Principles of Natural Theology / by George Hayward Joyce, S.J.

Chapter II. The Demonstrability of God's Existence.

  1. The Possibility of a Demonstration Denied: Sensationalist Standpoint.
  2. The Concepts of Substance and Cause in the Light of Experience.
  3. Philosophical Vindication of these Concepts.
  4. Philosophical Vindication of First Principles.
  5. Kantian Teaching.
  6. Neohegelianism.

1. The possibility of a demonstration denied: sensationalist standpoint. Before we proceed to develop the proofs of God's existence it will be well to establish the validity of the reasoning to be employed in them. Our principal arguments -- those which belong strictly to the science of metaphysics -- rest on certain fundamental conceptions of the intellect, such as substance and efficient cause, etc., and on certain first principles immediately connected with these, such as the principle of causality, that Whatever comes into being must have a cause. We thus establish the existence of a necessary substance, the cause of the contingent substances which experience makes known to us. The value of this reasoning is at the present day widely denied. The neo-hegelian, the follower of Kant, the sensationalist, though their respective standpoints are so widely divergent, are at one in declaring that the conceptions and principles in question are destitute of objective validity. Until this preliminary question is settled it is hardly worth while to propose our arguments. Unless we can shew that the notion of substance -- and by this term we understand something which is no mere transient qualification of 'the real,' but which possesses independent subsistence as an integral unit in nature -- is no chimera of the imagination, it is idle to argue that the world is due to the activity of a Supreme Substance. Unless we can vindicate the worth of the concept of efficient cause -- that which by its action makes a thing what it is -- it is useless to commence a proof of a First Cause, or a Prime Mover. The purpose of this chapter is to establish the worth of our fundamental conceptions and of the axiomatic principles which we shall employ. In doing so we shall take note of the opposing theories, and shall endeavour to make good that they are irreconcilable alike with facts of experience and with reason. We shall deal first with the sensationalist position, reserving our discussion of other schools till the end of the chapter. In connection with the former, we shall touch on the philosophy of M. Bergson: since, though his system is in many respects original, his attitude on the point under consideration is identical with that of the sensationalists.

The sensationalist philosophy admits no other knowledge than that obtained by the experience of the senses. We know, its adherents contend, particulars and particulars only. We have no means of obtaining certainty in our universal judgments except by experience of each several individual embraced in the class of which we are speaking. In every general proposition, which includes in its scope others besides those which have actually fallen under observation, there is involved of necessity a leap in the dark. And even of particulars all that we can know are the perceptions of sense. The so-called 'substance' -- something which persists identically the same, though its qualities, the direct object of sense-perception, are subject to change, and which, amid all their multiplicity, is somehow or other but one -- is, they say, a creature of our imagination. Similarly as regards our own minds. We know nothing, they contend, of the mind save transient states of consciousness. The term 'substance,' as applied to it, is totally devoid of meaning. Mill sums up his teaching on this subject as follows: "As body is the insentient cause to which we are naturally prompted to refer a certain portion of our feelings, so mind may he described as the sentient subject (in the Scholastic sense of the term) of all feelings: that which has or feels them. But of the nature of either body or mind, further than the feelings which the former excites and which the latter experiences, we do not, according to the best existing doctrine, know anything at all" (Logic, Bk. I., ch. iii., § 8). As regards the notion of cause, the doctrine of this school follows the same lines. A cause, we are informed, is that which experience shews to he the regular antecedent of anything. There is no philosophical basis for the view which would see in a cause that which makes a thing to be what it is. Our senses merely perceive one thing precede and another follow. We cannot see one thing impart being to another. We have, then, no right to introduce such a conception, and to say that the existence of the consequent is determined by the antecedent. The passage in which Hume propounds this conclusion is well known, and deserves to be cited here. He says:

"After one instance or experiment, where we have observed a particular event to follow upon another, we are not entitled to form a geheral rule, or foretell what will happen in like cases: it being justly esteemed an unpardonable temerity to judge of the whole course of nature from one single experiment, however accurate or certain. But where one particular species of events has always in all instances been conjoined with another, we make no longer any scruple of foretelling one upon the appearance of the other, and of employing that reasoning, which can alone assure us of any matter of fact or existence. We then call the one object cause, the other effect. . . . But there is nothing in a number of instances different from every single instance, which is supposed to be exactly similar: except only that after a repetition of similar instances the mind is carried by habit, upon the appearance of one event, to expect its usual attendant, and to believe that it will exist. This connection, therefore, which we feel in the mind, this customary transition from one object to its usual attendant, is the sentiment or impression from which we form the idea of power or necessary connection. Nothing further is in the case. . . . The first time a man saw the communication of motion by impulse, as by the shock of two billiard-balls, he could not pronounce that the one event was connected, but only that it was conjoined with the other. After he has observed several instances of this nature, he then pronounces it to be connected. What alteration has happened to give rise to this new idea of connection? Nothing but that he now feels these events to be connected in his imagination, and can readily foretell the existence of one from the appearance of the other." (Inquiry concerning the Human Understanding. Section vii., p. 2).

Such in outline is the teaching of the sensationalist school on causality. Substantially, it has not altered since the days of Hume. Spencer, it is true, modifies it in one respect. He attributes our conviction that the same cause will produce the same effect, not merely to the experience of the individual, but to that of the race. The experience of past generations, he holds, has gradually stamped itself upon the brain, so as to establish 'forms of thought.' Hence from the dawn of reason we are led to anticipate that the law of uniformity will prevail in nature, and that the same antecedent will be followed by the same consequent. As regards the point which concerns us at present this modification of sensationalist doctrine is immaterial.

