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Title: Old-Fashioned Ethics and Common-Sense Metaphysics - With Some of Their Applications
Author: Thornton, William Thomas, 1813-1880
Language: English
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With Some of Their Applications



Author of a Treatise 'On Labour'

Macmillan and Co.

_All rights reserved_

     'I entirely agree with you as to the ill tendency of the affected
     doubts of some philosophers and the fantastical conceits of others.
     I am even so far gone of late in this way of thinking, that I have
     quitted several of the sublime notions I had got in their schools
     for vulgar opinions. And I give it you on my word, that since this
     revolt from metaphysical notions to the plain dictates of nature
     and common sense, I find my understanding strangely enlightened, so
     that I can now easily comprehend a great many things which before
     were all mystery and riddle.'--BERKELEY'S HYLAS AND PHILONOUS.


The book was all but finished, and only the Preface remained, over which
I was hesitating, apprehensive equally of putting into it too much and
too little, when one of the most frequent 'companions of my solitude'
came to my aid, shewing me, in fragments, a preface already nearly
written, and needing only a little piecing to become forthwith
presentable. Here it is.

'In these sick days, in a world such as ours, richer than usual in
Truths grown obsolete, what can the fool think but that it is all a Den
of Lies wherein whoso will not speak and act Lies must stand idle and
despair?' Whereby it happens that for the artist who would fain minister
medicinally to the relief of folly, 'the publishing of a Work of Art,'
designed, like this, to redeem Truth from premature obsolescence,
'becomes almost a necessity.' For, albeit, 'in the heart of the speaker
there ought to be some kind of gospel tidings burning until it be
uttered, so that otherwise it were better for him that he altogether
held his peace,' still, than to have fire burning within, and not to put
it forth, not many worse things are readily imaginable.

'Has the word Duty no meaning? Is what we call Duty no divine messenger
and guide, but a false, earthly fantasm, made up of Desire and Fear?' In
that' Logic-mill of thine' hast thou 'an earthly mechanism for the
Godlike itself, and for grinding out Virtue from the husks of Pleasure?
I tell thee, Nay! Otherwise, not on Morality, but on Cookery, let us
build our stronghold. There, brandishing our frying-pan as censer, let
us offer up sweet incense to the Devil, and live at ease on the fat
things _he_ has provided for his elect,' seeing that 'with stupidity and
sound digestion, man may front much.'

Or, 'is there no God? or, at best, an absentee God, sitting idle ever
since the first Sabbath, at the outside of His universe, and _seeing_ it
go?' Know that for man's well-being, whatever else be needed, 'Faith is
one thing needful.' Mark, 'how, with it, Martyrs, otherwise weak, can
cheerfully endure the shame and the cross; how, without it, worldlings
puke up their sick existence, by suicide, in the midst of luxury.' Of
how much else, 'for a pure moral nature, is not the loss of Religious
Belief the loss?' 'All wounds, the crush of long-continued Destitution,
the stab of false Friendship and of false Love, all wounds in the so
genial heart would have healed again had not the life-warmth of Faith
been withdrawn.' But this once lost, how recoverable? how, rather, ever
acquirable? 'First must the dead Letter of Religion own itself dead, and
drop piecemeal into dust, if the living Spirit of Religion, freed from
this, its charnel house, is to arise on us, new born of Heaven, and with
new healing under its wings.'

Beside these burning words of Mr. Carlyle any additional words of mine
would stand only as superfluous foils, and are, therefore, considerately

CADOGAN PLACE: _December 1872._


  CHAPTER                                                           PAGE

  I. ANTI-UTILITARIANISM                                               1

  II. HISTORY'S SCIENTIFIC PRETENSIONS                                84

  III. DAVID HUME AS A METAPHYSICIAN                                 113

  IV. HUXLEYISM                                                      158

  V. RECENT PHASES OF SCIENTIFIC ATHEISM                             199

  VI. LIMITS OF DEMONSTRABLE THEISM                                  266

    EPILOGUE                                                         298







Having, by the heading of this essay, announced that it is intended to
be partly controversial, I can scarcely begin better than by furnishing
the reader with the means of judging whether I myself correctly
apprehend the doctrine which I am about to criticise. If, then, I were
myself an Utilitarian, and, for the sake either of vindicating my own
belief, or of making converts of other people, had undertaken to explain
what Utilitarianism is, I should set about the task somewhat in this

The sole use and sole object of existence is enjoyment or pleasure,
which two words will here be treated as synonymous; happiness, also,
though not quite identical in meaning, being occasionally substituted
for them. Enjoyment, it must be observed, is of very various kinds,
measures, and degrees. It may be sensual, or emotional, or imaginative,
or intellectual, or moral. It may be momentary or eternal; intoxicating
delight or sober satisfaction. It may be unmixed and undisturbed, in
which case, however short of duration or coarse in quality, it may in
strictness be called happiness; or it may be troubled and alloyed,
although of a flavour which would be exquisite if pure, and if there
were nothing to interfere with the perception of it. Understood,
however, in a sufficiently comprehensive sense, enjoyment or pleasure
may be clearly perceived to be the sole object of existence. The whole
value of life plainly consists of the enjoyment, present or future,
which life affords, or is capable of affording or securing. Now, the
excellence of all rules depends on their conduciveness to the object
they have in view. The excellence of all rules of life must, therefore,
depend on their conduciveness to the sole object which life has in view,
viz., enjoyment. But the excellence of rules of life, or of conduct or
modes of acting, would seem to be but another name for their morality,
and the morality of actions obviously depends on their conformity to
moral rules. Whence, if so much be admitted, it necessarily follows that
the test of the morality of actions is their conduciveness to enjoyment.

But the enjoyment thus referred to is not that of the agent alone, for
if it were, no action whatever could possibly be immoral. Whatever any
one does, he does either because to do it gives him or promises him
pleasure, or because he believes that the not doing it would subject him
to more pain than he will suffer from doing it. Besides, one person's
enjoyment may be obtained at the expense of other people's suffering, so
that an act in which the actor takes pleasure may destroy or prevent
more pleasure altogether than it creates. The enjoyment or happiness,
therefore, which Utilitarianism regards, is not individual, but general
happiness; not that of one or of a few, but of the many, nor even of the
many only. It is often declared to be the greatest happiness of the
greatest number, but it may with more accuracy be described as the
largest aggregate of happiness attainable by any or by all
concerned.[1] Again, an action which, in some particular instance,
causes more pleasure than pain to those affected by it, may yet belong
to a class of actions which, in the generality of cases, causes more
pain than pleasure, and may thus involve a violation of a moral rule,
and, consequently, be itself immoral. Wherefore the enjoyment which
Utilitarianism adopts as its moral test is not simply the greatest sum
of enjoyment for all concerned, but that greatest sum in the greatest
number of cases. In its widest signification it is the greatest
happiness of society at large and in the long run. From these premises a
decisive criterion of right and wrong may be deduced. Every action
belonging to a class calculated to promote the permanent happiness of
society is right. Every action belonging to a class opposed to the
permanent happiness of society is wrong.

In the foregoing exposition I have, I trust, evinced a sincere desire to
give Utilitarianism its full due, and I shall at least be admitted to
have shown myself entirely free from most of those more vulgar
misconceptions of its nature which have given its professors such just
offence. Many of its assailants have not scrupled to stigmatise as
worthy only of swine a doctrine which represents life as having no
better and nobler object of desire and pursuit than pleasure. To these,
however, it has, by the great apostle of Utilitarianism, been
triumphantly replied that it is really they themselves who insult human
nature by using language that assumes human beings to be capable of no
higher pleasures than those of which swine are capable; and that,
moreover, if the assumption were correct, and if the capacities of men
and of swine were identical, whatever rule of life were good enough for
the latter would likewise be good enough for the former. But I am not an
assailant of this description. Inasmuch as there undeniably are very
many and very various kinds of pleasure, I of course allow
Utilitarianism credit for common sense enough to acknowledge that those
kinds are most worthy of pursuit which, from whatever cause, possess
most value--that those which are most precious are those most to be
prized. But whoever allows thus much will have no alternative but to
concede a great deal more. The most precious of pleasures is that which
arises from the practice of virtue, as may be proved conclusively in the
only way of which the case admits, viz., by reference to the fact that,
whoever is equally acquainted with that and with other pleasures,
deliberately prefers it to all the rest, will, if necessary, forego all
others for its sake, and values no others obtainable only at its
expense. By necessary implication it follows that, as being more
valuable than any other, the pleasure arising from the practice of
virtue must be that which Utilitarianism recommends above all others as
an object of pursuit. But the pursuit of this particular pleasure and
the practice of virtue are synonymous terms. What, therefore,
Utilitarianism above all other things recommends and insists upon is the
practice of virtue. Now, the practice of virtue commonly involves
subordination of one's own interest to that of other people; indeed,
virtue would not be virtue in the utilitarian sense of the word unless
it did involve such subordination. Wherefore the pleasure arising from
the practice of virtue, the pleasure which occupies the highest place on
the utilitarian scale, and that which Utilitarianism exhorts its
disciples chiefly to seek after, is nothing else than the pleasure
derived from attending to other people's pleasure instead of to our own.

Nor is this all. In order adequately to appreciate the loftiness of
utilitarian teaching, and its utter exemption from the sordidness with
which it is ignorantly charged, we must devote a few moments to
examination of those distinctive peculiarities of different kinds of
pleasure which entitle them to different places in our esteem.

All pleasures may be arranged under five heads, and in regularly
ascending series, as follows:--

1. Sensual pleasures:--To wit, those of eating and drinking, and
whatever others are altogether of the flesh, fleshly.

2. Emotional, by which are to be understood agreeable moods of the mind,
such as, irrespectively of any agreeable idea brought forward
simultaneously by association, are produced by music ('for,' as Milton
says, 'eloquence the soul, song charms the sense'), by beauty of form or
colour, by genial sunshine, by balmy or invigorating air.

3. Imaginative, or pleasures derived from the contemplation of mental

4. Intellectual, or those consequent on exercise of the reasoning

5. Moral, or those which are alluded to when virtue is spoken of as
being its own reward.[2]

That of these several kinds, each of the last four is preferable to any
preceding it on the list will, it is to be hoped, be allowed to pass as
an unquestioned truth, for to any one perverse enough to deny it, the
only answer that can be made is an appeal to observation in proof that
all persons who are equally acquainted with the several kinds do exhibit
the preferences indicated. Neither, so far as the two kinds first-named
alone are concerned, is it possible to go much more deeply into the
reasons why emotional pleasures are to be preferred to sensual, than by
pointing to the fact that all competent judges of both are observed to
like the former best. If all those who are endowed with equal
sensitiveness of ear and of palate prefer music to feasting, and would
any day give up a dinner at Francatelli's for the sake of hearing a
rejuvenescent Persiani as Zerlina, or Patti as Dinorah, the one thing
presumable is, that all such persons derive more enjoyment from perfect
melody than from perfect cookery, and little else remains to be said on
the subject. The same ultimate fact need not, however, limit our inquiry
as to the preferableness of imaginative or intellectual to emotional
pleasures, and of moral to any of the other three. This admits of, and
demands, a more subtle explanation, from which we may learn, not merely
that certain preferences are shown, but also why they are shown. The
preferences in question are demonstrably not due to the greater
poignancy of the pleasures preferred. It is simply not true that the
keenest of imaginative pleasures is keener than the keenest of
emotional, and still less that the keenest of intellectual is so. The
very reverse is the truth. The supremest delight attainable in fancy's
most romantic flight is, I suspect, faint in comparison with the sort of
ecstasy into which a child of freshly-strung nerves is sometimes thrown
by the mere brilliance or balminess of a summer's day, and with which
even we, dulled adults, provided we be in the right humour, and that all
things are in a concatenation accordingly, are now and then momentarily
affected while listening to the wood-notes wild of a nightingale, or a
Jenny Lind, or while gazing on star-lit sky or moon-lit sea, or on the
snowy or dolomite peaks of a mountain range fulgent with the violet and
purple glories of the setting sun. And yet the choicest snatches of such
beatitude with which--at least, after the fine edge of our
susceptibilities has been worn away by the world's friction--we
creatures of coarse human mould are ever indulged, are but poor in
comparison with the rich abundance of the same in which some more
delicately-constituted organisms habitually revel. If we would
understand of what development emotional delight is capable, we should
watch the skylark. As that 'blithe spirit' now at heaven's gate 'poureth
its full heart,' and anon can

        Scarce get out his notes for joy,
  But shakes his song together as he nears
  His happy home, the ground,

what poet but must needs confess with Shelley, that in his most
rapturous dream, his transport never came nigh the bird's? And yet what
poet would change conditions with the lark? Nay, what student or
philosopher would? albeit the utmost gratification ever earned by either
of these in the prosecution of his special calling--in acquiring
knowledge, in solving knotty problems, or in scaling the heights of
abstract contemplation--is probably as inferior in keenness of zest to
that which the poet knows, as the best prose is inferior in charm to the
best poetry. It may even be that both poet and philosopher owe, on the
whole, more unhappiness than happiness--the one to his superior
sensibility, the other to his superior enlightenment, and yet neither
would exchange his own lesser happiness for the greater happiness of the
lark. Why would he not? It is no sufficient answer to say that in the
lark's happiness there are few, if any, imaginative or intellectual
ingredients; that it is almost utterly unideal, almost purely emotional,
exactly the same in kind, and only higher in degree, than the glee of
puppies or kittens at play. The question recurs as forcibly as ever,
why--seeing that enjoyment is the one thing desirable, the only thing
either valuable in itself, or that gives value to other things--why is
it that no intelligent man would accept, in lieu of his own, another
mode of existence, in which, although debarred from the joys of thought
and fancy, he nevertheless has reason to believe that the share of
enjoyment falling to his lot would be greater, both in quantity and
sapidity, than it is at present? The following seems to me to be the
explanation of the mystery.

It might be too much to say that nothing can please a person who is not
pleased with himself, but it is at any rate clear that nothing can
greatly please him which interferes with his self-satisfaction. Now
imaginative and intellectual enjoyment, each of them, involves the
exercise of a special and superior faculty, mere consciousness of the
possession of which helps to make the possessor satisfied with himself.
It exalts what Mr. Mill aptly terms his sense of dignity, a sense
possessed in some form or other by every human being, and one so
essential to that self-satisfaction without which all pleasure would be
tasteless, that nothing which conflicts with it can be an object of
serious desire. In virtue of this special faculty, the most wretched of
men holds himself to be superior to the most joyous of larks. To divest
himself of it would be to lower himself towards the level of the bird,
and to commit such an act of self-degradation would occasion to him an
amount of pain which he is not disposed to incur for the sake of any
amount of pleasure obtainable at its expense. It is, then, the fear of
pain which prevents his wishing to be turned into a lark. He is not
ignorant that he would be happier for the metamorphosis, but he dreads
the pain that must precede the increase of happiness, more than he
desires the increase of happiness that would follow the pain.

The force of these considerations will be equally, or more apparent, on
their being applied to analysis of moral pleasures. That these are the
most truly precious of all pleasures, is proved by their being
habitually more highly prized than any others by all who are qualified
to make the comparison. But why are they so prized? Not, as I am
constrained, however reluctantly, to admit, on account of their greater
keenness as pleasures. It would be at best but well-meaning cant to
pretend that the self-approval, the sympathetic participation in other
people's augmented welfare, the grateful consciousness of having done
that which is pleasing in our Heavenly Father's sight, together with
whatever else helps to compose the internal reward of virtue, constitute
a sum total of delight nearly as exquisite as that which may be obtained
in a variety of other ways. The mere circumstance of there being
invariably included in a just or generous action more or less of
self-denial, self-restraint, or self-sacrifice, must always sober down
the gratification by which virtue is rewarded, and make it appear tame
beside the delirium of gladness caused by many things with which virtue
has nothing to do. We will charitably suppose that the occupant of a
dukedom, who should secretly light upon conclusive proof that it was not
his by right, would at once abandon it to the legal heir, and we need
not doubt that he would subsequently be, on the whole, well content to
have so acted, but we cannot suppose that he would make the surrender
with anything like the elation with which he entered on the estate and
title. If there were really no pleasure equal to that with which virtue
recompenses its votaries, the performance of a virtuous act would always
make a man happier than previously; moreover, the greater the virtue,
the greater would be the consequent pleasure. But any one may see that
an act of the most exalted virtue, far from increasing, often utterly
destroys the agent's happiness. Imagine an affectionate father, some
second Brutus or second Fitzstephen of Galway, constrained by
overwhelming sense of duty to sentence a beloved son to death, or a
bankrupt beggaring himself and his family by honestly making over to his
creditors property with which he might have safely absconded. Plainly,
such virtuous achievement, far from adding to the happiness of its
author, has plunged him in an abyss of misery, his only comfort being
that in the lowest deep there is, as we shall presently see, a lower
deep still. Far from being happier than he was before acting as he has
done, he would be much happier if, being vicious instead of virtuous, he
had not felt bound so to act. Unquestionably, what either upright judge
or honest bankrupt has incurred--the one by becoming a saticide, the
other by making himself a beggar--is pure and simple pain, unmitigated
by one particle of positive pleasure. Yet it is at the same time certain
that the virtue of each has in some form or other given full
compensation for the pain it has occasioned, for not only was that pain
deliberately incurred in lieu of the pleasure which it has supplanted,
but restoration of the pleasure would now be refused, if reversal of the
virtuous conduct were made a condition of the restoration. In what,
then, does the compensation consist? In nothing else than this, in judge
or bankrupt having been saved from pain still greater than that which he
is actually suffering. Wretched as he is, infinitely more wretched than
he was before there was any call upon him to act as he has done, he is
less wretched than he would be if, recognising the obligation so to act,
he had not so acted. He has escaped the stings of conscience, the sense
of having wronged his neighbour and offended his God; he has escaped, in
short, self-condemnation--a torment so intolerable to those so
constituted as to be susceptible of it, that hell itself has been known
to be, in imagination at least, preferred to it. Mr. Mill's splendid
outburst that, rather than worship a fiend that could send him to hell
for refusing, he would go to hell as he was bid, will doubtless occur to
every reader.

This, however, is all. In both the supposed cases, as in every one in
which virtue consists of compliance with a painful duty, the pleasure
arising from the practice of virtue cannot in strictness be called
pleasure at all. At best it is but a partial negation of pain; more
properly, indeed, the substitution of one pain for another more acute.
Yet this mere negation, this ethereal inanity, is pronounced by
Utilitarianism to be preferable to aught that can come into competition
with it. Truly it is somewhat hard upon those who attend to such
teaching, to be reproached with their grossness of taste and likened to
hogs, for no better reason than their predilection for the lightest of
all conceivable diets. Still harder will this seem, when we recollect
that Utilitarians are exhorted to be virtuous, less for their own than
for other people's sakes. If, indeed, virtue were practised by all
mankind, the utilitarian idea of the greatest possible happiness, or, at
least, of the greatest possible exemption from unhappiness, would be
universally realised. Still, it is in order that they may afford
pleasure to the community at large, rather than that they may obtain it
for themselves; it is that they may save, not so much themselves, as the
community, from pain, that individual Utilitarians are charged to be
virtuous. Among those pleasures, whether positive or negative, which it
is allowable to them to seek for themselves, the first place is assigned
to the pleasure arising from the sense of giving pleasure to others.
Thus, not only is it the purest of pleasures that Utilitarianism chiefly
recommends for pursuit: even that pleasure is to be pursued only from
the purest and most disinterested motives.

All this I frankly acknowledge; and I own, too, that, far from deserving
to be stigmatised as irreligious, Utilitarianism is literally nothing
else than an amplification of one moiety of Christianity; that it not
adopts merely, but expands, 'the golden rule of Jesus of Nazareth,'
exhorting us to love our neighbour, not simply as well, but better than
ourselves; to do for others, not simply what we would have them do for
us, but much more than we could have the face to ask them to do; not
merely not to pursue our interests at the expense of theirs, but to
regard as our own chief interest the promotion of theirs. That on
account of these exhortations Utilitarianism is godless can be supposed
by those only who suppose that love to one's neighbour is contrary to
the will of God. By those who believe that works are the best signs of
faith, and that love to God is best evinced by doing good to man,
Utilitarianism might rather seem to be but another name for practical

So I say in all sincerity, though not without some misgiving, as while
so speaking I involuntarily bethink myself of Balaam, son of Beor, who
having been called forth to curse, caught himself blessing altogether.
Mine eyes, too, have been opened to the good of that which I was
purposed to condemn, and behold I have as yet done nothing but eulogise.
No warmest partisan of Utilitarianism, not Mr. Mill himself, ever spoke
more highly of it than I have just been doing. What censures, then, can
I have in reserve to countervail such praises? What grounds of quarrel
can I have with a system of ethics which I have described as ever
seeking the noblest ends from the purest motives; whose precepts I own
to be as elevating as its aims are exalted? On reflection, I am
reassured by recollecting several, which I proceed to bring forward one
at a time, beginning with a sin enormous enough to cover any multitude
of merits.

My first charge against Utilitarianism is that it is not true. I do not
say that there is no truth in it. That I have found much to admire in
its premises has been frankly avowed; and in one, at least, of the
leading deductions from those premises I partially concur. I admit that
acts utterly without utility must likewise be utterly without worth;
that conduct which subserves the enjoyment neither of oneself nor of any
one else, cannot, except in a very restricted sense, be termed right;
that conduct which interferes with the enjoyment both of oneself and of
all others, which injuring oneself injures others also, and benefits no
one, cannot be otherwise than wrong; that purely objectless asceticism
which has not even self-discipline in view, is not virtue, but folly;
that misdirected charity which, engendering improvidence, creates more
distress than it relieves, is not virtue, but criminal weakness. But
though admitting that there can be no virtue without utility, I do not
admit either that virtue must be absent unless utility preponderate, or
that if utility preponderate virtue must be present. I deny that any
amount of utility can of itself constitute virtue. I deny that whatever
adds to the general happiness must be right. Equally do I deny that
whatever diminishes the general happiness or prevents its increasing
must be wrong. An action, be it observed, may be right in three
different senses. It may be right as being meritorious, and deserving of
commendation. It may be right as being that which one is bound to do,
for the doing of which, therefore, one deserves no praise, and for
neglecting to do which one would justly incur blame. It may be right
simply as not being wrong--as being allowable--something which one has a
right to do, though to refrain from doing it might perhaps be
praiseworthy. There will be little difficulty in adducing examples of
conduct which, though calculated to diminish the sum total of happiness,
would be right in the first of these senses. Nothing can be easier than
to multiply examples of such conduct that would be right in the third
sense. I proceed to cite cases which will answer both these purposes,
and likewise the converse one of showing that conduct calculated to
increase the general happiness may nevertheless be wrong.

When the Grecian chiefs, assembled at Aulis, were waiting for a fair
wind to convey them to Ilium, they were, we are told, warned by what was
to them as a voice from heaven, that their enterprise would make no
progress unless Agamemnon's daughter were sacrificed to Diana. In order
to place the details of the story in a light as little favourable as
possible to my argument, we will deviate somewhat from the accepted
version, and will suppose that the arrested enterprise was one of even
greater pith and moment than tradition ascribes to it. We will suppose
that upon its successful prosecution depended the national existence of
Greece; that its failure would have involved the extermination of
one-half of the people, and the slavery of the other half. We will
suppose, too, that of all this Iphigenia was as firmly persuaded as
every one else. In these circumstances, had her countrymen a right to
insist on her immolation? If so, on what was that right founded? Is it
sufficient to say in reply that her death was essential to the national
happiness, to the extent even of being indispensable to prevent that
happiness from being converted into national woe? Manifestly, according
to the hypothesis, it was expedient for all concerned, with the single
exception of herself, that she should die; but were the others thereby
entitled to take her life? Did the fact of its being for their advantage
to do this warrant their doing it? Simply because it was their interest,
was it also their right? Right, we must recollect, invariably implies
corresponding duty. Right, it is clear, can never be rightfully
resisted. If it be the right of certain persons to do a certain thing,
it must be the duty of all other persons to let that thing be done.
Where there is no such duty, there can be no such right. Wherefore, if
the 'stern, black-bearded kings, with wolfish eyes,' who sate 'waiting
to see her die,' had a right to kill Iphigenia, it must have been
Iphigenia's duty to let herself be killed. Was this then her duty?
'Duty,' as I have elsewhere observed,[3] 'signifies something due, a
debt, indebtedness, and a debt cannot have been incurred for nothing, or
without some antecedent step on the part either of debtor or creditor.'
But it is not pretended that in any way whatever, by any antecedent act
of hers or theirs, Iphigenia had incurred or had been subjected to a
debt to her countrymen which could be paid off only with her life. It
could not, then, be incumbent on her to let her life be taken in
payment. If it had been in her power to burst her bonds, and break
through the wolves in human shape that girdled her in, she would have
been guilty of no wrong by escaping. But if not, then, however
meritorious it might have been on her part to consent to die for her
countrymen, it was not her duty so to die, nor, consequently, had they a
right to put her to death. She would have been at least negatively right
in refusing to die, while they were guilty of a very positive and a very
grievous wrong in killing her, notwithstanding that both she and they
were perfectly agreed that for her to be killed would be for the
incalculably greater happiness of a greater number, exceeding the lesser
number in the proportion of several hundreds of thousands to one.

It is true that throughout this affair every one concerned was labouring
under a gross delusion--that there was no real use in putting Iphigenia
to death, and that nothing but superstition made anybody suppose there
was. I do not think the case is one less to our purpose on that account,
for Utilitarians, like other fallible mortals, are liable to deceive
themselves. They never can be quite secure of the genuineness of the
utility on which they rely, and in default of positive knowledge they
will always be reduced to act, as the Grecian chiefs did, according to
the best of their convictions. Nevertheless, for the satisfaction of
those who distrust romance and insist upon reality, we will leave fable
for fact, and take as our next illustration an incident that may any day

Imagine three shipwrecked mariners to have leapt from their sinking
vessel into a cockboat scarce big enough to hold them, and the two
slimmer of the three to have presently discovered that there was little
or no chance of either of them reaching land unless their over-weighted
craft were lightened of their comparatively corpulent companion. Next,
imagine yourself in the fat sailor's place, and then consider whether
you would feel it incumbent on you to submit quietly to be drowned in
order that the residuum of happiness might be greater than if either you
all three went to the bottom, or than if you alone were saved. Would you
not, far from recognising any such moral obligation, hold yourself
morally justified in throwing the other two overboard, if you were
strong enough, and if need were, to prevent their similarly ousting you?
But if it were not your duty to allow yourself to be cast into the sea,
the others could have no right to cast you out; so that, if they did
cast you out, they would clearly be doing not right but wrong. And yet,
as clearly, their wrong-doing would have conduced to the greater
happiness of the greater number, inasmuch as, while only one life could
otherwise have been saved, it would save two, and inasmuch as,
_coeteris paribus_, two persons would necessarily derive twice as much
enjoyment from continued existence as one would. Moreover, their
wrong-doing would be of a kind calculated always to produce similarly
useful results. It cannot, I suppose, be denied that a rule to the
effect that whenever forfeiture of one life would save two, one life
should be sacrificed, would--not exceptionally only, but at large and in
the long run--conduce to the saving of life, and therefore to the
conservation of happiness connected with life.

The foregoing cases are no doubt both of them extreme, involving
exaction of the largest possible private sacrifice for the general good;
but in all cases of the kind, whether the exaction be small or great,
the same governing principle equally applies. If you, a foot-sore,
homeward-bound pedestrian, on a sweltering July day, were to see your
next-door neighbour driving in the same direction in solitary state,
would you have a right to stop his carriage and force yourself in? Nay,
even though you had just before fallen down and broken your leg, would
the compassionating by-standers be justified in forcing him to take you
in? Or, again, if you were outside a coach during a pelting shower, and
saw a fellow-passenger with a spare umbrella between his legs, while an
unprotected female close beside was being drenched with the rain, would
you have a right to wrest the second umbrella from him, and hold it over
her? That, very likely, is what you would do in the circumstances, and
few would be disposed greatly to blame the indignant ebullition. Still,
unless you are a disciple of Proudhon, you will scarcely pretend that
you can have a right to take possession of another's carriage or
umbrella against the owner's will. You can scarcely suppose that it is
not for him but for you to decide what use shall be made of articles
belonging not to you but to him. Yet there can be no doubt that the
happiness of society would be vastly promoted if everyone felt himself
under an irresistible obligation to assist his neighbour whenever he
could do so with little or no inconvenience to himself, or,
consequently, if external force were always at hand to constrain anyone
so to assist who was unwilling to do so of his own accord.

So much in proof that among things of the highest and most extensive
utility there are several which it would be decidedly the reverse of
right to do, and several others which it would be perfectly right to
leave undone. I proceed to show that there are many other things not
simply not of preponderating utility, but calculated, on the contrary,
to do more harm than good, to destroy more happiness than they are
capable of creating, which, nevertheless, it would be not simply
allowable to do, but the doing of which would be highly meritorious,
acts possibly of the most exalted virtue.

Let no one distrust the doctrine of development by reason of its
supposed extravagance of pretension who has not duly considered to what
a sublime of moral beauty the united hideousness and absurdity of
Calvinism may give birth. In that Puritan society of New England of
which Mrs. Beecher Stowe has given so singularly interesting an account
in her 'Minister's Wooing,' and among whose members it was an universal
article of belief that the bulk of mankind are created for the express
purpose of being consigned to everlasting flames, there are said to have
been not a few enthusiasts in whom a self-concentrating creed begat the
very quintessence of self-devotion. 'As a gallant soldier renounces life
and personal aims in the cause of his king and country, and holds
himself ready to be drafted for a forlorn hope, to be shot down, or help
to make a bridge of his mangled body, over which the more fortunate
shall pass to victory and glory,' so among the early descendants of the
Pilgrim Fathers many an one 'regarded himself as devoted to the King
Eternal, ready in his hands to be used to illustrate and build up an
eternal commonwealth, either by being sacrificed as a lost spirit, or
glorified as a redeemed one; ready to throw, not merely his mortal life,
but his immortality even, into the forlorn hope, to bridge, with a
never-dying soul, the chasm over which white-robed victors should pass
to a commonwealth of glory and splendour, whose vastness should dwarf
the misery of all the lost to an infinitesimal.' And while by many the
idea of suffering everlasting pains for the glory of God, and the good
of being in general, was thus contemplated with equanimity, there were
some few for whom the idea of so suffering for the good of others dearer
than themselves would have been greeted with positive exultation. 'And
don't I care for your soul, James?' exclaims Mary Scudder to her lover.
'If I could take my hopes of heaven out of my own heart and give them to
you, I would. Dr. H. preached last Sunday on the text, "I could wish
myself accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen," and he went on
to show how we must be willing to give up even our own salvation, if
necessary, for the good of others. People said it was a hard doctrine,
but I could feel my way through it. Yes, I would give my soul for yours.
I wish I could.' Now we must on no account permit admiration of Miss
Scudder's transcendent generosity in desiring to make this exchange
blind us to the fatal effect on social happiness which, if such
exchange were possible, the prevalence of a disposition to make it could
not fail to have. If Calvinism were true instead of blasphemous, if God
were really the Moloch it represents Him, and if, moreover, Moloch were
indifferent as to which of his offspring were cast into the fire, caring
only that the prescribed number of victims should be forthcoming in full
tale, nothing can be conceived more likely to prove an encouragement to
evil-doers, and a terror to them that did well, than observation that
well-doing not infrequently led to eternal misery, and evil-doing to
eternal bliss. Again, if in China, where criminals under sentence of
death are permitted, if they can, by purchase or otherwise, to procure
substitutes to die in their stead, a son were to propose to die for a
parent base enough to take advantage of the offer, could any arrangement
be more plainly repugnant to the common-weal than that by which society
would thus lose one of its noblest, instead of getting rid of one of its
vilest members? Or, when in England, a thrifty son, by consenting to cut
the entail of an estate to which he is heir-apparent, enables a prodigal
father to consume in riotous living substance which would otherwise have
eventually become his, is he not clearly taking the worse course for the
public by permitting the property to be wasted, instead of causing it to
be husbanded?

Beyond all question, American Puritan, Chinese or English devotee to
filial affection, would thus, each in her or his degree, have, in the
circumstances supposed, acted in a manner opposed to the general
interest, and would therefore be condemned by Utilitarianism as having
acted immorally. Nor could this verdict be gainsaid if utility and
morality were, as Utilitarianism assumes them to be, one and the same
thing. Clearly, that the just should suffer for the unjust, the innocent
for the guilty, is diametrically opposed to the welfare of society;
wherefore, according to utilitarian principles, by consenting so to
suffer, the just becomes unjust, the innocent renders himself guilty.
But can there be a better proof that utilitarian principles are unsound
than that this should be a legitimate deduction from them? Can there be
better proof that utility and morality are not identical, but two
absolutely distinct things? Plainly, there can be no meritorious or
commendable immorality; neither can there be any virtue which is not
meritorious and commendable. Is there, then, no merit, nothing
commendable, in accepting ruin or in volunteering to die temporarily, or
to perish everlastingly, in order to save a fellow-creature from ruin,
or death, or perdition? Does not such conduct, considered independently
and without reference either to its utility or its hurtfulness, command
our instantaneous and enthusiastic admiration? But how, being so
admirable, can it be immoral? how other than virtuous? What else is it,
indeed, but the very perfection of that purest virtue which, content to
be its own reward, deliberately cuts itself off from all other
recompense? Without changing the immemorial meaning of the most familiar
words, there is no avoiding the obvious answers to these questions. If
virtue and morality, right and wrong, are to continue to mean anything
like that which, except by Utilitarians, has always been considered to
be their only meaning, it is not simply not wrong, it is not simply
right, it is among the highest achievements of virtue and morality to
sacrifice your own in order to secure another's happiness, and the
disinterestedness, and therefore the virtue, is surely the greater,
rather than less, if you sacrifice more happiness of your own than you
secure to another. So much follows necessarily from what has been said,
and something more besides. It follows further that Utilitarianism is
not less in error in declaring that actions calculated to diminish the
total sum of happiness must necessarily be wrong, cannot possibly be
allowable, still less meritorious, than it had previously been shown to
be in declaring that actions calculated to augment the sum total of
happiness must necessarily be meritorious.

There is but one way in which Utilitarianism can even temporarily rebut
the charge of fallacy, of which otherwise it must here stand convicted,
and that is by renouncing all claim to be a new system of ethics, and
not pretending to be more than a new system of nomenclature. And even
so, it could not help contradicting, and thereby refuting itself. That
nothing is right but what is of preponderating utility; that whatever is
of preponderating utility is right; these are propositions perfectly
intelligible, indeed, but which will be found to be tenable only on
condition that the very same things may be both right and wrong. The
confusion, thrice confounded, inseparable from the substitution of such
novel definitions for those which had previously been universally in
vogue, is but the smaller of two evils which must thence arise. It would
be bad enough that the word 'right' could not be used without raising
doubt whether what people had previously understood by the 'just' or the
'generous,' or only the 'expedient' were meant; but a still worse
consequence would be that, even if no doubt of the sort were
entertained, and if all men were agreed to take the word in none but its
utilitarian sense, the landmarks of right and wrong would thereby be
well nigh obliterated. Due credit has already been given to
Utilitarianism for its exemplary zeal in inculcating the practice of
virtue, but its merit in that respect is more than neutralised by its
equally zealous inculcation of principles, according to which it is
impossible to decide beforehand whether any particular practice will be
virtuous or not.

This is my second charge against Utilitarianism. I maintain it to be a
doctrine in most of its essentials erroneous; but I maintain, further,
that, even if it were correct, instead of furnishing us with an
infallible criterion of right and wrong, it would deprive us of the
means of clearly distinguishing between right and wrong at all times at
which the power of so distinguishing is of practical value. Bluntly
enough, I have pronounced it to be false. With equal bluntness, I now
add that, even if it were true, it would, all the same, be practically
mischievous, and directly opposed to the very utility from which it
takes its name. The argument in support of this charge shall now be

According to utilitarian ethics, the morality of actions depends wholly
and solely on their consequences. On this point the language of
authority is distinct, emphatic, unanimous, and self-contradictory.
'Utilitarian moralists,' says the chief amongst them, 'have gone beyond
all others in affirming that the motive has nothing to do with the
morality of an action.... He who saves a fellow-creature from drowning
does what is morally right, whether his motive be duty or the hope of
being paid for his trouble.' Upon which I would observe, in passing,
that to save a fellow-creature from drowning can be deemed to be
necessarily right by none but uncompromising opponents of capital
punishment. Most others will be disposed to doubt its having been a
sufficient reason for commuting the sentence of death passed upon the
murderer of Dhuleep Sing's gamekeeper, that, owing to physical
malformation, hanging might perhaps have given him more than ordinary
pain in the neck, or perhaps have prolonged the pleasure which,
according to the select few qualified to speak from experience, is
attendant on that mode of strangulation. Neither, without sacrificing
his judgment to his feelings, could one of these doubters, if Rutherford
had been sentenced to be drowned instead of hanged, have stretched out a
hand to save the miscreant from the watery grave he so richly deserved.
That there are no actions which by reason of their beneficial
consequences are always and invariably moral, might be too much to
affirm; but I have no hesitation in saying that there are thousands, the
morality or immorality of which--their results remaining the
same--depends absolutely on their motives. Thus, if two doctors--of
whom, for distinction's sake, we will call one Smethurst and the other
Smith--in attendance on patients afflicted with precisely the same
disease, were by the administration of overdoses of strychnine each to
kill his man, the only difference between them being that whereas one
intended and expected to kill, the other hoped to cure--would the act of
killing be equally immoral in both cases? Would it not in the one case
be murder, in the other mere error of judgment; and would both be
equally crimes, or would the latter be in any degree criminal? And if it
had been Smethurst instead of Smith who committed the error of
judgment--if the overdoses by which he had meant to kill had happened to
cure--would his error of judgment have thereby been rendered moral,
notwithstanding that his motive was murder?

The same great teacher, who so strenuously insists that the motive has
nothing to do with the morality of an action, does indeed go on to say
that it has 'much to do with the worth of the agent.' Here, however, I
confess myself unable to follow him. That an act may possess morality
independent of the agent, may be intelligible on the assumption that
morality means simply utility, and nothing more; but how, even then,
worth can be evinced by the performance of an immoral action, is beyond
my comprehension, except upon the further assumption that there may be
worth in immorality.

Waiving, however, these and all other objections, let us for the moment,
and for the sake of argument, assume that morality and utility are
really one and the same thing, that the right or wrong of an act depends
entirely on its results, and then let us observe how utterly without
rudder or compass to assist him in steering correctly will be the
best-intentioned navigator of the ocean of life.

We can seldom, if ever, be quite sure what will be the result of our
conduct. Meaning to cure, we may only too probably kill; meaning to
kill, we may not impossibly cure. Until a thing is done, we cannot
determine as to its utility; nor, consequently, in an utilitarian sense,
as to the morality of doing it. We must trust implicitly to our skill in
calculating events, and if that skill happen to fail us, our conduct may
become culpable. With the most earnest desire to act righteously, we can
only guess beforehand whether what we propose doing will turn out to be
righteous, and can never be sure, therefore, that we are not going to do
something wicked.

Here I shall, of course, and very properly, be reminded that what
Utilitarianism requires to be taken into account, are not merely the
probable consequences of some proposed act, but the usual consequences
of all acts of the same description; so that its disciples, instead of
being left to their conjectures about the future, may be said to have
all past experience to refer to. And undeniably Utilitarianism does
require this; thereby, however, contradicting itself as, I just now
hinted, it would presently be found doing. It does indeed declare those
actions only to be moral which in the long run are conducive to, or at
least not opposed to, the general happiness; but it also says that the
morality of each particular action depends on its own particular
consequences. So that the docile disciple who should do something which,
though useful in the long run, happened to be otherwise in his
particular case--who, for instance, should save the life of a
fellow-creature of whom it would have been well for the world to be rid,
would, to his disgust and bewilderment, find that while, with no desire
but that of acting rightly, he had been obeying one utilitarian law, he
had nevertheless been infringing another law of the same code, and
thereby acting wrongly.

Overlooking, however, this incongruity of two equally authoritative
rules, let us proceed to consider what dangerous latitude of
interpretation is allowed to the followers of either of them. Those who
believe that the merit or demerit of each separate action depends on
that action's separate consequences, need seldom be at a loss for a
pretext for committing the most heinous of crimes. A husband who, hating
his wife, had his hate returned, and loving another woman, had his love
returned, might plausibly reason thus within himself: The prescribed
objects of life are the multiplication of happiness and the diminution
of misery; here are three of us, all doomed to be miserable as long as
we all three live; but the wretchedness of two of us might be at once
converted into happiness, if the third were put out of the way. By some
such logical process, Queen Mary and Bothwell may have satisfied
themselves of the propriety of blowing up Darnley: Mr. and Mrs. Manning,
as they sate at meat with their destined victim over his ready-made
grave, may have argued themselves into self-approval of the crowning
rite with which their hospitalities were to terminate: any scampish
apprentice with designs upon his master's till, any burglar plotting an
entry into a goldsmith's shop, may become convinced of his rectitude of
purpose, and even take credit for public-spirited zeal, in seeking to
appropriate to his own use part of another's wealth, which he may fairly
suppose would be productive of more enjoyment if divided between two or
more than if left in the hands of one, and that one already perhaps the
possessor of more than he knows what to do with.

Precisely the same sophistry will not indeed suffice for those disciples
who, adopting the alternative law of the utilitarian code, feel bound to
attend to the consequences not of individual actions, but of classes of
actions. The cleverest self-deceiver can scarcely bring himself to
believe that, because it might suit his personal convenience to kill or
steal, killing and stealing would not be prejudicial to society if
generally practised. Still, it is only necessary to have, or to fancy
one has, public instead of private objects in view, in order to be able
to look with approbation, from an utilitarian point of view, on any
amount of homicide or robbery. It was the very same Robespierre that,
while as yet diocesan judge at Arras, felt constrained to abdicate
because, 'behold, one day comes a culprit whose crime merits hanging,
and strict-minded, strait-laced Max's conscience will not permit the
dooming of any son of Adam to die,' who, shortly after, when
sufficiently imbued with the utilitarian spirit, was fully prepared to
wade through floods of slaughter towards the enthronisation of his
principles--one of those principles evidently being that, if the
decimation of mankind would conduce to the greater happiness of the
residue, adding more to the happiness of the nine-tenths whom it spared
than it took from the tenth whom it destroyed, the said decimation would
be a duty incumbent on any one possessed of power to perpetrate it.

Nor are principles like these appealed to only by those who have
recourse to them for the vindication of their own procedure. At those
_petits-soupers_--bachelors' dinners is their modern English name,
_noctes coenæque deûm_ their ancient classical--for which some of our
London clubs are deservedly celebrated, and with which the Garrick in
especial is, in my mind, gratefully associated--at those choice
gatherings of congenial spirits, conversation, changing from gay to
grave, turns not unfrequently, among other lofty topics, on that which
we are here discussing. Then, even at such divine symposium, one at
least of the guests is pretty sure to take the part of devil's advocate,
and to exercise his forensic skill in showing how easily interchangeable
are the names of virtue and iniquity, crime and well-doing. September
massacres then find, not their apologist, but their eulogist. _Noyades_
of Carrier, _fusilades_ of Collot d'Herbois, are cited as examples very
suitable for imitation in adequate emergencies. Prussia's seizure, on
behalf of Germany, of Schleswig and Holstein, on pretence of their being
not Danish, but German, and her subsequent retention of them for herself
on the plea of their having always been not German, but Danish, are
applauded as acts perfectly consistent with each other and with the
eternal fitness of things. And all this is urged in the best possible
faith. Of the recited enormities, were not some, steps to the
regeneration of France--others, to the unifaction of Germany? And what
are myriads of lives in comparison with a regenerate--what violation of
the most solemn engagements in comparison with a united, people? Did not
the millions of Frenchmen who survived the Reign of Terror gain more
than was lost by the thousands who were guillotined at Paris, or drowned
at Nantes, or shot down at Lyons? Is not Germany likely to turn Kiel to
far better account than Denmark ever did or could have done? and will
not German ascendency be abundant compensation for Danish decadence? How
culpably misplaced, then, were conscientious scruples that would have
impeded the march of events in such directions! Ends need but to be
great enough to justify any means. Let but the good promise to exceed
the evil, and there is no evil which ought not to be done in order that
good may come of it. Thus slightly qualified, the Satanic adage, 'Evil,
be thou my good,' is, without more ado, accepted as the utilitarian

And what though it be only the most thorough-paced Utilitarians who go
these extreme lengths? These lengths, extreme as they are, are
legitimate deductions from tenets held in common by the most moderate
and cautious as well as by the most reckless of the sect. Crime in the
abstract is condemned not less vehemently by the latter than by the
former; but by both equally it is condemned on account, not of its
inherent vileness, but solely of its observed results. If the results
were different, the agency to which they are due would be fitted with a
different epithet. If a world could be conceived to be so organised, or,
if this world of ours could be conceived to be so changed as that the
practice of killing, stealing, or telling lies would be conducive to the
general good, the practice in question would obtain a new name in the
Utilitarian vocabulary. Crime would become beneficence; and to kill, to
steal, or to tell lies would be not wrong, but right. These are
propositions which, without abjuring the prime articles of his creed,
the most timid Utilitarian has no alternative but to endorse; but how,
then, can he shut his eyes to their obvious application? How presume to
rebuke those earnest philanthropists, who, to judge from their habitual
language, are firmly of opinion that annihilation of one half of mankind
would be a small price to pay for conversion of the other moiety into
citizens of a world-wide Red Republic; or those admirers of Prince
Bismarck, who, holding national aggrandisement to be the national
_summum bonum_, deem the most solemn treaties that might impede it to be
obstacles which it is obligatory on a patriot to set aside? Will not the
effects of any given cause vary with the changes in the circumstances in
which the cause acts? May it not easily happen that the direct effect of
some private crime shall be to augment, instead of to diminish the total
happiness of all the persons affected by it? And is it not, then,
conceivable that a public crime, provided it be of sufficient magnitude,
may more than counterpoise, by the good it is calculated to do, all the
harm that all crimes of the same description either have done or are
likely to do hereafter? It is idle to reply that such a comparison
between public good and evil must needs be mistaken: that the harm, for
instance, which violation of treaties does to mankind by sapping the
foundations of international confidence, rendering impossible
international co-operation, and bringing the very name of international
morality into contempt, is infinitely beyond any good it can do in the
shape of national aggrandisement. Whether this be so or not is matter of
opinion, on which every one may fairly insist on forming his own, and if
that opinion be in the negative, a utilitarian agent, in Prince
Bismarck's circumstances, would be bound in duty to imitate Prince
Bismarck's high-handed policy. In all circumstances of international
import, in all cases bearing upon the general interests of society, a
Utilitarian, after deciding according to his lights which of the various
courses open to him would best promote the general welfare, either
immediately by its direct effects, or subsequently and indirectly by the
example it would set, would be bound in duty to adopt that course. That
course, however wrong it might have appeared in all previous cases,
would now become right, as being apparently the one most conducive to
the future welfare of mankind. Utilitarianism's standard of morality
thus turns out to be, not any fixed and definite notion of expediency,
but one liable to change with every change in individual judgment. Its
boasted criterion of the right or wrong of an action is the best
conjecture which the agent, with or without extrinsic advice, is able to
form of the future consequences of the action. Utilitarian law, in
short, resolves itself into this--that every man shall be a law unto
himself. Of course no Utilitarians will acknowledge this to be their
law, not even those who shape their conduct in exact conformity to it.
Nevertheless, that such is the law follows necessarily from their own
premises. For does not Utilitarianism sometimes--a little heedlessly,
perhaps, but not the less positively--declare that the morality of an
action depends not at all upon its motives, but exclusively upon its
consequences? Does it not, when most guarded in its language, affirm the
morality of actions to depend upon their tendencies, that is to say, on
their consequences at large, and in the long run? But there can never be
perfect certainty as to consequences. With regard to the future,
plausible conjecture is the utmost possible; and by differing judgments
different conjectures will needs be made. So that the value of the rule
of conduct furnished by Utilitarianism to any individual depends upon
the latter's ability, supplemented by that of any counsellors whom he
may consult, to forecast events. He cannot proceed correctly, except in
so far as he or they have the gift of prophecy. However dull his vision
may be, he must content himself with his own blind guidance, unless he
prefer as guide some one who, for aught he can tell, may be as blind as
himself. And it is always for himself to judge whether he will follow
advice: so that in effect every Utilitarian is his own moral law-giver;
and, certainly, a worse assignment of legislative functions cannot be

But the mischievousness of Utilitarianism does not stop here. We have
seen how one of its principles destroys the landmarks between right and
wrong, between virtue and vice, causing each to take continually the
place of its opposite. We have now to see how another of its principles
obliterates all distinctions between different kinds of virtue,
confounding them in one indiscriminate mass, and imparting to them a
sort of general oneness not more lucid than that which, according to
Mr. Curdle, is the essence of the dramatic unities.

The object which it insists upon as conduct's end and aim is the general
good--the greatest possible aggregate of good or happiness for all. As
the Scriptures enjoin us, whether we eat or drink, or whatsoever we do,
to do all to the glory of God, so Utilitarianism exhorts us to do all
for the welfare of mankind. Now, far be it from me to caricature this
soul-inspiring rule by forcing it, under a strained construction, to an
unnatural extreme. Fairly examined, it will be seen to make no
extravagant demands on our self-denial. As Christianity, even while
bidding us to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,
promises that all other things shall be added unto us, so
Utilitarianism, even while insisting on our seeking first to please
others, permits, nay, directs, us to take as much pleasure for ourselves
as we can lay hold of without depriving others, since the aggregate of
happiness which it is incumbent upon us to augment to the best of our
ability would otherwise be less. Nay, for the same reason, it
disapproves of our foregoing any pleasure of our own, the full
equivalent of which is not transferred to others. The happiness which it
requires us to attend to is that of a society of which each of us is a
component member, and no member of which can deny himself any pleasure
within his reach, and beyond the reach of others, without diminishing
the total of happiness which the whole society might enjoy. 'As between
his own happiness and that of others,' says Mr. Mill, 'Utilitarianism
requires an agent to be as strictly impartial as a disinterested and
benevolent spectator.' Thus qualified, the prescribed subordination of
one's own to the general good is no such extravagantly self-denying
ordinance. If for anything, it might rather be reproached for its cold,
calculating equity. With reference quite as much to individual as to
communal happiness it is an excellent rule of conduct, against which not
a word could be said, provided only it were left to be adopted
voluntarily, and were not authoritatively imposed.

