By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: A Candid Examination of Theism
Author: Romanes, George John, 1848-1894
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Candid Examination of Theism" ***

public domain works from the University of Michigan Digital







[_All rights reserved_]

       *       *       *       *       *


       *       *       *       *       *


       *       *       *       *       *

The following essay was written several years ago; but I have hitherto
refrained from publishing it, lest, after having done so, I should find
that more mature thought had modified the conclusions which the essay sets
forth. Judging, however, that it is now more than ever improbable that I
shall myself be able to detect any errors in my reasoning, I feel that it
is time to present the latter to the contemplation of other minds; and in
doing so, I make this explanation only because I feel it desirable to state
at the outset that the present treatise was written before the publication
of Mr. Mill's treatise on the same subject. It is desirable to make this
statement, first, because in several instances the trains of reasoning in
the two essays are parallel, and next, because in other instances I have
quoted passages from Mr. Mill's essay in connections which would be
scarcely intelligible were it not understood that these passages are
insertions made after the present essay had been completed. I have also
added several supplementary essays which have been written since the main
essay was finished.

It is desirable further to observe, that the only reason why I publish this
edition anonymously is because I feel very strongly that, in matters of the
kind with which the present essay deals, opinions and arguments should be
allowed to produce the exact degree of influence to which as opinions and
arguments they are entitled: they should be permitted to stand upon their
own intrinsic merits alone, and quite beyond the shadow of that unfair
prejudication which cannot but arise so soon as their author's authority,
or absence of authority, becomes known. Notwithstanding this avowal,
however, I fear that many who glance over the following pages will read in
the "Physicus" of the first one a very different motive. There is at the
present time a wonderfully wide-spread sentiment pervading all classes of
society--a sentiment which it would not be easy to define, but the
practical outcome of which is, that to discuss the question of which this
essay treats is, in some way or other, morally wrong. Many, therefore, who
share this sentiment will doubtless attribute my reticence to a puerile
fear on my part to meet it. I can only say that such is not the case.
Although I allude to this sentiment with all respect--believing as I do
that it is an offshoot from the stock which contains all that is best and
greatest in human nature--nevertheless it seems to me impossible to deny
that the sentiment in question is as unreasonable as the frame of mind
which harbours it must be unreasoning. If there is no God, where can be the
harm in our examining the spurious evidence of his existence? If there is a
God, surely our first duty towards him must be to exert to our utmost, in
our attempts to find him, the most noble faculty with which he has endowed
us--as carefully to investigate the evidence which he has seen fit to
furnish of his own existence as we investigate the evidence of inferior
things in his dependent creation. To say that there is one rule or method
for ascertaining truth in the latter case, which it is not legitimate to
apply in the former case, is merely a covert way of saying that the Deity,
if he exists, has not supplied us with rational evidence of his existence.
For my own part, I feel that such an assertion cannot but embody far more
unworthy conceptions of a Personal God than are represented by any amount
of earnest inquiry into whatever evidence of his existence there may be
present; but, neglecting this reflection, if there is a God, it is certain
that reason is the faculty by which he has enabled man to discover truth,
and it is no less certain that the scientific methods have proved
themselves by far the most trustworthy for reason to adopt. To my mind,
therefore, it is impossible to resist the conclusion that, looking to this
undoubted pre-eminence of the scientific methods as ways to truth, whether
or not there is a God, the question as to his existence is both more
morally and more reverently contemplated if we regard it purely as a
problem for methodical analysis to solve, than if we regard it in any other
light. Or, stating the case in other words, I believe that in whatever
degree we intentionally abstain from using in this case what we _know_ to
be the most trustworthy methods of inquiry in other cases, in that degree
are we either unworthily closing our eyes to a dreaded truth, or we are
guilty of the worst among human sins--"Depart from us, for we desire not
the knowledge of thy ways." If it is said that, supposing man to be in a
state of probation, faith, and not reason, must be the instrument of his
trial, I am ready to admit the validity of the remark; but I must also ask
it to be remembered, that unless faith has _some_ basis of reason whereon
to rest, it differs in nothing from superstition; and hence that it is
still our duty to investigate the _rational_ standing of the question
before us by the _scientific_ methods alone. And I may here observe
parenthetically, that the same reasoning applies to all investigations
concerning the reality of a supposed revelation. With such investigations,
however, the present essay has nothing to do, although, I may remark that
if there is any evidence of a Divine Mind discernible in the structure of a
professing revelation, such evidence, in whatever degree present, would be
of the best possible kind for substantiating the hypothesis of Theism.

Such being, then, what I conceive the only reasonable, as well as the most
truly moral, way of regarding the question to be discussed in the following
pages, even if the conclusions yielded by this discussion were more
negative than they are, I should deem it culpable cowardice in me _for this
reason_ to publish anonymously. For even if an inquiry of the present kind
could ever result in a final demonstration of Atheism, there might be much
for its author to regret, but nothing for him to be ashamed of; and, by
parity of reasoning, in whatever degree the result of such an inquiry is
seen to have a tendency to negative the theistic theory, the author should
not be ashamed candidly to acknowledge his conviction as to the degree of
such tendency, provided only that his conviction is an _honest_ one, and
that he is conscious of its having been reached by using his faculties with
the utmost care of which he is capable.

If it is retorted that the question to be dealt with is of so ultimate a
character that even the scientific methods are here untrustworthy, I reply
that they are nevertheless the _best_ methods available, and hence that the
retort is without pertinence: the question is still to be regarded as a
scientific one, although we may perceive that neither an affirmative nor a
negative answer can be given to it with any approach to a full
demonstration. But if the question is thus conceded to be one falling
within the legitimate scope of rational inquiry, it follows that the mere
fact of demonstrative certainty being here antecedently impossible should
not deter us from instituting the inquiry. It is a well-recognised
principle of scientific research, that however difficult or impossible it
may be to _prove_ a given theory true or false, the theory should
nevertheless be tested, so far as it admits of being tested, by the full
rigour of the scientific methods. Where demonstration cannot be hoped for,
it still remains desirable to reduce the question at issue to the last
analysis of which it is capable.

Adopting these principles, therefore, I have endeavoured in the following
analysis to fix the precise standing of the evidence in favour of the
theory of Theism, when the latter is viewed in all the flood of light which
the progress of modern science--physical and speculative--has shed upon it.
And forasmuch as it is impossible that demonstrated truth can ever be shown
untrue, and forasmuch as the demonstrated truths on which the present
examination rests are the most fundamental which it is possible for the
human mind to reach, I do not think it presumptuous to assert what appears
to me a necessary deduction from these facts--namely, that, possible errors
in reasoning apart, the rational position of Theism as here defined must
remain without material modification as long as our intelligence remains

LONDON, 1878.

       *       *       *       *       *





1. Introductory.

2. Object of the chapter.

3. The Argument from the Inconceivability of Self-existence.

4. The Argument from the Desirability of there being a God.

5. The Argument from the Presence of Human Aspirations.

6. The Argument from Consciousness.

7. The Argument for a First Cause.



8. Introductory.

9. Examination of the Argument, and the independent coincidence of my views
regarding it with those of Mr. Mill.

10. Locke's exposition of the Argument, and a re-enunciation of it in the
form of a Syllogism.

11. The Syllogism defective in that it cannot explain Mind in the abstract.
Mill quoted and answered. This defect in the Syllogism clearly defined.

12. The Syllogism further defective, in that it assumes Intelligence to be
the only possible cause of Intelligence. This assumption amounts to begging
the whole question as to the being of a God. Inconceivability of Matter
thinking no proof that it may not think. Locke himself strangely concedes
this. His fallacies and self-contradictions pointed out in an Appendix.

13. Objector to the Syllogism need not be a Materialist, but assuming that
he is one, he is as much entitled to the hypothesis that Matter thinks as a
Theist is to his hypothesis that it does not.

14. The two hypotheses are thus of exactly equivalent value, save that
while Theism is arbitrary, Materialism has a certain basis of fact to rest
upon. This basis defined in a footnote, where also Professor Clifford's
essay on "Body and Mind" is briefly examined. Difficulty of estimating the
worth of the Argument as to the _most_ conceivable being _most_ likely

15. Locke's comparison between certainty of the Inconceivability Argument
as applied to Theism and to mathematics shown to contain a _virtual_ though
not a _formal_ fallacy.

16. Summary of considerations as to the value of this Argument from

17. Introductory to the other Arguments in favour of the conclusion that
only Intelligence can have caused Intelligence.

18. Locke's presentation of the view that the cause must contain all that
is contained in the effects. His statements contradicted. Mill quoted to
show that the analogy of Nature is against the doctrine of higher
perfections never growing out of lower ones.

19. Enunciation of the last of the Arguments in favour of the proposition
that only Intelligence can cause Intelligence. Hamilton quoted to show that
in his philosophy the entire question as to the being of a God hinges upon
that as to whether or not human volitions are caused.

20. Absurdity of the old theory of Free-will. Hamilton erroneously
identified this theory with the fact that we possess a moral sense. His
resulting dilemma.

21. Although Hamilton was wrong in thus identifying genuine fact with
spurious theory, yet his Argument from the fact of our having a moral sense
remains to be considered.

22. The question here is merely as to whether or not the presence of the
moral sense can be explained by natural causes. _A priori_ probability of
the moral sense having been evolved. _A posteriori_ confirmation supplied
by Utilitarianism, &c.

23. Mill's presentation of the Argument a resuscitation of Paley's. His
criticism on Paley shown to be unfair.

24. The real fallacy of Paley's presentation pointed out.

25. The same fallacy pointed out in another way.

26. Paley's typical case quoted and examined, in order to illustrate the
root fallacy of his Argument from Design. Mill's observations upon this
Argument criticised.

27. Result yielded by the present analysis of the Argument from Design. The
Argument shown to be a _petitio principii_.



28. My belief that no competent writer in favour of the Argument from
Design could have written upon it at all, had it not been for his
instinctive appreciation of the much more important Argument from General
Laws. The nature of this Argument stated, and its cogency insisted upon.

29. The rational standing of the Argument from General Laws prior to the
enunciation of the doctrine of the Conservation of Energy. The Rev. Baden
Powell quoted.

30. The nature of General Laws when these are interpreted in terms of the
doctrine of the Conservation of Energy. The word "Law" defined in terms of
this doctrine.

31. The rational standing of the Argument from General Laws subsequent to
the enunciation of the doctrine of the Conservation of Energy.

32. The self-evolution of General Laws, or the objective aspect of the
question as to whether we may infer the presence of Mind in Nature because
Nature admits of being intelligently interrogated.

33. The subjective aspect of this question, according to the data afforded
by evolutionary psychology.

34. Correspondence between products due to human intelligence and products
supposed due to Divine Intelligence, a correspondence which is only
generic. Illustrations drawn from prodigality in Nature. Further
illustrations. Illogical manner in which natural theologians deal with such
difficulties. The generic resemblance contemplated is just what we should
expect to find, if the doctrine of evolutionary psychology be true.

35. The last three sections parenthetical. Necessary nature of the
conclusion which follows from the last five sections.



36. Emphatic re-statement of the conclusion reached in the previous
chapter. This conclusion shown to be of merely scientific, and not of
logical conclusiveness. Preparation for considering the question in its
purely logical form.

37. The logic of probability in general explained, and canon of
interpretation enunciated.

38. Application of this canon to the particular case of Theism.

39. Exposition of the logical state of the question.

40. Exposition continued.

41. Result of the exposition; "Suspended Judgment" the only logical
attitude of mind with regard to the question of Theism.



42. Statement of the position to which the question of Theism has been
reduced by the foregoing analysis.

43. Distinction between a scientific and a metaphysical teleology.
Statement of the latter in legitimate terms. Criticism of this statement
legitimately made on the side of Atheism as being gratuitous. Impartial
judgment on this criticism.

44. Examination of the question as to whether the metaphysical system of
teleology is really destitute of all rational support. Pleading of a
supposed Theist in support of the system. The principle of correlation of
general laws. The complexity of Nature.

45. Summary of the Theist's pleading, and judgment that it fairly removes
from the hypothesis of metaphysical teleology the charge of the latter
being gratuitous.

46. Examination of the degree of probability that is presented by the
hypothesis of metaphysical teleology, comprising an examination of the
Theistic objection to the scientific train of reasoning on account of its
symbolism, and showing that a no less cogent objection lies against the
metaphysical train of reasoning on account of its embodying the supposition
of unknowable causes. Distinction between "inconceivability" in a formal or
symbolical, and in a material or realisable sense. Reply of a supposed
Atheist to the previous pleading of the supposed Theist. Herbert Spencer
quoted on inconceivability of cosmic evolution as due to Mind.

47. Final judgment on the rational value of a metaphysical system of
teleology. Distinction between "inconceivability" in an absolute and in a
relative sense. Final judgment on the attitude of mind which it is rational
to adopt towards the question of Theism. The desirability and the
rationality of tolerance in this particular case.



48. General summary of the whole essay.

49. Concluding remarks.



A Critical Exposition of a Fallacy in Locke's use of the Argument against
the possibility of Matter thinking on grounds of its being inconceivable
that it should.


Examination of Mr. Herbert Spencer's Theistical Argument, and criticism to
show that it is inadequate to sustain the doctrine of "Cosmic Theism" which
Mr. Fiske endeavours to rear upon it.


A Critical Examination of the Rev. Professor Flint's work on "Theism".


On the Speculative Standing of Materialism.


On the Final Mystery of Things.

       *       *       *       *       *


       *       *       *       *       *



§ 1. Few subjects have occupied so much attention among speculative
thinkers as that which relates to the being of God. Notwithstanding,
however, the great amount that has been written on this subject, I am not
aware that any one has successfully endeavoured to approach it, on all its
various sides, from the ground of pure reason alone, and thus to fix, as
nearly as possible, the exact position which, in pure reason, this subject
ought to occupy. Perhaps it will be thought that an exception to this
statement ought to be made in favour of John Stuart Mill's posthumous essay
on Theism; but from my great respect for this author, I should rather be
inclined to regard that essay as a criticism on illogical arguments, than
as a _careful_ or _matured_ attempt to formulate the strictly rational
_status_ of the question in all its bearings. Nevertheless, as this essay
is in some respects the most scientific, just, and cogent, which has yet
appeared on the subject of which it treats, and as anything which came from
the pen of that great and accurate thinker is deserving of the most serious
attention, I shall carefully consider his views throughout the course of
the following pages.

Seeing then that, with this partial exception, no competent writer has
hitherto endeavoured once for all to settle the long-standing question as
to the rational probability of Theism, I cannot but feel that any attempt,
however imperfect, to do this, will be welcome to thinkers of every
school--the more so in view of the fact that the prodigious rapidity which
of late years has marked the advance both of physical and of speculative
science, has afforded highly valuable data for assisting us towards a
reasonable and, I think, a final decision as to the strictly logical
standing of this important matter. However, be my attempt welcome or no, I
feel that it is my obvious duty to publish the results which have been
yielded by an honest and careful analysis.

§ 2. I may most fitly begin this analysis by briefly disposing of such
arguments in favour of Theism as are manifestly erroneous. And I do this
the more willingly because, as these arguments are at the present time most
in vogue, an exposure of their fallacies may perhaps deter our popular
apologists of the future from drawing upon themselves the silent contempt
of every reader whose intellect is not either prejudiced or imbecile.

§ 3. A favourite piece of apologetic juggling is that of first demolishing
Atheism, Pantheism, Materialism, &c., by successively calling upon them to
explain the mystery of self-existence, and then tacitly assuming that the
need of such an explanation is absent in the case of Theism--as though the
attribute in question were more conceivable when posited in a Deity than
when posited elsewhere.

It is, I hope, unnecessary to observe that, so far as the ultimate mystery
of existence is concerned, any and every theory of things is equally
entitled to the inexplicable fact that something is; and that any endeavour
on the part of the votaries of one theory to shift from themselves to the
votaries of another theory the _onus_ of explaining the necessarily
inexplicable, is an instance of irrationality which borders on the

§ 4. Another argument, or semblance of an argument, is the very prevalent
one, "Our heart requires a God; therefore it is probable that there is a
God:" as though such a subjective necessity, even if made out, could ever
prove an objective existence.[1]

§ 5. If it is said that the theistic aspirations of the human heart, by the
mere fact of their presence, point to the existence of a God as to their
explanatory cause, I answer that the argument would only be valid after the
possibility of any more proximate causes having been in action has been
excluded--else the theistic explanation violates the fundamental rule of
science, the Law of Parcimony, or the law which forbids us to assume the
action of more remote causes where more proximate ones are found sufficient
to explain the effects. Consequently, the validity of the argument now
under consideration is inversely proportional to the number of
possibilities there are of the aspirations in question being due to the
agency of physical causes; and forasmuch as our ignorance of psychological
causation is well-nigh total, the Law of Parcimony forbids us to allow any
determinate degree of logical value to the present argument. In other
words, we must not use the absence of knowledge as equivalent to its
presence--must not argue from our ignorance of psychological possibilities,
as though this ignorance were knowledge of corresponding impossibilities.
The burden of proof thus lies on the side of Theism, and from the nature of
the case this burden cannot be discharged until the science of psychology
shall have been fully perfected. I may add that, for my own part, I cannot
help feeling that, even in the present embryonic condition of this science,
we are not without some indications of the manner in which the aspirations
in question arose; but even were this not so, the above considerations
prove that the argument before us is invalid. If it is retorted that the
fact of these aspirations having had _proximate_ causes to account for
their origin, even if made out, would not negative the inference of these
being due to a Deity as to their _ultimate_ cause; I answer that this is
not to use the argument from the presence of these aspirations; it is
merely to beg the question as to the being of a God.

§ 6. Next, we may consider the argument from consciousness. Many persons
ground their belief in the existence of a Deity upon a real or supposed
necessity of their own subjective thought. I say "real or supposed,"
because, in its bearing upon rational argument, it is of no consequence of
which character the alleged necessity actually is. Even if the necessity of
thought be real, all that the fact entitles the thinker to affirm is, that
it is impossible for _him_, by any effort of thinking, to rid himself of
the persuasion that God exists; he is not entitled to affirm that this
persuasion is necessarily bound up with the constitution of the human mind.
Or, as Mill puts it, "One man cannot by proclaiming with ever so much
confidence that _he_ perceives an object, convince other people that they
see it too.... When no claim is set up to any peculiar gift, but we are
told that all of us are as capable of seeing what he sees, feeling what he
feels, nay, that we actually do so, and when the utmost effort of which we
are capable fails to make us aware of what we are told, we perceive this
supposed universal faculty of intuition is but

  'The Dark Lantern of the Spirit
  Which none see by but those who bear it.'"

It is thus, I think, abundantly certain that the present argument must,
from its very nature, be powerless as an argument to anyone save its
assertor; as a matter of fact, the alleged necessity of thought is not
universal; it is peculiar to those who employ the argument.

And now, it is but just to go one step further and to question whether the
alleged necessity of thought is, in any case and properly speaking, a
_real_ necessity. Unless those who advance the present argument are the
victims of some mental aberration, it is overwhelmingly improbable that
their minds should differ in a fundamental and important attribute from the
minds of the vast majority of their species. Or, to continue the above
quotation, "They may fairly be asked to consider, whether it is not more
likely that they are mistaken as to the origin of an impression in their
minds, than that others are ignorant of the very existence of an impression
in theirs." No doubt it is true that education and habits of thought may so
stereotype the intellectual faculties, that at last what is conceivable to
one man or generation may not be so to another;[2] but to adduce this
consideration in this place would clearly be but to destroy the argument
from the _intuitive_ necessity of believing in a God.

Lastly, although superfluous, it may be well to point out that even if the
impossibility of conceiving the negation of God were an universal law of
human mind--which it certainly is not--the fact of his existence could not
be thus proved. Doubtless it would be felt to be much more probable than it
now is--as probable, for instance, if not more probable, than is the
existence of an external world;--but still it would not be necessarily

§ 7. The argument from the general consent of mankind is so clearly
fallacious, both as to facts and principles, that I shall pass it over and
proceed at once to the last of the untenable arguments--that, namely, from
the existence of a First Cause. And here I should like to express myself
indebted to Mr. Mill for the following ideas:--"The cause of every change
is a prior change; and such it cannot but be; for if there were no new
antecedent, there would be no new consequent. If the state of facts which
brings the phenomenon into existence, had existed always or for an
indefinite duration, the effect also would have existed always or been
produced an indefinite time ago. It is thus a necessary part of the fact of
causation, within the sphere of experience, that the causes as well as the
effects had a beginning in time, and were themselves caused. It would seem,
therefore, that our experience, instead of furnishing an argument for a
first cause, is repugnant to it; and that the very essence of causation, as
it exists within the limits of our knowledge, is incompatible with a First

The rest of Mr. Mill's remarks upon the First Cause argument are tolerably
obvious, and had occurred to me before the publication of his essay. I
shall, however, adhere to his order of presenting them.

"But it is necessary to look more particularly into this matter, and
analyse more closely the nature of the causes of which mankind have
experience. For if it should turn out that though all causes have a
beginning, there is in all of them a permanent element which had no
beginning, this permanent element may with some justice be termed a first
or universal cause, inasmuch as though not sufficient of itself to cause
anything, it enters as a con-cause into all causation."

He then shows that the doctrine of the Conservation of Energy supplies us
with such a datum, and thus the conclusion easily follows--"It would seem,
then, that the only sense in which experience supports, in any shape, the
doctrine of a First Cause, viz., as the primæval and universal element of
all causes, the First Cause can be no other than Force."

Still, however, it may be maintained that "all force is will-force." But
"if there be any truth in the doctrine of Conservation of Force, ... this
doctrine does not change from true to false when it reaches the field of
voluntary agency. The will does not, any more than other agencies, create
Force: granting that it originates motion, it has no means of doing so but
by converting into that particular manifestation, a portion of Force which
already existed in other forms. It is known that the source from which this
portion of Force is derived, is chiefly, or entirely, the force evolved in
the processes of chemical composition and decomposition which constitute
the body of nutrition: the force so liberated becomes a fund upon which
every muscular and every nervous action, as of a train of thought, is a
draft. It is in this sense only that, according to the best lights of
science, volition is an originating cause. Volition, therefore, does not
answer to the idea of a First Cause; since Force must, in every instance,
be assumed as prior to it; and there is not the slightest colour, derived
from experience, for supposing Force itself to have been created by a
volition. As far as anything can be concluded from human experience, Force
has all the attributes of a thing eternal and uncreated....

"All that can be affirmed (even) by the strongest assertion of the Freedom
of the Will, is that volitions are themselves uncaused and are, therefore,
alone fit to be the first or universal cause. But, even assuming volitions
to be uncaused, the properties of matter, so far as experience discloses,
are uncaused also, and have the advantage over any particular volition, in
being, so far as experience can show, eternal. Theism, therefore, in so far
as it rests on the necessity of a First Cause, has no support from

Such may be taken as a sufficient refutation of the argument that, as human
volition is apparently a cause in nature, and moreover constitutes the
basis of our conception of all causation, therefore all causation is
probably volitional in character. But as this is a favourite argument with
some theists, I shall introduce another quotation from Mr. Mill, which is
taken from a different work.

"Volitions are not known to produce anything directly except nervous
action, for the will influences even the muscles only through the nerves.
Though it were granted, then, that every phenomenon has an efficient and
not merely a phenomenal cause, and that volition, in the case of the
particular phenomena which are known to be produced by it, is that cause;
are we therefore to say with these writers that since we know of no other
efficient cause, and ought not to assume one without evidence, there _is_
no other, and volition is the direct cause of all phenomena? A more
outrageous stretch of inference could hardly be made. Because among the
infinite variety of the phenomena of nature there is one, namely, a
particular mode of action of certain nerves which has for its cause and, as
we are now supposing, for its efficient cause, a state of our mind; and
because this is the only efficient cause of "which we are conscious, being
the only one of which, in the nature of the case, we _can_ be conscious,
since it is the only one which exists within ourselves; does this justify
us in concluding that all other phenomena must have the same kind of
efficient cause with that one eminently special, narrow, and peculiarly
human or animal phenomenon?" It is then shown that a logical parallel to
this mode of inference is that of generalising from the one known instance
of the earth being inhabited, to the conclusion that "every heavenly body
without exception, sun, planet, satellite, comet, fixed star, or nebula, is
inhabited, and must be so from the inherent constitution of things." After
which the passage continues, "It is true there are cases in which, with
acknowledged propriety, we generalise from a single instance to a multitude
of instances. But they must be instances which resemble the one known
instance, and not such as have no circumstance in common with it except
that of being instances.... But the supporters of the volition theory ask
us to infer that volition causes everything, for no other reason except
that it causes one particular thing; although that one phenomenon, far from
being a type of all natural phenomena, is eminently peculiar; its laws
bearing scarcely any resemblance to those of any other phenomenon, whether
of inorganic or of organic nature."[3]

       *       *       *       *       *



§ 8. Leaving now the obviously untenable arguments, we next come to those
which, in my opinion, may properly be termed scientific.

It will be convenient to classify those as three in number; and under one
or other of these heads nearly all the more intelligent advocates of Theism
will be found to range themselves.

§ 9. We have first the argument drawn from the existence of the human mind.
This is an argument which, for at least the last three centuries, and
especially during the present one, has been more relied upon than any other
by philosophical thinkers. It consists in the reflection that the being of
our own subjective intelligence is the most certain fact which our
experience supplies, that this fact demands an adequate cause for its
explanation, and that the only adequate cause of our intelligence must be
some other intelligence. Granting the existence of a conditioned
intelligence (and no one could reasonably suppose his own intelligence to
be otherwise), and the existence of an unconditioned intelligence becomes a
logical necessity, unless we deny either the validity of the principle that
every effect must have an adequate cause, or else that the only adequate
cause of Mind is Mind.

It has been a great satisfaction to me to find that my examination of this
argument--an examination which was undertaken and completed several months
before Mr. Mill's essay appeared--has been minutely corroborated by that of
our great logician. I mention this circumstance here, as on previous
occasions, not for the petty motive of vindicating my own originality, but
because in matters of this kind the accuracy of the reasoning employed, and
therefore the logical validity of the conclusions attained, are guaranteed
in the best possible manner, if the trains of thought have been
independently pursued by different minds.

§ 10. Seeing that, among the advocates of this argument, Locke went so far
as to maintain that by it alone he could render the existence of a Deity as
certain as any mathematical demonstration, it is only fair, preparatory to
our examining this argument, to present it in the words of this great

He says:--"There was a time when there was no knowing (_i.e._, conscious)
being, and when knowledge began to be; or else there has been also a
knowing being from all eternity. If it be said, there was a time when no
being had any knowledge, when that eternal being was void of all
understanding, I reply, that then it was impossible there should ever have
been any knowledge: it being as impossible that things wholly void of
knowledge, and operating blindly, and without perception, should produce a
knowing being, as it is impossible that a triangle should make itself three
angles bigger than two right ones. For it is as repugnant to the idea of
senseless matter, that it should put into itself, sense, perception, and
knowledge, as it is repugnant to the idea of a triangle, that it should put
into itself greater angles than two right ones."[4]

Now, although this argument has been more fully elaborated by other
writers, the above presentation contains its whole essence. It will be seen
that it has the great advantage of resting _immediately_ upon the
foundation from which all argument concerning this or any other matter,
must necessarily arise, viz.,--upon the very existence of our argumentative
faculty itself. For the sake of a critical examination, it is desirable to
throw the argument before us into the syllogistic form. It will then stand

All known minds are caused by an unknown mind. Our mind is a known mind;
therefore, our mind is caused by an unknown mind.

§ 11. Now the major premiss of this syllogism is inadmissible for two
reasons: in the first place, it is assumed that known mind can only be
caused by unknown mind; and, in the second place, even if this assumption
were granted, it would not explain the existence of Mind as Mind. To take
the last of these objections first, in the words of Mr. Mill, "If the mere
existence of Mind is supposed to require, as a necessary antecedent,
another Mind greater and more powerful, the difficulty is not removed by
going one step back: the creating mind stands as much in need of another
mind to be the source of its existence as the created mind. Be it
remembered that we have no direct knowledge (at least apart from
Revelation) of a mind which is even apparently eternal, as Force and Matter
are: an eternal mind is, as far as the present argument is concerned, a
simple hypothesis to account for the minds which we know to exist. Now it
is essential to an hypothesis that, if admitted, it should at least remove
the difficulty and account for the facts. But it does not account for mind
to refer our mind to a prior mind for its origin. The problem remains
unsolved, nay, rather increased."

Nevertheless, I think that it is open to a Theist to answer, "My object is
not to explain the existence of Mind in the abstract, any more than it is
my object to explain Existence itself in the abstract--to either of which
absurd attempts Mr. Mill's reasoning would be equally applicable;--but I
seek for an explanation of _my own individual finite mind_, which I know to
have had a beginning in time, and which, therefore, in accordance with the
widest and most complete analogy that experience supplies, I believe to
have been _caused_. And if there is no other objection to my believing in
Intelligence as the cause of my intelligence, than that I cannot prove my
own intelligence caused, then I am satisfied to let the matter rest here;
for as every argument must have _some_ basis of assumption to stand upon, I
am well pleased to find that the basis in this case is the most solid which
experience can supply, viz.,--the law of causation. Fully admitting that it
does not account for Mind (in the abstract) to refer one mind to a prior
mind for its origin; yet my hypothesis, if admitted, _does_ account for the
fact that _my mind_ exists; and this is all that my hypothesis is intended
to cover. For to endeavour to _explain_ the existence of an _eternal_ mind,
could only be done by those who do not understand the meaning of these

Now, I think that this reply to Mr. Mill, on the part of a theist, would so
far be legitimate; the theistic hypothesis _does_ supply a provisional
explanation of the existence of known minds, and it is, therefore, an
explanation which, in lieu of a better, a theist may be allowed to retain.
But a theist may not be allowed to confuse this provisional explanation of
his own mind's existence with that of the existence of Mind in the
abstract; he must not be allowed to suppose that, by thus hypothetically
explaining the existence of known minds, he is thereby establishing a
probability in favour of that hypothetical cause, an Unknown Mind. Only if
he has some independent reason to infer that such an Unknown Mind exists,
could such a probability be made out, and his hypothetical explanation of
known mind become of more value than a guess. In other words, although the
theistic hypothesis supplies _a possible_ explanation of known mind, we
have no reason to conclude that it is _the true_ explanation, unless other
reasons can be shown to justify, on independent grounds, the validity of
the theistic hypothesis. Hence it is manifestly absurd to adduce this
explanation as evidence of the hypothesis on which it rests--to argue that
Theism must therefore be true; because we assume it to be so, in order to
explain _known_ mind, as distinguished from _Mind_. If it be answered, We
are justified in assuming Theism true, because we are justified in assuming
that known mind can _only_ have been caused by an unknown mind, and hence
that Mind must somewhere be self-existing, then this is to lead us to the
second objection to the above syllogism.

§ 12. And this second objection is of a most serious nature. "Mind can only
be caused by Mind," and, therefore, Mind must either be uncaused, or caused
by a Mind. What is our warrant for ranking this assertion? Where is the
proof that nothing can have caused a mind except another mind? Answer to
this question there is none. For aught that we can ever know to the
contrary, anything within the whole range of the Possible may be competent
to produce a self-conscious intelligence--and to assume that Mind is so far
an entity _sui generis_, that it must either be self-existing, or derived
from another mind which is self-existing, is merely to beg the whole
question as to the being of a God. In other words, if we can prove that the
order of existence to which Mind belongs, is so essentially different from
that order, or those orders, to which all else belongs, as to render it
_abstractedly impossible_ that the latter can produce the former--if we can
prove this, we have likewise proved the existence of a Deity. But this is
just the point in dispute, and to set out with a bare affirmation of it is
merely to beg the question and to abandon the discussion. Doubtless, by the
mere act of consulting their own consciousness, the fact now in dispute
appears to some persons self-evident. But in matters of such high
abstraction as this, even the evidence of self-evidence must not be relied
upon too implicitly. To the country boor it appears self-evident that wood
is annihilated by combustion; and even to the mind of the greatest
philosophers of antiquity it seemed impossible to doubt that the sun moved
over a stationary earth. Much more, therefore, may our broad distinction
between "cogitative and incogitative being"[5] not be a distinction which
is "legitimated by the conditions of external reality."

Doubtless many will fall back upon the position already indicated, "It is
as repugnant to the idea of senseless matter, that it should put into
itself sense, perception, and knowledge, as it is repugnant to the idea of
a triangle, that it should put into itself greater angles than two right
ones." But, granting this, and also that conscious matter is the sole
alternative, and what follows? Not surely that matter cannot perceive, and
feel, and know, merely because it is repugnant to our idea of it that it
should. Granting that there is no other alternative in the whole
possibility of things, than that matter must be conscious, or that
self-conscious Mind must somewhere be self-existing; and granting that it
is quite "impossible for us to conceive" of consciousness as an attribute
of matter; still surely it would be a prodigious leap to conclude that for
this reason matter cannot possess this attribute. Indeed, Locke himself
elsewhere strangely enough insists that thought may be a property of
matter, if only the Deity chose to unite that attribute with that
substance. Why it should be deemed abstractedly impossible for matter to
think if there is no God, and yet abstractedly possible that it should
think if there is a God, I confess myself quite unable to determine; but I
conceive that it is very important clearly to point out this peculiarity in
Locke's views, for he is a favourite authority with theists, and this
peculiarity amounts to nothing less than a suicide of his entire argument.
The mere circumstance that he assumed the Deity capable of endowing matter
with the faculty of thinking, could not have enabled him to _conceive_ of
matter as thinking, any more than he could _conceive_ of this in the
absence of his assumption. Yet in the one case he recognises the
possibility of matter thinking, and in the other case denies such
possibility, _and this on the sole ground of its being inconceivable_!
However, I am not here concerned with Locke's eccentricities:[6] I am
merely engaged with the general principle, that a subjective inability to
establish certain relations in thought is no sufficient warrant for
concluding that corresponding objective relations may not obtain.

§ 13. Hence, an objector to the above syllogism need not be a materialist;
it is not even necessary that he should hold any theory of things at all.
Nevertheless, for the sake of definition, I shall assume that he is a
materialist. As a materialist, then, he would appear to be as much entitled
to his hypothesis as a theist is to his--in respect, I mean, of this
particular argument. For although I think, as before shown, that in strict
reasoning a theist might have taken exception to the last-quoted passage
from Mill in its connection with the law of causation, that passage, if
considered in the present connection, is certainly unanswerable. What is
the state of the present argument as between a materialist and a theist?
The mystery of existence and the inconceivability of matter thinking are
their common data. Upon these data the materialist, justly arguing that he
has no right to make his own conceptive faculty the unconditional test of
objective possibility, is content to merge the mystery of his own mind's
existence into that of Existence in general; while the theist, compelled to
accept without explanation the mystery of Existence in general,
nevertheless has recourse to inventing a wholly gratuitous hypothesis to
explain one mode of existence in particular. If it is said that the latter
hypothesis has the merit of causing the mystery of material existence and
the mystery of mental existence to be united in a thinkable manner--viz.,
in a self-existing Mind,--I reply, It is not so; for in whatever degree it
is unthinkable that Matter should be the cause of Mind, in that precise
degree must it be unthinkable that Mind was ever the cause of Matter, the
correlatives being in each case the same, and experience affording no
evidence of causality in either.

§ 14. The two hypotheses, therefore, are of exactly equivalent value, save
that while the one has a certain basis of fact to rest upon,[7] the other
is wholly arbitrary. But it may still be retorted, 'Is not that which is
_most_ conceivable _most likely_ to be true? and if it is more conceivable
that my intelligence is caused by another Intelligence than that it is
caused by Non-intelligence, may I not regard the more conceivable
hypothesis as also the more probable one? It is somewhat difficult to say
how far this argument is, in this case, valid; only I think it is quite
evident that its validity is open to grave dispute. For nothing can be more
evident to a philosophical thinker than that the substance of Mind must--so
far at least as we can at present see--_necessarily_ be unknowable; so that
if Matter (and Force) be this substance, we should antecedently expect to
find that the actual causal connection should, in this particular case, be
more inconceivable than some imaginary one: it would be more natural for
the mind to infer that something conceivably more akin to itself should be
its cause, than that this cause should be the entity which really gives
rise to the unthinkable connection. But even waiving this reflection, and
granting that the above argument is _valid_, it is still to an indefinite
degree _valueless_, seeing that we are unable to tell _how much it is more
likely_ that the more conceivable should here be true than that the less
conceivable should be so.

§ 15. Returning then to Locke's comparison between the certainty of this
argument and that which proves the sum of the angles of a triangle to be
equal to two right-angles, I should say that there is a _virtual_, though
not a _formal_, fallacy in his presentation. For mathematical science being
confessedly but of relative significance, any comparison between the degree
of certainty attained by reasoning upon so transcendental a subject as the
present, and that of mathematical demonstrations regarding relative truth,
must be misleading. In the present instance, the whole strain of the
argument comes upon the adequacy of the proposed test of truth, viz., our
being able to conceive it if true. Now, will any one undertake to say that
this test of truth is of equivalent value when it is applied to a triangle
and when it is applied to the Deity. In the one case we are dealing with a
geometrical figure of an exceedingly simple type, with which our experience
is well acquainted, and presenting a very limited number of relations for
us to contemplate. In the other case we are endeavouring to deal with the
_summum genus_ of all mystery, with reference to which experience is quite
impossible, and which in its mention contains all the relations that are to
us unknown and unknowable. Here, then, is the oversight. Because men find
conceivability a valid test of truth in the affairs of everyday life--as it
is easy to show _à priori_ that it must be, if our experience has been
formed under a given code of constant and general laws--therefore they
conclude that it must be equally valid _wherever_ it is applied; forgetting
that its validity must perforce decrease in proportion to the distance at
which the test is applied from the sphere of experience.[8]

§ 16. Upon the whole, then, I think it is transparently obvious that the
mere fact of our being unable to conceive, say, how any disposition of
matter and motion could possibly give rise to a self-conscious
intelligence, in no wise warrants us in concluding that for this reason no
such disposition is possible. The only question would appear to be, whether
the test which is here proposed as an unconditional criterion of truth
should be allowed any the smallest degree of credit. Seeing, on the one
hand, how very fallible the test in question is known to have proved itself
in many cases of much less speculative difficulty--seeing, too, that even
now "the philosophy of the condition proves that things there are which
may, nay must, be true, of which nevertheless the mind is unable to
construe to itself the possibility;"[9] and seeing, on the other hand, that
the substance of Mind, whatever it is, must necessarily be
unknowable;--seeing these things, if any question remains as to whether the
test of inconceivability should in this case be regarded as having any
degree of validity at all, there can, I think, be no reasonable doubt that
such degree should be regarded as of the smallest.

§ 17. Let us then turn to the other considerations which have been supposed
to justify the assertion that nothing can have caused our mind save another
Mind. Neglecting the crushing fact that "it does not account for Mind to
refer it to another Mind for its origin," let as see what positive reasons
there are for concluding that no other influence than Intelligence can
possibly have produced our intelligence.

