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pupil of Hamilton, in which it is maintained that the infinite infinite space, for example,—is a positive notion. He admits that the mind cannot embrace the infinite, but asserts the possibility of a positive, though indefinite, partial, imperfect notion of it. Just as the mole can recognize the mountain which is too large for its eye; just as man can recognize the world, though he cannot see its entire extension, so can the mind recognize the infinite. Hamilton's doctrine has found a more acute opponent in Dr. McCosh. He maintains that to whatever point we go out in space, however far, we have the belief that there is something beyond, and that our conviction in regard to the infinite is not a mere impotence to conceive that existence, time, or space should cease, “but a positive affirmation that they do not cease.” The Lectures of Hamilton, which have been lately published, contain in the Appendix an express reply to Mr. Calderwood, in the form of a letter to him. It is affirmed in this letter that the very terms “partial,” “indefinite,” “ imperfect,” which Mr. Calderwood attaches to the conception of the infinite, confess and imply that the mind can compass, in thought, only a part of the object, and is impotent to conceive the whole. To Dr. McCosh's statement, it is replied that the “something farther on," of which he speaks, is not an object of conception, but merely the boundary of conception. We merely refrain from thinking of space as having a boundary. It is thus presented to us as indefinite, but not infinite ; and these ideas are totally different.
The doctrine of the conditioned is also not opposed, but snpplemented, by philosophers like Dr. Hickok, who believe in the existence of a higher faculty of Reason, which, by an immediate intuition of the absolute, accomplishes what the Understanding vainly strives to do. Such a perception, it is maintained by Sir William Hamilton and Mr. Mansel, is subversive of thought itself, and is refuted by the arguments which prove the limits of the Understanding.
We have thus described, as briefly as the difficulty of the subject would permit, the philosophical system on which Mr. Mansel's book is built up. We have now to trace out the application of his metaphysical views to theology. God is the infinite and absolute Being. If He were conditioned by another existence, if another existence were necessary to His existence, He would be dependent, He would not be God. It, for example, it is a necessary condition of His existence that there should be a world, He is under a limitation, He has the essential characteristic of a finite being, He is not God. If it be true that there is an element of perfection of which He is destitute, that he requires another existence for the realization of His attributes, supposed to be latent, that He possesses any mode of existence which He has not possessed from all eternity,—then He is finite, He is not God. The primary fact concerning God is, that He is the unconditioned, the perfect Being
But such a Being is inconceivable. The moment that we suppose ourselves to have conceived of Him, we land in contradictions. Let us give one or two specimens of Mr. Mansel's mode of reasoning:
“Supposing the Absolute to become a cause, it will follow that it operates by means of free will and consciousness. For
necessary cause cannot be conceived as absolute and infinite. If necessitated by something beyond itself, it is thereby limited by a superior power; and if necessitated by itself, it has in its own nature a necessary relation to its effect. The act of causation must, therefore, be voluntary; and volition is only possible in a conscious being. But consciousness, again, is only conceivable as a relation. There must be a conscious subject, and an object of which he is conscious. The subject is a subject to the object; the object is an object to the subject; and neither can exist by itself as the absolute. This difficulty, again, may be for the moment evaded, by distinguishing between the absolute as related to another, and the absolute as related to itself. The Absolute, it may be said, may possibly be conscious, provided it is only conscious of itself. But this alternative is, in ultimate analysis, no less self-destructive than the other. For the object of consciousness, whether a mode of the subject's existence or not, is either created in and by the act of consciousness, or has an existence independent of it. In the former case, the object depends upon the subject, and the subject alone is the true absolute. In the latter case, the subject depends upon the object, and the object alone is the true absolute. Or, if we attempt a third hypothesis, and maintain that each exists independently of the other, we have no absolute at all, but only a pair of relatives: for coëxistence, whether in consciousness or not, is itself a relation." pp. 77, 78.
Again : "Let us however suppose
the existence of the Absolute securely established on the testimony of reason. Still we have not succeeded in reconciling this idea with that of a Cause: we have done nothing towards explaining
how the absolute can give rise to the relative, the infinite to the finite. If the condition of causal activity is a higher state than that of quiescence, the absolute, whether acting voluntarily or involuntarily, has passed from a condition of comparative imperfection to one of comparative perfection; and therefore was not originally perfect. If the state of activity is an inferior state to that of quiescence, the Absolute, in becoming a cause, has lost its original perfection. There remains only the supposition that the two states are equal, and the act of creation one of complete indifference. But this supposition annihilates the unity of the absolute, or it annihilates itself. If the act of creation is real, and yet indifferent, we must admit the possibility of two conceptions of the absolute, the one as productive, the other as non-productive.” pp. 80, 81.
The claim to a knowledge of the Divine Nature is shown, by a variety of analogous processes, to issue in utter confusion and self-contradiction. We do not here discuss the validity of these processes, but simply record our author's conclusion. The corollary which he deduces is not skepticism. That is not the legitimate inference and is, besides, not less absurd and self-contradictory than the positive theories which it would supplant.