Unfortunately, however, Utilitarianism allows no option in the matter.
Unless we do our very utmost to promote the general weal, at whatever
sacrifice to ourselves, it charges us with sin of omission. In the words
of one of the ablest among able Editors, 'justice is the social idea in
its highest, widest, and most binding expression.... It signifies the
moral principle which obliges each so to shape his conduct and
relations, his claims and his achievements, that they harmonise with the
highest good of all.'[4] To which doctrine of Mr. Morley's, if other
Utilitarians do not subscribe, it can only be because they are less
resolutely logical. Mr. Mill, indeed, though dissenting in appearance on
this point from Mr. Morley, agrees with him in substance. Even when on
one occasion, distinguishing between duty and virtue, he says that there
are innumerable acts and forbearances of human beings which, though
either causes or hindrances of good to their fellow-creatures, lie
beyond the domain of duty, and within that of virtue or merit, he goes
on to assign as the sole reason for placing them in the domain of the
latter that, in respect to them, it is, on the whole, for the general
interest that people should be left free, thereby plainly intimating
that society would be equitably entitled to insist on them if it thought
proper. But conduct that can be equitably insisted on is clearly, in the
strictest sense, duty; and it would be preposterous to claim merit for
doing that which it would be a breach of duty to leave undone. Duties do
not cease to be duties because he on whom they are incumbent is not
compelled under penalty to perform them, any more than debts cease to be
debts because creditors do not choose to ask for payment. All consistent
utilitarian teaching points inflexibly towards Mr. Morley's conclusion,
according to which justice and social virtue are absolutely identical,
and according to which, also, whoever does not shape his 'conduct, &c.,
in harmony with the highest good of all,' does less than is due from
him, while it is impossible for him to do more. For whatever he propose
to do must either be or not be in the prescribed harmony. If it be, he
is bound to do it. If not, he is bound not to do it. The very utmost he
can do is no more than is incumbent upon him. Less than his very utmost
is less than is incumbent. No action of his, therefore, can possess any
merit; for mere fulfilment of obligations is reckoned not of grace, but
of debt. Having done everything, he is still but an unprofitable
servant; he has but done that which was his duty to do. Where, then, is
the boast of virtue? It is excluded. By what law? By that of
Utilitarianism, set forth in its full amplitude. Honesty and generosity,
faith, truth, charity, patient endurance, and chivalrous self-devotion,
all are mingled together under the name of justice, and justice itself
only remains just as long as it remains identical with the largest

At this rate we cannot possibly have any virtue to plume ourselves upon.
The best we can do being no more than our duly, the only reward we can
claim is exemption from the punishment we should have deserved if we had
not done it. Whether it be that we have abstained from killing or
robbing our fellow-citizens for our own advantage, or have impoverished
or half-killed ourselves in the service of the State, our meed is the
same. _Loris non ureris. Non pasces in cruce corvos_, is what we are
told. We may congratulate ourselves on having escaped the
cat-o'-nine-tails and the gallows. Well, we have, most of us, so much
self-sufficiency, that to deprive us of all ground for it might be a
fault on the right side. But now comes a second and more awkward
reflection. If you will not of your own accord do your duty, those to
whom performance of the duty is owing have a right to use means to make
you--foul means if fair means will not avail. If, then, you hesitate to
do your utmost for the interests of society, society is warranted in
taking measures to accelerate your movement. If you are not, or what is
practically the same thing, if a numerical majority of your
fellow-citizens think you are not, making the most beneficial use of
your property; if it be generally considered that it would be for the
greater good of the greater number to divide your park and garden into
peasant properties and cottage allotments, to double the wages of the
workmen in your employment, or to subject you and the likes of you to a
graduated income tax for the purpose of setting up national workshops to
compete with you in your own trade; and, if you do not readily enter
into the same views, then the said numerical majority are not simply
warranted in taking the law into their own hands and doing, in spite of
you, what they think ought to be done with your property, but would be
culpably remiss if they neglected so to act.

Now it is needless to dwell on the extent to which that large numerical
majority of our fellow-citizens which consists of the working classes is
imbued with this notion, nor, except to those who are similarly imbued,
can it be necessary to insist that there is no notion of which it is
more indispensable to disabuse the working-class mind. This,
accordingly, I strove to do throughout a recent work of mine, 'On
Labour,' particularly in the chapter which treats of the claims and
rights thereof. I there earnestly pleaded that there may be, and are,
private rights independent of utility which no public needs can cancel;
that all which any man, or set of men, is entitled to exact from another
is payment or fulfilment of what is due to him or them from that other;
that unless the poverty of the many has been caused by the few, the many
are not warranted in extorting relief of their wants from the few; that
the mere circumstance of their being without food or work does not
entitle the poor to be fed or employed by the rich, for that there is
likewise a justice independent of and superior to utility, consisting
simply of respect for rights, while injustice consists simply of
violation of rights.

In so arguing, I ran directly counter to Utilitarianism, provoking
thereby a retaliatory assault from Utilitarianism's tutelary champion,
who, as readers of the 'Fortnightly Review'[5] are aware, bore down upon
me with an energy no whit the less effective for being tempered with all
knightly courtesy. Yet, not to say it vaingloriously, I am not conscious
of having been shaken in the saddle, and I now return to the encounter
with modest assurance, firmly believing mine to be the better cause, and
recollecting too that in a contest with Mr. Mill, let the issue be what
it may, I may at least comfort myself with the reflection

  Minus turpe vinci quam contendisse decorum.

I must at the outset be permitted to remark that one or two of Mr.
Mill's objections to my statements are based upon misconception of their
meaning. I never questioned, but, on the contrary, have always in the
distinctest terms admitted that society is perfectly at liberty to put
an end to the institution of property in land. No extremest Socialist
ever went beyond me in proclaiming that the 'earth was bestowed by the
Creator, not on any privileged class or classes, but on all mankind and
on all successive generations of men, so that no one generation can have
more than a life interest in the soil, or be entitled to alienate the
birthright of succeeding generations.'[6] No one more fully recognises
that property in land exists only on sufferance and by concession, and
that society, which made the concession, may at any moment take it back
on giving full compensation to the concessioners.

Again, when asserting the inviolability of moveable, as distinguished
from landed, property, I was careful to limit the assertion to property
honestly acquired. I never supposed it possible to acquire by
prescription 'a fee simple in an injustice.' Only, if in any particular
instance it be suspected that property has been acquired by force,
fraud, or robbery, I contend that the _onus probandi_ lies on him who
raises the question. It is for him to show, if he can, that a commercial
fortune has, as Mr. Mill suggests, been built up by 'jobbing contracts,
profligate loans, or other reprehensible practices.' But if this cannot
be shown, the validity of the actual possessor's title must not be
impugned. Property must be treated as of innocent acquisition and
derivation until proved to be of guilty. And that not merely because
there could otherwise be no rights of property at all, since it must
always be impossible for any owner to demonstrate that neither he nor
any one of those from whom he derives ever either overreached in a
bargain or failed in a contract; but also, and much more, because
whether a person be or be not the rightful owner of the wealth in his
possession, no one can possibly be entitled to despoil him unless the
wealth can be shown to have been ill-gotten. That right must be held to
be complete with which no one can show a right to interfere.

The gravest, however, of Mr. Mill's criticisms is that mine is 'a
doctrine _à priori_, claiming to command assent by its own light, and to
be evident by simple intuition.' This is an imputation to which I am so
unaware of having laid myself open that I can account for its having
been made only on the supposition that Mr. Mill, in common with most
other Utilitarians, imagines that their only opponents are
Intuitionists, and that it is only necessary to set aside the tenets of
these in order to get their own established instead. If this were really
the case, utilitarian advocacy would be a comparatively easy task.
Intuitionism, whether capable or not of being disproved, is by its
nature unsusceptible of decisive proof. If I, in support of the
proposition that there is in the human mind an intuitive sense of any
sort, were to assert that I had such a sense while you denied that you
had, it would be impossible for me to prove you to be mistaken, while,
unless you were mistaken as to your individual experience, I should
clearly be mistaken as to the generalisation which I had based upon
mine. But I never said a word about an intuitive sense of right and
wrong. How could I, seeing, as no one who chooses to look can fail to
see, that the instincts of untutored children prompt them to disregard
all rights but their own, to spit cockchafers, rob birds' nests, and
confiscate younger children's cakes and apples? All I say is that there
may be and are rights independent of and even opposed to utility, and
these, for reasons which shall immediately be stated, I call natural
rights; but I do not say that they are intuitively perceived. As for
sense of justice or of duty, or moral sense or faculty, what I
understand by that is not recognition of certain rights or duties as
such, but recognition of the obligation to respect whatever rights
and to fulfil whatever duties are recognised, according to which
definition it is mere tautology to add that the sense or faculty in
question originates simultaneously with the recognition of any rights
or duties. For inasmuch as rights invariably imply corresponding
obligations--inasmuch as if a thing be rightfully claimed, that same
thing must needs be due or owing, it is of course impossible to perceive
that a thing is _owing_ without perceiving at the same moment that it
_ought_ to be paid. On this account, and with this explanation, I should
not scruple to speak of the moral sense as intuitive; but if for that
reason I am to be called an Intuitionist, so equally must Mr. Mill, for
he has said precisely the same thing. He likewise has said that 'the
moral faculty, if not a part of our nature, is a natural out-growth from
it, capable, in a certain small degree, of springing up spontaneously.'


By my avowal of a belief in 'Natural Rights,' I feel that I must have
incurred in philosophic quarters a sort of civil contempt, which I am
very desirous of removing, and which will, I trust, be somewhat
diminished on my proceeding to explain how few and elementary are the
rights that I propose for naturalisation. They are but two in number,
and they are these:--(1) Absolute right, except in so far as the same
may have been forfeited by misconduct or modified by consent, to deal in
any way one pleases, not noxious to other people, with one's own self or
person; (2) right equally absolute to dispose similarly of the produce
either of one's own honest industry, or of that of others whose rights
in connection with it have been honestly acquired by oneself. I call
these 'rights,' because there cannot possibly anywhere exist either the
right to prevent their being exercised, or any rights with which they
can clash, and because, therefore, by their freest exercise, no one can
possibly be wronged, while to interfere with their exercise would be to
wrong their possessor. And I call them 'natural,' because they are not
artificially created, and have no need of external ratification. Whoever
thinks proper to deny this--whoever, as all Utilitarians do, contends
that society is entitled to interfere with the rights which I have
called natural, is bound to attempt to show how society became so
entitled; when for the claim he puts forward on society's behalf he will
find it impossible to produce any plausible pretext, without crediting
society with possession of a right belonging to that same 'natural'
class, the existence of which he denies. For, as there can be no rights
without corresponding obligations or duties, if it be really the right
of society to deal at its discretion with the persons or effects of
individuals, it must be incumbent on individuals to permit themselves
and whatever is theirs to be so dealt with. Have, then, individuals
incurred any such obligation? No obligation, be it remembered, can
arise, except through some antecedent act of one or other or both of the
parties concerned. Either a pledge of some sort must have been given or
a benefit of some sort must have been received. Now undoubtedly there
are no limits to the extent to which society and its individual members
might have reciprocally pledged themselves. It might have been
stipulated by their articles of association that society at large should
do its utmost for the welfare of each of its members, and that each of
its members should do his utmost for the welfare of society at large.
But it is certain, either that no such compact ever was made, or that,
if made, it has always been systematically set at nought. Society has
never made much pretence of troubling itself about the welfare of
individuals, except in certain specified particulars; so that, even if
individuals had, on condition of being treated with reciprocal
solicitude, accepted the obligation of attending to the welfare of
society in other than the same particulars, that conditional obligation
would from the commencement have been null and void. The one thing which
society invariably pledges itself to do is to protect person and
property, and by implication to enforce performance of contracts; and
the two things which individual associates in turn pledge themselves to
do are to abstain from molesting each other's persons and property, and
to assist society in protecting both. In so abstaining and so assisting
consist all those 'many acts and the still greater number of
forbearances, the perpetual practice of which by all is,' as Mr. Mill
says, 'universally deemed to be so necessary to the general well-being,
that people must be held to it compulsorily, either by law or by social
pressure.'[7] Under one or other of these two heads may be ranged
everything that individuals owe to society in return for the mere
protection which they receive from it.

True, there is an universal understanding that individuals shall be
subject to any laws, whether wise or foolish, provided only they be of
equal and impartial operation, which may be enacted by a numerical
majority of the community to which the individuals belong; and in this
manner individuals may become bound by any number of miscellaneous
pledges, society acquiring simultaneously the right to hold individuals
to the performance of those pledges. Thus, if by the vote of an
unimpeachably representative House of Commons it were declared to be for
the general good, and agreed to accordingly, that every one should be
vaccinated or circumcised, it would be incumbent on every one to submit
quietly to vaccination or circumcision, however deleterious the
operation might be deemed by some. Or if, improving upon a hypothetical
suggestion of Mr. Mill, a parliament elected by constituencies in which
the labouring-class element greatly predominated, should prospectively
forbid the accumulation by any individual of property beyond a specified
amount, then, though the almost certain consequence would be that the
prescribed limit of accumulation would not be exceeded, still if it were
exceeded, the accumulator could not justly complain when the surplus was
forfeited according to law. Yet even thus the obligations or duties
created will correspond exactly with the pledges given; none will be
incurred except such as have been imposed by special legislation--nor
even those, unless the legislation have been impartial. A law requiring
people to pay poor's-rates would not suffice as a pretext for requiring
them to pay education rates likewise. Neither if, instead of passing the
prospective law just now supposed, a governing majority which had
previously always permitted the indefinite accumulation of wealth, were
retrospectively to decree the forfeiture of all past accumulations
beyond a defined amount, would individuals be morally bound to submit to
such a decree if they could contrive to evade it, any more than
sexquipedalians would be bound to lay their heads on the block in
obedience to a law directing everybody six feet high to be decapitated.
All such partial legislation would be tyrannical, and circumstances must
be very peculiar indeed to make submission to tyranny a duty. But of all
conceivable legislation, none could possibly be more partial, or
therefore more tyrannical, than such as should give to society a general
power of dealing at its pleasure with its associates, and of arbitrarily
subjecting separate classes or individuals to exceptional treatment.
Even, therefore, if a law to such monstrous effect were enacted, it
could have no morally binding force. It would be no one's duty to
acquiesce in it.

I will not here stop to dispute, though I am not sure that I could
without some slight reservation admit, that the receipt of unasked-for
benefits places the recipient under precisely the same obligation to
benefit his benefactor, as if the good received by him had been
conferred on express condition of his availing himself of the first
opportunity to render equal good. I will not stop to dispute, for
instance, that a person saved from drowning at the risk of his own
rescuer's life, would be bound, on occasion arising, to risk his own
life in order to save his former rescuer's. For my immediate purpose, it
may suffice to remark that society has never been in the habit of
showing such parental solicitude for its component members as would
warrant its claiming filial devotion from them. In the matter of
philanthropy its practice has never been in advance of its very moderate
professions. It has invariably contented itself with rendering certain
specific services, never failing to exact in return fully equivalent
services of each species.

In candour, however, there must be admitted to be innumerable blessings
not yet adverted to, including indeed most of those by the possession of
which man is distinguished from brutes, for which he is in so far
indebted to society that, but for the instrumentality of society, they
would never have been his. Unless individuals had formed themselves into
communities, civilization could have made no sensible progress: there
could have been no considerable advances, material, intellectual, moral,
or æsthetic. Not only should we have been destitute of all the comforts
and luxuries that now surround us, we should have lacked also whatever
cerebral development we have attained, together with all its
concomitants and consequences; whatever of intelligence, or moral
perceptiveness, or artistic taste we have to boast of. Still, though
none of these faculties could have made much approach to maturity except
under the shelter of society, they are not gifts of society. Without the
help of a plough, land cannot be ploughed; but we do not therefore
credit the ploughmaker with the achievements of the ploughman. Neither
is society to take to itself praise because its members have made good
use of the protection which, in consideration of stipulated services on
their part, it has afforded them. Besides, whatever we inherit from
society, we inherit from a society of members no longer in being. Let
the dead come to life again, and it may then become us to examine their
claims upon our gratitude, but we need not meanwhile confound past and
present generations, nor our forefathers with our contemporaries. To the
mass of these latter, at any rate, we are none of us indebted for our
brains or our aptitudes of thought and feeling, and the circumstance of
our being joint sharers with them in patrimony bequeathed by a common
ancestry, affords no very obvious reason why our share of the
inheritance, together with whatever else we possess, should be at their
absolute disposal.

Thus it appears that in no one of the ways in which alone can
originate the obligations which must always precede or accompany
artificially-created rights, has that particular obligation arisen
without which it is impossible for society to obtain artificially the
right of preventing individuals from doing as they will with their own.
No sufficient pledge has been given by one side, no sufficient benefit
conferred by the other. Individuals never agreed to place their all at
the disposal of society; society never rendered to individuals any
services entitling it to claim such boundless gratitude. One service
which it invariably undertakes is that of protecting person and
property. This is its chief and primary duty, the fulfilment of which is
always the first object of its institution, often the only one it
acknowledges. But clearly it cannot by performance of a duty acquire the
right of doing the exact reverse of that duty. It cannot by protecting
acquire the right of molesting. It cannot by preventing person and
property from being meddled with, acquire in its corporate capacity the
right of itself meddling. Since then this right of meddling, this right
of disposing of what is exclusively some individual's own, otherwise
than the owner wishes, has not been acquired by society artificially, it
must, if it do actually belong to society, have been come by naturally;
and this accordingly is what Utilitarians really, though perhaps
unconsciously, assume, treating moreover this gratuitous assumption of
theirs as a self-evident truth.

For, as Utilitarians themselves cannot fail on reflection to perceive,
they offer no shadow of argument in support of that 'greatest happiness
principle' on which their whole system rests. Commencing with the
undeniable postulate that happiness is the sole object of existence, and
perceiving that individual happiness alone would be a very misleading
object, they proceed to take quietly for granted that the only happiness
at which life ought to aim is social happiness. Now, undoubtedly social
happiness is of more importance than individual happiness--the happiness
of many than that of one or a few; neither can there be any worthier
object of pursuit than the greatest happiness of the greatest number.
All this is seen without being said, but what is by no means so easily
seen is how it can be incumbent on any one to pursue that object to his
own detriment--how it can be imperative on one or on a few to sacrifice
his or their happiness in order to promote that of the many. Plainly
such self-devotion cannot be for their personal advantage, and
Utilitarianism does not even attempt to show how it can have become
their duty. Meritorious, magnanimous, heroic in the highest degree it
would certainly be, but does not that very circumstance prove
conclusively that it cannot be due, inasmuch as there is nothing
meritorious in merely doing one's duty and paying one's debts? But of
that which is not due, how can payment be rightfully insisted upon? What
the few are under no obligation to yield, how can the many be entitled
to extort, or how can the worthiness of the latter's object excuse their
doing that which they have no right to do? Is any object, however
worthy, to be pursued regardless of all collateral considerations? To
these objections Utilitarians have no answer to make. All they can do is
tacitly to take for granted the disputed duty and right. That the less
ought to give way to the greater, and the few to the many, and that the
many may rightfully therefore, if need be, use force to compel the less
or the few to give way--these are treated by them as incontestable
propositions, even as 'doctrines _à priori_, claiming assent by their
own light, evident by simple intuition.' And although thus from their
own inner consciousness evolving the very first principles of their own
philosophy, the premises of their deduction that social happiness is the
proper aim in life, and that conduciveness to such happiness is the test
of morality--'Intuitionists,' strange to say, is the distinctive
appellation which they propose to affix to all those who hesitate to
accept as ethical foundation stones the results of their intuitional

Scarcely by a taunt so readily rebuttable will anti-Utilitarians be
excited to speedier apprehension of the nature of the lien which
corporate self-interest is presumed to have upon individual
self-devotion. Not the less tenaciously may they cling to their belief
in the right of every one to do as he will with whatever has come by
fair means into his exclusive and complete possession. Neither, I
venture to think, need less store be set by that right in consequence of
an objection very adroitly taken to it by Mr. Mill, which, on account
both of its inherent ingenuity and of its having been addressed more
immediately to myself, it would be inexcusable in me to leave
unexamined. In Mr. Mill's opinion, the right in question, even if valid,
would be valueless, because it would be neutralised by precisely similar
rights belonging to society. If, he argues, individuals are at liberty
to do as they will with their own, so likewise must society be. But
'existing social arrangements and law itself exist in virtue not only of
the forbearance, but of the active support of the labouring classes' who
in every community constitute a numerical majority. This working-class
majority might then if they pleased withdraw their support from existing
arrangements, thereby depriving person and property of social
protection; and by merely threatening such withdrawal they could compel
individuals to acquiesce in their most extravagant demands. 'They might
bind the rich to take the whole burden of taxation upon themselves. They
might bind them to give employment, at liberal wages, to a number of
labourers in a direct ratio to the amount of their incomes. They might
enforce on them a total abolition of inheritance and bequest.' Mr. Mill
maintains that these things, although exceedingly foolish, might
according to my principles, with perfect equity be done; nay, if I
understand him correctly, that according neither to mine nor to any one
else's principles can any adequate reason be assigned why they should
not be done, except that their practical results would be baneful
instead of beneficial. And taking this view, he is fully warranted in
asking what it can matter that according to my theory 'an employer does
no wrong in making the use he does of his capital, if the same theory
would justify the employed in compelling him by law to make a different
use--if the labourers would in no way infringe the definition of justice
by taking the matter into their own hands and establishing by law any
modification of the rights of property which in their opinion would
increase the remuneration of their labour.'[8]

My reply to this and to the whole argument is the following. So long as
society continues to exist, society cannot divest itself of the primary
function for the discharge of which it was originally constituted.
Society, having come together in the first instance, tacitly pledged to
extend protection to each individual associate, cannot, without breach
of contract, withdraw that protection. It may, indeed, make any
impartial laws it pleases, and attach any penalty it pleases to
violation of any impartial law, but it cannot in equity, whatever it may
in practice, place any of its members outside the law; neither, most
certainly, even if its competence did extend thus far, could it go the
farther length of conferring on any one the right of doing wrong to an
outlaw. It may even be doubted whether, if an outlaw were to injure any
one still belonging to the society, any but the injured person himself
would be warranted in retaliating. The sole reason that I can perceive
why even he would is, that his rights had been infringed, and that
reparation was due to him for any damage sustained by him in
consequence, while, on the other hand, the aggressor had forfeited those
rights of his which might otherwise have forbidden the injured person
from taking the reparation due. But society had had none of its rights
infringed. By society no injury had been sustained. To society,
therefore, no reparation was due; and society, it seems to me, would
have no right to insist on exacting reparation not due to itself from
one whom it had forcibly extruded from its communion, and who,
therefore, was no longer amenable to its jurisdiction. Society might,
indeed, dissolve itself, proclaiming that 'every man for himself, and
God for all,' should thenceforward be the rule. But although it might
thus leave individual rights without other defence than that of the
owner, it could not annihilate individual rights. It might cancel the
right to mutual protection, but it could not, in place of that, create a
right of mutual molestation. One's own person and property would still
be as much one's own as before, and whoever outraged either would not be
the less a wrong doer because society permitted his wrong doing to
remain unpunished. In all ethical investigations it is impossible to
guard too watchfully against the smallest approach to confusion of might
with right.

Instead of being valueless, the particular rights of which Mr. Mill
speaks so disparagingly, appear to me to possess a value which can
scarcely be exaggerated. They are, as may be readily perceived,
identical with the two which I have termed 'natural,' and of which I
began by saying that they are exceedingly elementary, but of which I
have now to add that they are also all-comprehensive, for that there are
no genuine rights whatever, however numerous or complex, which neither
are included within, nor branch out from, them. This will be manifest on
comparison of them with the items enumerated in any other catalogue of
rights; as, for instance, with the one drawn up by Mr. Mill, according
to whom all rights may be classified as follows:--(1) Legal rights; (2)
moral rights; (3) the right of every one to that which he deserves; (4)
the right to fulfilment of engagements; (5) right to impartiality of
treatment; (6) right to equality of treatment.[9] Each of these
varieties will repay a brief examination.

Under the head of 'legal' rights are commonly placed, not those only
which are conferred, but those also which are confirmed, by law. Such as
law has merely confirmed, however, are of course not the creatures of
law. But it is admitted on all hands that a law may be unjust--that is
to say, it may without consent from the parties concerned, infringe some
previously existing right--and as the right so violated cannot have been
created by law, inasmuch as what law had been competent to create, law
would be equally competent to cancel--it is clear that there must be
rights other than those created by law, rights whose origin was
independent of, and anterior to, law. It is apparently to rights of this
description that Mr. Mill applies the name of 'moral' rights. Examples
of them are a man's rights to personal liberty and to property in
whatever belongs to him as having become his by honest means, to both of
which, unless he had forfeited them by misconduct, he would be equally
entitled, whether his title to them were or were not recognised by law.
The only genuine rights which law can create, or consequently can have
to confer, are privileges in respect of person or property other than
one's own. But such legalised privileges are not necessarily rights.
Whether they are so actually or not depends mainly on the character of
the legislative authority. A right to interfere with rights not based
upon law cannot be conferred without the consent of the parties in whom
the independent rights are vested, given either directly by themselves
or indirectly through their representatives. If a legislative body be
truly and thoroughly representative of the community which it controls,
then every one of its enactments, however bad or foolish, is virtually
an engagement to which every member of the community is a party, and any
privilege arising out of it becomes to all intents and purposes a right.
If, on the other hand, the legislative authority be autocratic, or if it
represent only certain favoured sections of the community, then none of
its enactments, however wise and good, of which a majority of the public
disapprove, and which interfere with the rights termed by Mr. Mill
'moral,' are morally binding, except on the legislators themselves and
their immediate constituents. Any one else may quite blamelessly break
the law, and resist any privilege thereby created, though he must, of
course, be prepared, in case of detection, to take the legal
consequences of his disobedience. For example, protective duties,
however impolitic, if imposed because a majority of the nation were of
opinion that a certain branch of domestic industry had better be
fostered by protection, could not be evaded without injustice to those
engaged in the protected industry, though there would be no injustice in
smuggling, if they had been imposed in opposition to the general sense
of the public by a packed Parliament or an absolute monarch. The same
legal monopoly, which in the one case could not be justly evaded, could
not in the other be justly enforced. A legal privilege, in short,
becomes a right only when a majority of those at whose expense it is to
be exercised, have formally consented either directly or indirectly to
its being exercised; and it then becomes a right solely because an
engagement has been entered into, in virtue of which, whatever is
requisite for its satisfaction has become due. Thus it appears that,
whatever legal rights are genuine, and are not at the same time 'moral'
rights also, resolve themselves into specimens of the right to
fulfilment of engagements, and belong not more to the first than to the
fourth of Mr. Mill's categories, to which latter, therefore, we may at
once transfer our attention.

Why is it, then, that every one has a right to fulfilment of
engagements, to have faith kept with him, to have promises observed?
Solely, as it seems to me, because whatever has been promised to any one
becomes eventually his due, and because whatever is due or owing ought
to be paid. A promise is nothing less than a prospective transfer of
property in some thing, or in the advantage derivable from some action,
and when the time appointed for making the transfer arrives, whatever
has been promised, whether actually transferred or not, becomes the
complete property of, and in the fullest sense of the word belongs to
him to whom it has been promised; so that the right to fulfilment of
engagements resolves itself into the moral right of every one to have
that which belongs to him, and we have already seen that every legal
right which cannot on other grounds be shown to be a moral right
resolves itself into a right to fulfilment of an engagement. Whence it
follows that there are no legal rights whatever which are not likewise
moral rights, and which might not therefore be equally rights, even
though they had never been legalised. Whence, and from what has just
been observed with respect to the right to fulfilment of engagements, it
further follows that of the five branches of Mr. Mill's classification,
the first and fourth may without inconvenience be dispensed with, and
that the second will suffice to do duty for itself and for the other

We have next to consider a person's right to that which he deserves,
with reference to which, and to my assertion that there is no necessary
correspondence between the remuneration which a labourer ought to
receive and either his merits or his needs, Mr. Mill inquires as
follows:--'If justice be an affair of intuition, if we are guided to it
by the immediate and spontaneous perceptions of the moral sense, what
doctrines of justice are there on which the human race would more
instantaneously and with one accord put the stamp of its recognition
than these--that it is just that each should have what he deserves, and
that, in the dispensation of good things, those whose wants are the most
urgent should have the preference?' But surely however just it be that
each should have what he deserves, it is so only on condition that he
have it from those from whom it is due, and do not take it from those
from whom it is not due. The latter, surely, at least as much deserve to
be allowed to keep what they have already by honest means got, as others
to get what they have not yet got. But if so, then that these should be
deprived of their deserts, in order that those may get theirs, is surely
about the very last doctrine that ought to be put forward as
self-evident and intuitive. 'But,' Mr. Mill proceeds to ask, 'if there
be in the natural constitution of things something patently unjust,
something contrary to sentiments of justice, which sentiments, being
intuitive, are supposed to have been implanted in us by the same Creator
who made the order of things that they protest against--do not these
sentiments impose upon us the duty of striving by all human means to
repair the injustice? And if, on the contrary, we avail ourselves of it
for our own personal advantage, do we not make ourselves participators
in injustice, allies and auxiliaries of the Evil Principle?'[10] Now, as
I have already said, I am myself no intuitionist, but if I were, I
should not the less feel warranted in here replying that by no theory of
justice, intuitive or other, can the passive spectator of an injustice
to which he is no party be bound to assist in repairing the injustice,
simply because he has the means. A creditor denied payment of his fair
debts does not get what he deserves; but upon whom, except the
defaulting debtor, does it therefore become incumbent to repair the
latter's injustice by paying his debts? And if there be in the general
order of mundane affairs, as--provided I may attribute the existence of
it, as of all other evil, not to God, but to the devil--I don't mind
admitting there may be--something which prevents many of our
fellow-creatures from getting their desserts, something contrary,
therefore, to our sentiments of justice whether those sentiments have
been implanted in us by the Creator or not, I still maintain that those
sentiments do not impose upon us the duty of striving to correct the
injustice. They necessarily stimulate us more or less powerfully,
according to their own intrinsic strength, to undertake that noblest of
all tasks, but they do not render it imperative upon us. Whether, if we
actively avail ourselves of the injustice for our own profit--though
this, by the way, is no more than every one of us does who takes
advantage of competition among labourers to obtain labour for a less
price than he perceives it to be worth--we are not making ourselves
auxiliaries of the Evil Principle, may be matter of opinion; but, at all
events, we do not even then become participators in an injustice which
we did not create, and do not uphold or help to perpetuate, but merely
accommodate ourselves to. At worst, we are but accessories to it after
the fact. In simply accepting the situation and striving to make the
best of it for ourselves, without trying to make it better and only
abstaining from making it worse for others, our conduct may be
contemptible, mean, base, disgusting, or what you will, only not
iniquitous; for whatever, short of their deserts, may, from the cause
supposed, be received by our fellow-creatures, although in one sense
plainly due to them, is as plainly not due from us, and we cannot,
without palpable injustice, as well as palpable abuse of words, be
charged with injustice for merely declining to pay debts that we do not

The rights to impartial and to equal treatment need not detain us long.
There is no right to impartiality except where impartiality is due, and
it is only in a small minority of cases that impartiality is due. There
is nothing iniquitous in showing favour to the extent of giving one
person more than his due, provided no other person be prevented from
having as much as his due. The lord of the vineyard who gave unto all
his labourers alike, the same to those who had wrought for him but one
hour as to those with whom he had agreed that for a penny they should
bear the burden and heat of the day, did the latter no wrong; his eye
was not the less good because theirs was evil. A judge, or an
arbitrator, or the conductor of a competitive examination, is bound to
make his award without respect of persons, because he cannot favour one
without withholding from some other what that other ought to have. On
every distributor of Government patronage, likewise, it is morally
incumbent to select for the public for whom he is trustee, the best
servants he can find. An English Prime Minister has no right to make his
son a Lord of the Treasury or of the Admiralty, if he know of any one
better fitted for the post and willing to accept it; and if he name any
but the fittest candidate, he fails in his duty to the community on
whose behalf he acts. But a private employer, acting for himself alone,
is under no similar obligation, and may take whom he pleases into his
service, and assign to him whatever position therein he pleases, without
affording any cause for reasonable complaint to those more capable
members of his establishment whom he places under one less capable. In
short, except in those rare cases in which impartiality means rendering
what is due, in which cases it is but another name for justice, there is
nothing unjust in disregarding it.

As for equality, although its 'idea,' as Mr. Mill says, 'often enters as
a component part both into the conception and into the practice of
justice, and in the eyes of many persons constitutes its essence,'[11] I
can think of no single case in which, unless by reason of some special
agreement, it can possibly be due, or in which, consequently, there can
be any right to it. Even that equal protection for whatever is
indisputably one's own, the claim of all to which is commonly admitted
almost as a matter of course, is really due from those only by whom the
obligation to afford it has been tacitly or formally accepted. On this
ground it is due from the public at large, and from those individuals to
whom the public has delegated certain of its tutelary functions, but
from no other individuals whatever. No one else is bound to take, for
the protection of all other people, whatever pains or trouble he takes
for his own security--to watch, for instance, as vigilantly that his
neighbour's house as that his own is not broken into. And while the one
solitary claim of any plausibility to universal equality of treatment
requires to be largely qualified before it can be conceded, there is no
other claim of the kind which does not carry with it its own refutation;
there is no other which does not partake of the absurdity patent in the
communistic notion that all the members of a society are entitled to
share equally in the aggregate produce of the society's labour. How is
it possible that an equal share can be everybody's due, if different
persons may have different deserts, and everyone's deserts be likewise
his due?

We have now gone completely through the list of artificially created
rights, without finding one that does not derive all its validity from
connection with some pre-existing right. We have seen that among
so-called rights none whatever are genuine by reason merely of any
extrinsic sanction they may have received, but that all real rights
either are such intrinsically, or are based upon, or embody within them,
some right purely intrinsic. We have seen that there are two rights
endued with this intrinsic character--viz., that of absolute control
over one's own self or person, and that of similar control over whatever
else has by honest means come into one's exclusive possession, or become
due or owing to him exclusively; and, because these rights, wherever the
conditions necessary for their exercise occur, of necessity exist,
springing up at once and full grown, in the necessary absence of any
antagonistic rights that could prevent their existing, I have not
scrupled to call them 'natural;' nor do I think that further apology can
be needed for such application of the epithet. To maintain, moreover,
that these natural rights constitute the essence of all artificial
rights, was simply equivalent to saying that no so-called right can be
genuine unless requiring for its satisfaction no more than already
actually belongs or is due to its claimant; while every right which does
require no more must be genuine, because there can nowhere exist the
right to withdraw or to withhold from any one anything that is
exclusively his. These seeming truisms are indeed diametrically opposed
to a theory which enters on its list of friends names no less
illustrious than those of Plato, Sir Thomas More, Bentham, and Mill.
Still, whoever, undeterred by so formidable an array of adverse
authorities, is prepared to accept the description of rights of which
they form part, will have no difficulty in framing a theory of justice
perfectly conformable thereunto.

The justice of an action consists in its being one, abstinence from
which is due to nobody. The justice of inaction--for just or unjust
behaviour may be either active or passive--consists in there being
nobody to whom action, the reverse of the inaction, is due. 'Justice,
like many other moral attributes, may be best defined by its opposite,'
and all examples of injustice have this one point in common, that they
withhold or withdraw from some person something belonging or due to him,
or in some other way infringe his rights, and consequently wrong him.
Conversely, a point common to and characteristic of all just acts and
omissions, is that they neither prevent anybody from having that which
is due to him, nor in any other way infringe any one's rights, and that
they consequently do no one any wrong. It is not essential to the
justice of conduct that anything due be thereby rendered. It suffices
that nothing due be withheld. All conduct is just by which nobody is

It is further to be noted that all just conduct is of one of three
kinds--that which justice peremptorily exacts; that which she merely
permits, and may even be said barely to tolerate; and that which she
approves of and applauds, without, however, presuming to enjoin it.
Conduct of this last sort is just in that it leaves nothing undone which
justice requires, but it is also more than just in that it does more
than justice requires. To speak of it as simply just, is therefore
somewhat disparaging. It is just in the sense in which the less is
comprehended by the greater. He who faithfully fulfils an engagement
that has provided for his making a reasonable return for whatever
advantage he might obtain under it, shows himself simply just in the
matter, and nothing either more or less. He who, having driven a hard
bargain, insists rigorously upon it, giving nothing less, and taking
nothing more than had been mutually stipulated, is likewise strictly
just, but is also shabby, and deserves to be told so plainly. He who,
besides making full return, according to contract, for value received,
does something more, at some inconvenience to himself, out of regard for
another's need, is not a whit more just than either of the other two,
but he is generous into the bargain, and deserves thanks in proportion.

Rising out of these considerations are two others equally meriting

In the first place, we may see additional cause for distrusting the
testimony which etymology has been supposed to record in favour of 'an
origin of justice connected with the ordinances of law.'[12] That
'_justum_ is a form of _jussum_, that which has been ordered:' that
'[Greek: dikaion] comes directly from [Greek: dikê], a suit of law:'
that '_recht_, from which came right and righteous, is synonymous with
law,' is obvious enough; and it may not be out of place to add that in
French the word _droit_ has, with almost savage irony, been selected as
the technical name, not of law simply, but of legal procedure with all
its crookedness.[13] Still it seems more in the ordinary course of
things to explain this linguistic identification of law with justice, by
supposing conformity to justice to have been the primitive element in
the formation of the notion of law, than by supposing 'conformity to law
to have been the primitive element in the formation of the notion of
justice.' It seems more probable that certain things were commanded
because they were deemed just, than that they were deemed just because
they were commanded. Even the ancient Hebrews, who 'believed their laws
to be a direct emanation from the Supreme Being,' although, if asked why
it was wrong to kill or steal, they might very likely have replied,
'Because theft and murder have been forbidden by God,' would still have
acknowledged that it would be wrong to kill or steal, even if there had
been no divine prohibition of the practices. And when we recollect that
among 'other nations, and in particular the Greeks and Romans, who,
knowing that their laws had been made by men, were not afraid to admit
that men might make bad laws, ... the sentiment of justice came to be
attached, not to all violations of law, but only to violations of such
laws as ought to exist,' what had previously appeared probable is
converted into certainty. Principles of justice to which law ought to
conform cannot but have been anterior to law, and cannot have originated
in law. And certainty on this point grows still more certain, assurance
becomes doubly sure, when we reflect that, as was pointed out above,
many things are just which, not only does not law command, but which
justice barely tolerates, permitting them, indeed, to be done, but
permitting them also to be reprobated.

Secondly, we may perceive that in mere justice there can be nothing
praiseworthy. Justice is nothing more than abstinence from injustice,
and no commendation can be due for not doing that the doing of which
would deserve censure. Justice, if entitled to be ranked among the
virtues at all, is at best only a negative virtue, as being the reverse
of a vice. It is distinguished from all other moral qualities, as being
the single and solitary one, compliance with whose behests is a duty
which we owe to others. Of meekness, patience, temperance, fortitude,
courtesy, whatever display it may for any reason be our duty to make,
precisely that display justice requires us to make. Whatever of any one
of these qualities justice does not exact from us, we may, without
wronging any one, omit. We must not, indeed, incapacitate ourselves by
tippling for our proper work, nor offend the eyes or ears of decenter
folk by reeling obstreperously through the streets; but, if we take the
precaution of retiring during an interval of leisure to our privy
chamber, our making beasts of ourselves then and there to our heart's
content, is our own concern, and nobody else's. No doubt, in doing this
we should be doing very wrong, but still there is no contradiction in
saying that we should have perfect right to do it, inasmuch as we should
thereby be wronging no one but ourselves. Of another class of
virtues--of all those which admit of being directly contrasted with
justice, and which may for shortness' sake be without much inaccuracy
comprehended under the general designation of generosity--it may, with
literal truth, be said that the practice of them is no part of our duty
to our neighbour. Provided we are careful to let every one have what,
between him and us, are his bare dues, we may be selfish, mean, sordid
to excess, without infringing any one else's rights, without the
smallest dereliction of our duty to others. True, ethical writers are in
the habit of speaking of 'duties of perfect and imperfect obligation,'
but of these 'ill-chosen expressions,' as Mr. Mill,[14] with abundant
reason, styles them, the latter, more particularly, is of a slovenliness
which ought to have prevented its being used by any 'philosophic
jurists.' What some of these mean by it is stated to be 'duties in
which, though the act is obligatory, the particular occasions of
performing it are left to our choice; as in the case of charity or
beneficence, which we are indeed bound to practise, but not towards any
defined person, or at any prescribed time.' But, according to this
explanation, there are duties of which performance may not only be
indefinitely postponed, even until a morrow that may never come, but of
which performance at one time will warrant non-performance of them
subsequently; so that, for instance, he who has behaved charitably on
past occasions, may be uncharitable afterwards. 'In the more precise
language' of other writers, we are told that while 'duties of perfect
obligation are those duties in virtue of which a correlative right
resides in some person or persons, duties of imperfect obligation are
those which do not give birth to any right.' But, as where there is no
right nothing can be due, it would seem from this that by duties of
imperfect obligation are to be understood duties performance of which is
not due. I hope to be pardoned for declining to accept these illusive
distinctions as the boundaries which separate justice from the other
components of morality. I neither understand how any obligation can be
otherwise than perfect, nor do I recognise any duties whatever except
those of justice. The main distinction between justice and all positive
virtues I take to be that, whereas compliance with its behests is always
imperative, compliance with theirs never is, but is always optional and
discretionary. Of whatsoever is, for whatsoever reason, due, it is
invariably justice, and justice alone, that demands payment or
performance. Justice claims, and claims peremptorily, whatever is owing,
but never puts forward the smallest pretension to anything that is not
owing. But since whatever is _owing_ plainly _ought_ to be paid, and
since justice never claims anything but what is owing, it is clear that
there cannot be any merit in satisfying the claims of justice. Merit is
possible only in actions which justice does not enjoin, but to which
some other virtue exhorts.

From the main difference here pointed out, a minor collateral difference
ramifies. Of whatever ought to be paid or done, payment or performance
may be righteously enforced. Here I have the satisfaction of proceeding
for a few steps side by side with Mr. Mill, although only, I am sorry to
say, to part company again immediately. 'It is a part,' he says, 'of the
notion of duty in every one of its forms that a person may rightfully
be compelled to fulfil it. Duty is a thing which may be _exacted_ from a
person as one exacts a debt. Unless we think it may be exacted from him,
we do not call it his duty.'[15] Now, since justice never asks for
anything but what is due, never makes a requisition compliance with
which is not a duty, it follows that all those persons to whom its
requisitions are addressed may be rightfully compelled to comply with
them, whereas, since what every other virtue requires is always
something not due, compliance with its requisitions is never a duty, and
cannot, except unrighteously, be enforced. This--viz., the rightfulness
of using compulsion in aid of justice, as contrasted with the
wrongfulness of resorting to it in aid of generosity, rather than the
rightfulness of punishing breaches of the one and not of the other,
seems to me the 'real turning-point of the distinction' between the two.
For gross disregard of generosity, and indeed of any other virtue, may
rightfully be punished, justice fully sanctioning the punishment
although indicating also the nature of the penalty to be inflicted in
each case, and restricting it within certain limits. Whoever plays the
dog in the manger in a manger of his own, or makes an exclusively
selfish use of his wealth or other advantages, refusing to do good to
his neighbour at however little sacrifice on his own part it might be
done, is not thereby infringing anybody else's rights, or thereby
wronging any one else. He is only exercising his own undoubted rights.
Still he is exercising them in a manner deserving of severe reprobation,
and which witnesses of his conduct may justly punish by testifying to
him the scorn, disgust, or indignation he has excited. It is no more
than just that he should have his deserts and receive the punishment
which has become his due. But justice, although permitting him to be
punished for acting ungenerously, does not sanction his being compelled
to make a show of acting generously. If his conduct had been unjust
instead of simply ungenerous, no punishment would be adequate that did
not force him to repair the evil he had done, or to do the good he had
left undone. But the most flagrant breach of generosity, neither keeping
nor taking away anything to which any one has a right, does nothing for
which reparation can be due. It consists simply in a man's making an
exclusively selfish use of what is exclusively his, and to make such use
is one of the rights of property. Whoever exercises that odious right is
justly punished by being shown how hateful we think him, but we must
not, on pretence of justice, commit the injustice of depriving him of a
right which is confessedly his.

It is not, then, by being rightfully liable to punishment that unjust
differs from ungenerous conduct. The latter also ofttimes deserves and
incurs punishment. But since there can be no merit in doing that the not
doing of which would merit punishment, it may seem that, as in justice
so likewise in generosity there cannot be anything positively
meritorious. Neither in truth would there be if conduct were entitled to
be styled generous simply as being the reverse of ungenerous. Generosity
would then, like justice, be a virtue in no higher sense than that of
not being a vice--a negative virtue if a virtue at all. But an action
does not really deserve to be called generous unless what justice
requires be exceeded by it in a degree more than sufficient to prevent
the agent from deserving the imputation of meanness, nor even then
unless the excess have been done from a purer motive than that of the
hope of praise or other reward. An action is generous only in the
proportion in which it involves self-sacrifice, voluntarily undergone
for the benefit of others, without any view on the agent's part to
further compensation than that derivable from the consciousness of
making other people happy. In such voluntary and disinterested
self-sacrifice consists the merit which is one chief characteristic of
generosity as of most positive virtue, distinguishing it from justice,
in which there is never a surrender of anything which one would be
warranted in keeping, but merely a rendering of what belongs or is due
to others. All conduct, not immoral, admits, as already more than once
intimated, of a tripartite division, into that which may be rightfully
enforced; that of which, though it be not due nor rightfully enforcible,
neglect deserves to be and may justly be punished by reproaches; that
which is neither due nor reasonably to be looked for, but which involves
a voluntary surrender for the good of others of some good which one
might without reproach keep for oneself. Of this last description is the
only conduct in which there is any proper or positive virtue.

So much and such complex argumentation may not impossibly be deemed a
good deal in excess of what is requisite to establish the conclusion to
which it points, and which may be summed up in the following very simple
propositions:--That, by a person's rights being understood the privilege
of having or doing whatever no other person has a right to prevent his
having or doing, justice consists of abstinence from conduct that would
interfere with that privilege; that justice, therefore, is not dependent
on extrinsic sanction, but arises spontaneously from the nature of
things, and may almost indeed be said to spring necessarily from the
meaning of words; and that its sole merit is exemption from the demerit
that would attach to the withholding or withdrawing from any person
anything belonging or due to that person. With all possible confidence,
however, in the innate vigour of these propositions, I cannot suppose
that they do not require all possible adventitious strengthening to be
qualified to displace the doctrine to which they are opposed. I proceed,
therefore, to test somewhat further the adequacy of the description of
justice which they involve by confronting it with certain intricate
problems, in presence of which the rival utilitarian definition will be
found to be hopelessly at fault.

There are few subjects on which casuists have differed more widely than
those of the legitimacy, and the proper measure of punishment. One
thinks it unjust that anybody should be punished for the sake of example
to others, or for any purpose except his own amelioration. A second
replies that it is only for the sake of other people's good that an
offender ought to be punished; for that, as for his own good, he himself
should be left to decide what that is, and he is pretty sure not to
decide that it is punishment. A third pronounces all punishment unjust,
seeing that a man does not make himself criminal, but is made so by
circumstances beyond his control--by his birth, parentage, education,
and the temptations he meets with. Then, for the apportionment of
punishment, some persons think there is no principle like that of the
_lex talionis_--an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. Others that
the penalty should be accurately proportioned to the immorality of the
offence, by whatever standard that immorality be measured. Others,
again, that punishment should be limited to the minimum necessary to
deter from crime, quite irrespectively of the heinousness of the
particular crime punished. Of the first three of these opinions, Mr.
Mill observes that 'they are all extremely plausible, and that so long
as the question is argued as one of justice simply, without going down
to the principles that lie under justice, and are the source of its
authority, he is unable to see how any one of the reasoners can be
refuted. For every one of them builds upon rules of justice confessedly
true--each is triumphant so long as he is not obliged to take into
consideration any other maxims of justice than those he has selected,
but that as soon as their several maxims are brought face to face, each
disputant seems to have as much to say for himself as the others. No one
can carry out his own notion of justice without trampling upon another
equally binding.'[16] This view of the matter, however, can scarcely be
regarded as satisfactory. If utilitarian notions of justice cannot be
carried out without trampling each other down, they plainly should not
be suffered to go at large, but should be relegated forthwith to the
limbo of oblivion. But right cannot really be opposed to right; justice
cannot really be inconsistent with itself: it never can be unjust to do
what is just. Anti-utilitarian justice tolerates no such intestine
disorder. The sole ground on which she sanctions punishment is the
indispensableness of punishment for the reparation of injury. Whoever
has suffered wrong has been subjected to invasion of some right,
personal or proprietary, and is entitled to amends for the outrage;
while the aggressor from whom the amends are due, ought to render them
because he owes them, and because he ought, may, if necessary, be
compelled, to render them. By the breach of right which he has
committed, he has forfeited his own corresponding right, which may now
be equitably set aside to whatever extent may be requisite for
reparation of the evil he has done, one essential part of such
reparation being adequate security against repetition of the wrong. So
far as may be necessary for this purpose, punishment may equitably go,
but no further. Genuine justice does not permit penal laws of human
enactment to take into account the abstract turpitude of crime. That she
reserves for divine cognisance, recollecting that 'Vengeance is mine, I
will repay,' saith the Lord. Nor does she permit the smallest
aggravation of punishment for the sake either of the offender's own
mental improvement, or to discourage others from evil doing; neither, on
the other hand, does she recognise any claim to abatement on the plea of
an offender not having been able to help acting as he did. She would
not, indeed, punish with death or with stripes an outrage committed by a
lunatic or an idiot, partly because an outrage may be really less
offensive for being committed unwittingly, inasmuch as it does not, at
any rate, add insult to injury, and also because the corporal
chastisement of a lunatic or an idiot could afford no reparation to the
wounded feelings of a healthy mind. But so far as even an idiot or a
lunatic was capable of making good the evil he had done by rendering
what had in consequence become due, Anti-utilitarianism would require
him equally with an erring saint or sage to make it, and equally, too,
would subject him to whatever restraint might be deemed not more than
sufficient to prevent his doing the same evil again. And of course she
does not treat an offender of ordinary intelligence with indulgence
which she would not show even to a lunatic, but exacts inexorably full
reparation for what he has done, requiring him commonly to pay in kind
so far as he can, and to make up with his person for any deficiency.
Within the limits thus marked out she is well content that, with the one
object which alone justifies punishment, other secondary objects with
which justice has no concern, should be combined. She is well content
that the same penal measures as are called for in order to compensate
the injured party, should also subserve the reform of the criminal, and
serve as general deterrents from crime. But she protests against the
notion that these, or any other objects, can ever excuse the
infringement of any ordinance of justice, or of any of even a criminal's
rights which the criminal has not forfeited by crime. Justice, in short,
in her penal, as in all her other arrangements, has but to adhere
closely to the anti-utilitarian principles of rendering what is due, and
of taking nothing that is not due, in order to steer clear of all the
difficulties by which the ablest and most accomplished Utilitarians
confess themselves staggered.

A second greatly vexed question is, 'whether, in a co-operative
industrial association, it is just or not that talent or skill should
give a title to superior remuneration? On the one side it is argued that
all who do the best they can deserve equally well; ... that superior
abilities have already advantages more than enough in the admiration
they excite, the personal influence they command, and the internal
satisfaction attending them; and that society is bound in justice rather
to make compensation to the less favoured for this unmerited inequality
of advantages, than to aggravate it. On the contrary side, that society,
receiving more from the more efficient labourer, owes him a larger
return; that a larger share of the joint result being actually his work,
not to allow his claim to it is a sort of robbery; that if he is only
to receive as much as others he can only be required to produce as
much.'[17] 'Between these appeals to conflicting principles of justice,'
Mr. Mill considers it impossible to decide. 'Justice,' he says, 'has in
this case two sides to it, which it is impossible to bring into harmony,
and the two disputants have chosen opposite sides; the one looks to what
it is just that the individual should receive, the other to what it is
just that the community should give. Each from his own point of view is
unanswerable, and any choice between them, on grounds of justice, must
be perfectly arbitrary. Social utility alone can decide the
preference.'[18] The form of justice depicted with this Janus-like
aspect can scarcely be the utilitarian, since, whoever, on utilitarian
grounds, selects one of its sides, must perforce, on the same grounds,
reject the other. Still, it is spoken of as genuine justice, wherefore
that there is a justice independent of utility, would seem, after all,
to be admitted by Utilitarians themselves. It is for them, however, to
deal with the dilemma which their own ingenuity has thus devised. My
only concern with the two-headed monster they have imagined is to
protest against its being mistaken for the one sole species of justice
which Anti-utilitarianism recognises, and which never presents any such
double-faced appearance. In the case before us anti-utilitarian justice
would decide with her accustomed ease between the two appellants. What
she would look to would simply be that each co-operator should have his
due. But how much soever she might declare an inferior workman to
deserve for doing his best, she certainly would not allow his deserts to
extend to participation in the fruits of the toil of those of his
fellows who had done better than he. His having produced as much as he
was able could not render due to him a share in the larger produce of
others of superior capacity. Very possibly the superior workmen might
agree that all should participate equally in the aggregate results of
their joint labour. If so, well and good. For so liberal a concession
they would deserve credit, and thanks would be due to them from those in
whose favour it was made; but this of itself would be a conclusive
proof, if any were wanting, that the concession was an act, not of
justice, but of generosity, not of debt, but of grace.