§ 18. First we may notice the argument which is well and tersely presented
by Locke, thus:--"Whatsoever is first of all things must necessarily
contain in it, and actually have, at least, all the perfections that can
ever after exist; nor can it ever give to another any perfection that it
hath not actually in itself, or at least in a higher degree; it necessarily
follows that the first eternal being cannot be Matter." Now, as this
presentation is strictly formal, I shall first meet it with a formal reply,
and this reply consists in a direct contradiction. It is simply untrue that
"whatsoever is first of all things must necessarily contain in it, and
actually have, at least, all the perfections that can after exist;" or that
it can never "give to another any perfection that it hath not actually in
itself." In a sense, no doubt, a cause contains all that is contained in
its effects; the latter content being _potentially_ present in the former.
But to say that a cause already contains _actually_ all that its effects
may afterwards so contain, is a statement which logic and common sense
alike condemn as absurd.

Nevertheless, although the argument now before us thus admits of a
childishly easy refutation on strictly formal grounds, I suspect that in
substance the argument in a general way is often relied upon as one of very
considerable weight. Even though it is clearly illogical to say that causes
cannot give to their effects any perfection which they themselves do not
actually present, yet it seems in a general way incredible that gross
matter could contain, even potentially, the faculty of thinking.
Nevertheless, this is but to appeal to the argument from Inconceivability;
to do which, even were it here legitimate, would, as we have seen, be
unavailing. But to appeal to the argument from Inconceivability in this
case would _not_ be legitimate; for we are in possession of an abundant
analogy to render the supposition in question, not only conceivable, but
credible. In the words of Mr. Mill, "Apart from experience, and arguing on
what is called reason, that is, on supposed self-evidence, the notion seems
to be that no causes can give rise to products of a more precious or
elevated kind than themselves. But this is at variance with the known
analogies of nature. How vastly nobler and more precious, for instance, are
the vegetables and animals than the soil and manure out of which, and by
the properties of which, they are raised up! The tendency of all recent
speculation is towards the opinion that the development of inferior orders
of existence into superior, the substitution of greater elaboration, and
higher organisation for lower, is the general rule of nature. Whether this
is so or not, there are at least in nature a multitude of facts bearing
that character, and this is sufficient for the argument."

§ 19. We now come to the last of the arguments which, so far as I know,
have ever been adduced in support of the assertion that there can be no
other cause of our intelligence than another and superior Intelligence. The
argument is chiefly remarkable for the very great prominence which was
given to it by Sir W. Hamilton.

This learned and able author says:--"The Deity is not an object of
immediate contemplation; as existing and in himself, he is beyond our
reach; we can know him only mediately through his works, and are only
warranted in assuming his existence as a certain kind of cause necessary to
account for a certain state of things, of whose reality our faculties are
supposed to inform us. The affirmation of a God being thus a regressive
inference from the existence of a special class of effects to the existence
of a special character of cause, it is evident that the whole argument
hinges on the fact,--Does a state of things really exist such as is only
possible through the agency of a Divine Cause? For if it can be shown that
such a state of things does not really exist, then our inference to the
kind of cause requisite to account for it is necessarily null.

"This being understood, I now proceed to show you that the class of
phænomena which requires that kind of cause we denominate a Deity is
exclusively given in the phænomena of mind,--that the phænomena of matter
taken by themselves, (you will observe the qualification taken by
themselves) so far from warranting any inference to the existence of a God,
would, on the contrary, ground even an argument to his negation.

"If, in man, intelligence be a free power,--in so far as its liberty
extends, intelligence must be independent of necessity and matter; and a
power independent of matter necessarily implies the existence of an
immaterial subject,--that is, a spirit. If, then, the original independence
of intelligence on matter in the human constitution, in other words, if the
spirituality of mind in man be supposed a datum of observation, in this
datum is also given both the condition and the proof of a God. For we have
only to infer, what analogy entitles us to do, that intelligence holds the
same relative supremacy in the universe which it holds in us, and the first
positive condition of a Deity is established in the establishment of the
absolute priority of a free creative intelligence."[10]

§ 20. Thus, according to Sir W. Hamilton, the whole question as to the
being of a God depends upon that as to whether our "intelligence be a free
power,"--or, as he elsewhere states it himself, "Theology is wholly
dependent upon Psychology, for with the proof of the moral nature of man
stands or falls the proof of the existence of a Deity." It will be observed
that I am not at present engaged with the legitimacy of this author's
decision upon the comparative merits of the different arguments in favour
of Theism: I am merely showing the high opinion he entertained of the
particular argument before us. He positively affirms that, unless the
freedom of the human will be a matter of experience, Atheism is the sole
alternative. Doubtless most well-informed readers will feel that the
solitary basis thus provided for Theism is a very insecure one, while many
such readers will at once conclude that if this is the only basis which
reason can provide for Theism to stand upon, Theism is without any rational
basis to stand upon at all. I have no hesitation in saying that the
last-mentioned opinion is the one to which I myself subscribe, for I am
quite unable to understand how any one at the present day, and with the
most moderate powers of abstract thinking, can possibly bring himself to
embrace the theory of Free-will. I may add that I cannot but believe that
those who do embrace this theory with an honest conviction, must have
failed to understand the issue to which modern thought has reduced the
question. Here, however, is not the place to discuss this question. It will
be sufficient for my purpose to show that even Sir W. Hamilton himself
considered it a very difficult one; and although he thought upon the whole
that the will must be free, he nevertheless allowed--nay, insisted--that he
was unable to conceive how it could be so. Such inability in itself does
not of course show the Free-will theory to be untrue; and I merely point
out the circumstance that Hamilton allowed the supposed fact unthinkable,
in order to show how very precarious, even in his eyes, the argument which
we are considering must have appeared. Let us then, for this purpose,
contemplate his attitude with regard to it a little more closely. He says,
"It would have been better to show articulately that Liberty and Necessity
are both incomprehensible, as beyond the limits of legitimate thought; but
that though the Free-agency of Man cannot be speculatively proved, so
neither can it be speculatively disproved; while we may claim for it as a
fact of real actuality, though of inconceivable possibility, the testimony
of consciousness, that we are morally free, as we are morally accountable
for our actions. In this manner the whole question of free- and bond-will
is in theory abolished, leaving, however, practically our Liberty, and all
the moral instincts of Man entire."[11]

From this passage it is clear that Sir W. Hamilton regarded these two
counter-theories as of precisely equivalent value in everything save "the
testimony of consciousness;" or, as he elsewhere states it, "as equally
unthinkable, the two counter, the two one-sided, schemes are thus
theoretically balanced. But, practically, our consciousness of the moral
law ... gives a decisive preponderance to the doctrine of freedom over the
doctrine of fate."

But the whole question concerning the freedom of the will has now come to
be as to whether or not consciousness _does_ give its verdict on the side
of freedom. Supposing we grant that "we are warranted to rely on a
deliverance of consciousness, when that deliverance is _that_ a thing is,
although we may be unable to think _how_ it can be,"[12] in this case the
question still remains, whether our opponents have rightly interpreted the
deliverance of their consciousness. I, for one, am quite persuaded that I
never perform any action without some appropriate motive, or set of
motives, having induced me to perform it. However, I am not discussing this
question, and I have merely made the above quotations for the purpose of
showing that Sir W. Hamilton appears to identify the _theory_ of Free-will
with the _fact_ that we possess a moral sense. He argues throughout as
though the theory he advocates were the only one that can explain a given
"fact of real actuality." But no one with whom we have to deal questions
the fact of our having a moral sense; and to identify this "deliverance of
consciousness" with belief in the theory that volitions are uncaused, is,
or would now be, merely to abandon the only questions in dispute.

It is very instructive, from this point of view, to observe the dilemma
into which Hamilton found himself driven by this identification of genuine
fact with spurious theory. He believed that the fact of man possessing an
ethical faculty could only be explained by the theory that man's will was
not determined by motives; for otherwise man could not be the author of his
own actions. But when he considered the matter in its other aspect, he
found that his theory of Free-will was as little compatible with moral
responsibility as was the opposing theory of "Bond-will;" for not only did
he candidly confess that he could not conceive of will as acting without
motives, but he further allowed the unquestionable truth "that, though
inconceivable, a motiveless volition would, if conceived, be conceived as
morally worthless."[13] I say this is very instructive, because it shows
that in Hamilton's view each theory was alike irreconcilable with "the
deliverance of consciousness," and that he only chose the one in preference
to the other, because, although not any more conceivable a solution, it
seemed to him a more possible one.[14]

§ 21. Such, then, is the speculative basis on which, according to Sir W.
Hamilton, our belief in a Deity can alone be grounded.

Those who at the present day are still confused enough in their notions
regarding the Free-will question to suppose that any further rational
question remains, may here be left to ruminate over this _bolus_, and to
draw from it such nourishment as they can in support of their belief in a
God; but to those who can see as plainly as daylight that the doctrine of
Determinism not only harmonises with all the facts of observation, but
alone affords a possible condition for, and a satisfactory explanation of,
the existence of our ethical faculty,--to such persons the question will
naturally arise:--"Although Hamilton was wrong in identifying a known fact
with a false theory, yet may he not have been right in the deductions which
he drew from the fact?" In other words, granting that his theory of
Free-will was wrong, does not his argument from the existence of a moral
sense in man to the existence of a moral Governor of the Universe remain as
intact as ever? Now, it is quite true that whatever degree of cogency the
argument from the presence of the moral sense may at any time have had,
this degree remains unaffected by the explosion of erroneous theories to
account for such presence. We have, therefore, still to face the fact that
the moral sense of man undoubtedly exists.

§ 22. The question we have to determine is, What evidence have we to show
that the moral part of man was created in the image of God; and if there is
any such evidence, what counter-existence is there to show that the moral
existence of man may be due to natural causes? In deciding this question,
just as in deciding any other question of a purely scientific character, we
must be guided in our examination by the Law of Parcimony; we must not
assume the agency of supernatural causes if we can discover the agency of
natural causes; neither must we merge the supposed mystery directly into
the highest mystery, until we are quite sure that it does not admit of
being proximately explained by the action of proximate influences.

Now, whether or not Mr. Darwin's theory as to the origin and development of
the moral sense be considered satisfactory, there can, I think, be very
little doubt in any impartial mind which duly considers the subject, that
in _some way or other_ the moral sense has been evolved. The body of
scientific evidence which has now been collected in favour of the general
theory of evolution is simply overwhelming; and in the presence of so large
an analogy, it would require a vast amount of contradictory evidence to
remove the presumption that human conscience, like everything else, has
been evolved. Now, for my own part, I am quite unable to distinguish any
such evidence, while, on the other hand, in support of the _à priori_
presumption that conscience has been evolved, I cannot conceal from myself
that there is a large amount of _à posteriori_ confirmation. I am quite
unable to distinguish anything in my sense of right and wrong which I
cannot easily conceive to have been brought about during the evolution of
my intelligence from lower forms of psychical life. On the contrary,
everything that I can find in my sense of right and wrong is precisely what
I should expect to find on the supposition of this sense having been
moulded by the progressive requirements of social development. Read in the
light of evolution, Conscience, in its every detail, is deductively

And, as though there were not sufficient evidence of this kind to justify
the conclusion drawn from the theory of evolution, the doctrine of
utilitarianism--separately conceived and separately worked out on
altogether independent grounds--the doctrine of utilitarianism comes in
with irresistible force to confirm that _à priori_ conclusion by the widest
and most unexceptionable of inductions.[15]

In the supernatural interpretation of the facts, the whole stress of the
argument comes upon the character of conscience as a _spontaneously
admonishing influence which acts independently of our own volition_. For it
is from this character alone that the inference can arise that conscience
is the delegate of the will of another. Thus, to render the whole argument
in the singularly beautiful words of Dr. Newman:--"If, as is the case, we
feel responsibility, are ashamed, are frightened at transgressing the voice
of conscience, this implies that there is One to whom we are responsible,
before whom we are ashamed, whose claims upon us we fear. If, on doing
wrong, we feel the same tearful, broken-hearted sorrow which overwhelms us
on hurting a mother; if, on doing right, we enjoy the same seeming serenity
of mind, the same soothing, satisfactory delight, which follows on one
receiving praise from a father,--we certainly have within us the image of
some person to whom our love and veneration look, in whose smile we find
our happiness, for whom we yearn, towards whom we direct our pleadings, in
whose anger we waste away. These feelings in us are such as require for
their exciting cause an intelligent being; we are not affectionate towards
a stone, nor do we feel shame before a horse or a dog; we have no remorse
or compunction in breaking mere human law. Yet so it is; conscience emits
all these painful emotions, confusion, foreboding, self-condemnation; and,
on the other hand, it sheds upon us a deep peace, a sense of security, a
resignation, and a hope which there is no sensible, no earthly object to
elicit. 'The wicked flees when no one pursueth;' then why does he flee?
whence his terror? Who is it that he sees in solitude, in darkness, in the
hidden chambers of his heart? If the cause of these emotions does not
belong to this visible world, the Object to which his perception is
directed must be supernatural and divine; and thus the phenomena of
conscience as a dictate avail to impress the imagination with the picture
of a Supreme Governor, a Judge, holy, just, powerful, all-seeing,

Now I have quoted this passage because it seems to me to convey in a
concise form the whole of the argument from Conscience. But how tremendous
are the inferences which are drawn from the facts! As the first step in our
criticism, it is necessary to point out that two very different orders of
feelings are here treated by Dr. Newman. There is first the pure or
uncompounded ethical feelings, which spring directly from the moral sense
alone, and which all men experience in varying degrees. And next there are
what we may term the _ethico-theological_ feelings, which can only spring
from a blending of the moral sense with a belief in a personal God, or
other supernatural agents. The former class of feelings, or the
uncompounded ethical class, have exclusive reference to the moral
obligations that subsist between ourselves and other human beings, or
sentient organisms. The latter class of feelings, or the ethico-theological
class, have reference to the moral obligations that are believed to subsist
between ourselves and the Deity, or other supernatural beings. Now, in
order not to lose sight of this all-important distinction, I shall
criticise Dr. Newman's rendering of the ordinary argument from Conscience
in each of these two points of views separately. To begin, then, with the
uncompounded ethical feelings.

Such emotions as attend the operation of conscience in those who follow its
light alone without any theories as to its supernatural origin, are all of
the character of _reasonable_ or _explicable_ emotions. Granting that
fellow-feeling has been for the benefit of the race, and therefore that it
has been developed by natural causes, certainly there is nothing
_mysterious_ in the emotions that attend the violating or the following of
the dictates of conscience. For conscience is, by this naturalistic
supposition, nothing more than an organised body of certain psychological
elements, which, by long inheritance, have come to inform us, by way of
intuitive feeling, how we should act for the interests of society; so that,
if this hypothesis is correct, there cannot be anything more mysterious or
supernatural in the working of conscience than there is in the working of
any of our other faculties. That the disagreeable feeling of
_self-reproach_, as distinguished from _religious_ feeling, should follow
upon a violation of such an organized body of psychological elements,
cannot be thought surprising, if it is remembered that one of these
elements is natural fellow-feeling, and the others the elements which lead
us to know directly that we have violated the interests of other persons.
And as regards the mere fact that the working of conscience is independent
of the will, surely this is not more than we find, in varying degrees, to
be true of all our emotions; and conscience, according to the evolution
theory, has its root in the emotions. Hence, it is no more an argument to
say that the irrepressible character of conscience refers us to a God of
morality, than it would be to say that the sometimes resistless force of
the ludicrous refers us to a god of laughter. Love, again, is an emotion
which cannot be subdued by volition, and in its tendency to persist bears
just such a striking resemblance to the feelings of morality as we should
expect to find on the supposition of the former having played an important
part in the genesis of the latter. The _dictating_ character of conscience,
therefore, is clearly in itself of no avail as pointing to a superhuman
Dictator. Thus, for example, to take Dr. Newman's own illustration, why
should we feel such tearful, broken-hearted sorrow on intentionally or
carelessly hurting a mother? We see no shadow of a reason for resorting to
any supernatural hypothesis to explain the fact--love between mother and
offspring being an essential condition to the existence of higher animals.
Yet this is a simple case of truly conscientious feeling, where the thought
of any _personal_ cause of conscience _need_ not be entertained, and is
certainly not necessary to explain the effects. And similarly with _all_
cases of conscientious feeling, _except in cases where it refers directly
to its supposed author_. But these latter cases, or the ethico-theological
class of feelings, are in no way surprising. If the moral sense has had a
natural genesis in the actual relations between man and man, as soon as an
ideal "image" of "a holy, just, powerful, all-seeing, retributive" God is
firmly believed to have an objective existence, as a matter of course moral
feelings must become transferred to the relations which are believed to
obtain between ourselves and this most holy God. Indeed, it is these very
feelings which, in the absence of any proof to the contrary, must be
concluded, in accordance with the law of parcimony, to have _generated_
this idea of God as "holy, just," and good. And the mere fact that, when
the complex system of religious belief has once been built up, conscience
is strongly wrought upon by that belief and its accompanying emotions, is
surely a fact the very reverse of mysterious. Suppose, for the sake of
argument, that the moral sense has been evolved from the social feelings,
and should we not certainly expect that, when the belief in a moral and
all-seeing God is superadded, conscience should be distracted at the
thought of offending him, and experience a "soothing, satisfactory delight"
in the belief that we are pleasing him? And as to the argument, "Why does
the wicked flee when none pursueth? whence his terror?" the question admits
of only too easy an answer. Indeed, the form into which the question is
thrown would almost seem--were it not written by Dr. Newman--to imply a
sarcastic reference to the power of superstition. "Who is it that," not
only Dr. Newman, but the haunted savage, the mediæval sorcerer, or the
frightened child, "sees in solitude, in darkness, in the hidden chambers of
his heart?" Who but the "image" of his own thought? "If the cause of these
emotions does not belong to this visible world, the Object to which his
perception is directed must be supernatural and divine." Assuredly; but
what an inference from what an assumption! Whether or not the moral sense
has been developed by natural causes, "these emotions" of terror at the
thought of offending beings "supernatural and divine" are not of such
unique occurrence "in the visible world" as to give Dr. Newman the monopoly
of his particular "Object." With a deeper meaning, therefore, than he
intends may we repeat, "The phenomena of conscience as a dictate _avail_ to
impress the _imagination_ with the _picture_ of a Supreme Governor." But
criticism here is positively painful. Let it be enough to say that those of
us who do not already believe in any such particular "Object"--be it ghost,
shape, demon, or deity--are strangers, utter and complete, to any such
supernatural pursuers. The fact, therefore, of these various religious
emotions being associated with conscience in the minds of theists, can in
itself be no proof of Theism, seeing that it is the theory of Theism which
itself _engenders_ these emotions; those who do not believe in this theory
experiencing none of these feelings of personal dread, responsibility to an
unknown God, and the feelings of doing injury to, or of receiving praise
from, a parent. To such of us the violation of conscience is its own
punishment, as the pursuit of virtue is its own reward. For we know that
not more certainly than fire will burn, any violation of the deeply-rooted
feelings of our humanity will leave a gaping wound which even time may not
always heal. And when it is shown us that our natural dread of fire is due
to a supernatural cause, we may be prepared to entertain the argument that
our natural dread of sin, as distinguished from our dread of God, is
likewise due to such a cause. But until this can be done we must, as
reasonable men, _whose minds have been trained in the school of nature_,
forbear to allow that the one fact is of any greater cogency than the
other, so far as the question of a supernatural cause of either is
concerned. For, as we have already seen, the law of parcimony forbids us to
ascribe "the phenomena of conscience as a dictate" to a supernatural cause,
until the science of psychology shall have proved that they cannot have
been due to natural causes. But, as we have also seen, the science of
psychology is now beginning, as quick and thoroughly as can be expected, to
prove the very converse; so that the probability is now overwhelming that
our moral sense, like all our other faculties, has been evolved. Therefore,
while the burden of proof really lies on the side of Theism--or with those
who account for the natural phenomena of conscience by the hypothesis of a
supernatural origin--this burden is now being rapidly discharged by the
opposite side. That is to say, while the proofs which are now beginning to
substantiate the naturalistic hypothesis are all in full accord with the
ordinary lines of scientific explanations, the vague and feeble reflections
of those who still maintain that Conscience is evidence of Deity, are all
such as run counter to the very truisms of scientific method.

In the face of all the facts, therefore, I find it impossible to recognise
as valid any inference which is drawn from the existence of our moral sense
to the existence of a God; although, of course, all inferences drawn from
the existence of our moral sense to the _character_ of a God already
believed to exist remain unaffected by the foregoing considerations.[17]

       *       *       *       *       *



§ 23. The argument from Design, as presented by Mill, is merely a
resuscitation of it as presented by Paley. True it is that the logical
penetration of the former enabled him to perceive that the latter had "put
the case much too strongly;" although, even here, he has failed to see
wherein Paley's error consisted. He says:--"If I found a watch on an
apparently desolate island, I should indeed infer that it had been left
there by a human being; but the inference would not be from the marks of
design, but because I already know by direct experience that watches are
made by men." Now I submit that this misses the whole point of Paley's
meaning; for it is evident that there would be no argument at all unless
this author be understood to say what he clearly enough expresses, viz.,
that the evidence of design supposed to be afforded by the watch is
supposed to be afforded by examination of its mechanism only, and not by
any previous knowledge as to how that particular mechanism called a watch
is made. Paley, I take it, only chose a watch for his example because he
knew that no reader would dispute the fact that watches are constructed by
design: except for the purpose of pointing out that mechanism is in some
cases admitted to be due to intelligence, for all the other purposes of his
argument he might as well have chosen for his illustration any case of
mechanism occurring in nature. What the real fallacy in Paley's argument
is, is another question, and this I shall now endeavour to answer; for, as
Mill's argument is clearly the same in kind as that of Paley and his
numberless followers, in examining the one I am also examining the other.

§ 24. In nature, then, we see innumerable examples of apparent design: are
these of equal value in testifying to the presence of a designing
intelligence as are similar examples of human contrivance, and if not, why
not? The answer to the first of these questions is patent. If such examples
were of the same value in the one case as they are in the other, the
existence of a Deity would be, as Paley appears to have thought it was,
demonstrated by the fact. A brief and yet satisfactory answer to the second
question is not so easy, and we may best approach it by assuming the
existence of a Deity. If, then, there is a God, it by no means follows that
every apparent contrivance in nature is an actual contrivance, in the same
sense as is any human contrivance. The eye of a vertebrated animal, for
instance, exhibits as much apparent design as does a watch; but no one--at
the present day, at least--will undertake to affirm that the evidence of
divine thought furnished by one example is as conclusive as is the evidence
of human thought furnished by the other--and this even assuming a Deity to
exist. Why is this? The reason, I think, is, that we know by our personal
experience what are our own relations to the material world, and to the
laws which preside over the action of physical forces; while we can have no
corresponding knowledge of the relations subsisting between the Deity and
these same objects of our own experience. Hence, to suppose that the Deity
constructed the eye by any such process of thought as we know that men
construct watches, is to make an assumption not only incapable of proof,
but destitute of any assignable degree of likelihood. Take an example. The
relation in which a bee stands to the external world is to a large extent a
matter of observation, and, therefore, no one imagines that the formation
of its scientifically-constructed cells is due to any profound study on the
bee's part. Whatever the origin of the cell-making instinct may have been,
its nature is certainly not the same as it would have been in man,
supposing him to have had occasion to construct honeycombs. It may be said
that the requisite calculations have been made for the bees by the Deity;
but, even if this assumption were true, it would be nothing to the point,
which is merely that even within the limits of the animal kingdom the
relations of intelligence to the external world are so diverse, that the
same results may be accomplished by totally different intellectual
processes. And as this example is parallel to the case on which we are
engaged in everything save the _observability_ of the relations involved,
it supplies us with the exact measure of the probability we are trying to
estimate. Hence it is evident that so long as we remain ignorant of the
element essential to the argument from design in its Paleyerian form--viz.,
knowledge or presumption of the relations subsisting between an
hypothetical Deity and his creation--so long must that argument remain, not
only unassignably weak, but incapable of being strengthened by any number
of examples similar in kind.

§ 25. To put the case in another way. The root fallacy in Paley's argument
consisted in reasoning from a particular to an universal. Because he knew
that design was the cause of adaptation in some cases, and because the
phenomena of life exhibited more instances of adaptation than any other
class of phenomena in nature, he pointed to these phenomena as affording an
exceptional kind of proof of the presence in nature of intelligent agency.
Yet, if it is admitted--and of this, even in Paley's days, there was a
strong analogical presumption--that the phenomena of life are throughout
their history as much subject to law as are any other phenomena
whatsoever,--that the method of the divine government, supposing such to
exist, is the same here as elsewhere; then nothing can be clearer than that
any amount of observable adaptation of means to ends within this class of
phenomena cannot afford any different kind of evidence of _design_ than is
afforded by any other class of phenomena whatsoever. Either we know the
relations of the Deity to his creation, or we do not. If we do, then we
must know whether or not _every_ physical change which occurs in accordance
with law--_i.e._, every change occurring within experience, and so, until
contrary evidence is produced, presumably every change occurring beyond
experience--was separately planned by the Deity. If we do not, then we have
no more reason to suppose that any one set of physical changes rather than
another has been separately planned by him, unless we could point (as Paley
virtually pointed) to one particular set of changes and assert, These are
not subject to the same method of divine government which we observe
elsewhere, or, in other words, to law. If it is retorted that _in some way
or other_ all these wonderful adaptations must ultimately have been due to
intelligence, this is merely to shift the argument to a ground which we
shall presently have to consider: all we are now engaged upon is to show
that we have no right to found arguments on the assumed _mode_, _manner_,
or _process_ by which the supposed intelligence is thought to have
operated. We can here see, then, more clearly where Paley stumbled. He
virtually assumed that the relations subsisting between the Deity and the
universe were such, that the exceptional adaptations met with in the
organised part of the latter cannot have been due to the same intellectual
_processes_ as was the rest of the universe--or that, if they were, still
they yielded better evidence of having been due to these processes than
does the rest of the universe. And it is easy to perceive that his error
arose from his pre-formed belief in special creation. So long as a man
regards every living organism which he sees as the lineal descendant of a
precisely similar organism originally struck out by the immediate fiat of
Deity, so long is he justified in holding his axiom, "Contrivance must have
had a contriver." For "adaptation" then becomes to our minds the synonym of
"contrivance"--it being utterly inconceivable that the numberless
adaptations found in any living organism could have resulted in any other
way than by intelligent contrivance, at the time when this organism was in
the first instance _suddenly_ introduced into its complex conditions of
life. Still, as an argument, this is of course merely reasoning in a
circle: we adopt a hypothesis which presupposes the existence of a Deity as
the first step in the proof of his existence. I do not say that Paley
committed this error expressly, but merely that if it had not been for his
pre-formed conviction as to the truth of the special-creation theory, he
would probably not have written his "Natural Theology."

§ 26. Thus let us take a case of his own choosing, and the one which is
adduced by him as typical of "the application of the argument." "I know of
no better method of introducing so large a subject than that of comparing a
single thing with a single thing; an eye, for example, with a telescope. As
far as the examination of the instrument goes, there is precisely the same
proof that the eye was made for vision as there is that the telescope was
made for assisting it. They are both made upon the same principles, both
being adjusted to the laws by which the transmission and refraction of rays
of light are regulated. I speak not of the origin of the laws themselves;
but these laws being fixed, the construction in both cases is adapted to
them. For instance: these laws require, in order to produce the same
effect, that the rays of light, in passing through water into the eye,
should be refracted by a more convex surface than when it passes out of air
into the eye. Accordingly we find that the eye of a fish, in that part of
it called the crystalline lens, is much rounder than the eye of terrestrial
animals. What plainer manifestation of design can there be than this
difference?" But what, let us ask, is the proximate cause of this
difference? 'The immediate volition of the Deity, manifested in special
creation,' virtually answers Paley; while we of to-day are able to reply,
'The agency of natural laws, to wit, inheritance, variation, survival of
the fittest, and probably of other laws as yet not discovered.' Now, of
course, according to the former of these two premises, there can be no more
legitimate conclusion than that the difference in question is due to
intelligent and special design; but, according to the other premise, it is
equally clear that no conclusion can be more unwarranted; for, under the
latter view, the greater rotundity of the crystalline lens in a fish's eye
no more exhibits the presence of any special design than does the
adaptation of a river to the bed which it has itself been the means of
excavating. When, therefore, Paley goes on to ask:--"How is it possible,
under circumstances of such close affinity, and under the operation of
equal evidence, to exclude contrivance from the case of the eye, yet to
acknowledge the proof of contrivance having been employed, as the plainest
and clearest of all propositions, in the case of the telescope?" the answer
is sufficiently obvious, namely, that the "evidence" in the two cases is
_not_ "equal;"--any more than is the existence, say, of the Nile of equal
value in point of evidence that it was designed for traffic, as is the
existence of the Suez Canal that it was so designed. And the mere fact that
the problem of achromatism was solved by "the mind of a sagacious optician
inquiring how this matter was managed in the eye," no more proves that
"this could not be in the eye without purpose, which suggested to the
optician the only effectual means of attaining that purpose," than would
the fact, say, of the winnowing of corn having suggested the
fanning-machine prove that air currents were designed for the purpose of
eliminating chaff from grain. In short, the real substance of the argument
from Design must eventually merge into that which Paley, in the
above-quoted passage, expressly passes over--viz., "the origin of the laws
themselves;" for so long as there is any reason to suppose that any
apparent "adaptation" to a certain set of "fixed laws" is itself due to the
influence of other "fixed laws," so long have we as little right to say
that the latter set of fixed laws exhibit any better indications of
intelligent adaptation to the former set, than the former do to that of the
latter--the eye to light, than light to the eye. Hence I conceive that Mill
is entirely wrong when he says of Paley's argument, "It surpasses analogy
exactly as induction surpasses it," because "the instances chosen are
particular instances of a circumstance which experience shows to have a
real connection with an intelligent origin--the fact of conspiring to an
end." Experience shows as this, but it shows us more besides; it shows us
that there is no _necessary_ or _uniform_ connection between an
"intelligent origin" and the fact of apparent "means conspiring to an
[apparent] end." If the reader will take the trouble to compare this
quotation just made from Mill, and the long train of reasoning that
follows, with an admirable illustration in Mr. Wallace's "Natural
Selection," he will be well rewarded by finding all the steps in Mr. Mill's
reasoning so closely paralleled by the caricature, that but for the
respective dates of publication, one might have thought the latter had an
express reference to the former.[18] True, Mr. Mill closes his argument
with a brief allusion to the "principle of the survival of the fittest,"
observing that "creative forethought is not absolutely the only link by
which the origin of the wonderful mechanism of the eye may be connected
with the fact of sight." I am surprised, however, that a man of Mr. Mill's
penetration did not see that whatever view we may take as to "the adequacy
of this principle (_i.e._, Natural Selection) to account for such truly
admirable combinations as some of those in nature," the argument from
_Design_ is not materially affected. So far as this argument is concerned,
the issue is not Design _versus_ Natural Selection, but it is Design
_versus_ Natural Law. By all means, "leaving this remarkable speculation
(_i.e._, Mr. Darwin's) to whatever fate the progress of discovery may have
in store for it," and it by no means follows that "in the present state of
knowledge the adaptations in nature afford a large balance of probability
in favour of creation by intelligence." For whatever we may think of this
special theory as to the _mode_, there can be no longer any reasonable
doubt, "in the present state of our knowledge," as to the truth of the
general theory of _Evolution_; and the latter, if accepted, is as
destructive to the argument from _Design_ as would the former be if proved.
In a word, it is the _fact_ and not the _method_ of Evolution which is
subversive of Teleology in its Paleyerian form.

§ 27. We have come then to this:--Apparent intellectual adaptations are
perfectly valid indications of design, so long as their authorship is known
to be confined to human intelligence; for then we know from experience what
are our relations to these laws, and so in any given case can argue _à
posteriori_ that such an adaptation to such a set of laws by such an
intelligence can only have been due to such a process. But when we overstep
the limits of experience, we are not entitled to argue anything _à priori_
of any other intelligence in this respect, even supposing any such
intelligence to exist. The analogy by which the unknown relations are
inferred from the known is "infinitely precarious;" seeing that two of the
analogous terms--to wit, the divine intelligence and the human--may differ
to an immeasurable extent in their properties--nay, are supposed thus to
differ, the one being supposed omniscient, omnipotent, &c., and the other
not. And, as a final step, we may now see that the argument from Design, in
its last resort, resolves itself into a _petitio principii_. For,
ultimately, the only point which the analogical argument in question is
adduced to prove is, that the relations subsisting between an Unknown Cause
and certain physical forces are so far identical with the relations known
to subsist between human intelligence and these same forces, that similar
intellectual processes are required in the two cases to account for the
production of similar effects--and hence that the Unknown Cause is
intelligent. But it is evident that the analogy itself can have no
existence, except upon the presupposition that these two sets of relations
_are_ thus identical. The point which the analogy is adduced to prove is
therefore postulated by the fact of its being adduced at all, and the whole
argument resolves itself into a case of _petitio principii_.

       *       *       *       *       *



§ 28. Turning now to an important error of Mr. Mill's in respect of
omission, I firmly believe that all competent writers who have ever
undertaken to support the argument from Design, have been moved to do so by
their instinctive appreciation of the much more important argument, which
Mill does not mention at all and which we now proceed to consider--the
argument from General Laws. That is to say, I cannot think that any one
competent writer ever seriously believed, had he taken time to analyse his
beliefs, that the cogency of his argument lay in assuming any knowledge
concerning the _process_ of divine thought; he must have really believed
that it lay entirely in his observation of the _product_ of divine
thought--or rather, let us say, of divine intelligence. Now this is the
whole difference between the argument from Design and the argument from
General Laws. The argument from Design says, There must be a God, because
such and such an organic structure must have been due to such and such an
intellectual _process_. The argument from General Laws says, There must be
a God, because such and such an organic structure must _in some way or
other have been ultimately due to_ intelligence. Nor does this argument end
here. Not only must such and such an organic structure have been ultimately
due to intelligence, but every such structure--nay, every phenomenon in the
universe--must have been the same; for all phenomena are alike subject to
the same method of sequence. The argument is thus a cumulative one; for as
there is no single known exception to this universal mode of existence, the
united effect of so vast a body of evidence is all but irresistible, and
its tendency is clearly to point us to some _one_ explanatory cause. The
scope of this argument is therefore co-extensive with the universe; it
draws alike upon all phenomena with which experience is acquainted. For
instance, it contains all the phenomena covered by the Design argument,
just as a genus contains any one of its species; it being manifest, from
what was said in the last section, that if the general doctrine of
Evolution is accepted, the argument from Design must of necessity merge
into that from General Laws. And this wide basis, we may be sure, must be
the most legitimate one whereon to rest an argument in favour of Theism. If
there is any such thing as such an argument at all, the most unassailable
field for its display must be the universe as a whole, seeing that if we
separate any one section of the universe from the rest, and suppose that we
here discover a different kind of testimony to intelligence from that which
we can discover elsewhere, we may from analogy be abundantly sure that on
the confines of our division there must be second causes and general laws
at work (whether discoverable or not), which are the immediate agents in
the production of the observed results. Of course I do not deny that some
classes of phenomena afford us more and better proofs of intellectual
agency than do others, in the sense of the laws in operation being more
numerous, subtle, and complex; but it will be seen that this is a different
interpretation of the evidence from that against which I am contending.
Thus, if there are tokens of divine intention (as distinguished from
design) to be met with in the eye,--if it is inconceivable that so "nice
and intricate a structure" should exist without intelligence as its
_ultimate_ cause; then the discovery of natural selection, or of any other
law, as the _manner_ in which this intelligence wrought in no wise
attenuates the proof as to the fact of an intelligent cause. On the
contrary, it tends rather to confirm it; for, besides the evidence before
existing, there is added that which arises from the conformity of the
method to that which is observable in the rest of the universe.

Thus, notwithstanding what Hamilton, Chalmers, and others have said, I
cannot but feel that the ubiquitous action of general laws is, of all facts
supplied by experience, the most cogent in its bearing upon teleology. If
perpetual and uninterrupted uniformity of method does not indicate the
existence of a presiding intelligence, it becomes a question whether any
other kind of method--short of the intelligently miraculous--could possibly
do so; seeing that the further the divine _modus operandi_ (supposing such
to exist) were removed from absolute uniformity, the greater would be the
room for our interpreting it as mere fortuity. But forasmuch as the
progress of science has shown that within experience the method of the
Supreme Causality is absolutely uniform, the hypothesis of fortuity is
rendered irrational; and let us think of this Supreme Causality as we may,
the fact remains that from it there emanates a directive influence of
uninterrupted consistency, on a scale of stupendous magnitude and exact
precision, worthy of our highest possible conceptions of Deity.

§ 29. Had it been my lot to have lived in the last generation, I doubt not
that I should have regarded the foregoing considerations as final: I should
have concluded that there was an overwhelming balance of rational
probability in favour of Theism; and I think I should also have insisted
that this balance of rational probability would require to continue as it
was till the end of time. I should have maintained, in some such words as
the following, in which the Rev. Baden Powell conveys this argument:--"The
very essence of the whole argument is the invariable preservation of the
principle of _order_: not necessarily such as we can directly recognise,
but the universal conviction of the unfailing subordination of everything
to _some_ grand principles of _law_, however imperfectly apprehended in our
partial conceptions, and the successive subordination of such laws to
others of still higher generality, to an extent transcending our
conceptions, and constituting the true chain of universal causation which
culminates in the sublime conception of the COSMOS.

"It is in immediate connection with this enlarged view of universal
immutable natural order that I have regarded the narrow notions of those
who obscure the sublime prospect by imagining so unworthy an idea as that
of occasional interruptions in the physical economy of the world.

"The only instance considered was that of the alleged sudden supernatural
origination of new species of organised beings in remote geological epochs.
It is in relation to the broad principle of law, if once rightly
apprehended, that such inferences are seen to be wholly unwarranted by
science, and such fancies utterly derogatory and inadmissible in
philosophy; while, even in those instances properly understood, the real
scientific conclusions of the invariable and indissoluble chain of
causation stand vindicated in the sublime contemplations with which they
are thus associated.

"To a correct apprehension of the whole argument, the one essential
requisite is to have obtained a complete and satisfactory grasp of this
_one grand principle of law pervading nature, or rather constituting the
very idea of nature_;--which forms the vital essence of the whole of
inductive science, and the sole assurance of those higher inferences from
the inductive study of natural causes which are the vindications of a
supreme intelligence and a moral cause.

"_The whole of the ensuing discussion must stand or fall with the admission
of this grand principle_. Those who are not prepared to embrace it in its
full extent may probably not accept the conclusions; but they must be sent
back to the school of inductive science, where alone it must be
independently imbibed and thoroughly assimilated with the mind of the
student in the first instance.

"On the slightest consideration of the nature, the foundations, and general
results of inductive science,... we recognise the powers of intellect fitly
employed in the study of nature,... pre-eminently leading us to perceive
_in nature_, and in the invariable and universal constancy of its laws, the
indications of universal, unchangeable, and recondite arrangement,
dependence, and connection in reason....

"We thus see the importance of taking a more enlarged view of the great
argument of natural theology; and the necessity for so doing becomes the
more apparent when we reflect on the injury to which these sublime
inferences are exposed from the narrow and unworthy form in which the
reasoning has been too often conducted....

"The satisfactory view of the whole case can only be found in those more
enlarged conceptions which are furnished by the grand contemplation of
cosmical order and unity, and which do not refer to inferences from the
_past_, but to proofs of the _ever-present_ mind and reason in nature.

