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Title: Fundamental Philosophy, Vol. 2 (of 2)
Author: Balmes, Jaime Luciano
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Fundamental Philosophy, Vol. 2 (of 2)" ***

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    VOL. I.

    New York:

  Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1856,
  By D. & J. SADLIER & CO.,
  In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for
  the Southern District of New York.





  CHAPTER                                            PAGE

  I. Cursory View of Sensism                            3

  II. Condillac's Statue                                6

  III. Difference between Geometrical Ideas and the
  Sensible Representations which accompany them        12

  IV. The Idea and the Intellectual Act                15

  V. Comparison of Geometrical with Non-Geometrical
  Ideas                                                20

  VI. In what the Geometrical Idea consists; and what
  are its Relations with Sensible Intuition            25

  VII. The Acting Intellect of the Aristotelians       29

  VIII. Kant and the Aristotelians                     33

  IX. Historical View of the Value of Pure Ideas       42

  X. Sensible Intuition                                50

  XI. Two Cognitions: Intuitive and Discursive         54

  XII. The Sensism of Kant                             57

  XIII. Existence of Pure Intellectual Intuition       59

  XIV. Value of Intellectual Conceptions.--Abstraction
  made from Intellectual Intuition                     62

  XV. Illustrations of the Value of General
  Conceptions                                          65

  XVI. Value of Principles, independently of Sensible
  Intuition                                            68

  XVII. Relations of Intuition with the rank of the
  Perceptive Being                                     71

  XVIII. Aspirations of the Human Soul                 74

  XIX. Elements and variety of the characters of
  Sensible Representation                              76

  XX. Intermediate Representations between Sensible
  Intuition and the Intellectual Act                   81

  XXI. Determinate and Indeterminate Ideas             84

  XXII. Limits of our Intuition                        88

  XXIII. Of the Necessity involved in Ideas            92

  XXIV. Existence of Universal Reason                  96

  XXV. In what does Universal Reason consist?          99

  XXVI. Remarks on the Real Foundation of Pure
  Possibility                                         102

  XXVII. Individual and Intellectual Phenomena
  explained by the Universal Subsisting Reason        105

  XXVIII. Observations on the Relation of Language to
  Ideas                                               108

  XXIX. Origin and Character of the relation between
  Language and Ideas                                  112

  XXX. Innate Ideas                                   115



  I. Idea of Being                                    125

  II. Simplicity and Indeterminateness of the Idea of
  Being                                               127

  III. Substantive and Copulative Being               129

  IV. Being, the Object of the Understanding, is not
  the Possible, Inasmuch as Possible                  134

  V. A Difficulty Solved                              138

  VI. In what Sense the Idea of Being is the Form of
  the Understanding                                   141

  VII. All Science is founded in the Postulate of
  Existence                                           143

  VIII. The foundation of Pure Possibility, and the
  Condition of its Existence                          147

  IX. Idea of Negation                                150

  X. Identity; Distinction; Unity; Multiplicity       153

  XI. Origin of the Idea of Being                     155

  XII. Distinction between Essence and Existence      161

  XIII. Kant's Opinion of Reality and Negation        164

  XIV. Recapitulation and Consequences of the Doctrine
  concerning the Idea of Being                        168



  I. Preliminary Considerations on the Idea of Unity  175

  II. What is Unity?                                  176

  III. Unity and Simplicity                           180

  IV. Origin of the Tendency of our Mind to Unity     183

  V. Generation of the Idea of Number                 187

  VI. Connection of the Ideas of Number with their
  Signs                                               191

  VII. Analysis of the Idea of Number in Itself and
  its Relations with Signs                            194



  I. Importance and Difficulty of the Subject         201

  II. Is Time the Measure of Movement?                203

  III. Similarities and Differences between Time and
  Space                                               206

  IV. Definition of Time                              211

  V. Time is Nothing Absolute                         213

  VI. Difficulties in the explanation of Velocity     215

  VII. Fundamental Explanation of Succession          219

  VIII. What is Co-existence?                         223

  IX. Present, Past, and Future                       226

  X. Application of the preceding Doctrine to several
  important Questions                                 231

  XI. The Analysis of the Idea of Time confirms its
  resemblance to the Idea of Space                    234

  XII. Relations of the Idea of Time to Experience    236

  XIII. Kant's Opinion                                239

  XIV. Fundamental Explanation of the Objective Possibility
  and of the Necessity of the Idea of Time            242

  XV. Important Corollaries                           243

  XVI. Pure Ideal Time and Empirical Time             245

  XVII. Relations of the Idea of Time and the
  Principle of Contradiction                          247

  XVIII. Summing up                                   254

  XIX. A glance at the Ideas of Space, Number, and
  Time                                                257



  I. Transitory View of the Actual State of
  Philosophy                                          263

  II. Importance and Anomaly of the Questions on the
  Idea of the Infinite                                268

  III. Have we the Idea of the Infinite?              269

  IV. The Limit                                       272

  V. Considerations on the Application of the Idea of
  the Infinite to continuous quantities, and to
  Discrete Quantities, in so far as these last are
  expressed in Series                                 274

  VI. Origin of the Vagueness and Apparent Contradictions
  in the Application of the Idea of the Infinite      278

  VII. Fundamental Explanation of the Abstract Idea
  of the Infinite                                     281

  VIII. The Definition of Infinity confirmed by
  Application to Extension                            285

  IX. Conception of an Infinite Number                289

  X. Conception of Infinite Extension                 292

  XI. Possibility of Infinite Extension               294

  XII. Solution of Various Objections against the
  Possibility of an Infinite Extension                296

  XIII. Existence of Infinite Extension               302

  XIV. Possibility of an Actual Infinite Number       304

  XV. Idea of Absolutely Infinite Being               311

  XVI. All the Reality contained in Indeterminate
  Conceptions is affirmed of God                      315

  XVII. All that is not contradictory in Intuitive
  Ideas is affirmed of God                            317

  XVIII. Intelligence and the Absolutely Infinite
  Being                                               321

  XIX. Summing up                                     324



  I. Name and General Idea of Substance               331

  II. Application of the Idea of Substance to
  Corporeal Objects                                   333

  III. Definition of Corporeal Substance              338

  IV. Relation of Corporeal Substance to its
  Accidents                                           340

  V. Considerations on Corporeal Substance in Itself  344

  VI. Substantiality of the Human Me                  347

  VII. Relation of the Proposition, I Think, to the
  Substantiality of the Me                            349

  VIII. Remarks on the Soul's Intuition of Itself     352

  IX. Kant's Opinion of the Arguments proving the
  Substantiality of the Soul                          355

  X. Kant's Opinion of the Argument which he calls
  Paralogism of Personality                           366

  XI. Simplicity of the Soul                          377

  XII. Kant's Opinion of the Argument proving the
  Simplicity of the Soul                              381

  XIII. In what manner the Idea of Substance may be
  applied to God                                      394

  XIV. An important Remark, and Summary               397

  XV. Pantheism examined in the Order of Ideas        399

  XVI. Pantheism examined in the Order of External
  Facts                                               403

  XVII. Pantheism examined in the Order of Internal
  Facts                                               406

  XVIII. Fichte's Pantheistic System                  409

  XIX. Relations of Fichte's System to the Doctrines
  of Kant                                             424

  XX. Contradiction of Pantheism to the Primary Facts
  of the Human Mind                                   429

  XXI. Rapid glances at the Principal Arguments of
  Pantheists                                          434



  I. Necessity                                        439

  II. The Unconditioned                               442

  III. Immutability of Necessary and Unconditioned
  Being                                               445

  IV. Ideas of Cause and Effect                       448

  V. Origin of the Notion of Causality                451

  VI. Formula and Demonstration of the Principle of
  Causality                                           454

  VII. The Principle of Precedency                    457

  VIII. Causality in Itself.--Insufficiency and Error
  of some Explanations                                467

  IX. Necessary and sufficient Conditions of true
  Absolute Causality                                  474

  X. Secondary Causality                              476

  XI. Fundamental Explanation of the Origin of the
  Obscurity of Ideas in what relates to Causality     479

  XII. Causality of Pure Force of the Will            483

  XIII. Activity                                      486

  XIV. Possibility of the Activity of Bodies          493

  XV. Conjectures as to the Existence of Corporeal
  Activity                                            496

  XVI. Internal Causality                             500

  XVII. Remarks on Spontaneity                        508

  XVIII. Final Causality;--Morality                   513

  XIX. Various Explanations of Morality               520

  XX. Fundamental Explanation of the Moral Order      527

  XXI. A Glance at the Work                           543






1. Having spoken of sensations, we come now to ideas. We must, however,
before making this transition, inquire if there be in our mind ought
else than sensation, if all the inward phenomena which we experience be
ought else than sensations transformed.

Man, when he rises from the sphere of sensations, from those phenomena
which place him in relation with the external world, meets a new order
of phenomena, of whose presence he is equally conscious. He cannot
reflect upon sensations without being conscious of something more
than sensation; nor on the recollection or the inward representation
of sensations, without discovering something distinct both from the
recollection and from the representation.

2. According to Aristotle, there is nothing in the understanding which
has not first been in the senses; and the schools have for long ages
re-echoed this thought of the philosopher: _nihil est in intellectu
quod prius non fuerit in sensu_. The order, therefore, of human
knowledge, is from the external to the internal. Descartes pretended
that we ought to invert this order, and proceed from the internal to
the external. Malebranche, his disciple, went farther, and was of
opinion that the understanding, enfolded in itself, should hold only
the least possible intercourse with the external world. According to
him, no atmosphere is so fatal to intellectual health as that of the
world of the senses; sensations are an inexhaustible fountain of error,
and the imagination is an enchantress only the more dangerous because
she has fixed her dwelling at the very portal of the intellect, which,
with her seductive beauty and gorgeous ornaments, she hopes to rule at
her pleasure.

3. Locke strove to rehabilitate the old Aristotelian maxim, joined,
however, to the criterion of observation: besides sensation he admitted
only reflection, but he taught that the mind was endowed with innate
faculties. His disciple, Condillac, not satisfied with this, taught
that all the actions of our mind were simply sensations transformed:
instead of distinguishing with Locke two sources of our ideas, the
senses and reflection, he thought it more exact to admit only one, as
well because reflection is in its root only sensation, as because it is
rather the channel by which ideas originating in the senses pass, than
their source.

Judgment, reflection, desires, and passions are in Condillac's
estimation nothing else than sensation transformed in various modes.
It seemed to him, therefore, very idle to suppose the mind to have
received immediately from nature the faculties with which it is
endowed. Nature has given us organs which show us by pleasure or pain
what we ought to seek or to avoid; but here she stops, and leaves to
experience the task of leading us to contract habits and finish the
work she has commenced.[1]

[1] _Traité des Sensations._ Préface.

4. In view of this system, in which not even natural faculties are
conceded to the soul, and those which it does possess are considered
as only simple effects of sensation, it is worthy of remark how soon
its author contradicts himself; for, almost in the same breath, he
professes to be an occasionalist, and pretends that the impressions of
our organization are nothing more than the occasion of our sensations.
Can there be a natural faculty more inexplicable than that of placing
one's self in relation with objects which do not produce sensations,
but are only the occasion of their production. If such a faculty as
this be conceded to the mind, why may we not admit others? Is not that
a very singular natural faculty which perceives by means of causes
operating only occasionally? In this case, is there not attributed
to the mind a natural faculty of producing sensations on occasion of
organic impressions, or is it not supposed to be an immediate relation
with another and superior being which produces them? Why may not this
internal activity, this receptivity, apply itself to ideas? Why must
not other innate faculties be conceded to the mind? And why does he
pretend not to suppose them, when his whole argument is based upon the
supposition of their existence?

Hostile as he professes to be to hypotheses and systems, Condillac
is eminently addicted both to systems and hypotheses. He imagines
an origin and a nature of ideas of his own, and to them he insists
that every thing must conform. To give a better idea of Condillac's
opinions, and to combat them at once successfully and loyally, we will
briefly analyze the groundwork of his _Treatise on Sensations_, the
book on which he most prides himself, and in which he flatters himself
to have given to his doctrine its highest degree of clearness and



5. Condillac supposes a statue, which he animates successively with
each of the senses: then beginning with the sense of smell, he says;
"So long as our statue is limited to the sense of smell, its knowledge
cannot go beyond odors; it can neither have any idea of extension, of
space, or of any thing beyond itself, nor of other sensations, such
as color, sound, taste."[2] If, according to the conditions of the
supposition, all activity and every faculty be denied to this statue,
it certainly can have no other idea or sensation, and it may be added
that even its sensation of smell will be for it no idea.

[2] Chap. I.

"If we present it a rose," continues Condillac, "to us it will be a
statue which smells a rose; but for itself it will be only the smell
of a rose. It will then be the smell of the rose, the pink, the
jasmine, or the violet, according to the objects which operate upon
its organ; in a word, with respect to it, these odors are only its
own modifications and manners of being, and it cannot believe itself
any thing else, since these are the only sensations of which it is

6. It is very obvious that at the first step, the statue must take
a great leap. Close upon the apparent simplicity of the sensible
phenomenon, _reflection_, one of those acts which suppose the intellect
already well developed, is introduced. First the statue believes
itself something; it believes itself the odor; next consciousness
of itself in relation to the impression it has just received, is
attributed to it; then it is made to form a kind of judgment, whereby
it affirms the identity of itself with the sensation. This, however,
is impossible, unless we have something besides bare sensation; but we
neither have nor can have at this stage any thing beyond this purely
passive impression, an isolated phenomenon, upon which there can be
no reflection of any kind whatever; and the statue can have no other
reflection of itself than this sensation, which in the reflective
order has no title to be so called. Condillac's hypothesis rigorously
applied, presents only a phenomenon leading to nothing; and the moment
he leaves sensation to develop it, he admits an activity in the mind
distinct and very different from sensation, which destroys his whole

The statue confined to the sensation of smell will never believe itself
smell; such a belief is a judgment, and supposes comparison, no trace
of which can be discovered in the sensible phenomenon, considered in
all its purity, as Condillac requires in his hypothesis. He begins his
analytical investigations by introducing conditions which he at the
same time supposes to be eliminated. He undertakes to explain every
thing by sensation alone, and his first step is to amalgamate sensation
with operations of a very different order.

7. Condillac calls the capacity of feeling, when applied to the
impression received, attention. So if there be but one sensation, there
can be but one attention. If various sensations succeeding each other
leave some trace in the memory of the statue, the attention will, when
a new sensation is presented, be divided between the present and the
past. The attention directed at one and the same time to two sensations
becomes comparison. Similarities and differences are perceived by
comparison, and this perception is a judgment. All this is done with
sensations alone; therefore attention, memory, comparison, and judgment
are nothing but sensations transformed. In appearance nothing clearer,
more simple, or more ingenuous; in reality nothing more confused or

8. First of all, this definition of attention is not exact. The
capacity of feeling, by the very fact of being in exercise, is applied
to the impression. It does not feel when the sensitive faculty is not
in exercise, and this is not in exercise except when applied to the
impression. Consequently, attention would be nothing but the act of
feeling; all sensation would be attention, and all attention sensation;
a meaning which no one ever yet gave to these words.

9. Attention is the application of the mind to something; and this
application supposes the exercise of an activity concentrated upon its
object. Properly speaking, when the mind holds itself entirely passive,
it is not attentive; and with respect to sensations it is attentive
when by a reflex act we know that we feel. Without this cognition there
can be no attention, but only sensation more or less active, according
to the degree in which it affects our sensibility. If Condillac means
to call the more vivid sensation attention, the word is improperly
used; for it ordinarily happens that they who feel with the greatest
vividness are precisely those who are distinguished for their want of
attention. Sensation is the affection of a passive faculty; attention
is the exercise of an activity; and hence it is that brutes do not
participate of it except inasmuch as they possess a principle of
activity to direct their sensitive faculties to a determinate object.

10. Is the perception of the difference of the smell of the rose and
that of the pink a sensation? If we are answered that it is not, we
infer that the judgment is not the sensation transformed; for it is
not even a sensation. If we are told that it is one sensation, we
then observe that if it be either that of the rose or that of the
pink, it follows that with one alone of these sensations we shall have
comparative perception, which is absurd. If we are answered that it is
both together, we must either interpret this expression rigorously, and
then we shall have a sensation which will at once be that of the pink
and that of the rose, the one remaining distinct from the other so as
to satisfy the conditions of comparison; or we must interpret it so
as to mean that the two sensations are united; in which case we gain
nothing, for the difficulty will be to show how co-existence produces
comparison, and judgment, or the perception of the difference.

The sensation of the pink is only that of the pink, and that of the
rose only that of the rose. The instant you attempt to compare them,
you suppose in the mind an act by which it perceives the difference;
and if you attribute to it any thing more than pure sensation, you add
a faculty distinct from sensation, namely that of comparing sensations,
and appreciating their similarities and differences.

11. This comparison, this intellectual force, which calls the two
extremes into a common arena, without confounding them, discovers the
points in which they are alike or unlike each other, and, as it were,
comes in and decides between them, is distinct from the sensation; it
is the effect of an activity of a different order, and its development
must depend on sensations as exciting causes, as a condition _sine
qua non_; but this is all it has to do with sensations themselves; it
is essentially distinct from them, and cannot be confounded with them
without destroying the idea of comparison, and rendering it impossible.

No judgment is possible without the ideas of identity or similarity,
and these ideas are not sensations. Sensations are particular facts
which never leave their own sphere, nor can be applied from one thing
to another. The ideas of similarity and identity have something in
common applicable to many facts.

12. What next happens to a being limited to the faculty of experiencing
various sensations? It will receive without comparing them. It is
certain that when it feels in one manner it will not feel in another,
that one sensation is not another; but this sensitive being will take
no notice of the variety. Sensations will succeed sensations, but will
not be compared with each other. Even supposing them to be remembered,
the memory of them will be nothing more than a less intense repetition
of the same sensations. If it be admitted that this sensitive
being compares them, and perceives their relations of identity or
distinction, of similarity or difference, a series of reflex acts are
admitted which are not sensations.

13. Nor can the memory, properly so called, of sensations, be explained
by them alone; and here again Condillac is wrong. The statue may
recollect to-day the sensation of the smell of the rose which it
received yesterday, and this recollection may exist in two ways:
first, by the internal reproduction of the sensation without any
external cause, or relation to time past, and consequently without
any relation to the prior existence of a similar sensation; and then
this recollection is not for the statue a recollection properly so
called, but only a sensation more or less vivid: secondly, by an
internal reproduction with relation to the existence of the same or
another similar sensation at a preceding time, in which recollection
essentially consists; and here there is something more than sensation;
here are the ideas of succession, time, priority, and identity, or
similarity, all distinct and separable from sensation.

Two entirely distinct sensations may be referred to the same time in
the memory; and then the time will be identical, and the sensations
distinct. The sensation may exist without any recollection of the
time it before existed, or even without any recollection of having
ever existed; consequently, sensation involves no relation of time;
they are distinct and very different matters, and Condillac deceives
himself when he undertakes to explain the memory of sensations by mere

14. These reflections utterly refute Condillac's system. Either he
admits something besides sensation or he does not; if he does, he
violates his own original supposition; if he does not, he cannot
explain any abstract idea, nor even the sensitive memory: he will
therefore be obliged to admit with Locke reflection upon sensations,
and for the same reason, other faculties of the soul.

15. It is easy to comprehend why certain philosophers have maintained
that all our ideas come from the senses, if we understand them to
mean that sensations awaken our internal activity, and, so to speak,
supply the intellect with materials: but it is not so easy to see
how it can be advanced as a certain, clear, and exceedingly simple
truth that there is in our mind nothing but these materials, these
sensations. We have only to fix our attention for a moment upon what
passes within us to discover many phenomena distinct from sensation,
and various faculties which have nothing to do with sensation. If
Condillac had been satisfied with maintaining that these faculties
needed sensation as a kind of excitement in order to be developed, he
would have advanced nothing contrary to sound philosophy: but for him
to pretend that all that is excited and all that is developed is only
the principle which excites, and to insist that this is confirmed by
actual observation, is openly to contradict observation itself, and
to render it absolutely impossible for him to make the least progress
in the explanation of intellectual activity, unless he abandons the
supposition upon which his whole system is founded. Nevertheless,
the author of the _Treatise on Sensations_ seems to be perfectly
satisfied with his system: the actual impression is the sensation;
the recollection of the sensation is the intellectual idea. If this
is not sound, it is at least deceptive: with the appearance of nice
observation he stops at the surface of things, and does not fatigue the
pupil. Every thing comes from sensation; but this is because Condillac
makes his statue talk as he pleases, without paying the least attention
to his hypothesis of sensation alone.

16. This system, by reason of its philosophical meagerness, is fatal to
all moral ideas. What becomes of morality if there are no ideas, except
sensations? What becomes of duty if every thing is reduced to sensible
necessity, to pleasure or pain? And what becomes of God, and of all
man's relations to God?



17. Sensible representations always accompany our intellectual ideas.
This is why in reflecting upon the latter we are apt to confound them
with the former. We say, in reflecting upon them, not in making use of
them. We none of us, have any trouble in making use of ideas according
to circumstances; the error lies in the reflex, not in the direct act.
It will be well to bear this last observation in mind.

18. It is next to impossible for the geometrician to meditate upon the
triangle without revolving in his imagination, the image of a triangle
as he has seen it drawn a thousand times; and he will, for this reason,
be disposed to believe that the idea of the triangle is nothing else
than this sensible representation. Were it thus, Condillac's assertion
that the idea is only the recollection of the sensation would be
verified in the idea of the triangle. In fact, this representation is
the sensation repeated: the only difference between the two affections
of the mind is that the actual sensation is caused by the actual
presence of its object, wherefore it is more fixed and vivid. To prove
that the difference is not essential, but consists only in degree, it
is sufficient to observe, that if the imaginary representation attain a
high degree of vividness we cannot distinguish it from sensation, as it
happens to the visionary, and as we have all experienced in our dreams.

19. By noticing the following facts, we shall readily perceive how
different the idea of the triangle is from its imaginary representation.

I. The idea of the triangle is one, and is common to all triangles of
every size and kind; the representation of it is multiple, and varies
in size and form.

II. When we reason upon the properties of the triangle, we proceed
from a fixed and necessary idea; the representation changes at every
instant, not so, however, the unity of the idea.

III. The idea of a triangle of any kind in particular is clear
and evident; we see its properties in the clearest manner; the
representation on the contrary is vague and confused, thus it is
difficult to distinguish a right-angled from an acute-angled triangle,
or even a slightly inclined obtuse-angled triangle. The idea corrects
these errors or rather abstracts them; it makes use of the imaginary
figure only as an auxiliary, in the same manner as we give our
demonstrations when we draw figures upon paper, abstracting their
exactness or inexactness, often when we know that they are not exact,
which they cannot always be.

IV. The idea of the triangle is the same to the man born blind and
to him who has sight; and the proof of this is that both, in their
arguments and geometrical uses, develop it in precisely the same
manner. The representation is different, for us it is a picture,
which it cannot be for the blind man. When he meditates upon the
triangle he neither has, nor can have, in his imagination, the same
sensible representation as we, since he wants all that can relate to
the sensation of sight. If the blind man experiences any accompanying
representation of the idea, he can have received it only from the
sense of touch; and in the case of large triangles, the three sides of
which cannot be touched at the same time, the representation must be a
successive series of sensations of touch, just as the recollection of a
piece of music is essentially a successive representation. With us the
representation of the triangle is almost always simultaneous, excepting
the case of exceedingly large triangles, much larger than we usually
see, in which case, especially when we are unaccustomed to consider
such, it seems necessary to go on extending the lines successively.

20. What has been said of the triangle, the simplest of all figures,
may with still greater reason be said of all others, many of which
cannot be distinctly represented by the imagination, as we see in
many-sided figures; and even the circle, which for facility of
representation rivals the triangle, we cannot so perfectly imagine as
to distinguish it from an ellipse whose foci are only at a trifling
distance from each other.



21. Having shown that geometrical ideas are not sensible
representations, we can safely conclude that no kind of ideas are.
Could there be a difficulty concerning any, it would be concerning
geometrical ideas, for the objects of the latter can be sensibly
represented. When objects have no figure, they cannot be perceived by
any of the senses; to speak in such a case of sensible representations
is to fall into a contradiction.

22. These considerations draw a dividing line between the intellect
and the imagination; a line which all the scholastics drew, which
Descartes and Malebranche respected and made still more prominent,
but which Locke began to efface, and Condillac entirely obliterated.
All the scholastics recognized this line; but they, like many others,
used a language which, unless well understood, was of a character
to obscure it. They called every idea an image of the object, and
explained the act of the understanding as if there were a kind of form
in the understanding which expressed the object, just as a picture
presented to the eyes offers them the image of the thing pictured. This
language arose from the continual comparison which is very naturally
made between seeing and understanding. When objects are not present we
make use of their pictures, and thus, since objects themselves cannot
be present to our understanding, we conceive an interior form which
performs the part of a picture. On the other hand, sensible things
are the only ones which are strictly susceptible of representation;
we never discover within ourselves the form in which the objects
are portrayed, except in the case of imaginary representations; and
therefore it was rash to call this an idea, and every idea an imaginary
representation, in which the whole system of Condillac consists.

23. St. Thomas calls the representations of the imagination
_phantasmata_, and says that so long as the soul is united to the body
we cannot understand except _per conversionem ad phantasmata_; that is,
unless the representation of the imagination, which serves as material
for the formation of the idea, and assists in clearing it up, and
heightening its colors, precedes and accompanies the intellectual act.
Experience teaches that whenever we understand, certain sensible forms
relative to the object which occupies us, exist in our imagination.
Now, they are the images of the figure and color of the object, if it
have any; now, the images of those with which they are compared, or the
words which denote them in the language we habitually speak. Thus, even
when thinking of God, the very act by which we affirm that he is most
pure spirit, offers a kind of representation to the imagination under a
sensible form. When we speak of eternity, we see the _Ancient of days_,
as we have often seen him represented in our churches; when we speak of
the infinite intelligence, we imagine perhaps a sea of light; infinite
mercy, we picture to ourselves as a pitying likeness; justice, with
angry countenance. To force ourselves to form some conception of the
creation, we fancy a spring whence light and life both flow, and thus
also we endeavor to render immensity sensible by imagining unlimited

The imagination always accompanies the idea, but is not itself the
idea; and we perceive the evident and unimpeachable proof of the
distinction between the two, if we ask ourselves, while in the very
act of imagining a sea of light, an old man, an angry or placid
countenance, a fountain or extension, if God is any one of these, or
any thing resembling them; for, we very promptly answer, no, that this
would be impossible. All this demonstrates the existence of an idea
which has no connection with these representations, but essentially
excludes what is contained in them.

24. What we have said of the idea of God, may be said of many other
ideas. Rarely do we understand any thing into which the idea of
relation does not enter as an indispensable element. How then is
relation represented? In the imagination, in a thousand different
manners; as the point of contact of two objects; as the link which
unites them. But is relation any one of these? No! When we inquire in
what it does consist, is there the slightest shadow of doubt that it is
no one of these? Certainly not.

25. It is an error to call every idea an image, if you mean to consider
ideas as something distinct from the intellectual act, which places
itself before the understanding when it is in the exercise of its
functions. An image is that which represents, as a likeness: and how, I
ask, do we know that this representation or likeness exists? And how do
we know that in order to reason we need an internal form, which is, as
it were, a picture of the object? What is a picture beyond the sensible
order? There are, it is true, similarities in the intellectual order,
but not in the sense in which we perceive them in the material order.
I think; so does my neighbor: here is a similarity, since the same
thing is found in both one and the other, identical in species, but not
in number. But this similarity is of a different order from that of
sensible similarities.

26. When we understand, we know that which is in the object understood;
but whether this be understood by a simple act of the intellect, or
a medium be required to represent the similarity, we do not know. We
understand the thing, not the idea; and it is as difficult to say
how the intellect perceives without the idea, as it is to say how the
supposed representation refers to its object. How does our idea refer
to an object? If by itself, then by itself alone, since it is purely
internal, it refers to the external, and requires no intermediary to
place the subject in relation with external objects. What it does,
the intellectual act of itself alone can also do. If we perceive the
relation of the idea with the object by means of another idea, this
intermediate idea presents the same difficulty as the preceding idea;
and so at last we must come to a case in which there is a transition
from the intellect to the object without any intermediary.

If we see an object which is the image of another not known, we shall
see the object in itself, but we shall not know that it has the
relation of image, unless informed that it has: we shall know its
reality, but not its representation. The same will happen in ideas
which are images; these, therefore, do not at all explain how the
transition from the internal act to the object is made; for this would
require them to do for the understanding that which we find them unable
to do for themselves.

27. There is something mysterious in the intellectual act, which men
seek to explain in a thousand different ways, by rendering sensible
what they inwardly experience. Hence so many metaphorical expressions,
useful only so long as they serve merely to call and fix the attention,
and give an account of the phenomenon, but hurtful to science if they
go beyond these limits, if it be forgotten that they are metaphors, and
are never to be confounded with the reality.

By intelligence we see what there is in things, we experience the act
of perception; but when we reflect upon it we grope in the dark, as if
there were a dense cloud about the very source of light, preventing us
from seeing it with clearness. Thus the firmament is at times flooded
with the light of the sun, although the sun is encircled with clouds
and hidden from our view, so that we cannot even determine its position
upon the horizon.