Again, what discordance is there not as to the most equitable
repartition of taxation! That all should be taxed in equal proportion to
their pecuniary means; that taxation should be a graduated percentage on
income, rising as income rose; that all, whether rich or poor, should be
taxed alike; that all should pay equal capitation, but unequal
property-tax--these are some out of many divergencies of opinion, and
'from these confusions' there is, Mr. Mill considers, 'no other mode of
extrication than the utilitarian.'[19] But if there were really no
other, there would, in fact, be none at all. For opinions differ
scarcely less as to the utility, than as to the justice of each
specified mode of taxation. There are quite as many persons who think it
expedient as who think it equitable that people should be taxed either
equally, or according to any of the suggested schemes of inequality. All
the help that Utilitarianism here affords is, as usual, to leave every
one to judge for himself which plan is the most advisable, and then to
pronounce that to be the only moral plan. Anti-utilitarianism offers
guidance of a very different sort. It wastes no time in seeking for an
escape from confusion, for it allows no confusion to exist. It spurns
equally the idea of different persons being required to pay different
prices for equal quantities of the same thing, merely because some of
them can afford to pay more, and that of their being all required to pay
the same price for different quantities, merely because all are equally
in need of the quantities they respectively obtain. It recognises only
an imperfect analogy between a club or a mess to which no one need
subscribe unless he likes, and a national community to whose funds every
resident within its territory has no choice but to contribute; and while
quite content that members of the one should be assessed at any rates to
which they have spontaneously consented, it protests against the
imposition on members of the other of burdens disproportioned to their
several abilities. It denies that the shilling of a man who has but one
in the world is of the same value to him because it is his all, as is to
another an estate bringing him in 100,000_l._ a year, seeing that, if
the former had his pocket picked, he might presently beg, borrow, or
earn a second coin, whereas if the latter were dispossessed of his
estate he might live to the age of Methusaleh without acquiring its
equivalent. It perceives that a rich man, by receiving public protection
for his property as well as his person, is relieved from an expense in
maintaining private watchmen, which a poor man, with nothing but his
carcass to defend, would have as little occasion as ability to incur;
and it concludes that more being thus in effect given to the rich, more
is due from him in return, and more, consequently, may be rightfully

We come, now, to a case that may well give to both Utilitarians and
Anti-utilitarians pause--with this difference, however, that whereas it
brings the former to an everlasting standstill, the latter may, after a
while, go on complacently meditative, at least, if not rejoicing.

There are certain situations in which justice loses its authority.
'Thus, to save a life, it may be allowable ... to steal or take by force
the necessary food or medicine, or kidnap and compel to officiate the
only qualified medical practitioner.'[20] Wherefore, since to steal or
to kidnap is essentially wrong, it may sometimes be allowable to do
wrong. Mr. Mill's explanation of the paradox is, that 'there are
particular cases in which some other social duty is so important as to
overrule any one of the general maxims of justice; but that in such
cases we usually say, not that justice must give way to some other moral
principle, but that what is just in ordinary cases is, by reason of that
other principle, not just in the particular case.'[21] I submit,
however, that there is no real occasion to resort to any such 'useful
accommodation of language,' in order to be 'saved from the necessity of
admitting that there may be laudable injustice.' Let us never shrink
from looking error in the face, for fear that, after she has slunk away
abashed, some insoluble mystery may remain behind. It is better, at any
rate, to be puzzled than deceived. There can be no doubt about theft
being essentially unjust, and no skill in the arrangement of words can
convert injustice into justice, or prevent injustice from being wrong.
But when, as occasionally happens, the only choice open to us is between
two immoral courses, it is morally incumbent on us to select the less
immoral of the two. The wrong we decide upon does not, however, itself
become smaller because it prevents a larger. A sworn bravo, who had
taken in advance the wages of assassination, would sin less by breaking
than by keeping faith with his employer; but, in either case, would sin.
Abstinence from murder would not absolve him from the guilt of perjury.
If, unless a loaf were stolen, a life would be lost, Anti-utilitarianism
might pardon, but would scarcely applaud the theft. At all events it
would not, like the rival doctrine in a similar strait, be reduced to
double on itself, declaring that wrong had become right and black white,
that the Ethiopian had changed his skin and the leopard his spots. It
would still insist as positively as ever that to steal another man's
bread cannot be just, however benevolent the purpose for which it is

One more illustration and I have done. Whoever believes as I do in the
indefeasible sanctity of honestly acquired _moveable_ property, is
logically bound to hold equally sacred the rights of bequest and
inheritance. With whatever is exclusively your own, you may surely do
anything you please except harm; nor need even harm be excepted if it be
done to yourself alone. If, indeed, you go the length of playing ducks
and drakes with gold pieces, or of lighting cigars with bank-notes, you
are likely enough to be stopped and placed under restraint as a lunatic,
but it is clear that this will be done solely because you are presumed
not to understand what you are doing, and not from any question as to
your right to do it if you do understand, for there are plenty of things
far more objectionable in themselves, only not implying a want of
sanity, which you will be left perfectly at liberty to do. If you
choose, in imitation of Cleopatra, to spoil your fish-sauce by mixing
powdered pearls with it, or, in imitation of a certain Peruvian
viceroy, to shoe your carriage horses with silver, no one will dream of
interfering with you; any more than of preventing courtesans and other
fine ladies from befouling their nether limbs by sweeping the dusty road
with flounces of Brussels lace; or of preventing members of the Cobden
Club from gorging themselves annually, at a cost of five guineas per
paunch, in honour of the prince of practical economists. But property,
which, however great the good it is capable of doing, you are at liberty
to employ solely for your own hurt, you are, of course, at liberty to
destroy, thereby preventing it, at least, from doing any more harm. The
lesser right of abuse is plainly comprehended in the larger. And of that
which is so absolutely your own that you may, if you please, wantonly
waste or destroy it, you may, of course, transfer the ownership, thereby
conveying to another person all your rights in it, and rendering it as
unjust to interfere with the new owner's disposal of the property, as it
would previously have been to interfere with yours. Moreover, since the
gift is a purely voluntary act, you may, if you please, without
impairing its validity, arrange that it shall begin to take effect from
some future date instead of immediately; so that, by naming some date
subsequent to your own decease, you will be converting the gift into an
equally valid bequest. This, I submit, is decisive as to the iniquity of
any legal limitation of testamentary power. The right of bequest is
comprehended within and rests upon the same basis as the right of
possession, so that, unless it would be just to pass a law depriving all
persons of any property possessed by them in excess of a given amount,
it would not be just to deprive them by law of the power of bequeathing
the surplus.

The rights of inheritance obviously coincide precisely with those of
bequest. Just so much as the testator parts with the legatee obtains.
When the bequest is unconditional, the new owner whom it creates steps
into the precise position which the previous owner has vacated. Often,
however, a legacy is qualified by conditions, and, among others, by
this, that the property bequeathed shall be held in trust for certain
purposes. Now, if these purposes be socially noxious, society need not
hesitate to set aside the will that has provided for them. Quite
justifiably, society might annul the testamentary endowment of a
hospital for fleas and lice, such as Bishop Heber, in his Indian tour,
found existing at Baroach and at Surat, because those particular insect
pests could scarcely be retained within the walls of their infirmary.
Perhaps, too, society might be justified in similarly preventing the
endowment of a hospital for superannuated dogs and cats; whether it
would or not depending mainly on the awkward question whether such
inferior animals have any rights inconsistent with human interests. Be
this as it may, however, where human interests alone are concerned, the
rights of conditional heirship present no ethical difficulty. When it is
for purposes socially innocuous and affecting human beings alone that
property is left in trust, it cannot be equitably diverted from those
purposes without the consent of all the individuals whom the
testamentary arrangements were intended to affect. It matters not how
whimsical or preposterous the object enjoined may be; not even though it
be a periodical dinner, cooked after the manner of the ancients, like
the nauseous one at which Peregrine Pickle assisted; or instruction in
alchemy or in Hindoo astronomy, or in the art of walking on one's head.
Not until there remain no persons at once entitled under the will, and
also wishing to partake of the banquet or the instruction, can one or
the other be equitably discontinued? As long as there are any such
persons left, to stop, without their consent and without adequately
compensating them, arrangements, rights in which have been vested in
them by bequest, would be as palpable a violation of justice as to pick
their pockets of sums equivalent to their several interests, real or
supposed, in the arrangements.

If scrupulous adherence to the principle thus laid down would heavily
shackle the activity and seriously impair the immediate usefulness of
Mr. Forster and his coadjutors in the Endowed School Commission, I am
exceedingly sorry, but not in the least shaken in my conviction that the
principle ought to be rigidly adhered to. If parochial or other
communities are too stupid or too selfish to consent that school
endowments under their charge shall be applied to purposes of more
extensive utility than the founders contemplated, every effort should be
made to persuade or to shame them into consenting, but without their
consent the thing should on no account be done. On this point
Utilitarianism and Anti-utilitarianism would, I apprehend, give
identical counsel, the former condemning as impolitic what the latter
denounced as unjust. The cause of national education would be ill served
by any course calculated to discourage its future endowment by private
testators, and nothing would be more likely to have that effect than
arbitrary interference with the endowments of former testators.

The courteous reader may now be temporarily released, with fitting
acknowledgment of his exemplary patience. It would be cruel to detain
him with a recapitulation, without which he may readily trace for
himself, in what has gone before, the outlines of a consistent body of
anti-utilitarian ethics. In these there is little new, little that has
not been anticipated by many an old-fashioned saw and antiquated
apothegm--such as, _Fiat justitia ruat cælum_, 'Be just before you are
generous,' and, I would fain add, 'Honesty is the best policy'--save
that to that Utilitarianism may fairly lay equal claim. My modest
ambition throughout this essay has been to vindicate some of the most
momentous of primeval truths from the slights to which philosophy--not
modern, indeed, but modernised and refurbished--is continually
subjecting them, and I will not deny that I have modest assurance enough
to believe that I have at least partially succeeded. I think I have
shown that there are such things as abstract right and wrong, resting
not on fancied intuition, but on a solidly rational basis, and
supporting in turn abstract justice, whose guidance, whoever accepts it,
will find to be as sure and as adequate as any that unassisted reason is
capable of supplying. Anti-utilitarian justice never tries to look
half-a-dozen different ways at once, never points at the same time in
opposite directions, never issues contradictory mandates, never halts
between two opinions. Her votaries, like other mortals, may often be in
doubt as to accomplished facts; but, provided these be clear, their
course is in general equally clear; there seldom remains aught to
embarrass them. If they sincerely desire to ascertain what is due from
them, they can seldom err, except on the right side, and they will never
dream of disputing that whatever is due from them it must be their duty
to do, without respect of consequences. These they will leave to the
supreme controller of events, if they believe in one, and will leave to
take their chance, if they do not so believe, feeling all the more
certain in the latter case that to control events cannot, at any rate,
be within their power. They never stop to calculate how much good may
perhaps ensue if evil be done. Simple arithmetic, apart from faith,
satisfies them that to add wrong to wrong cannot possibly augment the
sum total of right. The prime article of their creed is the absolute
obligation of paying debts--a piece of unworldly wisdom more than ever
now to Jews a stumbling-block, and to Greeks foolishness, but not the
less to all, whether Jews or Gentiles, who will accept it, a light to
show through the mazes of life, a path so plainly marked that the
foolishest of wayfaring men cannot greatly err therein.


[1] The distinction here drawn is not merely verbal. The greatest
happiness of the greatest number may mean either the largest total of
happiness in which the largest possible number of those concerned can
participate, or a still larger total, which, if some of the possible
participants were excluded, would be divisible among the remainder. The
largest aggregate of happiness attainable by any or by all concerned,
means the largest sum total absolutely, without reference to the number
of participants. Writers on Utilitarianism seem to have sometimes the
first, sometimes the second of these totals in view, but more frequently
the second than the first.

[2] I do not form a separate class of pleasures of the affections,
because these seem to me not to be elementary, but to be always
compounded of two or more of the other five kinds.

[3] 'On Labour,' p. 135.

[4] 'Fortnightly Review,' June, 1868.

[5] See the No. for June, 1869.

[6] 'On Labour,' p. 93.

[7] 'Fortnightly Review' for June, 1869, p. 683.

[8] See 'Fortnightly Review' for June, 1869, pp. 687-8.

[9] 'Utilitarianism,' by J. S. Mill, pp. 64-8.

[10] 'Fortnightly Review' for June, 1869, pp. 684-5.

[11] 'Utilitarianism,' p. 267.

[12] 'Utilitarianism,' pp. 69, 70.

[13] 'Les légistes leur fournirent au besoin l'appui du droit contre le
droit même.'--De Tocqueville, 'L'Ancien Régime,' p. 567.

[14] 'Utilitarianism,' pp. 72, 73.

[15] 'Utilitarianism,' p. 71.

[16] 'Utilitarianism,' pp. 81, 82.

[17] 'Utilitarianism,' pp. 84, 85.

[18] Ibid. p. 85.

[19] 'Utilitarianism,' pp. 86, 87.

[20] 'Utilitarianism,' p. 94.

[21] Ibid. pp. 94, 95.



   _Warwick._ There is a history in all men's lives,
  Figuring the nature of the times deceased;
  The which observed, a man may prophesy,
  With a near aim, of the main chance of things
  As yet not come to life, which in their seeds,
  And weak beginnings, lie intreasured.
  Such things become the hatch and brood of time;
  And, by the necessary form of this,
  King Richard might create a perfect guess,
  That great Northumberland, then false to him,
  Would, of that seed, grow to a greater falseness,
  Which should not find a ground to root upon,
  Unless on you.

   _King Henry._ Are these things, then, necessities?

  _King Henry IV._ Part II. Act. 3, Sc. I.

When equally competent thinkers appear to take directly opposite views
of a matter of purely speculative interest, it will commonly be found
that their differences arise from their using the same words in
different senses, or from their being, by some other cause, prevented
from thoroughly apprehending each other's meaning. An illustration is
afforded by the controversy regarding the possibility of constructing a
Science of History, which could scarcely have been so much prolonged if
all who have taken part in it had begun by defining their terms, had
agreed to and adhered to the same definitions, and had always kept
steadily in view the points really in debate. If the word 'science' had
been used only in the restricted, though rather inaccurate sense in
which it is sometimes employed by some of the most distinguished of the
disputants, there would have been less question as to its applicability
to history. No one doubts that from an extensive historical survey may
be drawn large general deductions on which reasonable expectations may
be founded. No one denies that the experience of the past may teach
lessons of political wisdom for the guidance of the future. If it were
not so, history would be as uninstructive as fairy lore; its chief use
would be to amuse the fancy; and little more practical advantage could
result from investigating the causes of the failure of James II.'s
designs on civil and religious liberty, than from an inquiry into the
artifices by which Jack-the-Giant-killer contrived to escape the maw of
the monsters against whom he had pitted himself. What is commonly
understood, however, by a Science of History is something far beyond the
idea entertained of it by such temperate reasoners as Mr. John Stuart
Mill and Mr. Fitzjames Stephen. The science, for the reality of which M.
Comte in France and Mr. Buckle in England have been the foremost
champions, would bear the same relation to political events as Optics
and Astronomy do to the phenomena of light and of the solar and sidereal
systems. It would deal less with the conjectural and probable than with
the predicable and positive. 'In the moral as in the physical world,'
say its leading advocates, 'are invariable rule, inevitable sequence,
undeviating regularity,' constituting 'one vast scheme of universal
order.' 'The actions of men, and therefore of societies, are governed by
fixed eternal laws,' which 'assign to every man his place in the
necessary chain of being,' and 'allow him no choice as to what that
place shall be.' One such law is that, 'in a given state of society, a
certain number of persons must put an end to their own lives:' another,
that a certain number of persons must commit murder; a third, that when
wages and prices are at certain points, a certain number of marriages
must annually take place, 'the number being determined not by the temper
and wishes of individuals, but by large general facts, over which
individuals can exercise no authority.' These are general laws; but the
special question as to who shall commit the crimes or the indiscretion
enjoined by them, 'depends upon special laws, which, however, in their
total action must obey the large social law to which they are all
subordinate.' A Science of History would consist of a collection of
'social laws,' duly systematised and codified, by the application of
which to given states of society the historical student might predict
the future course of political events, with a confidence similar to that
with which he could foretell the results of familiar chemical
combinations, or the movement of the planets.[22]

This is the theory which a few years ago was so much discussed, and
against which, notwithstanding the singular fascination it evidently
possesses for some minds, the moral sense of a much larger number
indignantly revolts, rightly apprehending that its establishment would
be subversive of all morality. For, if the actions of men are governed
by 'eternal and immutable laws,' men cannot be free agents; and where
there is not free agency there cannot be moral responsibility. Nor are
the apprehensions entertained on this score to be allayed by the answer,
ingenious as it is, which has been given to them[23] by one of the
ablest and most judicious apologists for the new creed. It is true that
human actions can be said to be 'governed' only in the same metaphorical
sense as that in which we speak of the laws of nature, which do not
really govern anything, but merely describe the invariable order in
which natural phenomena have been observed to occur. It is true that the
discovery of invariable regularity in human affairs, supposing such a
discovery to have been made, would not prove that there was any
necessity for such regularity. It is conceivable that the orbs of heaven
may be intelligent beings, possessing full power to change or to arrest
their own course, and moving constantly in the same orbits merely
because it pleases them to do so. Invariable regularity, therefore,
would be perfectly consistent with free agency. All this is perfectly
just, but it is also altogether beside the question. The offence given
by the writers on whose behalf the apology is set up consists not so
much in their asserting that there are, as in their insisting that there
must be, uniformity and regularity in human affairs; or, as Mr. Buckle
expresses it, that social phenomena 'are the results of large and
general causes which, working on the aggregate of society, _must_
produce certain consequences, without regard to the volition of the
particular men of whom the society is composed.' Now, though free agency
may co-exist with _invariable_ regularity, it obviously cannot co-exist
with _necessary_ regularity, which, consequently, is incompatible
likewise with moral responsibility. If men are compelled by the force of
circumstances, or by any force, to move only in one direction, they
cannot be responsible for not moving in a different direction. Nor is it
more to the purpose to undertake a subtle analysis of the nature of
causation, and to explain that it does not, properly speaking, involve
compulsion, but simply means invariable antecedence. Let it be that a
cannon-ball does not really knock down the wall against which it
strikes, and that it would be more correct to say that the ball
impinges and the wall falls; though, seeing that the wall would not have
fallen unless the ball had impinged, the distinction is too nice for
ordinary apprehension. As understood, at any rate, by the joint
headmasters of the new school, causation does involve compulsion. 'Men's
actions,' say they, 'are the product not of their volition, but of their
antecedents,' and 'result from large and general causes which must
produce certain consequences.' Neither, if this be so, is it of any
avail to suggest that, possibly, the large and general causes in
question may be of only temporary operation. 'It may be that the rules,'
in accordance with which the sun has hitherto risen every morning since
the creation of the world, 'will hold good only for a time.' It may be
that the springs, whatever they are, by which the universe is kept in
motion, may require to be periodically wound up like the works of a
clock, and that, unless this be done, 'on some particular day out of
many billions,' the sun may fail to rise, just as the clock, if suffered
to run down, would stop on the eighth day. The conjecture would, of
course, be not less applicable to social than to natural laws. It is
conceivable that the large general causes assumed to regulate human
actions might lose their efficacy at the end of a certain cycle, when
mankind might either have to recommence a social revolution similar to
the one just completed, or might have to begin an entirely different
revolution under entirely different laws. Be it so. Still, if the
causes, as long as they remained in operation, possessed a compulsory
character--if, during the continuance of the supposed cycle, men were
bound to act in a certain way in accordance with certain laws, and
irrespectively of their own volition--what would it matter that those
laws were not eternal and immutable? For the time being men would no
more be free agents than the hands of a clock, while the clock was wound
up. Both would be constrained to move in a prescribed direction, whether
they would or no. Men in such circumstances might well be likened, as by
Mr. Buckle they are likened, to links in a chain, but few would be
prevented from joining in Mr. Goldwin Smith's eloquent protest against
the comparison, by being told that the chain perhaps was not an endless

It is clear, then, that the principles to which we have been adverting
would, if established, be really subversive of morality, inasmuch as
they are incompatible with free agency, without which there can be no
responsibility. The soundness of a doctrine does not, however, depend
upon its tendencies; and Mr. Buckle was fully warranted in demanding
that his views should be examined with reference, not at all to their
consequences, but solely and exclusively to their truth. They certainly
ought to be so examined, if examined at all; but morality is so
indispensable to the happiness of mankind, that if there were reason for
apprehending it to be based upon error, there would be equal reason for
avoiding an enquiry which might demonstrate the weakness of its
foundations, by bringing forward an antagonistic truth. The only
adequate excuse, therefore, for enquiring, as I now proceed to do, into
the validity of Mr. Buckle's theory, is the confidence I feel that it
will be found to contain not recondite, newly-discovered truth, but, at
best, only skilfully and curiously-compounded fallacies, which, being
dispelled, will leave the foundations of morality as firm and
unimpeachable as before.

In order that he might be able to prove the possibility of a Science of
History, Mr. Buckle asked no more than the following concessions:
'That, when we perform an action, we perform it in consequence of some
motive or motives; that those motives are the results of some
antecedents, and that therefore, if we were acquainted with the whole of
the antecedents and with all the laws of their movements, we could with
unerring certainty predict the whole of their immediate results.' Now,
there is certainly nothing in these demands which may not be
unhesitatingly conceded. As there can be no effect without a cause, so
there can be no action without a motive: the motive or motives of an
action are the product of all the conditions and circumstances among
which the agent is placed--which conditions and circumstances, again,
must have been brought about by antecedent events. The same
circumstances would indeed differently affect persons of different
mental constitutions and characters; but the original constitution of a
man's mind is itself the product of antecedent events, as is also any
subsequent modification of character which it may have undergone. It
cannot be denied, then, that men's motives are the results of
antecedents. Equally undeniable is it that a knowledge of all the
antecedents and of all the laws of their movements would enable us to
foresee their results, for this, supposing the laws referred to to have
any real existence, is merely equivalent to the self-evident
proposition, that if we perceived certain causes and knew exactly how
they would act, we should know beforehand what would be their effects.
But what if there be no such laws? What if, on the showing of Mr. Buckle
himself and of his associates, there neither are nor can be?

The true nature of a scientific law has never been better explained than
by the writer already quoted as Mr. Buckle's dexterous apologist. A
scientific law is not an ordinance, but a record. It simply professes
to describe the order in which certain phenomena have been observed
uniformly to recur. It differs from a legislative enactment, in that the
one would be a law although it were never obeyed, whereas the other
would cease to be a law if one single exception to its statement could
be pointed out. Thus the Act of Parliament enjoining the registration of
births, would be equally a law although no births were ever registered;
whereas the law, that in a body moving in consequence of pressure the
momentum generated is in proportion to the pressure, would entirely
forfeit its legal character if, on any one occasion or in any
circumstances, momentum were generated in any other proportion. It is
essential, then, to the existence of a scientific law that there should
be uniformity of phenomena. But in human affairs uniformity is
impossible. No doubt, in exactly the same circumstances exactly the same
events must happen; but exactly the same aggregation of circumstances
cannot possibly be repeated. Such repetition is inconsistent with the
very theory, which is based on the assumption that the repetition is
continually happening.

'In the moral as well as the physical world' there are, say the
exponents of the new theory, not only 'invariable rule' and 'inevitable
sequence,' but 'irresistible growth' and 'continual advance.' In other
words, things can never be twice in precisely the same condition--never,
at least, within the same cycle. It has, indeed, been suggested that
there may be in human affairs the same sort of regularity as is observed
by the hands of a clock; and that, as the latter, at the end of every
twenty-four hours, recommence the movement which they have just
concluded, so at the end of, say 'every ten thousand years,' all the
same events which have been happening throughout the period may begin
to happen over again in the same order as before. Such a succession,
however, would involve quite as much of retrogression as of progression,
and the continual advance so boastfully spoken of would be nothing else
than a tendency of society to return to the condition from which it had
originally emerged. But, even on this uncomfortable hypothesis, there
could be no regularity of occurrences within the same cycle; no clue as
to the future could be obtained from investigation of the past. On the
contrary, the only certainty would then, as now, be that no combination
of events which had happened once could happen again, as long as the
existing order of things continued. The inference here follows
necessarily from the premises. If there be continual advance--if things
are constantly moving forward--they cannot remain in the same state; and
if not in the same state, they cannot produce the same effects. For, if
it be obvious, on the one hand, that precisely the same causes must
invariably produce the same results, it is equally evident, on the
other, that the same results cannot be reproduced except by the same
causes. If causes calculated to bring about certain phenomena undergo
either augmentation or diminution, there must be a corresponding change
in the phenomena. Now, effects cannot be identical with their causes,
and, in the moral world, effects once produced become in turn causes,
acting either independently or in conjunction with pre-existing causes.
They become in turn the antecedents spoken of by Mr. Buckle, from which
spring the motives of human conduct. But, as all such antecedents must
necessarily differ from all former antecedents, they must also give rise
to motives, must be followed by actions, and must bring about
combinations of circumstances, differing from any previously
experienced. Thus, in human affairs, there can be no recurrence either
of antecedents or of consequences; and, as a scientific law is simply a
record of the uniform recurrence of consequences, it follows that in
human affairs there can be no scientific laws.

It will be understood that human conduct, and the circumstances or
causes which influence it, are here spoken of in the aggregate. It is
not pretended that particular causes or circumstances may not continue
permanently in operation, though with an influence modified by the
concomitance of fresh circumstances; or that they may not continue to
produce consequences differing from their former consequences not more
than in proportion to the modification undergone by the causes. Still
less is it pretended that certain human phenomena, with which human
motives have little or nothing to do, may not be repeated once and
again, notwithstanding the important changes constantly going on in
every human society. It is not denied that marriages may continue for
years together to bear much the same annual proportion to the
population, provided that during those years there be no material change
in the amount of the economical obstacles which commonly interfere, more
than anything else, with men's natural inclination to marry. Still less
is it denied that, in a given number of births, the number of girls may
always preserve nearly the same superiority over that of boys, or that
the proportion between red-haired and flaxen-haired children may
generally be about the same, or that the percentage of letters
misdirected in a given country may vary little during long periods. But,
in the first of these cases, men do not get married, as Mr. Buckle
imagined, irrespectively of their volition. If, for several years
together, marriages continue to bear about the same proportion to
population, it is because during that period circumstances continue to
present a certain amount, and no more, of opposition to men's connubial
proclivities. In the other cases, it is not at all because the parents
wish it that a girl is born instead of a boy, or with flaxen hair
instead of carrots; neither is it from any motive or intention that
letters are often misdirected, but, on the contrary, from want of
thought, and from the carelessness and haste with which letter-writing,
like most other human actions, is unfortunately too often performed.
But, before assuming that this carelessness and haste bear an invariable
proportion to numbers, we should inquire whether the proportion of
misdirected letters is the same in all human societies--the same, for
instance, in France and Spain as in England. If not--if varying
circumstances produce different results in this respect in different
countries--it may be inferred that a variation of circumstances may
produce a difference of result in the same country. It will, at any
rate, be clear that there is no 'necessary and invariable order' in
which letters are misdirected. In one sense, indeed, it may be said that
the proportion of misdirected letters depends upon 'the state of
society,' if by that expression be meant, among other things, the
numerical proportion which individuals of different characters and
habits bear to each other. In that sense, we may accept some far more
startling propositions. We may partly admit that the state of society
determines the number of murders and suicides, if by this be simply
meant that the number of murders and suicides committed will depend upon
the number of persons whose characters have been so moulded by
circumstances as to dispose them to put an end to their own or other
people's lives. But Mr. Buckle, by whom the assertion was made, was
careful to explain that his meaning was the very reverse of what is here
supposed. Speaking of suicide, he declares it to be 'a general law that,
in a given state of society, a certain number of persons must put an end
to their own lives;' adding that 'the question as to who shall commit
the crime depends upon special laws,' and that 'the individual felon
only carries into effect what is a necessary consequence of preceding
circumstances.' In other words, it is not the amount of crime that
depends upon the number of persons prepared to commit it; it is the
number of criminals which depends upon the amount of crime that must
needs be committed. 'Murder,' he elsewhere says, 'is committed with as
much regularity, and bears as uniform a relation to certain known
circumstances, as do the movements of the tides and the relations of the
seasons.' 'The uniform reproduction of crime is more clearly marked, and
more capable of being predicted, than are the physical laws connected
with the disease and destruction of our bodies. The offences of men are
the result not so much of the vices of individual offenders, as of the
state of society into which the individuals are thrown.'

There is here so much looseness and inconsistency of language, that what
is most offensive in it may easily bear more than one interpretation:
and the shocking dogma that, in a given state of society, the force of
circumstances constrains the commission of a certain amount of crime,
may possibly admit of being explained away and softened down into the
comparatively harmless proposition that, where all the circumstances,
conditions or causes required for the commission of a certain amount of
crime are present, that amount of crime will certainly be committed. But
what is most provoking in Mr. Buckle is the heedlessness or wantonness
with which he is constantly insisting that the causes in question are
necessarily present and uniformly acting. What he calls the uniform
reproduction of crime is likened by him to the uniform recurrence of the
tides. According to him, it is a law that a certain number of suicides
shall take place annually, just as it is a law that there shall be high
and low water twice in every twenty-four hours. Now a law, as the word
is here used, means a record of invariable repetitions of phenomena. Has
it been observed, then, that suicides bear, we will not say an
invariable, but anything like a definite proportion to population? Mr.
Buckle thinks it has, and he adduces some facts in support of the
opinion; but his facts, properly understood, disprove instead of proving
what he asserts; and, even if they proved it, they would yet afford no
support to his main theory.

In London, for some years past--how many is not stated--about 240
persons annually have made away with themselves--sometimes a few more,
sometimes a few less--the highest number having been 266 in 1846, and
the lowest 213 in 1849. But, while the number of suicides has thus been
nearly stationary, population has been anything but stationary in the
metropolitan district, but has advanced with vast and unremitting
strides at an average rate of nearly 43,000 a year. In 1841 it was
1,948,369; in 1851, 2,361,640; and in 1861, 2,803,989. The proportion of
suicide to population has consequently been by no means uniform, but has
varied exceedingly, and on the whole has shown a constant tendency to
decrease. But even if it had continued uniform, it would simply have
shown that, during a certain number of years, the general character of
Londoners had, in certain particulars, undergone no material change. It
would not have proved that the regularity of suicide observable among
Londoners was in accordance with any general law. To prove this it would
have been necessary to show that the proportion had been uniform, not
only in the same but in all societies; in Paris as well as in London,
among the Esquimaux of Labrador, and among the Negroes of Soudan. For,
if the proportion were found to vary by reason of the differing
circumstances of different societies, it would plainly be seen to be at
least susceptible of variation in the same society, inasmuch as in no
society do circumstances remain the same from generation to generation.
So equally with murders. Even if there were no doubt that the percentage
of such crimes in England had long continued the same, still that fact
would prove nothing as to the uniform reproduction of crime, if it could
be shown that the percentage had ever varied anywhere else--in France or
Italy, for example, or in Dahomey. For it would be mere childishness to
point to the different conditions of England and Dahomey, and to plead
that no more was intended to be said than that, with uniformity of
circumstances there would also be uniformity of results. So much no one,
in the least competent to discuss the subject, would for a moment dream
of disputing. But in political affairs there cannot be uniformity of
circumstances. The aggregate of circumstances from which spring human
motives cannot, from the nature of things, ever be repeated; and, though
a few general causes may continue permanently in operation, they cannot
continue to produce the same identical results; for even though they
could themselves remain stationary, it would be impossible that their
operation should not be affected by the constant change going on around,
or should not partake of an otherwise universal forward movement. In
political affairs there cannot possibly be any recurrence of identical
phenomena; nor can there, except within a very limited period, be any
occurrence of very similar phenomena. But recurrence (and not merely
recurrence, but complete and invariable recurrence) is the very
foundation of science. Without it there can be no scientific laws, and
without such laws--_i.e._, without records of past recurrences--there
can be no sure predictions as to the future. It is only because certain
motions of certain bodies have hitherto been observed to take place with
invariable regularity, that they are expected to continue to do so, and
it is upon that assumption only that we venture to predict that the sun
will rise to-morrow morning, or that an eclipse will take place next
year. But if no event recorded in history has ever yet been known to
occur twice under precisely the same conditions, and as a consequence of
the same causes, what ground can there be for predicting whether or when
any such event will occur again? What possibility is there of
constructing a science of history, when history supplies no materials
for either foundation or superstructure?

There is nothing in this conclusion in the slightest degree opposed to
the most approved doctrine of causation. No effect can be without a
cause. No doubt, then, the regency of invariable causation holds good of
human volitions. No doubt the volitions and consequently the actions of
men are the joint results of the external circumstances amid which men
are placed, and of their own characters; which again are the results of
circumstances, natural and artificial. So much must needs be admitted,
and something more besides. Certain causes will infallibly be succeeded
by certain effects. From any particular combination of circumstances,
certain determinate consequences and no others will result; those again
will give rise to consequences equally determinate, and those in turn to
others, and so on in an infinite series. It follows, then, from the
regency of causation, that there is a determinate course already, as it
were, traced out, which human events will certainly follow to the end of
time; every step of which course, however remote, might now be foreseen
and predicted by adequate, that is to say by infinite, intelligence.
Infinite intelligence would do this, however, not by the aid of law, but
by virtue of its own intrinsic and unassisted strength, wherewith it
would perceive how each succeeding combination of causes would operate.
For, as cannot be too often repeated, a law is merely a record of
recurrences; and in human affairs there can be no recurrences of the
same aggregate either of causes or results. There being then no historic
laws, there can be no Science of History, for science cannot exist
without laws. The historic prescience, which is an attribute of Infinite
Intelligence, not being regulated by law, or at any rate not by any law
except that of causation, is not, technically speaking, a science, and
even if it were, would be utterly beyond the reach of human intellect
and attainable only by Infinite Wisdom.

The admission made in the last paragraph has cleared the way for the
introduction of a question, from which the subject under discussion
derives its principal interest, and which it is indispensable therefore
carefully, though briefly, to examine. If there be certain determinate
lines of conduct which men will infallibly pursue throughout all
succeeding generations, how can men be free agents? How--for it is
merely the old puzzle over again--how can foreknowledge be reconciled
with freewill? The difficulty is not to be got rid of by discrediting
the reality of freewill, and treating it as a thing for which there is
no evidence. When Johnson silenced Boswell's chatter with the words,
'Sir, we know our will is free and there's an end on't,' he expressed a
great truth in language not the less philosophically accurate on account
of its colloquial curtness. The consciousness possessed by an agent
about to perform an act, that he is at liberty to perform it or not, is
really conclusive evidence that the act is free. For it matters not a
jot whether consciousness be 'an independent faculty,' or whether--as,
Mr. Buckle reminds us, 'is the opinion of some of the ablest
thinkers'--it be not merely 'a state or condition of the mind.' If
consciousness be a condition of the mind, so also is perception; but
perception, whatever else it be, is also that which makes us acquainted
with external phenomena, just as consciousness is that which makes us
acquainted with internal emotions. The two informants, it is true, are
not equally trustworthy. Perception often deceives us, but
consciousness, never. We often fancy we perceive what we do not
perceive. We may fancy we see a ghost, when we are merely mocked by an
optical illusion, or we may mistake the impalpable imagery of the Fata
Morgana for solid objects, or the rumbling of a cart for thunder. But
consciousness is infallible. We cannot fancy we experience an emotion
which we do not experience. We cannot fancy we are glad when we are not
glad, or sorry when we are not sorry, or hopeful when in despair; and to
pretend that we can possibly be conscious of willing when we are not
willing, would be as absurd as to meet the _cogito, ergo sum_ of
Descartes, with the reply that, perhaps, we do not really think, but
only think we think.

Freewill, then, being an indisputable reality, how can it be reconciled
with foreknowledge? There can be no more conclusive way of showing that
the two things are capable of co-existing than to point to an example of
their actual co-existence, and such an example is afforded by the idea
of Infinite Power. Omnipotence, which by its nature implies freewill,
comprehends also Omniscience. Omnipotence can do anything whatsoever
which does not involve a contradiction; but even Omnipotence can do
nothing which Omniscience does not foresee. It can, indeed, do
whatsoever it pleases; but Omniscience foresees precisely what it will
be pleased to do. With unbounded liberty to choose any course of action,
it can yet choose no course which has not been foreseen; but its freedom
of choice is evidently not affected by the fact that the choice which it
will make is known before hand. Neither is that of man. An eager
aspirant to ecclesiastical preferment is not the less at liberty to
refuse a proffered mitre, because all his acquaintances have a well
founded assurance that he will accept. A wayfarer, with a yawning
precipice before his eyes, may or may not, as he pleases, cast himself
down headlong. Whether he will do so or not must always have been
positively foreknown to Omniscience; but that fact in no degree affects
his power of deciding for himself. If arguing on the notion that what is
to be must be, he decide on moving forward to his destruction, then what
has been foreseen is simply that he will so argue and be self-deceived,
and will consequently perish. But the foreknowledge which simply
perceives what direction will be taken by the will is a very different
thing from an over-ruling destiny, which should compel the will to take
some special direction. Still it is obvious that, in this instance also,
foreknowledge is based entirely on causation. It is solely because human
volitions take place as inevitable effects of antecedent causes that
Omniscience itself can be conceived as capable of foreseeing them.

But on such conditions, how can human volitions really be free? How can
man be really at liberty to will of his good pleasure, if what he is
prompted to will depends on the influence which the circumstances that
happen to surround him may exercise on the constitution and character,
which he has derived from pre-existing circumstances? How can his will
be free, if that will be moulded and shaped by circumstances over which
he has no control? I have, I am aware, by the mode I have adopted of
reconciling free-will with foreknowledge, incurred the obligation of
reconciling it with another co-existence of yet greater apparent
incompatibility. By admitting that 'human volitions take place as
inevitable effects of antecedent causes,' that they must be such, and
cannot be other than such, as antecedent causes make them, I have
admitted that the will, though independent of law, is absolutely subject
to, and _must_ implicitly obey, causes. Freewill, then, must be shown to
be compatible not with foreknowledge only, but with necessity also. For
there is no use in attempting to ignore necessity; no use in exclaiming
with Professor Huxley: 'Fact I know, and Law I know; but what is
Necessity but an empty shadow of the mind's own throwing?'[24] A shadow
it most certainly is not, though it is a bugbear, and the veriest that
was ever suffered to torment a morbid imagination. It is an indisputable
reality, a substantial, but at the same time perfectly harmless, or
rather salutary reality, whose terrors need only to be boldly confronted
in order to disappear and to transform themselves into highly attractive
recommendations. For what, after all, does it imply? What but that
effects must follow their causes, and causes precede their effects, as
plainly they must, unless cause and effect be utterly unmeaning
expletives. Of course we must on all occasions be affected by
surrounding circumstances, in modes exactly accordant with our
idiosyncracies, moral and physical. Of course, too, our volitions must
exactly correspond with our contemporaneous affections. When we are
empty, we must, if in health, feel hungry, and desire to eat; when full,
we must, unless we are hogs, be satisfied, and prefer to ruminate. Most
men are so organised that when tickled they must laugh; when wronged,
must frown or sigh. The sight of distress makes them pity, and desire to
see it relieved. That of virtue makes them admire, and desire to see it
rewarded. That of vice makes them angry, and desire to see it punished.
Would we have all these things reversed? Would it be well for us that
our being starved or surfeited should make no difference in our wish to
feed, or our willingness to fast? Should we like the chances to be equal
whether we should desire distress to be alleviated or aggravated? If
not, what is the bondage under which we groan? What the liberty
wherewith we long to be made free? Our sole grievance is that, according
to actual arrangements, there must be reasons for our wishes, and that
on those reasons our wishes must depend. Should we then prefer that
there were no such reasons? Would we have our wishes to be independent
of reason, and adrift before irrational caprice? Probably we may, on
second thoughts, be content to forego an enfranchisement like this; but,
if not, we may at least console ourselves for its indefinite
postponement, by reflecting that Omnipotence itself is, equally with
ourselves, subject to the sort of necessity under which we are groaning;
equally destitute of the sort of free-will to which we aspire. It is
manifest that, since there cannot be omnipotence without boundless
liberty, omnipotence must possess completest freedom of will. Yet even
the Will of Omnipotence is subject to the despotism of causation. Divine
perfection cannot but be at all times affected in modes as exactly
corresponding with its own excellence as human imperfection is in modes
corresponding with its deficiencies, and the movements of the Divine
Mind cannot but correspond with the affections of the Divine Mind. Those
movements are not unmeaning, purposeless, wayward. They, too, have their
appropriate springs, and proceed by regular process from legitimate
causes, the chief of those causes being the infinite perfection of the
Divine Nature. Divine Power cannot then, any more than human, be
directed by its owner's will to purposes against which its owner's
nature revolts. But is this inability a matter to lament over? Those
must be greatly at a loss for a grievance who make one of its being
impossible for them to will things which they have over-ruling reasons
for not willing. Besides, does man, in order to believe himself free,
require more freedom than his Maker? The disciple is not above his
master, nor the servant above his lord. Surely it is sufficient that
the disciple be as his master, and the servant as his lord.[25]

The fact, then, that human conduct is subject to causation, and may by
adequate intelligence be predicted in its minutest details until the end
of time, no more proves that it is governed by invariable laws, which
act irrespectively of human volitions, than the corresponding fact with
reference to Divine conduct impairs the freedom of the Divine Will.
There is no one living to whom such a doctrine--degrading man, as it
does, into a helpless puppet, robbing him of all moral responsibility
and of every motive for either exertion or self-control--can be more
utterly repugnant than to Mr. Mill, who nevertheless, although
dissenting from Mr. Buckle's more extreme opinions, makes use of some
expressions which may be construed into a qualified approval of his
general views. Even Mr. Mill speaks of 'human volitions as depending on
scientific laws,' thereby implying that the circumstances from which
human motives and, consequently, human actions result are continually
recurring with a certain regularity. He speaks of 'general laws
affecting communities, which are indeed modified in their action by
special causes affecting individuals, but which, if their effects could
be observed over a field sufficiently wide and for a period sufficiently
long to embrace all possible combinations of the special causes, would
be found to produce constant results.'[26] This proposition seems to
proceed on the assumption that general causes are either of uniform
operation, or that, if they vary in their effects, their variations, and
also those of special causes, occur with a certain regularity, and
constantly recur within a certain definite period. But this is precisely
what cannot possibly happen. Among the general causes referred to, some
few are continuous--those, namely, which are inherent in human nature;
but even these are continually modified in their action by changes
continually taking place in those other general causes which constitute
the existing state of society, and which are not merely continually
changing, but are continually becoming more and more different from what
they were originally. So much is fully admitted by Mr. Mill himself, and
indeed can be scarcely more strongly enforced than by his own words.
'There is a progressive change,' he says, 'both in the character of the
human race, and in their outward circumstances, so far as moulded by
themselves; in each successive age the principal phenomena of society
are different from what they were in the age preceding, and still more
different from any previous age.'[27] It is admitted, then, that there
can be no recurrence of social phenomena; and it is obvious that, the
longer the period of observation, the less possibility can there be of
their recurring, since the greater is the certainty that new causes
will come into operation. But, even though it were possible that all the
external circumstances which have once influenced either communities or
individuals could be repeated, the same circumstances could not a second
time produce the same effects. Men of different characters are affected
in very different ways by the same influences, and the characters of any
particular generation of men are always very different from those of
every preceding generation. Let it be supposed, for the sake of
argument, that the French of the present day could be placed in
precisely the same social condition in which their fathers were towards
the close of the last century; still they would act very differently
from their fathers. Nay, even though they should, with one single
exception, have inherited the dispositions of their fathers, the
difference of character in one single individual might suffice to give
an entirely new turn to the course of events. If every other antecedent
of the first French Revolution were again present, still there might be
no second revolution, provided only that, instead of another Louis the
Sixteenth, a Leopold of Belgium, or a Frederick the Great were king.[28]
With the last mentioned on the throne, there would assuredly be no
repetition of that vacillation of purpose which rocked the cradle and
fostered the growth of popular fury till it culminated in a Reign of
Terror. Since, then, there cannot be either a repetition of the same
circumstances to act upon men, or a reproduction of the same sort of
men to be acted upon by circumstances, human conduct can never exhibit a
repetition of the same phenomena; experience of the past can never, in
social or political affairs, furnish a formula for predictions as to the
future. Accordingly Mr. Mill, in common with Mr. Stephen, disclaims the
idea of positive, and pleads only for conditional, predictions. But the
very term 'conditional predictions' involves a contradiction, since it
is obviously impossible to see beforehand what perhaps may never come to
pass. What is meant by the phrase is really nothing more than
conjectures; and conjectures, however ingenious and reasonable, cannot
be admitted within the pale of science. They cannot be accepted as
fruits of a tree which has by the quality of its fruits proved its right
to be entitled the Science of History.

With the view of enhancing the value of conditional predictions, it has
been urged that they are of precisely the same description as those
which we are in the habit of hazarding with respect to our familiar
acquaintance. There are, it is said, 'general maxims regarding human
conduct, by the application of which to given states of fact,
predictions may be made as to what will happen;' and all that is
necessary for the construction of historical science, is the employment
of these maxims on a larger scale. If the premiss here be sound, the
inference may be owned to be sufficiently legitimate. If there be any
formula with which the actions of individuals are observed to
correspond, there is every likelihood that the same formula may, by
extension and amplification, be adapted to the actions of communities.
But, although there are plenty of maxims telling men what they _ought_
to do, there is not one--except that which declares that they must all
die--which affords any positive information as to what they _will_ do.
'Thou shalt not steal,' 'thou shalt not kill,' 'thou shalt not commit
adultery;'--all these and many more are moral laws; but of not one of
them--the more's the pity--is the observance sufficiently regular, to
give it the smallest pretension to be styled a scientific law. General
propositions, too, there are in abundance, representing with more or
less accuracy the probable results of particular lines of conduct. Such
are the proverbial sayings, that 'Honesty is the best policy,' that 'A
rolling stone gathers no moss,' that 'The racecourse is the road to
ruin.' But adages like these were never supposed to afford any basis for
prophecy. It may be that an honest man more commonly gets on in the
world than a knave, though there is also much to be said on behalf of
the counter-proposition, that 'The children of darkness are wiser in
their generation than the children of light;' but, at any rate, there is
no doubt that a man may be honest without being prosperous, and that he
is often all the poorer for his probity. But, indeed, is there any one
conceivable situation in life in which a positive rule can be laid down
as to the course which men will follow? Can it even--to make use of an
illustration which has been very effectively employed on the other
side--can it even be said that a man will certainly marry a woman with
whom he is deeply in love, who returns his affection, whom he can marry
if he likes, and whom he has the means of maintaining in a suitable
manner? Nine times out of ten he probably will; but in the tenth
instance a Brahmin's passion may be checked by fear of contamination
with a Pariah, or a King Cophetua's pride may prevent his wedding a
beggar-maid, or the titled owner of an entailed estate may decline to
illegitimatise his offspring by espousing his deceased wife's sister, or
betrothed lovers may be parted by some such mysterious barrier as
sprang up between Talbot Bulstrode and Aurora Floyd, or an Adam Bede, in
spite of the example set by George Eliot's hero, may refrain from
marrying Dinah for fear of breaking his brother Seth's heart.

Equally vain would be the search for any rule invariably applicable to
political affairs. Even general propositions which sound like truisms
are not universally true. It cannot even be said that misgovernment
always produces discontent, or that the combination of superior strength
and superior strategy is always successful in war; for examples might be
cited of nations remaining patient under an iron despotism, and perhaps
also of campaigns lost by armies with every advantage of skill, numbers,
and discipline on their side. No better specimen can be given of what
are popularly spoken of as historical laws than one propounded by Mr. C.
Merivale, whose careful study of Roman annals has taught him to regard
it as 'a condition of permanent dominion that conquerors should absorb
the conquered gradually into their own body, by extending, as
circumstances arise, a share in their own exclusive privileges to the
masses from whom they have torn their original independence.' The
principle thus laid down is of great value, but it must not be mistaken
for an index pointing unerringly to a goal which will certainly be
obtained by following its direction. At least the offer of Austrian
citizenship had no perceptible effect in overcoming the exclusiveness of
Hungarian nationality; nor in inducing Venetia to become a willing
member of a Teutonic Federation, and to lend the same assistance to the
House of Hapsburg, as Gaul and Spain did to the Cæsars, in suppressing
insurrection on the banks of the Danube. History supplies many
principles similar to the one evolved by Mr. Merivale, all more or less
useful for the guidance of the statesman. So far as they are just, they
indicate the results which would spring from the adoption of certain
lines of policy, unless something unforeseen should happen. It is true
that something unforeseen is almost sure to happen and to divert or
impede the course which events would otherwise take; but still, it is
most important to be able to perceive clearly the influence exerted by
certain causes, how much soever that influence may be disturbed by other
causes; since, if it does nothing else, it will at least prevent the
disturbing causes from producing what would otherwise have been their
full effect. On principles which indicate only a few out of many causes
in simultaneous operation, it is evident that nothing deserving to be
called predictions can be founded; but from them, nevertheless--inasmuch
as they teach that some causes act for good and others for evil, as far
as their action extends--practical rules of government may be deduced.
Such rules, however, which at best can only furnish a loose and shifting
basis for doubtful conjectures, stand without the confines of positive
knowledge; they occupy a middle-ground between science and nescience,
and constitute what, until very lately, was thought to be designated
with sufficient distinctness as the 'Philosophy of History.' By that
term, Mr. Stephen in one place says, is really meant all that he ever
meant by the Science of History; and the observation, were it not
apparently inconsistent with his general reasoning, might seem to imply
that the only question between him and his opponents is whether a thing,
the existence of which is not disputed, ought or ought not to receive a
new appellation. But it is otherwise, at any rate, with Mr. Mill. The
language used by him on this as on all other subjects, is too clear and
precise to admit of its being supposed that he has used a new phrase
without attaching to it a new signification, or to permit the present
writer to believe, as he fain would do, that a point of nomenclature is
the only point of difference between himself and one from whom it is so
difficult to differ without diffidence and self-distrust.


[22] Mr. Buckle's first chapter, _passim_.

[23] 'Cornhill Magazine,' for June and July, 1861.

[24] 'Lay Sermons,' p. 158.

[25] A highly esteemed literary friend, who has done me the favour of
looking over these pages in manuscript, considers that what I have
proved is, not that Omnipotence involves the co-existence of Freewill
and Necessity, but that Omnipotence itself, although capable of
possessing all things, could not possess Freewill, and that consequently
Freewill cannot possibly exist--that there cannot possibly be any such

Although, for reasons stated four pages back, not myself prepared to
accept this view of the matter, I should cheerfully accept it if I
could. The argument in the text proceeds upon the assumption that people
mean something when they talk about Freewill. If, however, they have no
meaning, if the phrase be a simple sound signifying nothing, of course
all controversy regarding the possible co-existence of that nothing with
Necessity is settled at once and for ever, while no great amount of
philosophy will be requisite to induce mankind to resign themselves very
placidly to the absence of that same nothing.

[26] Mill's 'Logic.' Fifth edition. Vol. ii. p. 527.

[27] Mill's 'Logic,' vol. ii. p. 504.

[28] 'S'il se fût trouvé alors (vers 1750) sur le trône un prince de la
taille et de l'humeur du Grand Frédéric, je ne doute point qu'il n'eût
accompli dans la société et dans le gouvernement plusieurs des plus
grands changements que la Révolution y a faits, non-seulement sans
perdre sa couronne, mais en augmentant beaucoup son pouvoir.'--De
Tocqueville, _L'Ancien Régime_, p. 274.



     But the mischief lieth here; that when men of less leisure see them
     who are supposed to have spent their whole time in the pursuit of
     knowledge professing an entire ignorance of all things, or
     advancing such notions as are repugnant to plain and commonly
     received principles, they will be tempted to entertain suspicions
     concerning the most important truths which they had hitherto held
     sacred and unquestionable.--Berkeley's _Hylas and Philonous_.

In no department of science is it possible for an enquirer to advance
considerably beyond all his predecessors without serving as a light by
whose aid his successors may advance somewhat beyond him. This is the
only apology that I feel disposed to offer for the freedom with which I
am about to criticize one who, having been, by judges so competent as
Adam Smith and Professor Huxley, pronounced to be 'by far the greatest
philosopher' and 'acutest thinker' of his own age, would, doubtless, be
at least on a level with the greatest philosophers of the present age if
he were living now. The veriest cripple that can manage to sit on
horseback may contrive to crawl some few steps beyond the utmost point
to which his steed has borne him, and, if those steps be uphill, may, by
looking back on the course he has come, perceive where the animal has
deviated from the right road. Yet he does not on that account suppose
that his own locomotive power is in any respect to be compared to his
horse's; neither need an annotator on Hume, when pointing to holes in
his author's metaphysical coat, be supposed not to be perfectly aware
that it is the strength, not of his own eyes, but of the spectacles
furnished to him by his author, that enables him to perceive them.