“What we have hitherto been examining, be it remembered, is not the nature of the Absolute in itself, but only our own conception of that nature. The distortions of the image reflected may arise only from the inequalities of the mirror reflecting it. And this consideration leads us naturally back to the second of the two methods of religious philosophy which were mentioned at the beginning of the present Lecture. If the attempt to grasp the absolute nature of the Divine Object of religious thought thus fails us on every side, we have no resource but to recommence our inquiry by the opposite process, that of investigating the nature of the human Subject. Such an investigation will not, indeed, solve the contradictions which our previous attempt has elicited; but it may serve to show us why they are insoluble. If it cannot satisfy to the full the demands of reason, it may at least enable us to lay a reasonable foundation for the rightful claims of belief. If, from an examination of the laws and limits of human consciousness, we can show that thought is not, and cannot be, the measure of existence; if it can be shown that the contradictions which arise in the attempt to conceive the infinite, have their origin, not in the nature of that which we would conceive, but in the constitution of the mind conceiving; that they are such as must necessarily accompany every form of religion, and every renunciation of religion ; we may thus prepare the way for a recognition of the separate provinces of Reason and Faith.” pp. 85, 66. Seeing that a knowledge of the nature of the Absolute is
a thus beyond our reach, since the term nature, whatever view we take of it, is a term of limitation, we are led to examine the philosophy of religion from the subjective or psychological VOL. XVII.
side. Lecture III. is devoted to a special ivquiry into the general conditions of consciousness. We quote a single paragraph near the end of the lecture.
“The results, to which an examination of the facts of consciousness has conducted us, may be briefly summed up as follows. Our whole consciousness manifests itself as subject to certain limits, which we are unable, in any act of thought, to transgress. That which falls within these limits, as an object of thought is known to us as relative and finite. The existence of a limit to our powers of thought is manifested by the consciousness of contradiction, which implies at the same time an attempt to think and an inability to accomplish that attempt. But a limit is necessarily conceived as a relation between something within and something without itself; and thus the consciousness of a limit of thought implies, though it does not directly present to us, the existence of something of which we do not and cannot think. When we lift up our eyes to that blue vault of heaven which is itself but the limit of our own power of sight, we are compelled to suppose, though we cannot perceive, the existence of space beyond, as well as within it; we regard the boundary of vision as parting the visible from the invisible. And when, in mental contemplation, we are conscious of relation and difference, as the limits of our power of thought, we regard them, in like manner, as the boundary between the conceivable and the inconceivable ; though we are unable to penetrate, in thought, beyond the nether sphere, to the unrelated and unlimited which it hides from us. The Absolute and the Infinite are thus, like the Inconceivable and the Imperceptible, names indicating, not an object of thought or of consciousness at all, but the mere absence of the conditions under which consciousness is possible. The attempt to construct in thought an object answering to such names, necessarily results in contradiction ;-a contradiction, however, which we have ourselves produced by the attempt to think ;—which exists in the act of thought, but not beyond it;—which destroys the conception as such, but indicates nothing concerning the existence or non-existence of that which we try to conceive. It proves our own impotence, and it proves nothing more. Or rather, it indirectly leads us to believe in the existence of that Infinite which we cannot conceive; for the denial of its existence involves a contradiction, no less than the assertion of its conceivability. We thus learn that the provinces of Reason and Faith are not coëxtensive;—that it is a duty, enjoined by Reason itself, to believe in that which we are unable to comprehend." Pp. 109, 110.
In view of this impotency of human reason, the question arises how are our religious convictions derived ; on what do they rest? The two original sources of our religious consciousness, according to Mr. Mansel, are the feeling of dependence and the conviction of moral obligation. To these two facts of consciousness the two great outward acts by which religion in various forms has been manifested, may be traced ; prayer, by which man seeks to obtain God's blessing upon the future, and expiation, by which he strives to atone for transgressions in the past. The feeling of dependence inspires the conviction that our existence and welfare are in the hands of a superior being, who can show favor or enmity, as He may will. The feeling of obligation inspires the conviction that this superior Being is a holy law-giver, brings upon us the sense of guilt and the impulse to make expiation. The belief in God which is awakened in this way in the human soul, is confirmed by the perception of final causes in the material world, and by the other arguments which are usually employed to prove His existence. Yet it is impossible for us through these feelings to become conscious of, to conceive of, the Infinite or Absolute, as such. The moment that we make the endeavor, we are balked by the contradictions that inevitably ensue. This the author first illustrates in regard to the feeling of dependence. He then proves the same in respect to the feeling of moral obligation; and his remarks from this point are so lucid and so important, also, that we prefer to use his own language.
“Nor yet is it possible to find in the consciousness of moral obligation any immediate apprehension of the Absolute and Infinite. For the free agency of man, which in the feeling of dependence is always present as a subordinate element, becomes here the center and turning-point of the whole. The consciousness of the Infinite is necessarily excluded; first, by the mere existence of a relation between two distinct agents; and, secondly, by the conditions under which each must necessarily be conceived in its relation to the other. The moral consciousness of man, as subject to law, is, by that subjection, both limited and related; and hence it cannot in itself be regarded as a representation of the Infinite. Nor yet can such a representation be furnished by the other term of the relation that of the Moral Lawgiver, by whom human obligation is enacted. For, in the first place, such a Lawgiver must be conceived as a Person; and the only human conception of Personality is that of limitation. In the second place, the moral consciousness of such a Lawgiver can only be conceived under the form of a variety of attributes; and different attributes are, by that very diversity, conceived as finite. Nay, the very conception of a moral nature is in itself the conception of a limit; for morality is the compliance with a law; and a law, whether imposed from within or from without, can only be conceived to operate by limiting the range of possible actions.
“Yet along with all this, though our positive religious consciousness is of the finite only, there yet runs through the whole of that consciousness the accompanying conviction that the Infinite does exist, and must exist ;-though of the manner of that existence we can form no conception; and that it exists along