"If we read a book which it requires much thought and exercise of reason to
understand, but which we find discloses more and more truth and reason as
we proceed in the study, and contains clearly more than we can at present
comprehend, then undeniably we properly say that thought and reason _exist
in that book_ irrespectively of our minds, and equally so of any question
as to its author or origin. Such a book confessedly exists, and is ever
open to us in the natural world. Or, to put the case under a slightly
different form:--When the astronomer, the physicist, the geologist, or the
naturalist notes down a series of observed facts or measured dates, he is
not an _author_ expressing his own ideas,--he is a mere _amanuensis_ taking
down the dictations of nature: his observation book is the record of the
thoughts of _another mind_: he has but set down literally what he himself
does not understand, or only very imperfectly. On further examination, and
after deep and anxious study, he perhaps begins to decipher the meaning, by
perceiving some law which gives a signification to the facts; and the
further he pursues the investigation up to any more comprehensive theory,
the more fully he perceives that there is a higher reason, of which his own
is but the humbler interpreter, and into whose depths he may penetrate
continually further, to discover yet more profound and invariable order and
system, always indicating still deeper and more hidden abysses yet
unfathomed, but throughout which he is assured the same recondite and
immutable arrangement ever prevails.

"That which requires thought and reason to understand must be itself
thought and reason. That which mind alone can investigate or express must
be itself mind. And if the highest conception attained is but partial, then
the mind and reason studied is greater than the mind and reason of the
student. If the more it be studied the more vast and complex is the
necessary connection in reason disclosed, then the more evident is the vast
extent and compass of the intelligence thus partially manifested, and its
reality, as _existing in the immutably connected order of objects
examined_, independently of the mind of the investigator.

"But considerations of this kind, just and transcendently important as they
are in themselves, give us no aid in any inquiry into the _origin_ of the
order of things thus investigated, or the _nature_ or other attributes of
the mind evinced in them.

"The real argument for universal _intelligence_, manifested in the
universality of order and law in the material world, is very different from
any attempt to give a form to our conceptions, even by the language of
analogy, as to the _nature_ or _mode of existence_ or operation of that
intelligence [_i.e._, as I have stated the case, the argument can only rest
on a study of the _products_, as distinguished from the _processes_ of such
intelligence]: and still more different from any extension of our inference
from what _is_ to what _may have been_, from _present_ order to a supposed
_origination_, first adjustment, or planning of that order.

"By keeping these distinctions steadily in view, we appreciate properly
both the limits and the extent and compass of what we may appropriately

I have quoted these passages at length, because they convey in a more
forcible, guarded, and accurate manner than any others with which I am
acquainted, the strictly rational standing of this great subject prior to
the date at which the above-quoted passage was written. Therefore, as I
have said, if it had been my lot to have lived in the last generation, I
should certainly have rested in these "sublime conceptions" as in an
argument supreme and irrefutable. I should have felt that the progress of
physical knowledge could never exert any other influence on Theism than
that of ever tending more and more to confirm that magnificent belief, by
continuously expanding our human thoughts into progressively advancing
conceptions, ever grander and yet more grand, of that tremendous Origin of
Things--the Mind of God. Such would have been my hope--such would have been
my prayer. But now, how changed! Never in the history of man has so
terrific a calamity befallen the race as that which all who look may now
behold advancing as a deluge, black with destruction, resistless in might,
uprooting our most cherished hopes, engulfing our most precious creed, and
burying our highest life in mindless desolation. Science, whom erstwhile we
thought a very Angel of God, pointing to that great barrier of Law, and
proclaiming to the restless sea of changing doubt, "Hitherto shalt thou
come, but no further, and here shall thy proud waves be stayed,"--even
Science has now herself thrown down this trusted barrier; the flood-gates
of infidelity are open, and Atheism overwhelming is upon us.

§ 30. All and every law follows as a necessary consequence from the
persistence of force and the primary qualities of matter.[20] That this
must be so is evident if we consider that, were it not so, force could not
be permanent nor matter constant. For instance, if action and reaction were
not invariably equal and opposite, force would not be invariably
persistent, seeing that in no case can the formula fail, unless some one or
other of the forces concerned, or parts of them, disappear. And as with a
simple law of this kind, so with every other natural law and
inter-operation of laws, howsoever complex such inter-operation may be; for
it is manifest that if in any case similar antecedents did not determine
similar consequents, on one or other of these occasions some quantum of
force, or of matter, or of both, must have disappeared--or, which is the
same thing, the law of causation cannot have been constant. Every natural
law, therefore, may be defined as the formula of a sequence, which must
either ensue upon certain forces of a given intensity impinging upon
certain given quantities, kinds, and forms of matter, or else, by not
ensuing, prove that the force or the matter concerned were not of a
permanent nature.

§ 31. The argument, then, which was elaborated in § 29, and which has so
long and so generally received the popular sanction in the common-sense
epitome, that in the last record there must be mind in external nature,
since "that which it requires thought and reason to understand must itself
be thought and reason,"--this argument, I say, must now for ever be
abandoned by reasonable men. No doubt it would be easy to point to several
speculative thinkers who have previously combated this argument,[21] and
from this fact some readers will perhaps be inclined to judge, from a false
analogy, that as the argument in question has withstood previous assaults,
it need not necessarily succumb to the present one. Be it observed,
however, that the present assault differs from all previous assaults, just
as demonstration differs from speculation. What has hitherto been but mere
guess and unwarrantable assertion has now become a matter of the greatest
certainty. That the argument from General Laws is a futile argument, is no
longer a matter of unverifiable opinion: it is as sure as is the most
fundamental axiom of science. That the argument will long remain in
illogical minds, I doubt not; but that it is from henceforth quite
inadmissible in accurate thinking, there can be no question. For the sake,
however, of impressing this fact still more strongly upon such readers as
have been accustomed to rely upon this argument, and so find it difficult
thus abruptly to reverse the whole current of their thoughts,--for the sake
of such, I shall here add a few remarks with the view of facilitating the
conception of an universal Order existing independently of Mind.

§ 32. Interpreting the mazy nexus of phenomena only by the facts which
science has revealed, and what conclusion are we driven to accept? Clearly,
looking to what has been said in the last two sections, that from the time
when the process of evolution first began,--from the time before the
condensation of the nebula had showed any signs of commencing,--every
subsequent change or event of evolution was _necessarily bound_ to ensue;
else force and matter have not been persistent. How then, it will be asked,
did the vast nexus of natural laws which is now observable ever begin or
continue to be? In this way. When the first womb of things was pregnant
with all the future, there would probably have been existent at any rate
not more than one of the formulæ which we now call natural laws. This one
law, of course, would have been the law of gravitation. Here we may take
our stand. It does not signify whether there ever was a time when
gravitation was not,--_i.e._, if ever there was a time when matter, _as we
now know it_, was not in existence;--for if there ever was such a time,
there is no reason to doubt, but every reason to conclude, that the
evolution of matter, as we now know it, was accomplished in accordance with
law. Similarly, we are not concerned with the question as to how the law of
gravitation came to be associated with matter; for it is overwhelmingly
probable, from the extent of the analogy, that if our knowledge concerning
molecular physics were sufficiently great, the existence of the law in
question would be found to follow as a necessary deduction from the primary
qualities of matter and force, just as we can now see that, when present,
its peculiar quantitative action necessarily follows from the primary
qualities of space.

Starting, then, with these data,--matter, force, and the law of
gravitation,--what must happen? We have the strongest scientific reason to
believe that the matter of the solar system primordially existed in a
highly diffused or nebulous form. By mutual gravitation, therefore, all the
substance of the nebula must have begun to concentrate upon itself, or to
condense. Now, from this point onwards, I wish it to be clearly understood
that the mere consideration of the supposed facts not admitting of
scientific proof, or of scientific explanation if true, in no wise affects
the certainty of the doctrine which these facts are here adduced to
establish. Fully granting that the alleged facts are not beyond dispute,
and that, even if true, innumerable other unknown and unknowable facts must
have been associated with them--fully admitting, in short, that our ideas
concerning the genesis of the solar system are of the crudest and least
trustworthy character; still, if it be admitted, what at the present day
only ignorance or prejudice can deny, viz., that, as a whole, evolution has
been the method of the universe; then it follows that the doctrine here
contended for is as certainly true as it would be were we fully acquainted
with every cause and every change which has acted and ensued throughout the
whole process of the genesis of things.

Now, bearing this caveat in mind, we have next to observe that when once
the nebula began to condense, new relations among its constituent parts
would, _for this reason_, begin to be established. "Given a rare and widely
diffused mass of nebulous matter,... what are the successive changes that
will take place? Mutual gravitation will approximate its atoms, but their
approximation will be opposed by atomic repulsion, the overcoming of which
implies the evolution of heat." That is to say, the condensation of the
nebula as a whole of necessity implies at least the origination of these
new material and dynamical relations among its constituent parts. "As fast
as this heat partially escapes by radiation, further approximation will
take place, attended by further evolution of heat, and so on continuously:
the processes not occurring separately, as here described, but
simultaneously, uninterruptedly, and with increasing activity." Hence the
newly established relations continuously acquire new increments of
intensity. But now observe a more important point. The previous essential
conditions remaining unaltered--viz., the persistence of matter and force,
as well as, or rather let us say and consequently, the law of
gravitation--these conditions, I say, remaining constant, and the newly
established relations would necessarily _of themselves_ give origin to
_new_ laws. For whenever two given quantities of force and matter met in
one of the novel relations, they would of necessity give rise to novel
effects; and whenever, on any future occasion, similar quantities of force
and matter again so met, precisely similar effects would of necessity
require to occur: but the occurrence of similar effects under similar
conditions is all that we mean by a natural law.

Continuing, then, our quotation from Mr. Herbert Spencer's terse and lucid
exposition of the nebular theory, we find this doctrine virtually embodied
in the next sentences:--"Eventually this slow movement of the atoms towards
their common centre of gravity will bring about phenomena of another order.

"Arguing from the known laws of atomic combination, it will happen that,
when the nebulous mass has reached a particular stage of condensation--when
its internally situated atoms have approached to within certain distances,
have generated a certain amount of heat, and are subject to a certain
mutual pressure (the heat and pressure increasing as the aggregation
progresses), some of them will suddenly enter into chemical union. Whether
the binary atoms so produced be of kinds such as we know, which is
possible, or whether they be of kinds simpler than any we know, which is
more probable, matters not to the argument. It suffices that molecular
combinations of some species will finally take place." We have, then, here
a new and important change of relations. Matter, primordially uniform, has
itself become heterogeneous; and in as many places as it has thus changed
its state, it must, in virtue of the fact, give rise to other hitherto
novel relations, and so, in many cases, to new laws.[22]

It would be tedious and unnecessary to trace this genesis of natural law
any further: indeed, it would be quite impossible so to trace it for any
considerable distance without feeling that the ever-multiplying mazes of
relations renders all speculation as to the actual processes quite useless.
This fact, however, as before insisted, in no wise affects the only
doctrine which I here enunciate--viz., that the self-generation of natural
law is a necessary corollary from the persistence of matter and force. And
that this must be so is now, I hope, sufficiently evident. Just as in the
first dawn of things, when the proto-binary compounds of matter gave rise
to new relations together with their appropriate laws, so throughout the
whole process of evolution, as often as matter acquired a hitherto novel
state, or in one of its old states entered into hitherto novel relations,
so often would non-existent or even impossible laws become at once possible
and necessary. And in this way I cannot see that there is any reason to
stop until we arrive at all the marvellous complexity of things as they
are. For aught that speculative reason can ever from henceforth show to the
contrary, the evolution of all the diverse phenomena of inorganic nature,
of life, and of mind, appears to be as necessary and as self-determined as
is the being of that mysterious Something which is Everything,--the Entity
we must all believe in, which without condition and beyond relation holds
its existence in itself.

§ 33. Does it still seem incredible that, notwithstanding it requires
mental processes to interpret external nature, external nature may
nevertheless be destitute of mind? Then let us look at the subject on its
obverse aspect.

According to the theory of evolution--which, be it always remembered, is no
mere gratuitous supposition, but a genuine scientific theory--human
intelligence, like everything else, has been evolved. Now in what does the
evolution of intelligence consist? Any one acquainted with the writings of
our great philosopher can have no hesitation in answering: Clearly and only
in the establishment of more and more numerous and complex internal or
psychological relations. In other words, the law of intelligence being
"that the strengths of the inner cohesions between psychical states must be
proportionate to the persistences of the outer relations symbolised," it
follows that the development of intelligence is "secured by the one simple
principle that experience of the outer relations _produces_ inner
cohesions, and makes the inner cohesions strong in proportion as the outer
relations are persistent." Now the question before us at present is merely
this:--Must we not infer that these outer relations are regulated by mind,
seeing that order is undoubtedly apparent among them, and that it requires
mental processes on our part to interpret this order? The only legitimate
answer to this question is, that these outer relations _may_ be regulated
by mind, but that, in view of the evolution theory, we are certainly not
entitled to infer that they _are_ so regulated, _merely_ because it
requires mental processes on our part to interpret their orderly character.
For if it is true that the human mind was itself evolved by these outer
relations--ever continuously moulded into conformity with them as the prime
condition of its existence--then its process of interpreting them is but
reflecting (as it were) in consciousness these outer relations by which the
inner ones were originally produced. Granting that, as a matter of fact, an
objective macrocosm exists, and if we can prove or render probable that
this objective macrocosm is _of itself_ sufficient to evolve a subjective
microcosm, I do not see any the faintest reason for the latter to conclude
that a self-conscious intelligence is inherent in the former, merely
because it is able to trace in the macrocosm some of those orderly
objective relations by which its own corresponding subjective relations
were originally produced. If it is said that it is impossible to conceive
how, apart from mind, the orderly objective relations themselves can ever
have originated, I reply that this is merely to shift the ground of
discussion to that which occupied us in the last section: all we are now
engaged upon is,--Granting that the existence of such orderly relations is
actual, whether with or without mind to account for them; and granting also
that these relations are _of themselves_ sufficient to produce
corresponding subjective relations; then the mere fact of our conscious
intelligence being able to discover numerous and complex outer relations
answering to those which they themselves have caused in our intelligence,
does not warrant the latter in concluding that the causal connection
between intelligence and non-intelligence has ever been reversed--that
these outer relations in turn are caused by a similar conscious
intelligence. How such a thing as a conscious intelligence is possible is
another and wholly unanswerable question (though not more so than that as
to the existence of force and matter, and would not be rendered less so by
merging the fact in a hypothetical Deity); but granting, as we must, that
such an entity does exist, and supposing it to have been evolved by natural
causes, then it would appear incontestably to follow, that whether or not
objective existence is presided over by objective mind, our subjective mind
would _alike_ and _equally_ require to read in the facts of the external
world an indication, whether true or false, of some such presiding agency.
The subjective mind being, by the supposition, but the obverse aspect of
the sum total of such among objective relations as have had a share in its
production, when, as in observation and reflection, this obverse aspect is
again inverted upon its die, it naturally fits more or less exactly into
all the prints.

§ 34. This last illustration, however, serves to introduce us to another
point. The supposed evidence from which the existence of mind in nature is
inferred does not always depend upon such minute correspondences between
subjective method and objective method as the illustration suggests. Every
natural theologian has experienced more or less difficulty in explaining
the fact, that while there is a tolerably general similarity between the
contrivances due to human thought and the apparent contrivances in nature
which he regards as due to divine thought, the similarity is nevertheless
_only_ general. For instance, if a man has occasion to devise any
artificial appliance, he does so with the least possible cost of labour to
himself, and with the least possible expenditure of material. Yet it is
obvious that in nature as a whole no such economic considerations obtain.
Doubtless by superficial minds this assertion will be met at first with an
indignant denial: they have been accustomed to accumulate instances of this
very principle of economy in nature; perhaps written about it in books, and
illustrated it in lectures,--totally ignoring the fact that the instances
of economy in nature bear no proportion at all to the instances of
prodigality. Conceive of the force which is being quite uselessly expended
by all the wind-currents which are at this moment blowing over the face of
Europe. Imagine the energy that must have been dissipated during the
secular cooling of this single planet. Feebly try to think of what the sun
is radiating into space. If it is retorted that we are incompetent to judge
of the purposes of the Almighty, I reply that this is but to abandon the
argument from economy whenever it is found untenable: we presume to be
competent judges of almighty purposes so long as they appear to imitate our
own; but so soon as there is any divergence observable, we change front. By
thus selecting all the instances of economy in nature, and disregarding all
the vastly greater instances of reckless waste, we are merely laying
ourselves open to the charge of an unfair eclecticism. And this formal
refutation of the argument from economy admits of being further justified
in a strikingly substantial manner; for if all the examples of economy in
nature that were ever observed, or admit being observed, were collected
into one view, I undertake to affirm that, without exception, they would be
found to marshal themselves in one great company--the subjects whose law is
_survival of the fittest_. One question only will I here ask. Is it
possible at the present day for any degree of prejudice, after due
consideration, to withstand the fact that the solitary exceptions to the
universal prodigality so painfully conspicuous in nature are to be found
where there is also to be found a full and adequate physical explanation of
their occurrence?

But, again, prodigality is only one of several particulars wherein the
modes and the means of the supposed divine intelligence differ from those
of its human counterpart. Comparative anatomists can point to organic
structures which are far from being theoretically perfect: even the mind of
man in these cases, notwithstanding its confessed deficiencies in respect
both of cognitive and cogitative powers, is competent to suggest
improvements to an intelligence supposed to be omniscient and all-wise! And
what shall we say of the numerous cases in which the supposed purposes of
this intelligence could have been attained by other and less roundabout
means? In short, not needlessly to prolong discussion, it is admitted, even
by natural theologians themselves, that the difficulties of reconciling,
even approximately, the supposed processes of divine thought with the known
processes of human thought are quite insuperable. The fact is expressed by
such writers in various ways,--_e.g._, that it would be presumptuous in man
to expect complete conformity in all cases; that the counsels of God are
past finding out; that his ways are not as our ways, and so on. Observing
only, as before, that in thus ignoring adverse cases natural theologians
are guilty of an unfair eclecticism, it is evident that all such
expressions concede the fact, that even in those provinces of nature where
the evidence of superhuman intelligence appears most plain, the resemblance
of its apparent products to those of human intelligence consists in a
general approximation of method rather than in any precise similarity of
particulars: the likeness is generic rather than specific.

Now this is exactly what we should expect to be the case, if the similarity
in question be due to the cause which the present section endeavours to set
forth. If all natural laws are self-evolved, and if human intelligence is
but a subjective photograph of certain among their interrelations, it seems
but natural that when this photograph compares itself with the whole
external world from parts of which it was taken, its subjective lights and
shadows should be found to correspond with some of the objective lights and
shadows much more perfectly than with others. Still there would doubtless
be sufficient general conformity to lead the thinking photograph to
conclude that the great world of objective reality, instead of being the
_cause_ of such conformity as exists, was itself the _effect_ of some
common cause,--that it too was of the nature of a picture. Dropping the
figure, if it is true that human intelligence has been evolved by natural
law, then in view of all that has been said it must now, I think, be
tolerably apparent, _that as by the hypothesis human intelligence has
always been required to think and to act in conformity with law, human
intelligence must at last be in danger of confusing or identifying the fact
of action in conformity with law with the existence and the action of a
self-conscious intelligence. Reading then in external nature innumerable
examples of action in conformity with law, human intelligence falls back
upon the unwarrantable identification, and out of the bare fact that law
exists in nature concludes that beyond nature there is an Intelligent

§ 35. From what has been said in the last five sections, it manifestly
follows that all the varied phenomena of the universe not only may, but
must, depend upon the persistence of force and the primary qualities of
matter.[23] Be it remembered that the object of the last three sections was
merely to "_facilitate conception_" of the fact that it does not at all
follow, because the phenomena of external nature admit of being
intelligently inquired into, therefore they are due to an intelligent
cause. The last three sections are hence in a manner parenthetical, and it
is of comparatively little importance whether or not they have been
successful in their object; for, from what went before, it is abundantly
manifest that, whether or not the subjective side of the question admits of
satisfactory elucidation, there can be no doubt that the objective side of
it is as certain as are the fundamental axioms of science. It does not
admit of one moment's questioning that it is as certainly true that all the
exquisite beauty and melodious harmony of nature follow as necessarily and
as inevitably from the persistence of force and the primary qualities of
matter, as it is certainly true that force is persistent, or that matter is
extended and impenetrable. No doubt this generalisation is too vast to be
adequately conceived, but there can be equally little doubt that it is
necessarily true. If matter and force have been eternal, so far as human
mind can soar it can discover no need of a superior mind to explain the
varied phenomena of existence. Man has truly become in a new sense the
measure of the universe, and in this the latest and most appalling of his
soundings, indications are returned from the infinite voids of space and
time by which he is surrounded, that his intelligence, with all its noble
capacities for love and adoration, is yet alone--destitute of kith or kin
in all this universe of being.

       *       *       *       *       *



§ 36. But the discussion must not end here. Inexorable logic has forced us
to conclude that, viewing the question as to the existence of a God only by
the light which modern science has shed upon it, there no longer appears to
be any semblance of an argument in its favour. Let us then turn upon
science herself, and question her right to be our sole guide in this
matter. Undoubtedly we have no alternative but to conclude that the
hypothesis of mind in nature is now logically proved to be as certainly
superfluous is the very basis of all science is certainly true. There can
no longer be any more doubt that the existence of a God is wholly
unnecessary to explain any of the phenomena of the universe, than there is
doubt that if I leave go of my pen it will fall upon the table. Nay, the
doubt is even less than this, because while the knowledge that my pen will
fall if I allow it to do so is founded chiefly upon empirical knowledge (I
could not predict with _à priori_ certainty that it would so fall, for the
pen might be in an electrical state, or subject to some set of unknown
natural laws antagonistic to gravity), the knowledge that a Deity is
superfluous as an explanation of anything, being grounded on the doctrine
of the persistence of force, is grounded on an _à priori_ necessity of
reason--_i.e._, if this fact were not so, our science, our thought, our
very existence itself, would be scientifically impossible.

But now, having thus stated the case as strongly as I am able, it remains
to question how far the authority of science extends. Even our knowledge of
the persistence of force and of the primary qualities of matter is but of
relative significance. Deeper than the foundations of our experience,
"deeper than demonstration--deeper even than definite cognition,--deep as
the very nature of mind,"[24] are these the most ultimate of known truths;
but where from this is our warrant for concluding with certainty that these
known truths are everywhere and eternally true? It will be said that there
is a strong analogical probability. Perhaps so, but of this next: I am not
now speaking of probability; I am speaking of certainty; and unless we deny
the doctrine of the relativity of knowledge, we cannot but conclude that
there is no absolute certainty in this case. As I deem this consideration
one of great importance, I shall proceed to develop it at some length. It
will be observed, then, that the consideration really amounts to
this:--Although it must on all hands be admitted that the fact of the
theistic hypothesis not being required to explain any of the phenomena of
nature is a fact which has been demonstrated _scientifically_, nevertheless
it must likewise on all hands be admitted that this fact has not, and
cannot be, demonstrated _logically_. Or thus, although it is unquestionably
true that so far as science can penetrate she cannot discern any
speculative necessity for a God, it may nevertheless be true that if
science could penetrate further she might discern some such necessity. Now
the present discussion would clearly be incomplete if it neglected to
define as carefully this the logical standing of our subject, as it has
hitherto endeavoured to define its scientific standing. As a final step in
our analysis, therefore, we must altogether quit the region of experience,
and, ignoring even the very foundations of science and so all the most
certain of relative truths, pass into the transcendental region of purely
formal considerations. In this region theist and atheist must alike consent
to forego all their individual predilections, and, after regarding the
subject as it were in the abstract and by the light of pure logic alone,
finally come to an agreement as to the transcendental probability of the
question before them. Disregarding the actual probability which they
severally feel to exist in relation to their own individual intelligences,
they must apply themselves to ascertain the probability which exists in
relation to those fundamental laws of thought which preside over the
intelligence of our race. In fine, it will now, I hope, be understood that,
as we have hitherto been endeavouring to determine, by deductions drawn
from the very foundations of all possible science, the _relative_
probability as to the existence of a God, so we shall next apply ourselves
to the task of ascertaining the _absolute_ probability of such
existence--or, more correctly, what is the strictly _formal_ probability of
such existence when its possibility is contemplated in an absolute sense.

§ 37. To begin then. In the last resort, the value of every probability is
fixed by "ratiocination." In endeavouring, therefore, to fix the degree of
strictly formal probability that is present in any given case, our method
of procedure should be, first to ascertain the ultimate ratios on which the
probability depends, and then to estimate the comparative value of these
ratios. Now I think there can be no doubt that the value of any probability
in this its last analysis is determined by the number, the importance, and
the definiteness of the relations known, as compared with those of the
relations unknown; and, consequently, that in all cases where the sum of
the unknown relations is larger, or more important, or more indefinite than
is the sum of the known relations, it is an essential principle that the
value of the probability decreases in exact proportion to the decrease in
the similarity between the two sets of relations, whether this decrease
consists in the number, in the importance, or in the definiteness of the
relations involved. This rule or canon is self-evident as soon as pointed
out, and has been formulated by Professor Bain in his "Logic" when treating
of Analogy, but not with sufficient precision; for, while recognising the
elements of number and importance, he has overlooked that of definiteness.
This element, however, is a very essential one--indeed the most essential
of the three; for there are many analogical inferences in which either the
character or the extent of the unknown relations is quite indefinite; and
it is obvious that, whenever this is the case, the value of the analogy is
proportionably diminished, and diminished in a much more material
particular than it is when the diminution of value arises from a mere
excess of the unknown relations over the known ones in respect of their
number or of their importance. For it is evident that, in the latter case,
however little value the analogy may possess, the exact degree of such
value admits of being _determined_; while it is no less evident that, in
the former case, we are precluded from estimating the value of the analogy
at all, and this just in proportion to the indefiniteness of the unknown

§ 38. Now the particular instance with which we are concerned is somewhat
peculiar. Notwithstanding we have the entire sphere of human experience
from which to argue, we are still unable to gauge the strictly logical
probability of any argument whatsoever; for the unknown relations in this
case are so wholly indefinite, both as to their character and extent, that
any attempt to institute a definite comparison between them and the known
relations is felt at once to be absurd. The question discussed, being the
most ultimate of all possible questions, must eventually contain in itself
all that is to man unknown and unknowable; the whole orbit of human
knowledge is here insufficient to obtain a parallax whereby to institute
the required measurements.

§ 39. I think it is desirable to insist upon this truth at somewhat greater
length, and, for the sake of impressing it still more deeply, I shall
present it in another form. No one can for a single moment deny that,
beyond and around the sphere of the Knowable, there exists the unfathomable
abyss of the Unknowable. I do not here use this latter word as embodying
any theory: I merely wish it to state the undoubted fact, which all must
admit, viz., that beneath all our possible explanations there lies a great
Inexplicable. Now let us see what is the effect of making this necessary
admission. In the first place, it clearly follows that, while our
conceptions as to what the Unknowable contains may or may not represent the
truth, it is certain that we can never discover whether or not they do.
Further, it is impossible for us to determine even a definite _probability_
as to the existence (much less the nature) of anything which we may suppose
the Unknowable to contain. We may, of course, perceive that such and such a
supposition is more _conceivable_ than such and such; but, as already
indicated, the fact does not show that the one is in itself more definitely
_probable_ than the other, unless it has been previously shown, either that
the capacity of our conceptions is a _fully adequate measure_ of the
Possible, or that the proportion between such capacity and the extent of
the Possible is a proportion that can be _determined_. In either of these
cases, the Conceivable would be a fair measure of the Possible: in the
former case, an exact equivalent (_e.g._, in any instance of contradictory
propositions, the most conceivable would _certainly_ be true); in the
latter case, a measure any degree less than an exact equivalent--the degree
depending upon the _then_ ascertainable disparity between the extent of the
Possible and the extent of the Conceivable. Now the Unknowable (including
of course the Inconceivable Existent) is a species of the Possible, and in
its name carries the declaration that the disparity between its extent and
the extent of the Conceivable (_i.e._, the other species of the Possible)
is a disparity that cannot be determined. We are hence driven to the
conclusion that the most apparently probable of all propositions, if
predicated of anything within the Unknowable, may not in reality be a whit
more so than is the most apparently improbable proposition which it is
possible to make; for if it is admitted (as of course it must be) that we
are necessarily precluded from comparing the extent of the Conceivable with
that of the Unknowable, then it necessarily follows that in no case
whatever are we competent to judge how far an _apparent_ probability
relating to the latter province is an _actual_ probability. In other words,
did we know the proportion subsisting between the Conceivable and the
Unknowable in respect of relative extent and character, and so of inherent
probabilities, we should then be able to estimate the actual value of any
apparent probability relating to the latter province; but, as it is, our
ability to make this estimate varies inversely as our inability to estimate
our ignorance in this particular. And as our ignorance in this particular
is total--_i.e._, since we cannot even approximately determine the
proportion that subsists between the Conceivable and the Unknowable,--the
result is that our ability to make the required estimate in any given case
is absolutely _nil_.

§ 40. I have purposely rendered this presentation in terms of the highest
abstraction, partly to avoid the possibility of any one, whatever his
theory of things may be, finding anything at which to object, and partly in
order that my meaning may be understood to include all things which are
beyond the range of possible knowledge. Most of all, therefore, must this
presentation (if it contains anything of truth) apply to the question
regarding the existence of Deity; for the _Ens Realissimum_ must of all
things be furthest removed from the range of possible knowledge. Hence, if
this presentation contains anything of truth--and of its rigidly accurate
truth I think there can be no question--the assertion that the
Self-existing Substance is a Personal and Intelligent Being, and the
assertion that this Substance is an Impersonal and Non-Intelligent Being,
are alike assertions wholly destitute of any assignable degree of logical
probability, I say _assignable_ degree of logical probability, because that
_some_ degree of such probability may exist I do not undertake to deny. All
I assert is, that if we are here able to institute any such probability at
all, we are unable logically to assign to it any determinate degree of
value. Or, in other words, although we may establish some probability in a
sense relative to ourselves, we are unable to know how far this probability
is a probability in an absolute sense. Or again, the case is not as though
we were altogether unacquainted with the Possible. Experience undoubtedly
affords us some information regarding this, although, comparatively
speaking, we are unable to know how much. Consequently, we must suppose
that, in any given case, it is more likely that the Conceivable should be
Possible than that the Inconceivable should be so, and that the Conceivably
Probable should exist than that the Conceivably Improbable should do so: in
neither case, however, can we know _what degree_ of such likelihood is

§ 41. From the foregoing considerations, then, it would appear that the
only attitude which in strict logic it is admissible to adopt towards the
question concerning the being of a God is that of "suspended judgment."
Formally speaking, it is alike illegitimate to affirm or to deny
Intelligence as an attribute of the Ultimate. And here I would desire it to
be observed, that this is the attitude which the majority of
scientifically-trained philosophers actually have adopted with regard to
this matter. I am not aware, however, that any one has yet endeavoured to
formulate the justification of this attitude; and as I think there can be
no doubt that the above presentation contains in a logical shape the whole
of such justification, I cannot but think that some important ends will
have been secured by it. For we are here in possession, not merely of a
vague and general impression that the Ultimate is super-scientific, and so
beyond the range of legitimate prediction; but we are also in possession of
a logical formula whereby at once to vindicate the rationality of our
opinion, and to measure the precise degree of its technical value.

       *       *       *       *       *



§ 42. Let us now proceed to examine the effect of the formal considerations
which have been adduced in the last chapter on the scientific
considerations which were dealt with in the previous chapters. In these
previous chapters the proposition was clearly established that, just as
certainly as the fundamental data of science are true, so certainly is it
true that the theory of Theism in any shape is, scientifically considered,
superfluous; for these chapters have clearly shown that, if there is a God,
his existence, considered as a cause of things, is as certainly unnecessary
as it is certainly true that force is persistent and that matter is
indestructible. But after this proposition had been carefully justified, it
remained to show that the doctrine of the relativity of knowledge compelled
us to carry our discussion into a region of yet higher abstraction. For
although we observed that the essential qualities of matter and of force
are the most ultimate data of human knowledge, and although, by showing how
far the question of Theism depended on these data, we carried the
discussion of that question to the utmost possible limits of scientific
thought, it still devolved on us to contemplate the fact that even these
the most ultimate data of science are only known to be of relative
significance. And the bearing of this fact to the question of Theism was
seen to be most important. For, without waiting to recapitulate the
substance of a chapter so recently concluded, it will be remembered that
its effect was to establish this position beyond all controversy--viz.,
that when ideas which have been formed by our experience within the region
of phenomenal actuality are projected into the region of ontological
possibility, they become utterly worthless; seeing that we can never have
any means whereby to test the actual value of whatever transcendental
probabilities they may appear to establish. Therefore it is that even the
most ultimate of relative truths with which, as we have seen, the question
of Theism is so vitally associated, is almost without meaning when
contemplated in an absolute sense. What, then, is the effect of these
metaphysical considerations on the position of Theism as we have seen it to
be left by the highest generalisations of physical science? Let us
contemplate this question with the care which it deserves.

In the first place, it is evident that the effect of these purely formal
considerations is to render all reasonings on the subject of Theism equally
illegitimate, unless it is constantly borne in mind that such reasonings
can only be of relative signification. Thus, as a matter of pure logic,
these considerations are destructive of all assignable validity of any such
reasoning whatsoever. Still, even a strictly relative probability is, in
some undefinable degree, of more value than no probability at all, as we
have seen these same formal considerations to show (see § 40); and,
moreover, even were this not so, the human mind will never rest until it
attains to the furthest probability which to its powers is accessible.
Therefore, if we do not forget the merely relative nature of the
considerations which are about to be adduced, by adducing them we may at
the same time satisfy our own minds and abstain from violating the
conditions of sound logic.

The shape, then, to which the subject has now been reduced is simply
this:--Seeing that the theory of Evolution in its largest sense has shown
the theory of Theism to be superfluous in a scientific sense, does it not
follow that the theory of Theism is thus shown to be superfluous in any
sense? For it would seem from the discussion, so far as it has hitherto
gone, that the only rational basis on which the theory of Theism can rest
is a basis of teleology; and if, as has been clearly shown, the theory of
evolution, by deducing the genesis of natural law from the primary data of
science, irrevocably destroys this basis, does it not follow that the
theory of evolution has likewise destroyed the theory which rested on that
basis? Now I conclude, as stated at the close of Chapter IV., that the
question here put must certainly be answered in the affirmative, so far as
its scientific aspect is concerned. But when we consider the question in
its purely logical aspect, as we have done in Chapter V., the case is
otherwise. For although, so far as the utmost reach of scientific vision
enables us to see, we can discern no evidence of Deity, it does not
therefore follow that beyond the range of such vision Deity does not exist.
Science indeed has proved that if there is a Divine Mind in nature, and if
by the hypothesis such a Mind exerts any causative influence on the
phenomena of nature, such influence is exerted beyond the sphere of
experience. And this achievement of science, be it never forgotten, is an
achievement of prodigious importance, effectually destroying, as it does,
all vestiges of a scientific teleology. But be it now carefully observed,
although all vestiges of a _scientific_ teleology are thus completely and
permanently ruined, the formal considerations adduced in the last chapter
supply the conditions for constructing what may be termed a _metaphysical_
teleology. I use these terms advisedly, because I think they will serve to
bring out with great clearness the condition to which our analysis of the
teleological argument has now been reduced.

§ 43. In the first place, let it be understood that I employ the terms
"scientific" and "metaphysical" in the convenient sense in which they are
employed by Mr. Lewes, viz., as respectively designating a theory that is
verifiable and a theory that is not. Consequently, by the term "scientific
teleology" I mean to denote a form of teleology which admits either of
being proved or disproved, while by the term "metaphysical teleology" I
mean to denote a form of teleology which does not admit either of being
proved or of being disproved. Now, with these significations clearly
understood, it will be seen that the forms of teleology which we have
hitherto considered belong entirely to the scientific class. That the
Paleyerian form of the argument did so is manifest, first because this
argument itself treats the problem of Theism as a problem that is
susceptible of scientific demonstration, and next because we have seen that
the advance of science has proved this argument susceptible of scientific
refutation. In other words, from the supposed axiom, "There cannot be
apparent design without a designer," adaptations in nature become logically
available as purely scientific evidence of an intelligent cause; and that
Paley himself regarded them exclusively in this light is manifest, both
from his own "statement of the argument," and from the character of the
evidence by which he seeks to establish the argument when stated--witness
the typical passage before quoted (§ 26). On the other hand, we have
clearly seen that this Paleyerian system of natural theology has been
effectually demolished by the scientific theory of natural selection--the
fundamental axiom of the former having been shown by the latter to be
scientifically untrue. Hence the term "scientific teleology" is without
question applicable to the Paleyerian system.

Nor is the case essentially different with the more refined form of the
teleological argument which we have had to consider--the argument, namely,
from General Laws. For here, likewise, we have clearly seen that the
inference from the ubiquitous operation of General Laws to the existence of
an omniscient Law-maker is quite as illegitimate as is the inference from
apparent Design to the existence of a Supreme Designer. In other words,
science, by establishing the doctrine of the persistence of force and the
indestructibility of matter, has effectually disproved the hypothesis that
the presence of Law in nature is of itself sufficient to prove the
existence of an intelligent Law-giver.

Thus it is that scientific teleology in any form is now and for ever
obsolete. But not so with what I have termed metaphysical teleology. For as
we have seen that the doctrine of the relativity of knowledge precludes us
from asserting, or even from inferring, that beyond the region of the
Knowable Mind does not exist, it remains logically possible to institute a
metaphysical hypothesis that beyond this region of the Knowable Mind does
exist. There being a necessary absence of any positive information whereby
to refute this metaphysical hypothesis, any one who chooses to adopt it is
fully justified in doing so, provided only he remembers that the purely
metaphysical quality whereby the hypothesis is ensured against disproof,
likewise, and in the same degree, precludes it from the possibility of
proof. He must remember that it is no longer open to him to point to any
particular set of general laws and to assert, these proclaim Intelligence
as their cause; for we have repeatedly seen that the known states of matter
and force themselves afford sufficient explanation of the facts to which he
points. And he must remember that the only reason why his hypothesis does
not conflict with any of the truths known to science, is because he has
been careful to rest that hypothesis upon a basis of purely formal
considerations, which lie beyond even the most fundamental truths of which
science is cognisant.

Thus, for example, he may present his metaphysical theory of Theism in some
such terms as these:--'Fully conceding what reason shows must be conceded,
and there still remains this possible supposition--viz., that there is a
presiding Mind in nature, which exerts its causative influence beyond the
sphere of experience, thus rendering it impossible for us to obtain
scientific evidence of its action. For such a Mind, exerting such an
influence beyond experience, may direct affairs within experience by
methods conceivable or inconceivable to us--producing, possibly,
innumerable and highly varied results, which in turn may produce their
effects within experience, their introduction being then, of course, in the
ordinary way of natural law. For instance, there can be no question that by
the intelligent creation or dissipation of energy, all the phenomena of
cosmic evolution might have been directed, and, for aught that science can
show to the contrary, thus only rendered possible. Hence there is at least
one nameable way in which, even in accordance with observed facts, a
Supreme Mind could be competent to direct the phenomena of observable
nature. But we are not necessarily restricted to the limits of the nameable
in this matter, so that it is of no argumentative importance whether or not
this suggested method is the method which the supposed Mind actually
adopts, seeing that there may still be other possible methods, which,
nevertheless, we are unable to suggest.'