The concentrated essence of Hume's metaphysics is to be found in 'An
Enquiry concerning Human Understanding,' forming part of a volume of
Essays which Hume published somewhat late in life, and which he desired
might 'alone be regarded as containing his philosophical sentiments and
principles.' To a formal, though necessarily rapid, examination of the
results of this 'Enquiry,' the present chapter will be almost
exclusively devoted. Often as the operation has been performed already,
there are two reasons why its repetition here may not be without
utility: for, first, its subject is a treatise containing the germs of
much subsequent and still current speculation which, in so far as it is
merely a development of those germs, cannot but be infected by whatever
unsoundness may be inherent in them; and, secondly, because the subject,
hackneyed as it may seem, is so far from being exhausted, that there is
scarcely one among the doctrines embodied in it to which, as I proceed
at once to show, fresh objection, more or less grave, may not be taken
by a fresh investigator.

To begin very near indeed to the beginning, let us take, first, the
section of the 'Enquiry' which treats of the 'Origin of Ideas.' All the
perceptions of the mind may, according to Hume, be divided into two
classes, whereof the one consists of all those 'more lively
perceptions,' termed by him indifferently Impressions or Sensations,
which we experience when we 'hear, or see, or feel, or love, or hate, or
desire, or will:' the other, of those 'less lively perceptions of which
we are conscious when we reflect on any of the sensations
above-mentioned,' and which are commonly denominated thoughts or ideas.
'All our ideas or more feeble perceptions,' he continues, 'are copies of
our impressions or more lively ones,' the 'entire creative power of the
mind amounting to no more than the faculty of compounding, transposing,
augmenting, or diminishing the materials afforded by the senses and
experience.' So confident is he of the literal accuracy of this
statement, as to proceed to intimate that whenever we find in
conversation or argument 'a philosophical term employed seemingly
without any idea or meaning,' we have only to enquire from what
impression its idea, if it have one, is derived, when, if no impression
can be adduced, we may be sure that no idea is present either. The only
phenomenon opposed to this rule, which he professes himself able to
think of, is that of a person who, of a colour--as, for instance,
blue--with which he is familiar, is able to conceive a shade somewhat
different from any of the shades which he has actually seen; but this
instance he disregards as too singular to affect the general maxim, to
which, as he might have added, it is not really an exception, any more
than would be the power of a person who had never seen a mountain higher
than Snowdon or Mont Blanc to conceive one as high as Chimborazo or
Mount Everest, for, equally in both cases, the ideas are copies of
sensible impressions, although of complex, not simple, ones--of colour
and graduation in the first case, of size and increase in the second.
Still, there is at least one genuine exception, which it is the more
remarkable that Hume should have overlooked, as it may be said to have
stared him in the face from the very subject-matter he was considering.
Our idea of idea itself, from what sensible impression is that derived?
We have just been told that the difference between an idea and a
sensation is that the first is a copy of the second, a feeble copy of a
lively original. The idea therefore is not itself a sensation; the copy
is not itself an original. Neither consequently can the idea or notion
which the mind proceeds to form of any of its previous ideas be derived
from or be a copy of a sensation: it cannot have entered the mind 'in
the only manner by which,' according to Hume, 'an idea can have access
to the mind, to wit, by actual feeling and sensation.'

Let me not be misunderstood. Let me not be supposed to be courting
collision with the Berkleian thesis of the non-existence of abstract
ideas. I do not for one moment doubt that all our general or class
notions of sensible objects or events are merely concrete ideas of
individual objects or events--that, for instance, whenever we talk of
man or motion in general, we are really thinking of some particular man
or motion, which, as possessing all properties common to all men or
motions, serves as a representative of the entire _genus_. Neither am I
prepared to deny, although scarcely either prepared to admit, that even
of abstract qualities all our general or class notions are equally ideas
of particular specimens of those qualities; that, when we speak, for
instance, of virtue or vice in general, we are thinking of some
particular exhibition of some particular kind of virtue or vice. Nay, I
am not even concerned to deny that our idea of idea in general may
possibly be a copy of some particular one of our previous ideas which,
for the nonce, serves to represent all our other previous ideas. I limit
myself to saying that our idea of idea in general, whether it be or be
not itself an abstraction, is, at all events, not a copy of sensation. I
admit that it thereby differs essentially from most, if not all, other
general ideas. Possibly it may be only through my having myself felt
the promptings of some particular virtue or vice, that I am able to form
an idea of that particular virtue or vice. If so, I admit that my idea
of that particular virtue or vice is but, as Hume would say, a copy of
my feeling. And since, undoubtedly, I can feel myself thinking, or
perceiving, or performing any other mental operation, I am bound to
admit, further, that my idea of any such operation may equally be
described as a copy of a sensation which I have experienced. All I
contend for is that if, after having formed my idea, either of a mental
operation or of anything else whatever, I proceed to ask myself what
sort of an entity that idea is, the answer which I give myself, or, in
other words, the idea which I form of my previous idea, being a copy of
idea, cannot be a copy of sensation.

So much must surely be conceded to me, for that white, being white,
cannot be also black is not nearly so certain as that idea and
sensation, being two distinct things, idea of idea cannot be idea of
sensation. The concession, indeed, is likely enough to be accompanied by
an exclamation of wonder that so microscopic a flaw in an elaborate
exposition should be thought worth pointing out; but Hume himself would
certainly not have so retorted. Of the doctrine which I am impugning,
viz., that every _idea_ is copied from some preceding _sensation_, he
had spoken as follows:--'Those who would assert that this position is
not universally true, nor without exception, have only one, and that an
easy, method of refuting it, by producing the idea which, in their
opinion, is not derived from this source. It will then be incumbent on
us, if we would maintain our doctrine, to produce the impression or
lively perception which corresponds to it.' He was much too candid not
to have acknowledged that this challenge of his had been fairly and
fully met. He was not a man to refuse to own himself refuted when, after
distinctly intimating that the production of one single idea, having no
perception correspondent to it amongst those which we experience 'when
we see, or hear, or feel, or love, or hate, or will, or desire,' would
suffice for his entire refutation, he found such an idea produced. He
knew too well also to what enormous errors of thought minute errors of
expression may lead, to disregard any speck of inaccuracy in any one of
his definitions. The apparently slight oversight committed by him on
this occasion will, indeed, be presently seen to have sensibly
contributed to lead him subsequently into a mistake of no small
practical moment.

We come next to the 'Association of Ideas,' the influence of which
almost all of Hume's successors, as well as himself, seem to me to have
greatly over-rated. That there is a 'principle of connection between the
different thoughts or ideas of the mind' is, as he says, sufficiently
evident; and that this principle is, as he was apparently the first to
remark, threefold, deriving its efficacy from resemblance, contiguity in
time or place, and cause or effect, may also be admitted with little
qualification. But I presume to think that he is quite incorrect in
adding that, in virtue of the aforesaid principle, ideas 'introduce each
other with a certain degree of method or regularity.' You are walking,
let us suppose, through Hyde Park, thinking of nothing more particular
than that the morning is a pleasant one, when you suddenly find yourself
in imagination pacing the shore of the Dead Sea, and, pausing to ask
yourself how you got there, you discover, perhaps, that it was by the
following steps. Remarking some landscape effect in the distance, you
were reminded of a similar one which you had remarked years before while
taking a walk fifty miles off in Sussex. Here resemblance operated. Then
you recollected how during that walk you were thinking about Mr. Buckle,
whose lucubrations you had been conning over before starting. Here
entered contiguity both of time and space. The name of Buckle reminded
you how that promising writer ended his travels abroad by dying of a
fever which he caught while sailing over the sites of the engulphed
cities of the plain. Here cause and effect came into action; and, so
far, everything accords with Hume's theory. But if you repeat the same
walk to-morrow, the same landscape effect will almost certainly suggest
a train of ideas quite different from that of to-day. Perhaps it may
begin by reminding you of landscape effects in general; then of Mr.
Ruskin, who has discoursed so eloquently on that topic, and next of Mr.
Ruskin's 'Stones of Venice,' from whence it is equal chances whether
your thoughts radiate, on one side of the compass, to stone china, or
Stoney Stratford, or Stonewall Jackson, or, on the other, to the
'Venetian Bracelet,' L. E. L. and Fernando Po, or to that effective
adaptation of the Venetian style of architecture, the Railway Station at
St. Pancras, and thence to some town or other on the Midland Line.

These examples will be readily recognized as fair average specimens of
those unpremeditated trains of thought with which we are all familiar.
Is there, then, in the arrangement of the consecutive thoughts of which
the several trains are composed, any method or regularity common, I will
not say to all, but to any two of them? According to Hume and to most of
his successors in the same path of enquiry, there ought to be. Thus the
illustrious author of the 'Analysis of the Human Mind' affirms, without
rebuke or protest from any one of his not less illustrious commentators,
that 'our ideas spring up or exist in the order in which the sensations
existed of which they are the copies: that of those sensations which
occurred synchronically, the ideas also spring up synchronically, and
that of the sensations which occurred successively, the ideas rise
successively.' And he adds, 'this is the general law of the Association
of Ideas,' remarking, by way of illustration, that, as 'I have seen the
sun, and the sky in which it is placed, synchronically, if I think of
the one I think of the other at the same time'; and that, as when
committing to memory a passage of words, as, for instance, the Lord's
Prayer, we pronounce the words in successive order, and have
consequently the sensation of the words in successive order, so when we
proceed to repeat the passage, 'the ideas of the words also rise in
succession, _Our_ suggesting _Father, Father_ suggesting _which, which_
suggesting _art_, and so on to the end.'[29]

Oh Law! Law! most abused of scientific terms, what an infinity of
dogmatic illegalities are committed in thy name! The one thing which
scientific law implies is regularity of occurrence, but what regulation
is it that is obeyed in common by a number of sequences commencing at
the same point in Hyde Park, yet terminating, one in Africa, another in
America, a third in Palestine, and a fourth in the centre of England?
Can it have been seriously said that it is impossible for us to think of
the sky without thinking simultaneously of the sun which illuminates
the sky? Is it impossible for us to think instead of the ether which
constitutes it, or peradventure even of the resemblance between its
celestial azure and what Moore calls the 'most unholy blue' of some
frolicsome Cynthia's eyes? And is it not notorious that when saying the
Lord's Prayer--a prayer which, in spite of the injunction by which its
original dictation was accompanied, to 'avoid vain repetitions, as the
heathen do,' many Anglican clergymen insist on repeating half-a-dozen
times in a single service--is it not notorious that, so far from the
idea of one word suggesting to us the idea of the next, no small effort
of attention is requisite to enable us to have any idea at all of what
we are saying?

It would seem that the author of the 'Analysis' either could not help
asking himself questions like these, or, without asking the questions,
could not help seeing the commonplace truths involved in the inevitable
replies to them. It would seem to have been semi-consciousness of the
utter inability of the evidence first cited by him to justify belief in
the necessarily simultaneous or successive occurrence of the ideas of
simultaneously or successively experienced sensations, which made him
have recourse for help to _complex_ ideas. 'If,' he says, 'from a stone
I have had synchronically the sensation of colour, the sensation of
hardness, the sensations of shape and size, the sensation of
weight,--when the idea of one of these sensations occurs, the ideas of
all of them occur.' Because, then, I may have ascertained by experience
that a stone is white, hard, and round, two feet in diameter, and twenty
pounds in weight, am I really incapable, if I happen to break my shin
against it, of thinking how hard it is, without thinking also how heavy;
or, when trying to lift it, of thinking how heavy it is without
thinking likewise of its shape and colour? Elsewhere the same writer
speaks of 'ideas which have been so often conjoined that whenever one
exists in the mind, the others immediately exist along with it, seem to
run into one another, to coalesce, as it were, and out of many to form
one idea.' But which are the ideas whereof this can be said? The writer
instances those simple ideas, colour, hardness, extension, weight,
which, he says, make up our complex ideas of gold or iron. He instances,
too, the ideas of resistance, muscular contractility, direction,
extension, place, and motion, of which he says our apparently simple
idea, weight, is compounded. Does he mean, then, that we cannot
entertain the idea of yellowness without entertaining at the same time
all the other ideas necessary for composing the idea of gold, and
entertaining, too, that idea in addition to all the rest? Does he mean
that a train of thought cannot commence with place without terminating
with weight? Of course he means nothing of the kind, although so he
distinctly says. Rather, he appears to mean the direct converse, viz.,
that we cannot have the idea of gold or of weight present to the mind,
without having present also all the simple ideas of which those complex
ideas are compounded--in other words, not that the occurrence of any one
component necessarily calls up all the other components, and forms with
them the compound, but that the appearance of the compound brings with
it all its separate components.

But neither does this seem to be a strictly correct representation. I am
not sure that I can think of gold without thinking of yellowness, but I
am positive that I can without thinking of hardness. Nor is there any
doubt that the youngest child knows perfectly well what it means when,
trying to lift a stone, it calls the stone heavy, although it might not
be more difficult to make the stone itself than the child understand
what is meant by muscular contractility. I own that if it be here
demanded of me how a compound can be present unless every one of its
components be present also, I may under pressure be constrained to
suggest that possibly, after all, the very term _compound_ or _complex
idea_ may be somewhat of a misnomer, or at any rate that the
constituents of such an idea are much fewer than is commonly supposed.
Be it admitted that the idea, so styled, could not have been formed
without the instrumentality of other and previously-formed ideas, still
it does not follow that the instruments of production should for ever
after accompany the product. The rackful of dry toast which is brought
to you for breakfast could scarcely have been so neatly sliced without
the help of a knife, but the toast is not the less in bodily presence on
the breakfast-table because the knife that cut it has been left behind
in the kitchen. Neither, although you may probably be aware that salt,
suet, sugar, and spice enter into the composition of a Christmas
pudding, do you necessarily think of those separate ingredients when you
think of the pudding, any more than you would see them separately if you
saw the pudding. The only qualities which you apparently cannot help
thinking of when you think of the pudding are its size, shape, and

One word more about the assumed regularity in the succession of ideas.
That when you are repeating a familiar form of words or playing a
familiar piece of music, every word uttered or note struck, by reason of
connexion of some sort between itself and the word or note next in
order, enables you without the smallest mental effort to utter that
word or strike that note, is too notorious to be questioned. But I do
very earnestly question whether the connexion that thus operates is an
association of ideas. How can it be, when, as frequently happens, you
have not the smallest idea of what it is you are saying or playing? Have
you not often, after reverently saying grace, like the decent
paterfamilias you probably are, occasioned a giggle round the table by
saying it again a minute or two afterwards, in utter unconsciousness
that you had said it just before? Or, if I may so far flatter myself as
to fancy my reader a fair daughter of the house instead of the staid
house father--has it never happened to you, Miss, while executing a
brilliant performance on the piano, to have been so entirely engrossed
by an animated flirtation carried on simultaneously, that, if at the
conclusion of the piece you had been asked what you had been playing,
you could not have replied whether it was _Là ci darem la mano_ or _Non
mi voglio maritar_? And is it not evident that non-existent ideas cannot
have called real ideas into existence?

My own modest contribution towards explanation of these mysterious
phenomena is as follows. Apart from association of _ideas_, there is a
separate and independent association--to wit, association of
_volitions_. While committing to memory a form of words, or trying a new
piece of music, every separate movement of your tongue or of your
fingers is consequent on some separate volition. Each series of
movements is consequent on a series of volitions. By being repeatedly
made to follow each other in the same order, the several volitions
become connected with each other, so that whenever the mind desires to
marshal them in the aforesaid order, each one, as it presents itself,
brings with it the next in succession, until the whole series is
completed; while, as each volition has consequent upon it a
corresponding movement, a series of corresponding movements
simultaneously takes place. The mind meanwhile is quite unconscious of
the muscular movements that are going on. What it is conscious of are
the volitions without which no voluntary movements of the muscles could
have been made, and of which the mind must needs be conscious, because a
volition of which the mind was not conscious would be an involuntary
volition, a birth too monstrous for even metaphysics to be equal to. But
although necessarily conscious of these volitions, the mind is only
momentarily conscious. It pays them barely an instant's attention, and
therefore instantaneously forgets them, retaining no more trace of them
than if they had never been.

The doctrine of Hume's which next confronts us is his famous one
concerning Cause and Effect. He commences it by explaining that all
objects of human enquiry are divisible into two kinds--1. Relations of
Ideas, like those of which geometry, algebra, and arithmetic treat, and
which are either intuitively certain, or 'discoverable by the mere
operation of thought, without dependence on what is anywhere existent in
the universe,' as, for example, the truths demonstrated by Euclid, which
would be equally incontestable even 'though there were never a circle or
a triangle in nature:' 2. Matters of Fact, as, for example, the sun's
rising and setting, or the emission of light and heat by fire, which are
never discoverable by unassisted reason, because of no one of them would
the opposite imply a contradiction or be consequently inconceivable; and
in our knowledge of any one of which we can never 'go beyond the
evidence of our memory and senses,' except by means of reasons derived
from experience of some fact or facts connected in some way or other
with the particular matter of fact we are considering.

So far, all is comparatively plain sailing, but Hume now propounds a
difficulty which he at first presents as seemingly insurmountable, but
which I cannot help thinking to be mainly of his own creation, and which
he himself, almost immediately afterwards, suggests a mode, though a
very inadequate mode, of overcoming. His language here is not marked by
his usual perspicuity, or rather--to speak without respect of
persons--it contradicts itself in most astounding fashion; but his
meaning is not the less certainly the following, for there is no other
construction which his words will bear.

'What,' he asks, 'is the foundation of all conclusions from experience?'
Why is it that, having found that such an object has always been
attended with such an effect, we infer that similar objects will always
be attended with similar effects? The proposition that a certain
antecedent has always been followed by a certain consequent, and the
proposition that the same antecedent will be followed by the same
consequent, are not identical. What, then, is the connexion between them
which causes one to be inferred from the other? The connexion is
unhesitatingly pronounced by him to be neither intuitively perceived,
nor yet to be 'founded on any process of the understanding.' If you
insist that the inference is made by a chain of reasoning, he challenges
you to produce that reasoning, and taking for granted that you have none
to produce, he proceeds to indicate what principle it is which, in his
opinion, does determine us to form the inference. That principle he
declares to be custom or habit, by which alone, he asserts, we are,
after the constant conjunction of two objects, determined to expect the
one from the appearance of the other; adding that all inferences from
experience are effects of custom, not of reasoning.

What is the correct answer to this question of Hume's I shall be rash
enough to endeavour to indicate a little further on; meanwhile there can
be no temerity in saying that whatever be the right answer, Hume's is
certainly a wrong one. Habit plainly cannot be its own parent. It
enables us to repeat more easily what we have already repeatedly done,
but it cannot be the cause of our doing or being able to do anything for
the first time. An infant that has once burnt its fingers by touching
the flame of a candle, expects that if it touch the flame again it will
burn its fingers again, but it does not expect this because it has been
in the habit of expecting it. Neither, if we be here bidden to
understand that the habit referred to is not any mental habit of our
own, but a habit which we have observed certain phenomena to have of
following each other, shall we thereby be brought one whit nearer the
truth. Our infant with the burnt finger has not observed that flame is
in the habit of burning. It only knows that flame did burn on the one
occasion on which it tried the experiment, which experiment it
consequently declines to repeat. Besides, no one needs to be told that
inferences, though thus capable of being drawn from single occurrences,
are drawn with increased confidence from observation of habit. We all
know already that, having always found that fire burns, we infer that it
always will burn. What we want to know is, why we draw this inference.
This is the question which Hume puts, and respecting which he gives
very positively the negative reply that the inference is not drawn
either intuitively, nor yet by any process of the understanding. Yet
that a body when not moving must needs be at rest, is not more certainly
demonstrable than that inferences cannot possibly be drawn except in one
or other of these two ways. Is not every inference a species of belief,
and must not every belief be either innate within us, or have been
acquired artificially; and, as in the latter case, it is a mental
acquisition, must it not in that case have been acquired by an operation
of the mind or understanding? Is it not clear, then, that inferences
must always be either intuitive or ratiocinative; and is it not strange
that Hume should deny that they ever are so? Yet stranger still is it,
that even while denying them to be either one or the other, he, almost
in the same breath, pronounces them to be both. For, after having on one
page denied that they are founded on reason, or any process of the
understanding, he describes them on the next page as being not simply
founded on, but as being themselves 'processes of the mind,' 'processes
of thought,' and immediately afterwards 'arguments,' nay, '_reasonings_
from experience;' and, yet again, after as short a pause, these very
same 'reasonings,' and 'arguments,' and 'processes of the mind and
thought,' he concludes by styling 'natural instincts which no reason or
process of the thought or understanding is able either to produce or to
prevent'--'operations of the soul as unavoidable' when the mind is
placed in certain circumstances, as it is 'to feel the passion of love
when we receive benefits, or hatred when we meet with injuries.'

What are we to say to a description of mental operations which are and
are not 'arguments' and 'reasonings,' which are and are not 'processes
of thought,' which are not 'intuitive,' and which yet are 'instincts?'
How are we to account for such amazing inconsistencies in an exposition
of one of the greatest of philosophers? With all humility, I submit the
following as a possible solution of the enigma.

The one solitary ground on which Hume denies the argumentative and
ratiocinative character of what he nevertheless terms arguments and
reasonings, is the impossibility of producing the _chains_ of argument
or reasoning of which they are composed. But this impossibility can at
most only prove that the reasonings are elementary, and have,
consequently, no component parts into which they can be resolved. But
reasoning is not the less reasoning for being elementary, or for being
only a single link in a chain, instead of being itself a chain composed
of many links. Still, being elementary, it may occur to, and pass
through, the mind with extreme rapidity--with not less rapidity than an
intuition or instinct, for which therefore it may easily be mistaken, as
accordingly it has actually been by Hume. But that a reasoning from
experience is not really an instinct is certain, firstly, because
intuitive or instinctive reasoning, if not a phrase absolutely devoid of
meaning, is a contradiction in terms; and, secondly, because, if it were
instinctive, it would precede instead of following experience, and a
baby, instead of finding out that flame burns by touching it, would know
beforehand that flame burns, and would therefore not touch it.

From the species of Belief constituted by an inference from experience,
Hume, by an easy transition, passes on to Belief in general, which he
defines to be 'nothing but a more vivid, lively, forcible, firm, steady
conception of an object, than what the imagination alone is ever able
to attain,' referring, by way of illustration, to an animal with the
head of a man and the body of a horse, which anyone can imagine, but no
one can believe in, and desiring us apparently to suppose that if our
groom were to come and tell us that he had found a centaur feeding in
the paddock beside our favourite saddle-horse, our sole reason for
believing in the horse and for not believing in the centaur would be our
greater ability to conceive the one than the other. That such a
definition should for a moment have satisfied its author's curiosity, is
itself a psychological curiosity which must not, however, be suffered to
detain us. Whoever, not content with knowing perfectly well what belief
is, desires to have his knowledge of it set down in writing, should read
the admirable notes on the subject, with which Mr. John Mill and Mr.
Bain have enriched the last edition of Mr. James Mill's 'Analysis of the
Human Mind.' Most readers, however, will probably be disposed to avail
themselves here of a rather favourite phrase of Hume himself, and to
plead that, 'if we agree about the thing, it is needless to dispute
about terms;' and it is not unlikely that such of them as may have
formed their notion of metaphysical discussions in general from the
specimens given above, may go so far as to hint a doubt whether any of
the nice verbal distinctions which metaphysicians so much affect, are
really worth the trouble required to understand them. Nor would anyone,
perhaps, be much the worse for acting upon this suspicion, provided
that, in accordance with it, he kept altogether aloof from the studies
which it disparages. His ideas need not be the less clear because he
neither knows nor cares of what they are copies, nor whether they are
copies of anything; nor will the order of their occurrence be at all
affected in consequence of his being similarly careless, whether that
order is or is not governed by a _law_ of association; neither need his
inferences from experience be the less sound in consequence of his never
having enquired how or why they are deduced. But although the most
absolute ignorance and corresponding indifference about these and
kindred topics may not tend in the least to disqualify him for
performance of the whole duty of man, it is not the less important that,
if he do care to know aught about them, his knowledge should be exact,
for there is no knowing beforehand how luxuriantly the minutest germ of
theoretical error may ramify in practice, or into what substantive
quagmire trust in deceitful shadows may lead. These respectable
aphorisms may be beneficially borne in mind during perusal of what is
about to be said.

If the fact were really, as Hume supposed, that we have _no_ reason for
our inferences from experience, and draw them only because either we
have been in the habit of drawing them, or because we are so constituted
as to be unable to help drawing them, the reason of our drawing them
plainly could not be that we perceive any necessary connection between
antecedent and consequent events, or any force or power binding these
together as cause and effect. Accordingly, Hume does not scruple to
affirm that 'we have no idea of connection or power at all, and that
these words are absolutely without meaning when employed either in
philosophical reasoning or in common life.' Every idea, he argues,
referring to a rule which he somewhat hastily supposes himself to have
already proved to be without exception, must needs have been copied from
some preceding sensible impression, but neither from within nor from
without can we have received an impression from which this particular
idea can have been copied. No keenest scrutiny of any portion of matter,
no study of its external configuration or internal structure could,
previously to experience, enable us to conjecture that it could produce
any effect whatever, still less any particular effect: could enable us
to guess, for instance, that flame would burn, or ice would chill, if
touched. Nor even though on once touching flame we get our fingers
burnt, are mature philosophers like us to conclude, as if we had no more
intelligence than so many babies, that if we touch again we shall be
burnt again. All we have as yet learnt from the experiment is that the
sensation of touching fire has once been followed by the sensation of
burning, but nothing has occurred to suggest that in the first sensation
lurked any secret power of producing the second. And what a single
experiment does not prove, no number of repetitions of precisely the
same experiment with precisely the same results can prove. Even though
on a lengthened course of experience we have found that in every case of
our touching flame our fingers have been burnt, we are still as far as
ever from perceiving any bond of connection between the two events. We
do indeed believe that as flame when touched has hitherto invariably
burnt, so, whenever touched hereafter, it will hereafter invariably
burn; but this, according to Hume, we believe simply because by long
practice we have contracted such a habit of associating the idea of
touched flame with burnt fingers, that whenever we witness the one we
cannot help expecting the other.

Neither, if, withdrawing our eyes from the outward world, we cast them
inwardly upon the operations of our own minds, shall we, according to
Hume, any the more discover what we are in search of. What though we
know by experience that whatever, within certain limits, our will
appoints, our bodily organs or mental faculties will ordinarily perform;
that our limbs will move as we wish them, and our memory, reason, or
imagination bring forward ideas which we desire to contemplate, what
knowledge have we here beyond that of certain volitions and certain
other acts taking place in succession? What smallest evidence have we of
any connection between the volitions and the other acts? A volition is
an operation of the mind, is it not? and body is matter, is it not? And
do you pretend to know--can you form the smallest approach to a
guess--how mind is united with body, and how it is possible therefore
for the refined spiritual essence to actuate the gross material
substance. If you 'were empowered by a secret wish to remove mountains
or to control the planets in their orbit,' would such extensive
authority be one whit more inexplicable than the supposed ability of
your will to raise your hand to your head or to cause your foot to make
one forward step?

If, nevertheless, you fancy you understand in what manner the will has
some of the bodily organs under its government, how, pray, do you
account for its not having all equally--the heart and liver as well as
the tongue and fingers? Without trying, you never would have discovered
that your bowels _will not_, any more than without trying you could have
known that your limbs _will_, ordinarily move in conformity with your
wishes. Neither, if one of your limbs were to be suddenly paralysed,
would you, until you tried, become aware that it would no longer move as
you wished. If there be, then, a power attached to the will, it is
plainly experience alone which apprises you of its existence; whereas
if you were independently conscious of it, you would know beforehand
precisely what it can and what it cannot effect, and would, moreover,
when you lost it, become instantly aware of your loss.

Again, and above all, does not anatomy teach us that when the mind wills
the movement of any bodily member, it 'is not the member itself which is
immediately moved, but certain intervening nerves, muscles, and animal
spirits, or possibly something still more minute and more unknown,'
through which the motion is successively propagated until it reach the
member? So that when the mind wills one event, a series of other events,
quite different and quite unthought of, take place instead; and it is
only by their means that the will's purpose is finally achieved. But how
can the mind be conscious, how can it form the remotest conception, of a
power which not only never does what the mind desires, but never does
aught of which the mind is cognisant?

And as we are thus utterly unable to perceive any power that the mind
has over the body, so are we equally unconscious of any power of the
mind over itself. We know as little of its internal nature and
constitution as we do of its mode of connection with the body. We know
by experience that at the bidding of the will ideas are continually
brought forward; but by what means they are brought forward we are
absolutely ignorant, as we are also of the reasons of the fluctuation of
mental activity, and why mental operations are more vigorous in health
than in sickness, before breakfast than after a heavy dinner or deep

Such, on the issue immediately before us, is Hume's reasoning, to
which--though necessarily very greatly condensing it--I shall, I am
sure, be acknowledged to have conscientiously striven to do full
justice, by bringing all its points into the strongest light, and
arranging them in the most effective order. Still, with its utmost
strength thus displayed before us, we are fully warranted in asserting
_à priori_ that its whole utmost strength is weakness. If, by following
a leader who has engaged to conduct us to a certain spot, we find
ourselves at our journey's end in a quite different place, no appeal
that the guide can make to maps or finger-posts will persuade us that he
has not mistaken the way. Nor need our judgment be otherwise, even
though our guide be Hume, if, having started with him in pursuit of
truth, we are finally landed in a patent absurdity. With all due respect
for logic, we protest with Tony Lumpkin against being argufied out of
our senses, as we plainly should be if we allowed ourselves to be
persuaded that whenever we use the words _power_ or _connection_ we have
no idea thereto correspondent. Since, then, Hume tells us this, we may
be quite sure that he has been deluded by some fallacy which may be
detected by adequate search; and being, moreover, sensible that we
really have the idea our possession of which is denied by him, we may be
equally sure that the original of which the idea is a copy is similarly
discoverable. In sooth, neither the one nor the other is far to seek.
The fallacy consists simply in confusion of the definite with the
indefinite article. The original of our idea of power Hume himself
indicates even while rejecting it. Although constrained by Hume's
demonstration to confess that we cannot even conjecture of what kind is
_the_ authority which the will exercises over the limbs, we are not the
less sensible that it does exercise _an_ authority of some sort or
other, which they are unable to disobey. We know that in ordinary
circumstances our limbs will move when we wish them to move, and will
remain quiet when we wish them not to move. Nor this only. We moreover
know, or at any rate fancy we know, that they would not have moved
unless we had wished them. In examples like these of volitions followed,
as the case may be, by _premeditated_ motion or rest, we have something
more than the simple sequence observable in the succession of external
events. We do not perceive simply that, as when fire is lighted, heat is
emitted, so when the mind wills the body moves. We perceive clearly that
there must be a connection of some sort between antecedent and
consequent, without which the first certainly _would not_ and, we fancy,
_could not_ have followed the first. We perceive, in short, that the
second followed _because_ the first preceded. If fire were an animated
being, capable of forming and manifesting volitions; and if we observed
that whenever it wished to emit heat, heat was emitted; and that
whenever it wished to withhold heat, heat was withheld; and if we were
thereupon to say that fire has the power of emitting or withholding heat
at its pleasure, our words surely would not be destitute of
signification; they would certainly possess some meaning, and that a
very obvious one. And so they as certainly do when we say that the mind
has power over those bodily movements which we observe to take place and
to cease in constant conformity with its will. I am not saying that what
they mean is necessarily truth--we will come to that presently--all I
say as yet is, that they mean something, and that that something,
whether it be a real or only an imaginary perception, is perfectly
fitted to be the original of that idea of 'power' _connecting_ cause and
effect, or of 'connection' _between_ cause and effect, which Hume
maintains does not exist, because there is no original from which it
can have been copied. It matters not that we are quite ignorant of what
nature is the something from which our idea of power possessed by the
mind over the body is derived, and which, for aught we know, may reside,
not in the mind, but in the body, and may consist, not of any strength
inherent in the former, but of loyalty and docility inherent in the
latter. Just as the authority of a popular general over a
well-disciplined army is not the less real because the soldiers, every
one of whose lives is at the general's disposal, might, if so inclined,
mutiny _en masse_, so it can make no difference in the mind's power over
the body whether the mind be intrinsically able to enforce obedience, or
the limbs be so constituted as to be unable to disobey. As little does
it matter that we are also ignorant of the mode in which the mind's
behests are communicated to the members. It is not the less certain that
in some mode or other they are communicated. Neither does it signify
more that the mind does not communicate directly with the part of the
body which it desires to influence, and acts upon that part only by
means of action propagated through a series of intervening parts; or
that it is able to direct only some organs, and not others, or cannot
direct even those, if by some accident they have become seriously
deranged. A strong-armed blockhead is not the less obviously able to
pump up water because the terms 'muscular contractility' and
'atmospheric pressure' are as heathen Greek to him; or because the
pump-handle, which alone is directly moved by him, touches, not the
water itself, but only the first link in a chain of mechanism connecting
it with the water; or because, if the sucker of the pump got choked, or
the well were to dry up, it would be vain for him to go on moving the
pump-handle. Blockhead as he is, nothing of all this in the least
diminishes his conviction that as long as the pump continues in order
and there remains water in the well, he can oblige the water to rise by
moving the pump-handle; nor can anything analogous prevent the mind from
feeling that whenever, in ordinary circumstances, it wills that the
limbs be moved, the limbs not only will be moved, but cannot help being
moved accordingly. But it is simply impossible that, from the exercise
of volitions which it knows will be obeyed, the mind should not receive
the sensation of exercising causal power; and having thus got the
sensation, it has nothing to do but to copy the sensation in order to
get the idea of causal power. _Ce n'est que le premier pas qui coûte_;
the first step being taken the others cost nothing. The mind having, by
introspection of its own operations, discovered what Hume, though
professing to look in the same direction, unaccountably contrived to
overlook--the idea, namely, of causal power--proceeds to apply that idea
to the connection of external phenomena. Not only do we, whenever we see
a horse or an ox walking of its own accord, infer that the animal walks
_because_ it wishes to walk; but having observed that, when a stone is
thrown into the air it invariably falls presently afterwards towards the
ground; that a magnet invariably attracts any light piece of iron placed
near it; that red-hot coals always burn; and that water always moistens,
we infer that the second constituent of each brace of phenomena takes
place _because_ of the first, meaning thereby that there is some strong
bond _connecting_ the two and _compelling_ one to follow the other. If
called upon to justify this inference, we may do so by reducing to
absurdity its only possible alternative. If there be supposed to be no
connection between two phenomena constituting one of those invariable
sequences which we are accustomed to denominate cause and effect, the
sequence which they constitute must needs be an unconnected sequence,
and the only reason for styling one of the phenomena a cause is, that it
is an antecedent which the other invariably follows. But according to
this, as has been pointed out over and over again, day would be the
cause of night, and night the cause of day, and tidal flux and reflux
likewise would be each other's causes; and Mr. J. S. Mill has therefore
proposed to interpolate a word, and to define the cause of a phenomenon
as 'the antecedent on which it (the phenomenon) is invariably and
_unconditionally_ consequent.'[30] I must, however, confess myself
unable to perceive how the definition is improved by this emendation.
There is not, and cannot possibly be, such a thing as _unconditionally_
invariable sequence, as, indeed, Mr. Mill himself virtually admits by
expressly assuming as an indispensable condition of all causation that
'the present constitution of things endure.' But if, notwithstanding the
presence of this indispensable condition, it be permissible to call any
sequence unconditionally invariable, then the sequences of night upon
day and of day upon night are such sequences, and day and night continue
consequently entitled to be styled each other's causes as much under the
amended as under the original definition. For as long as 'the present
constitution of things endures,' that is, as long as the earth continues
to revolve on its axis, and the sun continues to shine, and no opaque
substance intervenes between earth and sun, day and night will continue
to be as invariably and unconditionally each other's antecedents as
sunlight will continue to be the antecedent or concomitant of day.
True, Mr. Mill denies that the earth's diurnal motion is part of the
present constitution of things, because, according to him, 'nothing can
be so called which might possibly be terminated or altered by natural
causes:' but, if so, then neither ought sunlight to be so called, for it
too quite possibly may, nay, in the opinion of many philosophers, most
certainly will, be extinguished eventually by natural causes. If day
ought not to be called the unconditionally invariable consequent of
night merely because it would cease to be so if the earth were to cease
turning on its axis, then neither ought it to be called the
unconditionally invariable consequent of the unshrouded proximity of the
sun, inasmuch as it would cease to be thereupon consequent if the sun
were to become burnt out. If night be not, and if sunlight be, the cause
of day, the reason is not that sunlight always hitherto has been, and,
on one indispensable condition, always will be followed by day, for so
equally has hitherto been, and on the same condition will hereafter be,
night. The real reason is, that sunlight not only always has been and
will be, but also always _must_ be followed by day; that unless the
constitution of nature very materially change, wherever is sunlight day
_must_ be; whereas not only might day be, although night had never
preceded, but unless night had preceded, day must have been from the
beginning. In short, to constitute cause, invariability, however
unconditional, will not suffice. Another quality must be added, and that
quality I contend to be obligatoriness. A cause, I maintain, would not
be a cause unless its effect not only do or will, but _must_ necessarily
follow it. In common with the great unphilosophic mass of mankind, I
hold that between cause and effect there is a binding power which
constrains the one to follow the other. If asked whence we suppose that
power can have been derived, such of us, as conscious that we are 'no
very great wits,' don't mind confessing that we 'believe in a God,' will
not mind either suggesting that the power, wherever not exerted by an
animated creature, may possibly be directly from God. One thing certain
is, that inanimate matter cannot possibly possess or exercise any force
or power whatever, so that, unless matter, although apparently dead, be
really alive, attraction, cohesion, gravitation, and all its other so
called forces, being incompatible with dead inertness, must needs be
manifestations of some living, and possibly divine, power. Far from
there being any difficulty in conceiving Omnipresent Deity to be
exhibiting its might in every speck of universal space in every instant
of never-ending time, it is, on the contrary, impossible to conceive
otherwise. We cannot conceive one single minutest point in limitless
extension to be for one moment exempt from the immediate control of a
divine nature assumed to be

  Diffused throughout infinity's expanse
  And co-existent with eternity.

Here, indeed, we hasten to acknowledge with Hume that 'our line is too
short to fathom the immense abyss' which we have now reached. But we
need not, therefore, follow Hume to the lengths to which his insidious
mock-modesty would fain entice us. We may concede to him that 'we have
no idea of a Supreme Being but what we learn from reflection on our own
faculties,' but we need not imitate him by perversely shutting our eyes
to the evidences of an energy inherent in our own faculties, and thereby
entitle him to insist on our joining him in denying that there is any
evidence of energy in the Supreme Being. We need not, because
constrained to admit that we know no more of the essence of divine, than
we do of human, power, pretend that we cannot even conceive such a thing
as divine power. Hume's affectation of profound ignorance on the subject
must have occasioned unusual amusement in a certain quarter. The Devil
can seldom have had a more hearty grin at his darling sin than when
witnessing this peculiar exhibition of the pride that apes humility.

That Hume's ignorance was nothing but affectation is proved by his
veering completely round immediately afterwards, and in his very next
chapter, and almost in his very next page, pronouncing it to be
'universally allowed that matter in all its operations is actuated by a
necessary force, and that every natural effect is so precisely
determined by the energy of its cause that no other effect in such
particular circumstances could possibly have resulted from it.'
Throughout the same chapter he argues in the same sense, and quite
forgetting how obstinately he had just before contended that there are
absolutely no such things as connection or power at all, he defies any
one to 'define a cause without comprehending, as part of the definition,
_necessary_ connection with its effect.' So highly, indeed, does he now
rate that connecting power, whose very existence he had previously so
vehemently denied, that he professes himself unable to set any limit to
its efficacy. Even for those who should undertake to deduce from it the
impossibility of any liberty of human will, and consequently of any
human responsibility, pleading that, inasmuch as with a continued chain
of necessary causes, reaching from the first great cause of all to every
separate volition of every single human creature, it must needs be the
Creator of the world who is the ultimate author of all volitions, and
consequently solely accountable for every crime which man commits, he
affects, with exceedingly ill-sitting sanctimoniousness, to have no
better answer than that such belief, being impious, must be absurd and
cannot be true. It did not suit his purpose to point out that the
volitions of Omnipotence itself, equally with human volitions, are
necessary effects of causes--the causes in their case being the other
attributes with which Omnipotence is conjoined--and that as it is
nevertheless impossible for the volitions of Omnipotence to be otherwise
than absolutely free and uncontrolled, so there is no reason why human
volitions likewise should not, in spite of the same objection, be as
thoroughly free as our own feelings assure us they are.

Hume's sudden conversion, so amazing at first sight, from flattest
denial to positivest assertion of causal power, becomes intelligible
when he is seen immediately afterwards using his newly adopted creed as
a fulcrum whereon to rest his argumentative lever in his assault upon
Miracles. About that celebrated piece of reasoning, startling as the
avowal may sound, there is, to my mind, nothing more remarkable than its
celebrity, for, on close inspection, it will be found to be entirely
made up of (1) the demonstration of a truism, and (2) the inculcation of
a confessedly misleading rule. Not far from its commencement will be
found a definition which, if correct, would leave nothing to dispute
about. A miracle, we are told, is 'a violation of the laws of nature,'
of laws which a firm and unalterable experience has established. But if
so, _cadit quæstio_. Of course, there can be no alteration of the
unalterable. No need, of course, of further words to prove that a
miracle thus defined is an impossibility.

Let us suppose, however, the word _unalterable_ to have been used here
by a slip of the pen instead of _unaltered_, and that Hume really meant
by a miracle any alteration of what had previously appeared to be the
constant course of nature. Even so, we shall have him contending that no
amount, however great, of testimony however unimpeachable, ought to be
accepted as adequate proof of such an alteration. Of what he urges in
support of this position much may be at once dismissed as altogether
irrelevant. That the most honest witness may be the dupe of optical or
auricular illusion, or of a distorting or magnifying imagination; that
there is in many minds a natural predisposition to believe in the
marvellous, and that the love of astonishing often gives exaggerated
expression to the exaggerations of the fancy; that self-interest and
religious zeal often furnish additional motives for mendacity, and that
testimony, even when sincere at first, is apt to become corrupted at
every stage as it passes from hand to hand, or is committed to
paper--all this, together with any further enumeration of circumstances
calculated to invalidate testimony, is quite beside the real question.
It merely proves what no one needs to have proved, the propriety, viz.,
of weighing evidence and balancing adverse probabilities; and even
though it proved in addition that of all the so-styled miracles on
record, there is not a single one the evidence for which is sufficient,
it would still prove nothing to the purpose. For Hume is arguing against
the credibility, not of any miracles in particular, but of all miracles
in general, those included the witnesses for which are of indisputable
intelligence and undisputed veracity. Be the quality of the testimony
what it may, no quantity of it, according to him, can be sufficient.
This is the essence of his thesis, the only part of it in which there
is any novelty, and in behalf of this part all that he has to say may be
resolved into a sophism, followed by a repetition of the same begging of
the question, as is involved in his afore-cited definition of a miracle.
In substance it runs as follows. All testimony is at best but a
description of the results of sensible experience--of observations of
the senses--but the most faithful description must needs be a less vivid
presentation of truth than the reality described. A single original is
better evidence than any number of copies. Your own personal experience
is more trustworthy than any number of mere records of the experience of
other people, and where the two conflict, the former always deserves
preference. Now the personal experience of each one of us assures us
that many sets of natural phenomena take place in perfectly invariable
sequences, in sequences so invariable as to appear to be, and to be
familiarly spoken of as, manifestations or operations of certain
inflexible laws of nature. Within our experience there has never been a
single deviation from any such law. Wherefore, though all the rest of
mankind should unite in asserting that they have observed such a
deviation, we ought not to believe them. Even though, for example--the
example, however, being not Hume's, but my own--we were, on leaving home
some morning, to hear on all sides that, while we were yet in bed, the
sun was seen to rise in the west instead of the east, and though we
found the statement repeated in the 'Times' and 'Daily News,' and
presently afterwards saw it posted up at the Exchange as having been
flashed by electric wire from New York and Kurrachee, we are not for a
moment to doubt that these reiterated and mutually corroborative
statements are utterly false. For, numerous and consistent as they may
be, they are but copies of the experience of other people, while,
although we may have to oppose to them only our own single experience,
still that single experience is original, and therefore of more worth.
The value, moreover, of any experience is, irrespective of originality,
determined by the difference in number between the results of opposite
kinds which it has discovered. The smaller number is deducted from the
larger, and the balance represents the probability that the results
which have most frequently occurred hitherto will continue to occur
henceforward. The larger the deduction thus to be made, the smaller the
probability, and _vice versâ_; and when the deduction is _nil_, or when
there has hitherto been complete uniformity, the probability becomes
virtual certainty. When two original experiences are opposed to each
other, their respective values, ascertained in the same manner, are
compared, and trust is reposed in one or the other accordingly. Now,
according to these principles, difficult as it might be in the case
supposed for any one to conceive what motive all the rest of the world
could have for lying, it would be still more difficult to believe them
to be speaking truth. For why do we ever believe anything that anyone
says? Why but because we have learnt by experience that, when people
have no apparent motive for lying, they commonly do speak the truth? But
the same experience which has taught us this has taught us likewise that
people do now and then lie without apparent motive. At best, therefore,
there is never more than a probability that people are speaking the
truth, while in this instance, the supposition that they might be
speaking the truth would imply that there may be a truth against which
there is proof amounting to certainty. For what they affirm is that
something has happened the very reverse of what has invariably happened
before in the same circumstances. Is it not infinitely more likely that
people should be lying as they have often done before, than that the
invariable course of nature should have undergone a variation? With
evidence on the one side that has never yet deceived, with no evidence
on the other save what has often proved deceptive, how can we hesitate
which to accept? Even though the unanimity of testimony be such as might
otherwise be deemed complete proof, it is here met by absolutely
complete proof in the shape of a law of nature. The greater probability
overwhelms the lesser. The stronger proof annihilates the weaker,
leaving none of it behind, so that whoever still persists in believing
that a law of nature has been violated, must be content to do so without
one particle of proof. No quantity of testimony can furnish the smallest
proof of a miracle unless the falsehood of the testimony would be a
greater departure from antecedent uniformity--in other words, would be a
greater miracle--than the miracle which it attests. Unfortunately it is
but too notorious that there is not, and never has been, such a thing as
uniform truthfulness of testimony to depart from.

Such, unless most unintentionally injured by compression, is Hume's
famous argument against miracles, of which the author was sufficiently
proud to boast openly that in it he had discovered what 'will be useful,
as long as the world endures,' as 'an everlasting check to all kinds of
superstitious delusion,' but which, as I nevertheless venture to repeat,
is compounded in about equal moieties of transparent sophism and
baseless assumption. For is it not the veriest juggle of words to insist
on the necessary inferiority of copies to an original, without adverting
to the indispensable proviso that the original with which the copies
are compared should be the original from which the copies have been
taken? May not a copy of Leonardo Da Vinci's 'Last Supper' quite
possibly be equal in force and vividness of expression to the original
painting by Benjamin West bearing the same name? Might it not be wise to
trust rather to an Airy, or a De la Rue, or a Lockyer's account of what
he had observed during a solar eclipse than to your own immediate
observations on the same occasion? Besides, this first branch of Hume's
argument, if sound, would tell quite as much for, as against, miracles,
rendering it equally incumbent on actual witnesses to believe, as on all
but actual witnesses to disbelieve. If you are always to prefer your own
original experience to mere descriptions given by other people of
theirs, then should it happen to be yourself to whom the sun appeared in
the west at an hour when, according to custom, he ought to have been in
the east, you are not to allow the protestations of any number of
persons who, happening at the time to have been looking the other way,
saw the sun in his usual place, to persuade you that what you saw was a
mock sun or an _ignis fatuus_. Rather than imagine that your own senses
can have deceived you, you are to suppose that all about you are in a
league to deceive you. For precisely the same reason for which you
should reject even universal testimony in favour of a miracle which you
have not witnessed, you are equally to reject universal testimony in
opposition to a miracle the similitude of which you have witnessed.

Or is it possible for a question to be more distinctly begged than when,
to the question whether a miracle has occurred, it is answered that a
miracle is not a miracle unless there be uniform experience against it;
that uniformly adverse experience is direct and full proof against
anything; and that therefore there must always be full proof against
miracles? What is here taken for granted to be full proof is the very
thing requiring to be proved. If past uniformity really be a pledge for
continued uniformity, of course there can be no departure from
uniformity. If the whole question does not at once fall to the ground,
it is because no question has ever really arisen. But what shadow of
pretext is there for treating an hitherto unvaried course of events as
necessarily invariable? From past experience we have deduced what we are
pleased to call _laws_ of nature, but it is morally impossible that we
can seriously think, whatever we are in the habit of saying, that these
laws are self-denying ordinances whereby nature's God has voluntarily
abdicated part of His inalienable prerogative. The utmost efficacy we
are warranted in ascribing to them is that of lines marking certain of
the courses within which God's providence is pleased to move. But how
can we pretend to know for how long a season such may continue to be the
divine pleasure? How do we know that the present season may not be the
first of an alternating series, and that it may not at any moment
terminate, and be succeeded by one of an opposite character? What though
we have some shadow of historical evidence that most physical phenomena
have been going on in much the same order for some six thousand years,
is that a basis whereon to theorise with regard to the proceedings of
Him in whose sight one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years
as one day? Might not as well some scientific member of an insect tribe
of ephemera, whom ancestral tradition, confirmed by personal experience,
had assured that an eight-day clock had already gone on for six days,
pronounce it to be a law of the clock's nature that it should go on for
ever without being again wound up? Would the insect philosopher's
dogmatism be one whit less absurd than that of those human ephemera who
so positively lay down the law about the clockwork of the universe?
Those laws of nature to which unerring regularity and perpetuity of
operation are so confidently attributed, may they not, perchance, be but
single clauses of much farther reaching laws, according to whose other
provisions the force of these isolated clauses may, in novel
combinations of circumstances, be counteracted by some latent and
hitherto unsuspected force? Or is it not, at all events, open to their
divine promulgator to suspend their operation at his pleasure? May it
not conceivably have been preordained that the globe of our earth, after
revolving for a given number of ages, in one direction, shall then, like
a meat-jack, or like an Ascidian's heart,[31] reverse its order of
procedure, and commence a contrary series of revolutions? Or might not
He who prescribed to the earth its rotatory movement, will that the
rotation should for some hours cease, and that the sun should in
consequence seem to stand still, as it is recorded to have done at the
command of Joshua? Improbable as these suppositions may be, who that has
not been taken into counsel by his Creator can presume to say that they
may not be correct? The events which they involve are not inconceivable,
and whatever is not utterly inconceivable may possibly occur, however
numerous the chances against its occurrence. It is not then the fact
that 'past experience,' however unvaried, affords full proof of the
future existence of any event, or constitutes certainty against the
future existence of the reverse of that event. Completest uniformity of
experience cannot create a certainty by which any opposite probability
would be completely annihilated. It only creates a probability which,
however great, is still only a probability, and which would become a
smaller probability by deduction from it of any opposite probability.
But mere probability, however great, always includes some doubt as to
its own correctness, some suspicion that its opposite may possibly be
correct. How much soever, therefore, uniform experience may vouch for
the inviolability of natural laws, it always remains possible for those
laws to be violated, and, as miracles are nothing else but violations of
natural laws, it always remains possible for miracles to happen. But
since miracles are possible, testimony to their occurrence may, with
equal possibility, be true, and no further refutation can, I submit, be
needed for an argument which insists that all such testimony should be
set aside without enquiry as self-evidently false.