28. One cause of obscurity in this matter is the very effort to
clear it up. The act of the understanding is, in its objective part,
exceedingly luminous, since by it we see what there is in objects;
but in its subjective nature, or in itself, it is an internal fact,
simple indeed, but incapable of being explained by words. This is not
a peculiarity of the intellectual act, it is common to all internal
phenomena. What is it to see, to taste, to hear? What is a sensation,
or feeling of any kind whatsoever? It is an inward phenomenon, of which
we are conscious, but which we cannot decompose into parts; nor can we
explain with words the combination of these parts. A word is enough to
indicate the phenomenon, but this word has no meaning for him who does
not now experience this phenomenon, or has not oat some former time
experienced it. No possible explanations would ever enable a man born
blind to understand color, or a deaf man sound.

The act of understanding belongs to this class; it is a simple fact
which we can point out, but not explain. An explanation supposes
various notions, the combination of which may be expressed by language;
in the intellectual act there are none of these. When we have said,
I think, or, I understand, we have said all. This simplicity is not
destroyed by objective multiplicity; the act by which we compare two or
more objects is just as simple as the act by which we perceive a single
object. If one act be not enough, more will follow; and finally one act
will unite or sum them all up; but it will not be a composite act.



29. The idea is a very different thing from the sensible
representation, but it has certain necessary relations with it which
it will be well to examine. When we say _necessary_, we speak only
of the manner in which our mind, in its actual state, understands,
abstracting the intelligence of other spirits, and even that of the
human mind when subject to other conditions than those imposed by its
present union with the body. So soon as we quit the sphere in which
our experience operates, we must be very cautious how we lay down
general propositions, and take care not to extend to all intelligences
qualities which are possibly peculiar to our own, and which, even
with respect to it, will perhaps be entirely changed in another life.
Having made these previous observations, which will be found of great
utility to mark the limits of things there is danger of confounding,
we now proceed to examine the relations of our ideas with sensible

30. A classification of our ideas into geometrical and non-geometrical
naturally occurs when we fix our attention upon the difference of
objects to which our ideas may refer. The former embrace the whole
sensible world so far as it can be perceived in the representation
of space; the latter include every kind of being, whether sensible
or not, and suppose a primitive element which is the representation
of extension. In their divisions and subdivisions the latter present
simply the idea of extension, limited and combined in different ways;
but they offer nothing in relation to the representation of space, and
even when they refer to it, they only consider it inasmuch as numbered
by the various parts into which it may be divided. Hence the line which
in mathematics separates geometry from universal arithmetic; the former
is founded upon the idea of extension, whereas the latter considers
only numbers, whether determinate, as in arithmetic properly so called,
or indeterminate, as in algebra.

31. Here we have to note the superiority of non-geometrical to
geometrical ideas,--a superiority plainly visible in the two branches
of mathematics, universal arithmetic and geometry. Arithmetic never
requires the aid of geometry, but geometry at every step needs that
of arithmetic. Arithmetic and algebra may both be studied from their
simplest elementary notions to their highest complications without
ever once involving the idea of extension, and consequently without
making use of one single geometrical idea. Even infinitesimal calculus,
in a manner originating in geometrical considerations, has been
emancipated from them and formed into a science perfectly independent
of the idea of extension. On the contrary, geometry cannot take a
single step without the aid of arithmetic. The comparison of angles
is a fundamental point in the science of geometry, but it cannot be
made except by measuring them; and their measure is an arc of the
circumference divided into a certain number of degrees, which must
be counted; and thus we come to the idea of number, the operation of
counting, that is, into the field of arithmetic.

The very proof by superposition, notwithstanding its eminently
geometrical character, stands in need of numeration, inasmuch as
the superposition is repeated. We do not require the idea of number
to demonstrate by means of superposition the equality of two arcs
perfectly equal; but in order to appreciate the relation of their
quantity we compare two unequal arcs and follow the method of placing
the less upon the greater several times, _we count_, we make use of
the idea of _number_, and find we have entered upon the ground of
arithmetic. We discover the equality of two radii of a circle, when
we compare them by superposition, abstracting the idea of number; but
if we would know the relation of the diameter to the radii, we employ
the idea of _two_; we say the diameter is twice the radius, and again
enter the domains of arithmetic. As we proceed in the combination of
geometrical ideas, we make use of more and more arithmetical ideas.
Thus the idea of the number _three_ necessarily enters into the
triangle; and the _sum of three_ and the _sum of two_ both enter into
one of its most essential properties; the _sum_ of the _three_ angles
of a triangle is equal to _two_ right angles.

32. The idea of number cannot be replaced by the sensible intuition
of the figure whose properties and relations are under discussion. In
many cases this intuition is impossible, as, for example, in many-sided
figures. We have little difficulty in representing to our imagination
a triangle, or even a quadrilateral figure, but the difficulty is
greater in the case of the pentagon, and greater still in the hexagon
and heptagon; and when the figure attains a great number of sides, one
after another escapes the sensible intuition, until it becomes utterly
impossible to appreciate it by mere intuition. Who can distinctly
imagine a thousand-sided figure?

33. This superiority of non-geometrical over geometrical ideas is very
remarkable, since it shows that the sphere of intellectual activity
expands in proportion as it rises above sensible intuition. Extension,
as we have before seen,[3] serves as the basis not only of geometry,
but also of the natural sciences, inasmuch as it represents in a
sensible manner the intensity of certain phenomena; but it can by no
means enable us to penetrate their inmost nature, and guide us from
that which appears to that which is. This and other subordinate ideas
are, so to speak, inert, and from them springs no vital principle to
fecundate our understanding, and still less the reality; they are
an unfathomable depth in which our intellectual activity may toil,
perfectly certain of never finding any thing in it which we ourselves
have not placed there; they are a lifeless object which lends itself
to all imaginable combinations without ever being capable of producing
any thing, or of containing any thing not given to it. The naturalists
in considering inertness as a property of matter, have perhaps regarded
more than they are aware the idea of extension, which presents the
inertness most completely.

[3] Book III.

34. The ideas of number, cause, and substance abound in results,
and are applicable to all branches of science. We can scarcely
speak without expressing them; it might almost be said that they
are constituent elements of intelligence, since without them it
vanishes like a passing illusion. They extend to every thing, apply
to every thing, and are necessary, whenever objects are offered to
the intellectual activity, in order that the intellect can perceive
and combine them. It makes no difference whether the objects be
sensible or insensible, whether there be question of our intelligence
or of others subject to different laws; whenever we conceive the act
of understanding we conceive also these primitive ideas as elements
indispensable to the realization of the intellectual act. They exist
and are combined independently of the existence, and even of the
possibility, of the sensible world; and they would also exist in a
world of pure intelligences, even if the sensible universe were nothing
but an illusion or an absurd chimera.

On the other hand, take geometrical ideas and remove them from the
sensible sphere; and all that you base upon them will be only unmeaning
words. The ideas of substance, cause, and relation do not flow from
geometrical ideas; if we regard them alone, we see an immense field
extending into regions of unbounded space; but the coldness and
silence of death reign there. If we would introduce beings, life, and
motion into this field we must seek them elsewhere; we must use other
ideas, and combine them, so that life, activity, and motion may result
from their combination, in order that geometrical ideas may contain
something besides this inert, immovable, and vacant mass, such as we
imagine the regions of space to be beyond the confines of the world.

35. Geometrical ideas, properly so called, as distinguished from
sensible representations, are not simple ideas, since they necessarily
involve the ideas of relation and number. Geometry cannot advance one
step without comparing them; and this comparison almost always takes
place by the intervention of the idea of number. Hence it is that
geometrical ideas, apparently so unlike purely arithmetical ideas,
are really identical with them so far as their form or purely ideal
character is concerned; and are only distinguishable from them when
they refer to a determinate matter, such as extension as presented in
its sensible representation. The inferiority therefore of geometrical
ideas already mentioned, only refers to their matter, or to their
sensible representations, which are presupposed to be an indispensable

36. Another consequence of this doctrine, is the unity of the pure
understanding, and its distinction from the sensitive faculties.
For, the very fact that the same ideas apply alike to sensible and
to insensible objects, with no other difference than that arising
from the diversity of the matter perceived, proves that above the
sensitive faculties there is another faculty with an activity of
its own, and elements distinct from sensible representations. This
is the centre where all intellectual perceptions unite, and where
that intrinsic force resides, which, although excited by sensible
representations, develops itself by its own power, makes itself master
of these impressions, and converts them, so to speak, by a mysterious
assimilation, into its own substance.

37. Here we repeat what we have already remarked, concerning the
profound ideological meaning involved in the _acting intellect_ of the
Aristotelians, so ridiculed because not understood. But we leave this
point and proceed to the careful analysis of geometrical ideas, to
discover, if possible, a glimpse of some ray of light amid the profound
darkness which envelops the nature and origin of our ideas.



38. In the preceding chapters we have distinguished between pure
ideas and sensible representations, and we seem to have sufficiently
demonstrated the difference between them, although we limited ourselves
to the geometrical order. But we have not explained the idea in itself;
we have said what it is not, but not what it is; and although we have
shown the impossibility of explaining simple ideas, and the necessity
of our being satisfied with indicating them, we do not wish to be
confined to this observation, which may seem to elude the difficulty
rather than to solve it. Only after due investigations, by which we
shall be better able to understand what is meant by _designate_, will
it be allowable to confine ourselves to their designation, for it will
then be seen that we have not eluded the difficulty. Let us begin with
geometrical ideas.

39. Is a geometrical idea, without any accompanying or preceding
sensible representation, possible? It would seem that we can have
none. What meaning has the idea of the triangle if not referred to
lines forming angles and enclosing a space? And what do lines, angles,
and space mean, without sensible intuition? A line is a series of
points, but it represents nothing determinate, nothing susceptible
of geometrical combinations, except it be referred to that sensible
intuition in which the point appears to us as an element generating by
its movement that continuity which we call a line. What would become
of angles without the real or possible representation of these lines?
What would become of the area of the triangle were we to abstract a
space, a surface which is or may be represented? We might challenge all
the ideologists in the world to assign any sense to the words used in
geometry if absolute abstraction be made all sensible representation.

40. Geometrical ideas, such as we conceive them, have a necessary
relation to sensible intuition. In order the better to understand
this relation, let us define the triangle to be the figure enclosed
by three right lines. This definition involves the following ideas:
space, enclosed, three, lines. With a space and three lines which
do not enclose the figure, we have no triangle; the word _enclosed_
cannot therefore be omitted. If you enclose a space, but with more than
three lines, the result will not be a triangle; and if you take less
than three lines you can have no enclosure. The idea of _three_ is
therefore necessary to the idea of the triangle. It is useless to add
that the idea of _line_ is as necessary as the others, since without
it no triangle can be conceived. Different and distinct ideas, it is
true, are here combined, but they are all referred to one sensible
intuition, although in an indeterminate manner. We here abstract
the longness or shortness of the lines and their forming larger or
smaller angles. But we cannot thus abstract in the case of determinate
intuitions; for every determinate intuition has its own peculiar
qualities; otherwise it would not be a determinate representation, and
consequently not sensible as it is supposed to be. But although the
reference be to an indeterminate intuition, it always supposes some
intuition either actual or possible, since otherwise the material of
combination would be wanting to the understanding; and the four ideas
involved in the triangle would be empty and unmeaning forms, and their
combination extravagant if not absurd.

41. The idea then of the triangle seems to be simply the intellectual
perception of the relation between the lines presented to the
sensible intuition, considered in all its generality, without any
determining circumstance limiting it to particular cases or species.
This explanation admits nothing intermediate between the sensible
representation and the intellectual act, which, exercising its activity
upon the materials presented by sensible intuition, perceives their
relations, and this pure and simple perception constitutes the idea.

42. We shall understand this better if, instead of the triangle, we
take a many-sided figure, such as a polygon of a million sides, which
cannot be clearly presented to the sensible intuition. The idea of
this figure is as simple as that of the triangle; we perceive it by
an intellectual act, express it by a single word, and can calculate
its properties and relations with the same exactness and certainty as
we can those of the triangle, although it is absolutely impossible to
represent it distinctly to our imagination. When we reflect upon what
it offers to the intellectual act, we notice the same elements as in
the idea of the triangle, with this single difference that the number
three is changed into _million_. We can have no sensible representation
of all these lines; but the understanding has sufficiently combined the
idea of line with that of number to perceive its object, a million.
Here, then, we perceive the same elements as in the triangle; but
it is upon these elements, considered in general without any other
determination than results from the fixed number, that the perceptive
act operates.

43. The idea of a polygon in general, abstracting the number of its
sides, offers in its sensible representation, nothing determinate to
the mind, nothing but the abstract idea of a right line, the general
idea of an enclosed space. The relation which these objects of the
intellectual, act even in the midst of their indeterminateness,
have amongst themselves, is perceived by the intellectual act. This
perceptive act is the idea. Every thing beyond this is useless, and not
only useless but affirmed without reason.

44. It will perhaps be asked how the understanding can perceive
what passes without it, since sensible intuition is a function of a
faculty distinct from the understanding? In reply, we shall abstract
the questions discussed in the schools concerning the powers of the
mind, and be content to remark that whether these be really distinct
among themselves, or only one power exercising its activity upon
different objects and in different manners, it will be alike necessary
to admit a consciousness common to all the faculties. The soul which
feels, thinks, recollects, desires, is one and the same, and is
alike conscious of all these acts. Whatever be the nature of the
faculties by which she performs these acts, she it is that performs
them and knows that she performs them. There is then in the soul a
single consciousness, the common centre where dwells the inward
sense of every activity exercised, and of every affection received,
to whatever order they may belong. However, supposing the case the
most unfavorable to our theory, that the faculty to which sensible
intuition corresponds, is really distinct from the faculty which
perceives the relations of the objects offered by sensible intuition;
does it therefore follow that the understanding cannot without
something intermediate exercise its activity upon objects presented
by this intuition? Certainly not. The act of pure understanding and
that of sensible intuition, are indeed different, but they meet in
consciousness, as in a common field; and there they come in contact,
the one exercising its perceptive activity upon the material supplied
by the other.



45. I shall now briefly explain the scholastic theory of the manner in
which the understanding knows material things. This explanation will
show how much reason we had to assert that this doctrine of the schools
can be ridiculed only when not understood, and that, whatever its
foundation, it cannot be denied to possess an ideological importance.

46. The schoolmen began with this principle of Aristotle, _nihil est in
intellectu quod prius non fuerit in sensu_; "There is nothing in the
understanding which has not previously been in the senses." Conformably
to this principle they maintained that before the soul received
impressions from the senses, the understanding was like a clean table
upon which nothing had been written: _sicut tabula rasa in qua nihil
est scriptum_. According to this doctrine all our knowledge flows from
the senses; and at first sight the system of the schools might seem to
be very similar to, if not identical with, that of Condillac. Both seek
the origin of our cognitions in sensation; both teach that there is no
idea in our understanding prior to sensation. But the two systems are,
notwithstanding these apparent similarities, very different, and even
diametrically opposed.

47. The fundamental principle of Condillac's theory is, that sensation
is the sole operation of the mind; and that whatever exists in our
mind is nothing more than the sensation transformed in various ways.
Prior to sensible impressions, this philosopher admits no faculty;
the development of sensation is all that fecundates the soul, not by
exciting its faculties, but by generating them. The school of the
Aristotelians took, indeed, sensations for the starting-point, but did
not consider them as producing intelligence; on the contrary, they were
very careful to mark the limits of the sensitive faculties, and of the
understanding in which they recognized a peculiar and innate activity
altogether superior to the faculties of the sensible order. We have
only to open any one of the innumerable works of this school, to meet
on every page such words as _intellectual force_, _light of reason_,
_participation in the divine light_, and others in the same style, in
which a primary activity of our mind, not communicated by sensations,
but prior to them all, is expressly recognized. The acting intellect,
_intellectus agens_, which figures so much in this ideological system,
was a standing condemnation of the system of transformed sensation
advocated by Condillac.

48. The Aristotelians, governed by their favorite idea of explaining
every thing by matter and form, modified the meaning of these words
according to the exigencies of the objects to which they applied them,
and considered the faculties of the soul as a class of forces incapable
of acting unless united to a form which brought them into action.
Thus they explained sensations by species, or forms, which placed the
sensitive power in act. The imagination was a force which, although it
sometimes rose above the external senses, contained nothing but species
of the sensible order, subject also to the necessary conditions of this
faculty. These species were the forms which placed the imaginative
force in act, and without which it could not exercise its functions.
The Aristotelians, after having thus explained the phenomena of the
external senses, and of the imagination, undertook to explain those
of the intellectual order; and in this they displayed their genius by
inventing an auxiliary which they named the _acting intellect_. The
necessity of making two principles in seeming contradiction accord, was
the reason of this invention.

On the one hand the Aristotelians held that our cognitions all flowed
from the senses; and on the other they asserted that there was an
essential and intrinsic difference between feeling and understanding.
Having drawn this dividing line, the sensitive and intellectual orders
were separated; but as it was on the other side requisite to establish
some communication between these two orders, it was necessary for them,
if they wished to save the principle, that all our ideas come from the
senses, to discover some point where the two channels might unite.

The cognition of material things could not be denied to the pure
understanding; but as this was not an innate cognition and could not
be acquired by it, they were under the necessity of establishing
some communication by means of which the understanding might
comprehend objects without soiling its purity by sensible species. The
imagination contained them, already purified from the grossness of the
external senses; in it they existed more aerial, purer, and less remote
from immateriality; but they were still at an immense distance from the
intellectual order, and had themselves to support the burden of those
material conditions which never allowed them to attain the altitude
necessary to be put in communication with the pure understanding. In
order to know, the understanding requires forms to unite themselves to
it intimately; and although it be true that it discerned them far down
in the lower regions of the sensitive faculties, yet it could descend
to them without compromising its dignity, and denying its own nature.
In this conflict they required a mediator; it was the acting intellect.
We will now proceed to explain the attributes of this faculty.

49. The sensible species contained in the imagination, the true picture
of the external world, were not of themselves intelligible, because
enveloped, not with matter properly so called, but with material
forms, to which the intellectual act could only indirectly refer. If
they could have discovered a faculty capable of rendering intelligible
what is not intelligible, this difficult problem would have been
satisfactorily solved; as in this case the mysterious transformer by
applying its activity to the sensible species, would elevate them from
the category of imaginary species, _phantasmata_, to that of pure ideas
or sensible species, and thus make them serve the intellectual act.
This faculty is the acting intellect; a real magician which possesses
the wonderful secret of stripping sensible species of their material
conditions, of smoothing every roughness which prevents them from
coming in contact with the pure understanding, and transforms the gross
food of the sensitive faculties into the purest ambrosia, fit to be
served at the repast of spirits.

50. This invention merits to be called ingenious rather than
extravagant, poetical rather than ridiculous. But its most remarkable
feature is, that it involves a profound philosophical sense, as well
because it marks an ideological fact of the highest importance, as
because it indicates the true way of explaining the phenomena of
intelligence in their relations to the sensible world. This remarkable
fact is the difference, even with respect to material objects, between
sensible representations and pure ideas. The indication of the true
way consists in presenting the intellectual activity as operating upon
sensible species, and converting them into food for the mind.

Let us leave the poetical part to the explanation of the schools, and
see if what it involves be worth as much, to say the least, as what
Kant advanced when, combating sensism, he distinguished between the
pure understanding and sensible intuitions.



51. Lest I be accused of levity in comparing Kant's philosophy with
that of the schools, in what relates to the distinction between the
sensitive and intellectual faculties, I shall give a rapid examination
of this philosopher's doctrine so far as the present matter is

Since the German philosopher is in the habit of expressing himself with
great obscurity, and of using an obsolete language liable to different
interpretations, I shall insert his own words, so that the reader may
judge for himself, and rectify any inaccuracies into which I may fall,
in comparing Kant's doctrine with that of the Aristotelians.

"In whatever manner," says Kant, "and by whatever means a cognition
may be referred to objects, that which makes the cognition refer
immediately to things, and to which all thought is a means, is
_intuition_. This intuition exists only inasmuch as the object is given
us, which is not possible, at least for us men, except so far as it
affects the mind in some way. The capacity of receiving impressions
by the manner in which objects affect us is called _sensibility_. By
means of sensibility objects are given to us: it alone supplies us with
_intuitions_: but they are thought by the understanding, and from it
arise _conceptions_. All thought must ultimately be referred, either
directly, or indirectly by means of certain signs, to intuitions, and
consequently to sensibility, since no object can be given to us in any

"The action of an object upon the representative faculty, so far as we
are affected by it, is _sensation_. The intuition, which is referred to
an object by means of sensation, is called _empirical_. The immediate
object of an empirical intuition is called a _phenomenon_."[4]

[4] _Transcendental Æsthetics_, § 1.

The distinction between the faculty of feeling and that of conceiving
is fundamental in Kant's system: and we see that he gives it a hasty
exposition before beginning his investigations on _Æsthetics_ or the
theory of sensibility. Further on, in treating of the operations of the
understanding, he has more fully developed his doctrine: and by the
emphasis he puts upon it, it would seem evident that he regarded it as
of high importance, and perhaps as a discovery of a region entirely
unknown to the philosophical world. Thus he speaks of it in his
_Transcendental Logic_:

"Our knowledge proceeds from two intellectual sources; the first
is the capacity of receiving representations, (the receptivity of
impressions,) the second is the faculty of knowing an object by these
representations, (the spontaneity of conceptions.) By the former the
object is given to us; by the latter, it is _thought_ in relation to
this representation (as mere determination of the mind.) Intuition
and conception constitute the elements of all our knowledge; so that
neither conceptions without an intuition in some manner corresponding
to them, nor an intuition without conceptions, can give knowledge.

       *       *       *       *       *

"We call _sensibility_ the capacity (receptivity) of our mind to
receive representations, so far as affected in any way whatever:
on the contrary, the faculty of producing representations, or the
_spontaneity_ of knowledge, is called _understanding_. Our nature is
such that there can be no intuition not _sensible_, that is to say,
which only comprehends the manner in which we are affected by objects.
The _understanding_ is the faculty of _thinking_ the object of sensible
intuition. Neither of these properties of the soul is preferable to
the other. Without sensibility no object could be given to us; without
the understanding none could be thought. Thoughts without contents are
empty; intuitions without conceptions are blind. It is, then, just
as necessary to make conceptions sensible,--that is, to give them an
object in intuition, as to make intuitions intelligible, by subjecting
them to conceptions. These two faculties or capacities cannot
interchange their functions. The understanding can perceive nothing,[5]
and the senses can think nothing. Knowledge results only from their
union. Their attributes, therefore, ought not to be confounded; on the
contrary, there is every reason to distinguish them, and to separate
them with great care. We distinguish then the science of the laws of
sensibility in general, that is to say, _Æsthetics_, from the science
of the laws of the understanding in general, that is, from _Logic_."[6]

[5] He speaks of intuitive perception, not of perception in general.

[6] _Transcendental Logic._ Introduction.

Mark well the meaning of this doctrine. Two facts are established;
sensible intuition, and the conception of it; consequently the
existence of two faculties, sensibility, and the understanding, is
affirmed. To the first correspond sensible representations; to the
latter conceptions. These two faculties, though different, are closely
interlinked; and they are mutually necessary in order to produce
cognitions. But how do they give each other that mutual aid they stand
in need of?

"The understanding," Kant elsewhere says, "has been thus far defined
only negatively, as a not-sensible faculty of knowing." But as we can
have no intuition independently of sensibility, it follows that the
understanding is not a faculty of intuition. Excepting intuition, there
remains no way of knowing other than by conceptions; wherefore we infer
that the knowledge of every intellect, at least every human intellect,
is a knowledge by conceptions; not intuitive, but discursive. All
intuitions, as sensible, rest upon affections, and consequently, all
conceptions upon functions. I understand by functions, the unity of
action necessary to arrange different representations under one common
representation. Conceptions, then, are grounded on the spontaneity of
thought, as sensible intuitions on the receptivity of impressions. The
understanding can make no use of these conceptions except to judge by
means of them, and as intuition is the only representation which has
an immediate object, no conception can ever be immediately referred
to an object, but only to some other representation of this object,
whether this be an intuition, or even a conception. _Judgment_ is the
mediate cognition of an object, and consequently the representation of
a representation of the object. In every judgment there is a conception
applicable to many things, and under this plurality it comprises also
a given representation, immediately referable to the object. Thus, in
the judgment: _all bodies are divisible_; the conception of _divisible_
is common to different conceptions, among which that of body is the
one it here particularly refers to. But this conception of body
relates to certain phenomena we have in view; these objects are then
mediately represented by the conception of divisibility. All judgments
are functions of unity in our representations, since instead of one
immediate representation, there comes in another more elevated, which
includes the first and many others, and conduces to the cognition of
the object; and a great number of possible cognitions are reduced to
one alone. But we may reduce all the operations of the understanding
to judgment; so that the understanding in general may be represented
as _a faculty of judging_; because, from what has been said, it is
the faculty of thinking. Thought is cognition by conceptions; but
conceptions, as predicates of possible judgments, may be referred to
any representation whatever of an object, however indeterminate. Thus
the conception of body signifies something, for example, a metal, which
may be known by this conception. It is then a conception only because
it contains in itself other representations by means of which it may be
referred to objects. It is then the attribute of a possible judgment,
for instance, of this: _every metal is a body_.[7]

[7] _Transc. Log. Transc. Anal._ Book I., Chap. I., Sec. I.

52. There are in this doctrine of Kant, two things to be distinguished:
first, the facts upon which it is based; and secondly, the manner in
which he examines and applies them, and the consequences he deduces
from them.

We detect at once a radical difference, as far as the observation
of ideological facts is concerned, between Kant's system and that
of Condillac. While the latter discovers in the mind no fact but
sensation, no immediate faculty more noble than that of feeling, the
former upholds as a fundamental principle the distinction between
sensibility and the understanding. And here the German triumphs over
the French philosopher, for in his support stand both observation and
experience. But this triumph over sensism had already been obtained
by many philosophers, the scholastics in particular. With Kant and
Condillac they admitted that all our cognitions came from the senses;
but they had also noted what Kant afterwards saw, but Condillac did not
discover that sensations by themselves alone could never suffice to
explain all the phenomena of our soul, and that, besides the sensitive
faculty, it was necessary to admit another very different, called

Kant regarded sensations as materials furnished to the understanding,
which it combined in various ways, and reduced to conceptions.
"Thoughts without contents," he said, "are empty; intuitions
without conceptions are blind. It is then just as necessary to make
conceptions sensible, that is, to give them an object in intuition, as
to make intuitions intelligible by subjecting them to conceptions."
Who does not perceive in this passage, the _acting intellect_ of
the Aristotelians, although expressed in other words? Substitute
_sensible species_ for _sensible intuition_, _intelligible species_
for _conception_ and we recognize a doctrine very like that of the
scholastics. Let us see. Kant says: to enable us to acquire knowledge,
the action of the senses, or sensible experience is necessary. The
scholastics said: there is nothing in the understanding which has not
previously been in the senses: _nihil est in intellectu quod prius non
fuerit in sensu_.

Kant says: sensible intuitions of themselves are blind. The scholastics
said: sensible species, or those of the imagination, also called
_phantasmata_, are not intelligible.

Kant says: it is necessary to make conceptions sensible by giving
them an object in intuition. The scholastics said: it is impossible
to understand, either by acquiring science, or by using that already
acquired, unless the understanding directs itself to sensible species,
"_sine conversione ad phantasmata_."

Kant says: it is indispensable to render intuitions intelligible by
subjecting them to conceptions. The scholastics said: it is necessary
to make sensible species intelligible in order that they may be the
object of the understanding.

Kant says: we judge by means of conceptions; and that judgment is the
mediate cognition of an object, and consequently its representation.
The scholastics said: we know objects by means of an intelligible
species, which is derived from the sensible species, and is its
intelligible representation.

Kant says, that in every judgment there is a conception applicable
to many things, and that under this plurality it comprises also a
given representation which is referred immediately to its object. The
scholastics said, that the intelligible species was applicable to many
things, because universal; that, when separated from a sensible and
particular species, it abstracts from all material and _individuating_
conditions, and consequently embraces all individual objects in one
common representation.

Kant uses the words _conception_, and _to conceive_, to denote
the intellectual act, form, or whatever it may be, by which the
understanding, making use of sensible intuitions, combines the
materials offered by sensibility conformably to the laws of the
intellectual order. The scholastics likewise taught that the
intelligible species, called also species _impressed_, fecundated the
understanding by producing in it an intellectual conception, whence
resulted the _word_, internal locution, or species _expressed_, which
they also styled _conception_.

Kant says, that the cognition of human intelligence is a cognition by
conceptions, not intuitive, but discursive and general, and that out
of the sphere of sensibility there is for us no true intuition. The
scholastics said: our understanding, in this life, has a necessary
relation to the nature of material things, and for this reason it
cannot _primo et per se_, know immaterial substances: hence it happens
that we know them perfectly only by certain comparisons with material
things, and chiefly by way of removal, _per viam remotionis_, in a
negative way.

53. The sample we have just given is exceedingly interesting, since
it enables us to appreciate as they merit the points of similarity in
these two systems, which occupy a prominent place in the history of
ideology,--a similarity which has not always hitherto been sufficiently
noticed, although apparent upon the simple perusal of the German
philosopher. Nor is this extraordinary: the study of the scholastics
is exceedingly difficult; one must accommodate one's self to the
language, the style, the opinions, and the prejudices of their epoch,
and travel over much useless ground to collect a little pure ore. Note
well, however, that I do not pretend to discover the "_Critic of Pure
Reason_" in the works of the scholastics, I would only mark a fact but
little known; it is that whatever is good, fundamental, and conclusive
against the sensism of Condillac, in the German philosopher's system,
had been said ages before by the scholastics.

Are we hence to infer that Kant took his doctrine from these authors?
We cannot say; but we believe it may, with some reason, be asserted,
that possibly the German philosopher, a man of vast reading, most
retentive memory, and very laborious, may have received certain
inspirations, reminiscences of which glimmer through his doctrines.
A writer is not a plagiarist, although he make ideas his own which
have originated with others. But it is often true that man imagines he
creates, when he only recollects.