It is manifest that if things really are as this philosophy represents them, the arguments for the existence of God as the First Cause of all things are utterly worthless. The principle of causality lacks all necessity: we have no right to affirm that whatever comes into being must have a cause. As far as our limited experience goes, every event has been preceded by an antecedent with which we connect it. But we are not justified in asserting that this must of necessity be so, except in so far as all sensible experience takes place in time, and time involves succession. We have no ground, as Mill frankly owns, for supposing that there is an ontological connection between antecedent and consequent.{1} Indeed, even if the universality of the principle of causality be admitted, it would not carry us to a First Cause, but to an infinite series of temporal antecedents. Mill is absolutely true to sensationalist principles when he says: "The cause of every change is a prior change; and such it cannot but be; for if there were no new antecedent, there would not be a new consequent. If the state of facts which brings the phenomenon into existence had existed always or for an indefinite duration, the effect would always have existed or been produced an indefinite time ago. It is thus a necessary part of the fact of causation, within the sphere of our experience, that the causes as well as the effects had a beginning in time, and were themselves caused."{2} The very notion of God, as we conceive Him, is, on the principles of this school utterly irrational. For how else can we conceive of God than as the Supreme Substance, infinite in all perfections and existing from all eternity? But sensationalism declares that substance is a meaningless word: that all we can know or ever hope to know either of bodies or of minds are states -- ever-changing states. To assert, therefore, that the existence of finite substances enables us to conclude to an Infinite Substance is simply to juggle with words. No significance whatever can be attached to either of the two terms in the theory under consideration.

We stated above that, great as is the difference between the philosophy of M. Bergson and sensationalism, his attitude to the proofs of God's existence is practically the same. According to him, change, becoming, movement, is all there is. The universe does not consist in changing things: it is itself change, life. It is not a living thing: it is the actual process of life. We ourselves seem to be permanent beings endowed with life; but it is not so in reality. We are partial manifestations of the universal flow. And if it he asked what are the substances, to whose existence our external experience seems to testify, the reply must be that they are, so to speak, 'sections' taken in the flux by the intellect for practical ends. Life demands action, and action is impossible unless we stabilize our view of the flow by thus cutting across it and treating what in fact is moving -- or to speak more accurately, motion -- as though it were fixed and abiding.{3} So, too, the separation of cause and effect is wholly the work of the mind. The stream of life is one and indivisible. Cause and effect are partial views, which the limitations of our intellect compel us to take as the condition of our activity. {4}

It is manifest that the proof of the existence of God fares no better in this system than in the sensationalist philosophy. The objective validity of the concept of substance and of the principle of causality is rejected: both are declared to be creations of the mind. In consequence, every argument which relies on them is worthless.

2. The concepts of substance and cause in the light of experience. The work of a philosophy lies in its ability to account for facts. It claims to give us the explanation of facts: to tell us what in their ultimate analysis the data of experience involve. If then a system fails to give us such an explanation, if the solution which it provides is wholly inconsistent with our experience, that system has no claim on our acceptance. It may be ingenious: it may suggest novel objections against current theories; but it has failed to make good. Properly speaking, it has no right to be termed a philosophy. Sensationalism certainly is open to this reproach. It is in flagrant contradiction with facts. Nothing is more evident than that we possess a direct and immediate knowledge, not merely of thoughts, volitions and emotions, but of a subject which thinks, wills and feels. We are not first conscious of a thought, from which by a subsequent inferential process we conclude to the existence of a thinking subject: we are not conscious of the bare thought at all, but of ourselves as thinking. In other words, our consciousness of the thinking, willing subject is direct, not indirect, immediate not mediate. Do we not, each of us, spontaneously speak of my thoughts, my desires, my feelings? Every time we so speak we bear witness that we are conscious of ourselves as substances, and of our thoughts as accidental determinations of the subject self.

Sensationalism refuses to admit this consciousness of a subject, and declares that we know nothing save a succession of states. In other words, it denies that we are aware of an ego to which these states appertain, and to which they must be referred.{5} In this, it is plain, it is altogether in conflict with one of the most certain facts of experience. We may note further that since consciousness shews us that thought is essentially the action of a thinking subject, it follows that thought without a mind is a sheer contradiction in terms. There cannot be action without an agent. Action is a determination of the thing that acts: and we cannot have a determination apart from the subject which it determines.

Again, the power of memory enables us to say I thought. When we so speak, we recognize that, while the thought is transitory, the subject remains one and identical. I, who am now looking back on past events, am the self-same person who then thought and willed in such and such a way. Each time we exercise the power of memory we distinguish the enduring substance from its transient determinations: we have knowledge of the former as well as of the latter. Indeed, the very existence of this faculty affords a conclusive proof that the mind persists through time as the same reality. If our mental life consists simply of passing states, existing of themselves without any permanent and substantial ego, how does it come about that they do not utterly perish as one by one they make way for the next in the long series? How can one state reach back into the flow and recall another which has long ceased to be? Recollection is not merely inexplicable, but impossible, unless we admit the identity of the subject who remembers with the subject whose states he is recalling.

Nor is the appeal to experience conclusive only as regards the concept of substance. It is no less decisive as to the validity of the notion of cause. I am aware beyond the possibility of doubt that I can produce thought. I can direct this activity into a particular channel, and produce thoughts about such matters as I wish. In other words, the mind has direct experience of causation: it is conscious that it gives being to the thought, and makes it to be what it is. Here the attempt to explain away causality as mere succession breaks down hopelessly. Not merely am I conscious of causation properly so called, but this causation is not exercised by the antecedent mental state at all. What no longer exists cannot exert causality. It is the mind which is the cause alike of the previous and of the subsequent state. And the action of the mind is not previous to, but simultaneous with the thought which it produces.

When these facts are duly weighed, it becomes evident that a philosophy which maintains that we have no experience either of substance or of causation, that these are mere terms to which nothing objective corresponds, stands self-condemned.

It may, perhaps, he said that our appeal has been to internal experience alone; and that we have no right to apply concepts derived from internal experience to the external order. It will, however, appear that the data of our experience regarding the external order are no less incompatible with sensationalism than are the facts of our mental life.