Doubtless the hypothesis of Theism, as thus presented, will be deemed by
many persons but of very slender probability. I am not, however, concerned
with whatever character of probability it may be supposed to exhibit. I am
merely engaged in carefully presenting the only hypothesis which can be
presented, if the theory as to an Intelligent Author of nature is any
longer to be maintained on grounds of a rational teleology. No doubt,
scientifically considered, the hypothesis in question is purely gratuitous;
for, so far as the light of science can penetrate, there is no need of any
such hypothesis at all. Thus it may well seem, at first sight, that no
hypothesis could well have less to recommend it; and, so far as the
presentation has yet gone, it is therefore fully legitimate for an atheist
to reply:--'All that this so-called metaphysical theory amounts to is a
wholly gratuitous assumption. No doubt it is always difficult, and usually
impossible, logically or unequivocally to prove a negative. If my adversary
chose to imagine that nature is presided over by a demon with horns and
hoofs, or by a dragon with claws and tail, I should be as unable to
disprove this his supposed theory as I am now unable to disprove his actual
theory. But in all cases reasonable men ought to be guided in their beliefs
by such positive evidence as is available; and if, as in the present case,
the alternative belief is wholly gratuitous--adopted not only without any
evidence, but against all that great body of evidence which the sum-total
of science supplies--surely we ought not to hesitate for one moment in the
choice of our creed?'

Now all this is quite sound in principle, provided only that the
metaphysical theory of Theism _is_ wholly gratuitous, in the sense of being
utterly destitute of evidential support. That it is destitute of all
_scientific_ support, we have already and repeatedly seen; but the question
remains as to whether it is similarly destitute of _metaphysical_ support.

§ 44. To this question, then, let us next address ourselves. From the
theistic pleading which we have just heard, it is abundantly manifest that
the formal conditions of a metaphysical teleology are present: the question
now before us is as to whether or not any actual evidence exists in favour
of such a theory. In order to discuss this question, let us begin by
allowing the theist to continue his pleading. 'You have shown me,' he may
say, 'that a scientific or demonstrable system of teleology is no longer
possible, and, therefore, as I have already conceded, I must take my stand
on a metaphysical or non-demonstrable system. But I reflect that the latter
term is a loose one, seeing that it embraces all possible degrees of
evidence short of actual proof. The question, therefore, I conceive to be,
What amount of evidence is there in favour of this metaphysical system of
teleology? And this question I answer by the following considerations:--As
general laws separately have all been shown to be the necessary outcome of
the primary data of science, it certainly follows that general laws
collectively must be the same--_i.e._, that the whole system of general
laws must be, so far as the lights of our science can penetrate, the
necessary outcome of the persistence of force and the indestructibility of
matter. But you have also dearly shown me that these lights are of the
feeblest conceivable character when they are brought to illuminate the
final mystery of things. I therefore feel at liberty to assert, that if
there is any one principle to be observed in the collective operation of
general laws which cannot conceivably be explained by any cause other than
that of intelligent guidance, I am still free to fall back on such a
principle and to maintain--Although the collective operation of general
laws follows as a necessary consequence from the primary data of science,
this one principle which pervades their united action, and which cannot be
conceivably explained by any hypothesis other than that of intelligent
guidance, is a principle which still remains to be accounted for; and as it
cannot conceivably be accounted for on grounds of physical science, I may
legitimately account for it on grounds of metaphysical teleology. Now I
cannot open my eyes without perceiving such a principle everywhere
characterising the collective operation of general laws. Universally I
behold in nature, order, beauty, harmony,--that is, a perfect _correlation_
among general laws. But this ubiquitous correlation among general laws,
considered as the cause of cosmic harmony, itself requires some explanatory
cause such as the persistence of force and the indestructibility of matter
cannot conceivably be made to supply. For unless we postulate some one
integrating cause, the greater the number of general laws in nature, the
less likelihood is there of such laws being so correlated as to produce
harmony by their combined action. And forasmuch as the only cause that I am
able to imagine as competent to produce such effects is that of intelligent
guidance, I accept the metaphysical hypothesis that beyond the sphere of
the Knowable there exists an Unknown God.[25]

'If it is retorted that the above argument involves an absurd
contradiction, in that while it sets out with an explicit avowal of the
fact that the collective operation of general laws follows as a necessary
consequence from the primary data of physical science, it nevertheless
afterwards proceeds to explain an effect of such collective operation by a
metaphysical hypothesis; I answer that it was expressly for the purpose of
eliciting this retort that I threw my argument into the above form. For the
position which I wish to establish is this, that fully accepting the
logical cogency of the reasoning whereby the action of every law is deduced
from the primary data of science, I wish to show that when this train of
reasoning is followed to its ultimate term, it leads us into the presence
of a fact for which it is inadequate to account. If, then, my contention be
granted--viz., that to human faculties it is not conceivable how, in the
absence of a directing intelligence, general laws could be so correlated as
to produce universal harmony--then I have brought the matter to this
issue:--Notwithstanding the scientific train of argument being complete in
itself, it still leaves us in the presence of a fact which it cannot
conceivably explain; and it is this unexplained residuum--this total
product of the operation of general laws--that I appeal to as the logical
justification for a system of metaphysical teleology--a system which offers
the only conceivable explanation of this stupendous fact.

'And here I may further observe, that the scientific train of reasoning is
of the kind which embodies what Mr. Herbert Spencer calls "symbolic
conceptions of the illegitimate order."[26] That is to say, we can see how
such simple laws as that action and reaction are equal and opposite may
have been self-evolved, and from this fact we go on generalising and
generalising, until we land ourselves in wholly symbolic and--a paradox is
here legitimate--inconceivable conceptions. Now the farther we travel into
this region of unrealisable ideas, the less trustworthy is the report that
we are able to bring back. The method is in a sense scientific; but when
even scientific method is projected into a region of really
super-scientific possibility, it ceases to have that character of undoubted
certainty which it enjoys when dealing with verifiable subjects of inquiry.
The demonstrations are formal, but they are not real.

'Therefore, looking to this necessarily suspicious character of the
scientific train of reasoning, and then observing that, even if accepted,
it leaves the fact of cosmic harmony unexplained, I maintain, that whatever
probability the phenomena of nature may in former times have been thought
to establish in favour of the theory as to an intelligent Author of nature,
that probability has been in no wise annihilated--nor apparently can it
ever be annihilated--by the advance of science. And not only so, but I
question whether this probability has been even seriously impaired by such
advance, seeing that although this advance has revealed a speculative
_raison d'être_ of the mechanical precision of nature, it has at the same
time shown the baffling complexity of nature; and therefore, in view of
what has just been said, leaves the balance of probability concerning the
existence of a God very much where it always was. For stay awhile to
contemplate this astounding complexity of harmonious nature! Think of how
much we already know of its innumerable laws and processes, and then think
that this knowledge only serves to reveal, in a glimmering way, the huge
immensity of the unknown. Try to picture the meshwork of contending rhythms
which must have been before organic nature was built up, and then let us
ask, Is it conceivable, is it credible, that all this can have been the
work of blind fate? Must we not feel that had there not been intelligent
agency at work somewhere, other and less terrifically intricate results
would have ensued? And if we further try to symbolise in thought the
unimaginable complexity of the material and dynamical changes in virtue of
which that thought itself exists,--if we then extend our symbols to
represent all the history of all the orderly changes which must have taken
place to evolve human intelligence into what it is,--and if we still
further extend our symbols to try if it be possible, even in the language
of symbols, to express the number and the subtlety of those natural laws
which now preside over the human will;--in the face of so vast an
assumption as that all this has been self-evolved, I am content still to
rest in the faith of my forefathers.'

§ 45. Now I think it must be admitted that we have here a valid argument.
That is to say, the considerations which we have just adduced must, I
think, in fairness be allowed to have established this position:--That the
system of metaphysical teleology for which we have supposed a candid theist
to plead, is something more than a purely gratuitous system--that it does
not belong to the same category of baseless imaginings as that to which the
atheist at first sight, and in view of the scientific deductions alone,
might be inclined to assign it. For we have seen that our supposed theist,
while fully admitting the formal cogency of the scientific train of
reasoning, is nevertheless able to point to a fact which, in his opinion,
lies without that train of reasoning. For he declares that it is beyond his
powers of conception to regard the complex harmony of nature otherwise than
as a product of some one integrating cause; and that the only cause of
which he is able to conceive as adequate to produce such an effect is that
of a conscious Intelligence. Pointing, therefore, to this complex harmony
of nature as to a fact which cannot to his mind be conceivably explained by
any deductions from physical science, he feels that he is justified in
explaining this fact by the aid of a metaphysical hypothesis. And in so
doing he is in my opinion perfectly justified, at any rate to this
extent--that his antagonist cannot fairly dispose of this metaphysical
hypothesis as a purely gratuitous hypothesis. How far it is a probable
hypothesis is another question, and to this question we shall now address

§ 46. If it is true that the deductions from physical science cannot be
conceived to explain some among the observed facts of nature, and if it is
true that these particular facts admit of being conceivably explained by
the metaphysical hypothesis in question, then, beyond all controversy, this
metaphysical hypothesis must be provisionally accepted. Let us then
carefully examine the premises which are thus adduced to justify acceptance
of this hypothesis as their conclusion.

In the first place, it is not--cannot--be denied, even by a theist, that
the deductions from physical science _do_ embrace the fact of cosmic
harmony in their explanation, seeing that, as they explain the operation of
general laws collectively, they must be regarded as also explaining every
effect of such operation. And this, as we have seen, is a consideration to
which our imaginary theist was not blind. How then did he meet it? He met
it by the considerations--1st. That the scientific train of reasoning
evolved this conclusion only by employing, in a wholly unrestricted manner,
"symbolic conceptions of the illegitimate order;" and, 2d. That when the
conclusion thus illegitimately evolved was directly confronted with the
fact of cosmic harmony which it professes to explain, he found it to be
beyond the powers of human thought to conceive of such an effect as due to
such a cause. Now, as already observed, I consider these strictures on the
scientific train of reasoning to be thoroughly valid. There can be no
question that the highly symbolic character of the conceptions which that
train of reasoning is compelled to adopt, is a source of serious weakness
to the conclusions which it ultimately evolves; while there can, I think,
be equally little doubt that there does not live a human being who would
venture honestly to affirm, that he can really conceive the fact of cosmic
harmony as exclusively due to the causes which the scientific train of
reasoning assigns. But freely conceding this much, and an atheist may
reply, that although the objections of his antagonist against this symbolic
method of reasoning are undoubtedly valid, yet, from the nature of the
case, this is the only method of scientific reasoning which is available.
If, therefore, he expresses his obligations to his antagonist for pointing
out a source of weakness in this method of reasoning--a source of weakness,
be it observed, which renders it impossible for him to estimate the actual,
as distinguished from the apparent, probability of the conclusion
attained--this is all that he can be expected to do: he cannot be expected
to abandon the only scientific method of reasoning available, in favour of
a metaphysical method which only escapes the charge of symbolism by leaping
with a single bound from a known cause (human intelligence) to the
inference of an unknowable cause (Divine Intelligence). For the atheist may
well point out that, however objectionable his scientific method of
reasoning may be on account of the symbolism which it involves, it must at
any rate be preferable to the metaphysical method, in that its symbols
throughout refer to known causes.[27] With regard, then, to this stricture
on the scientific method of reasoning, I conclude that although the caveat
which it contains should never be lost sight of by atheists, it is not of
sufficient cogency to justify theists in abandoning a scientific in favour
of a metaphysical mode of reasoning.

How then does it fare with the other stricture, or the consideration that,
"when the conclusion thus illegitimately[28] evolved is confronted with the
fact of cosmic harmony which it professes to explain, we find it to be
beyond the powers of human thought to conceive of such an effect as due to
such a cause"? The atheist may answer, in the first place, that a great
deal here turns on the precise meaning which we assign to the word
"conceive." For we have just seen that, by employing "symbolic
conceptions," we _are_ able to frame what we may term a _formal_ conception
of universal harmony as due to the persistence of force and the primary
qualities of matter. That is to say, we have seen that such universal
harmony as nature presents must be regarded as an effect of the collective
operation of general laws; and we have previously arrived at a formal
conception of general laws as singly and collectively the product of
self-evolution. Consequently, the word "conceive," as used in the theistic
argument, must be taken to mean our ability to frame what we may term a
_material_ conception, or a representation in thought of the whole history
of cosmic evolution, which representation shall be in some satisfactory
degree intellectually realisable. Observing, then, this important
difference between an inconceivability which arises from an impossibility
of establishing relations in thought between certain _abstract_ or
_symbolic_ conceptions, and an inconceivability which arises from a mere
failure to realise in imagination the results which must follow among
external relations if the symbolically conceivable combinations among them
ever took place, an atheist may here argue as follows; and it does not
appear that there is any legitimate escape from his reasonings.

'I first consider the undoubted fact that the existence of a Supreme Mind
in nature is, scientifically considered, unnecessary; and, therefore, that
the only reason we require to entertain the supposition of any such
existence at all is, that the complexity of nature being so great, we are
unable adequately to conceive of its self-evolution--notwithstanding our
reason tells us plainly that, given a self-existing universe of force and
matter, and such self-evolution becomes abstractedly possible. I then
reflect that this is a negative and not a positive ground of belief. If the
hypothesis of self-evolution is true, we should _à priori_ expect that by
the time evolution had advanced sufficiently far to admit of the production
of a reasoning intelligence, the complexity of nature must be so great that
the nascent reasoning powers would be completely baffled in their attempts
to comprehend the various processes going on around them. This seems to be
about the state of things which we now experience. Still, as reason
advances more and more, we may expect, both from general _à priori_
principles and from particular historical analogies, that more and more of
the processes of nature will admit of being interpreted by reason, and that
in proportion as our ability to _understand_ the frame and the constitution
of things progresses, so our ability to _conceive_ of them as all naturally
and necessarily evolved will likewise and concurrently progress. Thus, for
example, how vast a number of the most intricate and delicate correlations
in nature have been rendered at once intelligible and conceivably due to
non-intelligent causes, by the discovery of a single principle in
nature--the principle of natural selection.

'In the adverse argument, conceivability is again made the unconditional
test of truth, just as it was in the argument against the possibility of
matter thinking. We reject the hypothesis of self-evolution, not because it
is the more remote one, but simply because we experience a subjective
incapacity adequately to frame the requisite generalisations in thought, or
to frame them with as much clearness as we could wish. Yet our reason tells
us as plainly as it tells us any general truth which is too large to be
presented in detail, that there is nothing in the nature of things
themselves, as far as we can see, antagonistic to the supposition of their
having been self-evolved. Only on the ground, therefore, of our own
intellectual deficiencies; only because as yet, by the self-evolutionary
hypothesis, the inner order does not completely answer to the outer order;
only because the number and complexity of subjective relations have not yet
been able to rival those of the objective relations producing them; only on
this ground do we refuse to assent to the obvious deductions of our

'And here I may observe, further, that the presumption in favour of atheism
which these deductions establish is considerably fortified by certain _à
posteriori_ considerations which we cannot afford to overlook. In
particular, I reflect that, as a matter of fact, the theistic theory is
born of highly suspicious parentage,--that Fetichism, or the crudest form
of the theory of personal agency in external nature, admits of being easily
traced to the laws of a primitive psychology; that the step from this to
Polytheism is easy; and that the step from this to Monotheism is necessary.
If it is objected to this view that it does not follow that because some
theories of personal agency have proved themselves false, therefore all
such theories must be so--I answer, Unquestionably not; but the above
considerations are not adduced in order to _negative_ the theistic theory:
they are merely adduced to show that the human mind has hitherto
undoubtedly exhibited an undue and a vicious tendency to interpret the
objective processes of nature in terms of its own subjective processes; and
as we can see quite well that the current theory of personal agency in
nature, whether or not true, is a necessary outcome of intellectual
evolution, I think that the fact of so abundant an historical analogy ought
to be allowed to lend a certain degree of antecedent suspicion to this
theory--although, of course, the suspicion is of a kind which would admit
of immediate destruction before any satisfactory positive evidence in
favour of the theory.[30]

'But what is 'the satisfactory positive evidence' that is offered me?
Nothing, save an alleged subjective incapacity on the part of my opponent
adequately to conceive of the fact of cosmic harmony as due to physical
causation alone. Now I have already commented on the weakness of his
position; but as my opponent will doubtless resort to the consideration
that inconceivability of an opposite is, after all, the best criterion of
truth which at any given stage of intellectual evolution is available, I
will now conclude my overthrow by pointing out that, even if we take the
argument from teleology in its widest possible sense--the argument, I mean,
from the general order and beauty of nature, as well as the gross
constituent part of it from design--even taking this argument in its widest
sense and upon its own ground (which ground, I presume, it is now
sufficiently obvious _can_ only be that of the inconceivability of its
negation), I will conclude my examination of this argument by showing that
it is quite as inconceivable to predicate cosmic harmony an effect of
Intelligence, as it is to predicate it an effect of Non-intelligence; and
therefore that the argument from inconceivability admits of being turned
with quite as terrible a force upon Theism as it can be made to exert upon

'"In metaphysical controversy, many of the propositions propounded and
accepted as quite believable are absolutely inconceivable. There is a
perpetual confusing of actual ideas with what are nothing but pseud-ideas.
No distinction is made between propositions that contain real thoughts and
propositions that are only the forms of thoughts. A thinkable proposition
is one of which the _two terms can be brought together in consciousness
under the relation said to exist between them_. But very often, when the
subject of a proposition has been thought of as something known, and when
the predicate of a proposition has been thought of as something known, and
when the relation alleged between them has been thought of as a known
relation, it is supposed that the proposition itself has been thought. The
thinking separately of the elements of a proposition is mistaken for the
thinking of them in the combination which the proposition affirms. And
hence it continually happens that propositions which cannot be rendered
into thought at all are supposed to be not only thought but believed. The
proposition that Evolution is caused by Mind is one of this nature. The two
terms are separately intelligible; but they can be regarded in the relation
of effect and cause only so long as no attempt is made to put them together
in this relation.

'"The only thing which any one knows as Mind is the series of his own
states of consciousness; and if he thinks of any mind other than his own,
he can think of it only in terms derived from his own. If I am asked to
frame a notion of Mind divested of all those structural traits under which
alone I am conscious of mind in myself, I cannot do it. I know nothing of
thought save as carried on in ideas originally traceable to the effects
wrought by objects on me. A mental act is an unintelligible phrase if I am
not to regard it as an act in which states of consciousness are severally
known as like other states in the series that has gone by, and in which the
relations between them are severally known as like past relations in the
series. If, then, I have to conceive evolution as caused by an 'originating
Mind,' I must conceive this Mind as having attributes akin to those of the
only mind I know, and without which I cannot conceive mind at all.

'"I will not dwell on the many incongruities hence resulting, by asking how
the 'originating Mind' is to be thought of as having states produced by
things objective to it, as discriminating among these states, and classing
them as like and unlike; and as preferring one objective result to another.
I will simply ask, What happens if we ascribe to the 'originating Mind' the
character absolutely essential to the conception of mind, that it consists
of a series of states of consciousness? Put a series of states of
consciousness as cause and the evolving universe as effect, and then
endeavour to see the last as flowing from the first. I find it possible to
imagine in some dim way a series of states of consciousness serving as
antecedent to any one of the movements I see going on; for my own states of
consciousness are often indirectly the antecedents to such movements. But
how if I attempt to think of such a series as antecedent to _all_ actions
throughout the universe--to the motions of the multitudinous stars
throughout space, to the revolutions of all their planets round them, to
the gyrations of all these planets on their axes, to the infinitely
multiplied physical processes going on in each of these suns and planets? I
cannot think of a single series of states of consciousness as causing even
the relatively small groups of actions going on over the earth's surface. I
cannot think of it even as antecedent to all the various winds and the
dissolving clouds they bear, to the currents of all the rivers, and the
grinding actions of all the glaciers; still less can I think of it as
antecedent to the infinity of processes simultaneously going on in all the
plants that cover the globe, from scattered polar lichens to crowded
tropical palms, and in all the millions of quadrupeds that roam among them,
and the millions of millions of insects that buzz about them. Even a single
small set of these multitudinous terrestrial changes I cannot conceive as
antecedent a single series of states of consciousness--cannot, for
instance, think of it as causing the hundred thousand breakers that are at
this instant curling over on the shores of England. How, then, is it
possible for me to conceive an 'originating Mind,' which I must represent
to myself as a _single_ series of states of consciousness, working the
infinitely multiplied sets of changes _simultaneously_ going on in worlds
too numerous to count, dispersed throughout a space that baffles

'"If, to account for this infinitude of physical changes everywhere going
on, 'Mind must be conceived as there' 'under the guise of simple Dynamics,'
then the reply is, that, to be so conceived, Mind must be divested of all
attributes by which it is distinguished; and that, when thus divested of
its distinguishing attributes, the conception disappears--the word Mind
stands for a blank....

'"Clearly, therefore, the proposition that an 'originating Mind' is the
cause of evolution is a proposition that can be entertained so long only as
no attempt is made to unite in thought its two terms in the alleged
relation. That it should be accepted as a matter of _faith_ may be a
defensible position, provided good cause is shown why it should be so
accepted; but that it should be accepted as a matter of _understanding_--as
a statement making the order of the universe comprehensible--is a quite
indefensible position."'[31]

§ 47. We have now heard the pleading on both sides of the ultimate issue to
which it is possible that the argument from teleology can ever be reduced.
It therefore devolves on us very briefly to adjudicate upon the contending
opinions. And this it is not difficult to do; for throughout the pleading
on both sides I have been careful to exclude all arguments and
considerations which are not logically valid. It is therefore impossible
for me now to pass any criticisms on the pleading of either side which have
not already been passed by the pleading of the other. But nevertheless, in
my capacity of an impartial judge, I feel it desirable to conclude this
chapter with a few general considerations.

In the first place, I think that the theist's antecedent objection to a
scientific mode of reasoning on the score of its symbolism, may be regarded
as fairly balanced by the atheist's antecedent objection to a metaphysical
mode of reasoning on the score of its postulating an unknowable cause. And
it must be allowed that the force of this antecedent objection is
considerably increased by the reflection that the _kind_ of unknowable
cause which is thus postulated is that which the human mind has always
shown an overweening tendency to postulate as a cause of natural phenomena.

I think, therefore, that neither disputant has the right to regard the _à
priori_ standing of his opponent's theory as much more suspicious than that
of his own; for it is obvious that neither disputant has the means whereby
to estimate the actual value of these antecedent objections.

With regard, then, to the _à posteriori_ evidence in favour of the rival
theories, I think that the final test of their validity--_i.e._, the
inconceivability of their respective negations--fails equally in the case
of both theories; for in the case of each theory any proposition which
embodies it must itself contain an infinite, _i.e._, an
inconceivable--term. Thus, whether we speak of an Infinite Mind as the
cause of evolution, or of evolution as due to an infinite duration of
physical processes, we are alike open to the charge of employing
unthinkable propositions.

Hence, two unthinkables are presented to our choice; one of which is an
eternity of matter and of force,[32] and the other an Infinite Mind, so
that in this respect again the two theories are tolerably parallel; and
therefore, all that can be concluded with rigorous certainty upon the
subject is, that neither theory has anything to gain us against the other
from an appeal to the test of inconceivability.

Yet we have seen that this is a test than which none can be more ultimate.
What then shall we say is the final outcome of this discussion concerning
the rational standing of the teleological argument? The answer, I think, to
this question is, that in strict reasoning the teleological argument, in
its every shape, is inadequate to form a basis of Theism; or, in other
words, that the logical cogency of this argument is insufficient to justify
a wholly impartial mind in accepting the theory of Theism on so insecure a
foundation. Nevertheless, if the further question were directly put to me,
'After having heard the pleading both for and against the most refined
expression of the argument from teleology, with what degree of strictly
rational probability do you accredit it?'--I should reply as follows:--'The
question which you put I take to be a question which it is wholly
impossible to answer, and this for the simple reason that the degree of
even rational probability may here legitimately vary with the character of
the mind which contemplates it.' This statement, no doubt, sounds
paradoxical; but I think it is justified by the following considerations.
When we say that one proposition is more conceivable than another, we may
mean either of two very different things, and this quite apart from the
distinction previously drawn between symbolic conceptions and realisable
conceptions. For we may mean that one of the two propositions presents
terms which cannot possibly be rendered into thought at all in the relation
which the proposition alleges to subsist between them; or we may mean that
one of the two propositions presents terms in a relation which is more
congruous with the habitual tenor of our thoughts than does the other
proposition. Thus, as an example of the former usage, we may say, It is
more conceivable that two and two should make four than that two and two
should make five; and, as an example of the latter usage, we may say, It is
more conceivable that a man should be able to walk than that he should be
able to fly. Now, for the sake of distinction, I shall call the first of
these usages the test of _absolute_ inconceivability, and the second the
test of _relative_ inconceivability. Doubtless, when the word
"inconceivability" is used in the sense of relative inconceivability, it is
incorrectly used, unless it is qualified in some way; because, if used
without qualification, there is danger of its being confused with
inconceivability in its absolute sense. Nevertheless, if used with some
qualifying epithet, it becomes quite unexceptionable. For the process of
conception being in all cases the process of establishing relations in
thought, we may properly say, It is relatively more conceivable that a man
should walk than that a man should fly, since it is _more easy_ to
establish, the necessary relations in thought in the case of the former
than in the case of the latter proposition. The only difference, then,
between what I have called absolute inconceivability and what I have called
relative inconceivability consists in this--that while the latter admits of
_degrees_, the former does not.[33]

With this distinction clearly understood, I may now proceed to observe that
in everyday life we constantly apply the test of relative inconceivability
as a test of truth. And in the vast majority of cases this test of relative
inconceivability is, for all practical purposes, as valid a test of truth
as is the test of absolute conceivability. For as every man is more or less
in harmony with his environment, his habits of thought with regard to his
environment are for the most part stereotyped correctly; so that the most
ready and the most trustworthy gauge of probability that he has is an
immediate appeal to consciousness as to whether he _feels_ the probability.
Thus every man learns for himself to endow his own sense of probability
with a certain undefined but massive weight of authority. Now it is this
test of relative conceivability which all men apply in varying degrees to
the question of Theism. For if, from education and organised habits of
thought, the probability in this matter appears to a man to incline in a
certain direction, when this probability is called in question, the whole
body of this organised system of thought rises in opposition to the
questioning, and being individually conscious of this strong feeling of
subjective opposition, the man declares the sceptical propositions to be
more inconceivable to him than are the counter-propositions. And in so
saying he is, of course, perfectly right. Hence I conceive that the
acceptance or the rejection of metaphysical teleology as probable will
depend entirely upon individual habits of thought. The test of absolute
inconceivability making equally for and against the doctrine of Theism,
disputants are compelled to fall back on the test of relative
inconceivability; and as the direction in which the more inconceivable
proposition will here seem to lie will be determined by previous habits of
thought, it follows that while to a theist metaphysical teleology will
appear a probable argument, to an atheist it will appear an improbable one.
Thus to a theist it will no doubt appear more conceivable that the Supreme
Mind should be such that in some of its attributes it resembles the human
mind, while in other of its attributes--among which he will place
omnipresence, omnipotence, and directive agency--it transcends the human
mind as greatly as the latter "transcends mechanical motion;" and therefore
that although it is true, as a matter of logical terminology, that we ought
to designate such an entity "Not mind" or "Blank," still, as a matter of
psychology, we may come nearer to the truth by assimilating in thought this
entity with the nearest analogies which experience supplies, than by
assimilating it in thought with any other entity--such as force or
matter--which are felt to be in all likelihood still more remote from it in
nature. On the other hand, to an atheist it will no doubt appear more
conceivable, because more simple, to accept the dogma of an eternal
self-existence of something which we call force and matter, and with this
dogma to accept the implication of a necessary self-evolution of cosmic
harmony, than to resort to the additional and no less inconceivable
supposition of a self-existing Agent which must be regarded both as Mind
and as Not-mind at the same time. But in both cases, in whatever degree
this test of relative inconceivability of a negative is held by the
disputants to be valid in solving the problem of Theism, in that degree is
each man entitled to his respective estimate of the probability in
question. And thus we arrive at the judgment that the rational probability
of Theism legitimately varies with the character of the mind which
contemplates it. For, as the test of absolute inconceivability is equally
annihilative in whichever direction it is applied, the test of relative
inconceivability is the only one that remains; and as the formal conditions
of a metaphysical teleology are undoubtedly present on the one hand, and
the formal conditions of a physical explanation of cosmic harmony are no
less undoubtedly present on the other hand, it follows that a theist and an
atheist have an equal right to employ this test of relative
inconceivability. And as there is no more ultimate court of appeal whereby
to decide the question than the universe as a whole, each man has here an
equal argumentative right to abide by the decision which that court awards
_to him individually_--to accept whatever probability the sum-total of
phenomena appears to present to his particular understanding. And it is
needless to say that experience shows, even among well-informed and
accurate reasoners, how large an allowance must thus be made for personal
equations. To some men the facts of external nature seem to proclaim a God
with clarion voice, while to other men the same facts bring no whisper of
such a message. All, therefore, that a logician can here do is to remark,
that the individuals in each class--provided they bear in mind the strictly
_relative_ character of their belief--have a similar right to be regarded
as holding a rational creed: the grounds of belief in this case logically
vary with the natural disposition and the subsequent training of different

It only remains to show that disputants on either side are apt to endow
this test of relative inconceivability with far more than its real logical
worth. Being accustomed to apply this test of truth in daily life, and
there finding it a trustworthy test, most men are apt to forget that its
value as a test must clearly diminish in proportion to the distance from
experience at which it is applied. This, indeed, we saw to be the case even
with the test of absolute inconceivability (see Chapter V.), but much more
must it be the case with this test of relative inconceivability. For,
without comment, it is manifest that our acquired sense of probability, as
distinguished from our innate sense of possibility, with regard to any
particular question of a transcendental nature, cannot be at all comparable
with its value in the case of ordinary questions, with respect to which our
sense of probability is being always rectified by external facts. Although,
therefore, it is true that both those who reject and those who retain a
belief in Theism on grounds of relative conceivability are equally entitled
to be regarded as displaying a rational attitude of mind, in whatever
degree either party considers their belief as of a higher validity than the
grounds of psychology from which it takes its rise, in that degree must the
members of that party be deemed irrational. In other words, not only must a
man be careful not to confuse the test of relative inconceivability with
that of absolute conceivability--not to suppose that his sense of
probability in this matter is determined by an innate psychological
inability to conceive a proposition, when in reality it is only determined
by the difficulty of dissociating ideas which have long been habitually
associated;--but he must also be careful to remember that the test of
relative inconceivability in this matter is only valid as justifying a
belief of the most diffident possible kind.

And from this the practical deduction is--tolerance. Let no man think that
he has any argumentative right to expect that the mere subjective habit or
tone of his own mind should exert any influence on that of his fellow; but
rather let him always remember that the only legitimate weapons of his
intellectual warfare are those the _material_ of which is derived from the
external world, and only the _form_ of which is due to the forging process
of his own mind. And if in battle such weapons seem to be unduly blunted on
the hardened armoury of traditional beliefs, or on the no less hardened
armoury of confirmed scepticism, let him remember further that he must not
too confidently infer that the fault does not lie in the character of his
own weapons. To drop the figure, let none of us forget in how much need we
all stand of this caution:--Knowing how greatly the value of arguments is
affected, even to the most impartial among us, by the frame of mind in
which we regard them, let all of us be jealously careful not to
over-estimate the certainty that our frame or habit of mind is actually
superior to that of our neighbour. And, in conclusion, it is surely
needless to insist on the yet greater need there is for most of us to bear
in mind this further caution:--Knowing with what great subjective
opposition arguments are met when they conflict with our established modes
of thought, let us all be jealously careful to guard the sanctuary of our
judgment from the polluting tyranny of habit.

       *       *       *       *       *



§ 48. Our analysis is now at an end, and a very few words will here suffice
to convey an epitomised recollection of the numerous facts and conclusions
which we have found it necessary to contemplate. We first disposed of the
conspicuously absurd supposition that the origin of things, or the mystery
of existence, admits of being explained by the theory of Theism in any
further degree than by the theory of Atheism. Next it was shown that the
argument "Our heart requires a God" is invalid, seeing that such a
subjective necessity, even if made out, could not be sufficient to
prove--or even to render probable--an objective existence. And with regard
to the further argument that the fact of our theistic aspirations point to
God as to their explanatory cause, it became necessary to observe that the
argument could only be admissible after the possibility of the operation of
natural causes had been excluded. Similarly the argument from the supposed
intuitive necessity of individual thought was found to be untenable, first,
because, even if the supposed necessity were a real one, it would only
possess an individual applicability; and second, that, as a matter of fact,
it is extremely improbable that the supposed necessity is a real necessity
even for the individual who asserts it, while it is absolutely certain that
it is not such to the vast majority of the race. The argument from the
general consent of mankind, being so obviously fallacious both as to facts
and principles, was passed over without comment; while the argument from a
first cause was found to involve a logical suicide. Lastly, the argument
that, as human volition is a cause in nature, therefore all causation is
probably volitional in character, was shown to consist in a stretch of
inference so outrageous that the argument had to be pronounced worthless.

Proceeding next to examine the less superficial arguments in favour of
Theism, it was first shown that the syllogism, All known minds are caused
by an unknown mind; our mind is a known mind; therefore our mind is caused
by an unknown mind,--is a syllogism that is inadmissible for two reasons.
In the first place, "it does not account for mind (in the abstract) to
refer it to a prior mind for its origin;" and therefore, although the
hypothesis, if admitted, would be _an_ explanation of _known_ mind, it is
useless as an argument for the existence of the unknown mind, the
assumption of which forms the basis of that explanation. Again, in the next
place, if it be said that mind is so far an entity _sui generis_ that it
must be either self-existing or caused by another mind, there is no
assignable warrant for the assertion. And this is the second objection to
the above syllogism; for anything within the whole range of the possible
may, for aught that we can tell, be competent to produce a self-conscious
intelligence. Thus an objector to the above syllogism need not hold any
theory of things at all; but even as opposed to the definite theory of
materialism, the above syllogism has not so valid an argumentative basis to
stand upon. We know that what we call matter and force are to all
appearance eternal, while we have no corresponding evidence of a "mind that
is even apparently eternal." Further, within experience mind is invariably
associated with highly differentiated collocations of matter and
distributions of force, and many facts go to prove, and none to negative,
the conclusion that the grade of intelligence invariably depends upon, or
at least is associated with, a corresponding grade of cerebral development.
There is thus both a qualitative and a quantitative relation between
intelligence and cerebral organisation. And if it is said that matter and
motion cannot produce consciousness because it is inconceivable that they
should, we have seen at some length that this is no conclusive
consideration as applied to a subject of a confessedly transcendental
nature, and that in the present case it is particularly inconclusive,
because, as it is speculatively certain that the substance of mind must be
unknowable, it seems _à priori_ probable that, whatever is the cause of the
unknowable reality, this cause should be more difficult to render into
thought in that relation than would some other hypothetical substance which
is imagined as more akin to mind. And if it is said that the _more_
conceivable cause is the _more_ probable cause, we have seen that it is in
this case impossible to estimate the validity of the remark. Lastly, the
statement that the cause must contain actually all that its effects can
contain, was seen to be inadmissible in logic and contradicted by everyday
experience; while the argument from the supposed freedom of the will and
the existence of the moral sense was negatived both deductively by the
theory of evolution, and inductively by the doctrine of utilitarianism. On
the whole, then, with regard to the argument from the existence of the
human mind, we were compelled to decide that it is destitute of any
assignable weight, there being nothing more to lead to the conclusion that
our mind has been caused by another mind, than to the conclusion that it
has been caused by anything else whatsoever.

With regard to the argument from Design, it was observed that Mill's
presentation of it is merely a resuscitation of the argument as presented
by Paley, Bell, and Chalmers. And indeed we saw that the first-named writer
treated this whole subject with a feebleness and inaccuracy very surprising
in him; for while he has failed to assign anything like due weight to the
inductive evidence of organic evolution, he did not hesitate to rush into a
supernatural explanation of biological phenomena. Moreover, he has failed
signally in his _analysis_ of the Design argument, seeing that, in common
with all previous writers, he failed to observe that it is utterly
impossible for us to know the relations in which the supposed Designer
stands to the Designed,--much less to argue from the fact that the Supreme
Mind, even supposing it to exist, caused the observable products by any
particular intellectual _process_. In other words, all advocates of the
Design argument have failed to perceive that, even if we grant nature to be
due to a creating Mind, still we have no shadow of a right to conclude that
this Mind can only have exerted its creative power by means of such and
such cogitative operations. How absurd, therefore, must it be to raise the
supposed evidence of such cogitative operations into evidences of the
existence of a creating Mind! If a theist retorts that it is, after all, of
very little importance whether or not we are able to divine the _methods_
of creation, so long as the _facts_ are there to attest that, _in some way
or other_, the observable phenomena of nature must be due to Intelligence
of some kind as their ultimate cause, then I am the first to endorse this
remark. It has always appeared to me one of the most unaccountable things
in the history of speculation that so many competent writers can have
insisted upon _Design_ as an argument for Theism, when they must all have
known perfectly well that they have no means of ascertaining the subjective
psychology of that Supreme Mind whose existence the argument is adduced to
demonstrate. The truth is, that the argument from teleology must, and can
only, rest upon the observable _facts_ of nature, without reference to the
intellectual _processes_ by which these facts may be supposed to have been
accomplished. But, looking to the "present state of our knowledge," this is
merely to change the teleological argument from its gross Paleyerian form,
into the argument from the ubiquitous operation of general laws. And we saw
that this transformation is now a rational necessity. How far the great
principle of natural selection may have been instrumental in the evolution
of organic forms, is not here, as Mill erroneously imagined, the question;
the question is simply as to whether we are to accept the theory of special
creation or the theory of organic evolution. And forasmuch as no competent
judge at the present time can hesitate for one moment in answering this
question, the argument from a proximate teleology must be regarded as no
longer having any rational existence.

How then does it fare with the last of the arguments--the argument from an
ultimate teleology? Doubtless at first sight this argument seems a very
powerful one, inasmuch as it is a generic argument, which embraces not only
biological phenomena, but all the phenomena of the universe. But
nevertheless we are constrained to acknowledge that its apparent power
dwindles to nothing in view of the indisputable fact that, if force and
matter have been eternal, all and every natural law must have resulted by
way of necessary consequence. It will be remembered that I dwelt at
considerable length and with much earnestness upon this truth, not only
because of its enormous importance in its bearing upon our subject, but
also because no one has hitherto considered it in that relation.

The next step, however, was to mitigate the severity of the conclusion that
was liable to be formed upon the utter and hopeless collapse of all the
possible arguments in favour of Theism. Having fully demonstrated that
there is no shadow of a positive argument in support of the theistic
theory, there arose the danger that some persons might erroneously conclude
that for this reason the theistic theory must be untrue. It therefore
became necessary to point out, that although, as far as we can see, nature
does not require an Intelligent Cause to account for any of her phenomena,
yet it is possible that, if we could see farther, we should see that nature
could not be what she is unless she had owed her existence to an
Intelligent Cause. Or, in other words, the probability there is that an
Intelligent Cause is unnecessary to explain any of the phenomena of nature,
is only equal to the probability there is that the doctrine of the
persistence of force is everywhere and eternally true.