54. Although the German philosopher agrees with the scholastics in
the observation of the primitive faculties of our mind, he differs
from them in their application; and whilst they go on preparing a
philosophical dogmatism, he marches towards a despairing skepticism.
Nothing that all the most eminent philosophers have regarded as
indisputable, can stand in the eyes of the German philosopher. True,
he has distinguished the sensible from the intelligible order; he
has recognized two primitive faculties in our soul; sensibility and
the understanding; he has indicated the line which divides them,
and carefully remarked that it should never be effaced; but, on the
other hand, he has reduced the sensible world to a collection of pure
phenomena, and explains space in such a way as to render it extremely
difficult to avoid the idealism of Berkeley. He has also, so to
speak, walled in the understanding by preventing all communication
with it, excepting by sensible experience, and has resolved all the
elements that meet in it into empty forms, which lead to nothing when
there is question of applying them to the not-sensible, and which can
teach us nothing concerning the great ontological, psychological, and
cosmological problems which have been the object of the meditations of
the profoundest metaphysicians, who, to resolve them, have published a
vast amount of sublime doctrines, just cause of a noble pride in the
human mind which knows the dignity of its nature, vindicates its lofty
origin, and discerns from afar the immensity of its destiny.



55. Now that we have shown the points of similarity between Kant's
system and that of the scholastics, we propose to note their
differences chiefly in what concerns the application of these
doctrines. To give an idea of the gravity and transcendentalism of
these differences, we have only to remark the discrepancy of their
results. The Aristotelians built upon their principles a whole system
of metaphysical science, which they considered the noblest of sciences,
and which, like a rich and brilliant light, fecundates and directs
all others; whereas Kant, starting with the same facts, destroys
metaphysical science by taking from it all power to know objects in

56. We here find Kant in opposition not only to the scholastics,
properly so called, but also to all the most eminent metaphysicians who
had preceded him. On the side of the scholastics in this matter may be
cited Plato, Aristotle, Saint Augustine, Saint Anselm, Saint Thomas,
Descartes, Malebranche, Fenelon, and Leibnitz.

57. No one can deny the transcendency of these questions, if he be
not totally ignorant how vital it is to the human mind to know if a
science superior to the purely sensible order be possible, whereby man
may extend his activity beyond the phenomena offered by matter. These
questions are exceedingly profound, and must not be lightly treated.
The difficulty and the great abstruseness of the objects treated, the
importance, the transcendency of the consequences to which they lead,
according to the road followed, demand that no labor whatever should be
spared to penetrate these matters. It is easy to assure one's self that
upon these questions depends the conservation of sound ideas of God and
of the human mind; man's most important and lofty considerations.

To give this matter a thorough examination, let us go back to the
origin of the divergence of these philosophical opinions, and let us
investigate the reason why, starting with the same facts, they arrive
at contradictory results. This requires a clear exposition of the
opposite doctrines.

58. All philosophers agree in admitting the fact of sensibility;
concerning it there can be no doubt; it is a phenomenon attested by
consciousness in so palpable a manner, that not even skeptics could
ever deny the subjective reality of the appearance, however much they
called in question its objective reality. Idealists, when they deny the
existence of bodies, do not deny their phenomenal appearance, their
appearance to the mental eye under a sensible form. Sensibility then,
and the phenomena it exhibits, have in all ages been primary data in
ideological and psychological problems; there may be a discrepancy with
respect to the nature and consequences of these data, but there can be
none as to their existence.

59. The history of ideological science shows us two schools; one of
which admits nothing but sensation, and explains all the affections and
operations of the mind by the transformation of the senses; while the
other admits primitive facts distinct from sensation; other faculties
than that of feeling, and recognizes in the mind a line dividing the
sensible from the intellectual order.

60. This latter school is divided into two others; one of which regards
the sensible order as not only distinct, but also separate from the
intellectual order, and in some sense at war with it; and it therefore
maintains that the intellectual can receive nothing from the sensible
order, except malign exhortations which either mislead it, or enervate
its activity. Hence the system of innate ideas in all its purity; hence
the metaphysics of an intellectual order entirely exempt from sensible
impressions, metaphysics which, cultivated by eminent geniuses, has
in modern times been professed by the author of the _Investigation
of Truth_, with sublime exaggeration. The other ramification of the
school also admits the pure intellectual order, but does not hold it
to be contaminated by being brought into communication with sensible
phenomena; on the contrary, it is rather inclined to believe that the
problems of human intelligence, such as it exists in this life, cannot
be resolved without fixing the mind upon the aforesaid communication.

61. Experience teaches that this communication exists, conformably
to a law of the human mind, and that to contend against the law is
to struggle against a truth attested by consciousness: to attempt to
destroy it would be a rash undertaking, a kind of mental suicide.
For this reason, the school of which we have just spoken, accepts
the facts, such as internal experience presents them, and endeavors
to explain them by indicating the points where the sensible and
intellectual orders may come into communication without being destroyed
or confounded.

62. The school that admits the existence of the two orders, the
sensible and the intellectual, and at the same time admits the
possibility and the reality of their reciprocal communication and
influence, has, for its fundamental principle, that the origin of
all cognition is in the senses, these being the exciting causes of
intellectual activity, and a kind of laborers who supply it with
materials, which it then combines in the manner necessary to raise the
scientifical structure.

63. Thus far, Kant and the scholastics agree; but here they separate at
a point of the greatest importance, and the result is that they pass
on to conflicting consequences. The scholastics believed that there
were in the understanding true ideas having true objects, and that
they might discuss them, independently of the sensible order, with
perfect security. They even admitted the principle that there can be
nothing in the understanding which was not previously in the senses;
but pretended, nevertheless, that there really was something in the
understanding, which might conduce to the knowledge of the truth of
immaterial, as well as of material things in themselves. The ideas of
the purely intellectual order originate in the senses as movers of the
intellectual activity; but this activity, by means of abstraction and
other operations, forms to itself ideas of its own, by whose aid it may
go beyond the sensible order in its search for truth.

64. In their explanation of the purely intellectual order,
metaphysicians, both scholastics and anti-scholastics agree, so far as
there is question of giving a real objective value to ideas, and of
making them a sure means of discovering truth independently of sensible
phenomena. However much these schools disagree as to the origin of
ideas, they agree in all that relates to their reality and value.

65. Kant, at the same time that he admits the principle of the
scholastics, that all our cognitions come from the senses, and
recognizes with them the necessity of acknowledging a purely
intellectual order, a series of conceptions different from sensible
intuition, maintains that these conceptions are not pure cognitions,
but empty forms, which of themselves mean nothing, teach the mind
nothing, and cannot, in the least, aid us to know the reality of
things. These conceptions mean nothing unless filled, so to speak, with
sensible intuitions. If these intuitions are wanting, they correspond
to nothing, and can be of none but a purely logical use; that is to
say, the understanding will think upon and combine them, without,
indeed, falling into contradiction, but also without ever coming to any

"That the understanding," Kant says, "can never make a transcendental,
but only an empirical use, either of its _a priori_ principles, or
of its conceptions, is a principle which, if known with conviction,
leads to the most important consequences. The transcendental use of a
conception in any principle, consists in referring it to things, _in
general, and in themselves_; whilst the empirical use is in referring
the conception to phenomena alone, that is, to the objects of a
possible experience, by which we may easily see that this latter use is
the only one that can stand. To every conception is necessary, first
of all, a logical form of a conception in general, of the thought:
and secondly, the possibility of subjecting to it an object, to which
it may refer; but without this object it wants all sense, it contains
nothing, although it may involve the logical function necessary to
form a conception by means of certain data. The object cannot be given
to a conception except in intuition; and although pure intuition may
be _a priori_ possible before the object, it cannot, however, receive
its object, and consequently its objective value, otherwise than by
the empirical intuition of which it is the form. All conceptions and
with them all principles, although they be possible _a priori_, do,
notwithstanding, refer to empirical intuitions, that is, to data of
possible experience. _Without this they have no objective value; they
are nothing but a mere play, whether of the imagination or of the
understanding_, with the respective representations of the one or the
other faculty.

       *       *       *       *       *

"That the same is the case with all the categories and principles
formed from them, is apparent from this, that we cannot really define
a single one of them; that is to say, we cannot render the possibility
of their object intelligible without attending to the conditions
of sensibility, and consequently to the form of the appearances;
conditions to which these categories must be confined as to their sole
objects. If this condition be taken away, all meaning, that is, all
relation to the object is destroyed, and by no example can we be made
to conceive what is the proper meaning of these conceptions.

       *       *       *       *       *

"If no account be made of all the conditions of sensibility which
denote them (he is speaking of the categories) as conceptions of a
possible empirical use, if they be taken to be conceptions of things
in general, and consequently, of transcendental use, nothing remains
to be done, so far as they are concerned, but to preserve the logical
functions in judgments, as the condition of the possibility of the
things themselves, without being able to show in what case, their
application and their object, and consequently they themselves, may, in
the pure understanding, and without the intervention of sensibility,
have a meaning and an objective value.

       *       *       *       *       *

"It incontestably follows from what has been said, that pure
conceptions of the understanding can _never have a transcendental
use_, but only an empirical use; and that the principles of the pure
understanding do not refer to the objects of the senses, except when
the senses are in relation with the general conditions of a possible
experience; _but never to things in general_, without relation to the
way in which we may perceive them."[8]

[8] _Transcendental Logic._ Book II., Chap. III.

66. Thus Kant destroys all metaphysical science, and, involved in its
deplorable ruins, perish the most fundamental, most precious, and
most sacred ideas of the human mind. According to him, transcendental
analysis makes us see that the understanding can never pass the limits
of sensibility, the only limits within which objects are given to us
in intuition. These principles which were regarded as eternal pillars
of the scientific edifice sink into empty forms, into words without
meaning, so soon as they rise from the sphere of sensibility.

Ontology, with its transcendental doctrines, avails not in the eyes
of the German philosopher to explain the nature and origin of things.
"These principles," he says, "are simply principles of the exposition
of phenomena; and the _proud name of an ontology_ which pretends to
give an _a priori_, synthetic cognition of things, in a systematic
doctrine, for example, _the principle of causality_, ought to be
replaced by the modest denomination of simple _analysis of the pure

67. It would be hard to find a more noxious doctrine. What is left
to the human mind when all means of rising from the sensible sphere
are taken away? To what is our understanding reduced, if its most
fundamental ideas, and its noblest principles can teach nothing
concerning the nature of things? If the corporeal world is for us
nothing but a collection of sensible phenomena, beyond which we
can know nothing, our cognitions have nothing real, they are all
purely subjective; the soul lives on illusions, and vanishes with
its imaginary creations, to which there is nothing to correspond in
reality. Space is but a subjective form; time is but a subjective form;
pure ideas are empty conceptions, and all in us is subjective. We
know nothing of objects, we are totally ignorant of what is; we know
only what _appears_. This is pure skepticism; assuredly it was not
necessary to consume so much time in analytical investigations to get
thus far. The doctrine of Kant presents no extravagance so outrageous,
no error so hideous, as the works of Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel; but
it contains the germ of the greatest extravagance, and of the most
fatal errors. He has made a philosophical revolution, which some have
incautiously deemed a progress; but doubtless they did not detect the
skepticism it contains, which is the more dangerous, the more it is
enveloped in analytical forms.

68. Notwithstanding the importance justly attached to the refutation of
the German philosopher's errors, I do not deem it necessary to combat
his doctrines step by step; this system of refutation labors under the
serious objection that it gives little satisfaction to the reader, who
seems to see one edifice torn down, but not replaced by another. I
consider it more useful carefully to examine questions as they arise in
the order of their subjects, to establish my opinion as best I can, and
there to refute Kant's errors as I find them obstructing the march of
truth. It is ordinarily very easy to say what a thing is not; but it is
not so easy to say what it is; and it is not proper that the advocates
of sound doctrine should be charged with impugning false doctrines,
and not caring to expose their own. We believe that in these matters
sound philosophy may be presented to the light of the day struggling
against error, and that it ought not to rest satisfied with being the
instrument of war to overthrow its adversary, but that it should
aspire to found a noble and enduring edifice upon the very site the
other occupied.

The minds of men are not satisfied with simple refutations; they desire
to have a doctrine substituted in the place of the one impugned.
Whoever impugns, denies; and the understanding is not satisfied with
negations; it wants affirmation, for it cannot live without positive

We have permitted ourselves this brief digression, which is indeed far
from being useless; for at the sight of the transcendency of the German
philosopher's errors I have recollected the necessity of careful,
assiduous, and profound labor to oppose this deluge of errors which
threatens to inundate the whole field of truth; and we could not do
less than insist upon this point, and observe that it is not enough to
tear down, but that it is also necessary to build up. Refutations will
soon come; but let positive doctrines abound. It is not enough to cover
the long line of frontiers where error makes its attacks, with light
and active troops which may fall upon the enemy; it is necessary to
found colonies, foci of cultivation and civilization, who will defend
the country, at the same time that they make it flourish and prosper.



69. Intuition, properly so called, consists in the act of the soul by
which it perceives an object that effects it: this the signification of
the Latin word derived from the verb _intueri_, to see a thing which is
present, indicates.

70. Intuition belongs only to perceptive powers, to those by which
the subject affected distinguishes between its affection and the
object causing it. We do not pretend to say that this must be a reflex
distinction, but simply that the internal act must refer to an object.
If we suppose a being to experience various affections, but to neither
refer them to any object, nor reflect upon them itself; this being can
never with propriety be said to have true intuition, for intuition
seems to involve the exercise of an activity occupied with a present
object. The object of intuition need not always be an external being;
it may be an affection or action of the soul made objective by a reflex

71. The sensations which are with the greatest propriety called
intuitive, are those of sight and touch; for, since it is impossible
for us, when we perceive extension, to regard it as a purely subjective
fact, the acts of seeing and feeling necessarily involve relation
to an object. The other senses, although they may have a certain
relation to extension, do not perceive it directly, so that were they
to stand alone, they would partake more of the affective than of the
intuitive; that is, the soul would be affected by the sensations, but
would be under no necessity of referring them to external objects.
If reflection made upon these sensations come to teach, as in effect
it would teach that their cause is a being distinct from those that
experience them, there would be no true intuition; not for the senses,
because they would remain foreign to complex combinations; nor for the
understanding, because it would then know the cause of the sensations,
not by intuition, but by discursion.

72. We infer from this, that not every sensation is an intuition;
and that the imaginary reproductions of past sensations, or the
imaginary production of possible sensations, although repeatedly styled
intuitions, are, since they do not refer to an object, unworthy of the
name. We ought, nevertheless, to observe that the phenomena of purely
internal sensibility do, perhaps, owe to the habit of reflection their
non-reference to objects. Reflection perceives the difference of
time, the more or less vividness of sensations, their greater or less
constant connection, and also other circumstances; and it is enabled
by these to distinguish between representations which do really refer
to an object, such as external sensations, and those that have only a
past or possible object, such as purely internal representations. Thus
experience teaches us that the purely internal sensibility, wholly
abandoned to itself, transfers whatever is presented to it to the
external world, without the aid of reflection, and converts imaginary
appearances into realities. This is verified in sleep, or even in our
waking hours, when by some cerebral inversion the sensibility works by
itself alone, and entirely free of reflection.

73. The reason why the sensibility left to itself, renders all its
impressions objective, is to be looked for in the fact, that being a
non-reflective faculty, it cannot distinguish between a purely internal
affection, and one coming from without. Since comparison, however
inconsiderable it may be, always implies reflection, sensibility does
not compare. Hence it happens that when the subject does nothing
but feel, it cannot appreciate the differences of sensations, by
calculating the degrees of their vividness, nor ever perceive the
existence or want of order and constancy in their connection.

The faculty of feeling is perfectly blind to all but its determinate
object; whatever it does not discover in this so far as it is its
object, does in no manner exist for it. We can now see why, when left
to itself, it will render its impressions objective, and believe itself
intuitive by converting simple appearances into realities.

74. It is worthy of notice, that of the sensitive faculties, some
would always be intuitive, that is, would always refer to an external
object, if reflection did not accompany them; whilst others would never
be intuitive, not even if separated from reflection, or unaccompanied
by those which are by their nature intuitive. To the former class
belong the representative faculties, properly so called, that is, those
which affect the sensitive subject by presenting to it a form, the real
or apparent image of an object. Such are those of sight and of touch,
which can neither exist nor be conceived without this representation.
Other sensations, on the contrary, offer no form to the sensitive
subject; they are simple affections of the subject, although they
proceed from an external cause; if we refer them to objects, this we do
by reflection; and when this warns us that we have in attributing to
the object not only the principle of causality, but also the sensation
in itself, carried the reference too far, we easily recognize the
illusion, and lay it aside. This does not occur in representative
sensations; no one, no matter how great efforts he may make, will ever
be able to persuade himself that beyond himself there is nothing real,
nothing resembling the sensible representation in which objects are
presented as extended.

75. When we say that some sensations would not be intuitive were they
not accompanied by reflection, we do not mean to say that man refers
them to an object, after explicit reflection, for we cannot forget what
we have already said when explaining at length the instinctive way in
which our faculties develop themselves prior to all reflection, in
their relations with the corporeal world; but only that no necessary
relation to an object as represented can be discovered in these
sensations considered in themselves, and in perfect isolation; and
that, probably, if a confused reflection be not mingled with the
instinct which makes us render them objective, there at least enters
some influence of other sensations, which are by their proper object



76. Now that I have explained sensible, I pass to intellectual
intuition. There are two modes of knowing; the one is intuitive, the
other discursive. Intuitive cognition is that in which the object
is presented to the understanding, such as it is, and upon which
the perceptive faculty has to exercise no function but that of
contemplation; it is therefore called _intuition_, from _intueri_, to

77. This intuition may take place in two ways. It may either present
the object itself to the perceptive faculty, and unite them without
any intermediacy; or by the intervention of an idea or representation,
capable of putting the perceptive faculty in action, so that it
may, without the necessity of combination, see the object in this
representation. The first requires the object perceived to be
intelligible by itself, since otherwise there could be no union of the
object understood with the subject understanding; the second needs a
representation to supply the place of the object, and consequently it
is not indispensable that this should be immediately intelligible.[9]

[9] See what has been said concerning _representation_, _immediate
intelligibility_, and _representation of causality and ideality_, in
Chapters X., XI., XII., and XIII., of Book I. of this work.

78. Discursive cognition is that in which the understanding does not
have the object itself present, but forms it itself, so to speak, by
uniting in one whole conception several partial conceptions, whose
connection in one subject it has found out by ratiocination.

In order to render more apparent the difference between intuitive and
discursive cognition, I will illustrate it by an example. "We see a
man; his physiognomy is presented to us, such as it is; no combinations
are necessary, none could possibly make him appear differently. We
see his characteristic features, such as they are; but the collection
of them is not a thing produced by our combinations; it is an object
given to the perceptive faculty which has nothing to do but to perceive
it." When an object is offered to our understanding in this way, the
cognition we have of it will be intuitive.

We have said that the object of intellectual intuition may be united
immediately to the perceptive faculty, or that it may be presented
to it by a medium which acts the part of the object. Keeping in view
the same example, we might say that these two classes of intuitions
correspond to those of the man seen by himself, or in his portrait.
There would be in both cases intuition of his physiognomy, but no
combination would be necessary, and none could possibly form it.

But suppose some one to tell us of a person whom we have never seen,
and whose portrait cannot be shown to us. He would be obliged, in order
to give us an idea of his physiognomy, to enumerate one by one his
characteristic features, by the union of which we shall form an idea of
the likeness he has just described. To this imaginary representation
may be compared discursive cognition, by which, although we do not
see the object, we in some sense construct it, as it were, from
the assemblage of those ideas which we have by means of discursion
interlinked, and formed into one whole conception representing the

79. Kant, in his _Critic of Pure Reason_, speaks repeatedly of
intuitive and discursive cognition; but he does not explain with
perfect clearness the distinctive characteristics of these two classes
of cognition. Let it not, however, be supposed that the discovery of
these two ways of perceiving is due to the German philosopher. Many
ages before him, the theologians had known them; nor could it be
otherwise, since the distinction between intuition and discursion is
intimately connected with one of the fundamental dogmas of Christianity.

It is well known that our religion admits the possibility and reality
of a true cognition of God, even in this life. The sacred text tells
us that we may know God by his works; that the invisible things of God
are manifested to us by his visible creatures; that the heavens narrate
his glory, and the firmament announces the works of his hands; that
they who have thus known God are inexcusable, because they have not
glorified him as they ought; but this same religion teaches us that
the Blessed, in the life to come, will know him in a very different
manner, will see him as he is, face to face. It was Christianity then
that marked the difference between intuitive and discursive cognitions,
between the cognition by which the understanding, proceeding from
effects to their cause, and uniting in it the ideas of wisdom,
omnipotence, goodness, holiness, and infinite perfection, rises to
God; and the cognition in which the mind does not need to advance,
drawing its conclusions by aid of discursion, from various conceptions,
in order to force from them an idea of God, in which the Infinite
Being will offer himself clearly to the eyes of the mind, not in a
conception elaborated by reason, nor under the sublime mysteries of
faith, but such as he is, in himself, as an object given immediately
to the perceptive faculty, not as an object discovered by the force
of discursion, or presented under august shadows. And here we find
another proof of the great profoundness hidden under the dogmas of
the Christian religion. This distinction is to be met with in the
catechism, and yet who would have suspected that religion had taught us
a doctrine so important to ideological science? If the child be asked,
who is God, he replies by enumerating his perfections, and showing
thereby that he knows him. If you ask this same child, to what end man
has been created, he will answer, to _see_ God, etc.

Here again is the distinction between discursive cognition, or by
conceptions, and intuitive cognitions; with the former one is said,
simply to _know_, with the latter to _see_.



80. Kant maintained that while in the present life, we have only
sensible intuition; and he considers the possibility of a purely
intellectual intuition, whether for our own or for other minds
doubtful. But as we have seen elsewhere (ch. IX.) that he does not
attribute any value to conceptions separated from intuition, we
infer that he is, notwithstanding his long dissertations upon the
pure understanding, a confirmed sensist; and that the authors of the
_Critic of Pure Reason_, and of the _Treatise on Sensations_, differ
much less than at first sight might be supposed. If our mind has no
other intuition than the sensible, and the conceptions of the pure
understanding are, if they do not include some one of these intuitions,
nothing but empty forms; if when we abstract these intuitions, there
are in the understanding only purely logical functions, which mean
nothing, and in no sense deserve to be called cognitions; it follows
that there is in our mind nothing but sensations, which may be
methodically distributed in conceptions, as if packed away in a kind
of hut, where they are registered and preserved. According to this
philosopher, the understanding is reduced so low, that Condillac
himself might admit it.

81. Indeed, in the system of sensations transformed, the mind is
supposed to possess a transforming force, since otherwise, it would be
impossible to explain all ideological phenomena by mere sensation, and
the very title of the system would be a contradiction. This being so,
would any sensistic scruple have prevented Condillac from admitting
_the synthesis of the imagination_, the relations of all sensible
intuitions to the _unity of apperception_, and finally, a variety of
logical functions, to classify and compare sensible intuitions? So far
is this from being the case, it would seem that the root of all these
doctrines might be found in the system of the French philosopher, whose
fundamental principles, when summed up, amount to this: that nothing
can be seen in the mind besides sensations; but he does not therefore
deny it a force capable of transforming, classifying, and generalizing

82. Here, then, is another check to the originality of the German
philosopher; he has, to combat sensism, said in substance just what,
ages before, all the schools repeated; and now when he undertakes to
follow a new road to the explanation of the purely intellectual order,
he falls into Condillac's system. His empty conceptions, without
meaning, without application, beyond the sensible order, amount to no
more than what Condillac taught when analyzing the generation of ideas,
and showing how they flowed from sensations by means of successive
transformations. Could there be any difficulty, it would be concerning
words, not things: no sensist ought to hesitate accepting whole and
entire the _Critic of Pure Reason_, when once he has seen what
applications the German spiritualist makes of his doctrines. It would
be very desirable for those who insist that the spiritualism of Kant
is decidedly destructive of Condillac's sensism, to weigh well these



83. It is not true that the human mind even in this life has
no intuition other than the sensible. There are within us many
non-sensible phenomena, of which we are clearly conscious. Reflection,
comparison, abstraction, election, and all the acts of the
understanding and will, include nothing of the sensible. We should like
to know, to what species of sensibility, abstract ideas, and the acts
by which we perceive them, belong; these among others: _I desire_, _I
do not desire_, _I choose this_, _I prefer this to that_. Not one of
these acts can be presented by sensible intuition; they are facts of
an order superior to the sphere of sensibility, and yet we have in
our mind a clear and lively consciousness of them; we reflect upon
them, make them the object of our studies, distinguish them one from
another, and classify them in a thousand different ways. These facts
are presented to us immediately; we know them, not by discursion, but
by intuition; therefore it is false that the intuition of the soul
refers to none but sensible phenomena, for it encounters within itself
an expanded series of non-sensible phenomena, which are given to it in

84. It is of no use to say that these internal phenomena are empty
forms, and mean nothing, unless referred to a sensible intuition.
Whatever they may be, they are something distinct from this same
sensible intuition; and we perceive this something, not by discursion,
but by intuition; therefore, besides sensible intuition, there is
another of the purely intellectual order.

The question is not whether these pure conceptions have, or have not,
a certain power to enable us to know objects in themselves; but it
is simply to ascertain if they do exist, and if they are sensible.
That they exist, is certain; consciousness attests this fact, and all
ideologists admit it. That they are sensible, cannot be maintained
without destroying their nature; and least of all can Kant maintain
this, since he has so carefully distinguished between sensible
intuition and these conceptions.

85. This sea of non-sensible phenomena, which we experience within
us, is like a mirror wherein the depths of the intellectual world
are reflected. Minds, it is true, are not presented immediately to
our perception, and to know them we need a discursive process; but
we shall, upon careful examination, find in this intuition of our
inward phenomena the representation, imperfect though it be, of what
is verified in intelligences of a superior order. Thus we have in a
certain mode idea-images, since there can be no better image of one
thought than another thought, nor of one act of the will than another
act of the will. Thus we know minds distinct from our own, by a kind of
mediate, not immediate, intuition, in so far as they are presented to
our consciousness as the image in a mirror.

86. The communication of minds by means of speech and other natural or
conventional signs, is a fact of experience intimately connected with
all intellectual, moral, and physical necessities. When a mind is put
into communication with another, the cognition it has of what passes
in the other is not by mere general conceptions, but by a kind of
intuition, which although mediate, does not therefore fail to be true.
The thought, or affection of another communicated to our mind by means
of speech, excites in us a thought, or affection, similar to that of
the mind communicating them. We do, then, not only know, but _see_, in
our own consciousness, the consciousness of another; and so perfect
is at times the likeness, that we anticipate all that he is about to
tell us, and unroll within ourselves the same series of phenomena that
are verified in the mind of him with whom we are in communication. It
happens thus when we say: "I understand perfectly what N. thinks, what
he wants, what he is trying to express."

87. This observation seems to us of great service to place beyond
all doubt that there are in our mind, independently of the sensible
order, conceptions, not empty, but referable to a determinate object.
The cognition of the phenomena of the purely intellectual order,
transmitted to us by means of speech, or other signs, does not destroy
the character of the intuition, since we here find all the necessary
conditions assembled; internal representation, and its relation to a
determinate object affecting us.

88. This analysis of ideological facts, whose existence cannot be
doubted, demonstrates the falseness of Kant's doctrine, that there are
in our mind none but sensible intuitions; as well as the non-existence
of the German philosopher's problem: whether it is possible, or not,
for objects to be given to other minds in an intuition other than
the sensible. This very problem is found solved within us, since the
attentive observation of the internal phenomena, and the reciprocal
communication of minds, has given us to know not only the possibility,
but also the existence of intuitions different from the sensible.



89. Although we should admit that our mind can have no intuition but
the sensible, it could not thence be inferred that conceptions of the
purely intellectual order are empty forms, and in nowise conducive to
the knowledge of objects in themselves. It has always been understood
that general ideas are not intuitive, since by the very fact that they
are general they cannot be referred _immediately_ to a determinate
object; and yet no one ever doubted that they could serve to give us
true cognitions.

90. It is certain that general ideas, of themselves alone, do not lead
to any positive result; or, in other words, they do not make us know
existing beings; but if they be joined to other particular ones, a
reciprocal influence is established between them, from which cognition
results. When we make the general affirmation: "Every contingent being
requires a cause;" this proposition, although very true, means nothing
in the order of facts, if we abstract the existence of contingent
beings and causes of every kind. In such a case, the proposition will
express a relation of ideas, not of facts: the cognition which results
therefrom will be merely ideal, not positive.

91. This relation of ideas tacitly involves a condition, which gives
them, so far as facts are concerned, a hypothetical value; for, when
we affirm that every contingent being must have a cause, we are not to
be understood to affirm a relation of ideas destitute of all possible
application; but rather, on the contrary, to intend that if any
contingent being exists, it must have a cause.

92. In order that this hypothetical value of ideas may be converted
into a positive value, nothing is necessary but that the condition
involved in the general proposition: "Every contingent being must
have a cause," be verified. Of itself alone this teaches us nothing
concerning the real world; but from the moment that experience
shows us a single contingent being, the general proposition, before
sterile, becomes exceedingly fruitful. So soon as experience shows us
a contingent being, we know the necessity of its cause; we also infer
the necessity of the proportions, which the activity producing must
preserve with the thing produced; knowing the qualities of the latter,
we infer those which ought to be found in the former. In this manner,
resting upon two bases, one of which is ideal truth and the other real
truth, or data supplied by experience, we construct a true positive
science referred to determinate facts.