Had Hume been content to insist that testimony in favour of miracles
should never be received without extreme doubt and hesitation, his
lesson might well have passed without further objection than that of its
being superfluous for any one with sense enough to profit by it. Nor
might it have been easy to discover a flaw in his logic, although he had
gone so far as to maintain that no one of the miracles as yet on record
is either adequately attested, or would, even if it had undoubtedly
occurred, afford sufficient evidence of any religious truth. The best
and only adequate evidence for any religious creed is the satisfaction
which it affords to the soul's cravings and promises to the soul's
aspirations; and no rational Christian would be at all the more disposed
to turn Mussulman, even though it should be demonstrated to his entire
conviction that Christ did not raise Lazarus from the dead, and that
Mahomet did turn the hill Safa into gold, instead of prudently confining
himself to boasting that he could have effected the transmutation if he
had thought proper. But for the purpose which Hume had in view, it was
necessary to establish, not merely the doubtfulness, but the absolute
falsehood of the miracular testimony on which, in his opinion, 'our holy
religion' rests, in order that the character of the superstructure being
inferred from that of the foundation, both might be condemned together.
There is, however, an irreligious as well as a religious fanaticism,
and, though it is difficult, while looking at Hume's portrait, to credit
the owner of that plump, good-humoured face with feeling of any sort
warm enough to be termed fanatical, it is humiliating to note from his
example into what strange inconsistency the coolest and calmest judgment
may be warped by irreligious prejudice. Having not long before, in order
to disparage _natural_ religion, emphatically denied the existence of
any causal connection between successive events, he now, in order
equally to discredit the very possibility of _revealed_ religion,
tacitly assumes that same connection, not simply to exist, but to be of
an efficacy which no disturbing forces can impair. Admitting that 'the
Indian prince who refused to believe the first relations concerning the
effects of frost' was wrong in his belief, Hume will have it that the
prince nevertheless 'reasoned justly.' Although recognising truth to be
the sole worthy object of quest, he yet enjoins rigid adherence to a
rule which he is aware must inevitably lead to frequent error.

Rather strikingly contrasted, in respect of execution, with Hume's
chapter on Miracles, comes the one next in order on a Providence and a
Future State, which, for the skill with which the fallacy involved in it
is disguised, may be regarded as quite a masterpiece of false reasoning.
Among its leading propositions there is but one which does not command
immediate assent. That we can argue but from what we know; that of
causes, known to us only by their effects, our estimate ought to be
exactly proportioned to the effects; that of a Creator manifested only
by His works, no higher qualities, no greater degrees of power,
intelligence, justice, or benevolence, can be confidently
predicated--whatever be conjectured--than are apparent in his
workmanship: all this, on one moment's reflection, is perceived to be
indisputable. Needs must it be, however reluctantly, admitted that
nothing can be more illogical than to return back to the cause, and
infer from it other effects beyond those by which alone it is known to
us, or to infer from creative attributes, distinctly manifested, the
existence of other and not apparent attributes, endowed with some
efficacy additional to that possessed by the former. But does it hence
follow that faith in a superintending Providence is so mere a matter of
'conceit and imagination,' a faith so absolutely irrational as Hume
considered it? A candid examination of God's works will warrant us in
coming to a widely different conclusion. Among those works is man--a
being who, in spite of the utter insignificance of his greatest
_performances_, is capable of forming most exalted _conceptions_ of
justice, benevolence, and goodness in general, and of feeling the most
eager desire to act up to his own ideal. If the divine notions of
goodness in its several varieties be not identical with the human, it
can only be because they are superior; and so, too, of the divine love
of, and zeal for, goodness. It cannot be that the Creator is inferior to
the creature in virtues which the creature derives from Him alone.
Demonstrably, therefore, God is good and just in the very highest degree
in which those qualities can be conceived by man. Demonstrably, too,
since the universe is the work of His hands, He must be possessed of
power which, if not necessarily unbounded, is at least as boundless as
the universe. Thus, rigidly arguing from effects to causes, and
scrupulously proportioning the one to the other, man sees imaged on the
face of creation a creator, both realising his highest conception of
goodness, and wielding measureless might. Is not such a being worthy to
be looked up to, and confided in, and adored and loved as a
superintending providence? Is not faith in such a providence not simply
not irrational, but the direct result of a strictly inductive process?
And would it be an irrational stretch of faith sanguinely to hope, if
not implicitly to believe, that an union of infinite justice with
measureless might may, in some future stage of existence, afford
compensation for the apparently inequitable distribution of good and
evil which, according to all experience, has hitherto taken place among
human beings?

Were it desirable to amplify the apology with which this paper
commenced, some additional justification of the freedom of the
foregoing criticisms might be found in hints thrown out by Hume in
various parts of the treatise which we have been examining, and
particularly in its concluding chapter, that in many of his most
startling doctrines he was but half in earnest. Hume's temperament, too
cool for fanaticism, had yet in it enough of a certain tepid geniality
to save him from becoming a scoffer. The character which he claims for
himself, and somewhat ostentatiously parades, is that of a sceptic or
general doubter--a character in which, when rightly understood, there is
nothing to be ashamed of. To take nothing on trust, to believe nothing
without proof, to show no greater respect for authority than may consist
in attentive and candid examination of its statements, to accept only
verified facts as bases for reasoning on matters of fact and
existence--these are golden rules of philosophical research, principles
in which lies the secret of all real progress in any of the higher
departments of science. By Hume they were adopted _con amore_, and with
keen appreciation, not more of their practical utility, than of the
sport which he perceived them to be capable of yielding. His serious
purpose was to unmask the numberless pretences which in politics,
political economy, metaphysics, morals, and theology he found
universally current as gospel truths; to expose the ambiguity and
contradictions latent in popular thought, and in the popular forms of
expression which are so apt to be mistaken for thought, and to indicate
the only safe mode of investigation and the only trustworthy tests of
genuine knowledge; his favourite amusement to put time-honoured
commonplaces on the rack, and demanding their _raison d'être_, to pass
on them summary sentence of extinction if they failed to account
satisfactorily for their existence. Unfortunately, in his keen
enjoyment of the fun of the thing, he not unfrequently overlooked the
solid interests at stake. Like a huntsman who, for the sake of a better
run, should outrace his quarry, or who, seeing that the dogs were close
upon the hare, should, in order to prolong the chase, start a fresh
hare, kept till then snug at his saddle-bow, so Hume, in the excitement
of metaphysical pursuit, instead of stopping to gather up whatever
verified affirmations came in his way, would prefer to follow any new
negation that he espied, or, if momentarily accepting any affirmation as
established, would proceed forthwith to affirm its direct opposite with
the view of neutralising both. In this, his practice resembled that of
metaphysicians in general, who take a singular delight in setting
themselves riddle after riddle, which they either assume to be
hopelessly insoluble, or which they no sooner solve than they use the
solution as the subject of another riddle involving its predecessor in
redoubled perplexity. Now, little harm, and little, perhaps, of anything
but good, might thereby be done if the lovers of this game were content
to play it by themselves, without inviting others to join who are
constitutionally unfit for such intellectual wrestling. But mental
exercises may to philosophers be health and invigorating sport, and yet
be death to the multitude; and Hume, as an Utilitarian, stands
self-condemned for making ordinary people uncomfortable by challenging
them to disputations confessedly leading no whither, and bewildering
them with confessedly 'vain and profane babblings, and strivings after
words to no profit, but to subverting of the hearers, and overthrow of
the faith of some.' And it is as poor an excuse for this wanton
tampering with other people's creeds, as it is poor amends for its
mischievous consequences, that Hume offers when, after watching for a
while his puzzled disciples blown about by the winds of adverse doctrine
that he has let loose upon them, he proceeds to rally them on their
'whimsical condition,' which he speaks of as a mere laughing matter got
up chiefly for amusement. It is only an aggravation of offence that,
while, on the one hand, he solemnly pronounces everything to be 'a
riddle, an enigma, an inexplicable mystery,' he, on the other hand,
cheerily exhorts us not to suffer the 'doubts raised by philosophy to
affect our actions.' 'Nature,' he says, 'is always too strong for
principles, will always maintain her rights, and prevail, in the end,
against all reasoning whatever.' 'The great subverter of Pyrrhonism,' he
continues, 'is actual employment and the occupations of common life,' in
presence of which its overstrained scruples 'vanish like smoke.'
Although real knowledge consists solely in knowing that we know nothing,
and in doubting everything, and although sceptics may 'justly triumph'
in principles which lead them to deny even the attraction of
gravitation, still they had better beware how they act on these
principles, lest by stepping unconcernedly out of window they come
fatally to grief on the stones below, and so the sect and its tenets be
annihilated together. So, or to such effect, Hume: but how can there be
just ground for pride in speculations which, as their own professors
admit, would, on the first attempt to reduce them to practice, be
shattered to pieces by hard facts? That cannot possibly, even on Hume's
recommendation, be accepted as metaphysical truth, which flatly
contradicts common sense, nor can there be any unbecoming
self-confidence in seeking, even though Hume pronounce the search
hopeless, for metaphysical truth, with which common sense may be


[29] Analysis of the Phenomena of the Human Mind. By James Mill. Edition
of 1869, with Notes by Alexander Bain, Andrew Findlater, George Grote,
and John Stuart Mill, vol. i. pp. 78 _et seq._

[30] Mill's 'Logic.' 5th Edition. Vol. i. p. 377.

[31] 'There is a class of animals called Ascidians, which possess a
heart and a circulation, and up to the year 1824 no one would have
dreamt of questioning the propriety of the deduction, that these
creatures have a circulation in one definite and invariable direction;
nor would any one have thought it worth while to verify the point. But
in that year M. von Hasselt, happening to examine a transparent animal
of this class, found to his infinite surprise that after the heart had
beat a certain number of times, it stopped, and then began beating the
opposite way, so as to reverse the course of the current, which returned
by-and-by to its original direction.'--_Huxley's Lay Sermons_, p. 95.



  '_À force d'esprit tout lui paroît matière._'

In one of his interesting 'Lay Sermons,' the most interesting perhaps of
the whole interesting series, Professor Huxley, taking for his theme the
'Physical Basis of Life,' combats 'the widely-spread conception of life
as a something which works through matter, but is independent of it;'
affirming, on the contrary, 'that matter and life are inseparably
connected, and that there is one kind of matter which is common to all
living beings.' The preacher may be safely allowed to have
satisfactorily made out the second portion of this affirmation. With his
own singular felicity of illustration, he shows how all vegetable and
animal tissues, without exception, from that of the brightly coloured
lichen looking so like a mere mineral incrustation on the rock that
bears it, to that of the painter who admires or the botanist who
dissects it, are, however diverse in aspect, essentially one in
composition and structure. He explains how the microscopic fungi
clustering by millions within the body of a single fly, the giant pine
of California towering to the height of a cathedral spire, the Indian
fig-tree covering acres with its profound shadow, the animalcules of
ocean's lowest deep, minute enough to dance in myriads on the point of a
needle, and the Finner whale, hugest of beasts, that disports its ninety
feet of bone and blubber on ocean's billowy heights, the flower that a
girl wears in her hair, and the blood that courses through her veins,
are, each and all, smaller or larger multiples or aggregates of one and
the same structural unit, which, again, is invariably resolvable into
the same identical elements. That unit, he tells us, is an atom or
corpuscle composed of oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, and carbon, which, and
which alone, seem to be required by nature for laying withal the
foundations of vitality, inasmuch as no substance from which any one of
these ingredients is totally absent, ever exhibits any sign of life,
while, on the other hand, not only are these four ingredients sufficient
of themselves to form a substance capable of living, but they actually
do with very little (when any) foreign admixture, form all substances
whatsoever that are ever found vivified. All such substances, he informs
us, are but varieties of _protoplasm_, differing indeed from each other
in texture, colour, and general appearance, even as a diamond differs
from granite, yet all being equally protoplasm, just as a diamond and a
block of granite are equally stones, or as heart of oak and the outer
case of a nettle's sting are equally wood. The human ovum, he gives us
to understand, is in its earliest stage but a single particle of
protoplasm; the human foetus but an aggregation of such particles,
variously modified; the human body perfectly matured, but a larger
aggregation of such particles still further modified.

He proceeds to point out, as following from these premises, that a
solution of smelling salts, together with an infinitesimal quantity of
certain other salts, contains all the elements that enter into the
composition of protoplasm, and consequently of whatever substance the
very highest animal requires for sustenance. He does not, however,
leave us to suppose that any abundance of the fluid in question would
avail aught to save a hungry creature of any sort from starving, but
continues his exposition to the following effect. Not only is there no
animal, there is not even any vegetable organism, to which the elements
of food can serve as food, as long as they remain elementary. It is
indispensable that hydrogen and oxygen should combine to form water,
nitrogen and hydrogen to form ammonia, carbon and oxygen to form
carbonic acid; and even then, even at a table groaning under whole
hogsheads of these primitive compounds, there is no single animal that
would not find itself at a Barmecide feast. There are many plants
likewise, which in the midst of such uncongenial plenty would be equally
without a drop to drink; but there are also multitudes of others which,
without the aid of any more elaborated nutriment, would be able to grow
into a million, nay million million fold of their original bulk.
Provided there be in the seed or germ of any of these latter one single
particle of living protoplasm to begin with, that single particle may
convert into animated protoplasm an indefinite quantity of inanimate
ammonia, carbonic acid, and water. The protoplasm thus created in the
first instance, and created, let us suppose, in the form of a lichen or
a fungus, is converted by decay into vegetable mould, in which grass may
take root and grow, and which, in that case, will be converted into
herbaceous protoplasm; which, being eaten by sheep or oxen, becomes
ovine or bovine protoplasm, commonly called mutton or beef; which,
again, being eaten by man, becomes human protoplasm, and, if eaten by a
philosopher, becomes part of a mass of protoplasm capable of
investigating and of expounding in lectures or lay sermons, the changes
which itself and its several components have undergone.

So far we advance with willing steps like dutiful disciples along the
path of knowledge indicated by our distinguished biological teacher, who
here, however, pulls us up short by suddenly intimating that he sees no
break in the series of transubstantiations whereby precisely such
oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and carbon as he is lecturing upon, have
become metamorphosed into him, the lecturer, and us, the lectured
audience, and cannot 'understand why the language which is applicable to
any one term of the series should not be used in regard to any of the
others.' Oxygen and hydrogen, he reminds us, are gases, whose particles,
at and also much below 32° Fahrenheit, tend to rush away from each other
with great force; and this tendency we call a property of each gas. Let
oxygen and hydrogen be mixed in certain proportions, and an electric
spark passed through them, and they will disappear, and a quantity of
water equal in weight to the sum of their weights will appear in their
place. But amongst the properties of the water will be some, the direct
opposites of those of its components; watery particles, for example, at
any temperature not higher than 32° Fahrenheit, tending not to rush
asunder, but to cohere into definite geometrical shapes or to build up
frosty imitations of vegetable foliage. And let the water be brought
into conjunction with ammonia and carbonic acid, and the three will,
under certain conditions, give rise to protoplasm, which again, if
subjected to a certain succession of processes, will rise by successive
stages from protoplasm that gives no other signs of life than those of
feeding and reproducing its kind, to protoplasm endowed with the power
of spontaneous motion, and finally to protoplasm that thinks and
reasons, speculates and philosophises. Now why should any of the various
phenomena of life exhibited by these varieties of protoplasm be supposed
to be of a different class from the appearances of activity exhibited by
any of the varieties of lifeless matter? What reason is there why, for
instance, thought should not be termed a property of thinking
protoplasm, just as congelation is a property of water, and
centrifugience of gas? Professor Huxley protests that he is aware of no
reason. We call, he says, the several strange phenomena which are
peculiar to water, 'the properties of water, and do not hesitate to
believe that in some way or other they result from the properties of the
component elements of water. We do not assume that something called
_aquosity_ entered into and took possession of the oxide of hydrogen as
soon as it was formed, and then guided the aqueous particles to their
places in the facets of the crystal or among the leaflets of the hoar
frost. On the contrary, we live in the hope and faith that, by the
advance of molecular physics, we shall by-and-by be able to see our way
as clearly from the constituents of water to the properties of water, as
we are now able to deduce the operations of a watch from the form of its
parts or the manner in which they are put together.' Why, then, when
carbonic acid, water, and ammonia disappear, and an equivalent weight of
the matter of life makes its appearance in their place, should we assume
the existence in the living matter of a something which has no
representative or correlative in the unliving matter that gave rise to
it? Why imagine that into the newly formed hydro-nitrogenised oxide of
carbon a something called vitality entered and took possession? 'What
better philosophical status has vitality than aquosity?' 'If scientific
language is to possess a definite and constant signification, we are,'
he considers, 'logically bound to apply to protoplasm or the physical
basis of life the same conceptions as those which are held to be
legitimate elsewhere.' Wherefore, he concludes, that 'if the phenomena
exhibited by water are its properties, so are those presented by
protoplasm _its_ properties,' and that if it be correct to describe 'the
properties of water as resulting from the nature and disposition of its
component molecules,' there can be no 'intelligible ground for refusing
to say that the properties of protoplasm result from the nature and
disposition of its molecules.'

Here, however, our lay preacher candidly warns us that by the vast
majority of his clerical brethren this doctrine would be denounced as
rankest heresy, and that whoever accepts it is placing his foot on the
first rung of a ladder which, in most people's estimation, is the
'reverse of Jacob's, and leads to the antipodes of heaven.' He frankly
owns that the terms of his propositions are distinctly materialistic:
nay, that whoever commits himself to them will be temporarily landed in
'gross materialism.' Not the less, however, does he, mingling
consolation with admonition, recommend us to plunge boldly into the
materialistic slough, promising to point out a way of escape from it,
and insisting, indeed, that through it lies the only path to genuine
spiritualistic truth.

In pronouncing this to be exceedingly evil counsel, as with the most
unfeigned respect for its author I feel bound at once to do, it might
not be necessary for me to undertake a detailed topographical survey of
the path alluded to. It might, perhaps, suffice to specify the
conclusions to which the path is represented as leading, in order to
show that those conclusions cannot possibly be reached by any such
route. By Professor Huxley himself they are thus described:--We know
nothing of matter 'except as a name for the unknown and hypothetical
cause of states of our own consciousness,' nor of spirit, except that
'it also is a name for an unknown and hypothetical cause of states of
consciousness. In other words matter and spirit are but names for the
imaginary _substrata_ of groups of natural phenomena.'

But if matter be not a thing, but a name, and a name too not for a real,
but only an imaginary thing, one perfect certainty is that matter cannot
possibly be composed either wholly or in part of molecules, and, by
necessary consequence, that life cannot possibly be 'the product of any
disposition of material molecules,' nor the phenomena of life be
'expressions of molecular changes in the matter of life.' Of the
particular Huxleian doctrine which we are considering, the two moieties
are absolutely irreconcileable; so that on the assumption that either
moiety were true, the truth of that moiety would be decisive against the
other. If matter have no real, and only a nominal existence, life, which
is undeniably a reality, cannot be a property of matter. If life, being
an undisputed reality, be a property of matter, matter must needs be a
reality also, and not merely a name. Any one, however, who, like myself,
is thoroughly convinced that both halves of the doctrine are equally and
utterly erroneous, is precluded from employing one for the refutation of
the other, and in order to prove, as I shall now attempt to do, that
life is in no sense either a product or a property of matter, must
resort for the purpose to independent reasoning.

I commence by defining one of the principal terms occurring in the
debate. When in scientific discourse we speak of anything as a property
of an object, we mean thereby not simply that it is a thing belonging to
the object, but also that it is a thing without which the object could
not subsist. We mean that it is one of the constituents inherent in and
inseparable from the object, whose union gives to the object its
distinctive character. When we call fluidity at one temperature,
solidity at another, and vaporisation at a third, properties of water,
we mean that matter which did not liquefy, congeal, and evaporate at
different temperatures would not be water. The habits of exhibiting
these phenomena, in conjunction with certain other habits, make up the
aquosity or wateriness of water. They are parts of water's nature, and,
in the absence of any one of them, water would not be its own self, and
could not exist. But in no such sense, nor in any sense whatever, is the
life or vitality whereby what we are accustomed to call animated are
distinguished from inanimate objects, essential to the existence of the
species of matter termed matter of life or protoplasm. Take from water
its aquosity, and water ceases to be water; but you may take away
vitality from protoplasm, and yet leave protoplasm as much protoplasm as
before. Vitality, therefore, evidently bears to protoplasm a quite
different relation from that which aquosity bears to water. Protoplasm
can do perfectly well without the one, but water cannot for a moment
dispense with the other. Protoplasm, whether living or lifeless, is
equally itself; but unaqueous water is unmitigated gibberish. But if
protoplasm, although deprived of its vitality, still remains protoplasm,
vitality plainly is not indispensable to protoplasm, is not therefore a
_property_ of protoplasm.

And that it is not a _product_ of protoplasm, or a result of any
particular arrangement of protoplasmic particles or molecules, is not
less easily or unanswerably demonstrable. For if it were, as long as the
particular molecular arrangement remained unaltered, life would
necessarily be in attendance; an amputated joint would, until
decomposition set in, be as much alive as the trunk from which it had
been lopped, even as water poured from a jug into a glass is quite as
much liquid as the water remaining in the jug. There would be no such
thing as dead meat, which was not putrid as well as dead, any more than
water can freeze without changing from a fluid to a solid; and there
would moreover be production antecedent in origin to its own producer.
The force of the last at least of these objections is not to be
resisted. Water, ammonia, and carbonic acid cannot, it is admitted,
combine to form protoplasm, unless a principle of life preside over the
operation. Unless under those auspices the combination never takes
place. At present, whenever assuming its presidential functions, the
principle of life seems to be invariably embodied in a portion of
pre-existing protoplasm; but there certainly was a time when the fact
was otherwise. Time was, as geology places beyond all doubt, when our
globe and its appurtenances consisted wholly of inorganic matter, and
possessed not one single animal or vegetable inhabitant. In order, then,
that any protoplasm or the substance of any organism should have been
brought into existence in the first instance, life plainly must have
been already existent. It must at one time have been possible for life,
without being previously embodied, to mould and vivify inert matter;
and it must needs have been by unembodied life that inorganic matter was
first organised and animated. There is no possible alternative to this
conclusion, except that of supposing that death may have given birth to
life--that absolutely lifeless and inert matter may have spontaneously
exerted itself with all the marvellous energy requisite for its
conversion into living matter, exerting for the purpose powers which,
under the conditions of the case, it could not have acquired without
exercising before it acquired them. Whoever declines to swallow such
absurdity has no choice but to admit that unembodied life must have been
the original manufacturer of protoplasm: but to admit this, and yet to
suppose that when now-a-days embodied life is observed to give birth to
new embodied life, the credit of the operation belongs not to the life
itself but to its protoplasmic embodiment, is much the same as to
suppose that when a tailor, dressed in clothes of his own making, makes
a second suit of clothes, this latter is the product not of the tailor
himself but of the clothes he is wearing.

Thus, irrespectively of whatever grounds there may be for believing that
life still _does_, it is incontestable that life once _did_, exist apart
from protoplasm; and that protoplasm both may and continually does exist
apart from what is commonly understood by life, must be obvious to every
one who is aware that protoplasm is the substance of which all plants
and all animals are composed, and has observed also that plants and
animals are in the habit of dying. That matter and life are inseparably
connected cannot, therefore, it would seem, be asserted except in total
disregard of the teachings both of reason and observation, and 'the
popular conception of life as a something which works through matter but
is independent of it,' would seem to be as true as it is popular. If
the only choice allowed to us be between 'the old notion of an Archæus
governing and directing blind matter,' and the new conception of life as
the product of a certain disposition of material molecules, the absolute
certainty that the latter conception is wrong, may be fairly urged as
equivalent to certainty, equally absolute, that the former notion is

How far soever it may be true that, as Professor Huxley says, 'the
progress of physical science means, and has in all ages meant, the
extension of the province of matter and causation,' it is certainly not
true that, as he proceeds to predict, the same province will ever be
extended sufficiently to banish from the region of human thought not
'spontaneity' simply, but likewise 'spirit.' In one direction at least,
limits are clearly discernible which scientific investigation need not
hope to overleap. How much soever we may eventually discover of the
changes whereby inorganic matter becomes gradually adapted for the
reception of life, physical science can never teach us what or whence is
the life that eventually takes possession of the finished receptacle.
Possibly we at length may, as Professor Huxley doubts not that we
by-and-by shall, see how it is that the properties peculiar to water
have resulted from the properties peculiar to the gases whose junction
constitutes water; and similarly how the characteristic properties of
protoplasm have sprung from properties in the water, ammonia, and
carbonic acid that have united to form protoplasm; but knowing all this,
we shall not be a hair's breadth nearer to the more recondite knowledge
up to which it is expected to lead. To extract the genesis of life from
any data that completest acquaintance with the stages and processes of
protoplasmic growth can furnish, is a truly hopeless problem. Given
the plan of a house, with samples of its brick and mortar, to find the
name and nationality of the householder, would be child's play in
comparison. Life, as we have seen, is not the offspring of protoplasm,
but something which has been superinduced upon, and may be separated
from, the protoplasm that serves as its material basis. It is,
therefore, distinct from the matter which it animates, and, being thus
immaterial, cannot possibly become better known by any analysis of

Of this emphatically vital question Professor Huxley, as has been
already intimated, takes a diametrically opposite view. He does not
merely, in sufficiently explicit terms, deny that there is any intrinsic
difference between matter and spirit, and affirm the two to be, in spite
of appearances, essentially identical. If this were all, I at any rate
should not be entitled to object, for I shall myself presently have
occasion to use very similar language, although attaching to it a widely
different meaning from that with which it is used by Professor Huxley.
But the latter goes on to avow his belief that the human body, like
every other living body, is a machine, all the operations of which will
sooner or later be explained on physical principles, insomuch that we
shall eventually arrive at a mechanical equivalent of consciousness,
even as we have already arrived at a mechanical equivalent of heat. He
considers that with the same propriety with which the amount of heat
which a pound weight produces by falling through the distance of a foot,
may be called its equivalent in one sense, may the amount of feeling
which the pound produces by falling through a foot of distance on a
gouty big toe, be called its equivalent in another sense, to wit, that
of consciousness. Yet he protests against these tenets being deemed
materialistic, which, he declares, they certainly neither are nor can
be, for that while he himself certainly holds them, he as certainly is
not himself a materialist. Professor Huxley is among the last to be
suspected of talking anything, as Monsieur Jourdain did prose, without
knowing it. He knows perfectly well that he has here been talking
materialism, but he insists that his materialism is only another form of
idealism. He seeks to evade the seemingly inevitable deduction from his
premises by representing both matter and spirit as mere names, and
names, too, not for real things, but for fanciful hypotheses which may
be spoken of indifferently in materialistic or in spiritualistic terms,
thought in the one case being treated as a form of matter, and matter in
the other as a form of thought. The identity of matter and spirit is, in
short, represented by him as consisting in this: that the existence of
both is merely nominal, or at best merely ideal.

Ordinary folk may perhaps be somewhat slow to derive from this
compromising theory all the comfort which its author deems it capable of
affording. Most of us may, probably, be inclined to think that we might
as well have been left to fret in the frying-pan of materialism as be
cast headlong into idealistic fire, to no better end than that of being
there fused body and soul together, and sublimated into inapprehensible
nothingness. Our immediate concern, however, is not with the
pleasantness of the theory, but with its truth; in proceeding to test
which we shall probably find that there is as little warrant for
idealising matter after this fashion as we have already seen that there
is for materialising mind.

The originator of the theory about to be examined, or rather, perhaps,
of a somewhat different theory out of which this has been developed--not
to say perverted--may, without much inaccuracy, be pronounced to be
Descartes. He it was who, perceiving that we are surrounded on all sides
by illusions of all sorts, that not only is there no authority or
testimony implicitly to be depended on, but that our senses likewise
often play the traitor, and that we can never be perfectly sure whether
we are really seeing, hearing, or feeling, or merely thinking or
dreaming that we see, hear, or feel, and looking anxiously around for
one single point at least on which complete confidence might be placed,
discovered such a point in thought. Whatever else we may doubt about, we
cannot, he justly argued, doubt that there are thoughts. If it were
possible to doubt this, our very doubt would be thought, constituting
and presenting as evidence the very existence doubted of. Our thoughts,
then, are unquestionably real existences. They may be delusive, but they
cannot possibly be fictitious.

We may perhaps hereafter have occasion to note how Descartes, having
thus secured one firm foothold and solid resting-place, outwent the
farthest stretch of Archimedean ambition by using it, not as a fulcrum
from whence to move the world, but as a site for logical foundations
whereon he might, if he had persevered, have raised the superstructure
of an universe at once mental and material.[32] Intermediately, however,
we have to observe how two pre-eminent disciples of the Cartesian
school have perverted the fundamental proposition of their great master
by treating its converse as its synonyme. Descartes having demonstrated
that all thought is existence, Bishop Berkeley and Professor Huxley
infer that all existence is thought. So says the Professor in so many
words, and to precisely the same effect is the more diffuse language of
the Bishop, where, speaking of 'all the choir of heaven and furniture of
earth, of all the bodies which compose the mighty frame of the world,'
he declares that their _esse_ is _percipi_, that their 'being' consists
in their being 'perceived or known,' and that unless they were actually
perceived by, or existed in, some created or uncreate mind, they could
not possibly exist at all.

The reasoning in support of these assertions is in substance as
follows:--We know nothing of any material object except by the
sensations which it produces in our minds. What we are accustomed to
call the _qualities_ of an object are nothing else but the mental
sensations of various kinds which the object produces within us. Some of
these qualities, such as extension, figure, solidity, motion, and
number, are classed as primary; others, as, for instance, smell, taste,
colour, sound, as secondary. Now that these latter have no existence
apart from mind can readily be shown thus. If I prick my finger with a
needle, the pain I suffer in consequence is surely in myself, not in the
needle, nor anywhere else but in myself. If an orange be placed on my
open hand, my sensation of touching it is in myself, not in the orange.
If the orange could feel, what it would feel would be a hand, while what
I am feeling is an orange. Nor are my sensations of pain and touch
merely confined to myself; they are also confined to a particular part
of myself, viz., to the brain, the seat of my consciousness, which it
is, and not the finger or hand, that really feels when the one is hurt,
or when anything comes in harmless contact with the other. To prove
this, let the fine nervous threads, which, running up the whole length
of the arm, connect the skin of the finger with the spinal marrow and
brain, be cut through close to the spinal cord, and no pain will be
felt, whatever injury be done: while if the ends which remain in
connection with the cord be pricked, the sensation of pricking in the
finger will arise just as distinctly as before. Or let a walking-stick
be held firmly by the handle, and its other end be touched, and the
tactile sensation will be experienced as if at the end of the stick,
where, however, it plainly cannot be. It is the mind alone which feels,
but which, by a peculiar faculty of localisation or extradition, seems
to remove a feeling exclusively its own, not only to the outside of
itself, but to the outside also of the walls of its fleshly tenement.
And as it is with pain or touch, so it is with every sensation with
which any of the so-called secondary qualities of matter are identical.
If I look at, or smell, or taste a blood orange, the sensation of
colour, or scent, or flavour I receive is entirely and exclusively my
own, the orange remaining quite unconscious of its own redness, or
fragrance, or sweetness, and not, indeed, possessing in itself any real
qualities of the kind. For to take redness as an example; how does the
sensation of it or of any other colour arise? The waves of a certain
very attenuated medium, the particles of which are vibrating with vast
rapidity but with very different velocities, strike upon an object and
are thrown off in all directions. Of the particles which vibrate with
any particular velocity, some are gathered by the optical apparatus of
the eye, and deflected so as to impinge on the retina and on the fibres
of the optic nerve therewith connected, producing in these fibres a
change which is followed by other changes in the brain, which, again, by
virtue of some inscrutable union between the brain and the mind, create
a feeling or consciousness of colour. What the particular colour shall
be, depends either on the rate of motion in the vibrating medium or on
the character of the retina; and if, while the former remained the same,
the other were to be altered, or if two persons, with differently formed
retinas, and one of the two colour-blind, were to be looking, what had
first seemed red might now seem green, or what seemed red to one
spectator might seem green to the other. But as the same object cannot
itself be both red and green at the same time, it follows that what are
called its redness and greenness are not in it, but in the spectator.
Similarly, the sounds which an object appears to give forth neither are
nor ever were in it: they originate in the mind of the hearer, and have
not, and never have had any existence elsewhere. 'If the whole body were
an eye, where,' asks St. Paul, 'were the hearing? If the whole were
hearing, where were the smelling?' and Professor Huxley more than meets
the drift of the Apostle's questions by pronouncing it 'impossible to
imagine but that if the universe contained only blind and deaf beings,
darkness and silence would reign everywhere.'

And as with the secondary qualities of matter, so, on the same showing,
must it be with the primary. If colour, taste, scent, and the like,
exist nowhere but in the mind, so neither do extension, solidity, and
the like. If the former could not exist unless there were intelligent
minds to perceive them, then neither could the latter. For, by
extension and its cognates, we understand simply relations which we
conceive to exist between certain qualities of objects identical with
certain of our own visual and tactile sensations, or between these and
our consciousness of muscular effort; but inasmuch as all sensations and
all consciousness are purely mental, and exist nowhere but in the mind,
it follows necessarily that ideas of relation between different
sensations, or between sensations and consciousness, must also be purely
mental, and non-existent save in the mind. All the qualities of matter,
therefore, primary as well as secondary, are alike conceptions of the
mind, and consequently could not exist without a mind for them to be
conceived by and to exist in. But if the qualities did not exist, then
matter, which cannot be conceived otherwise than as an assemblage of
qualities, could not exist either. Wherefore in respect of matter
itself, as well as of the qualities of matter, _esse_ is _percipi_,
essence is perception, to be is to be perceived. Wherefore, finally, if
there were no mind to perceive matter, matter could not exist. Q. E.

Although in the foregoing summary of an argument to which not Berkeley
and Huxley alone, but others of the deepest and acutest thinkers that
this country has produced, have contributed, I have strenuously laboured
to state all its points as convincingly as the obligations of brevity
would permit, I am not myself by any means convinced by it. On the
contrary, although to say so may seem to imply a considerable overstock
of modest assurance, still I do say that whatever portion of it is
sound is irrelevant, and that whatever portion is relevant is not
sound. So much of it as relates to the nature of the qualities of
matter, is, however interesting or otherwise important, very little, if
at all, to the purpose. No doubt if I prick my finger with a needle,
or--to take in preference an illustration employed by Locke--if my
fingers ache in consequence of my handling snow, it would be supremely
ridiculous to talk of the pain I feel being in the snow; yet not a whit
more ridiculous than to call the snow itself white or cold, if, by so
speaking, I mean that anything in the slightest degree resembling my
sensation of either snowy whiteness or snowy coldness resides in the
snow itself. And as of coldness and whiteness, so of all the other
so-styled secondary qualities. If I smell a rose, or listen to a piano,
the rose or the piano is quite insensible to the scent or sounds by
which my sense is ravished. And of primary qualities, also, precisely
the same thing may with equal confidence be alleged. A stone which I
perceive to be large, round, hard, and either rotating or motionless,
has no more perception of its own extension, figure, solidity, motion,
or rest than a snowball has of its colour or temperature. But all this,
though perfectly true, has nothing to do with the question, which is not
_what_ qualities of matter are, but _where_ they are, and whether they
can exist anywhere but in mind; and this question, I submit, is
distinctly begged by those who assume, as is done throughout the
reasoning under examination, that our _sensations_ with regard to
material objects, and the _qualities_ of those objects, are synonymous
and convertible terms. Incontestably, sensations are affections of the
mind which neither have nor can have any existence outside the mind. If,
then, the qualities of objects are identical with the sensations which
arise in the mind concerning those objects, why, of course, the
qualities likewise can exist nowhere but in the mind. On narrowly
scrutinising, however, the supposed identity, we shall find that it
involves somewhat reckless confusion of diametrical opposites. When I
look at or smell a rose, or eat a beefsteak, or listen to a piano, the
sensations which thereupon arise within me, whether immediately or
subsequently, either are the results of my seeing, smelling, eating, or
hearing, or they are not. To say that they are not is equivalent to
saying that an object need not be within reach of the perceptive
faculties in order to be perceived; that I may see or smell a rose,
though there be no rose to be seen or smelt; may dine sumptuously off
empty dishes, and be raised to the seventh heaven of delight by the
audible strains of a music which is not being executed. _Fortunati
nimium_--only too lucky would mankind be, did this turn out to be a
correct theory, affording as it would a solution of every social
problem, and serving as a panacea for every social evil. Psychology
would then be the only science worth attention, for of whatever things
proficiency in that branch of study had qualified any one to form mental
images, of those same things would he simultaneously become possessor in
full property. Whoever had succeeded in training himself to imagine
vigorously might at once have, do, or be whatever it pleased him to
imagine, becoming _ipso facto_, as the Stoics used to say an acquirer of
virtue does, 'rich, beautiful, a king.' Woe betide any one, however,
who, as long as the cosmical constitution remains what it is, shall
attempt to put the theory into practice, and desisting from all those
animal functions, involving intercourse with a real or imaginary
external world, which are vulgarly supposed essential to animal
existence, shall obstinately restrict himself to the sensations which he
believes the mind to be, without any such intercourse, capable of
creating for the body's sustenance and delectation. The physical
extinction inevitably consequent on such devotion to principle would
speedily render all the devotees physically incapable of testifying in
behalf of their peculiar opinion, and, clearing them away, would leave
no witnesses surviving but such as were signifying by deeds if not in
words their hearty adherence to the popular belief. Practically, then,
there may be assumed to be entire unanimity of assent to the truism that
for our senses to be affected by the presence of external objects, the
objects must needs be present to affect them. On all hands it is in
effect admitted that in some mode or other external objects exist, but
if so, and if the sensations resulting from operations performed by the
bodily organs with external objects would not have resulted unless the
objects had been present to operate or to be operated upon, clearly
there must be resident in, or inseparably bound up with, the objects a
power or powers of producing sensation in conscious mind. But the power
of producing sensation, and sensation itself, are not one and the same
thing, but two separate and distinct things, intrinsically distinct and
locally separate. The feeling, agreeable or painful, according to its
intensity, which heat occasions, is not the same thing as the heat by
which it is occasioned. The twofold taste, sweet to a healthy, bitter to
a distempered palate, of one and the same aliment, cannot be identical
with the single property of the aliment whereby the taste is produced.
In the sense of seeming red to a spectator with normally constructed
eyes, and green to one who is colour-blind, a ruby or a Siberian crab is
at once both red and green, but the two colours which it causes to be
perceived cannot be identical with the peculiar structure, or whatever
else it be, whereby the ruby or Siberian crab communicates to
circumambient ether the one self-same motion that terminates in
different impressions on differently constructed eyes. In these and in
all cases of the kind the feeling is in the mind, the source of the
feeling in matter. The one is a perception, the other a quality, and to
mistake the quality, not merely for a perception, but for the very
perception to which the quality gives rise; and to infer thence that the
quality must likewise be in the mind, is an instance as glaring as can
well be imagined of that most heinous of logical offences, the
confounding of cause with effect.

By what steps Berkeley was led, and has since led so many after him,
into so grave an error, he has himself acquainted us. Thus it is that he
argues: By sensible things can be meant only such as can be perceived
immediately by sense: and sensible _qualities_ are of course sensible
_things_. But the only perceptions of sense are sensations, and all
perceptions are purely mental. Wherefore, sensible qualities being, as
such, perceptible immediately by the senses, must be sensations, and
being sensations must be perceptions, and being perceptions they are of
course purely mental, and existent nowhere save in the mind. Carefully,
however, as Berkeley fancied he was picking his way, he really had
tripped, and that fatally, at the second step. He calls the qualities of
objects _sensible_ things; but sensible they are not according to his
definition, for they are not capable of being immediately perceived by
the senses. It is not sense which perceives, but reason which infers
them. The senses, as Berkeley elsewhere repeatedly and earnestly
insists, receive nothing from objects but sensations, and these they
communicate to the mind without accompanying them by the slightest hint
as to whence they originally came. The senses suggest nothing as to any
qualities resident in or appertaining to an object corresponding with
the sensations derived from the object. The existence of such qualities
is an inference of reason which, taking for granted that sensations, in
common with all other occurrences, must have causes, and observing that
certain of them commonly occur in the presence of certain objects, and
never occur in the absence of those objects, infers that the causes of
the sensations must exist in the objects. To the causes thus inferred
the name of qualities is given, to distinguish them from the sensations
whereof they are causes; and the Berkeleian transgression consists in
overlooking the distinction between things so diametrically opposite.

By the commission of such a sin the most powerful intellect becomes
inevitably committed to further enormities. Except by neglecting to
distinguish between sight and hearing, the effects, and light and sound,
their respective causes, it would surely have been impossible for
Professor Huxley to come to the strange conclusion that if all living
beings were blind and deaf, 'darkness and silence would everywhere
reign.' Had he not himself previously explained that light and sound are
peculiar motions communicated to the vibrating particles of an
universally diffused ether, which motions, on reaching the eye or ear,
produce impressions, which, after various modifications, result
eventually in seeing or hearing? How these motions are communicated to
the ether matters not. Only it is indispensable to note that they are
not communicated by the percipient owner of the eye or ear, so that the
fact of there being no percipient present cannot possibly furnish any
reason why the motions should not go on all the same. But as long as
they did go on there would necessarily be light and sound; for the
motions are themselves light and sound. If, on returning to his study in
which, an hour before, he had left a candle burning and a clock ticking,
Professor Huxley should perceive from the appearance of candle and clock
that they had gone on burning and ticking during his absence, would he
doubt that they had likewise gone on producing the motions constituting
and termed light and sound, notwithstanding that no eyes or ears had
been present to see or hear? But if he did not doubt this, how could he
any more doubt that, although all sentient creatures suddenly became
eyeless and earless, the sun might go on shining, and the wind roaring,
and the sea bellowing as before?

Akin to the inadvertence which, as I presume to think, has led Professor
Huxley thus to misconceive _secondary_ qualities, is an inattention to
the differences between our ideas, or mental pictures, and the originals
whereof those pictures are copies, which seems to me seriously to
vitiate his reasoning with regard to _primary_ qualities. With admirable
perspicuity he shows[34] how it is that our notions of primary qualities
are formed; how the mind, by _localising_ on distinct points of the
sensory surface of the body its various, tactile sensations, obtains the
idea of extension, or space in two dimensions, of figure, number, and
motion: how the power, combined with consciousness of the power, of
moving the hand in all directions over any substance it is in contact
with, adds the idea of geometrical solidity, or of space in three
dimensions: how the ideas thus formed with the aid of the sense of touch
are confirmed by, and blended with, others derived from visual
sensations and muscular movements of the eye: and, finally, how the idea
of mechanical solidity, or impenetrability, arises from experience of
resistance to our muscular exertions. All these details, however,
interesting as they are, are nevertheless quite out of place. What we
are at present concerned with is the nature of the things themselves,
not the nature of our knowledge of them. No question that this latter is
purely mental. If figure, motion, and solidity were really, as Professor
Huxley says, each of them nothing but a perception of the relation of
two or more sensations to one another, no question but that, since the
mind is the sole seat of perception, they could exist nowhere else. But
if all these suppositions be incorrect, if, as we have seen, there be in
matter and apart from mind, potentialities of producing sensations, it
follows that, in matter, and outside of mind, there must be relations
between different potentialities, and there must, moreover, be limits
to, and there may be changes in, those relations. Wherefore, since there
is in matter a potentiality of imparting to the mind those sensations
whence it derives its ideas of place and distance, and since figure is
but a 'limitation of distance,' and motion but a 'change of place,' it
necessarily follows that there is in matter a potentiality of conveying
to the mind those sensations whence it derives its ideas of figure and
motion. And a similar remark applies equally to solidity, and to every
other so-called quality of matter. All of them are substantive
potentialities of producing in the mind those sensations whence our
ideas of themselves (the qualities) are derived. No doubt all these
qualities would be _inconceivable_ in the absence of a mind by which
they might be _conceived_, but it is not necessary that, in order to
_be_, they should be _conceived_. In discussions of any abstruseness we
cannot be too precise in our use of words, and we shall inevitably be
going astray here if we allow ourselves for a moment to forget that a
quality and the conception of that quality are not one single thing, but
two things. Can it be seriously supposed that if all the conscious
creatures, of every description, by which the universe is peopled, were
to fall temporarily into complete stupor, the material universe would,
at the commencement of the trance, be deprived of its extension,
solidity, figure, and all its other constituent properties, recovering
them again as soon as its inhabitants woke up again? Can it be doubted
that, on the contrary, all potentialities resident in its material
composition would pursue the even tenor of their way just as if nothing
had happened; performing, during the temporary absence of external
percipient minds, precisely those operations which, as soon as
consciousness returned to those minds, would be followed by the
perceptions of sight, hearing, and touch? But if so, then plainly it is
exceedingly derogatory to matter to charge it with such absolute
dependence on external support that its very being consists in being
perceived from without. That matter cannot exist without mind I
cheerfully admit, or rather most earnestly affirm, proposing presently
to explain in what sense I make the affirmation. Meanwhile let it
suffice to have ascertained that the mental service with which matter
cannot dispense, whatever else it be, is at any rate not, as the whole
Berkeleian school so positively insist, that of mental testimony to its

Let us pause here for a moment to report progress. We have seen, on the
one hand, that unless mind and matter have been eternally coexistent,
mind must have preceded matter, and that it is idle, therefore, to
expect, by any researches into matter, to discover how mind (or life)
originated. We have seen that from a materialism which represents mind
as in any sense a property or product of matter there is no possible
outlet to an idealism which represents matter as owing its being to
mind. To see this is simply to see that the builder of a house cannot
possibly have been born in the house he has himself built. On the other
hand, we have seen that the idealism which represents being or existence
as consisting of perception is utterly incompatible with materialism of
any sort or kind, unless, indeed, with a materialistic nihilism wherein
would be no room for a solitary molecule, still less for any molecular
structure, and least of all for that motion of molecular structures into
which consistent materialists are logically bound to attempt to resolve
all natural phenomena. We have, in short, seen that materialism and
idealism, in the senses in which those terms are commonly used, are
utterly incapable of amalgamation, or indeed of even being harmoniously
approximated, without being first deprived of all the characteristic
traits which at present entitle them to their distinguishing

To which of the two belongs the larger share of blame for this
implacable hostility is easily determined. Materialism, in dealing with
mental phenomena, begins by setting chronology at defiance; but between
idealism and the phenomena of matter there is no such aboriginal
incongruity. From principles common to every form of idealism a theory
is deducible which, while frankly acknowledging the reality of matter,
may, with perfect consistency, maintain that reality to be
mental--although mental in the sense of being, not a perception by, but
a metamorphosis of, mind. Of such a theory the outlines seem to me to
have been sketched, and the foundations partly laid, by Descartes, and
it cannot be otherwise than interesting to inquire in what manner and
how far so consummate an artificer advanced in the work, and where and
wherefore he suddenly stopped short in it.

When Descartes, after convincing himself of the hollow pretentiousness
of most human knowledge, proceeded to dig away the accumulated drift and
sand of ages in quest of any clay or rock there might be below, the
first indubitable verity he came to was thought, about whose reality
there could, as already explained, be no possibility of doubt, inasmuch
as any doubt concerning it, being itself thought, would be but an
additional proof of it. On the bit of firm ground thus thoroughly
tested, he proceeded to place a formula not less carefully verified, his
famous 'Cogito, ergo sum'--'I think, therefore I am.' By many of his
followers, however, this second verification of his is deemed to be by
no means so satisfactory as it was by himself, Professor Huxley more
especially taking vehement, though, as I make bold to add, somewhat
gratuitous, exception to every single word of the most celebrated of
Cartesian formulæ. No doubt the premiss of the formula assumes the
conclusion, but it likewise includes as well as assumes it. No doubt,
since 'I think' is but another way of saying 'I am thinking,' to say
that 'I think' is to assume that 'I am;' nay, the same thing is equally
assumed by the mere introduction of the pronoun 'I.' But Descartes was
fully warranted in taking for granted the truth of his conclusion. For
by previously showing incontestably that thought and consciousness are
real existences, he had completely proved the premiss wherein his
conclusion is included. What though, as Professor Huxley suggests,
'thought' may possibly 'be self-existent,' 'or a given thought the
result of its antecedent thought, or of some external power'? Be thought
what else it may, it must needs be, also, either an affection or an
operation; if not performed, it must be felt; there must needs be,
therefore, something by which it is either performed or felt, and that
something cannot possibly be other than a thinking and conscious thing.
As surely as thought is, so surely must there be a thinker. This is, in
substance, affirmed even by many who deny it in terms, and Hume, in
particular, when saying, as he somewhere does, that 'all we are
conscious of is a series of perceptions,' denies and affirms it at one
and the same time. For how can there be perception without a percipient?
or how consciousness without a conscious entity? or how can that entity
be conscious of feeling without being simultaneously conscious that it
is itself which feels, without knowing, consequently, that it has a
self, or without being warranted, if it possess the gift of speech, in
declaring, in words even more emphatic than those of Descartes, 'I
_myself_ am'? And how, if these questions do not admit of reply, can
Professor Huxley be warranted in declaring self and non-self to be mere
'hypotheses by which we account for the facts of consciousness,' and
adding that of their existence we 'neither have, nor by any possibility
can have' the same 'unquestionable and immediate certainty as we have of
the states of consciousness which we consider to be their effects'?
Surely the existence of self is one of the most direct and immediate
subjects of consciousness; yet it does not depend for evidence on
consciousness alone, but is as unanswerably demonstrable as that two
straight lines cannot enclose space or that parallel lines cannot meet,
or as any other mathematical negation. No ratiocinative deduction can be
more incontestable than that, since _I_ have thoughts, there must be an
_I_ to have them.

Whoever thus assures himself of the existence of self obtains
simultaneously equal assurance of the existence of non-self; for feeling
that his conscious self is not boundless, but is confined within limits,
he cannot doubt that beyond those limits there must be space, and,
receiving continual sensations from without, he perceives that there
are, in external space, potentialities of imparting sensations. Thus, I
repeat, Descartes in laying down the first principles of his philosophy
created an intellectual basis for the external universe. Unfortunately,
however, instead of proceeding to place its proper superstructure on the
foundation thus laid, he wilfully stepped aside from what he had just
pronounced the only firm ground in existence, and undertook to raise a
rival edifice on part of the formless void beyond. Deeply struck by the
grand discoveries of his illustrious contemporaries, Galileo and Harvey,
and thence discovering for himself that the phenomena of remotest worlds
and also the involuntary phenomena of our own bodily frames take place
in accordance with forces of uniform operation, he leaped suddenly to
the conclusion that those forces are purely mechanical. The circulation
of the blood, he says, 'is as much the necessary result of the structure
of the parts one can see in the heart, and of the heat which one may
feel there, and of the nature of the blood which may be experimentally
ascertained, as is the motion of a clock the result of the force,
situation, and figure of its wheels and of its weight.' Nor, in his
view, does the heart, by virtue of its structure and composition, merely
cause the blood to circulate. 'It also generates animal spirits,' which,
'ascending like a very subtle fluid, or very pure and vivid flame, into
the brain as into a reservoir, pass thence into the nerves, where,
according as they more or less enter, or tend to enter, they have the
power of altering the figures of the muscles into which the nerves are
inserted, and of so causing all the organs and limbs to move.' He puts
the case thus: Even as the ordinary movements of a water-clock or of a
mill are kept up by the ordinary flow of the water, and even as 'in the
grottoes and fountains of royal gardens, the force wherewith the water
issues from its reservoirs suffices to move various machines, and even
to make them play instruments or pronounce words according to the
different disposition of the pipes which lead the water'--even so do
pulsation, respiration, digestion, nutrition, and growth, and 'other
such actions as are natural and usual in the body,' result naturally
from the usual course of the animal spirits. Moreover, even as intruders
upon the waterworks aforesaid unconsciously by their mere presence cause
special movements to take place, even as, for example, 'if they approach
a bathing Diana, they tread on certain planks so arranged as to make her
hide among the reeds, and, if they attempt to follow her, see
approaching a Neptune who threatens with his trident, or rouse some
other monster who vomits water into their faces'--even so do external
objects, by their mere presence, act upon the organs of sense; even so
do 'the reception of light, sounds, odours, flavours, heat, and such
like qualities in the organs of the external senses, the impression of
the ideas of these in the intellect, the imagination, and the memory,
the internal movements of the appetites and passions, and the external
movements which follow so aptly on the presentation of objects to the
senses, or on the resuscitation of impressions by the memory,' yea, even
so do all these 'functions proceed naturally from the arrangement of the
bodily organs, neither more nor less than do the movements of a clock or
other automaton from that of its weights and its wheels, without the aid
of any other vegetative or sensitive soul or any other principle of
motion or of life than the blood and the spirits agitated by the fire
which burns continually within the heart, and which differs in no wise
from the fire existing in inanimate bodies.'[35]

Quite fairly it may be urged that the writer of passages like these
would, if writing in modern language, and with the aid of modern
conceptions, have expressed himself much as Professor Huxley does when,
declaring that the circulation of the blood and the regular movements of
the respiratory, alimentary, and other internal organs are simply
'affairs of mechanism, resulting from the structure and arrangement' of
the bodily organs concerned, from 'the contractility of those organs,
and from the regulation of that contractility by an automatically acting
nervous apparatus;' that muscular contractility and the automatic
activity or irritability of the nerves are 'purely the results of
molecular mechanism;' and that 'the modes of motion which constitute the
physical bases of light, sound, and heat are transmuted by the sensory
organs into affections of nervous matter,' which affections become 'a
kind of physical ideas constituting a physical memory,' and may be
combined in a manner answering to association and imagination, or may
give rise to muscular contractions in those reflex actions which are the
mechanical representatives of volition.' Quite fairly may a doctrine,
capable of being thus translated, be described as leading 'straight to
materialism.' Quite justly may its author be claimed by Huxley as joint
professor of a materialistic creed. True, Descartes lodges within his
human mechanism a _chose pensante_ or rational soul, whose principal
seat is in the brain, and who is treated as corresponding to a hydraulic
engineer stationed in the centre of waterworks for the purpose of
increasing, slackening, or otherwise altering their movements. But this
rational soul is a very needless appendage to either the Cartesian or
the Huxleian system, wherein, if its post be not a literal sinecure,
there is, at any rate, little or nothing for it to do which might not
quite as well be done without it. The hydraulic engineer, sitting in his
central office, has to wind up the whole machinery from time to time,
and to turn now this tap, now that, when he wishes to set this or that
particular machine in motion. But, as no one need be told, our _chose
pensante_ has nothing to do with the winding up of our digestive,
circulatory, or respiratory apparatus; and so far from internally
arranging those other internal organs from the mere arrangement of whose
parts, according to Descartes, the reception, conversion, and retention
of sensations, and the movements, whether internal or external,
thereupon consequent, naturally proceed, or from regulating the
molecular mechanism, whence, according to Professor Huxley, results the
automatic nervous activity which, in his opinion, governs the movements
of the limbs not less absolutely than those of the intestines, it, nine
times out of ten, neither knows nor suspects that any such organs or
mechanism exist. If the functions above attributed to the human frame
could be shown really to belong to it, pure, not to say crass,
materialism, would require no further proof. Those particular functions
undoubtedly take place without the cognisance of that particular
sensitive soul which we call ourself, so that if no other sensitive soul
take cognisance of them, they must needs be, not simply automatic
performances, but performances of an automaton of such marvellous powers
as to be quite equal to the performance likewise of whatever human
operations are vulgarly classed as mental. Assume, however illogically,
that motion is a function of matter, and from that premiss, whether true
or false, the conclusion that thought likewise is a function of matter
may be quite logically deduced. 'That thought is as much a function of
matter as motion is' must needs be conceded to Professor Huxley, who,
therefore, if he could show that motion is really such a function, would
be fully justified in adding, that 'the distinction between spirit and
matter vanishes,' that 'we lose spirit in matter.'