The sensationalist appeals to his chosen illustration of the two billiard balls. What we see here, he says, is succession, and succession alone: the impact of one ball is followed by the motion of the other. And he claims that, so far as experience is concerned, our knowledge is limited to this: that the notion of causation is a gratuitous addition of our own. "All events," says Hume, seem entirely loose and separate. One event follows another, but we can never observe any tie between them. They, seem conjoined but never connected" (l.c.). We may readily admit that the example selected lends some colour to the statement. But is this single example really adequate? When I watch a potter mould the yielding clay with his hand, do I not see the clay actually receive its determination from his fingers? Here, surely, there is much more than succession. Indeed, succession does not enter into the case: for no interval of time separates the pressure of the finger from the shape newly taken by the clay. No one, we believe, will maintain that when we affirm that we see the hand communicate its shape to the clay, we are introducing a new notion in no way gathered from experience. I could not, if I would, leave this notion out. True, I do not see with my eyes the abstract idea of causation, for the simple reason that the eye does not see abstract ideas, but concrete facts. But it is clear that the connection between cause and effect is no product of the imagination, but is immediately apprehended as given in experience. In other words, the sensationalist contention that our experience can never shew us anything hut two events conjoined by a temporal sequence, is altogether at variance with the facts: and this alone is sufficient to shew the falsity of the theory.

Once again, is it really the case that external experience is limited to sensible qualities and has nothing to tell us as to substance? What is, in point of fact, the object of experience? Do we perceive mere colour or that which is coloured? mere hardness or that which is hard? color or coloratum, durities or durum? It will hardly be denied that whiteness and hardness and sweetness are mental abstractions, and that the real datum of experience is the concrete object, the hard, white, sweet thing. If so, experience gives us something more than sensible qualities: it gives us the thing or substance. Of course, the external sense does not apprehend the substance as such. We shall deal later in this chapter with the manner in which we know it. Here we are only concerned to point out that the sensationalist analysis of experience is inadequate: that when we perceive an external object, we apprehend something beyond its mere sensible qualities: and that this element, of which these philosophers take no account, is precisely what we signify when we employ the term substance.

3. Philosophical vindication of these concepts. There is, then, no shadow of ambiguity in the answer elicited by our appeal to experience. It testifies decisively that substance and cause are realities not figments. Under the circumstances it might, perhaps, seem that no more need be said on the matter. Yet in view of the fact that both sensationalism and Kantianism deny the worth of these concepts on grounds of abstract reason, it appears desirable to examine the point somewhat more closely. In the present section we shall shew that the principles of a sound philosophy compel us to admit that these concepts are valid representations of reality.

We have seen that the sensationalists limit our knowledge purely and entirely to the perceptions of sense. They overlook the fact that sense and intellect are distinct faculties, and that it belongs to the intellect to apprehend certain features of reality which lie beyond the scope of sense. Each cognitive faculty reveals to us a special aspect of reality, the aspect apprehended by one being diverse from that apprehended by another. Colour is the object of sight. The eye knows things in so far as they are coloured. Sound is the object of the sense of hearing: odour is the object of the sense of smell. The intellect, too, has its proper object. In knowing anything it apprehends it in so far as it is a being or thing. Its object is being and those notions which stand in immediate connection with being, such as, e.g., unity, multiplicity, efficient causality, finality, etc., etc. Just as sight shews us of what colour a thing is, so the intellect shews us what it is -- its essential nature. It distinguishes, as sense cannot do, between things which are such as to subsist upon their own account (substances), and those which like light or colour are mere determinations of substance (accidents). It apprehends the constitutive principle which makes its object the kind of thing it is, the principle which is the root whence its properties proceed. Take the case of a mathematical figure, e.g., a circle. The eye perceives a particular circle of a certain size and colour. The intellect shews us something over and above this. It apprehends what a circle is -- its quidditas, as the Scholastics said -- and expresses this in the definition with which Euclid has made us familiar. That formula is not concerned with size or colour: it is concerned with the constitutive principle of the circle, it shews us its essential nature. Again, take our knowledge of some concrete object designed for some special purpose, e.g., a clock. The difference between the apprehension of sense and of intellect is immeasurable. Sense perceives the face of the clock, and the hands progressing round it at different rates of speed. But the eye as such knows nothing, and can know nothing as to the purpose of the clock, the purpose which is the determining principle of its every detail. For that we depend on the intellect. It is through the intellect we know that the clock is so constructed that the progress of the hands stands in a definite relation to the period of time which we term a day, and that the motion being uniform, we can by the help of the clock determine the precise point of the day's time, at which an event takes place. Sense cannot apprehend this relation to the sun's diurnal course. Yet this is the constitutive principle of the clock as such. The mechanism of clocks may vary: one may be driven by weights, another by a spring. It is the relation to time which makes the thing a clock.

How absolutely different is the abstract idea -- the work of the intellect -- from the picture which we form in the imagination! The one shews us the sensible appearances and these alone: the other shews us what the thing is. Yet according to the sensationalist philosophy the abstract idea of a thing is nothing but an individual image coupled with a general name. On this subject Mill is explicit:

"The Concept is either a mere mental representation of an object differing from those copied directly from sense only in having certain of its parts artificially made intense and prominent: or it is a fasciculus of representations of imagination, held together by the tie of an association artificially produced. When the mental phenomenon has assumed this . . . character, it comes to be termed a Concept, or more vaguely and familiarly, an Idea."{6}

It is little wonder that a philosophy vitiated at its very source by an error so profound should lead us in the issue to scepticism. For it will hardly be denied that such is the inevitable conclusion of a theory which regards the notions of substance and cause as mere figments.

The idea is frequently distinguished from the image on the score that the former is universal, the latter particular. This is true. The intellectual concept does not rest in the particular: it seizes the type. The definition of a circle is applicable to every circle that ever existed. But the difference to which we have adverted is yet more fundamental, viz., that the image exhibits the object in its sensible determinations, while the intellect views it as a being or thing, and shews us what it is under that aspect.