93. Since the being that thinks necessarily has consciousness of
itself, no thinking being can be limited to the cognition of purely
ideal truths. Even if we were to suppose it perfectly isolated from
all other beings, in absolute non-communication with every thing
not itself, so as neither to exert any influence upon them, nor to
be influenced by them, it could not be reduced to the cognition of a
purely ideal order; for, by the very fact that it is thinking, it is
conscious of itself, and consciousness is essentially a particular
fact, a cognition of a determinate being, since without it there could
be no consciousness.

94. This observation overturns to its very foundation the system which
pretends to bar all communication between the real and ideal orders.
It shows also that experience is not only possible, but absolutely
necessary to every thinking being, since consciousness is by its
very nature an experience, and the clearest and surest experience.
The truths of the ideal order are then necessarily interlinked with
those of the real order: to suppose all intercommunication between
them impossible, is to disown a fundamental fact of ideological and
psychological science, consciousness.

95. To render the truth and exactness of the preceding doctrine more
evident, let us suppose a man, or rather a human mind, absolutely
ignorant of the existence of an external world, of every body, and
even of every spirit; one that knows nothing concerning its own origin
or destiny, but one that would nevertheless at the same time exercise
its intellectual activity, without which it would be a lifeless thing,
and could offer no field to observation. Let us suppose him to have
general ideas, such as of being and of not-being, of substance and
accidents, of the absolute and the conditioned, of the necessary and
contingent. Manifestly he may combine them in various ways, and arrive
at the same purely ideal results to which we ourselves arrive. There
is no supposition more favorable to a series of abstract cognitions
independent of experience, and yet not even in this case would the
truths known be limited to the purely ideal order; it would even
here be impossible for them not to descend to the real order, if the
thinking being were not dispossessed of all consciousness of itself.

Indeed, by the very fact that a being is supposed capable of thinking,
it is supposed able to say to itself, _I think_. This act is eminently
experimental, and it needs only to be united with general truths in
a common consciousness, to enable the isolated being to rise above
itself, and create for itself a positive science, by which to pass from
the world of ideas to that of facts. The instability of its thoughts,
and the permanence of the being that experiences them, offer to it a
practical case in which the general ideas of substance and accident
are particularized. The successive appearance and disappearance of its
own conceptions will show to it the ideas of being and of not-being
realized; the recollection of the time when its own operations
commenced, beyond which the memory of its existence does not extend,
will enable it to know the contingency of his own being; and this
fact, combined with the general principles which express the relations
between contingent and necessary beings, will suggest to the thought
that there must be another that communicated to it its existence.



96. However vague the ideas an isolated being would form of objects
distinct from itself, they will never be so vague as not to refer to
a real thing. The mind may not know the nature of this reality, but
it knows for certain that it exists. A man blind from his birth can
form no clear idea of colors, nor of the sensation of seeing; but
is he therefore ignorant that sensation exists, and that the words,
color, seeing, and others which refer to sight, have a positive and
determinate object? Certainly not. The blind man does not know in what
these things, of which he hears, consist, but he knows that they are
something; those of his conceptions that refer to them may be called
imperfect, but they are not vain; the words by which he expresses them,
have for him a positive, although incomplete meaning.

97. There is a great difference between incomplete and indeterminate
conceptions; the former may refer to a positive thing, although
imperfectly known; the latter include nothing but a relation of ideas,
meaning nothing in the order of facts. We will render this difference
more apparent by explaining the example of the preceding paragraph.

A man blind from his birth has no intuition of colors, nor of any
thing that refers to the sense of sight; but he is sure that there
exist external facts which correspond to an internal affection called
_seeing_. This idea is incomplete, but it has a determinate object.
The words of those who possess the sense of sight reveal to him its
existence; he knows not, what it is, but, that it is; in other words,
he does not know its essence, but its existence. Let us now suppose
the possibility of an order of sensations different from ours, and in
nowise resembling those which we experience, to be called in question.
The conception referred to the new sensations would not only be
incomplete, but would have no relation to any real object. The general
idea, then, of affection of a sensitive being, will be all that our
mind will have; but it will know nothing of its existence, and can
form only mere conjectures as to the conditions of its possibility.
This example illustrates our idea. We find in the man blind from his
birth, who hears of what pertains to the sense of sight, an incomplete
conception, but one to which the existence of a series of facts, known
to his mind, corresponds. But in ourselves, if we reflect upon a kind
of sensations different from our own, we find conceptions, having,
indeed, a general object, but of whose realization we know nothing.

98. Thus is it explained how our mind, without having intuition of a
thing, can, nevertheless, know it, and be perfectly certain of its
existence. We have here demonstrated that conceptions may, although
they do not refer to a sensible intuition, have a value, not only in
the order of ideas, but also in that of facts.

99. In order to prove the sterility of all conception beyond sensible
intuition, Kant adduces one reason, which is, that we cannot define the
categories and the principles which flow from them without referring to
the objects of sensibility. This is no proof at all; for, in the first
place, the impossibility of a definition does not always arise from the
fact that the conception to be defined is empty; but it very frequently
results from the conception being simple, and consequently not
susceptible of a division into parts that may be expressed by words.
How will he define the idea of _being_? No matter how he attempts to
define it, the thing to be defined will enter into the definition: the
words, thing, reality, existence, all signify _being_.

It is very natural, since sensible intuition is the basis of our
relations with the external world, and consequently with our
fellow-men, that when we purpose to express any relation whatever, we
should call to our aid sensible applications; but we are not thence
to infer that there is not in our mind, independently of them, a real
truth contained in the conception which we wish to explain.

100. This capacity of knowing objects under general ideas, is a
characteristic property of our mind, and we cannot, in our inability to
penetrate to the essence of things, think without this indispensable
auxiliary. In the ordinary course of human affairs, it often happens
that we need to know the existence of a thing and of some of its
attributes, but do not require a perfect knowledge of it. In such
cases, general ideas, aided by some data of experience, put us in
mediate communication with the object not presented to our intuition.
But why cannot the same thing be verified with respect to non-sensible
beings, which alone are the object of intellectual intuitions? I know
not what exception can be taken to these observations, founded as they
are upon observation of internal phenomena, and confirmed by common



101. The principle of contradiction, indispensable condition of all
certainty, of all truth, and without which the external world, and
intelligence itself, would become a chaos, offers us a good example of
the intrinsic value of purely intellectual conceptions independent of
sensible intuition.

No determinate idea is united to the conception of being when we affirm
the impossibility of a thing being and not-being at the same time, or
the exclusion of not-being by being; and so far we absolutely abstract
all sensible intuition. Whatever be its object, whatever its nature
and the relations of its existence; be it corporeal or incorporeal,
composite or simple, accident or substance, contingent or necessary,
finite or infinite, always will it be found true that being excludes
not-being; the absolute incompatibility of these two extremes will
always be verified, so that the affirmation of the one is always, in
all cases, and under all imaginable suppositions, the negation of the

This being so, to limit the value of these conceptions to sensible
intuition, would be to destroy the principle of contradiction. The
limitation of the principle is equivalent to its nullification. Its
absolute universality is closely allied to its absolute necessity;
if it be curtailed, it is made contingent; for, if the principle of
contradiction may fail us in one instance, it fails us in all. To
admit the possibility of what is absurd, is to deny its absurdity.
If the contradiction of being and not-being does not exist in every
supposition, it exists in no supposition.

102. The difficulty is to know how the transition from the principle
of contradiction to real truths, is made; because not affirming any
thing determinate in it, but solely the repugnance of yes to no, and
of no to yes, we assert that it would be impossible to affirm either
one of these extremes without denying the other; and as on the other
hand, it is impossible, if we confine ourselves to the principle of
contradiction, for it to include any thing more than the most general
relation between two general ideas, we conclude that it is of itself
alone, perfectly sterile and unable to conduct us to any positive
result. This is all true; but it contradicts in no point what we have
said concerning the intrinsic value of general conceptions.

We have remarked that truths of the purely ideal order have none but a
hypothetical value, and that in order to produce a positive science,
they require facts to which they may apply. We have also remarked,
that experience furnishes these facts, and that every thinking being
possesses one at least, consciousness of itself. Every thinking being
will therefore, provided it discover in its own consciousness facts
to which it may apply it, make a positive use of the principle of

103. Even were we to admit the supposition that there is in our mind
no intuition but the sensible, it could not therefore be concluded
that general principles, and more particularly that of contradiction,
can have no positive value; because, if we suppose these principles
combined with sensible intuition to produce a cognition of other beings
out of the order of sensibility, it would follow that we really know
them, although they were not given to us in immediate intuition. And
this is verified in the human mind, when it rises by discursion to
the cognition of the non-sensible. On the one hand, the data furnished
by experience, and on the other, general and necessary truths, form
a connection constituting a positive science, which guides us with
perfect security to the cognition of objects not subject to immediate

This theory is so clear, so evident, so rooted in the consciousness of
our own acts, so perfectly in accordance with all that we observe in
the proceedings of the human mind, that it causes us a strange surprise
to meet philosophers, whose erroneous doctrines oblige us to explain
and defend it.

104. The transition from the known to the unknown is a proceeding
characteristic of our understanding; and this transition is impossible
if the reality of every cognition, not referred to an intuition, be
denied. Whatever is presented to us in this latter way, is given to us,
is present to our sight, and we have no necessity of seeking it. If,
therefore, no object be really known, unless offered in intuition, all
intellectual progress becomes impossible: all the advances of our mind
are reduced to combinations of the forms presented to the sensibility,
and even these lead to nothing whenever they cease to be intuitive;
that is, when they no longer relate to determinate objects immediately
perceived. The _Critic of Pure Reason_ is the destruction of all
reason: for it examines itself with suicidal intent, or in order to
prove that it contains nothing positive.

Science cannot survive the reduction of general principles to one
only value relative to sensible intuitions. What we have demonstrated
concerning the principle of contradiction, is _a fortiori_ applicable
to all other principles. If this be not saved, all must perish in the
wreck. Moreover, the very basis of the necessity involved in these
principles is threatened. We know nothing, save that there is within
us a series of phenomena which _seem_ necessary. But what use can we
make of them beyond the subjective order? None at all. Behold us then
in the most perfect skepticism, condemned to simple appearances, with
no means of knowing any reality.

105. No! the human mind is not condemned to so despairing a sterility:
reason is not an empty word; ratiocination is not a puerile play, only
fit to serve as an amusement. In the midst of the prepossessions,
errors, and extravagance of human misery, towers on high that force,
that admirable activity, by which the mind springs beyond itself,
_knows_ what it does not _see_, and _foresees_ what it will one day
_feel_. Nature is veiled to our eyes; impenetrable secrets surround
us; whichever way we turn deep shadows hide the reality of objects:
but through this darkness we discern from afar some scintillation of
light. Notwithstanding the profound silence which reigns over the sea
of beings, whose surges toss us about like imperceptible atoms in the
immensity of the ocean, we hear at times mysterious voices tell us the
course we must keep to reach unknown shores.



106. The perfection of intelligence involves extension and clearness
of its intuitions; the more perfect it is, the more intuitive it will
be. The infinite intelligence does not know by discursion, but by
intuition: it does not need to seek objects: it sees them all before
itself. It sees with intuition of identity what belongs to its own
essence, and with intuition of causality every thing that does or can
exist outside of itself. Other minds have an intuition so much the more
perfect as they are more elevated in the order to which they belong; so
that cognition by conceptions indicates an imperfection of intelligence.

107. The relations of one being with other beings will therefore depend
upon the rank it holds in the scale of the universe. God, infinite
being, and the cause of all that does or can exist, has intimate and
immediate relations with the whole universe, considered not only in its
entireness but even in its smallest particles. There is consequently
in God a most perfect representation of all beings taken not only in
their generality, but also in their minutest differences. The Being,
cause of all, does not know objects by vague conceptions, by means of
representations which only show what all beings have in common, but as
he has made their slightest differences, they must be presented to him
with perfect clearness. His cognition is founded upon a reality which
is himself; his understanding does not fluctuate through an ideal and
hypothetical world; but, fixed with clearest intuition upon infinite
reality, he sees all that the infinite being is, and all that it can
produce with its infinite activity. For God there is no experience
proceeding from without, for nothing can exert any influence upon him;
all his experience consists in the knowledge and love of himself.

108. Created beings, occupying a determinate place in the scale of the
universe, relate to it only under certain aspects. Their relations with
their fellow beings are brought to a point of view, to which their
perceptive faculties are subordinated. The representativeness, which
they contain in themselves, must be proportionate to the cognition
that has to produce it. Hence it follows that every intelligent being
will have its representativeness adapted to the functions it has to
exercise in the universe. If the being do not pertain to the order of
intelligences, its perceptive faculties will be limited to sensible
intuitions, in a measure corresponding to the place it is destined to

109. We have seen that general ideas and the intuition of determinate
objects fecundate the intellectual faculties. From this we infer that
every intelligence stands in need of intuitions, if its cognitions are
not to be limited to a purely hypothetical order.

The human mind, destined to a union with the body, and to a continual
communication with the corporeal universe, has received the gift of
sensible intuition as the basis of its relations with bodies. The same
is the case with brutes. Sensible intuition has been given to them
because they must have continual relations with the external world:
but, being confined to the functions of animal life, they have no
intuitions superior to the sphere of sensibility, nor do they possess
the force necessary to convert sensible representations into objects of
intellectual combinations.

110. There is an immense difference between brutes and man, in the
scale of beings. Since every intelligence is conscious of itself, and
can fix its attention upon its acts, the human mind knows its own
intuitively, and therefore discovers in itself an intuition superior to
the sensible. Besides these intuitions, we have the power of discursion
by which we form representations, and by them attain to the cognition
of objects not offered immediately to our perception.

Thus, starting with the data furnished by external and internal
experience, and aided by those general principles which involve the
primary conditions of every intelligence and of every being, we are
enabled to penetrate to the world of reality, and to know, although
imperfectly, the assemblage of beings which constitute the universe,
and the infinite cause which made them all.



111. A close observation of internal phenomena shows that the human
soul aspires to something far beyond all that it actually possesses.
Not satisfied with the objects given to it in immediate intuition, it
darts forward in pursuit of others of a superior order; and even in
those that are offered to it immediately, it is not contented with the
aspect under which they _appear_, but seeks to know what they _are_.
The purely individual does not satisfy the soul. Nailed to one point
in the immense scale of beings, it is unwilling to limit itself to the
perception of those that are in its environs, and form, as it were,
the atmosphere wherein it must live; it aspires to the cognition of
those that precede and follow it, and seeks to know the connection, to
discover the law from which results the ineffable harmony that presides
over the creation. It finds its purest pleasures in rising from the
sphere where the limitation of its faculties holds it confined. Its
activity is greater than its strength; its desires superior to its

112. We discover the same phenomenon in the sentiment and the will as
in the understanding. Man has, to satisfy his necessities, and provide
for the preservation of the individual and of the race, sensations and
sentiments which direct him to determinate objects; but at the side of
these affections, limited to the sphere in which he is circumscribed,
he experiences sentiments of a more elevated character, which make him
spring beyond his orbit, and absorb, so to speak, his individuality in
the ocean of infinity.

When man comes in contact with nature in herself, despoiled of all
conditions relating to individuals, he experiences an indefinable
sentiment, a kind of foretaste of the infinite. Go into an uninhabited
region and sit down by the sea side; hark to the deafening roar of
the waves breaking at your feet, and the whistling of the winds which
have raised them; with eyes fixed on this immensity, see the azure
line where the vault of heaven unites with the waters of the ocean:
stand on a vast and desert plain, or in the heart of ancient forests;
contemplate in the silence of night the firmament studded with stars,
following their course in tranquillity, as they have followed it for
ages past, and will follow it for ages to come: without effort, or
labor of any kind, abandon yourself to the spontaneous movements of
your soul, and you will see how sentiments spring up in it and move it
to its very centre; how they elevate it above itself, and absorb it, as
it were, in immensity. Its individuality vanishes from its own eyes, as
it feels the harmony presiding over that immense creation of which it
forms but a most insignificant part. In such solemn moments is it that
inspired genius chants the glories of creation, and lifts one corner of
the veil that hides the resplendent throne of the supreme Creator from
the eye of mortals.

113. That calm, grave, and profound sentiment which masters us on such
occasions, has no relation to individual objects; it is an expansion
of the soul at a touch of nature, as the flower expands to the rays of
the sun in the morning, it is a divine attraction by which the author
of all created things raises us above the dust in which we drag out our
brief days. Thus the heart and the understanding harmonize; thus the
one foretastes what the other knows; thus we are warned in different
ways, that the exercise of our faculties is not limited to the narrow
orbit conceded to us upon this earth. Let us be on our guard, lest the
heart be frozen with the coldness of insensibility, and the torch of
the understanding quenched by the devastating blasts of skepticism.



114. I now come to examine the primitive elements of our mental
combinations. I shall begin with their sensible elements. Extension
enters into every act of representative sensibility; without it nothing
is represented to us, and sensations are reduced to mere affections of
the soul, having no relation to any object.

115. Extension, of itself, abstracted from its limitability, is
susceptible of no combination; it only offers a vague, indefinite,
immense representation, from which nothing distinct of itself results.
But if limitability be joined to extension, figurability, that is, the
infinite field over which geometrical science extends, will result.

116. _Extension_ and _limitability_ are then the two elements of
sensible intuition. These elements may be offered to us in two ways,
either joined to sensations which present to us determinate objects,
or as productions of our own internal activity. If we see the disc
of the moon, we have an intuition of the former class; and if we
study the properties of a circle by producing within ourselves its
representation, this will be an intuition of the latter class.

117. This internal activity, by which, at our will or caprice, we
produce an indefinite number of representations, with an indefinite
variety of forms, is an important phenomenon and one worthy of
attention. It shows us that the productive activity is not limited
to the purely intellectual order, since we detect it in the sensible
order, not in any way whatever, but as unrolled on an infinite scale.
Suppose a right line to be produced to infinity, besides it and in the
same plane, we may infinite other lines; the variety of angles in which
we may consider the position of the different lines will extend to the
infinite; so that with right lines alone, the productive activity in
the order of sensibility will know no limit. If we substitute curves
for right lines, their combinations in form, in nature, in their
respective positions and relations with determinate axes, will likewise
be infinite: so that without quitting the sensible order, we discover
within ourselves a force productive of infinite representations, and
one needing no elements besides terminable or figurable extension.

118. The representative sensible faculty develops itself sometimes by
the presence of an object; at other times, spontaneously, without any
dependence on the will; and finally, at other times, in consequence of
a free act. This is not the place to examine in what way the phenomenon
of representation is connected with the affections of the corporeal
organs; at present, we propose only to designate and explain facts in
the ideological sphere, absolutely abstracting their physiological

Among the sensible representations just classified, which we may call
_passive_, _spontaneous_, and _free_, there are differences worthy of

119. Passive representation is given to the soul, independently of
its activity. If we be placed in presence of an object, with our eyes
open, it will be impossible not to see it, or even not to see it in
a certain manner, if we do not change the direction of our eyesight
or other condition of vision. For this reason, the soul seems, in the
exercise of its senses, to be purely passive, since its representations
necessarily depend on the conditions to which its corporeal organs in
their relation to objects, are subject.

120. Spontaneous representation, or the faculty productive of sensible
representations, seems also, since it operates independently of
external objects and of the will, to be more or less passive, and its
exercise to depend upon organic affections. And the fact that these
sensations are wont to exist without any order, or at most, if they
are recollections of old sensations, with that only which they had at
another time, appears to indicate it. It is also worthy of note that
these representations are sometimes offered to us, in spite of all the
efforts of the will to dissipate and forget them: some are so tenacious
as for a long time to triumph over all the resistance of freewill.

It is not easy to explain this phenomenon without recurring to organic
causes, which, on determinate occasions, produce the same effect upon
the soul, as the impressions of the external senses. It is certain that
the internal representation reaches, in certain cases, so high a point
of vividness, that the subject confounds it with the impressions of the
senses. This can only be explained by saying that the interior organic
affection has become so powerful, as to be equivalent to that which the
impression of an object operating upon the external organ, could have

121. In this spontaneous production it is to be remarked that present
representations do not always correspond with others previously
received; but a power of combination is developed in them from which
result imaginary objects entirely new. This combination is sometimes
exercised in a perfectly blind manner, and then follow extravagant
results; but, at other times, this activity subjected to certain
conditions produces, independently of free will, objects artistically
beautiful and sublime.

Genius is nothing else than the spontaneity of the imagination and
sentiment, developed in subordination to the conditions of the
beautiful. Artists, not gifted with genius, do not lack strength of
will to produce works of genius; nor are they wanting in imagination
to reproduce a beautiful object if they have once seen it; they do not
lack discernment and taste to distinguish and admire beautiful objects,
nor are they ignorant of the rules of art or of all that can be said to
explain the character of beauty; what they lack is that instinctively
fine spontaneity which develops itself in the most recondite
sinuosities of the soul, and far from being dependent upon the free
will of its possessor, directs and domineers over him, pursues him in
sleep as in the hours of waking, in the time of recreation as in that
of business, and often consumes the very existence of the privileged
man, as a furious fire bursts the sides of the frail cage that holds it.

122. Free production occurs when representations are offered to us by
command of our will, and under the conditions it prescribes, as in
works of art, and in the combinations of those figures which constitute
the object of the science of geometry.

123. This _a priori_ construction cannot be referred to a type existing
in our imagination; since, as this type would then be the sensible
representation itself, it would not need to be constructed. How then
is it possible to form a representation of which we have not already
the image? It is not enough to possess the elements, that is, figurable
extension, since with them infinite figures may be constructed;
something else then is needed, something to serve as a rule, in order
that the desired representation may result.

For the better understanding of this, I would observe that sensible
intuitions are allied to general conceptions, by whose aid they may
be reconstructed. Although, in reality, no sensible representation
is offered to us, of any figure whatsoever, for example, a regular
hexagon; the conception formed of the ideas, _six_, _line_, _equality
of angles_, is all that we need to produce in our interior the sensible
representation of the hexagon, and to construct it within us, if we
require it.

This shows us that the free activity producing determinate sensible
representations is based upon general conceptions, which, though
independent of sensibility, refer to it in an indeterminate manner.
Hence, also, it follows, that the understanding may, if it observe the
conditions to which the elements furnished by sensibility in their
respective cases, are subject, conceive the sensible indeterminately,
without the intellectual act being referred to any determinate

124. If we analyze the object of these general conceptions, referred
to sensible intuition, also considered in general, the understanding,
while occupied in them, seems to be taken up with things not distinctly
offered to it, but retained only by certain signs; confident, however,
that it can develop whatever they involve, and contemplate it with
perfect clearness.



125. The question now occurs, whether the understanding, in order to
perceive the geometrical relations offered in sensible intuition,
does or does not need some intermediate representations which bring
it into contact with the sensible order?[10] Such a necessity would,
at first sight, seem to exist, since, as the understanding is a
non-sensible faculty, sensible elements cannot be its immediate object.
But on maturer examination, it seems more probable that there is no
necessity of any thing intermediate, except some sign to connect the
sensible elements, and to show the point where they must unite, and the
conditions to which they are subject. As this sign may, however, be a
word, or something else, susceptible of a sensible representation, its
mediation will not at all solve the difficulty; since the question will
always recur: How is the understanding placed in communication with the
sensible sign?

[10] See Chap. VI.

This difficulty arises from the faculty of the soul being considered,
not only as distinct, but also, as separate, and as exercising each one
of its faculties in its own peculiar and exclusive sphere, entirely
isolated from that of all others. This mode of considering the
faculties of the soul, though favorable to the classification of their
operations, does not accord with the teachings of experience.

It cannot be denied that we observe within ourselves, affections and
operations, very unlike each other, and arising from distinct objects,
and producing very different results. This has led to a distinction
of faculties, and in some degree, to a separation of their functions,
so as to prevent them from mixing together and being confounded. But
there can be no doubt that all the affections and operations of the
soul are, as consciousness reveals, bound to a common centre. Whatever
becomes of the distinction of the faculties among themselves, it is
very certain, as consciousness tells us, that it is one and the same
being that thinks, feels, desires, acts, or suffers: it is certain
that this same consciousness reveals to us the intimate communication
of all the operations of the soul. We instantaneously reflect upon the
impression received; we instantaneously experience an agreeable or
disagreeable sensation in consequence of a reflection which occurs to
us: we reflect upon the will; we seek or repudiate the object of our
thought; there is, so to speak, within us a boiling spring of phenomena
of different kinds, all interlinked, modified, produced, reproduced,
and mutually influenced by each other in their incessant communication.
We are conscious of all these; we encounter them all in one common
field, which is the subject that experiences them. What necessity,
then, is there to imagine intermediate beings in order to bring the
faculties of the soul into communication with each other? Why may it
not with its activity, called understanding, occupy itself immediately
with sensible representations and affections and with all that is in
its consciousness? Supposing this consciousness in its indivisible
unity to comprise all the variety of internal phenomena, it does not
therefore follow that the intellectual activity of the soul cannot be
referred to whatever it contains of active or receptive, without its
being necessary to imagine species to serve as courtiers between the
faculties, to announce to one what has taken place in the other.

126. The _acting intellect_ of the Aristotelians, admissible in sound
philosophy so far as it denotes an activity of the mind applied to
sensible representations, does not seem alike admissible, if it be
supposed to be the producer of new representations distinct from
the intellectual act itself. The understanding is all activity; the
receptivity of the soul has nothing to do with it, but to proportion
its materials; and the conceptions elaborated in presence of these
materials, seem to be nothing else than the exercise of this same
activity, subject on the one hand to the conditions required by the
thing understood, and subordinated on the other hand to the general
conditions of every intelligence.

127. I do not mean to say that the intellectual act does not refer
to any object. I replace the idea by other acts of the soul, or by
affections or representations of some kind or other, whether active
or passive. This being so, if I am asked, for example, what is the
immediate object of the intellectual act perceiving of determinate
sensible intuition, I reply that it is the intuition itself. If the
difficulty of explaining the union of such different things be urged,
I answer: first, that this union exists in the unity of consciousness,
as the internal sense attests: second, that the same difficulty
militates against those who pretend that the understanding elaborates
an intelligible species, which it takes from the sensible intuition;
and how, I may ask, does the understanding place itself in contact
with this intuition when it would elaborate its intelligible species.
If this immediate contact be impossible in the one case, it will be
equally so in the other; and if they concede it to be possible in their
own case, they cannot deny it to be possible in ours also.

When the understanding refers to no determinate intuition, but only
to sensible intuitions in general, its immediate object is their
possibility also in general, subject to the conditions of the object
considered in general, and to those of every intelligence; among which,
the principle of contradiction holds a primary place.



128. We must, under pain of falling into sensism, by limiting the
understanding to the perception and combination of objects presented by
sensibility, admit other than intellectual acts referable to sensible
objects in general. And what, in this case, is the object of the
intellectual act, is a question as difficult as it is interesting.

129. The pure understanding can exercise its functions either upon
determinate or indeterminate ideas; that is, upon ideas which contain
something determinate, something realizable in a being, that is or
may be offered to our perception, or upon ideas which represent
general relations, without application to any object. Care should be
taken not to confound general with indeterminate, or particular with
determinate ideas. Every intermediate idea is a general idea, but not
_vice versa_. The idea of _being_ is general and indeterminate; that
of _intelligence_ is general but determinate. The particular idea
refers to an individual; the determinate to a property, and it does not
cease to be determinate although we abstract all relation in it to an
existing individual. This distinction opens the way to considerations
of the highest importance.

130. When the understanding proceeds by indeterminate conceptions, its
principal object seems to be _being_ in its greatest universality. This
is the radical and fundamental idea, round which all other ideas are
grouped. From the idea of being springs the principle of contradiction,
with its infinite applications to every class of objects; from it also
flow the ideas of substance and accidents, of cause and effect, of the
necessary and the contingent, and every thing contained in the science
of ontology, called for this very reason _ontology_, or the science of

131. There is nothing in those conceptions which express the general
relations of all beings, to characterize them until they quit their
purely metaphysical sphere and descend into the field of reality.

In order to be able to conceive of a real being, we require it to be
presented to us with some property. Being and not-being, substance
and accidents, cause and effect, are, when combined with something
positive, highly fruitful ideas; but taken in general, with nothing
determinate assigned to them, they do not offer us any existing, or
even possible object.

132. The idea of being presents us that of a _thing_ in the abstract;
but if we would conceive of this as existing or as possible, we must
imagine this thing to be something with characteristic properties.
Whenever we hear an existing thing spoken of, we instinctively ask what
it is, and what is its nature. God is essentially being, is infinite
being; but nothing would be represented to our mind were we to conceive
of him only as of being, and not also as intelligent, active, free
being endowed with all the other perfections of his infinite essence.

133. The idea of substance offers us that of a permanent being, which
does not, like a modification, inhere in another. This idea, taken
in its generality without other determination than that added to the
idea of being, by that of subsistence, offers us nothing real or
realizable. Permanence in general, subsistence by itself, non-inherence
in a subject, do not suffice to enable a substance to exist or to be
possible; some characteristic mark, some attribute is also needed, as
corporeal, intelligent, free, or any other you please, to determine the
general idea of substance.