Undeniably, then, of the Cartesian philosophy one moiety is, as
Professor Huxley says, materialistic; but from the self-contradictions
inseparable from every species of materialism the Cartesian variety is,
of course, no more exempt than any other, and it has besides one
self-contradiction peculiar to itself. A clock's pendulum vibrates, and
its hands move, not simply by reason of the situation and figure of its
weight and wheels, but also because some intelligent person, by winding
up the clock, has communicated an impulsive force to the weight and
wheels. Waterworks perform all sorts of antics, not solely because the
pipes are skilfully constructed and arranged with a view to such end,
but because also an intelligent engineer has turned running water into
the pipes. But the only intelligent agent to whom Descartes allows
access to his corporeal machinery is one who not only has no notion how
to apply a moving force except to some few portions of the machinery,
but with regard to the other portions has most likely no suspicion that
they even exist. But how in the absence of some other intelligence, of
some other 'vegetative or sensitive soul or principle of motion or of
life,' is it possible for the inert and inanimate heart to generate
animal spirits?--how is it possible for death thus to give birth to
life?--or, if the generative faculty be supposed to be the necessary
result of a particular molecular structure, how is it that when the
animal spirits become from any cause extinct, they are not immediately
regenerated by the same molecular structure? or rather, how is it
possible for animal spirits to become extinct as long as the molecular
structure of which they are necessary concomitants remains unaltered? In
these questions the old insuperable difficulties reappear in new forms,
but on these we need not dwell. Apart from anti-materialistic arguments
of general applicability, there is a mode of refutation specially
adapted to the Cartesian form of materialism, which, besides flatly
contradicting itself, contradicts not less flatly a twin system of
unimpeachable veracity. Truth cannot be opposed to truth:--a doctrine
cannot be true, even though propounded by Descartes and Huxley, if it
conflict irreconcileably with doctrines which Descartes and Huxley have
unanswerably demonstrated. Now one-half of Cartesian philosophy shows
conclusively that amidst the countless infinity of human notions, the
one single and solitary certainty of independent and self-evident
authority is the existence of thought, and nothing else whatever,
therefore, can be entitled to be regarded as absolutely certain which
cannot be shown to rest mediately or immediately upon this. One thing
which can, by strictest logical process, be shown so to rest, is the
existence of a thinking self; and another is the existence of a non-self
or external universe; but of this external universe we know scarcely
anything beyond the bare fact that it exists. We know that outside the
thinking self there are potentialities capable of somehow or other
communicating sensations to the thinking self; but of the nature of
these potentialities our senses teach us absolutely nothing, and the few
particulars that reason is able to discover, are, with one single though
very momentous exception, to which we are rapidly approaching, purely
negative. We do know to a certain extent what qualities of objects are
not. We know that they are not and cannot be in the least like the
sensations which we call by the same names. We know that what we call
the whiteness and coldness of snow or the hardness and weight of marble,
can no more resemble the feelings we receive from looking at or handling
snow or marble than the mental exaltation produced within us on hearing
one of Bach's fugues is like the organ on which, or the organist by
whom, it is played. We know that of the pictures which our senses form
for us not one can possibly be a correct likeness. We know that what we
fancy we see in matter we do not see; that what we seem to feel we do
not feel; that the apparent structure and composition of matter cannot
therefore possibly be real. To this conviction we are irresistibly drawn
by a chain of idealistic reasoning of which Descartes forged the first
link, and every link of which will stand the severest strain. But if
this be the teaching of an idealism occupying as its base the only
morsel of solid ground to be found in the mental universe, what scrap of
footing is there left for an antagonistic materialism purporting to rest
on what we can see and feel of a structure and composition which, as we
have just satisfied ourselves, we cannot see or feel at all?

As plainly then as one half of Descartes' philosophy is materialistic,
so plainly, that half, instead of a necessary outgrowth and exact
correlative of the other or idealistic moiety is, on the contrary, the
latter's diametrical and implacable opponent. As plainly, therefore, as
the one is true, must the other be false, and Cartesian idealism, in so
far as its character has been exhibited above, has, I submit, been
demonstrated to be true. The greater the pity that it was not brought to
maturity by its author. In enumerating its first principles, Descartes,
as I must once again observe, was forming a logical basis whereon a
comprehensive and consistent conception of an external universe might
forthwith have been securely deposited, had he not unluckily, instead of
himself proceeding to build on his own foundations, with congruous
materials, left them free for others to build upon with gold, silver,
precious stones, wood, hay, or stubble, as chance might determine. May
I, without presumption, hazard a conjecture as to the sort of fabric
that might have arisen, if he had steadily prosecuted his original

At the stage which we are supposing him to have reached, very little
remained to complete the work. Around man, around every individual man,
or other conscious intelligence, as its centre, is ranged infinitely
extended space, filled with, or, as it were, composed of various kinds
of matter, every kind and every separate portion of which is endowed
with special qualities capable of communicating corresponding sensations
to the central intelligence. So far all that can be predicated of any
material object or portion of matter is that it is a collection of
qualities; but from hence we may advance boldly to the further negative
discovery that it is nothing else; that there is not and cannot be, in
addition to those qualities, any substance in or to which the qualities
inhere, or are in any way attached.

The absence from matter of any such substance is evidenced by the
absurdity involved in the idea of its presence. Suppose the substance to
exist: the qualities inherent in it must needs be as completely distinct
from itself as pins are from a pincushion; the extension and solidity of
an extended, solid substance can no more be identical with the substance
than the nominative is identical with the genitive case. The substance,
therefore, although deprived of all its qualities will still retain its
essence unimpaired, will still be equally a substance, just as a
pincushion continues equally a pincushion after its last pin has been
abstracted. Conceive, then, all the qualities of matter to be
abstracted, and consider what remains--a substance without qualities of
any sort. But a substance neither solid, nor fluid, nor yet gaseous;
neither coloured nor colourless; neither singular nor plural; without
form and void, without even extension--what is it? not something, but
nothing; a nonentity or non-existence. The qualities of matter in being
removed from the substance have therefore left nothing behind, and,
consequently, although carrying with them nothing but themselves, have
yet carried with them all the constituents of matter, which is thus
seen to be composed exclusively of qualities without a single particle
of foreign admixture. And since, moreover, the qualities of matter are
clearly not themselves substances, that is to say do not themselves
_stand under_ or uphold anything, it follows that their compound,
matter, must likewise be purely unsubstantial.

The edifice begun by Descartes has now been raised high and strong
enough to have its layer of negations crowned with an affirmation of
pre-eminent importance. The qualities of matter, being known only by
their effects, are evidently causes: and, being causes, must necessarily
be either themselves forces, or, at the least, manifestations of force;
and inasmuch as force involves exertion, it cannot be inert; and
inasmuch as deadness must be incapable of exertion, all force must be
alive; and life without substance cannot be conceived otherwise than as
some species of spirit or mind. Such therefore must be matter. Matter
can be nothing else than pure spirit of some kind.

And may we not with good reason congratulate ourselves on this result of
our investigations? Instead of the vision we were threatened with, of
mind losing itself in matter, our eyes are gladdened with that of the
converse operation, of the transmutation of matter into mind. And on no
account is this metamorphosis to be mistaken for annihilation of matter,
whose stolid grossness has vanished, not in order to give place to empty
nominalism or to a thin mist of mere mental perceptions existing only in
virtue of being perceived, but in order to reappear gloriously
etherealised into living energy. By the change that has taken place,
corruption has put on incorruption; the natural body has become a
quickening spirit; death is swallowed up in victory. Matter reappears
converted, not into a perception of percipient mind, but into percipient
mind itself; yet although thus presumably percipient of its own
existence, it not the less has an existence perfectly independent of
perception, either by itself or by any other intelligence.

Under what head the mind, or combination of living forces, thus
constituting all matter, ought to be classed, is a question, which the
imperfection of human faculties may as well be content to leave
unanswered, though to its being supposed to emanate directly from the
mind of Omnipresent Deity, one insuperable objection may be mentioned,
which should be kept steadily in view. There are few of us who will not
shrink with horror from a notion, according to which man, whenever doing
as he pleases with any material object, applying it, as likely as not,
to some base or criminal purpose, is disposing at his pleasure of a
portion of the Divine essence: few who will not greatly prefer to
believe that the vital principle which manifests itself in the form of a
dunghill or of a poisoned dagger, may be, for the time, as completely
individualised and separate from all other life or mind, as every human
being perceives his own conscious mind or self to be. At all events, we
have now reached a point beyond which it would be rash to rush hastily
on. For a while we may be well content to rest where we are. That matter
is nothing else but a peculiar manifestation, or avatar, of some species
of mind, whatever that species be, is a proposition as demonstrably true
as its converse is demonstrably false. Unless it be possible for death
to give birth to life, it is impossible for living mind to be the
offspring of inanimate matter; but so surely as mind is mind, and that
living force alone can act either on mind or aught else, so surely must
all matter that imparts sensation to mind, be itself a species of living
force and consequently a species of mind.

An unexpected conclusion this, and widely different, I confess, from
that to which I was myself looking forward at the outset of the
discussion; yet, at the same time, one of which there is the best
possible proof in the impossibility of conceiving its contrary. It is
besides a conclusion to which not only ought Descartes in consistency to
have come, but at which both Locke and Berkeley, though advancing from
opposite points of the compass, did very nearly arrive; nay, which the
latter did almost touch, and must apparently have grasped, had not his
hands been already full of other things. It is, moreover, one from which
I do not apprehend that Professor Huxley himself will seriously dissent.
Indeed, I almost hope that he may object chiefly to its having been
moved by me as an amendment on his original motion, and that he may be
disposed to claim it for himself as a portion of genuine Huxleyism. If
so, I shall readily recognise the claim so far as to admit that things
very similar to many of those said by me above had already been said by
Professor Huxley; though, in justice to myself, I must add that their
complete opposites had likewise been said by him. But the office which I
here proposed to myself was mainly that of an eclectic, who, going over
a field which another husbandman has tilled, separates the wheat from
the tares, and binds up the former into shapely and easily portable
sheaves; and no more satisfactory assurance can be given of my having
been usefully employed in such subordinate capacity than that Professor
Huxley, who, amongst all his numerous admirers, has not one sincerer
than myself, should welcome me as a coadjutor, instead of repelling me
as an antagonist.


[32] Archimède, pour tirer le globe terrestre de sa place et le
transporter en un autre lieu, ne demandait rien qu'un point qui fût
ferme et immobile: ainsi j'aurai droit de concevoir de hautes espérances
si je suis assez heureux pour trouver seulement une chose qui soit
certaine et indubitable.--Descartes, _Méditation Deuxième_.

[33] Lay Sermons, xiv. 'On Descartes' Discourse;' also an article by
Professor Huxley, on 'Berkeley and the Metaphysics of Sensation,' in
'Macmillan's Magazine' for June, 1871.

[34] Article on 'Berkeley and the Metaphysics of Sensation,' in
'Macmillan's Magazine' for 1871, pp. 152 et seq.

[35] The quotations, of which those in the text are abridgments, will be
found in 'Lay Sermons,' xiv. pp. 364-7.



     'Wonder is the basis of worship. That progress of science which is
     to destroy wonder, and in its stead substitute mensuration and
     numeration, finds small favour with Teufelsdröckh, much as he
     otherwise venerates those two latter processes.'--_Sartor


By the train of thought pursued in the last chapter, we were led to the
conclusion, not, indeed, that matter has no existence, but that its
nature or constitution is altogether different from what is commonly
supposed. The difference thus discovered does not, however, imply any
corresponding difference with respect to the properties--_sensible_
properties, as they are commonly called--whereby matter affects the
senses. Equally, whether matter be, in all and each of its various
species, inanimate, inert, passive substance, or a combination of
self-acting forces--equally whether it be the author or merely the
subject of whatever activity it manifests, that activity is equally
manifested in certain sequences which are as unvarying as if they were
prescribed by inexorable and irresistible laws, and which, indeed, by a
convenient, though exceedingly treacherous metaphor, are usually styled
laws--laws of Nature when spoken of collectively, laws of attraction,
repulsion, gravitation, motion, heat, light, and the like, when
separately referred to. Whithersoever we turn our eyes, however closely
we pry, into whatever depths of infinity we peer, we observe the most
perfect harmony between structure and law, law moulding structure and
structure utilising law. Afar off we descry systems upon systems, solar
and sidereal, like sand upon the sea-shore for multitude, and every
individual orb thereof rotating or revolving in strictest accordance
with inflexible mathematical principles, and evidently owing to the
previous influence of those same principles its characteristic
configuration. Near at hand we discern organic forms innumerable, each
with its own special arrangement of component parts admirably apt for
the performance in ordinary circumstances of special functions,
admirably, as circumstances change, accommodating itself by
corresponding changes for continuing the same or undertaking other and
equally appropriate functions, nor merely performing them all in despite
of the restraints imposed by law, but availing itself of those very
restraints as means and aids for their performance. Where so much
aptness is, adaptation surely must have been: where arrangement is so
plainly conducive to ends, the ends must surely have been foreseen, and
the arrangement effected by design and according to preconceived plan.
And there cannot have been design without a designer or designers: the
plan cannot but have had its author or authors: nor could the plan have
been executed without an artificer or artificers. Author or authors,
too, artificer or artificers, be the same singular or plural, must have
possessed, individually or collectively, not less of wisdom, power, and
goodness than are displayed by the finished work. Now of each of these
attributes, the amount to which the aspect of the universe bears
witness, albeit not infinite, inasmuch as the universe is not without
imperfections, is yet indefinite; as plainly without measure as the
universe is without bounds. Wherefore, not only must the universe have
had an author or authors, an artificer or artificers, but his or their
wisdom, power, and goodness, must, whether infinite or not, have been at
least illimitable.

Such is the argument from design, and such, to my thinking, the only
absolute certainties legitimately deducible from it; and although these,
in comparison with the numerous probabilities ordinarily associated with
them, may appear somewhat meagre, yet are they intrinsically of
exceeding moment. They constitute the only basis on which any rational
religion, any that appeals to the intellect as well as to the feelings,
can rest securely. Whoever accepts them, by whatever other name he
prefer to call himself, is essentially a theist. He only who denies or
ignores them can justly be stigmatised as an atheist. Yet, although an
inquiry into their soundness is thus plainly second in interest to none,
it is not that in which I propose to engage at present, unless
indirectly. My immediate concern is not with the strength of theism, but
with the weakness of atheism, and the hollowness of the latter's
dialectical pretensions. What in every form of piety is most provocative
of philosophic scorn, is its forwardness of faith, its eagerness of
acquiescence; but to this sort of reproach I expect to be able to show
that none are more obnoxious than those very philosophers by whom it is
most freely cast. That nothing is more unphilosophical than
uncompromising irreligion, nothing more credulous than its credulity, no
other beliefs more monstrous than those by which it strives to fill up
the void created by its own unbelief: this is my present thesis, and
this I propound, not unaware what formidable antagonists I am thereby
challenging, but not without something of the same confidence, and
something withal of the same ground for it, as David had when, in equal
strait, exclaiming, 'The Lord is on my side; I will not fear; what can
man do unto me?'

Let us at the outset consider what denial of plan in the structure of
the universe implies, and note, among other things signified, the
following. The exact conformity on matter's part to Nature's laws,
everywhere observable, and even more striking perhaps in minute details
than in grandiose generalities, is purely accidental. The laws were not
enacted in order to be obeyed; matter's various shapes were not given to
or assumed by it in order that its obedience might serve any particular
purpose. All appearances of ingenious contrivance in the collocation of
elementary particles, or in the co-operation of elementary forces, are
mere appearances. It was not designed that under the influence of the
laws of motion, chaos should resolve itself into systems, and time
divide itself into years and seasons and days and nights. It is quite
unintentionally that the countless varieties of mechanism appertaining
to different vegetable and animal fabrics have been rendered fit for
performing those special processes which, by reason in each case of some
special arrangement of parts, they actually do perform with such
marvellous precision. It is a total mistake to suppose that the eye was
meant for seeing, or the ear for hearing, or the heart for initiating
and regulating the circulation of the blood, or nervous ramifications
for receiving and disseminating sensible impressions. These various
organs have been discovered to be useful, and are used accordingly; but
they were not intended to be so used, or contrived with any such view,
or, indeed, contrived at all. The forces, whatever they be, and whether
identical with or totally distinct from itself, whereby matter, on one
supposition, acts, and, on the other, is acted upon, and by whose
operation the universe and all its contents have been fashioned and are
sustained, are in either case perfectly heedless and reckless forces,
operating always without the slightest reference to result.

Language like this was much in vogue among the French encyclopædists of
the last century. By opposing it, even Voltaire incurred the reputation
of bigotry, and Hume probably had to listen to a good deal of it on that
memorable occasion when, dining with Baron D'Holbach, and intimating to
his host his disbelief in the existence of atheists, he was informed by
way of reply that he was actually at table with seventeen members of the
sect.[36] That in England, too, it was a good deal talked at about the
same and a somewhat later period, may be inferred from the fact that
against its teaching one of Paley's most celebrated treatises was
expressly directed. Doctrine which was once so fashionable, and which
even now cannot be said to be obsolete, was not, of course, without some
show of reason to support it, and somewhat in this wise the chief
arguments in its behalf were usually marshalled:--In order to account
for actual result, there is no need to imagine previous purpose. All
things that exist, all events that occur, must bear to each other some
relations in situation and time, which relations are not less likely to
be orderly than disorderly, or, rather, indeed, are more likely to be
the former than the latter. For necessarily the rarer rises above the
denser; the stronger compels the weaker; that which is pushed hardest
runs fastest. And even though, among organic forms, orderly and
disorderly had been, by the purely fortuitous concurrence of atoms,
originally produced in equal numbers, the former would be sure in the
course of ages to become the more numerous, and that in proportion to
the orderliness of their composition, and to their consequent
suitableness for the reception and maintenance of organic life, by which
they in turn would be maintained and multiplied, while less aptly
organised forms, succumbing in the struggle for existence, perished and
vanished away. Thus everything arranges itself--_everything_, however,
being here another name for Nature, which alone does or can exist, which
is all and does all; yet, though doing all things in general, does
whatever it does quite unintelligently, and without the least desire of
doing any one thing in particular more than another.

Though speaking of this as a show of reasoning, I would by no means be
understood to consider it as merely a show. On the contrary, I must
admit that it contains a modicum of reality sufficient, in my opinion,
to secure the position taken up from being utterly overthrown by any
direct attack not followed up by reference to a certain palpable
absurdity which we shall presently perceive to be inseparably connected
with the position. To so much of real reasoning as we have before us,
let then all due respect be shown. No doubt all existences must
necessarily dispose themselves or be disposed somehow. No doubt all
occurrences must succeed each other somehow. No doubt, either, that if
the disposing or otherwise originating forces operated quite
regardlessly of plan, no one disposition or succession would be a whit
less possible than any other--the most symmetric or evenly graduated
than the most disjointed or confused. Now although, since exertion is
utterly inconceivable without volition, and since volition is equally
inconceivable without consciousness, it must be impossible for any
forces ever to exert themselves altogether unintentionally, it is yet
perfectly possible for their exertion to have no ulterior intention
beyond that of gratifying an unprospective will. This is all that one
fidgetting about, as the phrase is, intends, when he has no special
motive for fidgetting in any particular direction more than in any
other, and similarly it may by possibility be the mere fidgettiness of
Nature that gives rise to all natural phenomena. Nature, indeed, cannot,
any more than any other force or combination of forces, be utterly
destitute of intelligence, but its intelligence may not inconceivably be
of no higher sort than that which the sensitive plant exhibits or
mimics. Nature cannot exert itself quite unconsciously, nor consequently
quite unintentionally, but its exertions, though not unintended, may
possibly not be intended for any result. It must be admitted, then,
that, so far, no reason has appeared why the force or forces by which
the universe was originally moulded, may not, as contended, have been
perfectly heedless and reckless; may not, without the least
premeditation or the slightest view to any ulterior object, have
produced certain phenomena in those particular sequences to which the
name of natural laws has been given; and may not, with the same total
absence of purpose, have adopted certain other courses of action which,
very fortunately, though quite undesignedly, have resulted in the
production of endless varieties of mechanism, most of them of
marvellously intricate and complex structure, and all and each of them
of structure marvellously suitable for performing, in co-operation with
Nature's laws, functions of an utility as varied as their structure. And
what any forces have been equal to do once, those same forces, if
remaining unimpaired, must be equal to repeat times without number.
Although, if you found your opponent at dice invariably throwing
double-sixes, you might feel confident that his dice were loaded, your
confidence, unless otherwise corroborated, would not amount to entire
certainty. With unloaded dice there would be nothing strange in
double-six being thrown once; but, if once, why not twice running? and
if twice, why not three, four, or a million times running, provided that
the thrower's strength held out so long? No one of the separate throws,
from the first to the millionth, would be attended with more difficulty
than any other. Whoever made the first might with no greater effort make
any one, and therefore every one, of the rest. In the fact of his having
commenced the series there would be proof of the possibility of his
completing it. In like manner, if it be not inconceivable that Nature's
forces may once, by a single unpremeditated exertion, have bestowed on
the universe its actual constitution, it is not inconceivable that by
continual repetition of similarly unpremeditated exertions, they may
have ever since maintained that constitution. In this supposition there
is nothing patently absurd. It is perfectly legitimate to suppose that
any event or combination of events, not demonstrably impossible, may
have occurred in the absence of complete certainty that they have not
occurred. It may not be illegitimate, therefore, to suppose that all
phenomena of the description termed physical, and all repeated sequences
of such phenomena, may have occurred, not causally, but casually--that
it may have been a fortuitous concourse of atoms which originally
established the existing economy of the universe, and an uninterrupted
succession of similar fortuitous concourses that has ever since
maintained that economy. That supposition, I repeat, involves no
absolute absurdity. What however is, if not absurd, at any rate
egregiously unscientific and most unphilosophically credulous, is to
treat the supposition as a certainty, notwithstanding that the chances
against its representing real facts are as infinity to infinitesimality;
for not less is the preponderance of improbability that the laws of
nature were not intentionally prescribed, and that the wondrously
complex and wondrously useful harmony that has been established between
organic structure and natural law was not designedly established. In
considering this point, it will be convenient to take law first.

Inasmuch as, on the assumption that all phenomena of inorganic matter
are effects, purely unpremeditated, of Nature's capricious restlessness,
there would of course be no more reason why any one such phenomenon than
any other should not at any time occur, there would equally of course on
the same assumption, be no more reason why it should. An infinity of
phenomena being at all times equally possible, the chances against any
one being, on any occasion, preferred to all the rest, would be infinity
less one. Against any particular sequence of phenomena they would be as
infinity less one multiplied by the number of phenomena composing the
sequence, and against one or more repetitions of the same sequence they
would be the same multiple of virtual infinity multiplied by the number
of repetitions. Against perpetual repetition, they would, as it were, be
virtual infinity multiplied by infinity. On the assumption stated, an
apple loosened from the parent stem, might quite possibly fall to the
ground, but quite as possibly might remain suspended in mid air, or rise
straight upwards, or take any one of the innumerable directions
intervening between zenith and nadir, travelling too, unless
interrupted, in the direction selected for any period, from a single
moment to endless ages. Experience, however, teaches that an apple or
any other body of greater specific gravity than air, does invariably,
when deprived of support, fall straight downward, such downward movement
being part of one of those sequences of phenomena which are classed
under the head of gravitation. Now, to assert that this, or any other,
and consequently every other, specimen of gravitation, cannot possibly
have been unpremeditated would no doubt be unwarrantable. No doubt there
is one solitary, one infinitesimal chance that the force whose action
results in gravitation may, when producing that result, be acting with
as little choice of direction as a fidgetty man makes when moving his
arms or legs about for no better reason than that he will not take the
trouble to keep them quiet. Only, as on the supposition that the force
did not select its course, the chances against its always taking the
same course would be infinity less one indefinitely multiplied, the
probability that it does select must needs be the same indefinite
multiple of virtual infinity. Not less than this is the preponderance
of probability that the invariably recurrent sequences of phenomena
which we are in the habit of referring to gravitation, are premeditated,
and that the law of gravitation has, so to speak, been wittingly
ordained. And in this respect all invariable sequences of phenomena,
otherwise termed laws of nature, stand plainly in the same category. One
solitary and infinitesimal unit is the sole deduction to be made from
what would otherwise be infinite certainty, that the assumption we
started with is false, and that all invariable sequences are
premeditated, all the laws of nature enacted by a law-giver who intended
what he was enacting.

Intention, however, is not quite the same thing as design. It is
possible for action to be at once intentional and purposeless. If a man,
taking regularly a constitutional walk, is observed always to take the
same road, and to stop exactly at the same point, there can be no
reasonable doubt as to his intention to walk just so far and no farther;
but it does not follow that he has any object in walking which he
supposes would not be equally served by his walking a few paces more or
less. Similarly whatever be the certainty that the laws of nature have
been intentionally established, there is in that certainty no proof of
their having been established for any purpose beyond that of gratifying
some whim or humour of the lawgiver. For indications of design in the
universe we must look rather to organic than to inorganic nature, rather
to structure than to law. We shall find applying to the former the same
reasoning as to the latter, and likewise some more besides.

Inasmuch as, of the innumerable combinations of which the elements or
elementary forces are susceptible, each and every one, in the absence
of any preference for one over another on the part of the volition on
which the occurrence of all depends, would have equal chances of
occurring, the chances against the occurrence at any particular time of
any particular combination would be as the number, or rather as the
innumerosity, of all the rest to one. Such, in the absence of any
intentional action on Nature's part, would be the odds against any one
single occurrence of any one elemental combination. Against the
perpetual repetition of the same combination the odds would be the same
innumerosity innumerable times multiplied. Nevertheless there actually
is everlastingly recurring, not simply one single specimen, but an
innumerable multitude of the same elemental combinations. Whatever were
the combinations necessary for producing all the existing organisms,
vegetable and animal, with which our earth swarms, the constant
recurrence of those same or nearly the same combinations is
indispensable both for the maintenance of the organisms during life and
for the production of successors to them; and such constant recurrence
is plainly going on. The chances then against its being unintended must
be the aforesaid multiple of innumerosity. But this is not all. The
multiple in question represents the chances against perpetual repetition
of any set whatever of elemental combinations, but about the actually
recurrent set there is this peculiarity, that it produces and maintains
innumerable organisms or machines, which--inasmuch as all of them are
marvellously fit, by reason of their respective specialities of
structure, for performing different obviously useful purposes--have all
the appearance of having been expressly constructed for the performance
of those purposes. If these appearances of adaptation were fallacious,
if the apparent utility were undesigned, the chances against the
perpetual recurrence of so singularly useful, rather than of some
totally useless, set of combinations would be a multiple of innumerosity
similar to that which has clearly been shown to represent the
preponderance of probability against the constant repetition of any set
of combinations whatever, whether useful or useless. If, then, it were
permissible to use so extravagant an hyperbole to indicate an idea of
multitude to which it is not in the power of words to give adequate
expression, it might be said that while the chances against Nature's
habitual action being _unintentional_, or the result as it were of mere
fidgettiness or restlessness, are an indefinite multiple of infinity,
the chances against its being _purposeless_ and _undesigned_, without
view to end or object, is the same multiple doubled.

Still, in order to give the solitary and infinitesimal chance on the
other side its full due, let us confess it to be as yet not quite
conclusively demonstrated that the actual order of inorganic, and the
actual constitution of organic, nature are results of uninterrupted
repetition of one and the same purposeless volition, and of the same
purely fortuitous concourses of atoms. Let us admit it to be not
absolutely impossible, not utterly inconceivable, that vegetable and
animal organisms were not contrived such as they are with any view to
their becoming habitations of vegetable and animal life, but that having
been accidentally discovered to be fit to be lived in, they have been
taken possession of by life and inhabited accordingly; that, similarly,
the wondrously complex and varied mechanisms of which most organisms are
composed were not made to be used, but are used because certain uses
have been accidentally discovered for them--the eye, for instance, to
take one example out of myriads not less remarkable, not having been
meant to be seen with, but being employed for seeing because, by a happy
coincidence, the particles composing it have got to be collocated in
such wise that a picture of whatever is opposite to it is formed upon
the retina, and is thence by a nervous concatenation transmitted to the
brain. Although, if the most consummate skill, in comparison with which
that displayed in the fabrication of Mr. Newall's telescope were
downright clumsiness, had striven to devise a seeing apparatus, capable
of exact self-adjustment to all degrees of light, all gradations of
distance, all varieties of refrangibility, it could not have adopted a
contrivance more exquisitely ingenious, or evincing more minutely
accurate knowledge of the most secret laws of optics, than the mechanism
of the eye apparently betokens, let it still be admitted to be not quite
beyond the bounds of possibility, that not skill but the blindest and
densest ignorance may have presided over the whole operation. But even
though the modes of procedure involved in these admissions were not
quite impossible or inconceivable, belief in them would, I repeat, be
palpably irrational, and that almost to the last degree. The nearest
approach to a reason that can be imagined for it is the _Credo quia
incredibile est_ to which philosophers in despair have occasionally been
known to resort. _Dudum in scholis audiveram_, says Descartes, _nihil
tam absurdè dici posse quod non dicatur ab aliquo Philosophorum_. In his
early college days he had heard that nothing so absurd can possibly be
said, but that some philosopher or other may say it. Such words are too
hard for me. I make as yet no charges of absurdity, contenting myself
for the moment with saying that no notion can be too unscientific to be
adopted by those scientific men who, gratuitously running counter to the
strongest possible presumption, set the science of probabilities so
utterly at naught as to adopt as reality an hypothesis the chances
against which are but one single iota short of infinite.

What, however, is unequivocally absurd, is a certain notion which I
hinted would be found to be inevitably consequent on the foregoing
premisses, and whose self-evident falsity carries with it condemnation
of the premisses. To say that the creative agency denominated Nature, or
by whatever other name known, neither had any ends in view when
originally adopting certain sequences of action, and originally
fabricating innumerable organisms exactly suitable for the performance,
in concert with those sequences, of innumerable useful functions; nor,
although ever since repeating the sequences, and maintaining or
reproducing the organisms, has so done with any reference to the
purposes which the sequences and organisms serve, is equivalent to
saying that the agency in question is not even aware that any purposes
are served. He who planted the eye doth not then see. He who fashioned
the ear doth not hear. He who teacheth man knowledge doth not, it seems,
know. Yet what, according to this, creative agency, whether God or
Nature, Creator or Creatress, can not perceive, the creature can. Even
an ass knows that thistles are good to eat, and that certain movements
of his tongue and larynx will result in a bray; while man not only daily
discovers fresh uses for things, but imagines that if he had had the
fashioning of them, he might have materially increased their utility;
King Alfonso of Castile, for instance, boasting of the valuable
cosmogonical advice he could have given had he been taken into council;
and one of Kaiser Wilhelm's predecessors on the throne of Prussia
intimating that he, in like case, would have proved conclusively that
pounded quartz and silex may easily be in excess in arable soil. The
creature, then, has intelligence of which the Creator has always been
destitute. Yet the creature can have nothing save what, either directly
or indirectly, he derives from a creator. Wherefore that, in becoming
endowed with intelligence, man must have received from the Creator that
which the Creator had not to give, is an article inseparable from the
profession of faith of those moderate Atheists who are content to regard
man as a creature.

There are, however, others of a more uncompromising temper, who do not
hesitate to pronounce creation, in the sense of formation of something
out of nothing, to be an incomprehensible myth; and it cannot be denied
to these that, however difficult it be to conceive an uncreated universe
existing from all eternity, the conception of an eternally existent
Creator is not one whit easier. Fairly enough, therefore, these may
proceed to argue that in the production of that compound, man, the share
of the agency usually styled creative must have been limited to
combining and arranging the elemental particles of his corporeal moiety.
Quite fairly, advancing still farther, they may hazard a conjecture that
it is from the union of the corporeal constituents of man that the
generation of his spiritual moiety has resulted. But for such generation
it is plainly indispensable that the corporeal constituents should have
been not inert particles but self-acting forces, and that, as such, they
must have been in possession of more or less intelligence, which
intelligence again either was or was not equal in amount to that of the
human spirit or mind generated by them. If it were not equal, then the
forces must have given to their offspring more than they had themselves
got to give--which is sheer nonsense. If it were equal, then, inasmuch
as the human mind is quite clever enough to discover uses for the
various parts of the human body and of other organisms, the forces to
which the human mind owes its origin must be at least equally clever.
The elementary forces by whose action the human and other organic bodies
have been constructed, must have been perfectly aware what they were
constructing, and what services the resulting structures would be fitted
to render. In other words, they must in their constructive operations
have worked towards specific ends, according to preconceived plan and
set design, wittingly contriving various machines for various purposes.
The advanced Atheists, with whose speculations we are here especially
concerned, are thus at liberty to choose between two horns of a dilemma,
but must not hope to escape both. Either they stand self-refuted by
assuming something to have been made out of nothing--a process which
they began by pronouncing impossible--or they must imagine intelligence,
competent to devise all organisms, to be diffused throughout the
universe, thereby showing themselves to have assumed their sectarian
appellation without sufficient warrant, and to be in reality rather
Pantheists than Atheists.

A third hypothesis indeed remains for any who are content to believe
that Nature's elementary forces having, without knowing what they were
about, constructed the human body, the human mind, until then a
houseless wanderer, lit upon it by chance, and, observing it to be a
habitation suitably swept and garnished, entered in and dwelt there.
Upon this supposition there must be, within the limits of our terrene
sphere, two distinct species of intelligence, a greater and a
lesser--the one competent to construct all sorts of marvellously complex
and marvellously serviceable machines, yet incompetent to understand
their utility, the other fully perceiving the utility of the machines,
yet utterly incompetent to fabricate them. But there are probably few
adventurers on the ocean of speculation who would not prefer total
shipwreck to the shelter of such a harbour of refuge as this.

Atheism must in fairness be acknowledged to have much mended its manners
within the last two or three generations. Its tone and language are no
longer of the rude, scoffing sort at which Voltaire may be readily
pictured as breaking into voluble protest, or Hume as contemptuously
opening his eyes and shrugging his shoulders. Though grown more civil,
however, it cannot be complimented on having grown more rational. At
most may it be credited with being more elaborately irrational than of
old. It now no longer denies, it only ignores. It does not pronounce God
non-existent. It only insists that there is not complete proof that God
exists; thereupon, however, proceeding to argue as if He did not exist,
and thereby, not simply confounding deficiency of proof on one side with
sufficiency of proof on the other, but overlooking an amount of proof
that on any other subject would, provisionally at least, be deemed
conclusive, and perversely rejecting an hypothesis which, whether
correct, or not, is at least a good working hypothesis, coinciding
exactly with most of the facts, and inconsistent with none of them, in
favour of an hypothesis which, even in the hands of a Huxley or a
Darwin, cannot be made to work at all.


To my mind there is a genuine pleasure in giving expression to
admiration of any great intellectual achievement; and it is much rather
for that reason than on account of any value which I imagine my opinion
on such a subject can possess, that, having had occasion to name the
illustrious author of the 'Origin of Species,' I desire to preface my
criticism on what appears to me to be a grave defect in his theory, by
intimating my hearty concurrence in its leading principles. That
inasmuch as, owing to the exceeding fecundity of the generality of
organic beings, more individuals of almost every species are born than
can possibly survive, and that consequently a desperate struggle for
existence must take place amongst them; that in such a struggle the
smallest grain may turn the scale, the minutest advantage possessed by
some individuals over others determine which shall live and which shall
die; that, as the circumstances in which life is to be maintained
change, the character and structure of organisms must change also in
order to be accommodated thereto, but that the changes which
consequently take place in some individuals are better suited to the
altered circumstances than those which take place in other individuals;
that individual offspring, moreover, although always strongly resembling
their parents in the majority of particulars, always exhibit some slight
differences from them; that of these differences such as do not render
the offspring less fit will almost of necessity render them more fit
for coping with their rivals; and that superior fitness, however
acquired, is as likely as any other quality to be transmitted to
succeeding generations--all these are indisputable facts, and from
these, as premisses, it seems to me not so much to be legitimately
deducible that most existing species may have been produced 'by descent,
with modification, through natural selection,' or 'survival of the
fittest,' as necessarily to follow that they cannot have originated in
any other way. For _all_ species to have been created such as they now
are, is simply inconsistent with the premisses. Whatever beings may at
any remote epoch have been created, there must, according to the
conditions involved, have been amongst their descendants some better
fitted, by reason of divergence from the parent type, for engaging in
internecine strife than those, if any such there were, which adhered
closely to that type. Whether, then, among the survivors from the first
engagement in that never-ending struggle for life which must have
commenced soon after the creation, there were or were not any exact
representatives of the parent type, there must have been some exhibiting
more or less of divergence from that type. Among the descendants of
these, again, there must have been some who, together with the
structural or other advantages inherited from their immediate ancestors,
possessed, moreover, some advantages first nascent in themselves, and
who were similarly enabled thereby to prevail over their less gifted
competitors, and similarly to transmit all their advantages to a
posterity, some members of which would similarly be born with certain
new advantages in addition. By continual repetition of these processes,
and the consequent accumulation of divergencies from the original
pattern, however slight those divergencies might separately be, there
could not but eventually become formed breeds so distinct from each
other as to be to all intents and purposes distinct species, in
whichsoever of its many vague senses the term 'species' be understood.
Now these species, instead of having been created, would be the result
of divergence from their created progenitor. Whether, therefore, any
created species do or do not still exist, it is certain that among
existing species there are some that were not created, but which have
been gradually evolved, and evolved, too, through survival of the
fittest. Mr. Darwin, then, is fairly entitled to the praise of having
placed beyond dispute that a process called by himself 'Natural
Selection,' and by Mr. Herbert Spencer 'Survival of the Fittest,' has
almost from the commencement of organic life been, and still is, in
active operation; that it is a cause which must needs have originated
some species, and is quite competent to have originated all that still
exist; whereas creation, the only other suggested cause, cannot be
conceived to have done this latter unless every minutest shade of
difference between offspring and parent be regarded as the effect of a
separate creative act. Unless creation have originated every one of
those divergencies the accumulation of which constitutes a species,
clearly it cannot have originated that species. With some of the
phenomena connected with species the theory of creation cannot be
reconciled unless this novel interpretation be placed upon the word
creation, whereas there are none of the phenomena with which the
evolutionary hypothesis conflicts, and few, if any, which, when
restricted to its proper office of auxiliary, it will not help to

To what we might thus be assured of, even if we had only general
principles to guide us, all obtainable evidence unanimously testifies.
Geology distinctly proclaims that every portion of our globe's surface
has undergone vast changes, and that its organic inhabitants have
changed simultaneously and proportionately. The proof absolute, which it
furnishes, that at a period when few, if any, existing species had made
their appearance, many species now extinct already existed, is proof
equally absolute that if all species extinct and extant were created,
they cannot, at any rate, have been created at the same time. Of so much
at least we must be satisfied, unless we are prepared to accept the
ingenious conjecture of an orthodox divine, that, while our earth was
being formed out of chaos, Satan, to confound the faith of remote
generations, brought over bones of monsters from other worlds and
embedded them in the soil of ours, or that, as the same idea has been
otherwise expressed, while the earth's crust was a baking the devil had
a finger in the pie. Moreover, on the supposition that there was a break
of ages between the creations of extinct and of extant species, as
geology positively declares there must have been if both were separately
created, how passing strange is the 'grand fact that all extinct beings
can be classed with all recent beings'! The strangeness disappears,
however, when both are regarded as descendants of common progenitors.
The wonder would then be if they could not be so classed. Again, how
astonishing on the creative, how natural on the evolutionary hypothesis,
that the arrangement of bones in the hand of a man, the wing of a bat,
the fin of a porpoise, the leg of a horse, should be precisely the same;
the number of vertebræ in the neck of a giraffe, and in that of an
elephant the same; the primitive germs from which a man, a dog, a frog,
and a lobster are gradually evolved, to all appearance the same--the
same microscopic atom of homogeneous matter, undistinguishable by any
known test from an animalcule almost at the bottom of the organic scale!
Above all, that the courses by which animals of all degrees of
complexity are gradually developed from apparently equally simple germs
should, whenever traceable, be found to consist of progressive
ramifications, so that every higher animal, before arriving at maturity,
passes through several stages at the end of each of which lower animals
have stopped! How impossible, or how easy, to understand, according as
the one or the other hypothesis is adopted, is the phenomenon of what in
the one case will be treated as rudimentary, in the other as obsolete,
organs! No one need scruple to regard these as apparatus which the
creature has outgrown and allowed to fall into decay through neglect;
but whatever there is in us of real nobleness of feeling revolts against
the notion of their being apparatus which a divine Creator began to
build but was not able to finish. And yet again, how insultingly
irreconcilable with any rational estimate of Divine nature is the
possibility of any existing type of mammals having been created, seeing
that if so, it must have been created with _false_ marks of nourishment
from the womb of a mother that never existed!

These are some of the main grounds on which the Darwinian theory rests.
Of the abundance of detailed illustrations from which it may derive
additional support no adequate idea can be formed, except by careful
perusal of its author's own writings, and these fortunately may without
much exaggeration be said to be in everybody's hands. Of the arguments
that have been brought forward in opposition to it, all seem to me to
be susceptible of very complete answers, and one or two of the
strongest, of answers more complete than they have yet received. True,
there is no disputing the testimony borne by the paintings and
sculptures of Egyptian tombs, and of Ninevite palaces, that the basement
floors in Thebes and Memphis were infested by much the same sort of
beetles as those which are such nuisances in London kitchens; that
Sardanapalus, if ever he exchanged indoor for outdoor sports, may have
hunted with dogs and horses that might pass muster at an English meet,
and that the Pharaohs were served by negro slaves as like as two peas in
all externals to those who in the United States have recently and
prematurely been metamorphosed into free and independent electors. But
all this only proves that certain species which existed 4,000 years ago
are still represented by unchanged descendants. It does not prove that
other descendants and groups of descendants from the same species have
not within the same period undergone changes sufficiently great to
convert them into distinct races; neither, if it did prove thus much,
would it do more than afford a presumption, and a very deceptive one,
that 4,000 years are too short a time for the formation of a new race,
affording besides, at the same time, much stronger presumption that,
within the remotest limits to which Mosaic chronology can be pushed
back, the various races of mankind, white, black, and intermediately
tinted, can not possibly have descended from one pair of ancestors.

That domesticated animals, when suffered to run wild, always return to
the primitive wild type--this, instead of an argument against, is one of
the strongest arguments for the evolution theory, from which it is
indeed, as Mr. G. H. Lewes says, a necessary deduction. It is simply
because, as the conditions of life change, structure must, for
adaptation's sake, change likewise, that wild animals are capable of
being domesticated, of being, that is, made to undergo modifications by
being brought from the conditions of wildness to those of domesticity.
How, then, should they possibly retain those modifications, how escape
return to their previous shape and habits, when retransferred from
domesticity to wildness?

The question, Why are not new species continually produced? may be aptly
met by another. How, consistently with the theory, is it possible they
should? Natural Selection is represented as acting 'solely by
accumulating slight successive favourable variations,' as taking only
short and slow steps. By what possibility, then, can it suddenly produce
modifications sufficiently conspicuous to mark off a new species? New
species may be, and indeed are, constantly in process of formation on
all sides, under our very eyes, without our being aware; for since the
process requires ages for its accomplishment, it must needs be
imperceptible by the keenest observation. So that even when a new
species is completed, it is not recognised as new, so minute is the
difference between the perfection to which it has attained, and the
imperfect state in which we and our fathers before us had long known it.

'Why, however, since, according to the theory of Natural Selection, an
interminable number of intermediate forms must have existed, linking
together all the species in each group by gradations as fine as are our
present varieties--why do we not see these linking forms all around us?'
To this objection the very theory against which it is urged affords a
partial and almost adequate reply, the deficiencies of which are
besides to some extent supplied by embryology and geology, and to a
farther extent accounted for by the meagreness of the geological record.
Natural selection for survival necessarily implies extinction of all
that are not selected to survive, so that fossil remains are now the
only procurable evidence that any of these latter that have long been
extinct ever existed. But very many organic beings are incapable of
being preserved in a fossil condition, while of those which can be so
preserved 'the number of specimens in all our museums is absolutely as
nothing compared with the countless generations of countless species
that must have existed.' It should be recollected, too, that among still
existing forms are to be included several which result from uterine
transformation, and are never found alive except _in utero_.

Another objection, notwithstanding the great stress often laid on it,
seems to me to be altogether beside the real issue. It is the one
derived from the invariable sterility, real or supposed, of hybrids. A
fact cited by Mr. Lewes,[37] that of the fecundity of a cross called
_Leporides_, bred by M. Rouy of Angoulême, between the hare and rabbit,
of which a thousand on an average were for many years, and probably are
still, sent annually to market, would seem to be decisive against the
assumed sterility; but, however this be, matters not the least in regard
to the efficacy of Natural Selection, which, be it once again observed,
is represented as producing new species, not suddenly by the copulation
of two old and utterly distinct ones, but very gradually and slowly, by
the accumulation of minute differences occurring in successive
individuals of the same species.

The chief if not the only serious obstacles to acceptance of Darwinism
seem to me to be of the author's own creation. Now and then he appears
somewhat needlessly to overstrain his principles, as for instance when
he intimates his conviction that 'all individuals of the same species,
and all the closely allied species of most genera,' will hereafter be
discovered to 'have descended from one parent and to have migrated from
some one birthplace.' This, to my mind, is much more unlikely than his
further suggestion that 'all animals and plants are descended from some
one prototype.' Startling as this second proposition may be on first
hearing, it may not very improbably express the real fact, provided by
'some one prototype' be signified, not a single individual, but several
individuals of one and the same type. Beyond all doubt there was a time
when on and about our earth all matter was as yet inorganic, and when
whatever spirit,[38] of the sort so termed in contradistinction to
matter, either permeated the earth's substance or moved about its
surface, must have been as yet unembodied. Mr. Darwin demands whether
any one can 'really believe that at innumerable periods in the earth's
history, elemental atoms have been commanded suddenly to flash into
living tissues.' I for one certainly am far from believing this. I see
no reason for believing that, whatever other phenomenon, at all similar,
may at any stage of the world's progress have occurred, it has at
innumerable subsequent stages been repeated; neither do I consider that
the phenomenon is likely to have worn the guise of a sudden flash. But I
do firmly believe, and am quite unable to substitute any equally
plausible substitute for the belief, that when the crust of the earth
had sufficiently cooled, and when other physical conditions had become
such as to admit of the manifestation of that life which we are
accustomed to distinguish by attaching to it the epithet 'organic,'
certain of those forces[39] which, in my opinion, constitute matter,
did, either of their own accord or under superior direction--not
suddenly flash, but--slowly elaborate themselves into organic structures
of some exceedingly simple type; that in the course of ages these simple
structures either developed themselves or were developed into structures
rendered by slow degrees more and more complex, until the degree of
complexity attained, being such as to fit them for being inhabited by
spirit previously unembodied, they were, by individualised portions of
such spirit, appropriated and inhabited accordingly. Beyond all doubt,
at some period or other, what had always previously been unorganised
matter must have become organised. Of two things one, then. Either this
matter must, whether under superior direction or not, have organised
itself, or it must have been organised by some other agency. Mr. Darwin,
together with all thorough-going Darwinians, inclines, I suspect, to the
opinion that matter organised itself; but if so, it cannot possibly have
been inert or lifeless, but must have been active and animate, and
capable of volition; and on that condition, there is no great stretch of
fancy in imagining it to have spontaneously adopted the series of
arrangements indicated. If, on the other hand, we are content to admit
that some external superior intelligence may have performed, or
conducted, or presided over operations, all room for wonder vanishes.

In regard to the character of the structural prototype, that, of course,
would depend in part on surrounding physical conditions, and if these
have ever been the same in all parts of the globe, there is no apparent
reason why any number of specimens of the prototype may not anywhere
have been independently elaborated. It is not possible, however, that,
since the earth began to revolve round the sun, physical conditions can
have been _simultaneously_ the same in all latitudes; while, on the
other hand, it seems probable that, although the same set of conditions
might perhaps admit of the production of only one organic type, there
might be other sets of conditions favourable to the production of other
types. On the whole, then, it seems more probable that inorganic matter
combined (or _was_ combined) in the first instance in several modes,
than in one single mode, in order to become organic. But whatever may
have been the organic form or forms it first took, to assume that only a
single individual of each form was independently elaborated, and that
all other individuals, both of the same form and of all the more complex
forms, gradually evolved from that one--are descendants from the same
first individual, the same first parent--surely very gratuitously
increases the difficulties of the subject. Especially it complicates the
problem of the distribution of the same plants and animals over
countries immemorially separated by gulfs apparently impassable by
natural means.

