not equal to the foot; nor are the numerical infinities in the two cases the same. Of such are Sir W. Hamilton's antinomies; by which he designed to prove that essential and inseparable conditions fetter reason, to such a degree, that positive con