As a final step in our analysis, therefore, we altogether quitted the
region of experience, and ignoring even the very foundations of science,
and so all the most certain of relative truths, we carried the discussion
into the transcendental region of purely formal considerations. And here we
laid down the canon, "that the value of any probability, in its last
analysis, is determined by the number, the importance, and the definiteness
of the relations known, as compared with those of the relations unknown;"
and, consequently, that in cases where the unknown relations are more
numerous, more important, or more indefinite than are the known relations,
the value of our inference varies inversely as the difference in these
respects between the relations compared. From which canon it followed, that
as the problem of Theism is the most ultimate of all problems, and so
contains in its unknown relations all that is to man unknown and
unknowable, these relations must be pronounced the most indefinite of all
relations that it is possible for man to contemplate; and, consequently,
that although we have here the entire range of experience from which to
argue, we are unable to estimate the real value of any argument whatsoever.
The unknown relations in our attempted induction being wholly indefinite,
both in respect of their number and importance, as compared with the known
relations, it is impossible for us to determine any definite probability
either for or against the being of a God. Therefore, although it is true
that, so far as human science can penetrate or human thought infer, we can
perceive no evidence of God, yet we have no right on this account to
conclude that there is no God. The probability, therefore, that nature is
devoid of Deity, while it is of the strongest kind if regarded
scientifically--amounting, in fact, to a scientific demonstration,--is
nevertheless wholly worthless if regarded logically. Notwithstanding it is
as true as is the fundamental basis of all science and of all experience
that, if there is a God, his existence, considered as a cause of the
universe, is superfluous, it may nevertheless be true that, if there had
never been a God, the universe could never have existed.

Hence these formal considerations proved conclusively that, no matter how
great the probability of Atheism might appear to be in a relative sense, we
have no means of estimating such probability in an absolute sense. From
which position there emerged the possibility of another argument in favour
of Theism--or rather let us say, of a reappearance of the teleological
argument in another form. For it may be said, seeing that these formal
considerations exclude legitimate reasoning either for or against Deity in
an absolute sense, while they do not exclude such reasoning in a relative
sense, if there yet remain any theistic deductions which may properly be
drawn from experience, these may now be adduced to balance the atheistic
deductions from the persistence of force. For although the latter
deductions have clearly shown the existence of Deity to be superfluous in a
scientific sense, the formal considerations in question have no less
clearly opened up beyond the sphere of science a possible _locus_ for the
existence of Deity; so that if there are any facts supplied by experience
for which the atheistic deductions appear insufficient to account, we are
still free to account for them in a relative sense by the hypothesis of
Theism. And, it may be urged, we do find such an unexplained residuum in
the correlation of general laws in the production of cosmic harmony. It
signifies nothing, the argument may run, that we are unable to conceive the
methods whereby the supposed Mind operates in producing cosmic harmony; nor
does it signify that its operation must now be relegated to a
super-scientific province. What does signify is that, taking a general view
of nature, we find it impossible to conceive of the extent and variety of
her harmonious processes as other than products of intelligent causation.
Now this sublimated form of the teleological argument, it will be
remembered, I denoted a metaphysical teleology, in order sharply to
distinguish it from all previous forms of that argument, which, in
contradistinction I denoted scientific teleologies. And the distinction, it
will be remembered, consisted in this--that while all previous forms of
teleology, by resting on a basis which was not beyond the possible reach of
science, laid themselves open to the possibility of scientific refutation,
the metaphysical system of teleology, by resting on a basis which is
clearly beyond the possible reach of science, can never be susceptible of
scientific refutation. And that this metaphysical system of teleology does
rest on such a basis is indisputable; for while it accepts the most
ultimate truths of which science can ever be cognisant--viz., the
persistence of force and the consequently necessary genesis of natural
law,--it nevertheless maintains that the necessity of regarding Mind as the
ultimate cause of things is not on this account removed; and, therefore,
that if science now requires the operation of a Supreme Mind to be posited
in a super-scientific sphere, then in a super-scientific sphere it ought to
be posited. No doubt this hypothesis at first sight seems gratuitous,
seeing that, so far as science can penetrate, there is no need of any such
hypothesis at all--cosmic harmony resulting as a physically necessary
consequence from the combined action of natural laws, which in turn result
as a physically necessary consequence of the persistence of force and the
primary qualities of matter. But although it is thus indisputably true that
metaphysical teleology is wholly gratuitous if considered scientifically,
it may not be true that it is wholly gratuitous if considered
psychologically. In other words, if it is more conceivable that Mind should
be the ultimate cause of cosmic harmony than that the persistence of force
should be so, then it is not irrational to accept the more conceivable
hypothesis in preference to the less conceivable one, provided that the
choice is made with the diffidence which is required by the considerations
adduced in Chapter V.

I conclude, therefore, that the hypothesis of metaphysical teleology,
although in a physical sense gratuitous, may be in a psychological sense
legitimate. But as against the fundamental position on which alone this
argument can rest--viz., the position that the fundamental postulate of
Atheism is more _inconceivable_ than is the fundamental postulate of
Theism--we have seen two important objections to lie.

For, in the first place, the sense in which the word "inconceivable" is
here used is that of the impossibility of framing _realisable_ relations in
the thought; not that of the impossibility of framing _abstract_ relations
in thought. In the same sense, though in a lower degree, it is true that
the complexity of the human organisation and its functions is
inconceivable; but in this sense the word "inconceivable" has much less
weight in an argument than it has in its true sense. And, without waiting
again to dispute (as we did in the case of the speculative standing of
Materialism) how far even the genuine test of inconceivability ought to be
allowed to make against an inference which there is a body of scientific
evidence to substantiate, we went on to the second objection against this
fundamental position of metaphysical teleology. This objection, it will be
remembered, was, that it is as impossible to conceive of cosmic harmony as
an effect of Mind, as it is to conceive of it as an effect of mindless
evolution. The argument from inconceivability, therefore, admits of being
turned with quite as terrible an effect on Theism, as it can possibly be
made to exert on Atheism.

Hence this more refined form of teleology which we are considering, and
which we saw to be the last of the possible arguments in favour of Theism,
is met on its own ground by a very crushing opposition: by its metaphysical
character it has escaped the opposition of physical science, only to
encounter a new opposition in the region of pure psychology to which it
fled. As a conclusion to our whole inquiry, therefore, it devolved on us to
determine the relative magnitudes of these opposing forces. And in doing
this we first observed that, if the supporters of metaphysical teleology
objected _à priori_ to the method whereby the genesis of natural law was
deduced from the datum of the persistence of force, in that this method
involved an unrestricted use of illegitimate symbolic conceptions; then it
is no less open to an atheist to object _à priori_ to the method whereby a
directing Mind was inferred from the datum of cosmic harmony, in that this
method involved the population of an unknowable cause,--and this of a
character which the whole history of human thought has proved the human
mind to exhibit an overweening tendency to postulate as the cause of
natural phenomena. On these grounds, therefore, I concluded that, so far as
their respective standing _à priori_ is concerned, both theories may be
regarded as about equally suspicious. And similar with regard to their
standing _à posteriori_; for as both theories require to embody at least
one infinite term, they must each alike be pronounced absolutely
inconceivable. But, finally, if the question were put to me which of the
two theories I regarded as the more rational, I observed that this is a
question which no one man can answer for another. For as the test of
absolute inconceivability is equally destructive of both theories, if a man
wishes to choose between them, his choice can only be determined by what I
have designated relative inconceivability--_i.e._, in accordance with the
verdict given by his individual sense of probability as determined by his
previous habits of thought. And forasmuch as the test of relative
inconceivability may be held in this matter legitimately to vary with the
character of the mind which applies it, the strictly rational probability
of the question to which it is applied varies in like manner. Or, otherwise
presented, the only alternative for any man in this matter is either to
discipline himself into an attitude of pure scepticism, and thus to refuse
in thought to entertain either a probability or an improbability concerning
the existence of a God; or else to incline in thought towards an
affirmation or a negation of God, according as his previous habits of
thought have rendered such an inclination more facile in the one direction
than in the other. And although, under such circumstances, I should
consider that man the more rational who carefully suspended his judgment, I
conclude that if this course is departed from, neither the metaphysical
teleologist nor the scientific atheist has any perceptible advantage over
the other in respect of rationality. For as the formal conditions of a
metaphysical teleology are undoubtedly present on the one hand, and the
formal conditions of a speculative atheism are as undoubtedly present on
the other, there is thus in both cases a logical vacuum supplied wherein
the pendulum of thought is free to swing in whichever direction it may be
made to swing by the momentum of preconceived ideas.

Such is the outcome of our investigation, and considering the abstract
nature of the subject, the immense divergence of opinion which at the
present time is manifested with regard to it, as well as the confusing
amount of good, bad, and indifferent literature on both sides of the
controversy which is extant;--considering these things, I do not think that
the result of our inquiry can be justly complained of on the score of its
lacking precision. At a time like the present, when traditional beliefs
respecting Theism are so generally accepted and so commonly concluded, as a
matter of course, to have a large and valid basis of induction whereon to
rest, I cannot but feel that a perusal of this short essay, by showing how
very concise the scientific _status_ of the subject really is, will do more
to settle the minds of most readers as to the exact standing at the present
time of all the probabilities of the question, than could a perusal of all
the rest of the literature upon this subject. And, looking to the present
condition of speculative philosophy, I regard it as of the utmost
importance to have clearly shown that the advance of science has now
entitled us to assert, without the least hesitation, that the hypothesis of
Mind in nature is as certainly superfluous to account for any of the
phenomena of nature, as the scientific doctrine of the persistence of force
and the indestructibility of matter is certainly true.

On the other hand, if any one is inclined to complain that the logical
aspect of the question has not proved itself so unequivocally definite as
has the scientific, I must ask him to consider that, in any matter which
does not admit of actual demonstration, some margin must of necessity be
left for variations of individual opinion. And, if he bears this
consideration in mind, I feel sure that he cannot properly complain of my
not having done my utmost in this case to define as sharply as possible the
character and the limits of this margin.

§ 49. And now, in conclusion, I feel it is desirable to state that any
antecedent bias with regard to Theism which I individually possess is
unquestionably on the side of traditional beliefs. It is therefore with the
utmost sorrow that I find myself compelled to accept the conclusions here
worked out; and nothing would have induced me to publish them, save the
strength of my conviction that it is the duty of every member of society to
give his fellows the benefit of his labours for whatever they may he worth.
Just as I am confident that truth must in the end be the most profitable
for the race, so I am persuaded that every individual endeavour to attain
it, provided only that such endeavour is unbiassed and sincere, ought
without hesitation to be made the common property of all men, no matter in
what direction the results of its promulgation may appear to tend. And so
far as the ruination of individual happiness is concerned, no one can have
a more lively perception than myself of the possibly disastrous tendency of
my work. So far as I am individually concerned, the result of this analysis
has been to show that, whether I regard the problem of Theism on the lower
plane of strictly relative probability, or on the higher plane of purely
formal considerations, it equally becomes my obvious duty to stifle all
belief of the kind which I conceive to be the noblest, and to discipline my
intellect with regard to this matter into an attitude of the purest
scepticism. And forasmuch as I am far from being able to agree with those
who affirm that the twilight doctrine of the "new faith" is a desirable
substitute for the waning splendour of "the old," I am not ashamed to
confess that with this virtual negation of God the universe to me has lost
its soul of loveliness; and although from henceforth the precept to "work
while it is day" will doubtless but gain an intensified force from the
terribly intensified meaning of the words that "the night cometh when no
man can work," yet when at times I think, as think at times I must, of the
appalling contrast between the hallowed glory of that creed which once was
mine, and the lonely mystery of existence as now I find it,--at such times
I shall ever feel it impossible to avoid the sharpest pang of which my
nature is susceptible. For whether it be due to my intelligence not being
sufficiently advanced to meet the requirements of the age, or whether it be
due to the memory of those sacred associations which to me at least were
the sweetest that life has given, I cannot but feel that for me, and for
others who think as I do, there is a dreadful truth in those words of
Hamilton,--Philosophy having become a meditation, not merely of death, but
of annihilation, the precept _know thyself_ has become transformed into the
terrific oracle to Oedipus--

  "Mayest thou ne'er know the truth of what thou art."

       *       *       *       *       *




       *       *       *       *       *


       *       *       *       *       *


Lest it should be thought that I am doing injustice to the views of this
illustrious theist, I here quote his own words:--"We have the ideas of
matter and thinking, but possibly shall never be able to know whether any
mere material being thinks or no, it being impossible for us, by the
contemplation of our own ideas, without revelation, to discover whether
omnipotency has not given to some systems of matter fitly disposed a power
to perceive and think, or else joined and fixed to matter so disposed a
thinking immaterial substance; it being, in respect of our notions, not
much more remote from our comprehension to conceive that God can, if He
pleases, superadd to matter a faculty of thinking, than that He should
superadd to it another substance with a faculty of thinking; since we know
not wherein thinking consists, nor to what sort of substance the Almighty
has been pleased to give that power, which cannot be in any created being,
but merely by the good pleasure and bounty of the Creator. For I see no
contradiction in it that the first eternal thinking being should, if he
pleased, give to certain systems of created senseless matter, put together
as he thinks fit, some degrees of sense, perception, and thought: though,
as I think, I have proved, lib. iv., ch. 10 and 14, &c., it is no less than
a contradiction to suppose matter (which is evidently in its own nature
void of sense and thought) should be that eternal first-thinking being.
What certainty of knowledge can any one have that some perceptions, such
as, _e.g._, pleasure and pain, should not be in some bodies themselves,
after a certain manner modified and moved, as well as that they should be
in an immaterial substance upon the motion of the parts of body? Body, as
far as we can conceive, being able only to strike and affect body; and
motion, according to the utmost reach of our ideas, being able to produce
nothing but motion: so that when we allow it to produce pleasure or pain,
or the idea of a colour or sound, we are fain to quit our reason, go beyond
our ideas, and attribute it wholly to the good pleasure of our Maker. For
since we must allow He has annexed effects to motion which we can no way
conceive motion able to produce, what reason have we to conclude that He
could not order them as well to be produced in a subject we cannot conceive
capable of them, as well as in a subject we cannot conceive the motion of
matter can any way operate upon? I say not this, that I would any way
lessen the belief of the soul's immateriality, &c.... It is a point which
seems to me to be put out of the reach of our knowledge; and he who will
give himself leave to consider freely, and look into the dark and intricate
part of each hypothesis, will scarce find his reason able to determine him
fixedly for or against the soul's materiality. Since on which side soever
he views it, either as an unextended substance or as a thinking extended
matter, the difficulty to conceive either will, whilst either alone is in
his thoughts, still drive him to the contrary side. An unfair way which
some men take with themselves, who, because of the inconceivableness of
something they find in one, throw themselves violently into the contrary
hypothesis, though altogether as unintelligible to an unbiassed

This passage, I do not hesitate to say, is one of the most remarkable in
the whole range of philosophical literature, in respect of showing how even
the strongest and most candid intellect may have its reasoning faculty
impaired by the force of a preformed conviction. Here we have a mind of
unsurpassed penetration and candour, which has left us side by side two
parallel trains of reasoning. In the one, the object is to show that the
author's preformed conviction as to the being of a God is justifiable on
grounds of reason; in the other, the object is to show that, granting the
existence of a God, and it is not impossible that he may have endowed
matter with the faculty of thinking. Now, in the former train of reasoning,
the whole proof rests entirely upon the fact that "it is impossible to
conceive that ever bare incogitative matter should produce a thinking
intelligent being." Clearly, if this proposition is true, it must destroy
one or other of the trains of reasoning; for it is common to them both, and
in one of them it is made the sole ground for concluding that matter cannot
think, while in the other it is made compatible with the supposition that
matter may think. This extraordinary inconsistency no doubt arose from the
fact that the author was antecedently persuaded of the existence of an
_Omnipotent_ Mind, and having been long accustomed in his intellectual
symbols to regard it presumptuous in him to impose any limitations on this
almighty power, when he asked himself whether it would be possible for this
almighty power, if it so willed, to endow matter with the faculty of
thinking, he argued that it might be possible, notwithstanding his being
unable to conceive the possibility. But when he banished from his mind the
idea of this personal and almighty power, and with that idea banished all
its associations, he then felt that he had a right to argue more freely,
and forthwith made his conceptive faculty a test of abstract possibility.
Yet _the sum total of abstract possibility, in relation to him, must have
been the same in the two cases_; so that in whichever of the two trains of
reasoning his argument was sound, in the other it must certainly have been

We may well feel amazed that so able a thinker can have fallen into so
obvious an error, and afterwards have persisted in it through pages and
pages of his work. It will be instructive, however, to those who rely upon
Locke's exposition of the argument from Inconceivability to see how
effectually he has himself destroyed it. For this purpose, therefore, I
shall make some further quotations from the same train of reasoning. The
statement of Locke's opinion that the Almighty could endow matter with the
faculty of thinking if He so willed, called down some remonstrances and
rebukes from the then Bishop of Worcester. Locke's reply was a very lengthy
one, and from it the following extracts are taken. I merely request the
reader throughout to substitute for the words God, Creator, Almighty,
Omipotency, &c., the words _Summum genus_ of Possibility.

"But it is further urged that we cannot conceive how matter can think. I
grant it, but to argue from thence that God therefore cannot give to matter
a faculty of thinking is to say God's omnipotency is limited to a narrow
compass because man's understanding is so, and brings down God's infinite
power to the size of our capacities....

"If God can give no power to any parts of matter but what men can account
for from the essence of matter in general; if all such qualities and
properties must destroy the essence, or change the essential properties of
matter, which are to our conceptions above it, and we cannot conceive to be
the natural consequence of that essence; it is plain that the essence of
matter is destroyed, and its essential properties changed, in most of the
sensible parts of this our system. For it is visible that all the planets
have revolutions about certain remote centres, which I would have any one
explain or make conceivable by the bare essence, or natural powers
depending on the essence of matter in general, without something added to
that essence which we cannot conceive; for the moving of matter in a
crooked line, or the attraction of matter by matter, is all that can be
said in the case; either of which it is above our reach to derive from the
essence of matter or body in general, though one of these two must
unavoidably be allowed to be superadded, in this instance, to the essence
of matter in general. The omnipotent Creator advised not with us in the
making of the world, and His ways are not the less excellent because they
are past finding out....

"In all such cases, the superinducement of greater perfections and nobler
qualities destroys nothing of the essence or perfections that were there
before, unless there can be showed a manifest repugnancy between them; but
all the proof offered for that is only that we cannot conceive how matter,
without such superadded perfections, can produce such effects; which is, in
truth, no more than to say matter in general, or every part of matter, as
matter, has them not, but is no reason to prove that God, if He pleases,
cannot superadd them to some parts of matter, unless it can be proved to be
a contradiction that God should give to some parts of matter qualities and
perfections which matter in general has not, though we cannot conceive how
matter is invested with them, or how it operates by virtue of those new
endowments; nor is it to be wondered that we cannot, whilst we limit all
its operations to those qualities it had before, and would explain them by
the known properties of matter in general, without any such induced
perfections. For if this be a right rule of reasoning, to deny a thing to
be because we cannot conceive the manner how it comes to be, I shall desire
them who use it to stick to this rule, and see what work it will make both
in divinity as well as philosophy, and whether they can advance anything
more in favour of scepticism.

"For to keep within the present subject of the power of thinking and
self-motion bestowed by omnipotent power in some parts of matter: the
objection to this is, I cannot conceive how matter should think. What is
the consequence? Ergo, God cannot give it a power to think. Let this stand
for a good reason, and then proceed in other cases by the same.

"You cannot conceive how matter can attract matter at any distance, much
less at the distance of 1,000,000 miles; ergo, God cannot give it such a
power: you cannot conceive how matter should feel or move itself, or affect
any material being, or be moved by it; ergo, God cannot give it such
powers: which is in effect to deny gravity, and the revolution of the
planets about the sun; to make brutes mere machines, without sense or
spontaneous motion; and to allow man neither sense nor voluntary motion.

"Let us apply this rule one degree farther. You cannot conceive how an
extended solid substance should think, therefore God cannot make it think:
can you conceive how your own soul or any substance thinks? You find,
indeed, that you do think, and so do I; but I want to be told how the
action of thinking is performed: this, I confess, is beyond my conception;
and I would be glad any one who conceives it would explain it to me.

"God, I find, has given me this faculty; and since I cannot but be
convinced of His power in this instance, which, though I every moment
experience in myself, yet I cannot conceive the manner of, what would it be
less than an insolent absurdity to deny His power in other like cases, only
for this reason, because I cannot conceive the manner how?...

"That Omnipotency cannot make a substance to be solid and not solid at the
same time, I think with due reverence [diffidence?[35]] we may say; but
that a solid substance may not have qualities, perfections, and powers,
which have no natural or visibly necessary connection with solidity and
extension, is too much for us (who are but of yesterday, and know nothing)
to be positive in.

"If God cannot join things together by connections inconceivable to us, we
must deny even the consistency and being of matter itself; since every
particle of it having some bulk, has its parts connected by ways
inconceivable to us. So that all the difficulties that are raised against
the thinking of matter, from our ignorance or narrow conceptions, stand not
at all in the way of the power of God, if He pleases to ordain it so; nor
prove anything against His having actually endowed some parcels of matter,
so disposed as He thinks fit, with a faculty of thinking, till it can he
shown that it contains a contradiction to suppose it.

"Though to me sensation be comprehended under thinking in general, in the
foregoing discourse I have spoke of sense in brutes as distinct from
thinking; because your lordship, as I remember, speaks of sense in brutes.
But here I take liberty to observe, that if your lordship allows brutes to
have sensation, it will follow, either that God can and doth give to some
parcels of matter a power of perception and thinking, or that all animals
have immaterial, and consequently, according to your lordship, immortal
souls, as well as men; and to say that fleas and mites, &c., have immortal
souls as well as men, will possibly be looked on as going a great way to
serve an hypothesis....

"It is true, I say, 'That bodies operate by impulse, and nothing else,' and
so I thought when I writ it, and can yet conceive no other way of their
operation. But I am since convinced, by the judicious Mr. Newton's
incomparable book, that it is too bold a presumption to limit God's power
in this point by my narrow conceptions. The gravitation of matter towards
matter, by way unconceivable to me, is not only a demonstration that God
can, if He pleases, put into bodies powers and ways of operation above what
can be derived from our idea of body, or can be explained by what we know
of matter, but also an unquestionable and everywhere visible instance that
He has done so. And therefore, in the next edition of my book, I will take
care to have that passage rectified....

"As to self-consciousness, your lordship asks, 'What is there like
self-consciousness in matter?' Nothing at all in matter as matter. But that
God cannot bestow on some parcels of matter a power of thinking, and with
it self-consciousness, will never be proved by asking how is it possible to
apprehend that mere body should perceive that it doth perceive? The
weakness of our apprehension I grant in the case: I confess as much as you
please, that we cannot conceive how an unsolid created substance thinks;
but this weakness of our apprehension reaches not the power of God, whose
weakness is stronger than anything in man."

Lastly, Locke turns upon his opponent the power of the _odium theologicum_.

"Let it be as hard a matter as it will to give an account what it is that
should keep the parts of a material soul together after it is separated
from the body, yet it will be always as easy to give an account of it as to
give an account what it is that shall keep together a material and
immaterial substance. And yet the difficulty that there is to give an
account of that, I hope, does not, with your lordship, weaken the
credibility of the inseparable union of soul and body to eternity; and I
persuade myself that the men of sense, to whom your lordship appeals in
this case, do not find their belief of this fundamental point much weakened
by that difficulty.... But you will say, you speak only of the soul; and
your words are, that it is no easy matter to give an account how the soul
should be capable of immortality unless it be a material substance. I grant
it, but crave leave to say, that there is not any one of these difficulties
that are or can be raised about the manner how a material soul can be
immortal, which do not as well reach the immortality of the body....

"But your lordship, as I guess from your following words, would argue that
a material substance cannot be a free agent; whereby I suppose you only
mean that you cannot see or conceive how a solid substance should begin,
stop, or change its own motion. To which give me leave to answer, that when
you can make it conceivable how any created, finite, dependent substance
can move itself, I suppose you will find it no harder for God to bestow
this power on a solid than an unsolid created substance.... But though you
cannot see how any created substance, solid or not solid, can be a free
agent (pardon me, my lord, if I put in both, till your lordship please to
explain it of either, and show the manner how either of them can of itself
move itself or anything else), yet I do not think you will so far deny men
to be free agents, from the difficulty there is to see how they are free
agents, as to doubt whether there be foundation enough for the day of

Let us now, for the sake of contrast, turn to some passages which occur in
the other train of reasoning.

"If we suppose only matter and motion first or eternal, thought can never
begin to be. For it is impossible to conceive that matter, either with or
without motion, could have originally in and from itself sense, perception,
and knowledge; as is evident from hence, that then sense, perception, and
knowledge must be a property eternally inseparable from matter and every
particle of it." There is a double fallacy here. In the first place,
conceivability is made the unconditional test of possibility; and, in the
next place, it is asserted that unless every particle of matter can think,
no collocation of such particles can possibly do so. This latter fallacy is
further insisted upon thus:--"If they will not allow matter as matter, that
is, every particle of matter, to be as well cogitative as extended, they
will have as hard a task to make out to their own reasons a cogitative
being out of incogitative particles, as an extended being out of unextended
parts, if I may so speak.... Every particle of matter, as matter, is
capable of all the same figures and motions of any other, and I challenge
any one in his thoughts to add anything else to one above another." Now, as
we have seen, Locke himself has shown in his other trains of argument that
this challenge is thoroughly futile as a refutation of possibilities; but
the point to which I now wish to draw attention is this--It does not follow
because certain and highly complex collocations of material particles may
be supposed capable of thinking, that therefore every particle of matter
must be regarded as having this attribute. We have innumerable analogies in
nature of a certain collocation of matter and force producing certain
results which another somewhat similar collocation could not produce: in
such cases we do not assume that all the resulting attributes of the one
collocation must be presented also by the other--still less that these
resulting attributes must belong to the primary qualities of matter and
force. Hence, it is not fair to assume that thought must either be inherent
in every particle of matter, or else not producible by any possible
collocation of such particles, unless it has previously been shown that so
to produce it by any possible collocation is in the nature of things
impossible. But no one could refute this fallacy better than Locke himself
has done in some of the passages already quoted from his other train of

But to continue the quotation:--"If, therefore, it be evident that
something necessarily must exist from eternity, it is also as evident that
that something must necessarily be a cogitative being; for it is as
impossible [_inconceivable_] that incogitative matter should produce a
cogitative being, as that nothing, or the negation of all being, should
produce a positive being or matter." Again,--"For unthinking particles of
matter, however put together, can have [_can be taught to have_] nothing
thereby added to them, but a new relation of position, which it is
impossible [_inconceivable_] should give thought and knowledge to them."

It is unnecessary to multiply these quotations, for, in effect, they would
all be merely repetitions of one another. It is enough to have seen that
this able author undertakes to demonstrate the existence of a God, and that
his whole demonstration resolves itself into the unwarrantable inference,
that as we are unable to conceive how thought can be a property of matter,
therefore a property of matter thought cannot be. That such an erroneous
inference should occur in any writings of so old a date as those of Locke
is not in itself surprising. What is surprising is the fact, that in the
same writings, and in the course of the same discussion, the fallacy of
this very inference is repeatedly pointed out and insisted upon in a great
variety of ways; and it has been chiefly for the sake of showing the
pernicious influence which preformed opinion may exert--viz., even to
blinding the eyes of one of the most clear-sighted and thoughtful men that
ever lived to a glaring contradiction repeated over and over again in the
course of a few pages,--it has been chiefly for this reason that I have
extended this Appendix to so great a length. I shall now conclude it by
quoting some sentences which occur on the very next page after that from
which the last quoted sentences were taken. Our author here again returns
to his defence of the omnipotency of God; and as he now again thus
personifies the sum total of possibility, his mind abruptly reverts to all
its other class of associations. In this case the transition is
particularly interesting, not only on account of its suddenness, but also
because the correlations contemplated happen to be exactly the same in the
two cases--viz., matter as the cause of mind, and mind as the cause of
matter. Remember that on the last page this great philosopher supposed he
had demonstrated the abstract impossibility of matter being the cause of
mind on the ground of a causal connection being inconceivable, let us now
observe what he says upon this page regarding the abstract possibility of
mind being the cause of matter. "Nay, possibly, if we would emancipate
ourselves from vulgar notions, and raise our thoughts as far as they would
reach to a closer contemplation of things, we might be able to aim at some
dim and seeming conception how matter might at first be made and begin to
exist by the power of that eternal first being.... But you will say, Is it
not impossible to admit of the making anything out of nothing, since we
cannot possibly conceive it? I answer--No; because it is not reasonable to
deny the power of an infinite being [this phrase, in the absence of
hypothesis, _i.e._, in Locke's other train of reasoning, is of course
equivalent to the sum-total of possibility] because we cannot comprehend
its operations. We do not deny other effects upon this ground, because we
cannot possibly conceive the manner of their production. We cannot conceive
how anything but impulse of body can move body; and yet that is not a
reason sufficient to make us deny it possible, against the constant
experience we have of it in ourselves, in all our voluntary motions, which
are produced in us only by the free action or thought of our minds, and are
not, nor can be, the effects of the impulse or determination of the blind
matter in or upon our own bodies; for then it could not be in our power or
choice to alter it. For example, my right hand writes, whilst my left hand
is still: what causes rest in one and motion in the other? Nothing but my
will, a thought in my mind; my thought only changing, the right hand rests,
and the left hands moves. This is matter of fact, which cannot be denied:
explain this and make it intelligible, and then the next step will be to
understand creation."[36]

       *       *       *       *       *


       *       *       *       *       *



Mr. Herbert Spencer's doctrine of the Unknowable is a doctrine of so much
speculative importance, that it behoves all students of philosophy to have
clear views respecting its character and implications. Mr. Spencer has
himself so fully explained the character of this doctrine, that no
attentive reader can fail to understand it; but concerning those of its
implications which may be termed theological--as distinguished from
religious--Mr. Spencer is silent. Within the last two or three years,
however, there has appeared a valuable work by an able exponent of the new
philosophy; and in this work the writer, adopting his master's teaching of
the Unknowable, proceeds to develop it into a definite system of what may
be termed scientific theology. And not only so, but he assures the world
that this system of scientific theology is the highest, the purest, and the
most ennobling form of religion that mankind has ever been privileged to
know in the past, or, from the nature of the case, can ever be destined to
know in the future. It is a system, we are told, wherein the most
fundamental truths of Theism are taught as necessary deductions from the
highest truths of Science; it is a system wherein no single doctrine
appeals for its acceptance to any principle of blind or credulous faith,
but wherein every doctrine can be fully justified by the searching light of
reason; it is a system wherein the noblest of our aspirations and the most
sublime of our emotions are able to find an object far more worthy and much
more glorious than has ever been supplied to them by any of the older forms
of Theism; and it is a system, therefore, in which, with a greatly enlarged
and intensified meaning, we may worship God, and all that is within us
bless His holy name. Assuredly a proclamation such as this, emanating from
the most authoritative expounders of modern thought, as the highest and the
greatest result to which a rigorous philosophic synthesis has led, is a
proclamation which cannot fail to arrest our most serious attention. Nay,
may it not do more than this? May it not appeal to hearts which long have
ceased to worship? May it not once more revive a hope--long banished,
perhaps, but still the dearest which our poor natures have
experienced--that somewhere, sometime, or in some way, it may yet be
possible to feel that God is not far from any one of us? For to those who
have known the anguish of a shattered faith, it will not seem so childish
that our hearts should beat the quicker when we once more hear a voice
announcing to a world of superstitious idolaters--"Whom ye ignorantly
worship, Him declare I unto you." But if, when we have listened to the glad
tidings of the new gospel, we find that the preacher, though apparently in
earnest, is not worthy to be heard again on this matter; and if, as we turn
away, our eyes grow dim with the memory of a vanished dream, surely we may
feel that the preacher is deserving of our blame for obtruding thus upon
the most sacred of our sorrows.

Mr. John Fiske is, as is well known, an author who unites in himself the
qualities of a well-read student of philosophy, a clear and accurate
thinker, a thorough master of the principles which in his recent work he
undertakes to explain and to extend, and a writer gifted in a remarkable
degree with the power of lucid exposition. Such being the intellectual
calibre of the man who elaborates this new system of scientific theology, I
confess that, on first seeing his work, I experienced a faint hope that, in
the higher departments of the Philosophy of Evolution as conceived by Mr.
Spencer and elaborated by his disciple, there might be found some rational
justification for an attenuated form of Theism. But on examination I find
that the bread which these fathers have offered us turns out to be a stone;
and thinking that it is desirable to warn other of the children--whether of
the family Philosophical or Theological--against swallowing on trust a
morsel so injurious, I shall endeavour to point out what I conceive to be
the true nature of "Cosmic Theism."

Starting from the doctrine of the Relativity of Knowledge, Mr. Fiske,
following Mr. Spencer, proceeds to show how the doctrine implies that there
must be a mode of Being to which human knowledge is non-relative. Or, in
other words, he shows that the postulation of phenomena necessitates the
further postulation of noumena of which phenomena are the manifestations.
Now what may we affirm of noumena without departing from a scientific or
objective mode of philosophising? We may affirm at least this much of
noumena, that they constitute a mode of existence which need not
necessarily vanish were our consciousness to perish; and, therefore, that
they now stand out of necessary relation to our consciousness. Or, in other
words, so far as human consciousness is concerned, noumena must be regarded
as absolute. "But now, what do we mean by this affirmation of absolute
reality independent of the conditions of the process of knowing? Do we mean
to ... affirm, in language savouring strongly of scholasticism, that
beneath the phenomena which we call subjective there is an occult
substratum Mind, and beneath the phenomena which we call objective there is
an occult substratum Matter? Our conclusion cannot be stated in any such
form.... Our conclusion is simply this, that no theory of phenomena,
external or internal, can be framed without postulating an Absolute
Existence of which phenomena are the manifestations. And now let us
carefully note what follows. We cannot identify this Absolute Existence
with Mind, since what we know as Mind is a series of phenomenal
manifestations.... Nor can we identify this Absolute Existence with Matter,
since what we know as Matter is a series of phenomenal manifestations....
Absolute Existence, therefore,--the Reality which persists independently of
us, and of which Mind and Matter are the phenomenal manifestations,--cannot
be identified either with Mind or with Matter. Thus is Materialism included
in the same condemnation with Idealism.... See then how far we have
travelled from the scholastic theory of occult substrata underlying each
group of phenomena. These substrata were but the ghosts of the phenomena
themselves; behind the tree or the mountain a sort of phantom tree or
mountain, which persists after the body of perception has gone away with
the departure of the percipient mind. Clearly this is no scientific
interpretation of the facts, but is rather a specimen of naïve barbaric
thought surviving in metaphysics. The tree or mountain being groups of
phenomena, what we assert as persisting independently of the percipient
mind is a something which we are unable to condition either as tree or as

"And now we come down to the very bottom of the problem. Since we do
postulate Absolute Existence, and do not postulate a particular occult
substance underlying each group of phenomena, are we to be understood as
implying that there is a single Being of which all phenomena, internal and
external to consciousness, are manifestations? Such must seem to be the
inevitable conclusion, since we are able to carry on thinking at all only
under the relations of Difference and No-difference.... It may seem that,
since we cannot attribute to the Absolute Reality any relations of
Difference, we must positively ascribe to it No-difference. Or, what is the
same thing, in refusing to predicate multiplicity of it, do we not
virtually predicate of it unity? We do, simply because we cannot think
without so doing."[38]

A single Absolute Reality being thus posited, our author proceeds, towards
the close of his work, to argue that as this Reality cannot be conceived as
limited either in space or time, it constitutes a Being which corresponds
with our essential conception of Deity. True it is devoid of certain
accessory attributes, such as personality, intelligence, and volition; but
for this very reason, it is insisted, the theistic ideal as thus presented
is a purer, and therefore a better, ideal than has ever been presented
before. Nay, it is the highest possible form of this ideal, as the
following considerations will show. In what has consisted that continuous
purification of Theism which the history of thought shows to have been
effected, from the grossest form of belief in supernatural agency as
exhibited in Fetichism, through its more refined form as exhibited in
Polytheism, to its still more refined form as exhibited in Monotheism? In
nothing but in a continuous process of what Mr. Fiske calls
"deanthropomorphisation." Consequently, must we not conclude that when we
carry this process yet one step further, and divest our conception of Deity
of all the yet lingering remnants of anthropomorphism which occur in the
current conceptions of Deity, we are but still further purifying that
conception? Assuredly, the attributes of personality, intelligence, and so
forth, are only known as attributes of Humanity, and therefore to ascribe
them to Deity is but to foster, in a more refined form, the anthropomorphic
teachings of previous religions. But if we carefully refuse to limit Deity
by the ascription of any human attributes whatever, and if the only
attributes which we do ascribe are such as on grounds of pure reason alone
we are compelled to ascribe, must we not conclude that the form of Theism
which results is the purest and the most refined form in which it is
possible for Theism to exist? "From the anthropomorphic point of view it
will quite naturally be urged in objection, that this apparently desirable
result is reached through the degradation of Deity from an 'intelligent
personality' to a 'blind force,' and is therefore in reality an undesirable
and perhaps quasi-atheistic result."[39] But the question which really
presents itself is, "theologically phrased, whether the creature is to be
taken as a measure of the Creator. Scientifically phrased, the question is
whether the highest form of Being as yet suggested to one petty race of
creatures by its ephemeral experience of what is going on in one tiny
corner of the universe, is necessarily to be taken as the equivalent of
that absolutely highest form of Being in which all the possibilities of
existence are alike comprehended."[40] Therefore, in conclusion, "whether
or not it is true that, within the bounds of the phenomenal universe the
highest type of existence is that which we know as humanity, the conclusion
is in every way forced upon us that, quite independently of limiting
conditions in space or time, there is a form of Being which can neither be
assimilated to humanity nor to any lower type of existence. We have no
alternative, therefore, but to regard it as higher than humanity, even 'as
the heavens are higher than the earth,' and except for the intellectual
arrogance which the arguments of theologians show lurking beneath their
expressions of humility, there is no reason why this admission should not
be made unreservedly, without the anthropomorphic qualifications by which
its effect is commonly nullified. The time is surely coming when the
slowness of men in accepting such a conclusion will be marvelled at, and
when the very inadequacy of human language to express Divinity will be
regarded as a reason for a deeper faith and more solemn adoration."[41]

I have now sufficiently detailed the leading principles of Cosmic Theism to
render a clear and just conception of those fundamental parts of the system
which I am about to criticise; but it is needless to say that, for all
minor details of this system, I must refer those who may not already have
perused them to Mr. Fiske's somewhat elaborate essays. In now beginning my
criticisms, it may be well to state at the outset, that they are to be
restricted to the philosophical aspect of the subject. With matters of
sentiment I do not intend to deal,--partly because to do so would be unduly
to extend this essay, and partly also because I believe that, so far as the
acceptance or the rejection of Cosmic Theism is to be determined by
sentiment, much, if not all, will depend on individual habits of thought.
For whether or not Cosmic Theism is to be regarded as a religion adapted to
the needs of any individual man, will depend on what these needs are felt
to be by that man himself: we cannot assert magisterially that this
religion must be adapted to his needs because we have found it to be
adapted to our own. And if it is retorted that, human nature being
everywhere the same, a form of religion that is adapted to one man must on
this account be adapted to another, I reply that it is not so. For if a man
who is what Mr. Fiske calls an "Anthropomorphic Theist" finds from
experience that his system of religion--say Christianity--creates and
sustains a class of emotions and general habits of thought which he feels
to be the highest and the best of which he is capable, it is useless for a
"Cosmic Theist" to offer such a man another system of religion, in which
the conditions essential to the existence of these particular emotions and
habits of thought are manifestly absent. For such a man cannot but feel
that the proffered substitution would be tantamount, if accepted, to an
utter destruction of all that he regards as essentially religious. He will
tell us that he finds it perfectly easy to understand and to appreciate
those feelings of vague awe and "worship of the silent kind" which the
Cosmic Theist declares to be fostered by Cosmic Theism; but he will also
tell us that those feelings, which he has experienced with equal vividness
under his own system of Anthropomorphic Theism, are to him but as
non-religious dross compared with the unspeakable felicity of holding
definite commune with the Almighty and Most Merciful, or of rendering
worship that is a glad hosanna--a fearless shout of joy. On the other hand,
I believe that it is possible for philosophic habits of thought so to
discipline the mind that the feelings of vague awe and silent worship in
the presence of an appalling Mystery become more deep and steady than a
theist proper can well believe. It is therefore impossible that either
party can fully appreciate those sentiments of the other which they have
never fully experienced themselves; for even in those cases where an
anthropomorphic theist has been compelled to abandon his creed, as the
change must take place in mature life, his tone of mind has been determined
before it does take place; and therefore in sentiment, though not in faith,
he is more or less of a theist for the rest of his life: the only effect of
the change is to create a troubled interference between his desires and his

However, I do not intend to develop this branch of the subject further than
thus to point out, in a general way, that religion-mongers as a class are
apt to show too little regard for the sentiments, as distinguished from the
beliefs, of those to whom they offer their wares. But although I do not
intend to constitute myself a champion of theology by pointing out the
defects of Cosmic Theism in the aspect which it presents to current modes
of thought, there is one such defect which I must here dwell upon, because
we shall afterwards have occasion to refer to it. A theologian may very
naturally make this objection to Cosmic Theism as presented by Mr.
Fiske--viz., that the argument on which this philosopher throughout relies
as a self-evident demonstration that the new system of Theism is a further
and a final improvement on all the previous systems of Theism, is a
fallacious argument. As we have already seen, this argument is, that as the
progress in the purification of Theism has throughout consisted in a
process of "deanthropomorphisation," therefore the terminal phase in this
process, which Cosmic Theism introduces, must be still in the direction of
that progress. But to this argument a theologian may not unreasonably
object, that this terminal phase differs from all the previous phases in
one all-important feature--viz., in effecting a _total abolition_ of the
anthropomorphic element. Before, therefore, it can be shown that this
terminal phase is a further development of _Theism_, it must he shown that
Theism still remains Theism after this hitherto characteristic element has
been removed. If it is true, as Mr. Fiske very properly insists, that all
the various forms of belief in God have thus far had this as a common
factor, that they ascribed to God the attributes of Man; it becomes a
question whether we may properly abstract this hitherto invariable factor
of a belief, and still call that belief by the same name. Or, to put the
matter in another light, as cosmists maintain that Theism, in all the
phases of its development, has been the product of a probably erroneous
theory of personal agency in nature, when this theory is expressly
discarded--as it is by the doctrine of the Unknowable--is it
philosophically legitimate for cosmists to render their theory of things in
terms which belong to the totally different theory which they discard? No
doubt it is true that the progressive refinement of Theism has throughout
consisted in a progressive discarding of anthropomorphic qualities; but
this fact does not touch the consideration that, when we proceed to strip
off the last remnants of these qualities, we are committing an act which
differs _toto coelo_ from all the previous acts which are cited as
precedents; for by this terminal act we are not, as heretofore, _refining_
the theory of Theism--we are completely _transforming_ it by removing an
element which, both genetically and historically, would seem to constitute
the very essence of Theism.