The point with which we are dealing is of such vital importance for the vindication of our primary notions, and in consequence for the proofs of God's existence, that it will not be superfluous to offer yet another argument for the same conclusion.

Of the three operations of the understanding, conception, judgment and reasoning, the first place is rightly assigned to judgment. Judgment is the term of the mind's activity. Both conception and reasoning are of value to us, because through them the mind arrives at judgment. Now judgment deals with beings and with nothing else. The sign of a judgment is the verb 'to be' functioning as the copula between subject and predicate. The subject is the thing with whose being we are concerned. The predicate expresses some particular determination of being belonging to the subject.{7} It may inform us regarding its substantial being, as when I say: 'Caesar is a man'; or about some accidental mode, as in the proposition: 'Caesar is in Rome'; or it may be a mere negation conceived by the mind as though it were a mode of being, as when we say of some one: 'He is a nonentity.' But whatever be the nature of the judgment, it is of necessity concerned with the being of the subject. It is a standing proof that, over and above sense, we possess a faculty of another order: and that it belongs to this faculty to know, not merely those modes of being with which sense is concerned, but also that substantial being, of which they are but the accidental determinations. The tale of the philosopher who declared that on the day when a pig could say, 'I am a pig,' he would hold himself bound to take off his hat to it, is familiar to all. There was reason in what he said. To arrive at this knowledge of its own nature, the pig would need something far beyond that sense-perception with which the brute-creation is endowed. It would need an intellect enabling it to know the being of things, to distinguish substantial being from its accidental determinations, and to refer these various modes of being to itself as their conscious subject. Such an agent would be an animal rationale like ourselves, and might justly claim to be treated with a similar regard.

Our conclusion, that just as vision perceives the colour of things, so does the faculty of intellect apprehend their being, may, however, appear open to a serious difficulty. It is true that we apprehend the essence of a mathematical figure, and can give a definition from which its properties can be deduced. But this is not the case as regards the things of nature. It would seem that where they are concerned the scope of intellect is very limited. It can discern between substances and accidents, and as regards substances it can grasp the distinction between the living and the inanimate, between those which are endowed with sense-perception and those which lack this endowment, between the rational and the irrational: and it can deduce the properties consequent on these broad divisions. But here apparently its powers stop short. If we wish to define any specific class which falls under one of these heads, e.g., a lion, the only way is to enumerate the most characteristic determinations which sense-perception exhibits, and to define it as a sentient substance (an animal) characterized by these attributes. We certainly do not apprehend the specific essence of these things, as we do in the case of mathematical figures.

The limitation here noted must be admitted. The fact is that only those aspects of being are fully intelligible which can be entirely abstracted from matter. Such, e.g., are substance, accident, cause, life, unity, etc., etc. The more any nature is involved in material conditions and incapable of such abstraction, the less of intelligibility does it possess.{8} In this lies the reason why our knowledge as to the concrete things of nature is so restricted. The essence of these things -- the constitutive principle on which their properties depend -- is so bound up with matter that the intellect cannot know it. We must be content with a knowledge of the sensible qualities: and the only abstraction possible in their regard is that by which from the qualities as found in the individual, we form a general concept applicable to all the class. In mathematics a higher degree of abstraction takes place: for in that science we are no longer concerned with sensible qualities, but only with quantity, discrete or continuous, as the case may be. But, as we have already said, a still fuller measure of intelligibility belongs to those aspects of being which admit of entire abstraction from all material conditions whatsoever.

We embarked on this discussion with a view to establish the validity of the notions of substance and cause. And the bearing of our conclusions upon this question will easily appear. By a 'substance' is signified that which exists as an independent thing, and not as a mere determination -- that which is in the full sense of the word. For the independent entity is termed a being in a sense to which its accidental determinations have no claim. Although they, too, are said to be, yet being is predicted of them, not with the same signification which it bears in regard to substance, but analogously. A man, a horse, a tree, are substances: so too are iron, gold, water. It should be observed that by 'substance' we do not denote the mere material substratum which may be at one time the earth, then become vegetable tissue, then be transmuted into human flesh, and afterwards return once more to its original form.{9} A 'substance' is a complete nature. It is substance because it exists in its own right, and not as a determination of another entity.{10}

This notion of substance is a primary apprehension of the intellect. No inference is required to arrive at it. Our sensitive faculties perceive the sensible qualities of the objects presented to them -- their colour, shape, etc. -- and gather them together in their relation to one another. The data thus obtained are seen to fall into separate groups, acting as independent units. Wherever this is the case, the intellect conceives the object as a substance. What acts as a single unit, is one, notwithstanding the variety of its attributes. It is a thing: its attributes are mere determinations of that which properly speaking is.

Of course, in saying that the intellect immediately knows the object as a substance, we do not mean that from the first it has a clear-cut abstract notion of substance, such as we have given. It first apprehends the object confusedly as a thing with these or those attributes. Only later by reflection does it come to an explicit recognition of the distinction between the attributes, which are many, and the subject to which they belong, which is one. But we contend that even in the earliest confused apprehension, the notion of substance is implicitly present. All that is needed is the reflective operation of the mind upon its own concept, and its true character will make itself known.

That this concept of substance is utterly different from any datum of sense is abundantly clear. The substantial nature is whole and entire in each part of the object. It does not increase or diminish with the object's size. Every particle of an oak-tree has the substantial nature of oak. A small piece of the wood is just as truly oak as is the whole trunk. The tree may increase in bulk: or on the other hand, the branches may be lopped off. In either case the substantial nature remains what it was. Moreover, as was said above, the substance is one, though the attributes are many. And, further, the substance remains permanently the same even though the attributes display numerous changes. A reality with characteristics such as these lies outside the scope of sense perception. The intellect, and the intellect alone, has power to make it known to us.