The obstruction which Mr. Darwin has created to the progress of his
opinions by the exaggerated shape in which some of them have been
presented is, however, as nothing in comparison with the injury he does
to his theory by obstinately rejecting certain materials indispensable
for its satisfactory completion. What an admirable theory it is so far
as it goes! How nicely it fits into all the facts it comes in contact
with, even into those which it is, of itself and unassisted, incompetent
to explain! How elevating too and ennobling, when rightly conceived! for
who can fail to rejoice in the view it presents of 'Natural selection
working solely by and for the good of each being' that it spares, and
causing 'all corporal and mental endowments to tend towards perfection'?
or who need mind suspecting himself to be descended, through an ape,
from a triton or a hydra, if he may compensate himself by hoping to have
a distant posterity of angels? How well, moreover, would it, if
permitted, chime in with any rational religion, besides being, as
already hinted, absolutely essential to that part of the Mosaic creed
which represents all the variously coloured and variously featured races
of men as springing from one single couple. By what perversity then is
it that Mr. Darwin takes such pains, if not to render his theory
irreligious, at least to exclude from it the assistance which religion
alone can afford, and which it so greatly needs, that whoever, without
that assistance, attempts to apply the theory to the complete
elucidation of phenomena, will be found inevitably committing himself to
the most astounding hypotheses? Here I picture to myself a curl on the
lip of some advanced Darwinian who, having accompanied me so far, cannot
altogether suppress his compassionate scorn at the proposed recurrence
now-a-days to a mode of thought so obsolete in the treatment of
scientific subjects as the theological. 'Positive biology,' he will
perhaps superbly exclaim, repeating the words of Mr. G. H. Lewes,
'declines theological explanations altogether.' Yes, but positive
biology is therein very unwise, for as, if the same reader will
accompany me a little further, I pledge myself to show, it is the
untheological or atheistical, not the theistical, mode of treatment
which is here utterly out of place and flagrantly unscientific. Be it,
without the slightest reserve, admitted that the formation of almost
all, and probably of quite all, existing species is due, and cannot be
otherwise than due, to survival of the fittest, the superior fitness of
these, moreover, being due to the gradual accumulation of innumerable
and, for the most part, exceedingly slight divergencies from the parent
stock. But whence and why these divergencies? It cannot be without a
cause that even one more feather than the parent possessed appears in
the offspring's wing, or a novel tint on its coat, or that the curve of
beak or talons is not precisely the same in each. What then is the
cause? Unphilosophic people will most likely call it 'all chance,'
getting sneered at for their pains, and justly too, as using words
without meaning. But are not philosophers themselves doing much the same
thing, and merely restating facts which they profess to explain, when,
like Mr. Lewes,[40] they talk of the 'specific shape' assumed by an
'organic plasma' being 'always dependent on the polarity of its
molecules,' 'or due to the operation of immanent properties;' or declare
that, in the process of organic evolution, 'each stage determines its
successor,' 'consensus of the whole impressing a peculiar direction on
the development of parts, and the law of Epigenesis necessitating a
serial development,' insomuch that, 'every part being the effect of a
pre-existing, and in turn the cause of a succeeding part,' the reason
why, when a crab loses its claw, the member is reproduced, is that the
group of cells remaining at the stump 'is the necessary condition of
the genesis' of precisely that new group which the reproductive process
imperatively requires to follow next in order, this second group equally
the necessary condition for genesis of the one required third, the third
for the fourth, and so on; and that the reason why the thorns of a
blackberry admit of somewhat close comparison with the hooks and spines
of certain crustaceæ, is that portions of the integument of both plant
and crawfish '_tend_ under similar external forces to develop' into
similar forms?

I pass rapidly over one or two minor difficulties that here present
themselves. I will not stop to ask how--if reproduction of lost limbs be
due to polarity of the molecules, in other words to the direction which
in the circumstances of the case the molecules are bound to take, and if
the polarity of each particular set of molecules be impressed upon them
by the group formed immediately previously--how it is that the group
terminating the docked stump of a limb, which group is represented as
commencing the work of reproduction, imparts a different direction or
tendency to the fresh molecules of nourishment that are supplied to it,
from that which it has been accustomed to communicate to previous
molecular supplies. Hitherto it has used such molecules solely for the
repair of its own waste; now it employs a large portion of them to build
up an entirely new fabric. It seems then that molecular polarity is not
a fixed but a variable property, and, being such, cannot be inherent or
originate in the molecular nature. But I will not linger over this point
nor yet over the fact, absolutely unintelligible on the polar
hypothesis, that it is comparatively only few animals that are capable
of reproducing severed parts. Although the process required, no doubt,
is, as Mr. Lewes says, 'in all essential respects the same as that which
originally produced' the parts, the last layer of cells left at the
place of excision after a human leg or arm has been cut off, lacks the
skill to repeat an operation, which according to the hypothesis it has
once before performed. It cannot so determine the polarity of the
molecules with which it is supplied by the arteries as to constrain them
to group themselves into a new layer, instead of merely repairing an old
one. A crab or a lobster, or a polype's molecules are clever enough for
this, a man's not. Without pressing these objections, but on the
contrary, conceding for the nonce and for argument's sake, to molecular
polarity, to immanent properties, to Epigenetic evolution, all the
efficacy claimed for them, I limit myself to inquiring what causes the
various tendencies and directions which these imply. Tendency
pre-supposes impulse; direction control. What is it that here imparts
the impulse and exercises the control? Whatever else it be, it must, for
reasons stated at length on a previous page, be something possessing at
least enough of intelligence to exercise volition, and which at least
intends that the movements which it originates shall take place, whether
it further intends or not the ends which eventually result from the
movements. To myself it seems barely conceivable that even the least
marvellous of these ends should have been undesigned. Take, for
instance, half a dozen _infusoria_ of some exceedingly low type, all
individually single cells or sacs of matter perfectly transparent and
destitute of any approach to structure that can be detected with a
magnifying power of five thousand diameters. Observe how, after feeding
for a while, and increasing proportionately in size, one will divide
itself in half, each half becoming a separate and complete animalcule,
another line itself internally and clothe itself externally with
clustered cells, which, by a series of differentiations, traceable
through a number of animalcular varieties, eventually exhibit the
outlines of respiratory and circulatory systems. To me, I repeat, it
seems all but inconceivable, and altogether incredible, that the
intelligence which willed these cellular divisions, multiplications, and
differentiations to take place, did not foresee what would be their
results, and did not will them for the sake of those results. And if I
do not deem it still more incredible that there should be _natural_
selection separating the fittest for survival by accumulating upon them
slight advantages which qualify them to survive, without there being at
the same time a _nature_, or other exalted intelligence, however
designated, which selects, and which accumulates advantages upon the
objects of its selection, _in order_ that they may survive, it is only
because I consider the extremest limits of credibility to have been
already passed. But I forget. On reflection I perceive that I am doing
scant justice to the elasticity of philosophic belief. How far this is
capable of stretching on occasion, let one or two notable Darwinian
specimens show.

No single piece of organic mechanism is oftener or more confidently
appealed to by Theists as rendering conclusive evidence on their side
than the eye, nor would they run much risk by allowing sentence to go
for or against them according as Mr. Darwin has or has not succeeded in
his attempt to explain that evidence away. Possibly he may disclaim
having made any attempt of the kind, and I must admit that it is less by
what he says than by what he leaves unsaid, that he lays himself open to
the charge. Indeed, in almost all he says on the subject, I myself
cordially agree, embracing even some of his views with less of
hesitation than he seems to have felt in putting them forward. He seems
to me, for instance, to have somewhat gratuitously admitted it to be
apparently 'in the highest degree absurd to suppose that the eye, with
all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different
distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the
correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed
by natural selection.' For since, as he proceeds unanswerably to argue,
'numerous gradations, from an imperfect and simple eye to one perfect
and complex, each grade being useful to its possessor, can certainly be
shown to exist;' since, as certainly, slight variations of the eye do
occur, and are inherited, and since of these variations there cannot but
be some which are useful to the animal exhibiting them under changing
conditions of life, the difficulty of believing in the formation of a
perfect and complex eye by natural selection can be little else than a
prejudice of the imagination. He proceeds to indicate some probable
stages in the assumed process. Some of the lowest organisms, in which no
trace of nerves can be detected, are known to be sensible to light,
owing, probably, to the presence in the _sarcode_ of which they are
mainly composed, of certain elements which, in organisms somewhat higher
in the scale, become aggregated and developed into nerves specially
endowed with the same sensibility. An optic nerve thus formed,
surrounded by pigment cells, and covered by translucent skin, is the
simplest organ that can be called an eye, but it is an eye incapable of
distinct vision, and serving only to distinguish light from darkness. In
certain star-fishes, small depressions in the layer of pigment-cells
are filled with transparent gelatinous matter projecting with a convex
surface like a rudimentary cornea, and this, it has been suggested, may
serve, not only to form an image, but to concentrate the luminous rays.
In insects, the numerous facets in the cornea of their great compound
eyes have now been ascertained to form true lenses, the cones, moreover,
having been discovered to include curiously modified nervous filaments.
It is impossible not, in this series of changes, to perceive the
appearance of graduation, nor ought there to be much difficulty in
believing the apparent graduation to be real, when we consider how few
comparatively are the still living forms in which the changes cited have
been observed, and how far more numerous the extinct forms by which
intermediate changes may have been presented. If there be no
extravagance in supposing that natural selection may have occasioned
these early steps, neither is there any in supposing that, by continued
progress in the same direction, it may at length have fabricated the
most perfect optical instrument possessed by any member of the
_articulata_. And, if credited so far, why not still further? why not
with competence to form a man's or an eagle's eye? So far I am as
completely at one with Mr. Darwin in respect to the eye as in respect to
any other of the subjects taken by him for illustration. The fact is,
however, that in this, as in every similar instance, he has completely
evaded the real difficulties of the case. It is not a whit more
startling to be told that the most complex eye, with all the latest
improvements, than to be told that the earliest rudiment of an optic
nerve, may have been formed by the gradual accumulation of minute
differences. Only allow time enough for the requisite accumulation, and
neither operation is one whit more unintelligible than the other. The
difficulty, equally and utterly insuperable in both cases, is to
understand how the difference can have been undesigned. 'How a nerve
comes to be sensitive to light,' says Mr. Darwin, 'hardly concerns us
more than how life itself originated.' Perhaps not; nor, indeed, very
well could it, for the second question of the two is surely one of
almost unsurpassed concernment; but, at any rate, when either of the two
is asked, nothing can be more reprehensible than, by studiously ignoring
the only alternative reply, to leave it to be inferred that the nerve
made itself, or that life caused itself to live, that both are in short
examples of what Mr. Darwin strangely calls '_variation causing
alterations_.'[41] Let us briefly consider a few of the results supposed
to be attributable to this singular process. The eye, as every reader of
course knows, though here and there one perhaps may not be the worse for
being reminded, consists of four coats--the _sclerotic_, outermost and
strongest, which constitutes the white of the eye; the circular, tough,
and coloured, yet pellucid, _cornea_, in the centre of which is seen the
pupil; the _choroid_, full charged with black pigment, and lining the
sclerotic; the _retina_, an expansion of the optic nerve, lining in its
turn the choroid; of the _iris_, a flat membrane, dividing the eye into
two very unequally-sized chambers; of a lens termed the _crystalline_,
suspended in the posterior chamber immediately behind the iris; and of
two humours (also virtual lenses), whereof one, the _aqueous_, is
enclosed in the anterior chamber formed by the iris and the cornea,
while the other, the _vitreous_, fills the whole of the posterior
chamber save what is occupied by the crystalline lens. By what nice
interlacement of filaments the fibrous ring that margins the pupil, or
aperture through the iris, regulates the admission of light, contracting
or expanding, yet always preserving its circular form, according as the
brilliance is excessive or deficient; how the humours or lenses are
continually varying in figure and relative position so as to concentrate
every pencil of light admitted on that point exactly where the retina is
spread out to receive it; how, according as the object looked at is near
at hand or far off, certain muscles perform quite opposite services,
rendering the cornea more or less prominent, pushing the crystalline
lens forward or backward, and thereby lengthening or shortening the axis
of vision, so that, whether the rays enter divergently from a near
object, or parallel from a remote one, they equally fall into focus at
the same distance beyond, and equally form on the retina a picture of
the object from which they come, perhaps compressing a landscape of five
or six square leagues into a space of half an inch diameter, and anon
allowing the page of a book or a dinner-plate to occupy the entire field
of vision--to these and to any kindred marvels it would be superfluous
more than momentarily to refer. Suffice it to note how measureless the
superiority, as a mere piece of mechanism, of an average eye to the
finest of telescopes, and how just, nevertheless, is the
telescope-maker's claim to praise for skilful adaptation to the laws of
optics, when he has succeeded in a faint and feeble imitation of some
minor part of nature's visual apparatus. Yet nature's original and
infinitely more beautiful aptitudes we are forbidden to deem
adaptations, being required instead to regard them as self-produced, or,
at any rate, as having been undesigned. Now I unreservedly admit that,
among all conceivable forms, among the most exquisitely beautiful and
most usefully intricate and complex, there is not one which may not
possibly have been produced without aim or purpose by the mere
restlessness of elemental forces; the amount of probability of their
having been so produced being, however, according to the formula already
set forth in its proper place, as one to infinity multiplied more or
less frequently by itself. But what adequate superlative shall we invent
to express the credulity, the credulosity run mad, of those who, in a
matter of scientific belief, deliberately accept such odds. Observe how
at once extravagantly gratuitous and painfully elaborate such
credulosity is; how easily, on the one hand, all its ends could be
served by the simple expedient of supposing a superintending
intelligence; how, on the other, it compels ingenuity like Mr. Darwin's
to entrench itself behind a phrase of utterly unmeaning gibberish.

If you see a man moving slowly, with head down, over an extensive plain,
you may fairly suspect that he does not know where he is going, and
possibly does not mean to go anywhere in particular. But if you perceive
that on reaching a ditch he takes a leap over, you are quite sure that,
when leaping, he meant to get to the other side. To that extent his
saltatory movement is unequivocal evidence of design. It is perhaps to
escape the necessity of a similar inference that Mr. Darwin so
frequently quotes the proverb _Natura non facit saltum_; but, if so, he
leans on a broken reed--on a bit of proverbial philosophy as weak as the
weakest of Mr. Tupper's. That Nature does sometimes make a leap, and a
pretty long one, must be obvious to any visitor to the Museum of the
London College of Surgeons, who has examined the two-headed and
four-legged human foeti there preserved in spirits. It may be said
that these are leaps in the wrong direction. Be it so. Still, whoever
can leap backward can make an equal leap forward, and most people will
find the latter the easier feat of the two. The power, whatever it be,
that coupled together the Siamese Twins, and gave to those respected
brothers, the late William and Robert Chambers of Edinburgh, twelve
fingers and twelve toes apiece, would not have gone at all more out of
the way by doing, suddenly and at once, several of those things which
Mr. Darwin doubts not that it does slowly and by degrees--by single
acts, for instance, instead of by a succession of acts, aggregating into
the semblance of an optic nerve certain elements in the _sarcode_ of
certain low organisms, spreading out the nerve thus formed into a
network or retina, forming a number of separate pigment-cells into a
homogeneous cornea, and following up these first steps by others which,
how much soever more apparently complex, would cost comparatively little
after the earlier and simpler ones had been taken. Now let but the power
competent to do these things be credited with sense enough to be aware
of its competence, and it may then be regarded as not unlikely to have
done some of them on purpose. Whereupon, the genesis of the eye ceases
to be a mystery. All the appearances of contrivance that have resulted
from the operation find their obvious and complete explanation in the
assumption of a contriver, and all such hazy films as that of
variability producing variation cease to be capable of serving as
excuses for wilful blindness. And why should not the power in question
be so credited? Here is Mr. Darwin's solitary reason why. He doubts
whether the inference implied may not be 'presumptuous.' He apprehends
that we have no 'right to assume that the Creator works by intellectual
powers like those of a man.' Truly, of all suggested modes of marking
respect for creative power, that of assuming it to have worked
unintelligently is the most original.

The hypothesis offered by Mr. Darwin in explanation of the most perfect
of organic structures, is deemed by him to be equally explanatory of the
most marvellous of animal instincts. Parenthetically, here, never having
as yet met with a definition of instinct which I am able to accept as
satisfactory, I make bold to offer a description of my own. Instinct is
innate knowledge how to perform any useful actions, accompanied by a
tendency or propensity to perform those actions, but wholly
unaccompanied by knowledge of any purpose which they can serve. This is
pure instinct, an example whereof is afforded by the beaver, of which
animal I have somewhere read that one caught when newly born, and
brought up by itself in a room in its captor's house, proceeded after a
while to build up across the apartment the semblance of a dam, composed
of brushes, rugs, billets of wood, and other litter. Pure instinct
differs essentially, not in degree only, but in kind, from reason, which
is not knowledge, but an instrument for acquiring knowledge. Instinct,
however, is rarely if ever found pure, being apparently always
accompanied by more or less of reason. Even a polype makes some show of
reason by moving its _cilia_ in one mode when it desires to suck in
food, and in another when it merely wishes to move on; while it is
scarcely possible for an unprejudiced spectator to doubt of its being by
a rational deduction from experience that a dog knows that it will get
kicked if it presume to snatch at the meat on its master's plate,
instead of waiting for the scraps he may be pleased to throw to it when
he has done. Instinct by necessary implication involves habit; habit as
necessarily always more or less modifies structure; structural
modification always may be, and often is, inherited, carrying with it a
tendency to the habit out of which itself arose; therefore habit and
instinct are likewise heritable. Some instincts are originated
artificially. The reason why, on the very first opportunity, a young
pointer has been known to point at game, and a young sheep-dog to run
round, instead of at, a flock of sheep, is that some of their respective
ancestors had been carefully trained so to point and to wheel. These,
however, are exceptions to the general rule. Most instincts are of what
every one would call natural, and Mr. Darwin calls 'spontaneous' origin,
he explaining the meaning of the latter term to be that the slight
variations from a primordial type, the accumulation of which is
considered by him to constitute actual instinct, are 'variations
produced by the same unknown causes as those which produce slight
deviations of bodily structure.' But here I am once more compelled to
join issue with him. Of the causes which he styles unknown, I maintain
that we know at least thus much--either they are themselves intelligent
forces, or they are forces acting under intelligent direction; and in
support of this proposition I need not perhaps do more than show from
Mr. Darwin's example what infinitely harder things must be accepted by
those who decline to accept this.

Mr. Darwin, like every really truth-loving controversialist, far from
desiring to shroud, invites special attention to any seeming weaknesses
in his position; and, therefore, when contending that all the faculties
commonly classed as instincts, are exclusively due to natural selection,
of course takes care to particularise the cellmaking faculty of the hive
bee. And here, again, I gladly bear my humble testimony to the partial
success he has achieved. Although bound to protest against the claim set
up by him, on behalf of natural selection, to the entire credit of
producing the hive bee's most remarkable characteristic, I cannot but
think he has succeeded in removing all the apparent difficulties of
believing that natural selection's share may have been not less
important in that than in any other productive operation in which it
takes part.

In popular estimation the hive bee is a heaven-born mathematician which,
having been set the problem how to fill a given space with waxen cells
with the least loss of room and expenditure of material, arrives by
intuition and instantaneously at a solution which Newton himself was
ignorant of, and to which, but for his discovery of the fluxional
calculus, it would have been impossible for his follower, Maclaurin, to
attain. And, doubtless, it may excusably be deemed supernatural that the
insect should adopt off-hand precisely that six-sided figure, and
precisely that inclination of the angles of the same figure's pyramidal
roof or floor, which, only by very refined and recondite investigation,
can be scientifically shown to be those best fitted for the purpose. Mr.
Darwin has, however, adduced strong grounds for supposing the amazing
architectural skill thus displayed to have been acquired, not suddenly,
but by the same slow degrees as those which are so clearly traceable
throughout organic progress in general. At the lower end of a short
apiary series, he observed humble bees using their old cocoons for
honey pots, sometimes adding to them short tubes of wax, and likewise
making separate and very irregular cells entirely of wax. At the higher
end of the series, he saw hive bees making double layers of cells, each
cell an hexagonal prism with the basal ends of its six sides bevelled so
as to fit on to a pyramid formed of three rhombs, and each of the three
rhombs which compose the pyramidal base of a single cell on one side of
the comb entering into the composition of one of the three adjoining
cells on the opposite side. Intermediately, he found the Mexican
_meliponæ domesticæ_ depositing their honey in cells nearly spherical,
and of nearly equal sizes. 'These cells, although aggregated into a mass
otherwise irregular, are always at such a degree of nearness to each
other that they would have intersected or broken into each other if the
spheres had been completed. But this is never permitted, the bees
building perfectly flat walls of wax between the spheres which thus tend
to intersect. Hence, each cell consists of an outer spherical portion,
and of two, three, or more, perfectly flat surfaces, according as the
cell adjoins two, three, or more cells; and when one cell rests on three
others, as from the spheres being nearly of the same size is very
frequently and necessarily the case, the three flat surfaces are united
into a pyramid rudely resembling the three-sided pyramidal base of the
hive bee's cell, and necessarily enter, like the three rhombs of the
latter, into the construction of three adjoining cells.' Reflecting on
these remarkable gradations, it occurred to Mr. Darwin that if the
melipona were to make its spheres of precisely equal sizes, and to
arrange them symmetrically in double layers, and were further so to
dispose them as that the centre of each should be at the distance of
radius x [mathematical symbol 'square root']2 or radius × 1.41421 from the
centres of the six surrounding spheres in the same layer, and at the
same distance from the centres of the adjoining spheres in the other and
parallel layer--then 'if planes of intersection between the several
spheres on both layers were formed, there would result a double layer of
hexagonal prisms united together by pyramidal bases formed of three
rhombs; and the rhombs and the sides of the hexagonal prisms would have
every angle identically the same with the best measurements that have
been made of the cells of the hive bee.' Then, submitting this view to
Professor Miller of Cambridge, he had the gratification of being assured
by that distinguished geometer that it was strictly correct. Certainly a
very happy example of an ingenious conjecture verified by a species of
demonstration hardly inferior to the experimental. Certainly a very
valuable testimony to the soundness of all the main and really essential
principles of Darwinism. Good cause, certainly, is hereby shown for
believing that the cell-making faculty of the hive bee may be nothing
more than the aggregate of many minute and successive improvements upon
that of the melipona, and this, again, than a similar aggregate of
improvements on that of the humble bee; and for believing further that
hive bee and melipona may both be either descendants from the humble
bee, or joint-descendants with it from some still earlier common
progenitor. In order to believe this it suffices to believe that a bee
which at one period made, like the humble bee, cells very unequally
sized and irregularly rounded, came gradually, in the course of time, to
make them as nearly equal in size and as nearly spherical as those of
the melipona; and subsequently, during a further lapse of time, came to
arrange them at the same distances from each other, and in double
layers like those of the humble bee. To assume thus much requires no
inordinate stretch of faith; and thus much being assumed, it is seen at
once that the hive bee, requiring for its cells only about half as much
wax as the humble bee does, and consequently only about half as much
honey for the secretion of the requisite wax, would, in a struggle for
existence, leave the humble bee so little chance that in all probability
the two species would nowhere coexist, were it not for the special
resource derived by the humble bee from possession of a trunk long
enough to enter the nectaries of certain flowers, which the shorter
trunk of the hive bee is unable to tap. But though there be no
difficulty in assuming the improvements in question to have gradually
taken place, and to have become aggregated in the manner supposed, there
is, to my mind, an insuperable objection to supposing that successive
generations of bees should have successively adopted the improvements
without either having the sense to know what they were doing, or being
prompted by some superior intelligence that did know. I will not be so
superfluous as to exaggerate the difficulty. Passing over the earlier
stages of the process, and confining myself to one or two of the later,
I will content myself with showing how infinitesimally small, when
magnified to the utmost, are the chances in favour of these having been
passed through blindly. I will admit it to be possible that in a society
of purely meliponish habits, there might, in virtue of one or other of
those inscrutable causes classed under the general name of spontaneous
variation, arise some two or three individuals with an innate propensity
to make accurately spherical and equally sized cells; that these
individuals, if either males or fertile females, and not sterile
neuters, might help to generate others with the same propensity, these
again generating others, and so on, until the greater part or the whole
of the community became possessed of the same constructive aptitude. I
will admit further that, in virtue of the same inscrutable causes,
individuals, at first few, but gradually increasing in number, might
similarly be born with the additional tendency to make cells at the
same, and that the most appropriate, distance from all adjoining cells;
and will freely acknowledge that the bees, modifying their previous mode
of construction, as meliponæ necessarily would do under these altered
circumstances, would construct a layer of cells similar in all respects
to those on one side of the hive bee's comb, except that their bases
would be flat instead of pyramidal. Further, I admit that the bases
would become pyramidal in case the bees should set about constructing
double instead of single layers of cells on the same principle. Not a
little liberality is required for these admissions. For, in the first
place, the fact of the bees having acquired the habit of making perfect
and equally sized spheres would not of itself be of any obvious benefit
either to individual bees or to the society at large: in order that it
should enable material and labour to be saved it would have to be
accompanied by the habit of making the cells at special distances from
each other. And, in the second place, though some few individuals should
present themselves with an innate tendency to choose these special
distances, whatever advantage might result therefrom, whatever saving of
material or labour, would be shared in equally by the whole community,
the particular individuals to whom it was due benefiting by it no more
than any of the rest, and not being, in consequence, more likely than
they to survive in any struggle for existence, or to leave behind them
offspring inheriting their special characteristics. No help, therefore,
can be derived from Mr. Darwin's principles towards conjecturing why a
small minority of such specially endowed bees should be gradually
converted into a majority, and should eventually constitute the whole
community, thereupon becoming in fact converted into a new species. Let
us, however, liberally waive this and all similar objections, and assume
a community of hive bees to have been, in the utterly unaccountable
manner indicated by the term spontaneous variation, developed from a
meliponish stock. Unfortunately, all our liberality will be found to
have been thrown away without perceptibly simplifying the problem to be
solved. For, whatever be among meliponæ the distribution of the
generative capacities, among hive bees, at any rate, all workers are
sterile neuters, which never have any offspring to whom to bequeath
their cellmaking skill, while the queen bee and drones, which alone can
become parents, have no such skill to bequeath. Clearly the formula of
'descent with modification by natural selection,' is, in its literal
sense, utterly inapplicable here. In whatever manner the cell-making
faculty might have been acquired by the first homogeneous swarm of hive
bees, it must inevitably have terminated with the generation with which
it commenced, if transmission by direct descent had been necessary for
its continuance. The only resource open to Mr. Darwin is to suppose, not
merely (what is, indeed, obviously the fact) that queen bee after queen
bee, besides generating each in turn a progeny of workers endowed with
instincts which their parents did not possess and could not therefore
impart, generated also princess bees destined in due season to generate
a working progeny similarly endowed with instincts underived from their
parents; but to suppose further that all this has happened in the total
absence of aim, object, intention, or design. Now that all this should
have so happened, although not absolutely inconceivable, nor, therefore,
absolutely impossible, is surely too incredible to be believed except in
despair of some other hypothesis a trifle less preposterous. It is
surely not worth while to set the doctrine of probabilities so
completely at naught, for the sake of an explanation which avowedly
leaves every difficulty unexplained, referring them all to causes not
simply unknown but unconjecturable. What excuse, then, have
philosophers, of all people, for doing this in preference to the simple
expedient of supposing that, although the parturient bee, queen or
other, cannot intend that any of her progeny should be more bounteously
endowed than herself, there is an independent intelligence that does so
intend? To content oneself with pronouncing such preference to be
eminently unscientific is tenderness of language nearly akin, I fear, to
literary bathos.


I have said that the form of unbelief to which, on the principle of
calling a spade a spade, I have taken the liberty of giving the name of
Scientific Atheism, manifests itself now-a-days rather by ignoration
than by formal denial of God. This, however, is not a new feature in any
atheism really worthy of being styled scientific. Even as Mr. Darwin
verbally recognises a Creator, although without assigning to Him any
share in creation, even so Kant, when more than a century ago
undertaking, in his 'General Natural History and Theory of the Celestial
Bodies,'[42] to account for the constitution and mechanical origin of
the universe on Newtonian principles, spoke of the elements as deriving
their essential qualities from the 'eternal thought of the Divine
Intelligence,' without, however, crediting the said Intelligence with
having interposed in order to carry out His thoughts. 'Give me matter,'
he says, 'and I will build the world;' and without other data than
diffused atoms of matter endowed with simple attractive and repulsive
forces, he proceeds to expound a complete cosmogony.

He pictures to himself the universe as originally an infinite expansion
of minutely subdivided matter, and supposing a single centre of
attraction to be somewhere therein set up, he endeavours to show that
the result must be a prodigious central body surrounded by systems of
solar and planetary worlds in all stages of development. 'In vivid
language,' says Professor Huxley,[43] 'he describes the great
world-maelstrom widening the margin of its prodigious eddy in the slow
progress of millions of ages, gradually reclaiming more and more of the
molecular waste, and converting chaos into cosmos.' Then, fixing his
attention more particularly on our own system, he accounts for the
relation between the masses and densities of the planets and their
distances from the sun, for the eccentricity of their orbits, for their
rotation, for their satellites, for the general agreement in the
direction of rotation among the celestial bodies, for Saturn's ring, and
for the zodiacal light. All this he does, according to Professor Huxley,
by 'strict deduction from admitted dynamical principles,' and I, well
aware of my own inability to form an independent judgment on the point,
gladly take so high an authority's word for it. For aught that I know,
Kant's attractive and repulsive forces being admitted, the establishment
of centres of attraction, and of circle within circle of revolutions
round them, and all his other details, would follow naturally and of
course. I limit myself to asking, Whence these simple forces?--and when
Kant replies, 'From the Eternal Thought of the Divine Understanding,' I
should be the last to criticise if his answer stopped there.
Unfortunately, he adds that the forces were 'evolved without purpose';
in other words, that the Intelligence which thought them into existence
failed to think of any purpose for them. 'Matter,' he proceeds, 'is
purely _passive_, yet, nevertheless, has in its simplest state a
_determination_ towards the assumption of a more perfect constitution in
the way of natural development, whereby it _breaks up_ rest, _stirs_ up
nature, gives to chaos shape.' For the elements whereof this passively
stirring up matter is composed 'have native powers of setting each other
in motion, and are to themselves a spring of life;' and when, having of
course being previously dead, they have given themselves life, they
forthwith begin to attract each other with a strength varying with their
varying degrees of specific gravity. The scattered elements of the
denser sort collect by attraction all particles of less specific gravity
out of their immediate neighbourhood, and are themselves similarly
collected by particles of still denser sort, these again by others
denser yet, and so on, until, as results of this particular action,
several masses are formed which in like manner would converge towards
and be united with the largest and densest of their number, were it not
that the counter principle of repulsion now comes into play. This
principle--familiarly exemplified in the elasticity of vapours, the
emanations from strong smelling substances, and the expansion of all
spirituous substances--causes the vertical movements of the converging
masses to be deflected laterally, so as ultimately to enclose the
central mass within circles which, at first intersecting each other in
all directions, are at length, by dint of mutual collision, made all to
revolve in the same direction, and nearly the same plane.

Now I most earnestly protest against being suspected of what in me would
be the intolerable impertinence of desiring to cast ridicule on these
magnificent speculations, the grandeur of which I thoroughly appreciate
so far as my scant mathematics enable me to follow them. I take
exception to them only because the language in which they are couched
seems to imply that operations, of whose nature one of the most powerful
of human intellects could, at its utmost stretch, catch only a faint
hazy inkling, may yet have been initiated and perfected without the
intervention of any intellect at all. This is a falsism against which my
respect for philosophy and philosophers makes me only all the more
indignant when I find any of the latter falling into it, as those of
them inevitably must who, busying themselves, early or late,

              With a mighty debate,
  A profound speculation about the creation
  And organical life, and chaotical strife,
  With various notions of heavenly motions,
  And rivers and oceans, and valleys and mountains,
  And sources of fountains, and meteors on high,
  And stars in the sky,--propose by and bye,

like John Hookham Frere's Aristophanic Birds,

  If we'll listen and hear,
  To make perfectly clear

how creation took place without a conscious Creator. All their fancied
solutions of this hopeless puzzle have one feature in common--a family
likeness which the wickedest wit finds it difficult to caricature. There
is a note to Frere and Canning's 'Loves of the Triangles' which the
reader will be grateful to me for transcribing here, the more frequently
he may have laughed at it already, laughing now all the more, and
laughing heartily at it now though he may never have before.

It begins by tracing the genesis or original formation of _Space_ to a
single point, in the same manner as the elder Darwin had, in his
'Zoonomia,' traced the whole organized universe to his six Filaments. It
represents this primeval Point or _Pinctum saliens_ of the universe,
after '_evolving itself by its own energies_, to have moved forwards in
a right line _ad infinitum_ till it grew tired.' Whereupon, 'the right
line which it had generated would begin to put itself in motion in a
lateral direction, describing an area of infinite extent. This area, as
soon as it became conscious of its own existence, would begin to ascend
or descend, according as its specific weight might determine, forming an
immense solid space filled with vacuum, and capable of containing the
present existing universe.'

  Thus slow progressive points protract the line,
  As pendant spiders spin the filmy twine:
  Thus lengthened lines impetuous sweeping round,
  Spread the wide plane, and mark its circling bound;
  Thus planes, their substance with their motion grown,
  Form the huge cube, the cylinder, the cone.

It then proceeds as follows:--

'SPACE being thus obtained, and presenting a suitable _nidus_ or
receptacle for the _generation_ of _chaotic matter_, an immense deposit
of it would gradually be accumulated; after which the filament of fire
being produced in the chaotic mass by an _idiosyncrasy_ or _self-formed
habit_ analogous to fermentation, explosion would take place, suns would
be shot from the central chaos, planets from suns, and satellites from
planets. In this state of things, the filament of organization would
begin to exert itself in those independent masses which, in proportion
to their bulk, exposed the greatest surface to the action of light and
heat. This filament, after an infinite series of ages, would begin to
ramify, and its viviparous offspring would diversify their forms and
habits so as to accommodate themselves to the various _incunabula_ which
nature had prepared for them. Upon this view of things, it seems highly
probable that the first effort of Nature terminated in the production of
vegetables, and that these being abandoned to their own energies, by
degrees detached themselves from the surface of the earth, and supplied
themselves with wings and feet, according as their different
propensities determined them in favour of aerial or terrestrial
existence. Others, by an inherent disposition to society and
civilisation, and by a stronger effort of volition, would become men.
These in time would restrict themselves to the use of their hind feet;
their tails would gradually rub off by sitting in their caves or huts as
soon as they arrived at a domesticated state; they would invent language
and the use of fire, with our present and hitherto imperfect system of
society. In the meantime, the _Fuci_ and _Algæ_, with the Corallines and
Madrepores, would transform themselves into fish, and gradually
populate all the submarine portions of the globe.'[44]

Although the writers of this delicious drollery seem to have had Dr.
Erasmus Darwin only in view, they could not, we thus see, parody his
peculiar crotchets without hitting off not less neatly some of the
corresponding extravagances of both earlier and later expounders of
Nature. Nature is a phrase which, greatly to the confusion of those who
so employ it, is habitually used simultaneously in two quite opposite
senses, so as to denote at the same time both the agency in virtue of
whose action the universe exists, and likewise the universe itself which
results from that action. Nature, in either signification, becomes to a
great extent interpretable when the agency so designated is credited
with sufficient sense to foresee and to intend the results of its own
action. On that condition, although among the many unsolved problems she
may continue to present there will be some evidently lying beyond the
limits of human comprehension, there will be none running counter to
human reason. Except on that condition, the universe is not simply
uninterpretable, it is a bewildering assemblage of irreconcilable
certainties. Philosophy's choice lies between such patent truisms as
that there can be no force but living force, no _vis_ but _vis vivida_,
no _vis inertiæ_ otherwise than metaphorically, and such blatant
falsisms as that inertness and exertion may coincide, unintelligence
generate intelligence, agency of whatsoever sort produce, merely by its
own act, and merely out of its own essence, other agency capable of
higher action than its own. Philosophy, when with these sets of
alternatives before her she deliberately chooses the latter, becomes
Scientific Atheism, all the varieties of which have one point in common,
resembling each other in their proneness to rush upon and embrace
demonstrable impossibilities for the sake of avoiding a few things hard
to be understood. One variety, however, the Comtist, far exceeds all the
rest in the lengths to which it is carried by this propensity.


If, in speaking as I am about to do of Comtism, I commit--heedless of
Mr. Lewes' solemn warning--the grave offence of speaking confidently
about a writer whom I have never read, I may at least plead in
extenuation of my fault, that, although my knowledge of that writer be
confessedly merely an echo of what others have said of him, those
others, at any rate, far from being his antagonists, are two of the most
ardent of his not undiscriminating admirers. It is from Mr. Mill[45] and
from Mr. Lewes[46] himself that I have derived the notions of Comtist
philosophy that suggest to me the following notes.

I lay no stress on certain flaws in the fundamental propositions that
'we have no knowledge of anything but phenomena, and that our knowledge
of phenomena is only relative, not absolute; that we know not the
essence nor the real mode of production of any fact, but only its
relations to other facts in the way of succession or similitude; that
the constant resemblances which link phenomena together, and the
constant sequences which unite them as antecedent and consequent, are
all we know about them, and that their causes, whether efficient or
final, are unknown and inscrutable.' I will only suggest that our mere
consciousness of possessing some knowledge of phenomena is itself a
knowledge distinct from the knowledge which constitutes its
subject--distinct, that is, from the knowledge of phenomena; that if it
were possible for us to be aware of only one single fact, we should know
something about that fact, notwithstanding that there were no other
facts which it could be perceived to have preceded or followed, or to
which it could be likened, even as a polype with a stomach-ache would
know something about a stomach-ache, although ignorant that it had a
stomach, and oblivious of any former sensation, whether painful or
pleasurable; and that if the causes of phenomena be utterly unknown, our
ignorance of them ought not to be so signified as to sound like
knowledge, as it does when resemblances are said to link, and sequences
to unite, phenomena together, thereby warranting the inference that one
phenomenon succeeds another _because_ the two are so linked and united.

These, however, are trifles--mere spots on the sun one might say, were
but the surface on which they appear altogether sunlike--and I leave
them without additional remark except that, although it may perhaps have
been hypercritical to point them out, still the language of a new
philosophy, claiming to supersede all old ones, ought to be proof even
against hypercriticism. I pass on to a generalisation, termed by Mr.
Mill 'the key to Comte's other generalisations: one on which all the
others are dependent, and which forms the back-bone, so to speak, of his
philosophy,' insomuch that 'unless it be true he has accomplished
little.' This is the so much vaunted discovery that all human thought
passes necessarily through three stages, beginning with the
theological, and proceeding through the metaphysical to the positive.
These three terms, however, in the novel sense in which they are used by
Comte, stand very urgently in need of definition. By the theological is
to be understood that stage of the mind in which the facts of the
universe are regarded as governed by single and direct volitions of a
being or beings possessed of life and intelligence. It is the stage in
which winds are supposed to blow, seas to rage, trees to grow, and
mountains to tower aloft, either because winds, seas, trees, and
mountains are themselves alive and so act of their own accord; or
because there is a spirit dwelling in each of them which desires that it
shall so act; or because each separate class of objects is superintended
by an out-dwelling divinity, which similarly desires; or, finally,
because one single divinity, supreme over all things, initiates and
maintains all the apparently spontaneous movements of inanimate bodies.
In the metaphysical stage, phenomena are ascribed not to volitions,
either sublunary or celestial, but to realised abstractions--to
properties, qualities, propensities, tendencies, forces, regarded as
real existences, inherent in but distinct from the concrete bodies in
which they reside; while the characteristic of the positive stage is the
universal recognition that all phenomena without exception are governed
by invariable laws, with which no volitions, natural or supernatural,
interfere. These being the three stages, the discovery of which as a
series necessarily passed through by human thought in its progress
towards maturity, constitutes one of Comte's chief glories, I almost
tremble at my own audacity, shrinking from the sound myself am making,
when by inexorable sense of duty constrained to declare that the grand
discovery is after all merely that of a distinction without a

What Comte chiefly condemned in the metaphysical mode of thought, are
the conception of mental abstractions as real entities which exert power
and produce phenomena, and the enunciation of these entities as
explanations of the phenomena; and certainly 'it is,' as Mr. Mill says,
or rather was, previously to his own ingenious solution of it, 'one of
the puzzles of philosophy, how mankind, after inventing a set of mere
names to keep together certain combinations of ideas and images, could
have so far forgotten their own act as to invest these creations of
their will with objective reality, and mistake the name of a phenomenon
for its efficient cause.' Those natural laws, however, on which
Positivism relies--are not they as purely mental abstractions as the
essences, virtues, properties, forces, and what not, for which it is
proposed to substitute them? Yet since Positivism regards these laws as
'governing' phenomena, and having phenomena 'subject' to them, must it
not necessarily regard them likewise as realised abstractions, as real
entities? Plainly, if its language be taken literally, its professors
must acknowledge that it does, unless they prefer to stultify themselves
by propounding such unmitigated nonsense as that power may be exercised,
and phenomena produced, by _non_-entities. But if so, what else is
Positivism than another form of that very metaphysicism which it
condemns? and a form, too, peculiarly obnoxious to Mr. Mill's caustic
remark that 'as in religion, so in philosophy, men marvel at the
absurdity of other people's tenets, while exactly parallel absurdities
remain in their own, and the same man is unaffectedly astonished that
words can be mistaken for things, who is treating other words as if they
were things every time he opens his mouth.'

Possibly, however, it may be replied that 'government by natural laws'
is a phrase which Positivists never use except metaphorically, and by
which they never mean more than certain successions of events.[47] Very
well. Either, then, they acknowledge no real government of phenomena at
all, in which case to speak of phenomena as governed by law is, if not a
purely gratuitous mystification, as glaring an instance as can well be
conceived of a 'bare enunciation of facts, put forward as a theory or
explanation of them:' or, if they do recognise real government, then
they must suppose that, behind those mere mental abstractions, laws or
order of Nature, there must be some lawgiver or other being that
originally issued the laws, or ordained the order, and still enforces
them, or maintains it. But if this be the positivist faith, then, that
we may discover its other self, we have only to go still further back;
as far back, however, as to the theological stage, supposed to have been
so early left behind, yes, even unto the deities or deity that the
metaphysical entities had displaced. Positivism, in short, is in this
dilemma: either the mode of thought claimed by it as peculiarly its own
is simply that process so justly ridiculed by Comte himself as the 'naïf
reproduction of phenomena as the reason for themselves,' and by Mr.
Lewes as 'a restatement' (by way of explanation) 'of the facts to be
explained;' or it is at any rate nothing more than a return, either to
the metaphysical or to the theological mode of thought, according as one
or the other is adopted of the only two interpretations that can
possibly be placed on its own nomenclature. A new mode it certainly is
not. It is either no mode of thought at all, but merely an empty form of
words; or it is at best only a new name for one or other of two
old-fashioned modes, both of which its author denounces as false from
the beginning, and now worn out and obsolete into the bargain.

Of other features of Comtist philosophy it would be out of place to
speak here,[48] where, indeed, that philosophy would not have been
mentioned at all but for its having been transformed by its author into
a religion, and that, too, an atheistical religion--the 'Religion of
Humanity.' To myself, as to most people, a religion without a God is a
contradiction in terms. To constitute what is almost universally
understood by religion it does not suffice that there be a 'creed or
conviction claiming authority over the whole of human life: a belief or
set of beliefs deliberately adopted respecting human destiny and duty,
to which the believer inwardly acknowledges that all his actions ought
to be subordinate:' nor that there be in addition 'a sentiment connected
with this creed or capable of being invoked by it, sufficiently powerful
to give it, in fact, the authority over human conduct to which it lays
claim in theory:' nor yet that there be, moreover, 'an ideal object, the
believer's attachment and sense of duty towards which are able to
control and discipline all his other sentiments and propensities, and
prescribe to him a rule of life.'[49] That such an object is fully
capable of gathering round it feelings sufficiently strong to enforce
the most rigid rule of life, will certainly not be denied by me,
privileged as I am to count among my friends more than one whose whole
life is little else than a life of devotion to an object, 'the general
interest of the human race,' plainly incapable of affording them in
exchange that 'eternity of personal enjoyment' to which ordinary
devotees look forward as their reward, and whose virtue I honour as
approaching the sublime, on account of its independence of all the props
and stimulants which ordinary virtue finds indispensable. But the
sublimest virtue does not of itself constitute religion. For, besides
the 'creed,' 'conviction,' and 'sentiment' indicated above, there is
needed some suitable object of worship to which the soul may alternately
bow down in humble reverence, and look up in fervent love--some being to
whom its prayer, praise, and thanksgiving may be fittingly addressed.
This want, recognised--as one of the few who do not recognise it
admits--by nine out of every ten persons, was distinctly recognised by
Comte, who, however, attempted to supply it by pointing, not to God, but
to Man. His reason for this was not a conviction that there is no God.
On the contrary, he habitually disclaimed, not without acrimony,
dogmatic atheism; and once even condescended so far as to declare that
'the hypothesis of design has much greater verisimilitude than that of a
blind mechanism.' But in the 'mature state of intelligence' at which his
mind had arrived, 'conjecture founded on analogy did not seem to him a
basis to rest a theory upon.' He preferred a religious theory without a
basis, and therefore adopted one as destitute of support as the tortoise
on which stands the earth-upholding elephant of Hindoo mythology;
selecting, as the 'Grand Être' to be worshipped, 'the entire Human Race,
conceived as a continuous whole, past, present, and future.' For this
great collective _non_-existence, this compound of that which is, that
which has been but has ceased to be, and that which is not yet, he
elaborated a minute ritual of devotional observances, and would, if he
had had the chance, have consecrated a complete sacerdotal hierarchy,
subordinated to himself as supreme pontiff. Having, for fear of
recognising what possibly might not be, begun by, wilfully and with his
eyes open, recognising what could not possibly be, he proceeded to
invest this sanctified non-existence with precisely those attributes
best calculated to render it unfit to receive the admiration he
prescribed for it. That feeble Humanity--the actually living portion
thereof, that is--may need and be the better for our services, which
Divine Omnipotence of course cannot be, was distinctly urged by him as a
reason why _prayers_, or at least those outpourings of feeling which he
so designated, should be addressed to the former and not to the latter.
That Humanity is in a constant state of progress, so that both the
collective mass and choice specimens of each successive generation of
men must always be superior to the corresponding masses and specimens of
all previous generations, is a prime article of the Comtist creed; but
not the less is it an imperative injunction of the Comtist rubrick that
religious homage shall be paid, not only to the collective 'Grand Être'
of Humanity, but also to individual worthies of past ages--that
superiors shall consequently fall down before, and worship, and take as
models, their intellectual and moral inferiors. The fact of a religion
made up of tenets like these having been thought out by one of the
profoundest of reasoners does not prevent its being the very perfection
of unreason. Even though on the one side there were nothing more than
some doubt whether Deity might not exist, still with complete certainty
on the other of the non-existence of 'Humanity,' Deity ought in fairness
to have at least the benefit of the doubt. In selection for adoration,
that which only perhaps may be, at any rate deserves to be, preferred to
that which positively is not. The excess of superstition with which St.
Paul reproached the Athenians, for raising an altar to the 'Unknown
God,' looks like excessive circumspection, beside the solemn dedication
of temples to a chimera known not to be. Nay, even Isaiah's maker of
graven images is at length outdone. Even he who, having hewn down a
tree, 'burneth part thereof in the fire, with part thereof eateth flesh,
roasteth roast, and is satisfied, warmeth himself, and saith, Aha, I am
warm, I have seen the fire; and with the residue maketh a god, yea, his
graven image, and falleth down unto it and worshippeth it, and prayeth
unto it, and saith, Deliver me, for thou art my god'--even he has at
last found more than his match in irrationality. For he has at least
before him a visible tangible block of wood, not the mere memory of one
that has long ago rotted, nor the dream of one that is yet to grow,
whereas that mental figment, Consecrated Humanity, is not even a real
shadow, but only a fancied one, a shadow cast by no substance. And it is
to Comtists of all people--intellectual salt of the earth as they
are--that this figment is recommended for adoration--yes, to those who,
pharisaically standing aloof from the common herd, thank their imaginary
substitute for God, or whatever else it is they deem thankworthy, that
they are not blind as other men are, and least of all as those dazed
metaphysicians who actually personify their own mental abstractions. No
wonder that such extreme provocation should try the patience of all but
the stanchest disciples. No wonder that Mr. Lewes himself should seem
half inclined to apostrophise his quondam master in words resembling
those once addressed to Robespierre, 'Avec ton Grand Être, tu commences
à m'embêter.'

Here make we one more pause. This chapter's theme is, as was betimes
premised, not the strength of theism, but the weakness of atheism. I
have in it attempted to execute a design which, according to Boswell,
was conceived by Lord Hailes, and approved by Dr. Johnson, that of
writing an essay, _Sur la crédulité des incrédules_, and I think I have
succeeded so far as to show that, if any one who can swallow atheism
affects to strain at theism, it cannot, at any rate, be for want of a
sufficiently capacious gullet.


[36] The story was thus told by Diderot, to Sir Samuel Romilly, when a
young man:--'Je vous dirai un trait de lui, mais il vous sera un peu
scandaleux peut-être, car vous autres Anglais, vous croyez _un peu_ en
Dieu; pour nous autres, nous n'y croyons guères. Hume dîna dans une
grande compagnie avec le baron D'Holbach. Il était assis à côté du
baron; on parla de la religion naturelle. "Pour les athées," disait
Hume, "je ne crois pas qu'il en existe; je n'en ai jamais vu!" "Vous
avez été un peu malheureux," répondit l'autre, "vous voici à table avec
dix-sept pour la première fois."'--_Edinburgh Review_ for January 1847.

[37] 'Studies in Animal Life,' chap. v.

[38] The reader who, having skipped some of the earlier chapters, may
find this language obscure, is requested to turn back to the essay on
'Huxleyism,' pp. 194-6.

[39] See again, pp. 194-6.

[40] 'Mr. Darwin's Hypotheses.' Part II. 'Fortnightly Review' for June

[41] 'Origin of Species,' p. 226.

[42] Of this treatise, no English or French translation has, I believe,
been published. For my own very limited acquaintance with it, I am
indebted to the extreme kindness of my friend, Professor Croom
Robertson, who has most obligingly favoured me with a manuscript version
of the portion referred to in the text.

[43] 'Lay Sermons,' p. 240.

[44] 'Beauties of the Anti-Jacobin,' 1799, pp. 214-6.

[45] 'Auguste Comte and Positivism,' _passim_.

[46] 'History of Philosophy,' 4th edition, vol. ii. pp. 654-735.

[47] Not that so restricted a meaning can, with any propriety, be placed
on positivist definitions of law. See, for instance, that of Mr. Lewes
('History of Philosophy,' vol. ii. p. 701), who defines law to be 'the
invariable relation between two distinct phenomena, according to which
one depends on the other.'

[48] Some few additional random remarks, however, though not permissible
in the text may, perhaps, be less inappropriate in a note.

My scientific deficiencies do not prevent my understanding or, at least,
fancying I understand, that Comte's famous 'Classification of the
Sciences' may be extremely serviceable as indicating in what order the
sciences may most profitably be studied. That a student's general
progress would be swifter and surer if, before entering on physics or
chemistry, he had already made considerable progress in algebra,
geometry, and mechanics, than if he commenced all five sciences
simultaneously, seems probable enough. If, however, the classification
be intended also to indicate historically the order in which the
sciences have actually been studied, I cannot but suspect it to be
misleading. Certainly, if knowledge of number was the earliest knowledge
acquired by man, those savage races which have not even yet learnt how
to count beyond four, must have been content with very few lessons in
arithmetic when turning off to other branches of learning.

As to the measure of success that attended Comte's scheme of creating a
Philosophy of General Science, I presume not to utter one syllable of my
own, preferring to cite what Mr. Mill says of that 'wonderful
systematization of the philosophy of all the antecedent sciences from
mathematics to physiology, which, if he had done nothing else, would
have stamped him on all minds competent to appreciate it as one of the
principal thinkers of the age.' In all sincerity, I say that the mere
conception of the enterprise, whose vastness is so luminously expounded
by Mr. Lewes, in the last edition of his 'History of Philosophy,' seems
to me to betoken superior genius. I feel, as it were, simply awe-struck
in the presence of an intellectual ambition, that within the brief span
of one human life could aspire to a mastery over all the sciences,
sufficient, first for co-ordinating the fundamental truths and special
methods, and so obtaining the philosophy of each, and then for
co-ordinating the manifold philosophies so obtained, and--by condensing
them all into one homogeneous doctrine, and blending them into one
organic whole, whereof each part would be seen to depend on all that
preceded, and to determine all that succeeded--transforming all science
into philosophy.