Or the case may be presented in yet another light. The only use of terms,
whether in daily talk or in philosophical disquisition, is that of
designating certain things or attributes to which by general custom we
agree to affix them; so that if anyone applies a term to some thing or
attribute which general custom does not warrant him in so applying, he is
merely laying himself open to the charge of abusing that term. Now apply
these elementary principles to the case before us. We have but to think of
the disgust with which the vast majority of living persons would regard the
sense in which Mr. Fiske uses the term "Theism," to perceive how intimate
is the association of that term with the idea of a Personal God. Such
persons will feel strongly that, by this final act of purification, Mr.
Fiske has simply purified the Deity altogether out of existence. And I
scarcely think it is here competent to reply that all previous acts of
purification were at first similarly regarded as destructive, because it is
evident that none of these previous acts affected, as this one does, the
central core of Theism. And, lastly, if it should be still further
objected, that by declaring the theory of Personal Agency the central core
of Theism, I am begging the question as to the appropriateness of Mr.
Fiske's use of the word "Theism,"--seeing he appears to regard the
essential meaning of this word to be that of a postulation of merely Causal
Agency,--I answer, More of this anon; but meanwhile let it be observed that
any charge of question-begging lies rather at the door of Mr. Fiske, in
that he assumes, without any expressed justification, that the essence of
Theism _does_ consist in such a postulation and in nothing more. And as he
unquestionably has against him the present world of theists no less than
the history of Theism in the past, I do not see how he is to meet this
charge except by confessing to an abuse of the term in question.

I will now proceed to examine the structure of Cosmic Theism. We are all, I
suppose, at one in allowing that there are only three "verbally
intelligible" theories of the universe,--viz., that it is self-existent, or
that it is self-created, or that it has been created by some other and
external Being. It is usual to call the first of these theories Atheism,
the second Pantheism, and the third Theism. Now as there are here three
distinct nameable theories, it is necessary, if the term "Cosmic Theism" is
to be justified as an appropriate term, that the particular theory which it
designates should be shown to be in its essence theistic--_i.e._, that the
theory should present those distinguishing features in virtue of which
Theism differs from Atheism on the one hand, and from Pantheism on the
other. Now what are these features? The postulate of an Eternal
Self-existing Something is common to Theism and to Atheism. Here Atheism
ends. Theism, however, is generally said to assume Personality,
Intelligence, and Creative Power as attributes of the single self-existing
substance. Lastly, Pantheism assumes the Something now existing to have
been self-created. To which, then, of these distinct theories is Cosmic
Theism most nearly allied? For the purpose of answering this question, I
shall render that theory in terms of a formula which Mr. Fiske presents as
a full and complete statement of the theory:--"_There exists a_ POWER, _to
which no limit in space or time is conceivable, of which all phenomena, as
presented in consciousness, are manifestations, but which we can only know
through these manifestations._" But although the word "Power" is here so
strongly emphasised, we are elsewhere told that it is not to be regarded as
having more than a strictly relative or symbolic meaning; so that, in point
of fact, some more neutral word, such as "Something," "Being," or
"Substance," ought in strictness to be here substituted for the word
"Power." Well, if this is done, we have the postulation of a Being which is
self-existing, infinite, and eternal--relatively, at all events, to our
powers of conception. Thus far, therefore, it would seem that we are still
on the common standing-ground of Atheism, Pantheism, and Theism; for as it
is not, so far as I can see, incumbent on Pantheism to affirm that "thought
is a measure of things," the _apparent_ or _relative_ eternity which the
Primal Something must be supposed to present may not be _actual_ or
_absolute_ eternity. Nevertheless, as Mr. Fiske, by predicating Divinity of
the Primal Something, implicitly attributes to it the quality of an
_eternal_ self-existence, I infer that Cosmic Theism may be concluded at
this point to part company with Pantheism. There remain, then, Theism and

Now undoubtedly, at first sight, Cosmic Theism appears to differ from
Atheism in one all-important particular. For we have seen that, by means of
a subtle though perfectly logical argument, Cosmic Philosophy has evolved
this conclusion--that all phenomena as presented in consciousness are
manifestations of a not improbable Single Self-existing Power, of whose
existence these manifestations alone can make us cognisant. From which it
apparently follows, that this hypothetical Power must be regarded as
existing out of necessary relation to the phenomenal universe; that it is,
therefore, beyond question "Absolute Being;" and that, as such, we are
entitled to call it Deity. But in the train of reasoning of which this is a
very condensed epitome, it is evident that the legitimacy of denominating
this Absolute Being Deity, must depend on the exact meaning which we attach
to the word "Absolute"--and this, be it observed, quite apart from the
question, before touched upon, as to whether Personality and Intelligence
are not to be considered as attributes essential to Deity. In what sense,
then, is the word "Absolute" used? It is used in this sense. As from the
relativity of knowledge we cannot know things in themselves, but only
symbolical representations of such things, therefore things in themselves
are absolute to consciousness: but analysis shows that we cannot
conceivably predicate Difference among things in themselves, so that we are
at liberty, with due diffidence, to predicate of them No-difference: hence
the noumena of the schoolmen admit of being collected into a _summum genus_
of noumenal existence; and since, before their colligation noumena were
severally absolute, after their colligation they become collectively
absolute: therefore it is legitimate to designate this sum-total of
noumenal existence, "Absolute Being." Now there is clearly no exception to
be taken to the formal accuracy of this reasoning; the only question is as
to whether the "Absolute Being" which it evolves is absolute in the sense
required by Theism. I confess that to me this Being appears to be absolute
in a widely different sense from that in which Deity must be regarded as
absolute. For this Being is thus seen to be absolute in no other sense than
as holding--to quote from Mr. Fiske--"existence independent of the
conditions of the process of knowing." In other words, it is absolute only
as standing out of necessary relation to _human consciousness_. But Theism
requires, as an essential feature, that Deity should be absolute as
standing out of necessary relation to _all else_. Before, therefore, the
Absolute Being of Cosmism can be shown, by the reasoning adopted, to
deserve, even in part, the appellation of Deity, it must be shown that
there is no other mode of Being in existence save our own subjective
consciousness and the Absolute Reality which becomes objective to it
through the world of phenomena. But any attempt to establish this position
would involve a disregard of the doctrine that knowledge is relative; and
to do this, it is needless to say, would be to destroy the basis of the
argument whereby the Absolute Being of Cosmism was posited.

Or, to state this part of the criticism in other words, as the first step
in justifying the predication of Deity, it must be shown that the Being of
which the predication is made is absolute, and this not merely as
independent of human consciousness, but as independent of the whole
noumenal universe--Deity itself alone excepted. That is, the Being of which
Deity is predicated must be Unconditioned. Hence it is incumbent on Cosmic
Theism to prove, either that the Causal Agent which it denominates Deity is
itself the whole noumenal universe, or that it created the rest of a
noumenal universe; else there is nothing to show that this Causal Agent was
not itself created--seeing that, even if we assume the existence of a God,
there is nothing to indicate that the Causal Agent of Cosmism is that God.

It would appear therefore from this, that whatever else the Cosmist's
theory of things may be, it certainly is not Theism; and I think that
closer inspection will tend to confirm this judgment. To this then let us

Mr. Fiske is very hard on the atheists, and so will probably repudiate with
scorn any insinuations to the effect that his theory of things is
"quasi-atheistic." Nevertheless, it seems to me that he is very unjust to
the atheists, in that while he spares no pains to "purify" and "refine" the
theory of the theists, so as at last to leave nothing but what he regards
as the distilled essence of Theism behind; he habitually leaves the theory
of the atheists as he finds it, without making any attempt either to
"purify" it by removing its weak and unnecessary ingredients, or to
"refine" it by adding such sublimated ingredients as modern speculation has
supplied. Thus, while he despises the atheists of the eighteenth century
for their irrationality in believing in the self-existence of a
_phenomenal_ universe, and reviles them for their irreligion in denying
that "the religious sentiment needed satisfaction;" he does not wait to
inquire whether, in its essential substance, the theory of these men is not
the one that has proved itself best able to withstand the grinding action
of more recent thought. But let us in fairness ask, What was the essential
substance of that theory? Apparently it was the bare statement of the
unthinkable fact that Something Is. It therefore seems to me useless in Mr.
Fiske to lay so much stress on the fact that this Something was originally
identified by atheists with the phenomenal universe. It seems useless to do
this, because such identification is clearly no part of the _essence_ of
Atheism, which, as just stated, I take to consist in the single dogma of
self-existence as itself sufficient to constitute a theory of things. And,
if so, it is a matter of scarcely any moment, as regards that theory,
whether we are _immediately_ cognisant of that which is self-existent, or
only become so through the world of phenomena--the vital point of the
theory being, that Self-existence, _wherever posited_, is itself the only
admissible explanation of phenomena. Or, in other words, it does not seem
that there is anything in the atheistic theory, as such, which is
incompatible with the doctrine of the Relativity of Knowledge; so that
whatever cogency there may be in the train of reasoning whereby a single
Causal Agent is deduced from that doctrine, it would seem that an atheist
has as much right to the benefit of this reasoning as a theist; and there
is thus no more apparent reason why this single Causal Agent should be
appropriated as the God of Theism, than that it should be appropriated as
the Self-existing X of Atheism. Indeed, there seems to be less reason. For
an atheist of to-day may very properly argue:--'So far from beholding
anything divine in this Single Being absolute to human consciousness, it is
just precisely the form of Being which my theory postulates as the
Self-existing All. In order to constitute such a Being God, it must be
shown, as we have already seen, to be something more than a merely Causal
Agent which is absolute in the grotesquely restricted sense of being
independent of 'one petty race of creatures with an ephemeral experience of
what is going on in one tiny corner of the universe;' it must be shown to
be something more than absolute even in the wholly unrestricted sense of
being Unconditioned; it must be shown to possess such other attributes as
are distinctive of Deity. For I maintain that even Unconditioned Being,
_merely as such_, would only then have a right to the name of God when it
has been shown that the theory of Theism has a right to monopolise the
doctrine of Relativity.'

In thus endeavouring to "purify" the theory of Atheism, by divesting it of
all superfluous accessories, and laying bare what I conceive to be its
essential substance; it may be well to state that, even apart from their
irreligious character, I have no sympathy with the atheists of the past
century. I mean, that these men do not seem to me to deserve any credit for
advanced powers of speculation merely because they adopted a theory of
things which in its essential features now promises to be the most
enduring. For it is evident that the strength of this theory now lies in
its _simplicity_,--in its undertaking to explain, so far as explanation is
possible, the sum-total of phenomena by the single postulate of
self-existence. But it seems to me that in the last century there were no
sufficient data for rendering such a theory of things a rational theory;
for so long as the quality of self-existence was supposed to reside in
phenomena themselves, the very simplicity of the theory, as expressed in
words, must have seemed to render it inapplicable as a reasonable theory of
things. The astounding variety, complexity, and harmony which are
everywhere so conspicuous in the world of phenomena must have seemed to
necessitate as an explanation some one integrating cause; and it is
impossible that in the eighteenth century any such integrating cause can
have been conceivable other than Intelligence. Therefore I think, with Mr.
Fiske, that the atheists of the eighteenth century were irrational in
applying their single postulate of self-existence as alone a sufficient
explanation of things. But of course the aspect of the case is now
completely changed, when we regard it in all the flood of light which has
been shed on it by recent science, physical and speculative. For the
demonstration of the fact that energy is indestructible, coupled with the
corollary that every so-called natural law is a physically necessary
consequence of that fact, clearly supply us with a completely novel datum
as the ultimate source of experience--and a datum, moreover, which is as
different as can well be imagined from the ever-changing, ever-fleeting,
world of phenomena. We have, therefore, but to apply the postulate of
self-existence to this single ultimate datum, and we have a theory of
things as rational as the Atheism of the last century was irrational.
Nevertheless, that this theory is more akin to the Atheism of the last
century than to any other theory of that time, is, I think, unquestionable;
for while we retain the central doctrine of self-existence as alone a
scientifically admissible, or non-gratuitous, explanation of things, we
only change the original theory by transferring the application of this
doctrine from the world of manifestations to that which causes the
manifestations: we do not resort to any of the _additional_ doctrines
whereby the other theories of the universe were distinguished from the
theory of Atheism in its original form. However, as by our recognition of
the relativity of knowledge we are precluded from dogmatically denying any
theory of the universe that may be proposed, it would clearly be erroneous
to identify the doctrine of the Unknowable with the theory of Atheism: all
we can say is, that, so far as speculative thought can soar, the permanent
self-existence of an inconceivable Something, which manifests itself to
consciousness as force and matter, constitutes the only datum that can be
shown to be required for the purposes of a rational ontology.

To sum up. In the theory which Mr. Fiske calls Cosmic Theism, while I am
able to discern the elements which I think may properly be regarded as
common to Theism and to Atheism, I am not able to discern any single
element that is specifically distinctive of Theism. Still I am far from
concluding that the theory in question is the theory of Atheism. All I wish
to insist upon is this--that as the Absolute Being of Cosmism presents no
other qualities than such as are required by the renovated theory of
Atheism, its postulation supplies a basis, not for Theism, but for
Non-theism: a man with such a postulate ought in strictness to abstain from
either affirming or denying the existence of God. And this, I may observe,
appears to be the position which Mr. Spencer himself has adopted as the
only logical outcome of his doctrine of the Unknowable--a position which,
in my opinion, it is most undesirable to obscure by endeavouring to give it
a quasi-theistic interpretation. I may further observe, that we here seem
to have a philosophical justification of the theological sentiment
previously alluded to--the sentiment, namely, that by his attempt at a
final purification of Theism, Mr. Fiske has destroyed those essential
features of the theory in virtue of which alone it exists as Theism. For
seeing it is impossible, from the relativity of knowledge, that the
Absolute Being of Cosmism can ever be shown absolute in the sense required
by Theism, and, even if it could, that it would still be but the
Unconditioned Being of Atheism; it follows that if this Absolute Being is
to be shown even in part to deserve the appellation of Deity, it must be
shown to possess the only remaining attributes which are distinctive of
Deity--to wit, personality and intelligence. But forasmuch as the final act
of purifying the conception of Deity consists, according to Mr. Fiske, in
expressly removing these particular attributes from the object of that
conception, does it not follow that the conception which remains is, as I
have said, not theistic, but non-theistic?

Here my criticism might properly have ended, were it not that Mr. Fiske,
after having divested the Deity of all his psychical attributes, forthwith
proceeds to show how it may be dimly possible to reinvest him with
attributes that are "quasi-psychical." Mr. Fiske is, of course, far too
subtle a thinker not to see that his previous argument from relativity
precludes him from assigning much weight to the ontological speculations in
which he here indulges, seeing that in whatever degree the relativity of
knowledge renders legitimate the non-ascription to Deity of known psychical
attributes, in some such degree at least must it render illegitimate the
ascription to Deity of unknown psychical attributes. But in the part of his
work in which he treats of the quasi-psychical attributes, Mr. Fiske is
merely engaged in showing that the speculative standing of the
"materialists" is inferior to that of the "spiritualists;" so that, as this
is a subject distinct from Theism, he is not open to the charge of
inconsistency. Well, feeble as these speculations undoubtedly are in the
support which they render to Theism, it nevertheless seems desirable to
consider them before closing this review. The speculations in question are
quoted from Mr. Spencer, and are as follows:--

"Mind, as known to the possessor of it, is a circumscribed aggregate of
activities; and the cohesion of these activities, one with another,
throughout the aggregate, compels the postulation of a something of which
they are the activities. But the same experiences which make him aware of
this coherent aggregate of mental activities, simultaneously make him aware
of activities that are not included in it--outlying activities which become
known by their effects on this aggregate, but which are experimentally
proved to be not coherent with it, and to be coherent with one another
(_First Principles_, §§ 43, 44). As, by the definition of them, these
external activities cannot be brought within the aggregate of activities
distinguished as those of Mind, they must for ever remain to him nothing
more than the unknown correlatives of their effects on this aggregate; and
can be thought of only in terms furnished by this aggregate. Hence, if he
regards his conceptions of these activities lying beyond Mind as
constituting knowledge of them, he is deluding himself: he is but
representing these activities in terms of Mind, and can never do otherwise.
Eventually he is obliged to admit that his ideas of Matter and Motion,
merely symbolic of unknowable realities, are complex states of
consciousness built out of units of feeling. But if, after admitting this,
he persists in asking whether units of feeling are of the same nature as
the units of force distinguished as external, or whether the units of force
distinguished as external are of the same nature as units of feeling; then
the reply, still substantially the same, is that we may go further towards
conceiving units of external force to be identical with units of feeling,
than we can towards conceiving units of feeling to be identical with units
of external force. Clearly, if units of external force are regarded as
absolutely unknown and unknowable, then to translate units of feeling into
them is to translate the known into the unknown, which is absurd. And if
they are what they are supposed to be by those who identify them with their
symbols, then the difficulty of translating units of feeling into them is
insurmountable: if Force as it objectively exists is absolutely alien in
nature from that which exists subjectively as Feeling, then the
transformation of Force into Feeling is unthinkable. Either way, therefore,
it is impossible to interpret inner existence in terms of outer existence.
But if, on the other hand, units of Force as they exist objectively are
essentially the same in nature with those manifested subjectively as units
of Feeling, then a conceivable hypothesis remains open. Every element of
that aggregate of activities constituting a consciousness is known as
belonging to consciousness only by its cohesion with the rest. Beyond the
limits of this coherent aggregate of activities exist activities quite
independent of it, and which cannot be brought into it. We may imagine,
then, that by their exclusion from the circumscribed activities
constituting consciousness, these outer activities, though of the same
intrinsic nature, become antithetically opposed in aspect. Being
disconnected from consciousness, or cut off by its limits, they are thereby
rendered foreign to it. Not being incorporated with its activities, or
linked with these as they are with one another, consciousness cannot, as it
were, run through them; and so they come to be figured as unconscious--are
symbolised as having the nature called material, as opposed to that called
spiritual. While, however, it thus seems an imaginable possibility that
units of external Force may be identical in nature with units of the force
known as Feeling, yet we cannot by so representing them get any nearer to a
comprehension of external Force. For, as already shown, supposing all forms
of Mind to be composed of homogeneous units of feeling variously
aggregated, the resolution of them into such units leaves us as unable as
before to think of the substance of Mind as it exists in such units; and
thus, even could we really figure to ourselves all units of external Force
as being essentially like units of the force known as Feeling, and as so
constituting a universal sentiency, we should be as far as ever from
forming a conception of that which is universally sentient."[42]

Now while I agree with Mr. Fiske that we have here "the most subtle
conclusion now within the ken of the scientific speculator, reached without
any disregard of the canons prescribed by the doctrine of relativity," I
would like to point out to minds less clear-sighted than his, that this
same "doctrine of relativity" effectually debars us from using this
"conclusion" as an argument of any assignable value in favour of Theism.
For the value of conceivability as a test of truth, on which this
conclusion is founded, is here vitiated by the consideration that,
_whatever_ the nature of Force-units may be, we can clearly perceive it to
be a subjective necessity of the case that they should admit of being more
easily conceived by us to be of the nature of Feeling-units than to be of
any other nature. For as units of Feeling are the only entities of which we
are, or can be, conscious, they are the entities into which units of Force
must be, so to speak, subjectively translated before we can cognise their
existence at all. Therefore, _whatever_ the real nature of Force-units may
be, ultimate analysis must show that it is more conceivable to identify
them in thought with the only units of which we are cognisant, than it is
to think of them as units of which we are not cognisant, and concerning
which, therefore, conception is necessarily impossible. Or thus, the only
alternative with respect to the classifying of Force-units lies between
refusing to classify them at all, or classifying them with the only
ultimate units with which we are acquainted. But this restriction, for
aught that can ever be shown to the contrary, arises only from the
subjective conditions of our own consciousness; there is nothing to
indicate that, in objective reality, units of Force are in any wise akin to
units of Feeling. Conceivability, therefore, as a test of truth, is in this
particular case of no assignable degree of value; for as the entities to
which it is applied are respectively the highest known abstractions of
subjective and objective existence, the test of conceivability is
neutralised by directly encountering the inconceivable relation that
subsists between subject and object. I think, therefore, it is evident that
these ontological speculations present no sufficient warrant for an
inference, even of the slenderest kind, that the Absolute Being of Cosmism
possesses attributes of a nature quasi-psychical; and, if so, it follows
that these speculations are incompetent to form the basis of a theory
which, even by the greatest stretch of courtesy, can in any legitimate
sense be termed quasi-theistic.[43]

On the whole, then, I conclude that the term "Cosmic Theism" is not an
appropriate term whereby to denote the theory of things set forth in
"Cosmic Philosophy;" and that it would therefore be more judicious to leave
the doctrine of the Unknowable as Mr. Spencer has left it--that is, without
theological implications of any kind. But in now taking leave of this
subject, I should like it to be understood that the only reason why I have
ventured thus to take exception to a part of Mr. Fiske's work is because I
regret that a treatise which displays so much of literary excellence and
philosophic power should lend itself to promoting what I regard as mistaken
views concerning the ontological tendencies of recent thought, and this
with no other apparent motive than that of unworthily retaining in the new
philosophy a religious term the distinctive connotations of which are
considered by that philosophy to have become obsolete.

       *       *       *       *       *



On perusing my main essay several years after its completion, it occurred
to me that another very effectual way of demonstrating the immense
difference between the nature of all previous attacks upon the teleological
argument and the nature of the present attack, would be briefly to review
the reasonable objections to which all the previous attacks were open. Very
opportunely a work on Theism has just been published which states these
objections with great lucidity, and answers them with much ability. The
work to which I allude is by the Rev. Professor Flint, and as it is
characterised by temperate candour in tone and logical care in exposition,
I felt on reading it that the work was particularly well suited for
displaying the enormous change in the speculative standing of Theism which
the foregoing considerations must be rationally deemed to have effected. I
therefore determined on throwing my supplementary essay, which I had
previously intended to write, into the form of a criticism on Professor
Flint's treatise, and I adopted this course the more willingly because
there are several other points dwelt upon in that treatise which it seems
desirable for me to consider in the present one, although, for the sake of
conciseness, I abstained from discussing them in my previous essay. With
these two objects in view, therefore, I undertook the following

In the first place, it is needful to protest against an argument which our
author adopts on the authority of Professor Clark Maxwell. The argument is
now a well-known one, and is thus stated by Professor Maxwell in his
presidential address before the British Association for the Advancement of
Science, 1870:--"None of the processes of nature, since the time when
nature began, have produced the slightest difference in the properties of
any molecule. We are therefore unable to ascribe either the existence of
the molecules or the identity of their properties to the operation of any
of the causes which we call natural. On the other hand, the exact quality
of each molecule to all others of the same kind gives it, as Sir John
Herschel has well said, the essential character of a manufactured article,
and precludes the idea of its being eternal and self-existent. Thus we have
been led along a strictly scientific path, very near to the point at which
science must stop. Not that science is debarred from studying the external
mechanism of a molecule which she cannot take to pieces, any more than from
investigating an organism which she cannot put together. But in tracing
back the history of matter, science is arrested when she assures herself,
on the one hand, that the molecule has been made, and, on the other, that
it has not been made by any of the processes we call natural."

Now it is obvious that we have here no real argument, since it is obvious
that science can never be in a position to assert that atoms, the very
existence of which is hypothetical, were never "made by any of the
processes we call natural." The mere fact that in the universe, as we now
know it, the evolution of material atoms is not observed to be taking place
"by any of the processes we call natural," cannot possibly be taken as
proof, or even as presumption, that there ever was a time when the material
atoms now in existence were created by a supernatural cause. The fact
cannot be taken to justify any such inference for the following reasons. In
the first place, assuming the atomic theory to be true, and there is
nothing in the argument to show that the now-existing atoms are not
self-existing atoms, endowed with their peculiar and severally distinctive
properties from all eternity. Doubtless the argument is, that as there
appear to be some sixty or more elementary atoms constituting the raw
material of the observable universe, it is incredible that they can all
have owed their correlated properties to any cause other than that of a
designing and manufacturing intelligence. But, in the next place--and here
comes the demolishing force of the criticism--science is not in a position
to assert that these sixty or more elementary atoms are in any real sense
of the term elementary. The mere fact that chemistry is as yet in too
undeveloped a condition to pronounce whether or not all the forms of matter
known to her are modifications of some smaller number of elements, or even
of a single element, cannot possibly be taken as a warrant for so huge an
inference as that there are really more than sixty elements all endowed
with absolutely distinctive properties by a supernatural cause. Now this
consideration, which arises immediately from the doctrine of the relativity
of knowledge, is alone amply sufficient to destroy the present argument.
But we must not on this account lose sight of the fact that, even to our
strictly relative science in its present embryonic condition, we are not
without decided indications, not only that the so-called elements are
probably for the most part compounds, but even that matter as a whole is
one substance, which is itself probably but some modification of energy.
Indeed, the whole tendency of recent scientific speculation is towards the
view that the universe consists of some one substance, which, whether
self-existing or created, is diverse only in its relation to ignorance. And
if this view is correct, how obvious is the inference which I have
elaborated in § 32, that all the diverse forms of matter, as we know them,
were probably evolved by natural causes. So obvious, indeed, is this
inference, that to resort to any supernatural hypothesis to explain the
diverse properties of the various chemical elements appears to me a most
glaring violation of the law of parcimony--as much more glaring, for
instance, than the violation of this law by Paley, as the number and
variety of organic species are greater than the number and variety of
chemical species. And if it was illegitimate in Paley to use a mere absence
of knowledge as to how the transmutation of apparently fixed species of
animals was effected as equivalent to the possession of knowledge that such
transmutation had not been effected, how much more illegitimate must it be
to commit a similar sin against logic in the case of the chemical elements,
where our classification is confessedly beset with numberless difficulties,
and when we begin to discern that in all probability it is a classification
essentially artificial. Lastly, the mere fact that the transmutation of
chemical species and the evolution of chemical "atoms" are processes which
we do not now observe as occurring in nature, is surely a consideration of
a far more feeble kind than it is even in the case of biological species
and biological evolution; seeing that nature's laboratory must be now so
inconceivably different from what it was during the condensation of the
nebula. What an atrocious piece of arrogance, therefore, it is to assert
that "none of the processes of nature, _since the time when nature began_,
have produced the slightest difference in the properties of any molecule!"
No one can entertain a higher respect for Professor Clark Maxwell than I
do; but a single sentence of such a kind as this cannot leave two opinions
in any impartial mind concerning his competency to deal with such subjects.

I am therefore sorry to see this absurd argument approvingly incorporated
in Professor Flint's work. He says, "I believe that no reply to these words
of Professor Clark Maxwell is possible from any one who holds the ordinary
view of scientific men as to the ultimate constitution of matter. They must
suppose every atom, every molecule, to be of such a nature, to be so
related to others and to the universe generally, that things may be such as
we see them to be; but this their fitness to be built up into the structure
of the universe is a proof that they have been made fit, and since natural
forces could not have acted on them while not yet existent, a supernatural
power must have created them, and created them with a view to their
manifold uses." Here the inference so confidently drawn would have been a
weak one even were we not able to see that the doctrine of natural
evolution probably applies to inorganic nature no less than to organic. For
the inference is drawn from considerations of a character so transcendental
and so remote from science, that unless we wish to be deceived by a merely
verbal argument, we must feel that the possibilities of error in the
inference are so numerous and indefinite, that the inference itself is
well-nigh worthless as a basis of belief. But when we add that in Chapter
IV. of the foregoing essay it has been shown to be within the legitimate
scope of scientific reasoning to conclude that material atoms have been
progressively evolved _pari passu_ with the natural laws of chemical
combination, it is evident that any force which the present argument could
ever have had must now be pronounced as neutralised. Natural causes have
been shown, so far as scientific inference can extend, as not improbably
sufficient to produce the observed effects; and therefore we are no longer
free to invoke the hypothetical action of any supernatural cause.

The same observations apply to Professor Flint's theistic argument drawn
from recent scientific speculations as to the vortex-ring construction of
matter. If these speculations are sound, their only influence on Theism
would be that of supplying a scientific demonstration of the substantial
identity of Force and Matter, and so of supplying a still more valid basis
for the theory as to the natural genesis of matter from a single primordial
substance, in the manner sketched out in Chapter IV. For the argument
adduced by Professor Flint, that as the manner in which the vorticial
motion of a ring is originated has not as yet been suggested, therefore its
origination must have been due to a "Divine impulse," is an argument which
again uses the absence of knowledge as equivalent to its possession. We are
in the presence of a very novel and highly abstruse theory, or rather
hypothesis, in physics, which was originally suggested by, and has hitherto
been mainly indebted to, empirical experiments as distinguished from
mathematical calculations; and from the mere fact that, in the case of such
a hypothesis, mathematicians have not as yet been able to determine the
physical conditions required to originate vorticial motion, we are expected
to infer that no such conditions can ever have existed, and therefore that
every such vortex system, if it exists, is a miracle!

And substantially the same criticism applies to the argument which
Professor Flint adduces--the argument also on which Professors Balfour and
Tait lay so much stress in their work on the _Unseen Universe_--the
argument, namely, as to the non-eternal character of heat. The calculations
on which this argument depends would only be valid as sustaining this
argument if they were based upon a knowledge of the universe _as a whole_;
and therefore, as before, the absence of requisite knowledge must not be
used as equivalent to its possession.

These, however, are the weakest parts of Professor Flint's work. I
therefore gladly turn to those parts which are exceedingly cogent as
written from his standpoint, but which, in view of the strictures on the
teleological argument that I have adduced in Chapters IV. and VI., I submit
to be now wholly valueless.

"How could matter of itself produce order, even if it were self-existent
and eternal? It is far more unreasonable to believe that the atoms or
constituents of matter produced of themselves, without the action of a
Supreme Mind, this wonderful universe, than that the letters of the English
alphabet produced the plays of Shakespeare, without the slightest
assistance from the human mind known by that famous name. These atoms
might, perhaps, now and then, here and there, at great distances and long
intervals, produce by a chance contact some curious collocation or
compound; but never could they produce order or organisation on an
extensive scale, or of a durable character, unless ordered, arranged, and
adjusted in ways of which intelligence alone can be the ultimate
explanation. To believe that these fortuitous and indirected movements
could originate the universe, and all the harmonies and utilities and
beauties which abound in it, evinces a credulity far more extravagant than
has ever been displayed by the most superstitious of religionists. Yet no
consistent materialist can refuse to accept this colossal chance
hypothesis. All the explanations of the order of the universe which
materialists, from Democritus and Epicurus to Diderot and Lange, have
devised, rest on the assumption that the elements of matter, being eternal,
must pass through infinite combinations, and that one of these must be our
present world--a special collocation among the countless millions of
collocations, past and future. Throw the letters of the Greek alphabet, it
has been said, an infinite number of times, and you must produce the
'Iliad' and all the Greek books. The theory of probabilities, I need hardly
say, requires us to believe nothing so absurd.... But what is the 'Iliad'
to the hymn of creation and the drama of providence?" &c.

Now this I conceive to have been a fully valid argument at the time it was
published, and indeed the most convincing of all the arguments in favour of
Theism. But, as already so frequently pointed out, the considerations
adduced in Chapter IV. of the present work are utterly destructive of this
argument. For this argument assumes, rightly enough, that the only
alternative we have in choosing our hypothesis concerning the final
explanation of things is either to regard that explanation as Intelligence
or as Fortuity. This, I say, was a legitimate argument a few months ago,
because up to that time no one had shown that strictly natural causes, as
distinguished from chances, could conceivably be able to produce a cosmos;
and although the several previous writers to whom Professor Flint
alludes--and he might have alluded to others in this
connection--entertained a dim anticipation of the fact that natural causes
might alone be sufficient to produce the observed universe, still these dim
anticipations were worthless as _arguments_ so long as it remained
impossible to suggest any natural _principle_ whereby such a result could
have been conceivably effected by such causes. But it is evident that
Professor Flint's time-honoured argument is now completely overthrown,
unless it can be proved that there is some radical error in the reasoning
whereby I have endeavoured to show that natural causes not only _may_, but
_must_, have produced existing order. The overthrow is complete, because
the very groundwork of the argument in question is knocked away; a third
possibility, of the nature of a necessity, is introduced, and therefore the
alternative is no longer between Intelligence and Fortuity, but between
Intelligence and Natural Causation. Whereas the overwhelming strength of
the argument from Order has hitherto consisted in the supposition of
Intelligence as the one and only conceivable cause of the integration of
things, my exposition in Chapter IV. has shown that such integration must
have been due, at all events in a relative or proximate sense, to a
strictly physical cause--the persistence of force and the consequent
self-evolution of natural law. And the question as to whether or not
Intelligence may not have been the absolute or ultimate cause is manifestly
a question altogether alien to the argument from Order; for if existing
order admits of being accounted for, in a relative or proximate sense, by
merely physical causes, the argument from a relative or proximate order is
not at liberty to infer or to assume the existence of any higher or more
ultimate cause. Although, therefore, in Chapter V., I have been careful to
point out that the fact of existing order having been due to proximate or
natural causes does not actually _disprove_ the possible existence of an
ultimate and supernatural cause, still it must be carefully observed that
this _negative_ fact cannot possibly justify any _positive_ inference to
the existence of such a cause.

Thus, upon the whole, it may be said, without danger of reasonable dispute,
that as the argument from Order has hitherto derived its immense weight
entirely from the fact that Intelligence appeared to be the one and only
cause sufficient to produce the observed integration of the cosmos, this
immense weight has now been completely counterpoised by the demonstration
that other causes of a strictly physical kind must have been instrumental,
if not themselves alone sufficient, to produce this integration, So that,
just as in the case of Astronomy the demonstration of the one natural
principle of gravity was sufficient to classify under one physical
explanation several observed facts which many persons had previously
attributed to supernatural causes; and just as in the more complex science
of Geology the demonstration of the one principle of uniformitarianism was
sufficient to explain, without the aid of supernaturalism, a still greater
number of facts; and, lastly, just as in the case of the still more complex
science of Biology the demonstration of the one principle of natural
selection was sufficient to marshal under one scientific, or natural,
hypothesis an almost incalculable number of facts which were previously
explained by the metaphysical hypothesis of supernatural design; so in the
science which includes all other sciences, and which we may term the
science of Cosmology, I assert with confidence that in the one principle of
the persistence of force we have a demonstrably harmonising principle,
whereby all the facts within our experience admit of being collocated under
one natural explanation, without there being the smallest reason to
attribute these facts to any supernatural cause.

But perhaps the immense change which these considerations must logically be
regarded as having produced in the speculative standing of the argument
from teleology will be better appreciated if I continue to quote from
Professor Flint's very forcible and thoroughly logical exposition of the
previous standing of this argument. He says:--

"To ascribe the origination of order to _law_ is a manifest evasion of the
real problem. Law is order. Law is the very thing to be explained. The
question is--Has law a reason, or is it without a reason? The unperverted
human mind cannot believe it to be without a reason."

I do not know where a more terse and accurate statement of the case could
be found; and to my mind the question so lucidly put admits of the direct
answer--Law clearly has a reason of a purely physical kind. And therefore I
submit that the following quotation which Professor Flint makes from
Professor Jevons, logical as it was when written, must now be regarded as
embodying an argument which is obsolete.