134. The same may be said of the idea of cause, or productive
activity. An active thing, in general, offers us nothing either real
or possible. In order to conceive an existing activity, we must refer
to a determinate activity; the idea of acting, or of being able to
act, in general, does not suffice; we must represent it to ourselves,
as exercising itself in one way or another, referring to determinate
objects, producing, not beings in general, but beings having their own
characteristic attributes. True, we do not need to know what these
attributes are; but we do need to know that they exist with their

The most universal cause conceivable is God, the first and infinite
cause; and although we do not conceive of him as of cause in the
abstract, regarding the simple idea of productive activity, but
we attach to the general idea of cause the ideas of free will and
intelligence. When we say that God is omnipotent, we assign an infinite
sphere to his power; we do not know the characteristic attributes
of all the beings which can be created by this infinite activity;
but we are certain that every existing or possible being must have
a determinate nature; and we do not conceive it to be possible for
a being to be produced, which, without any determination, would be
nothing but being.

135. We do not meet this determination, indispensable as it is
to us, if we would conceive of the existence or possibility of a
being, in indeterminate ideas, but must take it from experience;
wherefore, if our understanding were limited to the combination of
those relations offered in indeterminate conceptions, it would be
condemned to a perfectly sterile science. We have already seen (Chap.
XIV.) that the absolute non-communication of the real with the
ideal order is impossible if the intelligible order be not deprived
of all consciousness of itself. It is not enough to know, that such
a communication exists, but we must ascertain in what points it is
verified, and how far it extends.

136. Before passing to this investigation, we would observe, that the
doctrine explained in this chapter is not to be confounded with that
of the fourteenth chapter. There, it was shown that general ideas of
themselves alone, have only a purely hypothetical value, and lead
to nothing because they are not combined with any thing positive,
furnished by experience; here, we have proved that indeterminate ideas
of being, substance, and cause, do not of themselves alone suffice
to enable us to conceive of any thing either existing or possible,
if they be not accompanied by some determinate idea, which gives a
character to the general ideas. There, a hypothetical value, with
respect to their existence, was allotted to general ideas: here, we
affirm it to be necessary for these ideas to be accompanied by some
property that shall render them capable of constituting an essence,
at least in the possible order. These are very different things, and
must not be confounded; hence the importance of not forgetting the
distinction between general and indeterminate, and between particular
and determinate ideas.



137. Could we assign limits to the field of experience, and
determine exactly how much they inclose, we could also determine the
characteristics by which a being may be presented to us as existing or
as possible.

138. Passive sensibility, active sensibility, understanding, and will,
are, if we be not mistaken, all that our understanding contains; and
this is why we cannot conceive of any attribute characteristic of
being, except these four. Let us examine these, each in its turn, and
with the care required by the importance of the results which will
follow this demarcation.

139. By passive sensibility we understand the form under which bodies
are presented. As we have already explained it in several places, this
form is reducible to figured or bounded extension.

It cannot be denied that this attribute contains a true determination,
as there is nothing more determinate than objects presented to our
senses, with extension, and figure, and other properties annexed
to these fundamental attributes. Motion and impenetrability are
determinations which accompany extension, or rather they are relations
of extension. To us, motion is the change of the situations of a
body in space, or the alteration in the positions of the extension
of a body, with respect to the extension of space. Impenetrability
is the reciprocal exclusion of two extensions. The idea of solid and
liquid, of hard and soft, and other similar ideas, express relations
of the extension of a body to their admission, with greater or less
resistance, of the extension of another in one and the same place.

Questions upon the nature of extension have no place here. Extension
is, so far as we are concerned, a determinate object, presented to us
in the clearest intuition. The attribute of passive sensibility has
ever been regarded as one of the most characteristic determinations;
and this is why it has been made to enter as a fundamental
classification in the scale of beings. The distinctions of corporeal
and incorporeal, of material and immaterial, of sensible and
insensible, are of as frequent use in ordinary language as in that of
the schools; and it is obvious that the words, corporeal, material, and
sensible, although not perfectly synonymous under some aspects, are
usually taken to be such, in so far as they express a kind of beings,
whose characteristic properties are those forms under which they are
offered to our senses.

140. Active sensibility is the faculty of feeling; and is to us an
object of immediate experience, since we have it within us. From the
clear presence of sensitive acts, we may easily conceive what feeling
is in other subjects than ourselves. We have no consciousness of what
passes in another subject when it sees; but we know what it is to see;
it is in others the same as in ourselves. In our own consciousness that
of others is portrayed. We well know what is spoken of, when we hear a
sensitive being mentioned; and this too by a perfectly determinate, not
by a vague idea. If the question be raised, whether other senses are
possible, the idea of a being endowed with them, loses a certain amount
of its determinateness: our understanding has no intuition of what it
would be; it discourses upon the reality or possibility by means of
general conceptions.

141. Understanding, or the force of conceiving and combining,
independently of the sensible order, is another of the data furnished
by our own experience. As this is a fact of consciousness, we know it
by intuition, not by abstract ideas; it is the exercise of an activity
which we feel within ourselves; it is the _me_ which we ourselves are.
This activity, by reason of its very union, its identity with the
subject perceiving it, is present to us in so intimate a manner that we
find no difficulty in perceiving it.

The idea of understanding is intuitive to us, not indeterminate, since
it presents an object which is immediately given to our perception in
our soul itself. When we speak of understanding, we fix our views upon
what passes within ourselves, and we see greater or less perfection
in the scale of intelligent beings portrayed in the gradation of the
cognitions which we experience within ourselves; and when we would
conceive of a far higher understanding, we enlarge and perfect the type
we have discovered within ourselves; just as we represent to ourselves
greater, more perfect, and more beautiful sensible objects, than those
we see, without quitting the sphere of sensibility, but making use of
the elements it furnishes to us, and enlarging and embellishing them so
as to attain to that ideal type already conceived of in our imagination.

142. The will, although an inseparable companion of the understanding,
and even necessary to its existence, is nevertheless a very different
faculty from it; for the will offers to our intuition a series of
phenomena very unlike the phenomena of the understanding. To understand
is not to will; a thing may be known, and yet not willed. One and the
same act of the understanding may unite at various times, or in diverse
subjects, very different if not contradictory acts of the will; to will
and to not will; or inclination and aversion.

The cognition of that series of phenomena called _acts of the will_,
is not a general but a particular, not an abstract but an intuitive,
cognition. What necessity is there of abstraction or discursion to
ascertain what we will or do not will, what we love or what we abhor?
This cognition is intuitive, so far as the acts of our own will are
concerned; and although we have no immediate intuition of what the
will of others is, we know perfectly well what passes in them, from
seeing it in some degree manifested by what we ourselves experience.
When we hear the acts of another's will spoken of, have we, by chance,
any difficulty in conceiving the object in question? Are we obliged
to proceed discursively by abstract ideas? Certainly not! The same
occurs in others as in ourselves. When they will, or do not will, they
experience just what we ourselves experience when we will or do not
will. The consciousness of our will is the image of all others existing
or possible. We conceive that will to be more or less perfect, which
unites in a higher or lower degree the actual or possible perfections
of our own: and if we would conceive a will of infinite perfection, we
must elevate to an infinite degree the actual or possible perfection
which we discover in the finite will.

143. When the Sacred Text tells us that man is created to the image
and likeness of God, it teaches us a truth highly luminous, whether
considered in a purely philosophical or in a supernatural aspect. We
discover in our soul, in this image of infinite intelligence, not
only a multitude of general ideas which carry us beyond the limits
of sensibility, but also an admirable representation wherein we
contemplate, as in a mirror, every thing that passes in that infinite
sea which cannot be known by immediate intuition so long as we remain
in this life. This representation is imperfect, is enigmatical; but
it is a true representation: in its minutest particles, infinitely
increased, we may contemplate the infinite; its feeblest brilliance
reflects back to us the splendor of infinity. The slight spark struck
from the flint may lead the imagination to that ocean of fire,
discovered by astronomers in the orb of day.



144. In all ideas, even in those that relate to contingent facts, there
is something of the necessary, something from which science may spring,
but something which cannot emanate from experience, however multiplied
we suppose it. Every induction resulting from experience is confined to
a limited number of facts,--a number, which, even if augmented by all
the experience of all men of all ages, would still remain infinitely
below universality, which extends to all that is possible.

Moreover, however little we reflect upon the certainty of the truths
intimately connected with experience, such as are arithmetical and
geometrical truths, we cannot fail to perceive that the confidence with
which we build upon them is not founded upon induction, but that we
assent to them independently of any particular fact, and consider their
truth as absolutely necessary, although we cannot verify it by the
touchstone of experience.

145. The verification of ideas by facts is in many cases impossible,
because the weakness of our perception and of our senses, and the
coarseness of the instruments we use, fail to render us certain that
the facts correspond exactly to the ideas. It is sometimes absolutely
impossible to establish this proof, since geometrical truth supposes
conditions such as cannot be realized in practice.

146. Let us apply these observations to the simplest truths of
geometry. Certainly no one will doubt the solidity of the proof called
superposition: that is to say, if one of two lines, or surfaces, be
placed upon the other, and they exactly correspond, they will be equal.
This truth cannot depend upon experience: first, because experience
is limited to a certain number of cases, whereas the proposition
is general. To say that one serves for all is to say that there
is a general principal, independent of experience, since, without
recognizing an intrinsic necessity in this truth, the universal could
in no other way be deduced from the particular. Secondly, because even
where experience avails, it is impossible for us to make it exact,
since superposition made in the most delicate manner imaginable, can
never attain to geometrical exactness, which repudiates the minutest
difference in any point.

It is an elementary theorem, that the three angles of a triangle are
equal to two right angles. This truth does not rest upon experience:
first, because the universal cannot be deduced from the particular;
secondly, because, however delicate be the instruments for measuring
angles, they cannot measure them with geometrical exactness; thirdly,
because geometry supposes conditions which we cannot realize in
practice; lines have no thickness, and the vertices of angles are
indivisible points.

147. If general principles depended upon experience they would cease
to be general, and would be limited to a certain number of cases.
Neither would their enunciation be absolute, even for the cases
already observed; for it would of necessity be reduced to what had
been observed, that is to say, to a little more or less, but never be
perfect exactness. Consequently we could not assert that the three
angles of every triangle are equal to two right angles; all that
we could say would be, that so far as our experience goes, we have
observed that in all triangles the three angles are very nearly equal
to two right angles.

This would obviously destroy all necessary truths; and even
mathematical truths would be no more certain than the reports of adepts
in any profession who recount to us their observations concerning their
respective objects.

148. There can be no science without necessary truths; and even the
cognition of contingent truths would become exceedingly difficult
without them. How do we collect the facts furnished by observation, and
adjust them? Is it not by applying certain general truths to them, as,
for example, those of numeration? Otherwise we could have no perfect
confidence in them, nor in the results of observation.

149. Human reason cannot live, if it abandon this treasure of necessary
truths which constitute its common patrimony. Individual reason could
take no more than a few short steps, overwhelmed as it constantly
would be with the mass of observations; distracted unceasingly by the
verifications to which it would always have to recur; in want of some
light to serve for all objects; and prohibited ever from simplifying,
by uniting the rays of science in a common centre.

General reason would also cease to be, and men would no longer
understand each other: every one would be confined to his own
experience: and since there would be in the experiences of all men,
nothing necessary, nothing to connect them, there would be no unity
in them all together: all the sciences would be a field of confusion,
to which all restoration of order would be utterly impossible. No
language could have been formed; or even if formed could be preserved.
We meet in the simplest enunciations of language, as well as in the
complication of a long discourse, an abundance of general and necessary
truths, which serve as the woof for the weaving-in of contingent truths.

150. To inquire, therefore, if there are necessary truths, is to
inquire, if individual, if general reason exists; if what we call
reason, and discover in all men, really exists, or is but a fantastical
illusion. This reason does exist: to deny it is to deny ourselves: not
to wish to admit it, is to reject the testimony of our consciousness,
which assures us that it is in the depth of our soul; it is to make
impotent efforts to destroy a conviction irresistibly imposed by nature.

151. And here I would remark that this community of reason among all
men of all ages and of all climes; this admirable unity, discoverable
in the midst of so much variety; this fundamental accord which neither
the diversity nor the contradiction of views can destroy, evidently
proves that all human souls have one common origin; that thought is not
a work of chance; that, besides human intelligences, there is another
which serves as their support, illuminates them, and has, from the
first moment of their existence, endowed them with all the faculties
needed to perceive, and to know what they perceived. The admirable
order which reigns throughout the material world, the concert, the
unity of plan discoverable in it, are not a more conclusive proof of
the existence of God, than are the order, the concert, the unity,
offered by reason in its assent to necessary truths.

For our own part, we ingenuously confess, that we can discover no more
solid, more conclusive, or more clear proof of the existence of God,
than that deduced from the world of intelligences. Beyond this it has
another advantage, which is, that it takes for its point of departure
the act most immediate to us, the consciousness of our own acts. It is
true, the proof best adapted to the capacity of ordinary men, is the
one founded on the admirable order reigning over the corporeal world:
but this is because they are unaccustomed to meditate upon insensible
objects, upon what passes within themselves; wherefore it is that they
abound more in direct cognitions than in power of reflection.

The atheist asks how we can be certain of the existence of God, and
demands an apparition of the divinity: very well, this apparition
exists, not without, but within us: and although it may be pardonable
for men of little reflection not to perceive it, most certainly it
is not pardonable for those who pretend to be adepts in metaphysical
science, not even to endeavor to discover it. The system of
Malebranche, which makes men see every thing in God, cannot be
sustained, but it shows a very profound thinker.



152. General truths have some relation to particular truths; for since
they are not a vain illusion, they must of necessity be connected with
some object either existing or possible. Whatever exists is particular;
not even possible being can be conceived of, if it be not, so to speak,
particularized in the regions of possibility. God himself, being by
essence, is not a being in abstract, but an infinite reality. In him,
the general idea of the plenitude of being, of all perfection, of
infinity, is, so to speak, particularized.

General truths would then be vain illusions did they not refer to
something particular either existing or possible. Without this
relation, cognition would be a purely subjective phenomenon; science
would have no object; knowledge would be had, but there would be
nothing known.

The appearance of knowing is never offered to us as a purely subjective
fact; that is to say, when we think we know, we think we know something
either within or without us, according to the matters which occupy us.
Supposing, then, the phenomenon of cognition to be purely subjective,
and to become objective for itself, we should have what would
constantly lead us into error; for the human reason would be infected
with a radical vice, which would oblige it to view these phenomena as
means of perceiving the truth, whereas they are only eternal sources of

153. There may arise a doubt in this correspondence of general with
particular truth, as to which is the principle; that is, whether
general truth is truth by means of particular truths, or the contrary.
"All the diameters of a circle are equal;" this is a general truth.
If we suppose a circle to exist, all its diameters will be equal. We
have already seen that the certainty of the general truth neither
does nor can reach us through the particular truth; but neither, on
the other hand, does the particular stand in need of the general; so
that it seems, that even when we abstract all intelligence, capable of
perceiving this general truth, the existing circle will not cease to
have all its diameters equal.

154. Moreover, if the truth fail in one single instance, it cannot be
general; but the particular may be true although it fail in general.
The equality of the diameters of an existing circle is, then, a
condition necessary to the general truth; but the general truth is not
necessary to the equality of the diameters. It is true in general that
all diameters are equal, since this is verified in all either existing
or possible, and the general truth is only the expression of this
verification; but yet it does not appear that the diameters, in any one
particular case, are equal by reason of the general truth. It is true
that one particular whole is greater than one of its parts, although
considered in itself, abstracted from all general truth; but it would
not be true that the whole is greater than one of its parts, if in any
one particular whole, the axiom should fail.

155. It would seem that from these observations we could infer that
the truth of principles depends upon the truth of facts, and not _vice
versa_. Nevertheless, if we reflect more upon this matter, we shall
discover that truth is not based upon particular facts, but upon
something superior to them.

I. We cannot from a particular fact infer a universal truth; but from
universal truth we can infer the truth of all particular existing or
possible facts. The reason why this consequence is legitimate is found
in the necessary connection of the predicate and subject; and this
necessity cannot be discovered in particular facts of their own nature

II. Neither can the reason of this necessity be found in the simple
proposition enunciating it, since this establishes nothing, but only
expresses. The enunciation is true, because it expresses the truth; but
the existence of the truth does not depend upon its enunciation.

III. Nor can it depend upon our ideas; for these are not productive of
things; all imaginable perceptions cannot change one iota of reality.
The idea may express a thing, but does not make it. The relation of
ideas with each other, in so far avails as it expresses the relation
of objects; if for one moment we permit ourselves to doubt this
correspondence, our reason becomes reduced to utter impotence, to a
vain illusion of that which ought to be of no account. The properties
of the triangle are contained in the idea we have of it; but if this
idea were purely subjective, if it had no exact or approximate relation
to any real or possible object, it and all that is built upon it, would
be mere phenomena of our mind, would signify absolutely nothing, and
would have no more weight than the ravings of a madman.

IV. The reason of necessary truths can in nowise be discovered in our
understanding; every one perceives them, without thinking of others or
even of himself. Truth existed before any individual; and when we shall
have disappeared, it will continue the same, it will lose nothing.

V. All men, although they neither do nor can agree, perceive certain
necessary truths; all individual intelligences, therefore, have drunk
at some common fountain; therefore universal reason exists.



156. What is universal reason? If we consider it as a simple idea, as
an abstraction from individual reason, as something separate from them,
but not real, we strike upon the very rock we try to shun. We endeavor
to assign a cause of the unity of human reason; and appeal to universal
reason; and then to explain in what universal reason consists, we recur
to an abstraction from individual reason. Evidently, this is a vicious
circle; we place the cause of a fact so fruitful in an abstraction, in
a generalization of the very thing we have to explain; we assign to a
great effect a cause totally insufficient, which has no existence out
of our understanding, and which only grows out of the very effect whose
origin we are investigating.

157. A real fact must have a real principle; a universal phenomenon
must have a universal cause; a phenomenon independent of all finite
intelligence must spring from some cause independent of all finite
intelligence. There is, then, a universal reason, the origin of all
finite reason, the source of all truth, the light of all intelligences,
the bond of all beings. There is, then, above all phenomena, above
all finite individuals, a being, in which is found the reason of all
beings, a great unity, in which is found the bond of all order, and of
all the community of other beings.

The unity, therefore, of all human reason affords a complete
demonstration of the existence of God. The universal reason is; but
universal reason is an unmeaning word, unless it denote an intelligent,
active being, a being by essence, the producer of all beings, of all
intelligences, the cause of all, and the light of all.

158. _Impersonal reason_, of which some philosophers speak, is an
unmeaning word. Either there exists a reason distinct from ours, or
there does not: if it does exist, it is not impersonal; if it does not
exist, it is impossible to explain the community of human reason: this
community would be to us a phenomenon, which we might call impersonal
reason, or any thing else we pleased, without it therefore being
possible for us to assign it any origin: it would be an effect without
a cause; a fact without a sufficient reason.

159. The understanding extends to a world of possibilities, and there
discovers a connection of necessary relations, some of dependence,
others of contradiction: but if there were no reality whereon to found
the possibility, this would be an absurdity; if nothing existed,
nothing would be possible.

Upon nothing, nothing can be founded; consequently, not even
possibility. The connection of necessary relations which we discover in
possible beings, must have a primitive type to which they refer: but in
nothing there are no types.

160. The assemblage of human understandings cannot establish
possibility. No one of them considered isolately is necessary to
general truth; and all together cannot have what no one of them has.
We conceive necessary truth, absolutely abstracted from the human
understanding: individual understandings appear and disappear, but work
no change in the relations of possible beings: on the contrary, the
understanding needs, in order to exercise its functions, a collection
of pre-existing truths, and without them it cannot work.

What any one individual understanding requires, all require. Their
union does not increase the strength of each one: since this
union is nothing more than an assemblage formed in our mind, and
may not correspond to any thing in reality except the individual
understandings, and their respective strength.

161. Necessary truths, therefore, exist before human reason; but their
pre-existence is an unmeaning word, if they be not referred to a being,
the origin of all reality, and the foundation of all possibility. There
is then no impersonal reason properly so called; there is a community
of reason in so far as one and the same light illumines all finite
intelligences; God the creator of them all.



162. Since the argument proving the necessity of a being in which is
laid the foundation of all the relations in the possible order, is one
of the most transcendental in all metaphysics, and at the same time one
of the most difficult to be perfectly understood, we judge it advisable
to enlarge somewhat upon the considerations thrown out in the preceding

An example, in which we undertake to establish the possibility of
things, independently of a being in which is found the reason of all,
will serve our purpose better than abstract reflections.

163. "Two circles of equal diameters are equal." This proposition is
evidently true. Let us analyze its meaning. The proposition refers
to the possible order, and abstracts absolutely the existence of the
circles and of the diameters. No case is excepted; all are comprised in
the proposition.

164. Neither does the truth refer to our mode of understanding; but on
the contrary, we conceive it as independent of our thought. Were we
asked, what would become of this truth were we not to exist, we should
without hesitation reply that it would be the same, that it acquired
nothing by our existence, that it would lose nothing by our extinction.
If we believed this truth to depend in any way upon us, it would cease
to be what it is, it would no longer be a necessary but a contingent

165. Nor is the corporeal world indispensable to the truth and
necessity of the proposition: on the contrary, if we suppose no body
to exist, the proposition would lose none of its truth, necessity, or

166. What would happen, if, withdrawing all bodies, all sensible
representations, and even all intelligences, we should imagine absolute
and universal nothing? We see the truth of the proposition even on this
supposition; for it is impossible for us to hold it to be false. On
every supposition, our understanding sees a connection which it cannot
destroy: the condition once established, the result will infallibly

167. An absolutely necessary connection, founded neither on us, nor
on the external world, which exists before any thing we can imagine,
and subsists after we have annihilated all by an effort of our
understanding, must be based upon something, it cannot have nothing for
its origin: to say this, would be to assert a necessary fact without a
sufficient reason.

168. It is true that in the proposition now before us, nothing real is
affirmed; but if we reflect carefully, we find even here the greatest
difficulty for those who deny a real foundation to pure possibility.
What is remarkable in this phenomenon, is precisely this, that our
understanding feels itself forced to give its assent to a proposition
which affirms an absolutely necessary connection without any relation
to an existing object. It is conceivable that an intelligence affected
by other beings may know their nature and relations; but it is not so
easy of comprehension how it can discover their nature and relations in
an absolutely necessary manner, when it abstracts all existence, when
the ground upon which the eyes of the understanding are fixed, is the
abyss of nothing.

169. We deceive ourselves when we imagine it possible to abstract
all existence. Even when we suppose our mind to have lost sight of
every thing, a very easy supposition, granting that we find in our
consciousness the contingency of our being, the understanding still
perceives a possible order, and imagines it to be all occupied with
pure possibility, independent of a being on which it is based. We
repeat, that this is an illusion, which disappears so soon as we
reflect upon it. In pure nothing, nothing is possible; there are
no relations, no connections of any kind; in nothing there are no
combinations, it is a ground upon which nothing can be pictured.

170. The objectivity of our ideas and the perception of necessary
relations in a possible order, reveal a communication of our
understanding with a being on which is founded all possibility. This
possibility can be explained on no supposition except that which makes
the communication consist in the action of God giving to our mind
faculties perceptive of the necessary relation of certain ideas, based
upon necessary being, and representative of his infinite essence.

171. Without this communication the order of pure possibility means
nothing: none of the combinations referable to it contain any truth:
and this ruins all science. There can be no necessary relations if
there be no necessity upon which they are based, and where they are
represented; if this condition be wanting, all cognitions must refer to
something actually existing; they are even limited to what _appears_,
to what affects us, and they cannot affirm any thing beyond the actual
order. Science, in this supposition, is unworthy of the name; it is
nothing but a collection of facts, gathered together in the field of
experience; we cannot say: "This will be, or will not be; this may be,
or may not be;" we are necessarily limited to what is; or, rather,
we ought to confine ourselves to that which affects us by simple
appearances, and never be able to rise above the sphere of individual



172. Starting from the phenomena observable in individual reason,
we have arrived at universal reason. Let us, so to speak, make the
counterproof; taking this universal subsisting reason, let us see if
individual reason in itself and in its phenomena can be explained by it.

I. What are necessary truths? They are the relations of beings, such
as they are represented in the being which contains the plenitude of
being. These necessary truths, then, stand in need of no individual
finite reason; their reason is found in an infinite being.

II. The essence of all beings, abstracted from all particular beings,
is something real, not in itself, and separately, but in the being
which contains the plenitude of every thing.

III. On this supposition science is not full of empty words, nor of
mere creations of our reason, but of necessary relations represented in
a necessary being, and known by it from all eternity.

IV. Science is possible; there is some necessity in contingent objects;
their destruction does not destroy the eternal types of all being, the
only object of science.

V. All individual reason, sprung from the same source, participates in
one same light, lives one same life, has one and the same patrimony, is
indivisible in the creative principle, but divisible in creatures. The
unity, then, or rather the uniformity or community of human reason is
possible, is necessary.

VI. The reason, then, of all men is united by the infinite
intelligence: God then is in us; and the most profound philosophical
truth is contained in these words of the Apostle: "In ipso vivimus,
movemur, et sumus."

VII. All philosophy, therefore, which seeks to explain reason, by
isolating it, considers only particular phenomena unconnected by a
general bond, pretends to construct the magnificent fabric of our
reason upon particular facts alone, but does not appeal to a common
origin, to one source of light whence all lights have sprung, is
a false philosophy, is superficial, at war with theory, and in
contradiction with facts. When we reflect upon this, we can but pity
Locke, and still more Condillac, and their explanations of human reason
by sensations alone.

VIII. Thus we understand why we cannot give the reason of many things;
we see them; they are thus: they are necessary; more we cannot say. A
triangle is not a circle: what reason can we assign for this? None!
It is so; this is all. But why? Because there does actually exist an
immediate necessity in the relation represented in the infinite being,
which is truth by essence. The same infinite intelligence sees no
greater reason of itself, than in itself. It finds every thing, and
the relations of all things in the plenitude of its being; but beyond
them is nothing. He gave to individual reason, when creating it, an
intuition of these relations: no discursion proves them; we see them;
this is all.

IX. Some even who admit the subjective value of ideas, either doubting
or denying their objectivity, lose sight of this fact. They seek an
argument, where there is need only of a vision; they demand degrees
where there are none. When human reason sees certain truths, it
cannot go farther and doubt of them. It is subject to a primitive
law of its nature, which it cannot abstract without ceasing to be
what it is. By the very act of seeing the object it is sure of it;
the difference between subjectivity and objectivity falls within the
space of inferences, but not within that of immediate reason, or the
understanding of necessary truths.

173. We leave it to the reader's judgment whether the preceding
explanation is more satisfactory than that by _impersonal reason_;
the theory we have attempted to expound has been held by all the most
eminent metaphysicians. With God, all is clear; without God, all is
a chaos. This is true in the order of facts, and not less so in the
order of ideas. Our perception is also a fact; our ideas likewise are
facts; over all presides an admirable order; a chain which cannot be
destroyed unites all; but neither this order nor this chain depends
upon this. The word _reason_ has a profound meaning, for it refers
to the infinite intelligence. What is true for the reason of one man
cannot be false for the reason of another; there are, independently
of all communication among human minds, and of all intuition, truths
necessary for all. We must, if we would explain this unity, rise above
ourselves, must elevate ourselves to that great unity in which every
thing originates, and to which every thing tends.

174. This point of view is high, but it is the only one; if we depart
from it we can see nothing, but are forced to use unmeaning words.
Sublime and consoling thought! Although man disputes upon God, and
perhaps denies him, he has God in his understanding, in his ideas,
in all that he is, in all that he thinks; the power of perception
communicates God to him; objective truth is founded on God; he cannot
affirm a single truth without affirming a thing represented in God.
This intimate communication of the finite with the infinite, is one
of the most certain truths of metaphysics. Although ideological
investigations should produce no other result than the discovery of
so important a truth, we ought to consider the time spent in them well



175. The relation between thought and language is one of the most
important ideological phenomena. When we speak we think; and when we
think we speak with an internal language. The understanding needs
speech as a kind of guiding thread in the labyrinth of ideas.

176. The connection of ideas by a sign seems necessary. The most
universal and most convenient of these signs is language; but we must
not forget that it is an arbitrary sign, as is proved by the variety of
words used in different languages to express the same idea.

177. The phenomenon of the relation of ideas to language originates
in the necessity of perpetuating ideas by determinate signs; and the
importance of speech results from its being the most general, most
convenient, and most flexible sign. And hence it is that when these
circumstances can be united in another sign, the same object is
attained. Physically speaking, written language is very different from
language spoken; nevertheless, in very many cases it answers equally

178. The internal language is, sometimes, rather a reflection in which
the idea is enlarged and developed, than an expression of it. True,
we do not ordinarily think without speaking inwardly; but as we have
already observed, speech is an arbitrary sign, and consequently we
cannot establish a perfectly exact parallel between ideas and the
internal language.

179. We think with instantaneousness, which defies the succession of
words, however rapid we may suppose them to be. It is true that the
internal language is far more rapid than the external; but it always
involves succession, and requires a greater or less time, according to
the words to be spoken.

This observation is important, lest we too greatly exaggerate the
relation of ideas to speech. Language is certainly a wonderful channel
for the communication of ideas, and a powerful auxiliary of our
understanding; but we can, without ignoring these qualities, take
care to avoid that exaggeration which seems to pronounce all thought
impossible, if some word thought does not correspond to it.

180. We experience often enough the instantaneous occurrence of a
multitude of ideas, which we afterwards develop in our discourse.
We see this in those quick and lively replies excited by a word, or
a gesture, which contradicts our opinions or wounds our feelings.
In replying, it is impossible for us to speak inwardly, since the
instantaneousness with which we reply forbids it. How often, in
listening to an argument, do we instantly detect a fault, which we
could not explain with words without a long discourse? How often, in
proposing a difficulty to ourselves, do we catch its solution in an
instant, although we could not possibly explain it without many words?
How often do we at the very first glance discover the flaw in a proof,
the force of an argument, or the ease with which it can be retorted
upon the proposer of it, and all this without occupying a moiety of
the intervals necessary to either external or internal locution? Thus
it happens that the sudden thought is not unfrequently expressed by a
single gesture, a glance of the eye, a nod of the head, a _yes_, or a
_no_, an exclamation, or any other similar sign; all far more rapid
than it is possible for the words expressive of our thought to be.