Substance and attribute are by no means the only notions which are directly apprehended by the mind from the objects of sense without the need of any kind of inference. To this same class of apprehensions belong, e.g., unity, multiplicity, causality, finality, truth, goodness. All of these stand in immediate relation to being. Thus unity is being as undivided: multiplicity is a plurality of undivided things: a cause is that which gives being to a thing: finality is the purpose of a being: truth is the conformity between thought and that which is: goodness is the relation which being, as an object of desire, bears to the will. Of these we are here concerned only with the notion of cause. Just as it belongs, not to the eye, but to the intellect to know anything as a substance, so the intellect is needed to apprehend an object as that which confers being, a cause. It is this which explains the error of the sensationalists. Holding that there is no other knowledge save that of sense-perception, and seeing clearly that the notion of causality is not a thing which the eye can see, they maintained that it is a mere word devoid of any corresponding idea. Yet nothing can be more evident than that not merely have we the idea, but that the mind can no more avoid it than the eye can avoid seeing and recognizing the colours of the objects of vision. Granted appropriate objects, the mind instantly, and apart from all inference, knows the one as cause and the other as effect. The sensationalist difficulty disappears as soon as the spheres of sense and intellect are distinguished: the faculty whose proper object is being must be capable of apprehending in the data afforded by sense that which is the source and that which is the recipient of being.

Doubtless we sometimes err, and judge that to be the cause of a thing which in fact is not so related to it. But this is a case in which our error bears witness to the validity of the concepts in question. It is because we are so familiar with real causes and effects that we occasionally allow ourselves to be misled, and conclude that some event which follows immediately on another must needs be related to it as its effect.

It may perhaps seem that we have given an undue amount of attention to the defence of these concepts. Yet a somewhat full discussion, we are convinced, was absolutely necessary. The principal objections now urged against the proofs for God's existence are based, as we have already said, on the contention that substance and cause are meaningless terms to which no objective reality corresponds. Until this fundamental fallacy should have been refuted, the whole value of the proofs must have remained in question.

4. Philosophical vindication of first principles. Now that we have shewn that the primary concepts of the intellect are valid, no great difficulty will be presented by the defence of first principles. These arise immediately from a comparison of two such concepts, the mind pronouncing judicially in their regard whether the one necessarily excludes the other, or, on the other hand, necessarily involves it. It will be sufficient here to deal with two principles only, viz., the principle of contradiction, the most fundamental of all judgments of the understanding, and the principle of causality, the basis of our proofs of God's existence. Those against whom we are contending deny the worth of both.

(a) The principle of contradiction tells us that 'the same thing cannot both be and not be, at the same time and in the same respect.' We reach this judgment by a simple comparison of the concepts of being and not-being. Being, as we have seen, is the first of all concepts. The mind knows all its objects under this aspect -- as things which are. The task which lies before it, often a most laborious one, is to determine exactly what they are. But the notion of 'being' -- of that which is -- is plain from the very dawn of intelligence. We cannot explain it by any that is simpler: for its simplicity is ultimate. This notion is followed by that of its opposite, 'not-being.' The mind recognizes the incompatibility of the two, and judges that, 'it is impossible for the same thing both to be and at the same time not to be': or, as it may be stated in a slightly different form: 'It is impossible for the same attribute both to belong and not to belong to the same thing at the same time.'

The absolutely necessary character of the judgment is manifest from the direct opposition between being and not-being. It is for this reason that the mind does not merely assert its contradictory to be untrue, but finds itself impelled to state the proposition in a modal form and to declare that it is impossible that it should be true.

It is plain that if this principle were dubious, all search after truth would be futile: for no statement of any kind could be made which might not be simultaneously both true and false. Indeed, it might have seemed impossible to call it in question. Yet, in the philosophical confusion of the present day, this has been done. The pragmatists, who regard reality as plastic, and hold that we ourselves establish the objective order by stamping upon it those principles which we find most convenient to the conduct of life, will not lower their flag even to the principle of contradiction. Mr. Schiller has the courage to maintain that this is not, as we fondly imagine, a self-evident truth, but a postulate which we impose on reality, because it is useful. Indeed, to him, as to Heraclitus of old, it can never be true to say of anything that it is. All things are in flux: all is becoming. "In strict fact," he says, " nothing ever is: everything becomes and turns our most conscientious predications into falsehoods" (Axioms as Postulates, § 34). He fails to see that though the material world is subject to unceasing mutation, so that the object of sense-perception is altering even while we perceive it, yet the intellect can give us knowledge of that which is. Not merely does it apprehend the substance, which remains permanent notwithstanding the changes in its sensible attributes, but from perishable individuals it abstracts the notion of the type. Indeed, it is only through this power of abstracting the stable type that science is possible to us. For the object of science is to be found, not in the singular as such, but in singulars just so far as the type is realized in them.

M. Bergson, similarly failing to recognize the essential difference between the object of sense and the object of the intellect, also conceives reality as an ever-flowing stream, whose constant changes afford us no ground for the apprehension of any stable truth. He, too, rejects the notion of being, and contends that there is no reality save becoming. In this system also, where of nothing can it be said either that it is or that it is not, there is no room for the principle of contradiction.{11}

(b) We now pass to the consideration of another principle for which self-evidence is claimed, the principle of causality.

It was stated above that the notion of cause, in the sense of that which makes a thing to be what it is, is one of those which are so intimately related to that of being, that reason apprehends them as soon as it begins to operate at all. But the mind soon realizes that there is more than one sense in which we can say of a thing that it makes something else to be. It distinguishes four kinds of cause, two of them extrinsic to the effect, viz., the efficient and the final: and two intrinsic, viz., the material and the formal. Thus, to use a familiar illustration, when a potter shapes a vessel, say a bowl, the efficient cause is the workman himself: the final cause is the purpose for which the vessel is made, in this case to hold food: the material cause is the clay out of which it is formed: the formal cause, the shape given to the matter by the agent. Each of these four principles of the thing's being is rightly said to be a cause of the thing. Of each it may be truly affirmed that it makes the thing to be what it is. But the senses in which the term is applied are not identical: the four kinds of causation are distinct each from the others. The principle of causality with which we are here concerned has reference not to all of these, but only to efficient causation.