"As an unlimited number of atoms can be placed in unlimited space in an
unlimited number of modes of distribution, there must, even granting matter
to have had all its laws from eternity, have been at some moment in time,
out of the unlimited choices and distributions possible, that one choice
and distribution which yielded the fair and orderly universe that now
exists. Only out of rational choice can order have come."

But clearly the alternative is now no longer one between chance and choice.
If natural laws arise by way of necessary consequence from the persistence
of a single self-existing substance, it becomes a matter of scientific
(though not of logical) demonstration that "the fair and orderly universe
that now exists" is the one and only universe that, in the nature of
things, _can_ exist. But to continue this interesting passage from Dr.
Flint's work--interesting not only because it sets forth the previous
standing of this subject with so much clearness, but also because the work
is of such very recent publication.

"The most common mode, perhaps, of evading the problem which order presents
to reason is the indication of the process by which the order has been
realised. From Democritus to the latest Darwinian there have been men who
supposed they had completely explained away the evidences of design in
nature when they had described the physical antecedents of the arrangements
appealed to as evidences. Aristotle showed the absurdity of this
supposition more than 2200 years ago."

Now this is a perfectly valid criticism on all such previous non-theistical
arguments as were drawn from an "indication of the process by which the
order has been realised;" for in all these previous arguments there was an
absence of any physical explanation of the _ultimate_ cause of the process
contemplated, and so long as this ultimate cause remained obscure, although
the evidence of design might by these arguments have been excluded from
particular processes, the evidence of design could not be similarly
excluded from the ultimate cause of these processes. Thus, for instance, it
is doubtless illogical, as Professor Flint points out, in any Darwinian to
argue that because his theory of natural selection supplies him with a
natural explanation of the process whereby organisms have been adapted to
their surroundings, therefore this process need not itself have been
designed. That is to say, in general terms, as insisted upon in the
foregoing essay, the discovery of a natural law or orderly process cannot
of itself justify the inference that this law or method of orderly
procedure is not itself a product of supernatural Intelligence; but, on the
contrary, the very existence of such orderly processes, considered only in
relation to their products, must properly be regarded as evidence of the
best possible kind in favour of supernatural Intelligence, _provided that
no natural cause can be suggested as adequate to explain the origin of
these processes_. But this is precisely what the persistence of force,
considered as a natural cause, must be pronounced as necessarily competent
to achieve; for we can clearly see that all these processes obviously must
and actually do derive their origin from this one causative principle. And
whether or not behind this one causative principle of natural law there
exists a still more ultimate cause in the form of a supernatural
Intelligence, this is a question altogether foreign to any argument from
teleology, seeing that teleology, in so far as it is _teleology_, can only
rest upon the observed facts of the cosmos; and if these facts admit of
being explained by the action of a single causative principle inherent in
the cosmos itself, teleology is not free to assume the action of any
causative principle of a more ultimate character. Still, as I have
repeatedly insisted, these considerations do not entitle us dogmatically to
deny the existence of some such more ultimate principle; all that these
considerations do is to remove any rational argument from teleological
sources that any such more ultimate principle exists. Therefore I am, of
course, quite at one with Professor Flint when he says Professor Huxley
"admits that the most thoroughgoing evolutionist must at least assume 'a
primordial molecular arrangement of which all the phenomena of the universe
are the consequences,' and 'is thereby at the mercy of the theologist, who
can defy him to disprove that this primordial molecular arrangement was not
intended to involve the phenomena of the universe.' Granting this much, he
is logically bound to grant more. If the entire evolution of the universe
may have been intended, the several stages of its evolution may have been
intended, and they may have been intended for their own sakes as well as
for the sake of the collective evolution or its final result." Now that
such _may have been_ the case, I have been careful to insist in Chapter V.;
all I am now concerned with is to show that, in view of the considerations
adduced in Chapter IV., there is no longer any evidence to prove, or even
to indicate, that such _has been_ the case. And with reference to this
opportune quotation from Professor Huxley I may remark, that the
"thoroughgoing evolutionist" is now no longer "at the mercy of the
theologian" to any further extent than that of not being able to disprove a
purely metaphysical hypothesis, which is as certainly superfluous, in any
scientific sense, as the fundamental data of science are certainly true.

It may seem almost unnecessary to extend this postscript by pursuing
further the criticism on Professor Flint's exposition in the light of "a
single new reason ... for the denial of design" which he challenges; but
there are nevertheless one or two other points which it seems desirable to
consider. Professor Flint writes:--

"M. Comte imagines that he has shown the inference from design, from the
order and stability of the solar system, to be unwarranted, when he has
pointed out the physical conditions through which that order and stability
are secured, and the process by which they have been obtained.... Now the
assertion that the peculiarities which make the solar system stable and the
earth habitable have flowed naturally and necessarily from the simple
mutual gravity of the several parts of nebulous matter is one which greatly
requires proof, but which has never received it. In saying this, we do not
challenge the proof of the nebular theory itself. That theory may or may
not be true. We are quite willing to suppose it true--to grant that it has
been scientifically established. What we maintain is, that even if we admit
unreservedly that the earth and the whole system to which it belongs once
existed in a nebulous state, from which they were gradually evolved into
their present condition conformably to physical laws, we are in no degree
entitled to infer from the admission the conclusion which Comte and others
have drawn. The man who fancies that the nebular theory implies that the
law of gravitation, or any other physical law, has of itself determined the
course of cosmical evolution, so that there is no need for believing in the
existence and operation of a divine mind, proves merely that he is not
exempt from reasoning very illogically. The solar system could only have
been evolved out of its nebulous state into that which it now presents if
the nebula possessed a certain size, mass, form, and constitution, if it
was neither too fluid nor too tenacious--if its atoms were all numbered,
its elements all weighed, its constituents all disposed in due relation to
one another; that is to say, only if the nebula was in reality as much a
system of order, which Intelligence alone could account for, as the worlds
which have been developed from it. The origin of the nebula thus presents
itself to reason as a problem which demands solution no less than the
origin of the planets. All the properties and laws of the nebula require to
be accounted for. What origin are we to give them? It must be either reason
or unreason. We may go back as far as we please, but, at every step and
stage of the regress we must find ourselves confronted with the same
question, the same alternative--intelligent purpose or colossal chance."

Now, so far as Comte is here guilty of the fallacy I have already dwelt
upon of building a destructive argument upon a demonstration of mere
orderly processes in nature, as distinguished from a demonstration of the
natural cause of these processes, it is not for me to defend him. All we
can say with regard to him in this connection is, that, having a sort of
scientific presentiment that if the knowledge of his day were sufficiently
advanced it would prove destructive of supernaturalism in the higher and
more abstruse provinces of physical speculation, as it had previously
proved in the lower and less abstruse of these provinces, Comte allowed his
inferences to outrun their legitimate basis. Being necessarily ignorant of
the one generating cause of orderly processes in nature, he improperly
allowed himself to found conclusions on the basis of these processes alone,
which could only be properly founded on the basis of their cause. But
freely granting this much to Professor Flint, and the rest of his remarks
in this connection will be found, in view of the altered standing of this
subject, to be open to amendment. For, in the first place, no one need now
resort to the illogical supposition that "the law of gravitation or any
other physical law has of itself determined the course of cosmical
evolution." What we may argue, and what must be conceded to us, is, that
the common substratum of all physical laws was at one time sufficient to
produce the simplest physical laws, and that throughout the whole course of
evolution this common substratum has always been sufficient to produce the
more complex laws in the ascending series of their ever-increasing number
and variety. And hence it becomes obvious that the "origin of the nebula"
presents a difficulty neither greater nor less than "the origin of the
planets," since, "if we may go back as far as we please," we can entertain
no _scientific_ doubt that we should come to a time, prior even to the
nebula, when the substance of the solar system existed merely as
such--_i.e._, in an almost or in a wholly undifferentiated form, the
product, no doubt, of endless cycles of previous evolutions and
dissolutions of formal differentiations. Therefore, although it is
undoubtedly true that "the solar system could only have been evolved out of
its nebulous state into that which it now presents if the nebula possessed"
those particular attributes which were necessity to the evolution of such a
product, this consideration is clearly deprived of all its force from our
present point of view. For unless it can be shown that there is some
independent reason for believing these particular attributes--which must
have been of a more and more simple a character the further we recede in
time--to have been miraculously imposed, the analogy is overwhelming that
they all progressively arose _by way of natural law_. And if so, the
universe which has been thus produced is the only universe in this
particular point of space and time which could have been thus produced.
That it is an _orderly_ universe we have seen _ad nauseam_ to be no
argument in favour of its having been a _designed_ universe, so long as the
cause of its order--general laws--can be seen to admit of a natural

Thus there is clearly nothing to be gained on the side of teleology by
going back to the dim and dismal birth of the nebula; for no "thoroughgoing
evolutionist" would for one moment entertain the supposition that natural
law in the simplest phases of its development partook any more of a
miraculous character than it does in its more recent and vastly more
complex phases. The absence of knowledge must not be used as equivalent to
its presence; and if analogy can be held to justify any inference
whatsoever, surely we may conclude with confidence that if existing general
laws admit of being conceivably attributed to a natural genesis, the
primordial laws of a condensing nebula must have been the same.

There is another passage in Professor Flint's work to which it seems
desirable to refer. It begins thus: "There is the law of heredity: like
produces like. But why is there such a law? Why does like produce like?...
Physical science cannot answer these questions; but that is no reason why
they should not both be asked and answered. I can conceive of no other
intelligent answer being given to them than that there is a God of wisdom,
who designed that the world should be for all ages the abode of life," &c.

Now here we have in another form that same vicious tendency to take refuge
in the more obscure cases of physical causation as proofs of supernatural
design--the obscurity in this case arising from the _complexity_ of the
causes and work, as in the former case it arose from their _remoteness_ in
time. But in both cases the same answer is patent, viz., that although
"physical science cannot answer these questions" by pointing out the
precise sequence of causes and effects, physical science is nevertheless
quite as certain that this precise sequence arises in its last resort from
the persistence of force, as she would be were she able to trace the whole
process. And therefore, in view of the considerations set forth in Chapter
IV. of this work, it is no longer open to Professor Flint or to any other
writer logically to assert--"I can conceive of no other intelligent answer
being given to" such questions "than that there is a God of wisdom."

The same answer awaits this author's further disquisition on other
biological laws, so it is needless to make any further quotations in this
connection. But there is one other principle embodied in some of these
passages which it seems undesirable to overlook. It is said, for instance,
"Natural selection might have had no materials, or altogether insufficient
materials, to work with, or the circumstances might have been such that the
lowest organisms were the best endowed for the struggle for life. If the
earth were covered with water, fish would survive and higher creatures
would perish."

Now the principle here embodied--viz., that had the conditions of evolution
been other than they were, the results would have been different--is, of
course, true; but clearly, on the view that _all_ natural laws spring from
the persistence of force, no other conditions than those which actually
occurred, or are now occurring, could ever have occurred,--the whole course
of evolution must have been, in all its phases and in all its processes, an
unconditional necessity. But if it is said, How fortunate that the outcome,
being unconditionally necessary, has happened to be so good as it is; I
answer that the remark is legitimate enough if it is not intended to convey
an implication that the general quality of the outcome points to beneficent
design as to its cause. Such an implication would not be legitimate,
because, in the first place, we have no means of knowing in how many cases,
whether in planets, stars, or systems, the course of evolution has failed
to produce life and mind--the one known case of this earth, whether or not
it is the one success out of millions of abortions, being of necessity the
only known case. In how vastly greater a number of cases the course of
evolution may have been, so to speak, deflected by some even slight, though
strictly necessary, cause from producing self-conscious intelligence, it is
impossible to conjecture. But this consideration, be it observed, is not
here adduced in order to _disprove_ the assertion that telluric evolution
has been effected by Intelligence; it is merely adduced to prove that such
an assertion cannot rest on the single known result of telluric evolution,
so long as an infinite number of the results of evolution elsewhere remain

And now, lastly, it must be observed that even in the one case with which
we are acquainted, the net product of evolution is not such as can of
itself point us to _beneficent_ design. Professor Flint, indeed, in common
with theologians generally, argues that it does. I will therefore briefly
criticise his remarks on this subject, believing, as I do, that they form a
very admirable illustration of what I conceive to be a general
principle--viz., that minds which already believe in the existence of a
Deity are, as a rule, not in a position to view this question of
beneficence in nature in a perfectly impartial manner. For if the existence
of a Deity is presupposed, a mind with any particle of that most noble
quality--reverence--will naturally hesitate to draw conclusions that
partake of the nature of blasphemy; and therefore, unconsciously perhaps to
themselves, they endeavour in various ways to evade the evidence which, if
honestly and impartially considered, can scarcely fail to negative the
argument from beneficence in the universe.

Professor Flint argues that the "law of over-production," and the
consequent struggle for existence, being "the reason why the world is so
wonderfully rich in the most varied forms of life," is "a means to an end
worthy of Divine Wisdom." "Although involving privation, pain, and
conflict, its final result is order and beauty. All the perfections of
sentient creatures are represented as due to it. Through it the lion has
gained its strength, the deer its speed, and the dog its sagacity. The
inference seems natural that these perfections were designed to be attained
by it; that this state of struggle was ordained for the sake of the
advantages which it is actually seen to produce. The suffering which the
conflict involves may indicate that God has made even animals for some
higher end than happiness--that he cares for animal perfection as well as
for animal enjoyment; but it affords no reason for denying that the ends
which the conflict actually serves it was intended to serve."

Now, whatever may be thought of such an argument as an attempted
justification of beneficent design already on independent ground believed
to exist, it is manifestly no argument at all as establishing any
presumption in favour of such design, unless it could be shown that the
Deity is so far limited in his power of adapting means to ends that the
particular method adopted in this case was the best, all things considered,
that he was able to adopt. For supposing the Deity to be, what Professor
Flint maintains that he is--viz., omnipotent--and there can be no inference
more transparent than that such wholesale suffering, for whatever ends
designed, exhibits an incalculably greater deficiency of beneficence in the
divine character than that which we know in any, the very worst, of human
characters. For let us pause for one moment to think of what suffering in
nature means. Some hundreds of millions of years ago some millions of
millions of animals must be supposed to have been sentient. Since that time
till the present, there must have been millions and millions of generations
of millions of millions of individuals. And throughout all this period of
incalculable duration, this inconceivable host of sentient organisms have
been in a state of unceasing battle, dread, ravin, pain. Looking to the
outcome, we find that more than half of the species which have survived the
ceaseless struggle are parasitic in their habits, lower and insentient
forms of life feasting on higher and sentient forms; we find teeth and
talons whetted for slaughter, hooks and suckers moulded for
torment--everywhere a reign of terror, hunger, and sickness, with oozing
blood and quivering limbs, with gasping breath and eyes of innocence that
dimly close in deaths of brutal torture! Is it said that there are
compensating enjoyments? I care not to strike the balance; the enjoyments I
plainly perceive to be as physically necessary as the pains, and this
whether or not evolution is due to design. Therefore all I am concerned
with is to show, that if such a state of things is due to "omnipotent
design," the omnipotent designer must be concluded, so far as reason can
infer, to be non-beneficent. And this it is not difficult to show. When I
see a rabbit panting in the iron jaws of a spring-trap, I abhor the
devilish nature of the being who, with full powers of realising what pain
means, can deliberately employ his noble faculties of invention in
contriving a thing so hideously cruel. But if I could believe that there is
a being who, with yet higher faculties of thought and knowledge, and with
an unlimited choice of means to secure his ends, has contrived untold
thousands of mechanisms no less diabolical than a spring-trap; I should
call that being a fiend, were all the world besides to call him God. Am I
told that this is arrogance? It is nothing of the kind; it is plain
morality, and to say otherwise would be to hide our eyes from murder
because we dread the Murderer. Am I told that I am not competent to judge
the purposes of the Almighty? I answer that if these are _purposes_, I _am_
able to judge of them so far as I can see; and if I am expected to judge of
his purposes when they appear to be beneficent, I am in consistency obliged
also to judge of them when they appear to be malevolent. And it can be no
possible extenuation of the latter to point to the "final result" as "order
and beauty," so long as the means adopted by the "_Omnipotent_ Designer"
are known to have been so revolting. All that we could legitimately assert
in this case would be, that so far as observation can extend, "he cares for
animal perfection" _to the exclusion of_ "animal enjoyment," and even to
the _total disregard_ of animal suffering. But to assert this would merely
be to deny beneficence as an attribute of God.

The dilemma, therefore, which Epicurus has stated with great lucidity, and
which Professor Flint quotes, appears to me so obvious as scarcely to
require statement. The dilemma is, that, looking to the facts of organic
nature, theists must abandon their belief, either in the divine
omnipotence, or in the divine beneficence. And yet, such is the warping
effect of preformed beliefs on the mind, that even so candid a writer as
Professor Flint can thus write of this most obvious truth:--

"The late Mr. John Stuart Mill, for no better reason than that nature
sometimes drowns men and burns them, and that childbirth is a painful
process, maintained that God could not possibly be infinite. I shall not
say what I think of the shallowness and self-conceit displayed by such an
argument. What it proves is not the finiteness of God, but the littleness
of man. The mind of man never shows itself so small as when it tries to
measure the attributes and limit the greatness of its Creator."

But the argument--or rather the truism--in question is an attempt to do
neither the one nor the other; it simply asserts the patent fact that, if
God is omnipotent, and so had an unlimited choice of means whereby to
accomplish the ends of "animal perfection," "animal enjoyment," and the
rest; then the fact of his having chosen to adopt the means which he has
adopted is a fact which is wholly incompatible with his beneficence. And on
the other hand, if he is beneficent, the fact of his having adopted these
means in order that the sum of ultimate enjoyment might exceed the sum of
concomitant pain, is a fact which is wholly incompatible with his
omnipotence. To a man who already believes, on independent grounds, in an
omnipotent and beneficent Deity, it is no doubt possible to avoid facing
this dilemma, and to rest content with the assumption that, in a sense
beyond the reach of human reason, or even of human conception, the two
horns of this dilemma must be united in some transcendental reconciliation;
but if a man undertakes to reason on the subject at all, as he must and
ought when the question is as to the _existence_ of such a Deity, then
clearly he has no alternative but to allow that the dilemma is a hopeless
one. With inverted meaning, therefore, may we quote Professor Flint's words
against himself:--"The mind of man never shows itself so small as when it
tries to measure the attributes ... of its Creator;" for certainly, if
Professor Flint's usually candid mind has had a Creator, it nowhere
displays the "littleness" of prejudice in so marked a degree as it does
when "measuring his attributes."

Thus in a subsequent chapter he deals at greater length with this
difficulty of the apparent failure of beneficence in nature, arguing, in
effect, that as pain and suffering "serve many good ends" in the way of
warning animals of danger to life, &c., therefore we ought to conclude
that, if we could see farther, we should see pain and suffering to be
unmitigated good, or nearly so. Now this argument, as I have previously
said, may possibly be admissible as between Christians or others who
_already_ believe in the existence and in the beneficence of God; but it is
only the blindest prejudice which can fail to perceive that the argument is
quite without relevancy when the question is as to the _evidences_ of such
existence and the _evidences_ of such character. For where the _fact_ of
such an existence and character is the question in dispute, it clearly can
be no argument to state its bare assumption by saying that if we knew more
of nature we should find the relative preponderance of good over evil to be
immeasurably greater than that which we now perceive. The platform of
argument on which the question of "Theism" must be discussed is that of the
observable Cosmos; and if, as Dr. Flint is constrained to admit, there is a
fearful spectacle of misery presented by this Cosmos, it becomes mere
question-begging to gloss over this aspect of the subject by any vague
assumption that the misery must have some unobservable ends of so
transcendentally beneficent a nature, that were they known they would
justify the means. Indeed, this kind of discussion seems to me worse than
useless for the purposes which the Professor has in view; for it only
serves by contrast to throw out into stronger relief the natural and the
unstrained character of the adverse interpretation of the facts. According
to this adverse interpretation, sentiency has been evolved by natural
selection to secure the benefits which are pointed out by Professor Flint;
and therefore the fact of this, its cause, having been a _mindless_ cause,
clearly implies that the _restriction_ of pain and suffering cannot be an
active principle, or a _vera causa_, as between species and species, though
it must be such within the limits of the same organism, and to a lesser
extent within the limits of the same species. And this is just what we find
to be the case. Therefore, without the need of resorting to wholly
arbitrary assumptions concerning transcendental reconciliations between
apparently needless suffering and a supposed almighty beneficence, the
non-theistic hypothesis is saved by merely opening our eyes to the
observable facts around us, and there seeing that pain and misery, alike in
the benefits which they bring and in the frightful excesses which they
manifest, play just that part in nature which this hypothesis would lead us
to expect.

Therefore, to sum up these considerations on physical suffering, the case
between a theist and a sceptic as to the question of divine beneficence is
seen to be a case of extreme simplicity. The theist believes in such
beneficence by purposely concealing from his mind all adverse
evidence--feeling, on the one side, that to entertain the doubt to which
this evidence points would be to hold dalliance with blasphemy, and, on the
other side, that the subject is of so transcendental a nature that, in view
of so great a risk, it is better to avoid impartial reasoning upon it. A
sceptic, on the other hand, is under no such obligation to preconceived
ideas, and is therefore free to draw unbiassed inferences as to the
character of God, if he exists, to the extent which such character is
indicated by the sphere of observable nature. And, as I have said, when the
subject is so viewed, the inference is unavoidable that, so far as human
reason can penetrate, God, if he exists, must either be non-infinite in his
resources, or non-beneficent in his designs. Therefore it is evident that
when the _being_ of God, as distinguished from his _character_, is the
subject in dispute, Theism can gain nothing by an appeal to evidences of
_beneficent_ designs. If such evidences were unequivocal, then indeed the
argument which they would establish to an intelligent cause of nature would
be almost irresistible; for the fact of the external world being in harmony
with the moral nature of man would be unaccountable except on the
supposition of both having derived their origin from a common _moral_
source; and morality implies intelligence. But as it is, all the so-called
evidence of divine beneficence in nature is, without any exception of a
kind that is worthless as proving _design_; for all the facts admit of
being explained equally well on the supposition of their having been due to
purely physical processes, acting through the various biological laws which
we are now only beginning to understand. And further than this, so far are
these facts from proving the existence of a moral cause, that, in view of
the alternative just stated, they even ground a positive argument to its
negation. For, as we have seen, all these facts are just of such a kind as
we should expect to be the facts, on the supposition of their having been
due to natural causes--_i.e._, causes which could have had no moral
solicitude for animal happiness as such. Let us now, in conclusion, dwell
on this antithesis at somewhat greater length.

If natural selection has played any large share in the process of organic
evolution, it is evident that animal enjoyment, being an important factor
in this natural cause, must always have been furthered _to the extent in
which it was necessary for the adaptation of organisms to their
environment_ that it should. And such we invariably find to be the limits
within which animal enjoyments _are_ confined. On the other hand, so long
as the adaptations in question are not complete, so long must more or less
of suffering be entailed--the capacity for suffering, as for enjoyment,
being no doubt itself a product of natural selection. But as all specific
types are perpetually struggling together, it is manifest that the
competition must prevent any considerable number of types from becoming so
far adapted to their environment of other types as to become exempt from
suffering as a result of this competition. There being no one integrating
cause of an intelligent or moral nature to supply the conditions of
happiness to each organic type without the misery of this competition, such
happiness as animals have is derived from the heavy expenditure of pain
suffered by themselves and by their ancestry.

Thus, whether we look to animal pleasures or to animal pains, the result is
alike just what we should expect to find on the supposition of these
pleasures and pains having been due to necessary and physical, as
distinguished from intelligent and moral, antecedents; for how different is
that which is from that which might have been! Not only might beneficent
selection have eliminated the countless species of parasites which now
destroy the health and happiness of all the higher organisms; not only
might survival of the fittest, in a moral sense, have determined that
rapacious and carnivorous animals should yield their places in the world to
harmless and gentle ones; not only might life have been without sickness
and death without pain;--but how might the exigences and the welfare of
species have been consulted by the structures and the habits of one
another! But no! Amid all the millions of mechanisms and habits in organic
nature, all of which are so beautifully adapted to the needs of the species
presenting them, there is _no single instance_ of any mechanism or habit
occurring in one species for the exclusive benefit of another
species--although, as we should expect on the non-theistic theory, there
are some comparatively few cases of a mechanism or a habit which is of
benefit to its possessor being also utilised by other species. Yet, on the
beneficent-design theory, it is impossible to understand why, when all
mechanisms and habits in the same species are invariably correlated for the
benefit of that species, there should never be any such correlation between
mechanisms and habits of different species. For how magnificent, how
sublime a display of supreme beneficence would nature have afforded if all
her sentient animals had been so inter-related as to minister to each
other's happiness! Organic species might then have been likened to a
countless multitude of voices, all singing to their Creator in one
harmonious psalm of praise. But, as it is, we see no vestige of such
correlation; every species is for itself, and for itself alone--an outcome
of the always and everywhere fiercely raging struggle for life.

So much, then, for the case of _physical_ evil; but Dr. Flint also treats
of the case of _moral_ evil. Let us see what this well-equipped writer can
make of this old problem in the present year of grace. He says--"But it
will be objected, could not God have made moral creatures who would be
certain always to choose what is right, always to acquiesce in His holy
will?... Well, far be it from me to deny that God could have originated a
sinless moral system.... But if questioned as to why He has not done
better, I feel no shame in confessing my ignorance. It seems to me that
when you have resolved the problem of the origin of moral evil into the
question, Why has God not originated a moral universe in which the lowest
moral being would be as excellent as the archangels are? you have at once
shown it to be _speculatively incapable of solution_ [italics mine], and
practically without importance[!]. The question is one which would
obviously give rise to another, Why has God not created only moral beings
as much superior to the archangels as they are superior to the lowest
Australian aborigines? But no complete answer can be given to a question
which may be followed by a series of similar questions to which there is no
end. We have, besides, neither the facts nor the faculties to answer such

Now I confess that this argument presents to my mind more of subtlety than
sense. I had previously imagined that the archangels were supposed to enjoy
a condition of moral existence which might fairly be thought to remove them
from any association with that of the Australian aborigines. But as this
question is one that belongs to Divinity, I am here quite prepared to bow
to Professor Flint's authority--hoping, however, that he is prepared to
take the responsibility should the archangels ever care to accuse me of
calumny. But, as a logician, I must be permitted to observe, that if I ask,
Why am I not better than I am? it is no answer to tell me, Because the
archangels are not better than they are. For aught that I know to the
contrary, the archangels may be morally _perfect_--as an authority in such
matters has told us that even "just men" may become,--and therefore, for
aught that I know to the contrary, Professor Flint's regress of moral
degrees _ad infinitum_, may be an ontological absurdity. But granting, for
the sake of argument, that archangels fall infinitely short of moral
perfection, and I should only be able to see in the fact a hopeless
aggravation of my previous difficulty. If it is hard to reconcile the
supreme goodness of God with the moral turpitude of man, much more would it
be hard to do so if his very angels are depraved. Therefore, if the
reasonable question which I originally put "may be followed by a series of
similar questions to which there is no end," the goodness of God must
simply be pronounced a delusion. For the question which I originally put
was no mere flimsy question of a stupidly unreal description. My own moral
depravity is a matter of painful certainty to me, and I want to know why,
if there is a God of infinite power and goodness, he should have made me
thus. And in answer I am told that my question is "practically without
importance," because there may be an endless series of beings who, in their
several degrees, are in a similar predicament to myself. Perhaps they are;
but if so, the moral evil with which I am directly acquainted is made all
the blacker by the fact that it is thus but a drop in an infinite ocean of
moral imperfection. When, therefore, Professor Flint goes on to say, "We
ought to be content if we can show that what God has done is wise and
right, and not perplex ourselves as to why He has not done an infinity of
other things," I answer, Most certainly; but _can_ we show that what God
has done is wise and right? Unquestionably not. That what he has done _may_
be wise and right, could we see his whole scheme of things, no careful
thinker will deny; but to suppose it can be _shown_ that he has done this,
is an instance of purblind fanaticism which is most startling in a work on
_Theism_. "The best world, _we may be assured_, that our fancies can feign,
would in reality be far inferior to the world God has made, whatever
imperfections we may think we see in it." Are we leading a sermon on the
datum "God is love"? No; but a work on the questions, Is there a God? and,
if so, Is he a God of love? And yet the work is written by a man who
evidently tries to argue fairly. What shall we say of the despotism of
preformed beliefs? May we not say at least this much--that those who
endeavour to reconcile their theories of divine goodness with the facts of
human evil might well appropriate to themselves the words above quoted, "We
have neither the facts nor the faculties to answer such questions"? For the
"facts" indeed are absent, and the "faculties" of impartial thought must be
absent also, if this obvious truth cannot be seen--that "these questions"
only derive their "speculatively unanswerable" character from the rational
falsity of the manner by which it is sought to answer them. The "facts" of
our moral nature, so far as honest reason can perceive, belie the
hypothesis of Theism; and although the "faculties" of man may be forced by
prejudice into an acceptance of contradictory propositions, the truth is
obvious that only by the hypothesis of Evolution can that old-tied knot be
cut--the Origin of Evil. The form of Theism for which Dr. Flint is arguing
is the current form, viz., that there is a God who combines in himself the
attributes of _infinite_ power and _perfect_ goodness--a God at once
_omnipotent_ and _wholly_ moral. But, in view of the fact that moral evil
exists in man, the proposition that God is omnipotent and the proposition
that he is wholly moral become contradictory; and therefore the fact of
moral evil can only be met, either by abandoning one or other of these
propositions, or by altogether rejecting the hypothesis of Theism.

       *       *       *       *       *



As a continuation of my criticism on Mr. Fiske's views, I think it is
desirable to add a few words concerning the speculative annihilation with
which he supposes Mr. Spencer's doctrines to have visited Materialism. Of
course it is a self-evident truism that the doctrine of Relativity is
destructive of Materialism, if by Materialism we mean a theory which
ignores that doctrine. In other words, the doctrine of Relativity, if
accepted, clearly excludes the doctrine that Matter, _as known
phenomenally_, is at all likely to be a true representative of whatever
_thing-in-itself_ it may be that constitutes Mind. But this position is
fully established by the doctrine of Relativity alone, and is therefore not
in the least affected, either by way of confirmation or otherwise, by Mr.
Spencer's extended doctrine of the Unknowable--it being only because the
latter doctrine presupposes the doctrine of Relativity that it is exclusive
of Materialism in the sense which has just been stated. So far, therefore,
Mr. Spencer's writings cannot be held to have any special bearing on the
doctrine of Materialism. Such a special bearing is only exerted by these
writings when they proceed to show that "it seems an imaginable possibility
that units of external force may be identical in nature with the units of
the force known as feeling." Let us then ascertain how far it is true that
the argument already quoted, and which leads to this conclusion, is utterly
destructive of Materialism.

In the first place, I may observe that this argument differs in several
instructive particulars from the anti-materialistic argument of Locke,
which we have already had occasion to consider. For while Locke erroneously
imagined that the test of inconceivability is of equivalent value
_wherever_ it is applied, save only where it conflicts with preconceived
ideas on the subject of Theism (see Appendix A.), Spencer, of course, is
much too careful a thinker to fall into so obvious a fallacy. But again, it
is curious to observe that in the anti-materialistic argument of Spencer
the test of inconceivability is used in a manner the precise opposite of
that in which it is used in the anti-materialistic argument of Locke. For
while the ground of Locke's argument is that Materialism must be untrue
because it is inconceivable that Matter (and Force) should be of a
psychical nature; the ground of Spencer's argument is that what we know as
Force (and Matter) may _not_ inconceivably be of a psychical nature. For my
own part, I think that Spencer's argument is, psychologically speaking, the
more valid of the two; but nevertheless I think that, logically speaking,
it is likewise invalid to a perceptibly great, and to a further indefinite,
degree. For the argument sets out with the reflection that we can only know
Matter and Force as symbols of consciousness, while we know consciousness
directly, and therefore that we can go further in conceivably translating
Matter and Force into terms of Mind than _vice versa_. And this is true,
but it does not therefore follow that the truth is more likely to lie in
the direction that thought can most easily travel. For although I am at one
with Mr. Spencer, whom Mr. Fiske follows, in regarding his test of
truth--viz., inconceivability of a negation--as the most _ultimate_ test
within our reach, I cannot agree with him that in this particular case it
is the most _trustworthy_ test within our reach. I cannot do so because the
reflection is forced upon me that, "as the terms which are contemplated in
this particular case are respectively the highest abstractions of objective
and of subjective existence, the test of truth in question is neutralised
by directly encountering the inconceivable relation that exists between
subject and object." Or, in other words, as before stated, "_whatever_ the
cause of Mind may be, we can clearly perceive it to be a subjective
necessity of the case that, in ultimate analysis, we should find it more
easy to conceive of this cause as resembling Mind--the only entity of which
we are directly conscious--than to conceive of it as any other entity of
which we are only indirectly conscious." When, therefore, Mr. Spencer
argues that "it is impossible to interpret inner existence in terms of
outer existence," while it is not so impossible to interpret outer
existence in terms of inner existence, the fact is merely what we should in
any case expect _à priori_ to be the fact, and therefore as a fact it is
not a very surprising discovery _à posteriori_. So that when Mr. Fiske
proceeds to make this fact the basis of his argument, that because we can
more conceivably regard objective existence as like in kind to subjective
existence than conversely, therefore we should conclude that there is a
corresponding probability in favour of the more conceivable proposition, I
demur to his argument. For, fully accepting the fact on which the argument
rests, and it seems to me, in view of what I have said, that the latter
assigns an altogether disproportionate value to the test of
inconceivability in this case. Far from endowing this test with so great an
authority in this case, I should regard it not only as perceptibly of very
small validity, but, as I have said, invalid to a degree which we have no
means of ascertaining. If it be asked, What other gauge of probability can
we have in this matter other than such a direct appeal to consciousness? I
answer, that this appeal being here _à priori_ invalid, we are left to fall
back upon the formal probability which is established by an application of
scientific canons to objective phenomena. (See footnote in § 14.) For, be
it carefully observed, Mr. Spencer, and his disciple Mr. Fiske, are not
idealists. Were this the case, of course the test of an immediate appeal to
consciousness would be to them the only test available. But, on the
contrary, as all the world knows, Mr. Spencer asserts the existence of an
unknown Reality, of which all phenomena are the manifestations.
Consequently, what we call Force and Matter are, according to this
doctrine, phenomenal manifestations of this objective Reality. That is to
say, for aught that we can know, Force and Matter may be anything within
the whole range of the possible; and the only limitation that can be
assigned to them is, that they are modes of existence which are independent
of, or objective to, our individual consciousness, but which are uniformly
translated into consciousness as Force and Matter. Now it does not signify
one iota for the purposes of Materialism whether these our symbolical
representations of Force and Matter are accurate or inaccurate
representations of their corresponding realities,--unless, of course, some
_independent_ reason could be shown for supposing that in their reality
they resemble Mind. Call Force _x_ and Matter _y_, and so long as we are
agreed that _x_ and _y_ are _objective realities which are uniformly
translated into consciousness as Force and Matter_, the materialistic
deductions remain unaffected by this mere change in our terminology; these
essential facts are allowed to remain substantially as before, namely, that
there is an external something or external somethings--Matter and Force, or
_x_ and _y_--which themselves display no observable tokens of
consciousness, but which are invariably associated with consciousness in a
highly distinctive manner.

I dwell at length upon this subject, because although Mr. Spencer himself
does not appear to attach much weight to his argument, Mr. Fiske, as we
have seen, elevates it into a basis for "Cosmic Theism." Yet so far is this
argument from "ruling out," as Mr. Fiske asserts, the essential doctrine of
Materialism--_i.e._, the doctrine that what we know as Mind is an effect of
certain collocations and distributions of _what we know_ as Matter and
Force--that the argument might be employed with almost the same degree of
effect, or absence of effect, to disprove any instance of recognised
causation. Thus, for example, the doctrine of Materialism is no more "ruled
out" by the reflection that what we cognise as cerebral matter is only
cognised relatively, than would the doctrine of chemical equivalents be
"ruled out" by the parallel reflection that what we cognise as chemical
elements are only cognised relatively. I say advisedly, "with _almost_ the
same degree of effect," because, to be strictly accurate, we ought not
altogether to ignore the indefinitely slender presumption which Mr.
Spencer's subjective test of inconceivability establishes on the side of
Spiritualism, as against the objective evidence of causation on the side of
Materialism. As this is an important subject, I will be a little more
explicit. We are agreed that Force and Matter are entities external to
consciousness, of which we can possess only symbolical knowledge.
Therefore, as we have said, Force and Matter may be anything within the
whole range of the possible. But we know that Mind is a possible entity,
while we have no certain knowledge of any other possible entity. Hence we
are justified in saying, It is possible that Force and Matter may be
identical with the only entity which we know as certainly possible; but
forasmuch as we do not know the sum of possible entities, we have no means
of calculating the chances there are that what we know as Force and Matter
are identical in nature with Mind. Still, that there is _a_ chance we
cannot dispute; all we can assert is, that we are unable to determine its
value, and that it would be a mistake to suppose we can do so, even in the
lowest degree, by Mr. Spencer's test of inconceivability. Nevertheless, the
fact that there is such a chance renders it in some indeterminate degree
more probable that what we know as Force and Matter are identical with what
we know as Mind, than that what we know as oxygen and hydrogen are
identical with what we know as water. So that to this extent the essential
doctrine of Materialism is "ruled out" in a further degree by the
philosophy of the Unknowable than is the chemical doctrine of equivalents.
But, of course, this indefinite possibility of what we know as Force and
Matter being identical with what we know as Mind does not neutralise, in
any determinable degree, the considerations whereby Materialism in its
present shape infers that what we know as Force and Matter are probably
distinct from what we know as Mind.

But I see no reason why Materialism should be restricted to this "its
present shape." Even if we admit to the fullest extent the validity of Mr.
Spencer's argument, and conclude with Professor Clifford as a matter of
probability that "the universe consists entirely of Mind-stuff," I do not
see that the admission would affect Materialism in any essential respect.
For here again the admission would amount to little else, so far as
Materialism is directly concerned, than a change of terminology: instead of
calling objective existence "Matter," we call it "Mind-stuff." I say "to
_little_ else," because no doubt in one particular there is here some
change introduced in the speculative standing of the subject. So long as
Matter and Mind, _x_ and _y_, are held to be antithetically opposed in
substance, so long must Materialism suppose that a connection of
_causality_ subsists between the two, such that the former substance is
_produced_ in some unaccountable way by the latter. But when Matter and
Mind, _x_ and _y_, are supposed to be identical in substance, the need for
any additional supposition as to a causal connection is excluded. But
unless we hold, what seems to me an uncalled-for opinion, that the
essential feature of Materialism consists in a postulation of a causal
connection between _x_ and _y_, it would appear that the only effect of
supposing _x_ and _y_ to be really but one substance _z_, must be that of
_strengthening_ the essential doctrine of Materialism--the doctrine,
namely, that conscious intellectual existence is _necessarily_ associated
with that form of existence which we know phenomenally as Matter and
Motion. If it is true that a "a moving molecule of inorganic matter does
not possess mind or consciousness, but it possesses a small piece of
Mind-stuff," then assuredly the central position of Materialism is shown to
be impregnable. For while it remains as true as ever that mind and
consciousness can only emerge when what we know phenomenally as "Matter
takes the complex form of a living brain," we have abolished the necessity
for assuming even a causal connection between the substance of what we know
phenomenally as Matter and the substance of what we know phenomenally as
Mind: we have found that, in the last resort, the phenomenal connection
between what we know as Matter and what we know as Mind is actually even
more intimate than a connection of causality; we have found that it is a
substantial identity.