181. Let us illustrate this observation by a few examples. Some one
says: "All men are naturally equal." The sense of this proposition
cannot be known until the word _equal_ is pronounced. How, then, is it
that an enlightened and judicious man, will, by an instinctive impulse,
answer _no_, will catch the word at the moment, and refute the empty
boast of the declaimer with a flow of reasons? Until after the word,
naturally the understanding remained in suspense; there was nothing
to show the meaning of the proposition, since instead of _equal_,
might have been said _weak_, _mortal_, _inconstant_, or any other such
word; but so soon as the word _equal_ is pronounced, the understanding
says _no_, without having had the time to use an internal or external
locution. The exact parallel which some suppose to exist between ideas
and speech is, therefore, impossible; and they who defend it are guilty
of an exaggeration incompatible with experience.

Another asserts, "justice to have no bounds but the limit of power."
All who have any idea of morality, at once answer _no_: do they,
forsooth, need an inward locution? True, in order to explain what is
expressed by this _no_, and upon what it is based, many words are
required, and that to reflect upon the proposition one must speak
in inwardly; but this is all independent of that intellectual act,
signified by the _no_, and which would have been still more briefly
expressed had it been possible.

Another yet may say: "If this fact be attested by the senses, it
will be true; and if it be true, it will be attested by the senses."
The hearer assents to the former part, but rests in suspense as
to the latter part until the word _attest_ is pronounced. Then an
instantaneous _no_ leaps from his lips, or is expressed by a negative
gesture. Does any interior locution precede? None, for none is
possible. The following would be the words expressive of this act: "It
is not true that every fact must be attested by the senses; since many
facts are true, which do not belong to the sphere of sensibility."
Let us examine whether or not these words are compatible with the
instantaneousness of the _no_.

182. It will, perhaps, be objected, that the negation is one thing,
and the reason of the negation another: that the simple _no_ suffices
for the former, and that it is only for the latter that more words are
needed. But this is an equivocation. When the _no_ was said, it was
said for a reason, and this reason was the sight of the inconsequence
then expressed by the words. Otherwise it would be necessary to admit
the negative to be a blind judgment, and given without a reason. This
being so, this reason founded upon the judgment, although expressed in
the most laconical mode possible, would require some words, to form
which, either interiorly or exteriorly, there has been no time. There
is a question of calculation. He who hears the proposition cannot know
the meaning of it, until the word _attest_ is pronounced, and the
sentence brought to a _full stop_. Before reaching the word attest,
the sense of the proposition was unknown; it was not possible to form
any judgment, since instead of saying, "If it be true the senses will
attest it," he might have said, "If it be true the senses _will not
belie it_."

We have spoken of the _full stop_, in order to show the
instantaneousness of the perception and of the judgment, which proves
that the understanding does not determine until the last moment. But
let us suppose the same word _attest_ to have been used indeed, but
instead of a full stop, to have been followed by these other words, "if
this fact falls under their jurisdiction." The words are the same, and
yet they do not provoke a negative judgment; and why? Simply because
the speaker continued. If he had ceased speaking, or had used an
inflection of voice indicative of a period, the _no_ would have risen
like a flash. A comma or a period in writing, produce the same effect
as a pause or an inflection of the voice in speaking. When we see these
signs, we judge instantaneously, with a velocity incomparably greater
than any internal or external locution.

It would be easy to multiply examples showing the superiority of
thought to speech, so far as rapidity is concerned; but those already
adduced seem to us sufficient to prove that there is some exaggeration
in saying that "man before speaking his thought, thinks his words," if
it be understood that all thought is impossible without a word thought.



183. Many ideas seem to be like sensations and sentiments; simple
facts, incapable of decomposition, for which reason we cannot explain
them with words. Words illustrate ideas; but do they not sometimes also
confuse them? When we speak of an idea, we reflect upon it, and I have
already remarked[11] that the reflective force of our perceptive ideas
is much inferior to their direct force.

[11] See Book I., Chs. III. and XXIII.

184. We have sometimes thought that we do, perhaps, know things which
we imagine we do not know, and that we are ignorant of things we think
we know. It is certain that disputes have been had in all schools of
philosophy upon many ideas, without attaining any satisfactory result;
and yet these ideas ought to be sufficiently clear to our mind, since
we all use them every day without any equivocation. Philosophers have
not, as yet, been able to agree upon the ideas of space and time, but
the most ignorant men, nevertheless, make use of these words, and
whenever the necessity occurs, apply them with exactness. This seems to
prove that the difficulty is not in the idea but in its explanation.

185. It has been remarked that there is great truth and exactness in
ordinary language, so much so, that the careful observer is astonished
at the recondite wisdom hidden in a language; to see how great, how
various, and how delicate are the gradations into which the sense of
words is distributed. This is not the fruit of reflection; it is the
work of reason operating directly, and consequently making use of ideas
without reflecting upon them.

186. In ideological investigations some idea of the idea is sought,
and it is not noted that if this be necessary to science, another idea
of the other idea may be exacted, and that thus an infinite process
may be given. It ought to be borne in mind that in treating of simple
facts, as well external as internal, no other explanation of them can
be demanded than an exposition.

187. _Idea-images_ are a font of error, and probably all ideas
explicable by words are not less so. An _idea-image_ induces the belief
that there are in our mind no ideas but sensible representations, and
the supposition that every idea can be expressed by words, makes us
imagine that to be composite which is simple, and attribute to the
substance what belongs to the form.

188. A composite idea seems to be a union, or rather a connected series
of ideas, which are either excited simultaneously, or follow each other
with great rapidity. Our understanding requires words to bind this
collection, to retain the thread which connects them; and hence it is,
that when the idea is simple, language is not indispensable. It is said
that speech is necessary in order to think, it might sometimes be said
with more propriety, that it is necessary in order to _recollect_.

189. When the object occupying our attention is offered to the sensible
intuition, we have no need of speech. We can, when we reflect upon
a right line, an angle, a triangle, observe that their imaginary
representation is all that we require, and that we do not need to bind
these objects together by words. The same thing happens in thinking
of unity, or on the numbers two, three, and four, which we easily
represent to ourselves sensibly. The necessity for speech begins when
the imagination loses the distinct representation of objects, and needs
to combine various ideas. Did we not assign to a word the idea of a
many-sided polygon, we should be in the greatest confusion, and it
would be impossible for us to reason upon it.

190. Since, on the one hand, our perceptive faculties do not create
their objects, but are limited to the combining of them; and, on the
other hand, our perception is not capable of embracing many at one
time, it results that the exercise of our faculties is necessarily
successive; the unity of consciousness serving as the bond of union
to our perceptions. But consciousness has no other means of knowing
what passes within it, than to fix its operations by determinate
signs, whence flows the necessity of arbitrary signs, which must be
sensible, by reason of the relation uniting our intelligence with the
sensitive faculties: and it is to be observed, that for this reason,
every sign to which we assign an idea, may be the object of one of the
senses. The great number and variety of ideas and their combinations,
require an exceedingly variable and flexible sign, and this variety
and flexibility require certain characters to simplify it, and thus
render its retention in the memory more easy, whence the advantages
of language: in the midst of its astonishing variety it lays these
characters in radical syllables. The conjugation of a single verb
alone offers us a considerable number of very different ideas, the
retention of which would be excessively difficult, were they not joined
by some tie such as the radical syllable: as in the verb to speak, the
syllable speak. We see this by the greater labor the irregular verbs
cost us than do the regular verbs when learning a language: and it may
be remarked in children also, who blunder on the irregularities. We
might compare language to the catalogue of a library, which is the more
perfect, the more it unites simplicity with variety, so as to designate
exactly the classes of the books and the shelves whereon they are to be

191. _Succession of ideas and operations_; here, then, originates the
necessity of a sign by which to connect and recollect them: _relation
of our understanding with the sensitive faculties_, is the reason
why the signs must be sensible; _variety and simplicity of language_
constitutes its merit so far as the sign of ideas.[12]

[12] See Bk. I., Ch. XXVI.



192. Among the adversaries of innate ideas there exist profound
differences. The materialists maintain that man has received every
thing through the senses, in such a way as to make our understanding
nothing more than the product of an organism which has been advancing
in perfection, just as a machine acquires, by use, a greater facility
and delicacy of movement. They suppose nothing but the faculty of
sensation to pre-exist in the mind; or, to speak more correctly, they
admit no mind, but only a corporeal being, whose functions naturally
produce what is called the intellectual development.

The sensists who do not attribute to matter the faculty of thinking,
do not admit innate ideas; they confess the existence of the mind, but
concede to it non-sensitive faculties; all that it owns must have come
to it through the senses, and it can be nothing else than a transformed

Innate ideas counted other adversaries who were neither materialists
nor sensists: such were the scholastics, who on the one hand defended
the principle that there is nothing in the understanding which has not
previously been in the senses; but, on the other hand, combated both
materialism and sensism. The difference between the scholastics and the
friends of innate ideas would not perhaps have been so great as it was
supposed to be, had the question been proposed in another manner.

193. The scholastics regarded ideas as accidental forms, in such a
way that an understanding with ideas may be compared to a piece of
canvas covered with figures. The defenders of innate ideas said; "The
figures already exist upon the canvas; to see them we have only to
raise the veil which covers them." This explanation is somewhat forced,
since it openly contradicts experience, which testifies: first, the
necessity of the understanding being excited by sensations; secondly,
the intellectual elaboration which we experience in thinking, and which
teaches us that there is within us a kind of production of ideas.

"The canvas," say the adversaries of innate ideas, is all white, "and
in proof witness the unceasing labor of the artist to cover it with
figures." But does their doctrine, forsooth, suppose that nothing
exists before experience? Do they admit man to be the simple work of
instruction, of education? Do they maintain that our interior world is
nothing more than a series of phenomena caused by impressions, and that
it would have been other than what it is, had it had other impressions?
Most certainly not. They admit: first, an inward activity excited and
improved by sensible experience: secondly, the necessity of first
principles as well intellectual as moral: thirdly, an interior light,
to enable us to see them when presented, and to assent to them by an
irresistible necessity. We find the words, "Signatum est super nos
lumen vultus tui Domine," cited upon every page of those authors.

194. Saint Thomas says that first principles, as well speculative
as practical, must be naturally communicated to us: "Oportet igitur
_naturaliter nobis esse indita_, sicut principia speculabilium, ita
et principia operabilium."[13] In another place, inquiring whether the
soul knows immaterial things in their eternal reasons, (in rationibus
æternis,) he says that the intellectual light which is within us, is
nothing else than a certain participated likeness of the uncreated
life, in which the eternal reasons are contained: "Ipsum enim lumen
intellectuale, quod est in nobis nihil est aliud, quam quædam
participata similitudo luminis increati, in quo continentur rationes

[13] P. I., Q. L. XXIX. A. 12.

[14] _Ib.,_ Q. L. XXXIV. A. 5.

195. We find it, in these passages, expressly taught that there is
within us something besides what we have acquired by experience, in
which point the scholastics all agree with the defenders of innate
ideas. The difference between them is this: the former do not consider
the intellectual light to suffice for knowledge, if the forms or
_species_ upon which it may reflect are wanting; the latter distinguish
the light from the colors, and them they make originate in the light

196. The question of innate ideas, so warmly contested in the schools
of philosophy, would never have presented so great difficulties, had
it been stated with proper clearness. To do this it was necessary to
classify the inward phenomena called ideas in a corresponding manner,
and to determine with accuracy the sense of the word _innate_.

197. According to what we have already said, we hold that there are
in our mind sensible representations; intellectual action upon them,
or geometrical ideas; ideas purely intellectual, either intuitive or
non-intuitive; and general determinate and indeterminate ideas. I will
give examples of these cases that they may the better be understood.
A particular triangle is represented in our imagination; here, then,
is a sensible representation: intellectual act perceiving the nature
of the triangle considered in general; here is a geometrical idea, an
idea relating to the sensible order: cognition of one of our acts of
understanding or will; here is a pure and intuitive idea: intelligence,
will, conceived in general; here is a general determinate idea:
substance; here finally is a general indeterminate idea.[15]

[15] See Chs. XII. and XIII.

198. What is understood by innate? That which is not born, which the
mind possesses, not acquired by its own labor, nor by impressions
coming from the exterior, but by the immediate gift of the author of
its nature; the innate is opposed to the acquired, and to inquire if
there are innate ideas is to inquire if we have in our mind ideas,
before receiving any impressions or doing any act.

199. It cannot be maintained that sensible representations are innate.
Experience testifies that without the impressions of the organs we
cannot have representations corresponding to them; that once these
are placed in action in a proper manner, we cannot help experiencing
them. This is applicable to all sensations, whether they be actual,
existing, or only recollected. They who undertake to maintain that
sensible representations exist in our soul previously to all organic
impressions, also advance an opinion unsustainable either by facts of
experience or by arguments _a priori_.

200. It is to be remarked, that the argument founded upon the
impossibility of the body's transmitting impressions to the mind,
proves nothing in favor of the opinion we combat. Even were the
argument conclusive, the necessity of innate ideas could not thence be
inferred, since the physical non-communication of the body and the mind
would be saved in the system of occasional causes, and it could at the
same time be argued that there are no pre-existing ideas, but that they
have been caused in the presence, and on occasion of organic affections.

201. Ideas relative to sensible representations seem to consist, not in
forms of the understanding, but in its acts exercised upon these same

[16] See Ch. XX.

To call these ideas innate is to contradict experience, and even to
ignore their nature. These acts cannot be performed if the object,
which is the sensible representation be wanting; and this does not
exist without an impression of the corporeal organs. To call these
ideas innate, has then, either no meaning at all, or can mean nothing
else than the pre-existence of the intellectual activity, subsequently
developed in the presence of sensible intuitions.

202. Neither can those intuitive ideas, not referable to sensibility,
such as are those we have when reflecting upon the acts of
understanding and will, be innate. What in this case serves as the
idea, is the very same act of the understanding or of the will which is
presented to our perception in consciousness: to say, then, that these
ideas are innate is equivalent to saying that these acts exist before
they exist. Even when the perception does not refer to present acts,
but to past acts now recollected, the argument retains the same force:
for it can have no recollection of them if they have not previously
existed, since our acts cannot exist before we have performed them.

203. Hence it may be inferred that no intuitive idea is innate, since
intuition supposes an object presented to the faculty of perception.

204. General determinate ideas are those which refer to an intuition:
they cannot, therefore, exist before it: and since, on the other hand,
intuition is impossible without an act, it follows that these ideas
cannot be innate.

205. Last of all remain general indeterminate ideas, that is to say,
those which of themselves alone offer to the mind, nothing either
existing or possible.[17] If we observe carefully the nature of these
ideas, we shall see that they are nothing else than perceptions of
one aspect of an object considered under a general reason. It cannot
be doubted, that one of the characteristics of intelligence is the
perception of these aspects; and it is no less indubitable, that it
does not thence follow, that we must imagine these ideas to a kind of
forms pre-existing in our mind, and distinct from the acts by which it
exercises its perceptive faculty. We do not see what ground there can
be for affirming these ideas to be innate, and to have lain hidden
in our mind previously to the development of all activity, just like
things stowed away in the corners of a museum, closed however to the
curiosity of spectators.

[17] See Ch. XXI.

206. Instead of abandoning ourselves to similar suppositions, it would
seem that we ought to recognize in the mind an innate activity, subject
to the laws imposed upon it by its Creator, the infinite intelligence.
Even granting ideas to be distinct from perceptive acts, it is not
necessary to admit them as pre-existing. True, that in such a case it
would be necessary to recognize in the mind a faculty productive of
the representative species, from which, however, we should not escape
by identifying ideas with perceptions. These last are acts springing,
so to speak, from the very bottom of our soul, and which appear and
disappear like the flowers of a plant: and thus we must in every way
recognize in ourselves a power which in due circumstances will not fail
to produce what before did not exist. Without this it is impossible to
form any idea of what activity is.

207. Resuming the doctrine thus far delivered upon innate ideas, we can
reduce it to a formula in the following manner:

I. There are in us sensitive faculties which are developed by organic
impressions, either as cause or occasion.

II. We perceive nothing by the senses not subject to the laws of

III. Internal sensible representations cannot be formed of other
elements than those furnished by sensations.

IV. Whatever is said concerning the pre-existence of sensible
representations to organic impressions, besides being said without any
reason, is in contradiction with experience.

V. Geometrical ideas, or ideas relating to sensible intuitions, are not
innate; since they are the acts of the understanding which operates
upon materials provided by the sensibility.

VI. Intuitive ideas of the intellectual order are not innate, because
they are nothing else than the acts of the understanding or will,
presented to our perception in reflex consciousness.

VII. General determinate ideas are not innate, since they are the
representation of intuitions, upon which some act has of necessity been

VIII. There is no ground of affirming that general indeterminate ideas,
which seem to be acts of the faculty perceptive of objects under a
general reason, are innate.

IX. All that there is of innate in our mind is sensitive and
intellectual activity; but both to be put into motion, require objects
to affect them.

X. The development of this activity begins with organic affections;
and although it goes far beyond the sphere of sensibility, it always
remains more or less subject to the conditions imposed by the union of
the soul and body.

XI. The intellectual activity has _a priori_ conditions totally
independent of sensibility, and applicable to all objects, no
matter what impressions may have been their cause. The principle of
contradiction figures as the first among these conditions.

XII. There is then in our mind something _a priori_ and absolute, which
cannot be altered, even although all the impressions we receive from
objects be totally varied, nor if all the relations we have with them
were to undergo a radical change.





1. There is in our understanding the idea of being. Independent of
sensations, and in an order far superior to them, there exist ideas in
our understanding, which extend to, and are a necessary element of all
thought. The idea of being, or of _ens_, holds the first rank among
these. When the scholastics said that the object of the understanding
was being, "objectum intellectus est ens," they enunciated a profound
truth, and pointed out one of the most certain and important of all
ideological facts.

2. Being, or ens in se, abstracted from all modification and
determination, is, considered in its greatest generality, conceived by
our understanding. Whatever may be the origin of this idea, or the mode
of its formation in our understanding, certain it is that it exists.
It is of continual application, and without it it is almost impossible
for us to think. The verb _to be_, expressive of this idea, is found in
every language: in every discourse, even in the simplest, we meet this
expression: the learned and the ignorant, alike, continually employ it
in the same sense, and with equal facility.

The only difference, as to the use of this idea, between the rustic
and the philosopher, is, that the one does, the other does not, reflect
upon it: but the direct perception is the same in both, equally clear
in all cases. Such a thing is or is not; was or was not; will be or
will not be; there is something or nothing; we had or did not have;
we shall have or shall not have, are all applications of the idea
of being, applications made alike by all persons, without the least
shadow of obscurity; all comprehend perfectly well the sense of these
words, and the mind consequently has the idea corresponding to them.
The difficulty, if any there be, begins with the reflex act, in the
perception, not of being, but of the idea of being. So far as the
direct act is concerned, the conception is so perfectly clear as to
leave nothing to be desired.

3. Experience teaches this, but it can also be proved by conclusive
arguments. All philosophers agree that the principle of contradiction
is evident of itself to all men, that it needs no application, to
understand the sense of the words sufficing; which could not be true
did not all men have the idea of being. The principle is, that "it is
impossible for a thing _to be_, and _not to be_ at same time." Here,
then, is no question of any thing determinate; neither of body nor
of mind, of substance nor of accidents, of infinite nor of finite,
but of being, of a _thing_, whatever it may be, in its greatest
generality; of which it is affirmed that it cannot both be and not
be at the same time. Had we no idea of being, the principle would
mean nothing: contradiction is inconceivable when we have no idea of
the contradicting extremes, and here the extremes are _being_ and

4. The same is seen in another principle, closely resembling, if
not identical with, that of contradiction: "every thing either is
or is not." Here, also, there is question of being in its greatest
indeterminateness, considered only as being, as nothing more. Without
the idea of _being_, the axiom could have no meaning.

5. The principle of Descartes, "I think, therefore I am," also includes
the idea of being: "I am." When he undertakes to explain it, this
philosopher relies upon the fact that what is not, cannot act; thus the
idea of being enters not only into the principle of Descartes, but is
even the foundation upon which he rests it.

6. Whether we make the inward sense the basis of our cognitions, or
prefer the evidence by which one idea is contained in another, it is
always necessary to make the idea of being a primary element; we must
suppose the understanding _to be_ before it can think; we must suppose
thought _to be_ before we can make use of it; we must suppose our
sensations and sentiments, the operations and affections of our souls,
_to be_, before we can investigate their causes, their origin, and
inquire into their nature; we must suppose ourselves _to be_, that _we
are_, before we can advance one step in any sense. The idea of being
does then exist in our mind, and is an element indispensable to all
intellectual acts.



7. Nothing can be conceived more simple than the idea of being. It
cannot be composed of elements. It allows of nothing determinate, since
it is in itself absolutely indeterminate. The instant that something
determinate is made to enter it, it is in a manner destroyed; it is no
longer the idea of _being_, but of _such a being_; an idea applied,
but not the idea of the being in all its generality.

8. How shall we make it understood what we would express by the word
being, or ens? If we say that it comprises all, even the most unlike
and opposite things, there is no reason why it may not be understood
what it is. To join to the idea of being any determination, is to
introduce into it a heterogeneous element, which in no manner belongs
to it, and can only accompany it as a pure aggregation, but can never
combine with it, without rendering it what it is not. If the idea of
subsistence be combined with that of being, we no longer have the pure
idea of being, but that of subsistence.

9. The idea of being is then most simple; it cannot be resolved into
elements, and cannot consequently spring from speech, unless as from
an exciting cause. If we be asked, for example, what we understand
by substance, by modification, cause or effect, we explain it by
uniting to the idea of being that of subsistence or inherence, that
of productive force, or of a thing produced; but it is impossible for
us to explain being, otherwise than by itself. We may make use of the
words, something, what is, reality, and the like, but all these are
inadequate to explain the thing itself; they are but the efforts we
make to excite in the understanding of others the idea we contemplate
in our own. If we would give further explanations by showing how the
idea corresponding to the word being, is applicable to every thing,
and in order to do this enumerate the different classes of being,
applying the idea to them all, we only succeed in showing the use
of the idea and the applications of which it is susceptible; but we
do not decompose it. We say, indeed, that there is in all something
corresponding to it, but we do not decompose this something; we only
point it out.

10. From this we infer that the idea of being is not intuitive to
us, and that by its very indeterminateness it excludes all that a
determinate object can offer to our perception.



11. For the more thorough understanding of this matter, it will be well
to distinguish between the absolute and relative ideas of being; that
is between what is expressed by the word being, when it designates
reality, simple existence, and when it marks the union of a predicate
and its subject. In the two following propositions we see very closely
the different meaning of the word _is_; Peter _is_; Peter _is_ good.
In the former the word _is_ designates the reality of Peter, or his
existence; in the latter, it expresses the union of the predicate
_good_ with the subject _Peter_. In the former the verb _to be_ is
substantive, in the latter it is copulative. The substantive simply
expresses the existence; the copulative a determination, a mode of
existing. The desk is, signifies the simple existence of the desk; the
desk is high, expresses a mode of being, height.

12. Purely substantive being, is nowhere met with, except in the
following proposition: being is, or what is is; in all other
propositions there is involved, even in the subject itself, some
predicate which determines the mode. When we say, the desk is,
notwithstanding that the direct predicate of the proposition is the
word _is_, there yet enters into the subject _desk_ a determination
of the being of which we speak, and that is of a being which is a
desk. We were, then, right in saying that the verb _to be_, in its
purely substantive meaning, is met with in no other proposition than
this: being is. This is perfectly identical, absolutely necessary and
convertible, that is, the predicate may be observed of all subjects,
and the subject of all predicates. Suppose we give the proposition
a different form; being is existing; we can still say all being is
existing, or the existing is being; that is, all that exists is being.

13. If it be objected that possible being does not exist, we answer
that purely possible being is not, strictly speaking, being; but
that it does exist, in the same mode in which it is, that is, in
the possible order. As we shall, however, treat this question more
fully hereafter, we now turn to the propositions in which being is
copulative. The desk is, is equivalent to this, the desk is existing.
It is true that every real desk is existing, but real is the same as
existing; and thus it might, in one sense, be said that the proposition
resembles this other: all being is. But here we detect a difference; it
consists in this, that the idea of existence does not necessarily enter
into that of desk, for we can conceive of a desk which does not exist,
but we cannot conceive of a being as such without a being, that is,
of a being which is not being. A very notable difference is every way
perceptible between the two propositions; in the former, the subject
may be affirmed of all predicates by saying, all that is existing is
being; but it is evident that we cannot say all that is existing is

14. The reason of this is that the proposition, being is, is absolutely
identical; it is the expression of a pure conception reduced to the
form of a proposition; and, consequently, the terms which serve as
extremes may be taken indiscriminately the one for the other; being
is, whatever is, is being; being is existing; every thing existing
is being. But different orders of ideas are combined in all other
propositions; and, although the common idea of being is applicable to
all, as this idea is essentially indeterminate, it does not thence
follow that one of the things to which the general idea corresponds is
identical with the other, alike entering into the same general idea.
Being belongs to every existing desk; but not, therefore, is every
thing a desk.

15. Copulative being may be applied without the substantive; thus when
we say that the ellipse is curvilinear, we abstract both the existence
and non-existence of any one ellipse; and the proposition would be true
although no ellipse at all were to exist. The reason is that the verb
_to be_, when copulative, expresses the relation of two ideas.

16. This relation is of identity, but in such a way that more than the
union of the two is needed before a predicate can be affirmed of a
subject. The head is united to the man, but it cannot, therefore, be
said, "man is his head;" the sensibility is united to the reason in the
same man, but we cannot say, "sensibility is reason;" whiteness is in
union with the wall, but we cannot say "the wall is whiteness."

The affirmation, then, of a predicate expresses the relation of
identity, and this is why, when this identity does not exist with
respect to the predicate in the abstract, it is expressed in the
concrete, in order that something involving identity may enter into it.
The wall is whiteness: this proposition is false, because it affirms an
identity which does not exist; the wall is white: this proposition is
true, because white means something which has whiteness, and the wall
is really something which has whiteness; here, then, is the identity
which the proposition affirms.[18]

[18] See Bk. I., Chs. XXXVI., XXVII., and XVIII.

17. The predicate is, then, in every affirmative proposition,
identified with the subject. When we perceive, therefore, we affirm the
identity. Judgment, then, is the perception of the identity. We do not,
however, deny that in what we call assent there is often something more
than the simple perception of identity; but we do not understand how we
need any thing more than to see it evidently in order to assent to it.
What we call assent, adhesion of the understanding, seems to be a kind
of metaphor, as if the understanding would adhere, would yield itself
to the truth, if it were presented; but in reality we very much doubt
if, with respect to what is evident, there be any thing but perception
of the identity.

18. Hence it follows, that if the same ideas were to correspond in the
very same manner to the same words, the opposition and diversity of
judgments in different understandings would be impossible. When, then,
this diversity or opposition does exist, there is always a discrepancy
in the ideas.

19. We conceive of things, and reason upon them abstracted from their
existence or non-existence; or we even suppose them not to exist, that
is, conceive of relations between predicates and subjects without the
existence of either predicates or subjects. And as all contingent
beings may either be or cease to be, and even the first moment of their
being be designated, it follows that science, or the knowledge of
the nature and relations of beings, founded upon certain and evident
principles, has nothing contingent for its object inasmuch as it
exists. There is, then, an infinite world of truths beyond contingent

We conclude, from our reflections upon this, that there must be beyond
the contingent world a necessary being in which may be founded that
necessary truth which is the object of science. Science cannot have
nothing for its object; but contingent beings, if we abstract their
existence, are pure nothing. There can be no essence, no properties,
no relations in what is pure nothing; something therefore is necessary
whereon to base the necessary truth of those natures, properties, and
relations which the understanding conceives of in contingent beings
themselves. There is, then, a God; and to deny him, is to make science
a pure illusion. The unity of human reason furnishes us one proof of
this truth; the necessity of human science furnishes a second, and
confirms the first.[19]

[19] See Bk. IV., Ch. XXIII. to Ch. XXVII.

20. We find a conditional proposition involved in every necessary
proposition, wherein substantive being is not affirmed nor denied, but
the relative, as in this; all the diameters of a circle are equal.
Thus, the one we have just cited is equivalent to this one; if there
exists a circle all its diameters are equal. For in reality did no
circle exist, there would be no diameters, no equality, or any thing
else; nothing can have no properties; wherefore in all that is thus
affirmed we must understand the condition of its existence.

21. In general propositions the union conceived of two objects is
affirmed; but we must take good care to notice that although we are
wont to say that what is affirmed is the union of two ideas; this is
not, therefore, perfectly exact. When we assert that all the diameters
of a circle are equal, we do not mean that this is so only in ideas,
that we conceive it so to be, but that it really is so, beyond our own
understanding and in reality, and this abstracting our ideas and even
our own existence. Our understanding sees then a relation, a union of
the objects; and it affirms that whenever these exist, there will also
really exist the union, provided the conditions under which the object
is conceived be fulfilled.



22. One very important point concerning the idea of being remains to
be illustrated, and that is, whether this idea has possible or real
being for its object. The scholastics taught that the object of the
understanding was being; nor were they altogether without reason in
so doing, since one of the things we conceive of with the greatest
distinctness, and which is found to be the most fundamental in all
our ideas, is the idea of being, containing as it does in a certain
manner all other ideas. But as being is distinguished into actual and
possible, a difficulty occurs as to which of these categories the idea
of being, the chief object of our understanding, is applicable to.