The principle is stated in various ways. Of these we may notice two: 'Whatever begins to be must have a cause': and 'All contingent being must have a cause.' The first of these is a more popular, the second a more accurate and philosophical expression of the truth in question. The term 'contingent being' signifies that which is capable of non-existence. It stands in direct opposition to 'necessary being,' a term only applicable to God. The principle as affirmed in regard of contingent being is wider in its application than in the first of the two forms given. For it is a point in dispute among philosophers whether God, had He so willed, might not have created things from all eternity, in such wise that the universe should have known no beginning, but that the years should stretch back in an infinite series. It is plain that, if this supposition be entertained, there would exist created being which never began to be, inasmuch as ex hypothesi the universe is eternal. Nevertheless, what has been created even ab aeterno is capable of non-existence: it is contingent being.

When we assert that a proposition is self-evident, we signify that its truth appears from the mere comparison of the concepts which constitute the subject and the predicate: that there is no need to have recourse to experience to discover whether or not the predicate will be found in the objects denoted by the subject: but that the simple consideration of the two concepts suffices to shew us that the presence of the one involves the presence (or absence, as the case may be) of the other. Thus, we saw just now that the principle of contradiction was self-evident, because the concepts of being and not-being are mutually exclusive, so that in no case is it possible that what is known to be should in the same respect not be. In the same way the principle of causality is self-evident, because when we consider the notion of 'contingent being' and that of 'a thing which owes existence to an efficient cause,' the mind recognizes a necessary agreement between them, and sees beyond all possibility of doubt that what is contingent must be a thing owing existence to an efficient cause. It is manifest that what is capable of not-being is not self-existent. What is self-existent is necessary: to exist is part of its nature. We might as well try to suppose a triangle having only two sides as a self-existent being which should not exist. It is also clear that whatever exists must either receive its existence from itself or from some other being. There is no tertium quid possible: it cannot have received existence from nothing. Therefore, as contingent being does not receive existence from itself -- otherwise it would be, not contingent, but self-existent, and therefore necessary, being -- it must receive existence from some other being. But to receive existence from another being is to have an efficient cause. The principle, therefore, is self-evident. It cannot be proved by an appeal to some higher principle from which it is derived, for the simple reason that it is itself in the full sense of the word a first principle: its truth is involved in the very terms of which it is composed. The only proof of which it is susceptible, is that which is proper to first principles, viz., a reductio ad absurdum, in which it is shewn that a denial of this truth involves a denial of the principle of contradiction, inasmuch as we cannot suppose a thing to be contingent and yet uncaused without maintaining that it can, at one and the same time, both be, and not be, contingent.

5. Kant's teaching. Kant assures us that by the very nature of the case it is impossible that we should know realities unmodified by the mind -- things as they are in themselves, noumena. This he regards as in need of no proof, since he starts from the assumption that the immediate objects of experience must be internal to the mind. For that reason, he contends, our knowledge is, of necessity, confined to phenomena -- mental representations. These, as presented to our knowledge, have been refashioned according to the laws of our mentality. The raw material of experience consists of disconnected sensations; but by our cognitive faculties these are transformed into a world which is apparently external to us. It seems to us that we know things as existing in space and time. But in point of fact space and time are our own contribution. They are the 'form' of our sensibility: and they do not belong to things in themselves, which are out of all relation to such purely subjective conditions. As sensibility has its forms, so too has the understanding. Kant enumerates twelve. These are, so to speak, the moulds through which sensation passes on entering the mind, and by means of which the world of experience is rendered intelligible. Substance and causality are of their number. We conceive things as substances, and we conceive them as due to causes. But these notions of the understanding, like space and time as regards sensibility, are in no way derived from the noumena. They are merely schemata according to which the mind organizes its objects.

The principle of causality Kant declares to be a synthetical a priori judgment. His division of analytical and synthetical judgments differed from that in use among the Aristotelian logicians. According to him, analytical judgments are those alone in which the predicate can be found in the concept of the subject, as when, e.g., we assert that a triangle is a plane figure. In synthetical judgments, on the other hand, the predicate adds something to the subject-notion, and is not contained within it.{12} He further distinguished between judgments a posteriori and a priori. By a posteriori judgments he signified those which are gathered from experience; by a priorijudgments those which are wholly independent of experience, and must be attributed to the operation of the mind. All analytical judgments are a priori, since, although the subject-notion may be drawn from experience, no experience is needed to arrive at the connection between subject and predicate. But he maintained that many synthetical judgments too belong to this class. Wherever a judgment possesses the notes of universality and necessity, there, he contended, we have an a priorijudgment. Such a judgment cannot be due to experience: it must, in consequence, be attributable to the subjective laws of our own mind and be a priori. To this class he assigned first and foremost all mathematical judgments, save those in which the predicate is actually part of the definition of the subject. No experience, he maintains, can ever afford us justification for asserting that all triangles without exception must necessarily have their interior angles equal to two right angles: for experience can only inform us regarding those individuals which we have actually seen. The element of necessity must be derived from our own minds. The explanation of such propositions is that the intellect in forming its judgment applies to it the subjective categories of 'universality' and 'necessity,' and judges that 'every triangle must have its interior angle equivalent to two right angles'; but we have absolutely no guarantee that this is the case as regards things in themselves. It must be reckoned to Kant's credit that he recognized that a vast number of our judgments are characterized by necessity and universality: and that these features call for philosophical explanation. Empiricism can offer no rational account of them. Kant, at least, makes the effort to do so. But the answer which he gives to the problem has little to recommend it.