To sum up this discussion. We have considered the bearing of modern
speculation on the doctrine of Materialism in three successive stages of
argument. First, we had to consider the bearing on Materialism of the
simple doctrine of Relativity. Here we saw that Materialism was only
affected to the extent of being compelled to allow that what we know as
Matter and Motion are not known as they are in themselves. But we also saw
that, as the inscrutable realities are uniformly translated into
consciousness as Matter and Motion, it still remains as true as ever that
_what we know_ as Matter and Motion may be the causes of what we know as
Mind. Even, therefore, if the supposition of causality is taken to be an
essential feature of Materialism, Materialism would be in no wise affected
by substituting for the words Matter and Motion the symbols _x_ and _y_.

The second of the three stages consisted in showing that Mr. Spencer's
argument as to the possible identity of Force and Feeling is not in itself
sufficient to overthrow the doctrine that what we know as Matter and Motion
may be the cause of what we know as Mind. For the mere fact of its being
more _conceivable_ that units of Force should resemble units of Feeling
than conversely, is no warrant for concluding that in reality any
corresponding probability obtains. The test of conceivability, although the
most ultimate test that is available, is here rendered vague and valueless
by the _à priori_ consideration that _whatever_ the cause of Mind may be
(if it has a cause), we must find it more easy to conceive of this cause as
resembling Mind than to conceive of it as resembling any other entity of
which we are only conscious indirectly.

Lastly, in the third place, we saw that even if Mr. Spencer's argument were
fully subscribed to, and Mind in its substantial essence were conceded to
be causeless, the central position of Materialism would still remain
unaffected. For Mr. Spencer does not suppose that his "units of Force" are
themselves endowed with consciousness, any more than Professor Clifford
supposes his "moving molecules of inorganic matter" to be thus endowed. So
that the only change which these possibilities, even if conceded to be
actualities, produce in the speculative standing of Materialism, is to show
that the raw material of consciousness, instead of requiring to be _caused_
by other substances--Matter and Force, _x_ and _y_,--occurs ready made as
those substances. But the essential feature of Materialism remains
untouched--namely, that what we know as Mind is dependent (whether by way
of causality or not is immaterial) on highly complex forms of _what we
know_ as Matter, in association with highly peculiar distributions of _what
we know_ as Force.

       *       *       *       *       *



Some physicists are inclined to dispute the fundamental proposition in
which the whole of Mr. Spencer's system of philosophy may be said to
rest--the proposition, namely, that the fact of the "persistence of force"
constitutes the ultimate basis of science. For my own part, I cannot but
believe that any disagreement on this matter only arises from some want of
mutual understanding; and, therefore, in order to anticipate any criticisms
to which the present work may be open on this score, I append this
explanatory note.

I readily grant that the term "persistence of force" is not a happy one,
seeing that the word "force," as used by physicists, does not at the
present time convey the full meaning which Mr. Spencer desires it to
convey. But I think that any impartial physicist will be prepared to admit
that, in the present state of his science, we are entitled to conclude that
energy of position is merely the result of energy of motion; or, in other
words, that potential energy is merely an expression of the fact that the
universe, as a whole, is replete with actual energy, whose essential
characteristic is that it is indestructible. And this may be concluded
without committing ourselves to any particular theory as to the physical
explanation of gravity; all we need assert is, that in some way or other
gravity is the result of ubiquitous energy. And this, it seems to me, we
must assert, or else conclude that gravity can never admit of a physical
explanation. For all that we mean by a physical explanation is the proved
establishment of an equation between two quantities of energy; so that if
energy of position does not admit of being interpreted in terms of energy
of motion, we must conclude that it does not admit of being interpreted at
all--at least not in any physical sense.

Throughout the foregoing essays, therefore, I have assumed that all forms
of energy are but relatively varying expressions of the same fact--the
fact, namely, which Mr. Spencer means to express when he says that force is
persistent. And it seems to me almost needless to show that this fact is
really the basis of all science. For unless this fact is assumed as a
postulate, not only would scientific inquiry become impossible, but all
experience would become chaotic. The physicist could not prosecute his
researches unless he presupposed that the forces which he measures are of a
permanent nature, any more than could the chemist prosecute his researches
unless he presupposed that the materials which he estimates by energy-units
are likewise of a permanent nature. And similarly with all the other
sciences, as well as with every judgment in our daily experience. If,
therefore, any one should be hypercritical enough to dispute the position
that the doctrine of the conservation of energy constitutes the "ultimate
datum" of science, I think it will be enough to observe that if this is
_not_ the "ultimate datum" of science, science can have no "ultimate datum"
at all. For any datum more ultimate than permanent existence is manifestly
impossible, while any such datum as non-permanent existence would clearly
render science impossible. Even, therefore, if such hypercriticism had a
valid basis of apparently adverse fact whereon to stand, I should feel
myself justified in neglecting it on _à priori_ grounds; but the only basis
on which such hypercriticism can rest is, not the knowledge of any adverse
facts, but the ignorance of certain facts which we must either conclude to
be facts or else conclude that science can have no ultimate datum whereon
to rest. In the foregoing essays, therefore, I have not scrupled to
maintain that the ultimate datum of science is destructive of teleology as
a scientific argument for Theism; because, unless we deny the possibility
of any such ultimate datum, and so land ourselves in hopeless scepticism,
we must conclude that there can be no datum more ultimate than
this--Permanent Existence; and this is just the datum which we have seen to
be destructive of teleology as a scientific argument for Theism.

It may be well to point out that from this ultimate datum of science--or
rather, let us say, of experience--there follows a deductive explanation of
the law of causation. For this law, when stripped of all the metaphysical
corruptions with which it has been so cumbersomely clothed, simply means
that a given collocation of antecedents unconditionally produces a certain
consequent. But this fact, otherwise stated, amounts to nothing more than a
re-statement of the ultimate datum of experience--the fact that energy is
indestructible. For if this latter fact be granted, it is obvious that the
so-called law of causation follows as a deductive necessity--or rather, as
I have said, that this law becomes but another way of expressing the same
fact. This is obvious if we reflect that the only means we have of
ascertaining that energy is _not_ destructible, is by observing that
similar antecedents _do_ invariably determine similar consequents. It is as
a vast induction from all those particular cases of sequence-changes which
collectively we call causation that we conclude energy to be
indestructible. And, obversely, having concluded energy to be
indestructible, we can plainly see that in any particular cases of its
manifestation in sequence-phenomena, the unconditional resemblance between
effects due to similar causes which is formulated by the law of causation
is merely the direct expression of the fact which we had previously
concluded. It seems to me, therefore, that the old-standing question
concerning the nature of causation ought now properly to be considered as
obsolete. Doubtless there will long remain a sort of hereditary tendency in
metaphysical minds to look upon cause-connection as "a mysterious tie"
between antecedent and consequent; but henceforth there is no need for
scientific minds to regard this "tie" as "mysterious" in any other sense
than the existence of energy is "mysterious." To state the law of causation
is merely to state the fact that energy is indestructible.

And from this there also arises at once the explanation and the
justification of our belief in the uniformity of nature. If energy is, in
its relation to us, ubiquitous and persistent, it clearly follows that in
all its manifestations which collectively we call nature, similar preceding
manifestations must always determine similar succeeding manifestations; for
otherwise the energy concerned would require on one or on both of the
occasions, either to have become augmented by creation, or dissipated by
annihilation. Thus our belief in the uniformity of nature, as in the
validity of the law of causation, is merely an expression of our belief in
the ubiquitous and indestructible character of energy.

Such being the case, we may fairly conclude that all these old-standing
"mysteries" are now merged in the one mystery of existence. And deeper than
this it is manifestly impossible that they can be merged; for it is
manifestly impossible that Existence in the abstract can ever admit of what
we call explanation. Hence we can clearly see that, in a scientific sense,
there must always remain a final mystery of things. But although we can
thus see that, from the very meaning of what we call explanation, it
follows that at the base of all our explanations there must lie a great
Inexplicable, I think that the mystery of Existence in the abstract may be
rendered less appalling if we reflect that, as opposed to Existence, there
is only one logical alternative--Non-existence. Supposing, then, our
physical explanations to have reached their highest limits by resolving all
modes of Existence into one mode--force, matter, life, and mind, being
shown but different manifestations of the same Infinite Existence--the
final mystery of things would then become resolved into the simple
question, Why is there Existence?--Why is there not Nothing?

Let us then first ask, What is "Nothing"? Is it a mere word, which presents
no meaning as corresponding to any objective reality, or has the word a
meaning notwithstanding its being an inconceivable one? Or, otherwise
phrased, is Nothing possible or impossible? Now, although in ordinary
conversation it is generally taken for granted that Nothing is possible,
there is certainly no more ground for this supposition than there is for
its converse--viz., that Nothing is merely a word which signifies the
negation of possibility. For analysis will show that the choice between
these two counter-suppositions can only be made in the presence of
knowledge which is necessarily absent--the knowledge whether the universe
of Existence is finite or infinite. If the universe as a whole is finite,
the word Nothing would stand as a symbol to denote an unthinkable blank of
which a finite universe is the content. And forasmuch as Something and
Nothing would then become actual, as distinguished from nominal
correlatives, we could have no guarantee that, in an absolute or
transcendental sense, it may not be possible, although it is inconceivable,
for Something to become Nothing or Nothing Something. Hence, if Existence
is finite, No-existence becomes possible; and the doctrine of the
indestructibility of Existence becomes, for aught that we can tell, of a
merely relative signification. But, on the other hand, if Existence is
infinite, No-existence becomes impossible; and the doctrine of the
indestructibility of Existence becomes, in a logical sense, of an absolute
signification. For it is manifest that if the universe of Existence is
without end in space and time, the possibility of No-existence is of
necessity excluded, and the word "Nothing" thus becomes a mere negation of

Thus, if it be conceded that the universe as a whole is infinite both in
space and time, the concession amounts to an abolition of the final mystery
of things. For all that we mean by a mystery is something that requires an
explanation, and the whole of the final mystery of things is therefore
embodied in the question, "Why is there Existence?--Why is there not
Nothing?" But if the universe of Existence be conceded infinite, this
question is sufficiently met by the answer, "Because Existence is, and
Nothing is not." If it is retorted, But this is no real answer; I reply, It
is as real as the question. For to ask, Why is there Existence? is, upon
the supposition which has been conceded, equivalent to asking, Why is the
possible possible? And if such questions cannot be answered, it is scarcely
right to say that on this account they embody a mystery; because the
questions are really not rational questions, and therefore the fact of
their not admitting of any rational answer cannot be held to show that the
questions embody any rational mystery. That there _is_ a rational mystery,
in the sense of there being something which can never be _explained_, I do
not dispute; all I assert is, that this mystery is inexplicable, only
_because there is nothing to explain_; the mystery being ultimate, to ask
for an explanation of that which, being ultimate, requires no explanation,
is irrational. Or, to state the case in another way, if it is asked, Why is
there not Nothing? it is a sufficient answer, on supposition of the
universe being infinite, to say, Because Nothing is nothing; it is merely a
word which presents no meaning, and which, so far as anything can be
conceived to the contrary, never can present any meaning.

The above discussion has proceeded on the supposition of Existence being
infinite; but practically the same result would follow on the
counter-supposition of Existence being finite. For although in this case,
as we have seen, Non-entity would still be included within the range of
possibility, it would still be no more conceivable as such than is Entity;
and hence the question, Why is there not Nothing? would still be
irrational, seeing that, even if the possibility which the question
supposes were realised, it would in no wise tend to explain the mystery of
Something. And even if it could, the final mystery would not be thus
excluded; it would merely be transferred from the mystery of Existence to
the mystery of Non-existence. Thus under every conceivable supposition we
arrive at the same termination--viz., that in the last resort there must be
a final mystery, which, as forming the basis of all possible explanations,
cannot itself receive any explanation, and which therefore is really not,
in any proper sense of the term, a mystery at all. It is merely a fact
which itself requires no explanation, because it is a fact than which none
can be more ultimate. So that even if we suppose this ultimate fact to be
an Intelligent Being, it is clearly impossible that he should be able to
_explain_ his own existence, since the possibility of any such explanation
would imply that his existence could not be ultimate. In the sense,
therefore, of not admitting of any explanation, his existence would require
to be a mystery to himself, rendering it impossible for him to state
anything further with regard to it than this--"I am that I am."

I do not doubt that this way of looking at the subject will be deemed
unsatisfactory at first sight, because it seems to be, as it were, a merely
logical way of cheating our intelligence out of an intuitively felt
justification for its own curiosity in this matter. But the fault really
lies in this intuitive feeling of justification not being itself
justifiable. For this particular question, it will be observed, differs
from all other possible questions with which the mind has to deal. All
other questions being questions concerning manifestations of existence
presupposed as existing, it is perfectly legitimate to seek for an
explanation of one series of manifestations in another--_i.e._, to refer a
less known group to a group better known. But the case is manifestly quite
otherwise when, having merged one group of manifestations into another
group, and this into another for an indefinite number of stages, we
suddenly make a leap to the last possible stage and ask, "Into what group
are we to merge the basis of all our previous groups, and of all groups
which can possibly be formed in the future? How are we to classify that
which contains all possible classes? Where are we to look for an
explanation of Existence?" When thus clearly stated, the question, is, as I
have said, manifestly irrational; but the point with which I am now
concerned is this--When in plain reason the question is _seen_ to be
irrational, why in intuitive sentiment should it not be _felt_ to be so?
The answer, I think, is, that the interrogative faculty being usually
occupied with questions which admit of rational answers, we acquire a sort
of intellectual habit of presupposing every wherefore to have a therefore,
and thus, when eventually we arrive at the last of all possible wherefores,
which itself supplies the basis of all possible therefores, we fail at
first to recognise the exceptional character of our position. We fail at
first to perceive that, from the very nature of this particular case, our
wherefore is deprived of the rational meaning which it had in all the
previous cases, where the possibility of a corresponding therefore was
presupposed. And failing fully to perceive this truth, our organised habit
of expecting an answer to our question asserts itself, and we experience
the same sense of intellectual unrest in the presence of this wholly
meaningless and absurd question, as we experience in the presence of
questions significant and rational.


       *       *       *       *       *


[1] The above was written before Mr. Mill's essay on Theism was published.
Lest, therefore, my refutation may be deemed too curt, I supplement it with
Mr. Mill's remarks upon the same subject. "It may still be maintained that
the feelings of morality make the existence of God eminently desirable. No
doubt they do, and that is the great reason why we find that good men and
women cling to the belief, and are pained by its being questioned. But,
surely, it is not legitimate to assume that, in the order of the universe,
whatever is desirable is true. Optimism, even when a God is already
believed in, is a thorny doctrine to maintain, and had to be taken by
Leibnitz in the limited sense, that the universe being made by a good
being, is the best universe possible, not the best absolutely: that the
Divine power, in short, was not equal to making it more free from
imperfections than it is. But optimism, prior to belief in a God, and as
the ground of that belief, seems one of the oddest of all speculative
delusions. Nothing, however, I believe, contributes more to keep up the
belief in the general mind of humanity than the feeling of its
desirableness, which, when clothed, as it very often is, in the form of an
argument, is a _naive_ expression of the tendency of the human mind to
believe whatever is agreeable to it. Positive value the argument of course
has none." For Mill's remarks on the version of the argument dealt with in
§ 5, see his "Three Essays," p. 204.

[2] The words "or not conceivable," are here used in the sense of "not
relatively conceivable," as explained in Chap. vi.

[3] For the full discussion from which the above is an extract, see _System
of Logic_, vol. i. pp. 409-426 (8th ed.). But, substituting "psychical" for
"volitional," see also, for some mitigation of the severity of the above
statement, the closing paragraphs of my supplementary essay on "Cosmic

[4] Essay on Understanding--Existence of God.

[5] Locke, _loc. cit._

[6] See Appendix A.

[7] Viz., the constant association within experience of mind with certain
highly peculiar material forms; the constant proportion which is found to
subsist between the quantity of cerebral matter and the degree of
intellectual capacity--a proportion which may be clearly traced throughout
the ascending series of vertebrated animals, and which is very generally
manifested in individuals of the human species; the effects of cerebral
anæmia, anæsthetics, stimulants, narcotic poisons, and lesions of cerebral
substance. There can, in short, be no question that the whole series of
observable facts bearing upon the subject are precisely such as they ought
to be upon supposition of the materialistic theory being true; while,
contrariwise, there is a total absence of any known facts tending to
negative that theory. At the same time it must be carefully noted, that the
observed facts (and any additional number of the like kind) do not
logically warrant us in concluding that mental states are necessarily
_dependent_ upon material changes. Nevertheless, it must also be noted,
that, in the absence of positive proof of causation, it is certainly in
accordance with scientific procedure, to yield our provisional assent to an
hypothesis which undoubtedly connects a large order of constant
_accompaniments_, rather than to an hypothesis which is confessedly framed
to meet but a single one of the facts.

Professor Clifford, in a lecture on "Body and Mind" which he delivered at
St. George's Hall, and afterwards published in the _Fortnightly Review_,
argues against the existence of God on the ground that, as Mind is always
associated with Matter within experience, there arises a presumption
against Mind existing anywhere without being thus associated, so that
unless we can trace in the disposition of the heavenly bodies some
resemblance to the conformation of cerebral structure, we are to conclude
that there is a considerable balance of probability in favour of Atheism.
Now, as this argument--if we rid it of the grotesque allusion to the
heavenly bodies--is one that is frequently met with, it seems desirable in
this place briefly to analyse it. First of all, then, the validity of the
argument depends upon the probability there is that the constant associated
of Mind with Matter within experience is due to a _causal_ connection; for
if the association in question is merely an _association_ and nothing more,
the origin of known mind is as far from being explained as it would be were
Mind never known as associated with Matter. But, in the next place,
supposing the constant association in question to be due to a causal
connection, it by no means follows that because Mind is due to Matter
within experience, therefore Mind cannot exist in any other mode beyond

Doubtless, from analogy, there is a presumption against the hypothesis that
the same entity should exist in more than one mode at the same time; but
clearly in this case we are quite unable to estimate the value of this
presumption. Consequently, even assuming a causal connection between Matter
and Human Mind, if there is any, the slightest, indications supplied by any
other facts of experience pointing to the existence of a Divine Mind, such
indications should be allowed as much argumentative weight as they would
have had in the absence of the presumption we are considering. Hence
Professor Clifford's conclusion cannot be regarded as valid until all the
other arguments in favour of Theism have been separately refuted. Doubtless
Professor Clifford will be the first to recognise the cogency of this
criticism--if indeed it has not already occurred to him; for as I know that
he is much too clear a thinker not to perceive the validity of these
considerations, I am willing to believe that the substance of them was
omitted from his essay merely for the sake of brevity; but, for the sake of
less thoughtful persons, I have deemed it desirable to state thus clearly
that the problem of Theism cannot be solved on grounds of Materialism
alone. [This note was written before I had the advantage of Professor
Clifford's acquaintance, but now I leave it, as I leave all other parts of
this essay--viz., as it was originally written.--1878.]

[8] To avoid burdening the text, I have omitted another criticism which may
be made on Locke's argument. "Triangle" is a word by which we designate a
certain figure, one of the properties of which is that the sum of its
angles is equal to two right angles. In other words, any figure which does
not exhibit this property is not that figure which we designate a triangle.
Hence, when Locke says he cannot conceive of a triangle which does not
present this property, it may be answered that his inability arises merely
from the fact that any figure which fails to present this property is not a
figure to which the term "triangle" can apply. Thus viewed, however, the
illustration would obviously be absurd, for the same reason that the
question of the clown is absurd, "Can you think of a horse that is just
like a cow?" What Locke evidently means is, that we cannot conceive of any
geometrical figure which presents all the other properties of a triangle
without also presenting the property in question. Now, even admitting, with
Locke, that it is as inconceivable that the entity known to us as Matter
should possess the property of causing thought as it is that the figure
which we term a triangle should posses the property of containing more than
two right angles, still it remains, for the purposes of Locke's supposed
theistic demonstration, to prove that it is an inconceivable for the entity
which we call Mind _not_ to be due to another Mind, as it is for a triangle
_not_ to contain, other than two right angles. But, further, even if it
were possible to prove this, the demonstration would make as much against
Theism as in favour of it; for if, as the illustration of the triangle
implies, we restrict the meaning of the word "Mind" to an entity one of
whose essential qualities is that it should be caused by another Mind, the
words "Supreme and Uncaused Mind" involve a contradiction in terms, just as
much as would the words "A square triangle having four right angles." It
would, therefore, seem that if we adhere to Locke's argument, and pursue it
to its conclusion, the only logical outcome would be this:--Seeing that by
the word "Mind," I expressly connote the quality of derivation from a prior
Mind, as a quality belonging no less essentially to Mind than the quality
of presenting two right angles belongs to a triangle; therefore, whatever
other attributes I ascribe to the First Cause, I must clearly exclude the
attribute Mind; and hence, whatever else such a Cause may be, it follows
from my argument that it certainly is--Not Mind.

[9] Hamilton.

[10] Lectures on Metaphysics, vol. i. pp. 25-31.

[11] Lectures on Metaphysics, vol. ii. p. 542.

[12] _Loc. cit._, p. 543.

[13] Appendix to Discussions, pp. 614, 165.

[14] Mill, in the lengthy chapter which he devotes to the freedom of the
will in his Examination, does not notice this point.

[15] If more evidence can be wanted, it is supplied in some suggestive
facts of Psychology. For example, "From our earliest childhood, the idea of
doing wrong (that is, of doing what is forbidden, or what is injurious to
others) and the idea of punishment are presented to the mind together, and
the intense character of the impressions causes the association between
them to attain the highest degree of closeness and intimacy. Is it strange,
or unlike the usual processes of the human mind, that in these
circumstances we should retain the feeling and forget the reason on which
it is grounded? But why do I speak of forgetting? In most cases the reason
has never, in our early education, been presented to the mind. The only
ideas presented have been those of wrong and punishment, and an inseparable
association has been created between these directly, without the help of
any intervening idea. This is quite enough to make the spontaneous feelings
of mankind regard punishment and a wrong-doer as naturally fitted to each
other--as a conjunction appropriate in itself, independently of any
consequences," &c.--Mill, Examination of Hamilton, p. 599.

[16] Grammar of Assent, pp. 106, 107.

[17] Throughout these considerations I have confined myself to the
_positive_ side of the subject. My argument being of the nature of a
criticism on the erroneous inferences which are drawn from the _good_
qualities of our moral nature, I thought it desirable, for the sake of
clearness, not to burden that argument by the additional one as to the
source of the _evil_ qualities of that nature. This additional argument,
however, will be found briefly stated at the close of my supplementary
essay on Professor Flint's "Theism." On reading that additional argument, I
think that any candid and unbiassed mind must conclude that, alike in what
it is _not_ as well as in what it _is_, our moral nature points to a
natural genesis, as distinguished from a supernatural cause.

[18] The illustration to which I refer is that of the watershed of a
country being precisely adapted to draining purposes. The rivers just fit
their own particular beds: the latter occupy the lowest grounds, and get
broader and deeper as they advance; pebbles, gravel, and sand all occupy
the best teleological situations, &c., &c.

[19] "Order of Nature," by the Rev. Baden Powell, M.A., F.R.S., &c., 1859,
pp. 228-241.

[20] I think it desirable to state that I perceived this great truth before
I was aware that it had been perceived also by Mr. Spencer. His statement
of it now occurs in the short chapter of _First Principles_ entitled
"Relations between Forces." So far as I an able to ascertain, no one has
hitherto considered this important doctrine in its immediate relation to
the question of Theism.

In using the term "persistence of force," I am aware that I am using a term
which is not unopen to criticism. But as Mr. Spencer's writings have
brought this term into such general use among speculative thinkers, it
seemed to me undesirable to modify it. Questions of mere terminology are
without any importance in a discussion of this kind, provided that the
terms are universally understood to mean what they are intended to mean;
and I think that the signification which Mr. Spencer attaches to his term,
"persistence of force," is sufficiently precise. Therefore, adopting his
usage, whenever throughout the following pages I speak of force as
persisting, what I intend to be understood is, that there is a
something--call it force, or energy, or _x_--which, so far as experience or
imagination can extend, is, in its relation to us, ubiquitous and
illimitable; or, in other words, that it universally presents the property
of permanence. (See, for a more detailed explanation, supplementary essay,
"On the Final Mystery of Things.")

[21] Hamilton may here be especially noticed, because he went so far as to
maintain that the phenomena of the external world, taken by themselves,
would ground a valid argument to the negation of God. Although I cannot but
think that this position was a conspicuously irrational one for any
competent thinker to occupy before the scientific doctrine of the
correlation of the forces had been enunciated, nevertheless I cannot lose
the opportunity of alluding to this remarkable feature in Sir William
Hamilton's philosophy, showing as it does that same prophetic forestalling
of the results which have since followed from the discovery of the
conservation of energy, as was shown by his no less remarkable theory of
causation. (See supplementary essay "On the Final Mystery of Things.")

[22] Mr. N. Lockyer's work is now supplying important evidence on these

[23] It will of course be observed that if matter and force are identical,
the unification is complete.

[24] Herbert Spencer.

[25] It may here be observed that the above discussion would not be
affected by the view of Professor Clifford and others, that natural law is
to be regarded as having a subjective rather than an objective
signification--that what we call a natural law is merely an arbitrary
selection made by ourselves of certain among natural processes. The
discussion would not be affected by this view, because the argument is
really based upon the existence of a cosmos as distinguished from a chaos;
and therefore it would be rather an intensification of the argument than
otherwise to point out that, for the maintenance of a cosmos, natural laws,
as conceived by us, would be inadequate. And this seems a fitting place to
make the almost superfluous remark, that throughout this present essay I
have used the words "Natural Law," "Supreme Law-giver," &c., in an
apparently unguarded sense, merely in order to avoid needless obscurity.
Fully sensible as I am of the misleading nature of the analogy which these
words embody, I have yet adopted them for the sake of perspicuity--being
careful, however, never to allow the false analogy which they express to
enter into an argument on either side of the question. Thus, even where it
is said that the existence of Natural Law points to the existence of a
Supreme Law-maker, the argument might equally well be phrased: The
existence of an orderly cosmos points to the existence of a disposing mind.

[26] First Principles, pp. 27-29.

[27] It may be here observed that this quality of indefiniteness on the
part of such reasoning is merely a practical outcome of the theoretical
considerations adduced in Chapter V. For as we there saw that the ratio
between the known and the unknown is in this case wholly indefinite, it
follows that any symbols derived from the region of the known--even though
such symbols be the highest generalities which the latter region
affords--must be wholly indefinite when projected into the region of the
unknown. Or rather let us say, that as the region of the unknown is but a
progressive continuation of the region of the known, the determinate value
of symbols of thought varies inversely as the distance--or, not improbably,
as the square of the distance--from the sphere of the known at which they
are applied.

[28] _i.e._, illegitimate in a _relative_ sense. The conclusion is
legitimate enough in a _formal_ sense, and as establishing a probability of
some _unassignable_ degree of value. But it would be illegitimate if this
quality of indefiniteness were disregarded, and the conclusion supposed to
possess the same character of actual probability as it has of formal

[29] In order not to burden the text with details, I have presented these
reflections in their most general terms. Thus, if it be granted that cosmic
harmony results from the combined action of general laws, and that these
laws are the necessary result of the primary qualities of force and matter,
this the most general statement of the atheistic position includes all more
special considerations as a genus includes its species; and therefore it
would not signify, for the purposes of the atheistic argument, whether or
not any such more special considerations are possible. Nevertheless, for
the sake of completeness, I may here observe that we are not wholly without
indications in nature of the physical causation whereby the effect of
cosmic harmony is produced. The universal tendency of motion to become
rhythmical--itself, as Mr. Spencer was the first to show, a necessary
consequence of the persistence of force--is, so to speak, a conservative
tendency: it sets a premium against natural cataclysms. But a more
important consideration is this,--that during the evolution of natural law
in the way suggested in Chapter IV., as every newly evolved law came into
existence it must have been, as it were, grafted on the stock of all
pre-existing natural laws, and so would not enter the cosmic system as an
element of confusion, but rather as an element of further progress. For
instance, when, with the origin of organic nature, the law of natural
selection entered upon the cosmos, it was grafted upon the pre-existing
stock of other natural laws, and so combined within them in unity. And a
little thought will show that it was impossible that it should do
otherwise; for it was impossible that natural selection could ever produce
organisms which would ever be able by their existence to conflict with the
pre-existing system of astronomic or geologic laws; seeing that organisms,
being a product of later evolution than these laws, would either have to be
adapted to them or perish. And hence the new law of natural selection,
which consists in so adapting organisms to the pre-existing laws that they
must either conform to them or die. Now, I have chosen the case of natural
selection because, as alluded to in the text, it is the law of all others
which is the most conspicuously effective in producing the harmonious
complexity of nature. But the same kind of considerations may be seen to
apply to most of the other general laws with which we are acquainted,
particularly if we bear in mind that the general outcome of their united
action as we observe it--the cosmic harmony on which so much stress is
laid--is not _perfectly_ harmonious. Cataclysms--whether it be the capture
of an insect, or the ruin of a star--although events of comparatively rare
occurrence if at any given time we take into account the total number of
insects or the total number of stars, are events which nevertheless do
occasionally happen. And the fact that even cataclysms take place in
accordance with so-called natural law, serves but to emphasise the
consideration on which we are engaged--viz., that the total result of the
combined action of general laws is not such as to produce perfect order.
Lastly, if the answer is made that human ideas of perfect order may not
correspond with the highest ideal of such order, I observe that to make
such a answer is merely to abandon the subject of discussion; for if a
theist rests his argument on the basis of our human conception of order, he
is not free to maintain his argument and at the same time to abandon its
basis at whatever point the latter may be shown untenable.

[30] Since the above was written, the first volume of Mr. Spencer's
"Sociology" has been published; and those who may not as yet have read the
first half of that work are here strongly recommended to do so; for Mr.
Spencer has there shown, in a more connected and conclusive manner than has
ever been shown before, how strictly natural is the growth of all
superstitions and religions--_i.e._, of all the theories of personal agency
in nature.--1878.

[31] Herbert Spencer's Essays, vol. iii. pp. 246-249 (1874).

[32] This is the truly inconceivable element in the physical theory. As I
have shown in the pleading on the side of Atheism, the supposed
inconceivability of cosmic harmony being due to mindless forces, is not of
such a kind as wholly refuses to be surmounted by symbolic conceptions of a
sufficiently abstract character. But it is impossible, by the aid of any
symbols, to gain a conception of an eternal existence. And I may here point
out, that if Mind is said to be the cause of evolution, not only does the
statement involve the inconceivable proposition that such a Mind must be
infinite in respect to its powers of supervision, direction, &c.; but the
statement also involves a necessary alternative between two additional
inconceivable propositions--viz., either that such a Mind must have been
eternal, or that it must have come into existence without a cause. In this
respect, therefore, it would seem that the theory of Atheism has the
advantage over that of Theism; for while the former theory is under the
necessity of embodying only a single inconceivable term, the latter theory
is under the necessity of embodying two such terms.

[33] Mr. Herbert Spencer has treated of this subject in his memorable
controversy with Mill on the "Universal Postulate" (see _Psychology_, §
427), and refuses to entertain the term "Inconceivable" as applicable to
any propositions other than those wherein "the terms cannot, by any effort,
be brought before consciousness in that relation which the proposition
asserts between them." That is to say, he limits the term "Inconceivable"
to that which is _absolutely_ inconceivable; and he then proceeds to affirm
that all propositions "which admit of being framed in thought, but which
are so much at variance with experience, in which its terms have habitually
been otherwise united, that its terms cannot be put in the alleged relation
without effort," ought properly to be termed "_incredible_" propositions.
Now I cannot see that the class "Incredible propositions" is, as this
definition asserts, identical with the class which I have termed
"Relatively inconceivable" propositions. For example, it is a familiar
observation that, on looking at the setting sun, we experience an almost,
if not quite, insuperable difficulty in _conceiving_ the sun's apparent
motion as due to our own actual motion, and yet we experience no difficulty
in _believing_ it. Conversely, I entertain but little difficulty in
_conceiving_--_i.e._, imagining--a shark with a mammalian heart, and yet it
would require extremely strong evidence to make me _believe_ that such an
animal exists. The truth appears to be that our language is deficient in
terms whereby to distinguish between that which is wholly inconceivable
from that which is with difficulty conceivable. This, it seems to me, was
the principle reason of the dispute between Spencer and Mill above alluded
to,--the former writer having always used the word "Inconceivable" in the
sense of "Absolutely inconceivable," and the latter having apparently used
it--in his _Logic_ and elsewhere--in both senses. I have endeavoured to
remedy this defect in the language by introducing the qualifying words,
"Absolutely" and "Relatively," which, although not appropriate words, are
the best that I am able to supply. The conceptive faculty of the individual
having been determined by the experience of the race, that which is
inconceivable by the intelligence of the race may be said to be
inconceivable to the intelligence of the individual in an _absolute_ sense;
no effort on his part can enable him to surmount the organically imposed
conditions of his conceptive faculty. But that which is inconceivable
merely to one individual or generation, while it is not inconceivable to
the intelligence of the race, may properly be said to be inconceivable to
the intelligence of that individual or generation only in a _relative_
sense; apart from the special condition to which the individual
intelligence has been subjected, there is nothing in the conditions of
human intelligence as such to prevent the thing from being conceived.
[While this work has been passing through the press, I have found that Mr.
G. H. Lewes has already employed the above terms in precisely the same
sense as that which is above explained.--1878.]

[34] I should here like to have added some considerations on Sir W.
Hamilton's remarks concerning the effect of training upon the mind in this
connection; but, to avoid being tedious, I shall condense what I have to
say into a few sentences. What Hamilton maintains is very true, viz., that
the study of classics, moral and mental philosophy, &c., renders the mind
more capable of believing in a God than does the study of physical science.
The question, however, is, Which class of studies ought to be considered
the more authoritative in this matter? I certainly cannot see what title
classics, history, political economy, &c., have to be regarded at all; and
although the mental and moral sciences have doubtless a better claim, still
I think they must be largely subordinate to those sciences which deal with
the whole domain of nature besides. Further, I should say that there is no
very strong _affirmative_ influence created on the mind in this respect by
any class of studies; and that the only reason why we so generally find
Theism and classics, &c., united, is because we so seldom find classics,
&c., and physical science united; the _negative_ influence of the latter,
in the case of classical minds, being therefore generally absent.

[35] The qualities named are only known in a relative sense, and therefore
the apparent contradiction may be destitute of meaning in an absolute

[36] All the quotations in this Appendix have been taken from the chapter
on "Our knowledge of the existence of a God," and from the early part of
that on "The extent of human knowledge," together with the appended letter
to the Bishop of Worcester.

[37] A criticism of Mr. John Fiske's proposed system of theology as
expounded in his work on "Cosmic Philosophy" (Macmillan & Co., 1874).

[38] Cosmic Philosophy, vol. i. pp. 87-89.

[39] Cosmic Philosophy, vol. ii. pp. 429, 430.

[40] Ibid., p. 441.

[41] Ibid., pp. 450, 451.

[42] Principles of Psychology, vol. i. pp. 159-161.

[43] We thus see that the question whether there may not be "something
quasi-psychical in the constitution of things" is a question which does not
affect the position of Theism as it has been left by a negation of the
self-conscious personality of God. But as the speculations on which this
question has been reared are in themselves of much philosophical interest,
I may here observe that, in one form or another, they have been dimly
floating in men's minds for a long time past. Thus, excepting the degree of
certainty with which it is taught, we have in Mr. Spencer's words above
quoted a reversion to the doctrine of Buddha; for, as "force is
persistent," all that would happen on death, supposing the doctrine true,
would be an escape of the "circumscribed aggregate" of units forming the
individual consciousness into the unlimited abyss of similar units
constituting the "Absolute Being" of the Cosmists, or the "Divine Essence"
of the Buddhists. Again, the doctrine in a vague form pervades the
philosophy of Spinoza, and is next clearly enunciated by Wundt. Lastly, in
a recently published very remarkable essay "On the Nature of Things in
Themselves," Professor Clifford arrives at a similar doctrine by a
different route. The following is the conclusion to which he
arrives:--"That element of which, as we have seen, even the simplest
feeling is a complex, I shall call _Mind-stuff_. A moving molecule of
inorganic matter does not possess mind or consciousness, but it possesses a
small piece of mind-stuff. When molecules are so combined together as to
form the film on the under side of a jellyfish, the elements of mind-stuff
which go along with them are so combined as to form the faint beginnings of
Sentience. When the molecules are so combined as to form the brain and
nervous system of a vertebrate, the corresponding elements of mind-stuff
are so combined as to form some kind of consciousness; that is to say,
changes in the complex which take place at the same time get so linked
together that the repetition of one implies the repetition of the other.
When matters take the complex form of a living human brain, the
corresponding mind-stuff takes the form of a human consciousness, having
intelligence and volition." (Mind, January, 1878.)

[44] Theism, by Robert Flint, D.D., LL.D., Professor of Divinity in the
University of Edinburgh, &c.

[45] Such being the objects in view, I have not thought it necessary to
extend this criticism into anything resembling a review of Professor
Flint's work as a whole; but, on the contrary, I have aimed rather at
confining my observations to those parts of his treatise which embody the
current arguments from teleology alone. I may here observe, however, in
general terms, that I consider all his arguments to have been answered by
anticipation in the foregoing examination of Theism. I may also here
observe, that throughout the following essay I have used the word "design"
in the sense in which it is used by Professor Flint himself. This sense is
distinctly a different one from that which the word bears in the writings
of the Paley, Bell, and Chalmers school. For while in the latter writings,
as pointed out in Chapter III., the word bears its natural meaning of a
certain _process of thought_, in Professor Flint's work it is used rather
as expressive of a _product of intelligence_. In other words, "design," as
used by Professor Flint, is synonymous with _intention_, irrespective of
the particular psychological process by which the intention may have been
put into effect.

[46] Op. cit., pp. 255-257.

[47] Let it be observed that there is a distinction between what I may call
substantial and formal existence. Thus there is no doubt that flowers as
flowers perish, or become non-existent; but the substances of which they
were composed persist. And, in this connection, I may here point out that
if the universe is infinite in space and time, the universe as a whole
would present substantial existence as standing out of relation to space
and time, whereas innumerable portions of the universe present only formal
existences, because standing in relation both to space and time. Thus, for
instance, the solar system, as a solar system, must have an end in time as
it has a boundary in space; but as the substance of which it consists will
not become extinguished by the extinction of the system, it may not now
stand in any real relation to what we call space and time. I am inclined to
think that it is upon the idea of non-existence in this formal sense that
we construct a pseud-idea of non-existence in a substantial sense; but it
is evident that if the universe as a whole is absolute, this pseud-idea
must represent as impossibility. And from this it follows, that if
existence is infinite in space and time, every _quantum_ of it with which
our experience comes into relation must represent, as its essential
quality, that quality which we find to be presented by the substance of
things--the quality, that is, of persistence.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Candid Examination of Theism" ***

Copyright 2023 LibraryBlog. All rights reserved.