One point however remains on which I shall speak with some confidence,
that, namely, of the inclusion among 'Comte's titles to immortal fame'
of the creation of a Science of Sociology. 'What the law of gravitation
is to astronomy, what the elementary properties of tissues are to
physiology,' that, says Mr. Lewes, in the opinion of Comte's disciples,
'is the law of the three stages to sociology.' But if, as I have shown,
there are not really three but only two stages, the so-called third
stage being simply a return to either the second or the first, the law
of the three stages cannot be much of a law, nor the science of which it
is the essence much of a science.

Mr. Lewes, nevertheless, maintains that M. Comte created Social Science.
Mr. Mill considers that he did not create it, but only proved its
creation to be possible. With all possible deference, I submit that what
he really did was to prove its creation to be impossible.

In a passage of Mr. Mill's 'Positivism,' quoted with approval in Mr.
Lewes's 'History of Philosophy,' and presumably, therefore, expressing
the sentiments of both writers, Comte is described as pronouncing
inappropriate to the Science of Society, the method universally admitted
to be proper to all other sciences--that, namely, of obtaining by
induction the laws of the elementary phenomena, then, from these laws
thinking out deductively those of the complex phenomena, and, finally,
of verifying by specific observation the laws obtained by deduction.
Among social phenomena, he is described as arguing, the elementary ones
are human feelings and actions, the laws of which are the laws of
universal human nature. But the human beings, on the laws of whose
nature social facts depend, are not abstract or universal, but
historical human beings, already shaped and made what they are, not by
the simple tendencies of universal human nature, but by the accumulated
influence of past generations of human society. This being the case, the
laws of universal human nature evidently cannot serve as materials,
whence it would be possible for any powers of deduction, starting from
the bare conception of the Being Man, to predict beforehand how
successive generations of men would feel and act. Wherefore, in order to
get at social laws, we must reverse the ordinary method, seizing upon
any generalizations which the facts of history, empirically considered,
will supply, and then using the universal laws of human nature for the
verification of these generalizations.

I will not linger over the glaring inconsistency involved in the
conclusion thus arrived at, of appealing, for the verification of
empirical generalizations, to a species of deduction confessed to be
impracticable for want of the requisite materials. I prefer to show that
from Comte's own premises, as rendered by Mr. Mill, necessarily results
a separate conclusion, absolutely fatal to his sociologically creative
pretensions. According to him, as we have seen, the laws of elementary
social facts, or of human actions and feelings, are the laws of
universal human nature, which latter can, of course, be no other than
whatever habits of invariably, in given circumstances, feeling and
acting in given modes, may be common to all mankind. But it is admitted
that the particular generation of human beings at any time existing
must, by the accumulated influence of preceding generations, have been
rendered very different from every preceding generation: and nothing is
more certain than that two generations differing widely from each other
in character, would, in many given circumstances, not only not feel and
act in precisely the same, but would inevitably feel and act in widely
different, manners. Nor is this all. The circumstances by which any
generation is surrounded have been partly shaped for it by preceding
generations, partly modified by itself--so that it is not possible for
any two generations ever to find themselves in the same circumstances.
Wherefore, as there never can be a repetition of either men or of
circumstances precisely the same, it is manifestly impossible for any
habits of feeling and thinking, in given modes in given circumstances,
to be common to any two generations of men, still less to universal
mankind. In other words, there cannot possibly be any laws of human
nature: and if no laws of human nature, then no laws of elementary
social facts; and if no laws of elementary social facts, then no laws of
complex social facts; and if no laws of social facts, elementary or
complex, then no single particle of material wherewith to build up the
Science of Society or Sociology.

[49] 'Auguste Comte and Positivism,' pp. 133-4.



     Thought without Reverence is barren. The man who cannot wonder, who
     does not habitually wonder (and worship), were he president of
     innumerable Royal Societies, and carried the whole _Mécanique
     Céleste_ and Hegel's _Philosophy_, and the epitome of all
     laboratories and observatories with their results, in his single
     head, is but a pair of spectacles, behind which there is no eye.
     Let those who have eyes look through him; then he may be
     useful.--_Sartor Resartus._

'I wouldn't mind,' said once a representative of extreme heterodoxy, in
debate with a champion of its diametrical opposite--'I wouldn't mind
conceding the Deity you contend for, were it not for the use commonly
made of him after he is conceded.' And no doubt that use is such as
might well provoke a saint, provided the saint were likewise a
philosopher. To whatever extent it be true that man was created in the
image of God, it is certain that in all ages and countries God has been
created in the image of man, invested with all human propensities,
appetites, and passions, and expected to demean himself on all occasions
as men would do in like circumstances. As popularly conceived, so long
as sensual gratification was esteemed to be the _summum bonum_, he
wallowed in all manner of sensual lust; when some of his more fervent
worshippers turned ascetics out of disgust with fleshly surfeit, he
became ascetism personified: at every stage his great delight has been
flattery, and his still greater, revenge; in the exercise of power he
has always been capricious and often wanton--ruthlessly vindictive
against impugners of his honour and dignity, unspeakably barbarous to
unbelievers in his reality. Now, as knowledge advanced, unbelief in a
God so much below the level of ordinarily virtuous men advanced equally,
quickening its pace, too, as the particular branch of knowledge styled
'physics' spread, and, spreading, exposed the utter impossibility of
many of the fables in which theological views had been expressed.
Wherefore, theological oracles have in every age and country been apt to
confound scientific inquisitiveness with unbelief, and to denounce
_physical_ science especially as a delusion and a snare, and its
cultivators as impostors none the less mischievous for being at the same
time dupes. Of course, the latter have not been slow to return the
compliment. Hearing the truths discovered by them stigmatised as
falsehoods, they naturally enough retorted the charge of falsity against
the divine authorities in whose name it was made. Finding war waged
against them by every religion with which they were acquainted, they
naturally enough in turn declared war against all religion, even with
that form thereof which underlies every other except when sufficing to
itself for superstructure as well as base. Natural enough this, for
_humanum est errare_; but very humanly erroneous withal, for to include
Deity itself in the same denial with pseudo-divine attributes is about
as sagacious a proceeding as to refuse to recognise the sun at midday on
account of his not appearing in Phoebus's chariot and four.

When religion on the defensive declares herself opposed to reason, so
much the worse for religion. She is thereby virtually surrendering at
discretion, since to appeal to her only other resource--revelation--is
to beg the whole subject in dispute. Similarly, the worse and still less
excusable is it for science to declare herself irreconcileable with
religion, for she, too, is thereby slighting reason. It is only by
forsaking the single guide in whom she professes to trust, and blindly
giving herself up to angry prejudice, that she can fail to discover the
rational solidity of so much of every religion as consists of theism.

For this, as we have seen, the argument from design abundantly suffices,
although the only absolute certainty thence deducible be that the
universe must have an author or authors fully equal to its original
construction, its subsequent development, and its continued maintenance.
Even if it be not inconceivable, notwithstanding that the chances to the
contrary be many times infinity to one, that the mere restlessness of
some utterly unintelligent force may have fabricated all material
structures, and imparted to all their movements certain orderly
successions, it is still manifestly impossible for unintelligence to
have brought forth intelligence--for the speculative, critical, carping
spirit of man to have been generated by that which has no speculation in
its eyes, nor any eyes, to have speculation in; impossible, in short,
for the creature to be more richly endowed than its creator. Since
numerous embodied intelligences actually exist, they must have been
preceded by intelligence capable of creating them and all other existing
intelligences that have not eternally existed; and it is simply
impossible that creative intelligence, whose creatures owe to it
whatever intelligence they possess, should on any occasion have
exhibited a want of intelligence which they are competent to detect.

But although it be thus demonstrably certain that an author of the
universe exists, it does not follow that there is only one. As to this
no proof positive, only probabilities, can be adduced; but the
probabilities are of an amount all but equivalent to certainty. They are
forcibly urged by Mr. Mill. Many exactly uniform occurrences, he
observes, are more naturally referred to 'a single, than to a number of
wills precisely accordant.' But the classes of uniform occurrences being
exceedingly numerous, if there were a separate will for each class,
there would be equally numerous wills, and 'unless all these wills were
in complete harmony (which would itself be the most difficult to credit
of all cases of invariability, and would require beyond anything else
the ascendancy of a supreme Deity),' it would be 'impossible that the
course of phenomena under their government should be invariable.' Every
fresh appearance of resemblance extending through all nature 'affords
fresh presumption that the whole is the work, not of many, but of the
same hand, and renders it vastly more probable that there should be one
indefinitely foreseeing Intelligence and immoveable Will than that there
should be hundreds and thousands of such.'[50] I will not run the risk
of weakening this reasoning by expansion. Its obvious inference that,
there being a God, there cannot be more than one, could not be set forth
more irresistibly.

That the wisdom of the Creator cannot be less than the amount thereof
manifested in His works is a self-evident proposition, which none will
be hardy enough directly to dispute. There is, however, one critic, of
great ability and yet greater daring, who appears to doubt whether the
wisdom manifested in the universe is anything to speak of. Mr. Lewes'
faculty of veneration is, I suspect, but imperfectly developed, since
'the succession of phases which each (animal) embryo is forced to pass
through,' is sufficient to give its action pause. 'None of these
phases,' he remarks, 'have any adaptation to the future state of the
animal, but are in positive contradiction to it, or are simply
purposeless; _many_ of them have no adaptation even to its embryonic
state; whereas _all_ show stamped on them the unmistakable characters of
_ancestral_ adaptations and the progressions of organic evolution.'
'What,' he asks, 'does this fact imply?' 'There is not,' he continues,
'a single known example of an organism which is not developed out of
simpler forms. Before it can attain the complex structure which
distinguishes it, there must be an evolution of forms which distinguish
the structures of organisms lower in the series.... On the hypothesis of
a plan that pre-arranged the organic world' (by no means, however,
necessarily in types that could not change, but rather in types adapted
and calculated to change), 'nothing,' he considers, 'could be more
unworthy of a supreme intelligence than this _inability_ to construct an
organism at once without making several _tentative_ efforts, undoing
to-day what was so carefully done yesterday, and repeating for centuries
the same _tentatives_ and the same _corrections_ in the same
succession.' 'Anthropomorphists,' he says, 'talk of "The Great
Architect," emphasising the name with capitals,' but 'what should we say
to an architect who was unable, or, being able, was obstinately
unwilling, to erect a palace except by first using his materials in the
shape of a hut, then pulling it down and rebuilding them as a cottage,
then adding storey to storey and room to room, not with any reference to
the ultimate purposes of the palace, but wholly with reference to the
way in which houses were constructed in ancient times? What should we
say to the architect who could not form a museum out of bricks and
mortar, but was forced to begin as if going to build a mansion, and,
after proceeding some way in this direction, altered his plan into a
palace, and that again into a museum? Would there be a chorus of
applause from the Institute of Architects, and favourable notices in the
newspapers of this profound wisdom?'[51]

Notwithstanding the exulting tone in which these questions are put, and
which seems to imply that in their proposer's opinion they are
unanswerable, they may, I think, be very summarily disposed of. Whatever
other comments might be made on the conduct of an architect who should
build in the complex manner suggested, surely the very last thing said
would be that he did not know how to build in simpler wise. His having
actually built a palace would be decisive proof of his knowing how to
build a palace; and of all queer reasons for questioning his possession
of that much architectural knowledge, about the queerest would be the
fact of his having built, not a palace only, but a hut and cottage in
addition. And if, adopting a still more complicated style, he should
begin by so constructing a hut that, if left to itself, it would draw up
brick and mortar from the earth, and grow into a cottage, and then go on
growing and adding storey to storey till it became a palace, this surely
would be a proof not of less, but of infinitely more, architectural
knowledge than if he had commenced and completed the palace with his own
hands. Not unwarrantably, perhaps, may Mr. Lewes, reflecting that his
own and every other human organism's genesis has consisted of at least
three stages, oval, foetal, and infantine, wonder why he was not
formed all at once, 'as Eve was mythically affirmed to be taken from
Adam's rib, and Minerva from Jupiter's head,' and why he was not brought
forth full dressed in an indefinitely expansible suit of clothes. Not
quite inexcusably, perhaps, might he conceive the reason to be some mere
whim or humour of his Maker, though there might be more gratitude in
conjecturing that the triple process was adopted for the purpose of
assisting biological enquirers like himself in their special researches.
From so practised a logician, however, about the very last thing to have
been here expected was that he should suggest creative 'ignorance and
incompetence' as the only apparent alternative to denying a Creator
altogether, as if incapacity for a comparatively easy process were a
likely reason for choosing one greatly more difficult. It might have
occurred to Mr. Lewes that, if there were any absurdity in the choice,
the Being who made him and bestowed on him the faculty of perceiving the
absurdity, could not have failed himself likewise to perceive it and
consequently to avoid it.

Of divine power, the measure or measurelessness is obviously identical
with that of divine wisdom. Both attributes must be at least
co-extensive with the universe; both consequently illimitable. Divine
goodness, moreover, inasmuch as the creature's moral ideal cannot be
superior to his Creator's, must be at least as vast as human
imagination: God must be at least as good as man can conceive Him. But
how, by goodness so transcending, conjoined with immeasurable might, can
the co-existence of evil be tolerated? To this last, and perhaps
greatest, among the many great questions brought forward for renewed
discussion in these pages, I have long had by me an attempt at a reply,
which, finding myself unable either to strengthen or shorten it by
turning it into prose, I venture to submit in its original rhythmical

  A Voice came to me as I sate apart,
    Pondering the burthen of life's mystery,
    In dim perplexity, with troubled heart.
  With whisper weak and faint it came to me,
    Like feeble glimmer of the struggling moon
    To wildered mariner on midnight sea:
  With whisper weak at first, but strengthening soon,
    Like the moon's beam when filmy clouds disperse,
    And through my scattered doubts, with quiet tune,
  Uttering in clear, apocalyptic verse,
    Truth, which for comfort and monition sent,
    E'en as the voice revealed, do I rehearse.

  'What art thou? Whence derived? With what intent
    Placed where perpetual hindrances exhaust
    Thy wasted strength, in baffled effort spent?
  Where in blind maze, with crafty windings crossed,
    With stumbling-blocks beset, with pitfalls strewed,
    Thou wanderest, in endless error lost;
  Athirst beside glad rivers that elude,
    With mocking lapse, thy tantalized pursuit,
    And hungering where gilded husks delude
  With bitter ashes as of Dead Sea fruit,
    Ashes of Hope, but seed of Discontent,
    That rears its upas growth from blighted root?
  Around, thou hear'st Creation eloquent,
    Hymning creative attributes, and seest
    The starry marvels of the firmament,
  And marvels of the nearer earth, released
    By impulse from within, not dimly shown,
    Nor plainlier in the greatest than the least:
  And, through the known discovering the unknown,
    Acknowledgest thy Maker, power supreme,
    Might, and dominion, deeming His alone.
  Nor His the lax dominion mayst thou deem
    That builds up empire, and when built, neglects.
    Lo! where, afar, sidereal orbits gleam,
  What first impelled, impelling still, directs:
    Urges and guides each solar chariot,
    The mundane mass of every globe connects,
  By its own energy cohering not,
    E'en as dead leaves, decaying languidly,
    Not from themselves derive the force to rot.

  'All-strengthening, all-sustaining Deity,
    Diffused throughout the infinite, abides,
    Dwells and upholds:--then, haply, dwells in thee?
  Yea, verily. Within thy frame resides
    What, by its movement only mayst thou know.
    The circling blood, thy being's ambient tides,
  Is't thine own will that bids them ebb and flow,
    And from their inundating flood depose
    Organic germs, whence health and vigour grow?
  Yet though such witness serve thee to disclose
    In human tenement divine abode,
    Not thine be the material creed that shows
  The spirit's birthplace in the moulded clod;
    Not thine the pantheist raving, that because
    God dwelleth with thee, thou thyself art God.
  Bethink thee--is't self-reverence that o'erawes
    Thy prostrate soul, and from thy faltering tongue,
    Subdued, involuntary homage draws?
  And when by harrowing pang thine heart is wrung,
    Is't for self-aid thy wandering eyes inquire,
    Heavenward, at length, in fervid suppliance flung?
  And from thy native slough of sensual mire,
    Is't to the mark of thine own purity
    Thy loftier aims and holier hopes aspire?
  Harshly thy fleshly fetters bear on thee,
    In dark and dreary prison-house confined,
    Cramped and diseased with long captivity,
  And hath divine Intelligence designed
    That noisome dungeon for her own restraint--
    By her own act to galling bonds consigned,--
  Self-doomed, with wilful purpose, to acquaint
    Herself with sin and sorrow, and pollute
    Æthereal essence with corporeal taint?
  How doth thy helpless misery confute
    That frantic boast of vain conceit, untaugh
    The paltriest of its plans to execute!

  Hast thou the art to add, by taking thought,
    One cubit to thy stature? and hast thou,
    Or such as thou, Nature's whole fabric wrought?
  Not thine such vaunt--not thine to disavow
    The lustre of thy genuine origin.
    To the Most Highest, as thine author, bow
  With rapture of exulting faith, wherein
    Devotion's cravings their desire achieve,
    The bright ideal that they imaged, win.
  Rejoice that thus 'tis given thee to believe,--
    To recognise transcending majesty,
    Worthy all praise--all honour to receive:
  Rejoice in that high presence, gratefully
    Offering the vows that thy full heart dilate:
    Rejoice that thence there floweth light, whereby
  Thy emulative quest to elevate
    Thitherward, where unblemished holiness
    Irradiates sovereignty, benign as great.

  'But here thou pausest, scrupling to confess
    A providence of aspect all benign.
    Fear not that sceptic scruple to express.
  Of truth, Almighty Goodness could assign
    Good only to the work of His own hand,
    Warmed into life by His own breath divine:
  And, where unchecked Beneficence had planned
    A home for creatures of a fragile race,
    Evoked from nothingness at His command,
  Nor care, nor want, nor anguish should have place,
    Nor fraud betray, nor violence oppress,
    Nor hate inflame, nor wallowing lust debase,
  Nor aught be found, save what conspired to bless
    The sentient clay, wrought surely for that end,--
    For wherefore wrought, if not for happiness?

  'Not, as some teach, for mastery to contend
    With fate,--in doubtful conflict to engage,--
    Struggling, in pain and peril, to ascend
  Slowly, through this probationary stage,
    Sore let, but tried and chastened, and thereby
    Earning on earth a heavenly heritage.

  Was there then need that prescience should try,
    By ordeal pitiless, assured event,
    Disclosed beforehand to prophetic eye?
  Need was there, by austere experiment,
    To test the frailty and the fall foreknown
    Of man, beneath o'erwhelming burthen bent?
  In this was tutelar prevision shown?
    Hardly may he, in such belief confide,
    Who sees his fellow myriads left to groan
  In barren penance, without light or guide,
    E'en from their birth by fostering vice controlled,
    Doomed as they cross life's threshold--doomed untried.

  'As hardly, too, may he the dogma hold
    That fetters reason with a graduate chain
    Of beings, linked in order manifold,
  Where, to each link, 'tis given to sustain
    A part subservient to the general weal,--
    Duly to share the mutual burthen's strain:--
  Though who from such allotment would appeal,
    Could it be truth that wisdom's masterpiece
    Such aid could lack, such feebleness conceal,
  Suing its own constituents for release
    From wrong innate, throughout its texture wove,
    By hard necessity, not light caprice?
  But to what purport could premonished Love
    A system twined with mutual suffering weave,
    When but a word all suffering would remove?
  And wherefore yet delayeth the reprieve
    Of Love, that doth not willingly afflict
    Its children, neither wantonly aggrieve?
  Can aught the gracious purpose interdict
    Of Him, whose piercing eye, whose boundless sway,
    No cloud can dim, no barrier restrict?
  Say'st thou, "By path inscrutable, and way
    Past finding out, perchance, may mercy bend
    To its own use, whate'er its course would stay,
  And through the labouring world high mandate send
    That all things work together unto good,
    Work, though by means corrupt, to righteous end?"

  Beware how such conjectures must conclude.
    Can means impure Omnipotence befit,
    And clog the range of its solicitude?
  Can finite bonds confine the Infinite?
    Though man, by choice of ill, must needs offend,
    Need God do ill that good may come of it?
  Must havoc's mad typhoon perforce descend?
    May naught else serve to fan the stagnant air?
    Must captive flame earth's quaking surface rend,
  Or seek escape in lava flood? and ere
    Effete society new structure raise,
    Must dearth or pestilence the ground prepare?
  Thus is it that a parent's care purveys
    His bounty, and, exacting rigorously
    The price in tears, each boon's full cost defrays?
  Thus, with vain thrift withholding the decree,
    That from his treasury's exhaustless store
    To all could grant unbought felicity?

  'But haply still 'tis reasoned (and with more
    Of reason's semblance were the plea maintained),
    That higher yet would life's ambition soar,
  Not for mere scheme of happiness ordained,
    But for advance in virtue,--for the growth
    By patient zeal and meek endurance gained:
  That, at the table of voluptuous sloth,
    Though banqueted on sweets without alloy,
    Unsated were a generous nature, loth
  To feast where unearned lusciousness would cloy,
    Faint with the tedium of unbroken rest,
    Sick with the sameness of unruffled joy:
  That for more poignant pleasure, and of zest
    Heightened and edged by healthful exercise,--
    For scope wherein her conscious strength to test
  In keen pursuit and venturous enterprise,
    For dear exemplars, in whose course serene
    Affection's tearful warmth might sympathise,
  For these the yearning mind would languish, e'en
    Though with all else that wish could name endued,
    While, in her striving for self-discipline,
  Foiled, and with fervid impulses imbued
    Vainly, where neither aught could valour dare
    Nor aught confront and challenge fortitude:
  And where no outward token could declare
    The hidden worth congenial heart would hail,
    Hail with each kindred chord vibrating there;d
  Since virtue wakes not but when griefs assail,
    Or travail burthens, or temptations try,
    Slumbering supine, till roused by adverse gale,
  In the deep sleep of moral lethargy,
    Joy's fullest cup, by hope or doubt unstirred,
    Curdling the while to dull satiety.

  'Thus haply some have reasoned, undeterred
    By reasoning, with equal emphasis
    But counter aim, as readily preferred:
  Since Heaven's perfection striveth not, nor is
    In peril lest it lapse to apathy,
    Or lassitude invade its tranquil bliss.
  And were it as they deem, and righteously
    Were man adjudged with his brow's sweat to eat
    Bread leavened with embittering misery,
  E'en then affliction's measure to complete,
    Amply might pain, and want, and death suffice,
    And feeling's blight, and baffled love's defeat,
  And, on the altar of self-sacrifice,
    Hope's withered blooms by resignation laid:
    Nor were it needed that incarnate vice,
  In human mould, in the same image made,
    Trampled with iron hoof his fellow man,
    Virtue's chastised development to aid.
  For whence was Vice derived? Ere life began,
    For His own offspring could their Maker trace
    Their loathsome office, and beneath his ban
  Place them, accurst (creating to debase),
    And doom as fuel for the flames that test
    A favoured few, elect by partial grace?

  Elect or outcast--if alike confessed
    Of the same parent, sons--brethren who bear
    No differing lineaments, save those imprest
  By his prevision--in their parent's care
    Should not all be partakers? Should not all
    Freely, alike, his nurturing guidance share?
  Are any worthier? 'Tis that warning's call
    Extends to them alone--'tis that to them
    Alone is given vigour, wherewithal
  Temptation's fraudful violence to stem--
    And how shall He, who needful strength denies,
    Weakness for its predestined fall condemn?
  How, when the creature of His wrath replies
    With feeble wail and inarticulate moan,
    The sighing of that contrite heart despise?
  What man amongst thy fellows hast thou known
    Who, if his son ask fish, will jeeringly
    Give him a serpent, or for bread a stone?
  If ye, being evil, at your children's cry
    Know how to give good gifts, should not much more
    Your heavenly Father His good things supply
  To them who ask Him? Should He not restore
    A cleansed heart within them, and renew
    An upright spirit? not, what they implore
  Reversing, and restraining, lest they do
    The good they would,--constraining them withal
    To do the evil they would fain eschew?
  How wilt thou to the same original
    Whence all just thoughts and pure desires proceed,
    Impute corrupt imaginings, whose thrall
  Enslaves anew the soul but newly freed
    From their pollution? Can a hybrid growth
    Arise spontaneous from unmingled seed?
  Are grapes upon the bramble borne, or doth
    The fig bear olive berries? Canst thou show
    Twin waters, sweet and bitter, issuing both
  From the same fountain? Neither should there flow
    Blessing and cursing from one mouth, nor yet
    From the same Providence both weal and woe.

  'Vile as thou art, ofttimes in thee have met
    Mercy and Truth--and Peace and Righteousness
    Have kissed each other; and thine heart is set
  Ofttimes to follow what is just, redress
    Where thou hast trespassed, rendering; ofttimes, too,
    Forgiving other's trespass: to distress
  Thou grudgest not its sympathetic due
    Of kindly deed, or word, or mutual tears,
    Nor in vain wholly labourest to subdue
  The hydra host whose foul miasm blears
    Thy vision, and the distant gleam obscures
    That dimly through thy prison casement peers.
  E'en to the darkened dungeon that immures
    Thy soul, some feeble glimmer finds its way.
    Crushed beneath earthly durance, still endures
  Some lingering fire below that weight of clay,
    Some generous zeal, some honest hardihood,
    Some faith--some charity.--And whence are they?
  If not of Him whose quickening breath endued
    All things with life,--and, when he looked upon
    What He had made, beheld that all was good:
  All good,--but chiefly man, in whom alone
    Some likeness of Himself--some clouded light,
    From His own countenance reflected, shone.
  Doth not the sun outshine the satellite?
    And shall not He who in the murkiest hour
    Of sin's defilement, streaks thy dreary night
  With beams that bid thee, lower yet and lower
    Descending, hope, perchance, to rise again,--
    Say--shall not He in holiness as power
  Transcend the creature whom His gifts sustain!
    And here, if sneering casuist blaspheme,
    And to divided nature's sovereign,
  Ascribe, in nature's opposite extreme
    Like eminence, and nature's God aver
    In evil, even as in good, supreme,--
  Heed not, or ask if man's Artificer
    With His own work, in virtue matched, can prove
    At once more holy and unholier?

  'Yet since all good is fruit of love, and love
    Worketh no ill, how still doth ill abound?
    Is't haply that with love a rival strove?

  Mark well this parable. In chosen ground
    Only good seed a husbandman had sown,
    Yet when the blade sprang up, therewith he found
  Tares that amid the stifled wheat had grown.
    Then knew he well, how, entering unawares,
    This, while men slept, an enemy had done.
  And 'tis an enemy who, scattering tares
    Amid the corn sown in Creation's field,
    With deadly coil the growing plant ensnares.
  And no mean enemy, nor one unsteeled
    For bold defiance, nor reduced to cower
    Ever in covert ambuscade concealed,
  But at whose hest the ravening hell-hounds scour
    A wasted world, while himself prowls to seek,
    Like roaring lion, whom he may devour,
  And upon whom his rancorous wrath to wreak,
    Sniffing the tainted steam of slaughter's breath,
    And lulled by agony's despairing shriek.
  For it is he who hath the power of death,
    Even the devil, by whom entereth sin
    Into the world, and death engendereth:
  Yea! by whom entereth whatsoe'er within
    Warreth against the spirit,--sordid greed,
    Pride, carnal lust, envy to lust akin,
  And malice, and deceit, whose treacheries breed
    Strife between brethren, and the faith o'erthrow
    Of many, and the duped deserters lead,
  Beneath the banner of their deadliest foe,
    In rebel arms a Parent to defy,
    Whom, by His gifts alone, His children know.

  'Not less that Parent marks with pitying eye
    The blinded rage that rivets its own chain:
    Not less to His own glorious liberty
  Seeks, from corruption's bondage, to regain
    His erring children,--by device, or lewd,
    Or threatening, lured, or goaded to their bane:
  Not less to overcome evil with good
    Labours, and shall therewith all things subdue
    Unto Himself--but hath not yet subdued.

  And wherefore? wherefore tarrieth He, while through
    Eden, by daring foray oft defaced,
    Marauding fiends malignant raid pursue,
  Winging the turbid whirlwind's frantic haste,
    Pointing the levin's arrowy effluence,
    Over the mildewed harvest's hungry waste,
  Breathing the fetid breath of pestilence,
    And crying havoc to the dogs of war,
    Let slip on unresisting innocence?
  Why suffereth He that thus a rival mar
    His cherished work--through devastated fields
    Borne on triumphant in ensanguined car?--
  Him, who with power to rescue, tamely yields
    His helpless charge to persecuting hate,
    Nor His own offspring from the torturer shields,
  But sits aloof, callously obdurate,
    While but the will is lacking to redeem,--
    Him, how shall fitting stigma designate?

  'But 'tis not thus thy calmer doubts esteem
    The loving-kindness that with open hand
    Dispenses bounty in perennial stream.
  Oft hast thou proved, while in a foreign land
    A sojourner, as all thy fathers were,
    Thou pacest painfully the barren sand,
  How o'er thy path watches a Comforter,
    And scatters manna daily for thy food,
    And bids the smitten rocks that barrier
  The arid track, well out with gurgling flood,
    And oft to shade of green oasis leads,
    And, from pursuer thirsting for thy blood,
  Such scanty shelter as is thine provides:
    And though full oft that shelter fails, and though
    Its torn defence demoniac glee derides,
  Yet not for this the cheerful faith forego,
    That memory of uncounted benefits
    And conscious instinct's still, small tones bestow.
  Charge not thy God with aught that unbefits
    Tenderest compassion, nor believe that He
    With hardened apathetic scorn commits
  A favoured people throughout life to be
    Subject to bondage. Doubt not of His will
    To rescue from that galling tyranny.
  Yet, if in His despite creation still
    In thraldom groan and travail--what remains?
    What but that strength is wanting to fulfil
  His scheme of mercy? What but that He reigns,
    Not as sole wielder of omnipotence,
    But, o'er a world unconquered yet, maintains
  Encounter with opposing influence,
    Which He shall surely quell, but which can stay,
    Awhile unquelled, His mightier providence.

  'And doth this sadden only, or dismay?
    Grieves it that He, whose follower thou art,
    Rules not supreme with unresisted sway?
  Or that, the progress of His grace to thwart,
    Satanic might the host of hell arrays?
    And doth it not a thrill of joy impart
  That not alone need barren prayer and praise
    Thine homage be,--thy choicest offering
    The formal dues prescribed obedience pays?
  Henceforth with firmer step approach thy King.
    Some puny succour, thou, in thy degree,
    Some feeble aid, thou, even thou, mayst bring!
  In the fell conflict raging ceaselessly
    Around, thou, too, mayst join--thou, too, engage
    In that dread feud, twin with eternity,
  Which faithful angels and archangels wage
    Against the powers of darkness, to extend,
    O'er realms retained in demon vassalage,
  Their sovereign's pure dominion,--and to blend
    All worlds beneath one righteous governance,
    Into one kingdom which shall have no end.

  'Wouldst thou, if haply so thou mayst, advance
    That blessed consummation? Wouldst thou speed
    The lingering hour of Earth's deliverance?
  Arise--the naked clothe, the hungry feed,
    The sick and wounded tend,--soothe the distressed.
    If thy weak arm cannot protect, yet plead
  With bold rebuke the cause of the oppressed,
    Kindling hot shame in Mammon's votaries,
    Abashed, at least, in lucre's grovelling quest;
  And, in the toil-worn serf, a glad surprise
    Awakening--when, from brute despondency,
    Taught to look up to heaven with dazzled eyes.--
  Thus mayst thou do God service,--thus apply
    Thyself, within thy limit, to abate
    What wickedness thou seest, or misery:
  Thus, in a Sacred Band, associate
    New levies, from the adverse ranks of Sin
    Converted,--against Sin confederate.
  Or--if by outward act to serve, or win
    Joint followers to the standard of thy Lord,
    Thy lot forbid,--turn, then, thy thought within:
  Be each recess of thine own breast explored:
    There, o'er thy passions be thy victories won:
    There, be the altar of thy faith restored,
  And thou, a living sacrifice, thereon
    Present thyself.--This ever mayst thou do,
    Nor, doing this, wilt aught have left undone.'

  Here ceased the Voice, commissioned to renew
    Truth, which, of old, when Bactrian sage began
    Nature's dim maze to thread with slenderest clue,
  Its doubtful scope and dark design to scan,
    With inward whisper, hopeful witness bare,
    And justified the ways of God to man.
  And suddenly its warning ceased, but ere
    It ceased, the scales had fallen from my eyes,
    And I beheld, and shall I not declare
  What my uncurtained vision testifies?
    Shall coward lips the word of life suppress?
    The oracle vouchsafed from Heaven disguise?
  Nay, as one crying in the wilderness,
    Where none else hearken, to the vacant air
    And stolid mountains utters his distress,
  E'en so will I too cry aloud, 'Prepare
    Before Him the Lord's way. Make His path straight,'
    Nor heed though none regard me, nor forbear
  Though all revile, but patiently await
    Till, like light breath that panting meads exhale,
    And scornful zephyrs lightly dissipate,
  But which, full surely, down the echoing vale,
    Shall roll with sounding current, swift and loud,
    My slighted message likewise shall prevail,
  Entering the heart of many a mourner, bowed
    Beneath despair, and with inspiring voice
    Calling to hope to cleave her midnight cloud,
  And bidding grief, in hope's new dawn, rejoice.

This is a creed which long since came to me after earnest inward
communings, and which, though subsequent reflection has in some few
particulars modified it, I still in substance hold, clinging to it with
a grateful consciousness of ever-multiplying obligations. For in it the
soul has free scope for its loftiest aspirations and its widest and
deepest sympathies, strongest incentives to zeal, surest guidance for
activity, solace in every distress, support under every difficulty,
added cause for exultation in every success, renewed resolution in every
defeat. Still, it is here offered, not as ascertained truth, but merely
as a sample of those guesses at truth by which alone ordinary mortals
need hope to promote the common cause of humanity in any of its higher
bearings. Such guesses, however, when harmonising with all the
conditions of their subject-matter, may fairly claim to be provisionally
regarded as truths--nay, to be adopted as working hypotheses until
superseded by new hypotheses capable of doing the same work better; in
which supercession none ought to rejoice, nor, if sincere truth-seekers,
will rejoice, more cordially than the propounders of the discredited
doctrines. It is in this spirit and with these reservations that the
articles of faith above recited are submitted for consideration. How
much soever they may fall short of the truth, they are, I feel, in the
absence of any nearer approach to the truth, capable of rendering
excellent service. However faintly and hazily the outlines of Deity be
shown in them, the Deity whom they so imperfectly delineate is yet one
to whom may justly be ascribed glory in the highest, one worthy of all
trust, love, and adoration--of an adoration, too, inclusive not more of
praise than prayer.

If the divine claim to the last-named tribute be disputed, it had better
be by arguments other than those on which certain writers, with Mr.
Galton for their leader and Professor Tyndall for their backer, have
been recently expending much misapplied ingenuity. If the efficacy of
prayer be, as the foremost of these declares it to be, 'a perfectly
appropriate and legitimate subject of scientific enquiry,' the enquiry
ought at least to be conducted according to scientific rules. On this
point Mr. Galton himself lays much stress, intimating that whereas an
unscientific reasoner may be expected to be 'guided by a confused
recollection of crude experience, a scientific reasoner will scrutinise
each separate experience before he admits it as evidence, and will
compare all the cases he has selected on a methodical system.'
Nevertheless, a brief examination of the experiences on which he and his
principal associate rely, may suggest some doubt as to which of the two
specified classes of reasoners it is that they themselves belong.

The facts or fancies cited by Mr. Galton in proof that praying is of no
use are the following: 1. 'Sick people who pray or are prayed for do not
on the average recover more rapidly than others.' 2. Although 'the
public prayer for the sovereign of every state, Protestant or
Catholic, is and has been in the spirit of our own--"Grant her in health
long to live"--sovereigns are literally the shortest-lived of all
persons who have the advantage of affluence.' 3. The 'clergy are a far
more prayerful class' than either lawyers or medical men, it being
'their profession to pray,' and 'their practice that of offering morning
and evening family prayers in addition to their private devotions,' yet
'we do not find that the clergy are in any way more long-lived in
consequence;' rather, there is room for believing their class to be the
'shortest-lived of the three.' Nay, even missionaries, eminently
prayerful as they are themselves, and prayed for as they are with
especial earnestness by others, 'are not supernaturally endowed with
health,' and 'do not live longer than other people.' 4. 'The proportion
of deaths at the time of birth is identical among the children of the
praying and the non-praying classes.' 5. Though 'we pray in our Liturgy
that "the nobility may be endowed with grace, wisdom, and
understanding,"' our 'nobility are peculiarly subject to insanity;' as
are likewise, indeed, 'very religious people of all denominations,'
'religious madness being very common indeed.' 6. So far from 'religious
influences' appearing to have 'clustered in any remarkable degree round
the youth of those who, whether by their talents or their social
position, have left a mark upon English history,' 'remarkable devotional
tendencies' have been conspicuous chiefly by their absence from 'the
lives either of our Lord Chancellors or of the leaders of our great
political parties;' while, out of our twenty-three extant dukes, four at
least, if not five, are descended from mistresses of Charles II., not a
single one of them, on the other hand, being known to Mr. Galton to be
of 'eminently prayerful qualities.' 7. In respect of those
'institutions, societies, commercial adventures, political meetings and
combinations of all sorts' with which England so much abounds, and of
which 'some are exclusively clerical, some lay, and others mixed,' Mr.
Galton 'for his own part never heard a favourable opinion of the value
of the preponderating clerical element in their business committees.'
'The procedure of Convocation which, like all exclusively clerical
meetings, is opened with prayer, has not inspired the outer world with
much respect.' Nay, 'it is a common week-day opinion of the world that
praying people are not practical.' 8. In those numerous instances in
which an enterprise is executed by the agency of the profane on behalf
not of the profane themselves but of pious clients, 'the enterprises are
not observed to prosper beyond the average.' Underwriters recognise no
difference in the risks run by missionary ships and by ordinary traders,
nor do life insurance companies, before they accept a life, introduce
into their 'confidential enquiries into the antecedents of the
applicant' any 'such question as "Does he habitually use family prayers
and private devotions?"' Neither are the funds of devout shareholders
and depositors at all safer than those of the profane when entrusted to
the custody of untrustworthy directors, not even though the day's work
of the undertaking commence, as that of the disastrous Royal British
Bank used to do, with solemn prayer.[52]

Two or three minutes' attention to the grounds for, and the
circumstances connected with, these statements, may assist us in
appreciating Mr. Galton's notion of the difference between confusedly
recollected experiences and experiences properly scrutinised and
methodically selected.

For the statement first on the list, some negative evidence is
considered to be afforded by the absence of any 'single instance in
which papers read before Statistical Societies have recognised the
agency of prayer either in disease or in anything else.' The chief
authority for it, however, is the eloquent silence of medical men 'who,
had prayers for the sick any notable effect, would be sure to have
observed it,' seeing that they are 'always on the watch for such
things.' But are they really, in every case of recovery from illness
that comes under their notice, so particular and so successful in their
enquiries whether any, and, if so, how much, prayer has been offered on
behalf of the patient, as to be qualified to judge whether prayer has
had anything to do with the cure? If not, although they may be showing
their discretion by not speaking on the point, the 'eloquence of their
silence' must not be too hastily interpreted. For doctors, of all men,
should be the last to deny, as an abstract proposition, the efficacy of
prayer in disease, knowing, as they do, how great is the curative
influence of prayer when addressed to themselves. How, they may
naturally ask, is it to be expected that sickness should be cured unless
properly treated? and how can it be properly treated without a doctor?
and how can a doctor be expected to attend unless he be asked? Upon
which very natural queries others naturally follow. What would be the
good of the doctor's coming unless he prescribed judiciously? and will
he not more certainly prescribe judiciously if his judgment be guided by
special interposition of divine grace? and if prayer to himself has
plainly been one condition of his coming, why may not prayer to God
have been one condition of his judgment having been rightly guided? Will
it be pretended that God's proceedings are abjectly submissive to
inexorable laws from which those of the doctor are exempt, and that
though the latter would certainly not have attended unless he had been
asked, the grace of God, if given at all, must have been given equally
whether asked for or not?

Statements 2 and 3 are founded on a memoir by Dr. Guy, purporting to
show the 'Mean Age attained by males of various classes who had survived
their 30th year from 1758 to 1843,' and whose deaths were not caused by
violence or accident. According to this table, the average age of 97
members of royal houses was only 64·04, while that of 1,179 members of
the English aristocracy was 67·31, and that of 1,632 gentlemen commoners
70·22; the proportion between the total number of royal, and that of
noble and gentle, personages who died within the period specified, being
apparently supposed to be as 97 to 2811, or as 1 to about 29. Except
upon this supposition, Mr. Galton could not with any consistency have
appealed to these figures, for he had previously announced his intention
to be 'guided solely by broad averages and not to deal with isolated
instances.' He seems, however, to forget this judicious rule when he
comes to treat of the clergy, of whom 945 are compared in the table with
294 lawyers and 244 medical men. Here, he says, 'the clergy as a whole
show a life value of 69·49 against 68·14 for lawyers, and 67·31 for
medical men;' but then, he adds 'this difference is reversed' when the
comparison is made between members of the three classes sufficiently
distinguished to have had their lives recorded in Chalmers'
Biographical Dictionary or the Annual Register, the value of life among
clergy, lawyers, and medical men then appearing as 66·42, 66·51 and
67·34 respectively. Whether, of the distinguished professional men
concerned in this second comparison, the parsons were distinguished for
their prayerfulness and the lawyers and doctors for their
prayerlessness, Mr. Galton omits to state; and still more serious
omissions on his part are those of not mentioning in what part of our
Liturgy we are accustomed to pray that it may be granted to the Queen,
not simply long to live, but also to live longer than other people;
likewise in which of 'the numerous published collections of family
prayers' that have undergone his scrutiny, is to be found a petition
that parsons may live longer than lawyers or doctors; and, yet again,
since an _average_, falling short of threescore years and ten by little
more than three and a half, is so contemptuously rejected by him, what
is the precise number of years that would be accepted by him as a
liberal compliance with prayer for long life?

While deducing his argument from clergymen, Mr. Galton makes repeated
and particular reference to the clerical _sub-genus_, missionaries,
treating it as the more remarkable that these should not enjoy
comparative immunity from disease, because, as he suggests, it would
have been so easy for God to have made them a favoured class in respect
of health: to wit, by the notable expedient of dissuading them from
exposing themselves to any of the risks peculiarly attendant on
missionary enterprise. 'Tropical fever, for example, is due to many
subtle causes which are partly under man's control. A single hour's
exposure to sun, or wet, or fatigue, or mental agitation will determine
an attack.' What more simple than for God so to 'act on the minds of
the missionaries as to disincline them to take those courses which might
result in mischance, such as the forced march, the wetting, the
abstinence from food, or the night exposure?' What more simple, either,
it may be added, than for God to save prayerful soldiers from ever being
killed in battle by merely putting it into their minds to desert
whenever they are ordered upon active service?

That 'the distribution of still-births is wholly unaffected by piety'
Mr. Galton has satisfied himself by finding, 'on examination of a
particular period, that the proportion of such births published in the
'Record' newspaper and in the 'Times' bore an identical relation to the
total number of deaths.' He had previously, we must suppose, satisfied
himself that advertisers in the 'Times' never say their prayers.

For the asserted commonness of religious madness Mr. Galton cites no
evidence whatever, and, to judge from the sympathies and antipathies of
which one of his avowed opinions may be supposed to be the subject and
the object, speaks probably on this point solely from hearsay. Very
possibly, however, his assurance of the extraordinary prevalence of
insanity among British noblemen may be based on personal observation,
as, of course, is that regarding the prayerlessness of his own ducal
acquaintances. Birds of a feather, proverbially, flock together, and the
same touch of irreligion may quite possibly suffice to make certain
dukes and certain commoners kin.

Against the inefficiency, however notorious, of the clerical element in
business committees, ought in fairness to be set the equally notorious
efficiency of Jesuits in whatever they undertake, the signal statecraft
displayed by the Wolseys, the Richelieus, and the Ximenes's of the days
in which cardinals and archbishops were permitted to take a leading
part in executive politics, and the very respectable figure still
presented by the lords spiritual, beside the lords temporal of the
British House of Peers. As for 'the common week-day opinion that praying
people are not practical,' those by whom it is entertained, of course,
mentally except praying Quakers.

The fact that insurance offices do not attempt to distinguish between
the prayerful and the prayerless, but, treating both classes as liable
to the same risks, exact from both the same premiums, proves, I submit,
nothing against the efficacy of prayer, not even that the managers of
insurance offices do not believe in it. The statement that prayerful and
prayerless, when placing their money in the same dishonest keeping, or
engaging in the same bad speculations, suffer losses, bearing exactly
the same proportion to their respective ventures, although most probably
quite true, is also one which Mr. Galton has neglected to verify by the
application to it of any test, scientific or other. Finally, if the
disasters of the Royal British Bank are to be ascribed to its custom of
opening business with prayer, not only ought the cackle of Convocation
to be attributed to a similar cause, but also all the legislative
botchery of the House of Commons, and the abolition of prayer before
debate should be treated as the most urgently needed of those further
parliamentary reforms with which the fertile brains of certain eminent
statesmen are suspected to be teeming.

Thus much by way of intimation that there would be no excessive temerity
in encountering Mr. Galton even on the ground of his own choosing, were
that ground really worth contending for. But baseless and exorbitant as
all Mr. Galton's postulates are, there is not one of them to which he
might not be made heartily welcome, for any effect its surrender could
have upon the real issue, the true nature whereof both Mr. Galton and
his principal coadjutor have, with marvellous sleight of eye, contrived
completely to overlook. Such Pharisees in science, such sticklers for
rigorously scientific method, might have been expected to begin by
authenticating the materials they proposed to operate upon, and, when
professing to experiment upon pure metal, at least to see that it was
not mere dross they were casting into the crucible. Plainly, however,
they despise any such nice distinctions. The most earnest prayer and the
emptiest ceremonial prate are both alike to them. What sort of a process
they imagine prayer to be may be at once perceived from the sort of
trials to which they desire to subject it.

'After much thought and examination,' the coadjutor aforesaid--a bashful
Teucer, over whom Professor Tyndall has, like a second Ajax Telamon,
extended, with chivalrous haste, the shelter of his shield--does 'not
hesitate to propose that one single ward or hospital under the care of
first-rate physicians or surgeons, containing a number of patients
afflicted with those diseases which have been best studied, and of which
the mortality rates are best known, should be, during a period of not
less than three to five years, made the object of special prayer by the
whole body of the faithful, and that, at the end of that time, the
mortality rates should be compared with the past rates, and also with
those of other leading hospitals similarly well managed during the same
period.'[53] In suggesting this experiment, termed by himself
'exhaustive and complete,' its propounder imagines himself to be
offering to the faithful 'an occasion of demonstrating to the faithless
an imperishable record of the real power of prayer.' If, however, he
were himself petitioning for the reprieve of a condemned criminal, he
would scarcely expect to succeed, even with so tender-hearted a minister
as Mr. Bruce, if he were to let out in the course of his supplications,
that he did not care whether he succeeded or not, and was asking for the
reprieve solely for the purpose of ascertaining whether the head of the
Home Office is really invested with the prerogative of mercy. Yet no
suspicion crosses his mind that the Searcher of Hearts may possibly be
displeased with prayers addressed to Him by the lips of those who were,
all the while, saying in their hearts that they did not want their
prayers to be granted, but only wanted to satisfy their curiosity to
know whether they would be granted or not. Equally remarkable is the
trustfulness of Mr. Galton, in opining that 'it would be perfectly
practicable to select out of the patients at different hospitals under
treatment for fractures, or amputations, or other common maladies, whose
course is so well understood as to admit of accurate tables being
constructed for their duration and result, two considerable groups, the
one consisting of markedly religious and piously befriended individuals,
the other of those who were remarkably cold-hearted and neglected; and
that, then, an honest comparison of their respective periods of
treatment, and the result, would manifest a distinct proof of the
efficacy of prayer, if it existed to even a minute fraction of the
amount that religious teachers exhort us to believe.' Evidently, he
imagines that it would be sufficient for the hospital authorities to
advertise--not of course, in the 'Times,' but in the 'Record'--and
that, thereupon, whoever, having entered into his closet and shut the
door, had, on behalf of any of the patients experimented upon, prayed to
the Father who seeth in secret, would at once come forth and proclaim
openly how he had been engaged. Not by 'arguments' of no greater
'cogency' than that of any based upon results thus obtainable, need
either of the two experimentalists expect to persuade praying people
that prayer is, 'in the natural course of events,' doomed to become
'obsolete, just as the Waters of Jealousy and the Urim and Thummin of
the Mosaic Law did in the times of the later Jewish Kings.' Not quite so
easily will they cause it to be 'abandoned to the domain of recognised
superstition,' just as belief in witches and in the Sovereign's touch as
a cure for scrofula, and 'many other items of ancient faith have already
successively been.' Both of them have, it seems, yet to learn that the
only prayer which is believed by people of some little enlightenment to
be of any avail, is the 'fervent, effectual prayer of a righteous man,'
prayer that cometh from 'a pure heart fervently,' prayer that is made
'with the spirit and with the understanding also.' Prayer of this sort
is not to be discredited by any abundance of statistical testimony to
the futility of cold lip-worship, or by any number of fresh examples of
the generally recognised fact that the children of this world are wiser
in their generation than the children of light. The recovery from the
very jaws of death of King Hezekiah, of Louis XV. of France, while as
yet undetected and _bien-aimé_, and of the present Prince of Wales, may,
none the less probably, have been in part due to the prayers offered up
for the first by himself, for the second, according to President Hénault
and Mr. Carlyle, by all Paris, and, for the third, by the whole British
empire, because _lessons_ appointed to be regularly said or _sung_ in
churches for the prolongation of the Sovereign's life, and said and sung
by the congregations to whom they are set, with equal regularity,
whether the Sovereign be well or ill, detested or beloved, are to all
appearance disregarded. Modern believers in prayer are well aware that,
although they ask, they may not receive if they ask amiss, and would
accept this as fully adequate explanation of the disappointment of
anyone, who had the face to pray that he might grow as rich as the late
Mr. Brassey, or be created a duke, or appointed Lord Chancellor, or
supplant Mr. Gladstone in the premiership, or Mr. D'Israeli in the
leadership of Her Majesty's Opposition. Moreover, the spirit, duly
seasoned with understanding, in which alone true prayer can be made, is
one, not of presumptuous dictation to a Heavenly Father, but of sincere
and grateful recognition that 'He knoweth better than ourselves what is
for our good.' Far from praying for selfish aggrandisement, we cannot,
if we pray aright, pray that, whether from ourselves or others, the cup
of affliction may pass away, without adding, 'Nevertheless, not as I
will, but as Thou wilt.' The only gifts that can with propriety be
prayed for unconditionally are gifts spiritual--cleansing of the
thoughts of the heart, strength to resist temptation, strength to endure
trials, strength to perform our appointed work; and whoever may think
fit to make these the subjects of statistical inquiry, may depend upon
being assured by everyone experimentally qualified to reply, that they
are never asked for faithfully without being obtained effectually;
together with large measure, if not of the cheerfulness, at least of the
patience, of hope.


[50] 'Auguste Comte and Positivism,' pp. 25-8.

[51] 'Fortnightly Review' for June 1868, 'Mr. Darwin's Hypotheses.'

[52] 'Statistical Enquiries into the Efficacy of Prayer,' by Francis
Galton, in Fornightly Review,' for August 1872.

[53] 'Contemporary Review,' July 1872. 'The Prayer for the Sick. Hints
towards a serious attempt to estimate its value.' Communicated by Prof.


  If with rash step, or with presumptuous word
  I have transgressed, or with unshrinking eye
  Have sought to pierce the awful mystery
  That veils thy Godhead, yet forgive me, Lord!
  Thou knowest that I sought not to draw nigh
  Thy Throne, save that my witness might record
  More truly of Thine attributes, whereby
  On Earth, e'en as in Heaven, might be adored
  The fulness of Thy glory. Not in wrath
  His trespass wilt Thou judge, whom, licence, bred
  Of zeal, though blinded, yet devout, betrays,
  Nor scorn the unconscious wanderer from Thy path,
  Nor leave me hopeless, if indeed misled
  By thirst for truth, more deep in error's maze.







8vo. cloth, price 14_s._

'This is a book which all true economists should welcome.'


'It may be doubted whether any considerable economic work of equal merit
has appeared since the first publication of Mr. Mill's "Political


MACMILLAN & CO., London.

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