23. The Abbate Rosmini, in his _Nuovo Saggio sull' origine delle
idee_, pretends that the form and the light of our understanding, and
the origin of all our ideas, consists in the idea, not of real, but
of possible being. "The simple idea of being," he says, "is not the
perception of any existing thing, but the intuition of some possible
thing; it is no more than the idea of the possibility of the thing."[20]

[20] Sec. 5, P. 1, C. 3, A. 1, § 2.

I very much doubt the truth of this; and there seems also to be some
confusion of ideas here. He ought to have defined possibility itself
for us, before making the idea of it enter into that of being. I
will myself give a definition of it, and this may serve greatly to
facilitate the understanding of the whole matter.

24. What is possibility? The idea of possibility, abstracted from its
classifications, offers us a general idea of the non-repugnance, or
non-exclusion, of two things with respect to each other; just as the
idea of impossibility presents us such a repugnance or exclusion. A
triangle cannot be a circle. A triangle may be equilateral. In the
former case we affirm the repugnance of the ideas of the triangle and
of the circle: in the latter, the non-repugnance of a triangle having
its three sides equal. It may be said that in these cases there is no
question of the existence of the triangle or of the circle; and that
the possibility or impossibility is referred to the repugnance of their
essences, abstracted from their existence or non-existence, although
ideal impossibility draws along with it real impossibility.

25. Since, whenever impossibility is asserted, repugnance also, is
asserted, and there can be no repugnance of a thing with itself, it
follows that impossibility is only possible when two or more ideas
are compared. On the other hand, when there is no repugnance there is
possibility; then, no simple idea, of itself alone, can offer to us
an impossible object. The object, therefore, of every simple idea is
always possible, that is, is not repugnant.

26. Those things only are intrinsically impossible which involve the
being and the not-being of the same thing; wherefore they are styled
contradictory. When an absurdity of this nature is presented to us, we
at once recollect the principle of contradiction, and say, this cannot
be, "since it would be and would not be at the same time." Why is a
circular triangle impossible? Because it would be and it would not be a
triangle at one and the same time.

The idea of not-being does then enter into that of impossibility:
without it, there can be no exclusion of being, and consequently,
neither contradiction nor impossibility.

27. Possibility may be understood in two ways: I., inasmuch as it
expresses only simple non-repugnance; and then what does not exist, is
not only possible when it does not involve any contradiction, but also,
the existing, the actual; II., inasmuch as it expresses non-repugnance,
united to the idea of not being realized; and then it is only
applicable to non-existing things. The possible taken in the former
sense, is opposed to the impossible; in the latter, it is opposed to
the existing; it involves, however, the condition of non-repugnance. In
the former case we have possibility simply so called; in the second,
pure possibility.

From these remarks we conclude that the idea of possibility adds
something to that of being, that is, non-repugnance, non-exclusion;
and if there be question of pure possibility, the non-existence of the
possible being is likewise added.

28. When the understanding perceives being in itself, it cannot
distinguish whether there is or is not repugnance; this is only
discoverable by comparison; for the idea of being, in itself simple,
does not include comparable terms. The idea of being can encounter
no repugnance if it be not applied to some determinate thing, to an
essence in which contradictory conditions are imagined, as may be
verified by seeking to apply being to a circular triangle.

29. So far is the idea of being in itself from being susceptible
of abstraction from the idea of existence, that it is rather the
idea itself of existence. When we conceive of being, in all its
abstractness, we conceive of nothing else than of existence; these two
words denote one and the same idea.

30. We can, in determinate things, conceive of the essence without
existence; thus also we can very easily consider all imaginable
geometrical figures and examine their properties and relations,
abstracted from their existence or non-existence; but the idea of
being, as something absolutely indeterminate, if it be abstracted from
existence, is also abstracted from itself, is annihilated.

I should be much obliged to any one who would tell me to what the
idea of being in general corresponds, abstracted from existence. If,
after abstracting all determination, we also abstract being itself,
what remains? Some one may answer, there remains a thing which may be.
What does _a thing_ mean? In case we abstract every thing determinate,
_thing_ can only signify a being; we should have a thing which may be,
and this is equivalent to a being which may be. This is very well:
but when we speak of a being which may be, is there only a question
of an impure possibility? then we do not abstract existence, and
the conditions of the supposition are not kept. Is there question
of pure possibility? then existence is denied, and the proposition
is equivalent to this: a being which is not, but which involves
no repugnance. Let us examine the meaning of this expression: "a
being which is not." What does the subject, a being, mean? a thing,
or rather, that which is. What does a thing mean? a being: then
abstraction is made from every thing determinate. Therefore, either the
subject of the proposition means nothing, or the proposition is absurd,
since it is equivalent to this, a thing which is, which is not, but
which involves no repugnance.

31. The origin of the equivocation we combat consists in applying to
the idea itself of being that which belongs only to things that are
something determinate, conceivable without existence. Pure being, in
all its abstractness, is inconceivable without actual being, it is
existence itself.

32. Nor does pure possibility mean any thing except in order to
existence. What is possible being if it cannot be realized, cannot
exist? The idea of being is therefore independent of the idea of
possibility; and the latter is only applicable in relation to the

33. The idea, then, of being is the very idea of existence, of
realization. If we conceive of pure being, without mixture or
modification, and subsisting in itself, we conceive of the infinite, we
conceive of God: but if we consider the idea of being as participated
in a contingent manner, by application to finite things, we then
conceive of their actuality or realization.

34. When we apply the idea of being to things, we have no intention of
applying to them that of possibility, but that of reality. If we say
the desk is, we affirm of the subject desk the predicate contained in
the idea of being: and still we do not mean to say that the desk is
possible, but that it really exists.

35. Nevertheless, the idea of being excludes that of not-being, in such
a way that if the idea of being were only of the possible, it would
not exclude that of not-being, since the purely possible even includes
not-being; possibility, therefore, does not enter into the sole idea of
being; and this idea expresses simply existence, reality.



36. What means the idea of purely possible being? If we maintain that
the object of the idea of being is reality, these two ideas, being, and
purely possible, would seem to be contradictory: reality is not purely
possible, for were it purely possible, it would not exist, and in the
non-existing there is no reality. Let us examine this difficulty, and
investigate the origin of the idea of pure possibility.

37. Surrounded as we are by contingent beings, contingent beings
ourselves, we are incessantly aware of the destruction of some, and the
production of others, that is to say, of the transition from being to
not-being, and from not-being to being. Our inward sense attests to us
this transition from not-being to being; we have ourselves experienced
it; all our recollections are limited to a very brief term, before
which the world already existed. Thus, then, reason, experience, and
inward sense show us that there are some objects which are, and then
disappear, and that others, which before were not, now appear. In those
things in which we witness this change, we perceive properties and
relations which give occasion to a certain combination of our ideas,
and this combination subsists whether the objects to which they refer
continue or cease to exist. In this way we form a general idea of
things which, although they do not exist, may exist; but this subject
_things_, does not express being, but in general finite, determinate

38. Here, then, is the solution of the difficulty. Purely possible
being, such as we conceive it to be in the manner explained, involves
no contradiction; it does not denote _a reality which is not a
reality_, but an object, or a finite, determinate thing, the idea of
which we have, although it do not exist, and whose existence involves
no contradiction, or repugnance with any of the conditions contained
in its idea. The expression, then, purely possible being, if it be
explained in this manner, is nothing more than the generalization of
these and other similar propositions. A desk which is not is possible.
What do we mean by this? Simply that in the idea of desk there is
nothing repugnant to its existing; and purely possible being signifies
nothing more than that we have many ideas of finite things which may
exist without repugnance. The expression refers to determinate things
conceived of by us, but we abstract in this case whether this or that
be the essence of which we speak, and comprise all those which offer no

39. If it be objected that an infinite, non-existing being would
then be a contradictory thing, we admit it without hesitation. If
an infinite being do not exist it is an absurdity; and if, when we
compare these two ideas, infinity and non-existence, we do not see
the repugnance between them with perfect clearness, it is because we
do not comprehend the nature of infinity. This is the only reason why
the demonstration of the existence of God founded simply on his idea,
has been and still is exposed to difficulties. But it is certain that
if the infinite being did not exist, it would be impossible. For that
is impossible which cannot exist; and did it not already exist it
could not exist. This existence could not come from another, since the
infinite cannot be a being produced; nor from itself, since it would
not exist. We do, it is true, imagine the infinite in its essence,
abstracted from its existence; but I repeat that this abstraction is
only possible to us because we cannot well comprehend the infinite;
could we comprehend it, we should see the repugnance between these
terms, infinity and non-existence, with the same clearness as we see
that of the triangle and circle.



40. When it is asserted that the object of the understanding is being,
there is room to doubt whether it is meant that the idea of being is
the general form of all conceptions, or only that all the understanding
conceives is being; or, in other words, whether the quality of object
is attributed to being, as being, in such a way that under this form
alone objects are conceivable, or only that the quality of being
belongs to all that the understanding conceives.

In the first case the proposition might be taken in a reduplicative
sense, and would then be equivalent to this: "The understanding
conceives nothing save inasmuch as it is being;" in the second it
might be taken formally, and be equivalent to this: "whatever the
understanding conceives is being."

41. We are of opinion that it cannot be said that the object of the
understanding is being only inasmuch as being; in such a way as to make
the idea of being the only form of the understanding's conceiving; but
that this form is an essential condition to all perception.

42. If we remark that the idea of being, in itself considered, neither
includes any determination or variety, nor expresses any thing more
than being, in its greatest abstractness, we shall not fail clearly
to perceive that this idea of being is not the only form conceived by
the understanding; if, therefore, the understanding do not perceive
any thing besides this idea in its objects, it cannot know their
differences; nor can its perception go beyond that which is common to
all, being.

43. If it be said that the differences perceived are modes of being,
modifications of that which is represented in the general idea, it is
at once agreed that being in itself is not the only form perceived;
since both modification and mode of being add something to the idea
of being. The rectangular triangle is a kind of triangle: its idea is
a modification of the general idea, and no one will pretend that the
idea of rectangular adds nothing to that of triangle, or that they are
both the same thing. The same is verified in the idea of being and its

44. We have already seen[21] that indeterminate ideas by themselves
alone do not lead to positive cognitions; and certainly no idea
better merits the name of indeterminate than that of being. Were our
understanding limited to it, perception would be nothing but a vague
conception, incapable of any combination.

[21] See Book IV., Ch. XXI.

45. Negation itself, as we shall hereafter see, is known to us, but
this it could not be were we to admit that the understanding knows
nothing save inasmuch as it is being; in which case the indispensable
condition of all cognition, the principle of contradiction, would
deceive us.

46. These reasons suffice to place beyond all doubt what we have
proposed to show, but as this point is intimately connected with what
is most transcendental in logic and metaphysics, we will endeavor to
explain it more at large in the following chapter.



47. We have said that the idea of being is not the sole form perceived,
but that it is a form necessary to all perception. We do not mean by
this to say that we cannot perceive without the actually existing;
but that existence enters in some degree as a condition of every
thing perceived. We will explain ourselves. When we simply perceive
an object, and affirm nothing of it, it is always offered to us as a
reality. Our idea certainly expresses something, but it has nothing
excepting reality. Even the perception of the essential relations of
things involves the condition that they exist. Thus, when we say that
in the same circle or in equal circles equal arcs are subtended by
equal chords, we suppose impliedly this condition, "if a circle exists."

48. Since this manner of explaining the cognition of the essential
relations of things may seem far-fetched, we will endeavor to present
it under the clearest possible point of view. When we affirm or deny
an essential relation of two things, do we affirm or deny it of our
own ideas or of the things? Clearly of the things, not of our ideas.
If we say, "the ellipse is a curve," we do not say this of our idea,
but of the object of our idea. We are well aware that our ideas are not
ellipses, that there are none in our head, and that when we reflect,
for example, upon the orbit of the earth, that this orbit is not within
us. Of what, then, do we speak? Not of the idea, but of its object; not
of what is in us, but of what is without us.

49. Nor do we mean that we _see_ it thus, but that it _is_ thus; when
we say the circumference is greater than the diameter, we do not mean
that we see it thus, but that it is thus. So far are we from speaking
of our idea, that we should assert it to be true although we did not
see it, and even although it were not to exist. We speak of our idea
only when we doubt of its correspondence with the object; then we do
not speak of reality, but of appearance, and in such cases our language
is admirably exact, for we do not say, _it is_, but, _it seems to us_.

50. Our affirmations and negations, therefore, refer to their
objects. Now, we argue thus: what does not exist is pure nothing, and
nothing can either be affirmed or denied of nothing, since it has no
property or relation of any kind, but is a pure negation of every
thing; therefore, nothing can be affirmed or denied; there can be no
combination, no comparison, no perception, except on condition of

We say _on condition_, because we know the properties and relations of
many things which do not exist; but in all that we do know of them,
this condition always enters: if they exist.

51. Hence it follows that our science rests always on a postulate; and
we purposely use this mathematical expression in order to show that
those sciences which are called exact by antonomasy do not disdain this
condition which we exact from all science. The greater part of them
commence with this postulate: "Let a line be drawn, &c.," "Suppose B to
be a right angle, &c.," "Take a quantity A greater than B, &c." This
is the way the mathematician, with all his rigor, always supposes the
condition of existence.

52. It is necessary to suppose this existence, otherwise nothing
could be explained. Common sense teaches us what has escaped some
metaphysicians. To prove it, let us see how a mathematician, who never
dipped into metaphysics, would talk. We will suppose the interlocutor
to set out to demonstrate to us that in a rectangular triangle the
square of the hypothenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of
the base and perpendicular; and that we, in order to exercise his
intelligence, or rather to make him show us, without himself being
aware of it, what is passing in his own mind with respect to the
perception of its object, put various questions to him, in reality
searching, although apparently asked out of ignorance. We will adopt
the form of a dialogue for the sake of greater clearness, and will
suppose the demonstration to be given from memory, without the aid of

_Demonstration._ Drop a perpendicular from the right angle to the


Why, in the triangle of which we speak, of course.

But, sir, if there be no such triangle----

Why then, what are we talking of?

We are talking of a rectangular triangle, and the case supposed is that
there is none.

Is not, but can be. Take paper, a pencil, and ruler, and we will have
one right away.

That is to say, you speak of the triangle we may make?

Yes, sir.

Ah, I understand; but then we should have it; now, we have not got it.

All in good time. But if we had drawn it, could we not drop the


That is all I meant to say.

But you were saying drop----

No doubt we cannot drop a perpendicular in a triangle unless the
triangle exists, since then there is neither vertex of a right angle,
hypothenuse, nor any thing else; but when I say, drop a perpendicular,
I always suppose a triangle; and as it is evident that the triangle may
exist, I do not express the supposition, but understand it.

I comprehend this; but then we should drop the perpendicular only in
this triangle, but you spoke as if we might drop it in all triangles.

I only took this triangle for an example; we can clearly do with all
others what we can do with this one.

With all?

Certainly. Can you not see how, in every rectangular triangle, a
perpendicular may be drawn from the right angle to the hypothenuse?

Yes, in your figure; but since what is in my head is not a triangle,
for I imagine some with sides a thousand miles long, and there is not
in my head room enough--

There is no question of what is in your head, but of triangles

But these triangles do not exist; therefore, we can say nothing of them.

Yes; but may they not exist?

Who doubts it?

Well then, if they do exist, be they large or small, in one position
or another, here or there, is it not true that a perpendicular may be
drawn from the vertex of the right angle to the hypothenuse?


I have then only to say that, in every rectangular triangle, this
perpendicular may be drawn.

Then you do not speak of those which do not exist? Is it not so?

I speak of all, whether they do or do not exist.

But a perpendicular cannot be drawn in a triangle which does not exist.
What does not exist is nothing.

But perhaps that which does not exist may exist; and I see with perfect
clearness how every thing said would be verified, _supposing it to
exist_. Thus we can and do speak of all existences and non-existences
without any exception.

We leave it to the reader to judge if we have not, while thus rudely
troubling our good mathematician with our importunate questions, made
him reply as would have replied every one not at all acquainted with
metaphysics. It is evident that these replies ought to be accepted as
reasonable, as satisfactory, and as the only ones in this case that all
the mathematicians in the world could give.

This being so, all that we have advanced is found in these replies and
explications. All science is founded on the postulate of existence;
every argument, to demonstrate even the most essential properties and
relations of things, must start with the supposition of their existence.



53. We have said that the foundation of the pure possibility of things,
and of their properties and relations, is founded in the essence of
God, wherein is the reason of every thing.[22] And it may at first sight
seem that science needs only this foundation, and does not require
to rest upon the condition of the existence of things; because, if
essences are represented in God, the object of science is found in
the Divine essence; and consequently, the argument founded upon the
impossibility of asserting any thing of nothing, is not conclusive.
Supposing there to be such a representation, science is not occupied
with a pure nothing, but with a real thing; and it has consequently in
view a positive object, even when it abstracts the reality of the thing

[22] See L. IV., C. XXIII. to XXVII.

Let us see how we can solve this difficulty.

54. The necessary relations of things, independently of their
existence, must have a sufficient reason; and this can only be in
necessary being. The condition, therefore, of existence, presupposes
the representation of the essence of the contingent being in necessary
being; the condition, therefore, "if it exist," cannot be brought in
unless it presupposes the foundation of possibility.

55. This remark shows that there are two questions:--1st: What is
the foundation of the intrinsic possibility of things? 2d: Supposing
possibility, what condition is involved in so much as it is affirmed
or denied of the possible object? The foundation of the possibility is
God; and the condition is the existence of the objects considered.

Both are requisite to science; if the foundation of intrinsic
possibility be wanting, the condition of existence cannot come in; and
if, admitting the possibility, we omit the condition, science has no

56. We would remark, for the better understanding of this whole
subject, that we do not, in affirming or denying the relations of
beings represented in God, treat of what these beings are in God, but
of what they would be in themselves were they to exist. In God, all are
the same God; for all that is in God, is identical with God. If, then,
we consider things only as they are in him, we shall have God, not the
things, for object. Certain it is, that in God is the foundation, or
the sufficient reason, of geometrical truths: but geometry does not
consider them such as they are in God, but such as they are or may
be realized. In God, there are neither lines nor dimensions of any
kind; he, therefore, is not the object of geometry properly so called.
Geometrical truths have in him an objective value or representative
value, but not subjective; we should otherwise be obliged to say that
God is extensive.

57. Here, then, is seen that what we said above in the place cited,
does not conflict with what we have here established; and that to make
God the foundation of all possibility, does not exclude the scientific
necessity of the condition of existence.

58. We will, in order to place this beyond all doubt, present the
question under another aspect, by showing that when God knows finite
truths, he sees in them this condition likewise: "If they exist." God
knows the truth of this proposition: "Triangles of equal base and
altitude are of equal superfices:" this is true as well in the eyes of
infinite intelligence, as in ours; were it not thus the proposition
would not be true in itself, and we should be in error. This being so,
there are in God, who is most simple being, no true figures, although
he has the intellectual perception of them. The cognition, then,
of God, in what relates to finite things, refers to their possible
existence, and consequently involves the condition that they exist.

The cognition of God does not refer to their purely ideal
representation, but to their actual or possible reality; when God
knows a truth of finite beings, he does not know it from the sole
representation of those truths which he has in himself, but from that
which they would be were they to exist.

59. Every object may be considered either in the real or in the ideal
order. The ideal is their representation in an understanding, which
has a value only inasmuch as it refers to possible or actual reality.
In this manner alone can the idea have objectiveness, since otherwise
it could only be a purely subjective fact, of which, excepting the
purely subjective, nothing could be either affirmed or denied. The idea
which we have of the triangle aids us, in so far as it has a real or
possible object, to know and combine: we refer what we affirm or deny
of it to its object: if this disappear, the idea is converted into a
purely subjective fact, to which we cannot apply the properties of a
triangular figure without an open contradiction.



60. It is said that the understanding does not conceive nothing: this
is true in the sense that we do not conceive nothing as something,
which would be a contradiction; but it does not therefore follow, that
we do not in any mode conceive nothing. Not-being is nothing, and yet
we conceive not-being. This perception is necessary to us; without it
we could not perceive contradiction; for which reason the principle of
contradiction: "It is impossible for a thing to exist and not to exist
at the same time:" fundamental as it is in our cognitions, would fail

61. It may be said that to conceive nothing, not-being, is not to
conceive, but to not-conceive: this, however, is false, for it is not
the same thing to conceive that a thing is not, and not to conceive
it. The former involves a negative judgment, and may be expressed by a
negative proposition; and the latter is the simple absence of the act
of perception; the former is objective, the latter subjective. We do
not when asleep perceive things; but this non-perception is by no means
equivalent to perceiving that they are not. It may be said of a stone
that it does not perceive another stone; but not that it perceives the
non-being of the other stone.

62. The perception of not-being is a positive act; and it would be
a contradiction to say that it is the very perception of being; for
it would follow, that whenever we perceive being, we perceive its
negation, not-being, and _vice versa_, which is an absurdity.

63. When we perceive not-being, we do, it is true, perceive it in
relation to being; and it is equally true, an understanding perceiving
absolute not-being, without any idea of being, is altogether
inconceivable; but this does not prove the two ideas not to be distinct
and contradictory.

64. It is remarkable that the idea of negation, besides entering into
the fundamental principles of our understanding: "It is impossible for
a thing to be and not to be at the same time:" "Every thing either is
or is not:" is also necessary to almost all of our perceptions. We do
not conceive distinct beings without conceiving that one _is not_ the
other, and we cannot form a negative judgment into which negation does
not enter. Hence it results that just as the idea of being is absolute
and relative, also is the idea of not-being: thus, we say, "The sun
_is_;" "All the diameters of a circle _are_ equal;" and we also say,
"The phœnix _is not_:" "The diameters of an ellipse _are not_ equal."

65. We may ask those who hold that every idea is the image of the
object, what sort of an image the idea of not-being would form? This
confirms what we have already advanced, that it is a mistake to
imagine all ideas as a kind of types, similar to things, and that we
cannot oftentimes explain any of those inward phenomena, called ideas,
notwithstanding we know and explain their objects by them.

66. It is also said that the object of the understanding is being;
but this is inexplicable in the sense that the understanding does
not perceive not-being; and can be understood only in the sense that
we perceive not-being as coordinated to being, and that not-being of
itself alone, cannot be the origin of any cognition.

Remark here an important difference. By the idea of being every thing
may be understood; and the more of being there is in the idea, the
more do we understand; and if an idea be supposed to represent a
being without any limitation, or, which is the same thing, without
any negation, we should have a cognition of an infinite being. On
the contrary, the perception of not-being teaches us nothing, save
inasmuch as it shows us the limitation of determinate beings and their
relations; and if we suppose the idea of not-being to be gradually
extended, we shall see that in proportion as it approaches its limits,
that is, pure not-being, absolute nothing, the understanding loses its
object; the points of comparison and the elements of combination fail;
all light goes out, and intelligence dies.

67. We know universal, absolute nothing, only as a momentary condition
which we imagine, but do not admit. In it we see that it is impossible
that something should not exist; for, could any one instant be
designated in which nothing existed, nothing could now exist. In
this imaginary nothing, we discover no point of departure for the
understanding; all combinations become impossible and absurdities; the
mind sees itself perishing in the vacuum it has itself created.

68. If the idea of negation be not combined with that of being, it
is perfectly sterile; but thus combined, it has a kind of fecundity
peculiar to itself. The ideas of distinction, of limitation, and of
determination, involve a relative negation, for we do not conceive
distinct beings without conceiving that one is not another; nor
limited beings, without conceiving that they _are wanting_, that is,
that in some sense they _are not_; nor determinate beings, without
conceiving something which makes them what they are and not others.



69. Let us examine how we may draw from the idea of not-being the
explication of the ideas of identity and distinction, unity and

Let us conceive a being, and fix our attention solely on it, and
compare it with nothing which is not it, nor permit any idea of
not-being to come in; we shall then, with respect to it, have the
ideas of identity and unity; or, to speak more exactly, these ideas
of identity and unity will be nothing else than ideas of this same
being. Ideas of unity and identity are for this reason inexplicable
by themselves alone; they are simple, or are confounded with a simple
idea in which can be no comparison, and into which if negation enter,
it is not noted, nor can be made the object of reflection. Thus,
for instance, the idea of not-being enters in some manner into the
perception of every limited being; but we can abstract this negation,
and consider what the object _is_, not what it _is not_.

70. If we perceive a being, and afterwards another being, the
perception that one is not the other gives the idea of distinction, and
consequently that also of multiplicity. There is, then, no distinction
or number without perception of relative _not-being_ combined with
_being_; but this perception is all that is requisite to distinction
and number.

71. The ideas of identity and unity are simple, those of distinction
and number composite; the former involve no negation, the latter imply
a negative judgment; "this is not that." It is impossible for A to be
presented to us as distinct from B, if we do not perceive that B is
not A; and on the other hand, we need only to know that B is not A, in
order to enable us to say they are distinct. These expressions, "A is
not B," or, "A and B are distinct," are perfectly identical.

72. From this we infer that the primary combination of our intelligence
consists in the perception of being and not-being. By it we perceive
identity and distinction, unity and number; by it we compare, affirm,
or deny; without it we cannot even think. Without the perception
of negation, we can have only the perception of being, that is, an
intuition fixed upon an identical object, one and immutable, such as we
conceive the Divine Intelligence to be, contemplating the infinity of
being in the infinite essence.

73. Does God know negations? Certainly; for when a being ceases
to exist, God knows this truth, in which there is a negation. He
knows the truth of all negative propositions, whether it expresses
substantive or relative being; therefore, he knows negation. But this
is no imperfection, since it cannot be an imperfection to know truth;
the imperfection is in the objects, which, by the very fact of being
finite, include negation, being combined with not-being. Were God not
to know negation, it would be because negation is in itself impossible;
which would be equivalent to the impossibility of the existence of the
finite, and would lead to the absolute and exclusive necessity of one
sole infinite being.



74. If it be impossible to think without the idea of being, it exists
prior to any reflex act, and it cannot have sprung from reflection.
The idea of being must therefore be innate. Let us investigate this

75. We have shown in the preceding chapter that we cannot think without
the idea of being; let whoever doubts this consult his own experience,
and make, if he can, a reflex act into which the idea of being will not
enter. We have already seen that we cannot exclude it in the conception
of first principles, and beyond these it is certain no one will go.

76. Can this idea have come to us from sensation? Sensation in itself
offers us only determinate objects, whereas the idea of being is an
indeterminate thing: sensation offers us only particular things,
whereas the idea of being is the most general it is possible to have:
sensation teaches us nothing, tells us nothing, except what it is, a
simple affection of our soul, whereas the idea of being is a vast idea,
extending to all, and, fecundating our mind in an admirable manner, is
the element of all reflection and alone sufficient to found a science:
sensation never leaves itself, nor extends to another sensation; the
sense of touch has nothing to do with that of hearing; all belong to an
instant of time, and only exist during it, whereas the idea of being
guides the mind through every class of beings, the corporeal and the
incorporeal, the real and the possible, the temporal and the eternal,
the finite and the infinite.

If we discover any thing by sensations, if they produce any
intellectual fruit, it is because we reflect upon them; but reflection
is impossible without the idea of being.

77. Neither does it seem that the idea of being can be formed by
abstraction. To abstract is of necessity to reflect; and reflection
is impossible without this idea; therefore, it is necessary to
abstraction, and consequently cannot have abstraction for its cause.

78. On the other hand, an exceedingly simple explication of the
method in which abstraction is made, may be opposed to this argument
apparently so conclusive. We see the paper upon which we write; this
sensation involves two things, whiteness and extension. Were we
limited to simple sensation, here we should stop, and receive only
the impression, extension and whiteness. But having within ourselves
a faculty distinct from that of feeling, which makes us capable of
reflecting upon the very sensation we experience, we can consider
that this sensation has some similarity to others which we recollect
to have experienced. We can then consider extension and whiteness in
themselves, abstracting the actual affection which they produce in us.
Afterwards we can reflect upon the fact that these sensations have
something in common with others, inasmuch as they all affect us in a
certain manner, and then we have the idea of sensation in general. If,
then, we consider that these sensations all have something in common
with all that is in us, in so far as they modify us in a certain
manner, we shall form an idea of a modification of the _me_, making
abstraction, however, of its being a sensation, a thought, or an act
of the will; and if, finally, we abstract from these things being in
us, their being substances or modifications, and attend only to the
fact that they are something, we shall have attained the idea of being.
This idea may, therefore, be formed by abstraction. This explication,
seductive as it is by reason of its simplicity, is open to grave

79. From the very beginning of this process we make use, without
adverting to it, of the idea of being; we therefore deceive ourselves
when we imagine that we form it. We cannot reflect upon extension and
whiteness without remarking that they exist, that they are _something_
similar to other sensations. When we think upon what affects us, we
know that _we are_, that that which affects us _is_, and we speak of
its being or not being, of its having or not having _something common_;
and finally, when we abstract the modifications of our mind as being
this or that, and regard them only as _thing_, as _something_, as
a _being_, we evidently cannot so consider them if there does not
exist in us the idea of _something_ in general, that is, of being.
Thus being is a predicate which we apply to things; we do, therefore,
know this predicate. We only collect in one general and indeterminate
idea, particular and determinate things, already existing in our
understanding. The successive operations made by means of abstraction
are only a decomposition of the object, a classification of it in
various general ideas so as to attain to the superior idea of being.