The whole of this theory rests upon the contention that a judgment must either be derived immediately from sensible experience or be wholly due to the internal constitution of the mind: that no other alternative is possible. This he assumes: he offers no proof. Yet, as a matter of fact, the Aristotelian philosophy provides an explanation of our knowledge which satisfactorily accounts for the universality and necessity of these propositions, quite apart from the alleged subjective categories. According to that system, as we have already explained, when the sense perceives the individual concrete triangle, the intellect apprehends its essential nature. It understands what the triangle is, and what are the relations which attach necessarily to a three-sided plane figure. Moreover, the apprehensions of the intellect are not confined in their scope to the particular individual: they relate to the universal type. The mind, in forming its concepts, abstracts the general notion from the singular instance: it knows the triangle as such. Hence it is able to enunciate propositions, which are true of each and every triangle: for in every individual the general type is realized.

It is, moreover, to be noted that Kant's theory is altogether inconsistent with the facts of experience. It is manifest that when we affirm a judgment to be necessarily and universally true, we do not do so in obedience to a spontaneous action of the understanding for which no reason can be assigned in the real order, but that we so judge because our intelligence recognizes the objective ground of the connection between subject and predicate. We understand why this predicate must of necessity accompany this subject. We see that objectively considered the one involves the other: and that the connection between the two follows from the very nature of the things in question. To attribute the element of necessity to a subjective 'form' of the mind, and not to the objective nature of things, is contrary to the most direct testimony of consciousness. It is not to explain facts, but to set facts aside in favour of a theory. In regard to the workings of our mind the testimony of consciousness must be final. And on this point its verdict is unambiguous. It is simply untrue to say that the mind constrains us, we cannot say why, to affirm this proposition under the category of necessity, that other under the category of possibility, and a third under the category of existence. In each instance we know perfectly well why the judgment assumes its particular character: and we know that the reason is found, not in any law of our mentality, but in the objective data of knowledge. Yet according to the Kantian theory our predications are blind: and no cause can be assigned why we should apply one category rather than another in any given case -- why we should, e.g., judge one phenomenon to be substance and another a cause. The whole process must be attributed to a subjective law, about the working of which we cannot even hazard a conjecture. Again, Kant's whole theory is based upon the supposition that noumena -- things in themselves -- are the cause of those sensations which by means of the categories we organize into phenomena. We cannot know these noumena; but we are bound to postulate their existence. Otherwise, the raw material of our knowledge remains unaccounted for. Here, as has often been pointed out, we have a flagrant contradiction. On the one hand, causality is declared to be a mental 'form' -- a scheme under which we view the objects of knowledge, but regarding whose validity in the noumenal world we have no means of judging. On the other, noumena are held to exercise a veritable causality by producing sensations antecedently to the mental operation which organizes these sensations into phenomena. Similarly, it is assumed that the categories themselves are true causes: for they are held to shape the transient sensation into what seem to be stable objects other than ourselves. They could not do this if causality were not to Kant's mind something far more than a mere form under which certain phenomena are presented to the mind.

Nor is it more easy to get rid of the notion of substance than of that of cause. For how, it may be asked, does Kant conceive the subject of knowledge, the mind in which the categories inhere? Is it a reality or not? Manifestly he regards it as a really existing thing. It is, in his theory, something over and above the categories themselves: it is that to which they belong. It is not, like them, a determination of an already existing subject; but it exists in its own right, as an independent entity. But what is this except to conceive it as a substance? In view of these facts we are justified in maintaining that there is nothing in Kant's theory to shake our conviction as to the validity of our primary notions and the truth of those fundamental first principles which form the very basis of our knowledge.

6. Neo-hegelianism. The neo-hegelian doctrines which in one form or another have in recent years enjoyed so wide a vogue in England, will claim a somewhat full consideration in a later chapter (chap. xv.). Hence we shall confine our remarks on them here within the very briefest compass, reserving our criticism till it can be given in the light of a fuller exposition. There are, it is true, many varieties of opinion within the school to which we refer, so that it is difficult to make general statements without seeming unjust to some individual or other. But it may fairly be said that in this system there is no room for the notion of substance. What appear to us to be substances have no right to be so considered. They are not subsistent units, nor independent sources of activity. This is true even in regard to ourselves.{13} Whatever may be the testimony of consciousness, we are 'adjectival to reality,' not substantival entities. Nor is the one reality to which we are thus subordinated a substance: it has no being outside the ever-evolving modes in which it manifests itself. The notion of cause fares no better. To the neo-hegelian there are not two orders, an objective order of reality and a representative order of thought. There is but one, and that is intellectual. It follows that there can be no question of real dependence of effect from cause, in the sense that the action of cause makes the effect what it is. In the intellectual order there is no such thing as efficient causation: we are concerned, not with cause and effect, but with premisses and conclusion. In this system these totally different relations are identified. We are told that the effect does not depend on the cause any more than the cause upon the effect: they are simply the terms of a relation. Mr. Bosanquet expressly assures us that apart from temporal succession, which is "the natural differentia of causation," he "cannot see how the relation of conditioning differs from that of being conditioned."{14} It is needless to say that there is no room here for a principle of causality or for an argument to a first cause.

We have here only said just sufficient to shew in bare outline how this philosophy deals with those fundamental notions and principles with which we are concerned. But it will, we think, be felt that a system which leads to conclusions so much at variance with reality cannot be other than fallacious.

{1} Logic, Bk. III., c. xxi., §I.

{2} Three Essays on Religion, p. 144.

{3} Choses et états ne sont que des vues prises par notre esprit sur le devenir. II n'y a pas de choses, il n'y a que des actions. . . . Que des choses nouvelles puissent s'ajouter aux choses qui existent, cela est absurde sans aucune doute, puisque la chose résulte d'une solidification operée par notre entendement, et qu'il n'y a jamais autres choses que l'entendement a constituées " (L'Evolution Créatrice, p. 270, 7th ed., 1911).

{4} Originellement nous ne pensons que pour agir. . . . Or pour agir, nous commençons par nous proposer un but: nous faisons un plan, puis nous passons au détail du mécanisme qui le réalisera. Cette dernière opération n'est possible, que si nous savons sur quoi nous pouvons compter. Il faut que nous ayons extrait de la nature des similitudes qui nous permettent d'anticiper sur l'avenir. Il faut donc que nous ayons fait application consciement ou inconsciement de la loi de causalité" (ibid., p. 47).

{5} M. Bergson is of the same mind. After maintaining that the expenence which constitutes our psychological life does not really consist of distinct states, but is a continuous flow, he proceeds: "Mais comme notre attention les a distingués et séparés artificiellement, elle est obligée de les réunir ensuite par un lien artificiel. Elle imagine ainsi un moi amorphe indifferent immuable, sur lequel défileraient ou s'enfileraient les stats psychologiques qu'elle a erigés en entités indépendentes. . . . Force lui est de supposer alors un fil non moins solide, qui retiendrait les perles ensemble. . . . Quant à la vie psychologique telle queue se d‚roule sous les symboles qui la recouvrent, on s'aperccedil;oit sans peine que le temps en est l'étoffe même " (op. cit. pp. 3, 4).

{6} Exam. of Hamilton (2nd edit.), p. 394. Cf. also p. 321. "General concepts, therefore, we have, properly speaking, none; we have only complex ideas of objects in the concrete; but we are able to attend exclusively to certain parts of the concrete idea." M. Bergson is in full agreement: "Quand les images successives ne diffèrent pas trop les unes des autres, nous les considérons toutes comme l'accroisement ou Ia diminution d'une seule image moyenne, ou comme la déformation de cette image dans des sens différents. Et c'est à cette moyenne que nous pensons quand nous parlons de l'essence d'une chose " (op. cit. p. 327).

{7} It is doubtless the fact that certain modern logicians, e.g., Mr. Bradley and Professor Bosanquet reject the traditional analysis of the judgment, and so explain its import as to deprive the copula of all significance. To anyone, however, who is not committed to their particular philosophical presuppositions, the mere fact that man, whatever be the language he employs, is forced to use the verb to be to enunciate his judgment, affords a sufficient refutation of their theory. On the the analysis of the proposition see the present writer's Principles of Logic (3rd edition), c. iii., § 2; c. ix., § 4.

{8} We are here, it must be observed, speaking of intelligibility in the abstract, not in relation to human faculties. A nature such as ours, which acquires its knowledge by sensible perception and by discursive reasoning from the data thus obtained, arrives with more facility at some measure of knowledge, however inadequate, regarding sensible things, than regarding the abstract notions of cause and substance. But viewed in themselves sensible things do not admit of knowledge in the same degree as do those realities into which sense-conditions do not enter. On the lack of intelligibility in matter, see below, c. x., § 3.

{9} We call attention to this point, since even such an able writer as Lord Balfour so entirely misunderstands the Aristotelian doctrine of substance, as to interpret it of the material substratum, which passes from one entity to another. See Theism and humanism, p. 231. Lord Haldane offers us an error of another kind, but no less fundamental. The conception of substance, he says, " has meaning in relation only to accidents or properties. To define God as substance would therefore be to define Him as something relative" (Pathway to Reality, I., p. 28). The definition which asserts that a substance exists in its own right and not as a mere determination, is so framed that the idea of a necessary relation to accidents is not included in it.

{10} Aristotle alleges this as the reason why substance constitutes the primary object of metaphysics. The science of being finds its proper object in that which is in the full sense of the term. Accidents only have being in so far as they are determinations of what truly is. Metaph., IV., c. ii. S. Thomas Aq. in Metaph., IV., lect. (cf. also Metaph. XII., c. i).

{11} In Metaphysics., iv., c. iii., Aristotle points out that the principle of contradiction is the first of metaphysical principles, and that it is the most certain of all truths, inasmuch as it is impossible for any man to hold that the same thing can both be and at the same time not be. He is not unaware that some have questioned its validity, but remarks on this subject that 'what a man says he does not necessarily believe' ().

In ch. iv. he rejects the claim for a direct demonstration: "Some indeed demand that even this shall be demonstrated, but this they do through want of education: for not to know of what things one may demand demonstration, and of what one may not, argues simply want of education. For it is impossible that there should be demonstration of absolutely everything: there would be an infinite regress, so that there would still be no demonstration" (Oxford University Translation), It admits, he adds, of 'negative demonstration,' i.e., by a reductio ad absurdum. Cf. also St. Thomas Aq. in Metaph. IV., lect. 6.

{12} The Aristotelian logicians counted as analytical propositions nor only those in which the predicate forms part of the subject-notion, but those in which it is connected with it by necessary relations. Thus a proposition such as, 'every triangle has its interior angles equal to two right angles,' is by them termed analytical. Kant's division labours under the grave disadvantage that it reckons together as members of one class mathematical judgments such as the above and empirical judgments such as 'Socrates is running.' Philosophically it is not merely valueless but misleading.

{13} Thus Prof. Bosanquet, arguing on behalf of his contention that the ultimate subject of all predication is Reality -- 'the one true individual' -- says: "It is to me quite astonishing that an appeal in favour of independent substances should be made on the ground of our experience of ourselves. What all great masters of life have felt this to reveal has been a seeking on the part of the self for its own reality, which carries it into something beyond." (Logic, 2nd edit., II., p. 255). This is to give us metaphor in place of argument. The self does not seek for its own reality (esse extra causas), but for its qualitative perfection -- a very different thing.

{14} Op. cit., II., pp. 262, 264. Similarly, Lord Haldane an adherent of the same school of thought, informs us in his Gifford lectures that God "cannot stand to the world in the relation of Cause. For He must be independent of Space and Time, and we can attach no meaning to a Cause excepting as operative within Space and Time" (Pathway to Reality, I., p. 20). Later he enunciates the principle of causality as: "The principle that every change must be due to some event anterior to it in time and separate from it in space' (ibid. p. 214). As we have seen, the notion of cause has absolutely no connection with the notion of time or of space.

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