80. It is difficult in view of these reasons, which are all strong,
to decide without danger of erring for either of the opinions
advanced. Nevertheless, we shall give our own in accordance with
the principles we have laid down in different parts of this work.
We hold that the idea of being is not innate, in the sense that it
pre-exists in our understanding as a type anterior to all sensation
and to all intellectual acts;[23] but we see no impropriety in calling
it innate, if nothing more be meant than the _innate faculty_ of our
understanding to perceive objects under the general reason of being or
existence, so often as it reflects upon them. Thus the idea does not
flow from sensations; it is recognized as a primary element of pure
understanding; but it is not formed by abstraction, which separates it
from others, and purifies it, so to speak, itself contributing to this
purification. In this sense it may exist before reflection, and yet be
the fruit of reflection, according to the various stages in which we
consider it. Inasmuch as it is mixed and confused with other ideas, it
exists before reflection; but inasmuch as it has been separated and
purified, it is the fruit of the same reflection.

[23] See L. IV., C. XXX.

81. We must, in order to give a complete solution of the difficulties
proposed, give our ideas precision and exactness.

The idea of being is not only general but also indeterminate; it offers
to the mind nothing real or even possible, since we do not conceive
that a being, which is only being, does or can exist, if no property
besides that of being can be affirmed of it. In God is the plenitude
of being; he is his own being; with reason does he call himself, I
AM, WHO AM; but we also affirm of him, with all truth, that he is
intelligent, that he is free, and that he possesses other perfections
not expressed in the pure and general idea of being.

From this we infer that we ought not to regard the idea of being as
a type representing to us something determinate, even something in

82. The act by which we perceive being, existence, reality, is
necessary to our understanding, but it is confounded with all other
intellectual acts, as a condition _sine qua non_ of them all, until
reflection comes to separate it from them, purifying it, and making it
the object of our perception.

Since, when we perceive, we perceive something, it is evident that
the reason of being is always involved in all our perceptions; by
the simple fact of knowing we know being, that is, we know _a thing_.
But as we do not always, when we fix our perception upon an object,
distinguish the various reasons into which it may be decomposed,
although the idea of being is contained in every object perceived,
it is not directly perceived by our understanding until reflection
separates it from all else.

83. If we reflect upon an azure object, evidently the idea of color
enters into that of azure; but without reflection we shall not
distinguish the genus, color, and the difference, azure. These two
things are not really distinguished in the object perceived; for it
would be ridiculous to pretend that in a particular azure-colored
object, color is one thing and azure another. Nevertheless we can,
when we reflect upon the object, very easily distinguish between the
two ideas of color and azure, and we can discuss one without paying
attention to the other. Must we say we have the idea of color in
general, prior to the sensible representation? Most certainly not:
it is only necessary to recognize an innate force of the mind to
generalize what is presented to it in particular, and to decompose a
simple object into various ideas or aspects.

84. Our understanding is endowed with an intellectual force, by virtue
of which it can conceive unity under the idea of multiplicity, and
multiplicity under the idea of unity. We discover an example of the
latter when we unite what is really multiple in a single conception.
Our understanding may be compared to a prism which decomposes a ray
of light into many colors; hence different conceptions relating to
one simple object. When multiplicity is to be reduced to unity, the
intellectual force operates in an altogether contrary manner; instead
of dispersing, it unites; the variety of colors disappears, and the ray
of light is restored in all its purity and simplicity.

85. Our mind, from the fact that it is limited to know many things
by conceptions only, and not by intuitions, requires the faculty of
composing and decomposing, of seeing a simple thing under distinct
aspects, and of joining different things under a common reason.

We must not fail to observe that the power of generalizing and
of dividing, given to our understanding, is a great help to it,
indicating, however, its weakness in the intellectual order, and
continually warning it to proceed with due circumspection, when it has
to decide upon the intimate nature of things.

86. According to this doctrine, general, and more particularly
indeterminate ideas result from the exercise of reflection upon our own
perceptive acts; and there is in the general idea nothing more than
is seen in the particular perception, excepting its own generality
produced by the elimination of all individuating conditions. This is
especially verified in the idea of being, which, as we have seen,
enters as a necessary condition into all our perceptions, and is,
moreover, requisite to all operations as well of composition as of

We cannot conceive, without conceiving _some thing, a being_; and
this is substantive being. We cannot affirm or deny without saying,
_is_, or _is not_; and this is copulative being. The idea of being
is, therefore, less an idea than a condition necessary to enable our
understanding to exercise its functions; it is not a type representing
nothing determinate; it is rather the very condition of its life,
without which it cannot possibly exercise its activity.

87. But we can, by reflection, perceive this condition of all our
thoughts; the idea of being, standing, as it does, involved with
the others, is then presented purified to our eyes, and we conceive
that general reason of _being_, or _thing_, which enters into all
our perceptions, but which we had not previously distinguished with
sufficient clearness.



88. It has been much disputed in the schools whether existence is
distinct from essence. At first sight, this seems an indifferent
question; but such it is not, if we attend to the consequences which,
in the opinion of respectable authors, flow from it; for they pretend
to no less than establishing upon the distinction between essence and
existence a characteristic note of the finite, attributing to infinite
being alone, the identity of its essence with its existence.

89. That we distinguish between the essence and the existence of things
is beyond all doubt; for inasmuch as we know an object realized, we
conceive its existence; and inasmuch as we know that this object exists
with this or that determination, constituting it in such or such a
species, we conceive its essence. The idea of existence represents
to us pure reality; the idea of essence offers us the determination
of this reality. The schools, however, not satisfied with this, have
endeavored to transfer to things that distinction which we discover in
our conceptions; but their opinion seems to be subtle rather than solid.

90. The essence of a thing is that which makes it what it is, and
distinguishes it from all else; and existence is the act which gives
being to essence, or that by which essence exists. It would appear,
from these definitions, that there really is no distinction between
essence and existence. To render two things distinct, it is requisite
that one be not the other; but since essence, abstracted from
existence, is nothing, we cannot say that there is a real distinction
between them. To what is the essence of a man, if we abstract his
existence, reduced? To nothing; and therefore, no relation between them
is admissible. We grant that when we abstract the existence of man, we
do yet conceive the essence of man; but the question is not whether
we distinguish between the idea of man and his existence, but whether
there is a real distinction between his own essence and existence.

91. In God are the essences of all things, and in this sense they may
be said to be distinguished from finite existence; this does not,
however, if we consider it well, at all affect the present question.
When things exist in God, they are not any thing distinct from him;
they are represented in the Infinite Intelligence, which is, with
all its representations, the infinite essence itself. To compare,
therefore, the finite existence of things with their essence, as this
is in God, is entirely to change the state of the question, and to seek
the relation of things, not with their particular essences, but with
the representations of the Divine understanding.

92. It may be objected that, if the existence of finite beings is the
same as their essence, it will follow that existence will be essential
to these beings; for, since nothing is more essential than essence
itself, finite beings would exist of necessity, as all that pertains
to essence is necessary. The radii of a circle are all equal, for
equality is contained in the essence of the circle; and in like manner,
if existence belong to the essence of things, they must exist, and
non-existence would be a veritable contradiction.

This difficulty rests upon the ambiguous meaning of the word _essence_,
and the want of exactness in joining the ideas of essential and
necessary. The relation of essential properties is necessary, for we
cannot destroy it without falling into contradiction. The radii of a
circle are equal, because equality is involved in the very idea of
the circle; consequently, if this be denied, it would be affirmed and
denied at one and the same time. There is, however, no contradiction
when some properties are not compared with others; but this comparison
is not made when there is question of essence and existence, for in
this case one thing is not compared with another, but with itself;
if the distinction be introduced, it does not refer to two things,
but to one and the same thing considered under two aspects, or in two
different states, in the ideal order and in the real.

When we consider essence abstracted from existence, the object is the
union of the properties which give to beings such or such a nature;
we abstract their existence or non-existence, and attend only to
what they would be were they to exist. The condition of existence is
either expressly or impliedly involved in all that we affirm or deny
of properties; but when we consider essence realized or existing,
we do not compare property with property but the thing with itself.
In this case, non-existence does not imply contradiction; for when
existence disappears, the essence also disappears, with all that it
included. There would be a contradiction were we to assert that essence
implies existence, and to endeavor, while the former remains, to make
the latter disappear, which is not verified in this supposition. The
equality of the radii of a circle cannot fail, so long as the circle
does not fail; and the contradiction would be to make the radii unequal
while the circle continues to be a circle; but were the circle to cease
to be a circle, there would be no reason why the radii should not be
unequal. Essence is the same as existence; so long as there is essence,
so long will there be existence; if the essence fail the existence
will likewise fail; where, then, is the contradiction? Life is of the
essence of man, and yet man dies; we may then say man is destroyed, and
therefore there is in this no contradiction. If the essence cease to
exist, it also will be destroyed, and existence, which is identified
with it, may fail without any contradiction.

93. The scholastics taught that the being whose essence was the same
as its existence would be infinite and absolutely immutable, because,
since existence is the complement in the line of being or of act, it
could receive nothing more. This difficulty also originates in the
equivocal sense of words. What is meant by _complement_ in the line
of being or act? If it mean that nothing can supervene to essence
identified with existence, here is a begging of the question, since
what was to be proved is asserted. If it mean that existence is the
complement in the line of being or act in the sense that, given it,
nothing more is wanted to make the things, whose existence it is,
really existing, an indubitable truth is advanced, but not one from
which what was to be demonstrated can be inferred.

94. It would seem, therefore, that there is no real distinction in
things corresponding to the distinction between essence and existence
in our conceptions. Essence is not distinguished from existence, but it
does not therefore cease to be finite, nor existence to be contingent.
In God existence is identified with essence; but in such a manner, that
his non-existence implies contradiction, and his essence is infinite.



95. Kant numbers among his categories reality and negation, or
existence and non-existence, and, conformably to his principles,
defines them thus: "Reality is a pure conception of the understanding;
it is what corresponds, in general, to any sensation whatever,
consequently that whose conception denotes a being in itself, in time.
Negation is that whose conception represents a not-being in time.
The opposition of these two things consists in the difference of the
same time, as full or void. Since then, time consists solely in the
form of the intuition, and consequently in the form of the objects
as phenomena, it follows that that which in them corresponds to the
sensation, is the transcendental matter of all objects, as things
in themselves, essential reality. Every sensation has a degree or
intensity, by which it may fill more or less the same time, that is,
the inward sense relatively to the representation of an object, until
it be reduced to nothing = 0 = negation."

There is in this passage a fundamental error which ruins the whole
basis of all intelligence: there is also much confusion in his
application of the idea of time.

96. According to Kant, reality alone refers to sensations; therefore
the idea of being will be the idea of the phenomena of sensibility in
general; this idea will mean nothing, if applied to the non-sensible;
the very principle of contradiction will necessarily be limited to the
sphere of sensibility; and we neither shall know, or be able to know
any thing without the sensible order. Such are the consequences of this
doctrine; let us now examine the solidity of the principle from which
they flow.

97. Were the idea of reality only the idea of the sensible in
general, we could never apply it to non-sensible things, which,
however, experience teaches we can do. We speak incessantly of the
possibility and even of the existence of non-sensible beings, and we
even distinguish the phenomena of our mind into those belonging to
sensibility, and those which correspond to the purely intellectual
order. The idea of being, therefore, for us, denotes a general
conception non-circumscribed by the sensible order.

98. Kant will answer that the applications we make of this idea,
extending it beyond the sphere of sensibility, are vain illusions
expressed in unmeaning words. To this we reply.

I. There is now no question of ascertaining whether the applications of
the idea of being or reality beyond the sensible order be founded or
unfounded; there is question only of ascertaining what it is that this
idea represents to us, whether the object represented be illusory or
not. Kant, when defining reality, regards it as one of his categories,
and consequently, as one of the pure conceptions of the understanding.
To make his definition good, he ought to employ this conception in its
greatest possible extent: but as he has demonstrated that conception,
in itself, is not limited to the sphere of sensibility, it must follow
that his definition is inadmissible. Had he said that the applications
of the conception beyond the sensible order were unfounded, he would
indeed have erred, but would not have destroyed conception itself;
yet he equivocates not only in the uses of conception, but also in
its nature, which he can only ruin, if he limit it to the sphere of

II. The principle of contradiction is founded in the idea of being,
and extends as well to the non-sensible as to the sensible. It would
follow, were we to admit Kant's doctrine, that the principle of
contradiction, "It is impossible for a thing to be and not to be at the
same time," would be equivalent to this proposition; "It is impossible
for a phenomenon of sensibility to appear and not to appear at the same
time." Evidently neither philosophy nor common sense ever gave such a
meaning to the principle of contradiction. When the impossibility of
a thing's being and not being at the same time is affirmed, this is
asserted in general, and abstraction is absolutely made of the things
pertaining or not pertaining to the sensible order. Were it not thus,
we should be obliged to say that non-sensible beings are absolutely
impossible, which even Kant does not venture to maintain, or, supposing
them to exist, to doubt whether the principle of contradiction is
applicable to them. Who sees not the absurdity of such a doubt,
and that, if it be admitted for a single instant, all intelligence
is destroyed? If we limit the generality of the principle of
contradiction, the impossibility is no longer absolute: and supposing
it to fail in certain cases, who shall assure us that it does not in

III. Kant himself admits the distinction between the phenomena of
sensibility and purely intellectual conceptions: with him, therefore,
reality comprises something more than the sensible. Purely intellectual
conceptions are a reality, are something at least as subjective
phenomena of our mind, and yet are not sensible, as Kant himself
confesses; he therefore falls into a contradiction, when he limits the
idea of reality to the purely sensible.

99. Kant conceives reality and negation only as filling, or leaving
void, time, which, in his opinion, is the primitive form of our
intuitions, and a kind of back-ground upon which the mind sees all
objects, even its own operations. According to this doctrine, the ideas
of time precede those of reality and negation, since only in relation
to it are the two latter conceivable. And now we see the singularity
of a form, or whatever else it be called, to which the ideas of
reality and negation are made to refer when nothing is conceivable
without the idea of reality. Kant, scrupulous as he is in the analysis
of the elements of our mind, and contemptuous as he is towards all
metaphysicians who preceded him, ought to have explained to us the
nature of this form in which we see reality, and which, nevertheless,
is not contained in the idea of reality. If it is something, it will be
a reality; and if it is not something, it will be a pure nothing; and
consequently, it cannot be a form which can, by filling and becoming
void, present to our mind the ideas of reality or negation. It would
be easy to show, by an abundance of reason, the German philosopher's
equivocation, when he so inexactly determines the relations between
time and the idea of being; but as we propose to explain at length the
idea of time, we will pass over here what belongs to another part of
this work.



100. We wish now to recapitulate the doctrine brought out in the
preceding chapters, so that it may be seen at a glance in all its
bearings and connections.

The idea of being is so fruitful in results, that we must sound it
under all its aspects, and never lose sight of it in investigating
transcendental philosophy.

101. We have the idea of _ens_, or of being in general; reason and our
inward sense both attest it.

102. This idea is simple, and cannot be resolved into other elements:
it expresses a general reason of things, and its nature is in a
certain manner destroyed if it be mingled with particular ideas. It is
intuitive, but indeterminate to such a degree that, by itself alone, it
affords us no idea of a real or possible being. We not only know that
every being is, but that it is _some thing_ which is its predicate:
even the Infinite Being is not only a being, but is an intelligent
and free being, and formally possesses all perfections which imply no

103. The idea of being may express either simple existence, in which
case it is substantive, or the relation of a predicate with a subject,
and then it is copulative. In the proposition, "the sun _is_," being is
substantive, that is, expresses existence; in the proposition, "the sun
_is luminous_," being is copulative, that is, it denotes the relation
of the predicate with a subject.

104. The ideas of identity and distinction originate in the ideas of
being and of not-being; and thus the idea of copulative being, which
affirms the identity of a predicate with a subject, flows also in a
manner from the idea of substantive being.

105. Being, which is the principal object of the understanding, is not
the possible inasmuch as possible. We conceive possibility only in
order to actuality. Possibility flows from actuality, not actuality
from possibility. We could not conceive pure possibility, that is,
possibility without existence, did we not conceive finite beings in
whose idea being is not of necessity involved, and of whose appearance
and disappearance we are incessantly reminded by experience.

106. The understanding perceives being, and this is a condition
indispensable to all its perceptions; but the idea of being is not the
only one offered to it, since it knows different modes of being, which,
by the very fact that they are _modes_, add something to the general
and absolute idea of existence.

107. When we consider the essences of things, and abstract their
reality, our cognitions always involve this condition,--if they exist.
There can be only a conditional science of the purely possible,
insomuch as it is not; that is, provided the object pass from
possibility to reality. We must, in order to establish pure possibility
so that it may have necessary relations, subject to the condition of
existence, have recourse to a necessary being, origin of all truth.

108. The essences of things in the abstract mean nothing, nor can they
become the object of affirmation or negation, unless we suppose a
necessary being in which is the reason of the relations of things, and
of the possibility of their existence.

109. Pure truth, independent of all understanding, of all being created
or uncreated, is an illusion, or rather an absurdity. With pure nothing
there is no truth. Truth cannot be _atheistic_; without God there is no

110. We not only know being, but also not-being. We have an idea of
negation, and it always refers to some being. Absolute nothing cannot
be the object of intelligence. The idea of not-being has its own
peculiar fecundity; combined with that of being, it gives the principle
of contradiction, engenders the ideas of distinction and multiplicity,
and makes negative judgments possible.

111. The idea of being does not flow from sensations; neither is
it innate, in the sense that it pre-exists in our understanding as
a type prior to all perceptions. There is no reason why it may not
be called innate, if this mean only a condition _sine qua non_ of
all our intellectual acts, and consequently of the exercise of our
innate faculties. The idea of being is mingled in every intellectual
perception, but it is not offered to us with perfect clearness and
distinctness until we separate it by reflection from the particular
ideas which accompany it.

112. Essence is not distinguished from existence even in finite
beings. It is a distinction in conceptions, to which there is no real
distinction corresponding.

113. The identity of essence with existence does not involve the
necessity of finite things. The arguments by which some pretend to
establish this consequence are founded upon an ambiguous meaning of

114. Kant's opinion, which limits the idea of reality, and that also of
negation, to the purely sensible order, would destroy all intelligence,
since it overthrows the very principle of contradiction. This doctrine
of the German philosopher is also in opposition with what he himself
taught concerning purely intellectual conceptions, distinct from
sensible representations. When he refers the ideas of reality and
negation to that of time, as the primitive form of the inward sense,
he leaves out of the idea of reality what no less pertains to it, and
presents the idea of time under a point of view wholly equivocal.

115. As sensible representation is based upon the finite intuition
of extension, so the perceptive faculties of the pure understanding
receive the idea of being as their foundation. In the same manner
that extension is presented to sensibility as limitable, and from
limitability results figurability, and consequently all the objects
of geometrical science; so also does the idea of not-being, combined
with that of being, fecundate in a manner the metaphysical sciences.
The parallelism of the two ideas, extension and being, is not of such
a nature as to render the former independent of the latter. So far
as science is concerned, the idea of extension is sterile, if it be
not combined with the general idea of being and not-being. This may
be shown in many ways; but it will suffice to recollect that geometry
cannot take a single step without the principle of contradiction, into
which the ideas of being and of not-being enter.[24]

[24] See L. IV., C. V.

116. All our cognitions flow from the idea of being and not-being,
combined with intuitive ideas. We shall have occasion in the following
books to remark this admirable fecundity of an idea, which, although it
cannot of itself teach any thing, can yet, when united with others, and
modified itself in various ways, so illuminate the intellectual world
as to merit to be called the object of understanding.





1. Before analyzing the idea of number, let us examine its simplest
element, unity. Number is a connection of unities. We cannot know what
number is, if we do not know what unity is.[25]

[25] See L. V., C. X.

2. What is unity? When is a thing one? We all seem to know what unity
is, since upon it we found the fabric of all our arithmetic cognitions.
We all know when a thing is one, and we never equivocate on the meaning
of the word. In this the learned and the unlearned stand on the same
footing. The word _one_, in our language, has only one meaning for
all who understand it. The same may be said of the word which in
other languages expresses the same idea. When we meet the figure 1,
which corresponds to this idea, and expresses it in a general manner,
abstracting the difference of idioms, all men understand and apply it
in the same manner.

3. The idea of unity is the same in all men; it is a common patrimony
of the human race. It is not bound to this or that object, nor to this
or that act of the mind; it extends to all in the same manner. Even
composite and multiple things are called one only, inasmuch as they
participate in a general idea. The indivisible point is one. The line
composed of many points could not be one were there not a contiguous
enchainment of these points, and did they not all unite to form _one_
object, which gives us _one_ impression, and is submitted to _one_ act
of our understanding.

4. The idea of unity is not a particular sensation, since it applies
to all; neither is it sensation in general, since it pertains to
what is not sensation. The sensation of color is one; so, also, the
consciousness of the _me_ is one, although this is not a sensation.
The size of the rectangle which I see is one, and the relation of the
equality of its angles is also one, but is not a sensation.

5. The idea of unity is a simple idea, and accompanies our mind from
its first steps; we find it everywhere, and understand it well, but
cannot explain it as we would, because it is simple, and cannot be
decomposed and expressed by various words. We do not mean to say,
however, that we must abjure all explanation of it; we only propose to
warn the reader of the kind of explanation he may expect, which can be
no other than the analysis of the fact, inasmuch as it is an object,
and of the phenomenon as presented to our mind.



6. The scholastics were right in teaching that every being is one, and
that whatever is one is being. Unity is a general attribute of every
being, but is not distinct from it. However little we reflect, we
cannot fail to perceive that unity and being are not distinguished:
the unity of unity, by itself, offers us nothing real or even possible.
What then would become of unity, if nothing but unity? This idea is
involved in that of being; it is an aspect of it, a reason under which
being is presented to the understanding.

7. But what is the conception of unity under which beings are presented
to us? There is unity in the object when there is no distinction in
the conception presenting it; and there is no distinction, when the
perception of relative _not-being_ is not combined in the object with
that of _being_. We have unity whenever we perceive an object simply.
Suppose that we perceive the object B. No matter what B is, it will to
us be always one, unless we perceive it as composed of C, D, one of
which is not the other. If we perceive in the object B, a distinction
between C and D, unity disappears.

Evidently when we are aware of this composition we can abstract it and
simply consider the result, the whole, B; and then unity appears anew.

8. We see by this that unity may be either real or fictitious. It is
real and existing when there is no distinction in the thing either real
or apparent; it is fictitious in those composites which of themselves
include distinct things that may be offered to the understanding,
inasmuch as they are subordinated to one unity of order, abstraction
made of the real distinction contained in them.

9. The schoolmen sometimes defined what is _one_ to be, "ens indivisum
in se, et divisum ab aliis." The former part seems sufficiently exact
if by _indivisum_ is meant _non-distinctum_ and not _non-separatum_;
but the second part must be regarded at the best as superfluous. If
there existed only one most simple and sole being, it would yet be one,
although we could not say that it was divided from others, _divisum ab
aliis_; for as there would be _no others_ it could not be divided from
them. This part of the definition is therefore superfluous.

10. It is no solution of the difficulty to say that this one being is
divided from others, real or possible, and that in the supposition of
one only being, others are possible although not real. The only being
would be _really one_, and the division from others would be only
_possible_; since there can be no real distinction between two terms
when one of them is only possible. The division from others, _divisis
ab aliis_, therefore is not a necessary element of unity, because unity
is real, and this element is only possible.

11. However, in confirmation of this doctrine, we may remark, that in
common parlance, unity is opposed to distinction, and there is no unity
where there is no distinction. If the only being be not conceived as
multiple there can be no distinction; and this is so independently of
its being compared with the rest. The words, _others_, and _the rest_,
suppose single beings; the idea of unity precedes that of distinction;
beings are not considered as distinct between themselves until after
they are conceived as individually single.

12. It seems, therefore, that a single being ought to be defined
as _ens indivisum in se_, or a being which includes no division.
Unity, then, will depend upon non-distinction. If non-division
denote _non-distinction_, there will be real unity; but if it denote
_non-separation_ or re-union, we shall only have a fictitious unity.
The molecules without extension, of which many suppose matter to be
composed, would be really _one_, because there is no distinction in
them. Bodies are fictitiously _one_ because their composite parts
though united are really distinct.

13. A difficulty may be raised by asking whether a being, indivisible
in itself, but not divided from others, would be really _one_, for
in case it would not be _one_, it might be inferred that we had
unjustly censured the definition of the schoolmen, since whatever
wants the second property required by the definition would not be one.
We reply, then, a being that includes no distinction in itself, and
is not distinguished from others, would indeed be one, but in such a
case there would be no _others_, since they cannot be when there is no
distinction. In such an hypothesis, there would be only one unity, the
unity of pantheism, the _great all_, the absolute in which all things
would be identified.

14. We have already said that the unity which is confounded with being,
is not the unity which originates number. We here in fact encounter
two different conceptions of unity, the one marking only want of
distinction, and the other expressing the property of engendering
number. But we are not thence to infer that the one which is identified
with being is distinct from that which engenders number. All beings,
one in themselves, but distinct from each other, no matter what they
may be, may be conceived under the idea of number. The number _three_
enters into the august mystery of the Trinity, and we say with all
truth that in God there are _three_ persons.

15. It is not necessary that the unity which engenders number should
be real; it suffices if it be fictitious. When we take a foot measure
for unity, we employ a fictitious unity, since the foot is composed of
parts, but the number which results therefrom is, nevertheless, a true



16. Real unity and simplicity are identical. What is really one has no
distinction in itself; nor is it composed of parts, of which it can be
said, this _is not_ that. Evidently simplicity requires nothing more;
the simple is opposed to the composite, to what is formed of many
beings whereof one _is not_ the other.

17. We meet this simplicity in none of the objects of our intuitions,
excepting the acts of our own mind; so that even when we know, by
discursion, that there are substances really one or simple, we do not
see them in themselves.

Extension consists essentially of parts; whence it happens that we
never encounter real unity or simplicity in the corporeal world as
object of our sensibility. But as the composite must be resolved
into the simple, as it is hard to proceed _ad infinitum_, we infer
that the corporeal universe itself is a union of substances which,
whether called points without extension, or any thing else, cannot be
decomposed into others; for which reason they are really one, or simple.

18. Hence we conclude that substances may be said to be in a certain
manner simple; and that things called composite are unions of
substances, which in their turn form a third substance by virtue of
a law presiding over them and giving them that unity which we call

19. We cannot, then, do less than to remark that the transcendental
analysis refutes those who deny simplicity to thinking beings, since we
have seen that simplicity is prior to composition, which can neither be
nor be conceived if it be not presupposed. Simplicity is a necessary
law of every being: a composite being ought to be called a union of
beings, rather than a being.

20. We have said that simple substances are not objects of our
intuition, which has none worthy to be called simple excepting the
acts of our mind. The reason of this is, that the principal medium of
our intuition is sensibility, which is founded upon representations,
themselves based upon extension. There can be no doubt that the acts
of our mind, given us by intuition, in the inward sense are perfectly
simple; for who can decompose a perception, a judgment, an act of the
reason or of the will?

21. The perception of a certain object requires preparatory acts;
and the same may be said of judgments and ratiocinations; yet these
operations are in themselves exceedingly simple, and cannot be divided
into various parts. Simplicity is met with alike in the acts of the
will, whether of the pure, intellectual, or sensible will. How shall we
divide such acts as these into parts: _I desire_, _I do not desire_, _I
love_, _I abhor_, _I suffer_, _I rejoice_?

22. We must take care not to confound the multiplicity of the acts with
the acts themselves; there may be many acts, but in themselves they are
simple. Thoughts, impressions and affections continually succeed one
another in our mind; these phenomena are all distinct from each other,
as is proved by their existing at different times, some at one time
without the others, and by some being incompatible with others, because
contradictory; but each individual phenomenon is by itself incapable of
decomposition, and admits in itself no distinction into various parts;
wherefore, it is simple.

23. True unity, therefore, is only found in simplicity; where there is
no true simplicity, there may be factitious, but not real, unity; since
even when there is no separation, there may be distinction between the
various parts of which the composite is formed.

24. It may be inferred from this that _indistinctum_ ought, perhaps, to
take the place of _indivisum_ in the definition of a one being; because
distinction is opposed to unity of identity, and division to union.
Absence of division is all that factitious unity requires; but real
unity demands that there be no distinction. However closely united two
things may be, if one is not the other they are distinct, and cannot,
in strict metaphysical language, be called one.

25. The object of these observations is only to fix our ideas, not to
modify our language. In common parlance, the idea of unity is used in
a less rigorous sense, and, far from opposing this use, we readily
accord it a reasonable foundation. There results from the union of two
really distinct things, a conjunction, rightly called one so far as it
also is subjected to a certain unity; and, were it not permitted to use
this word in a sense less rigorous than that exacted by metaphysical
analysis, we should be under the necessity of excluding unity from the
great mass of objects. Simple substances, we have said, are not offered
to us in immediate intuition, and we see compositions rather than their
component elements. Could we apply unity only to simple elements,
science would be greatly reduced, language would be impoverished, and
literature and the fine arts would be despoiled of unity, one of their
characteristic perfections.



26. Since we encounter multiplicity in all sensible objects, which are
those chiefly demanding our attention, how does our mind acquire the
idea of unity? In science, in literature, in the arts, and in every
thing, we seek unity; and whence this irresistible tendency towards
unity, which makes us seek a factitious when we cannot find a real
unity, and this, too, notwithstanding the multiplicity presented by all
the objects of our perception?

27. Two origins, if we mistake not, may be assigned to this tendency
towards unity, the one objective, the other subjective. The former
consists in the very character of unity in which the object of the
understanding is mainly comprised; the other is the unity found in the
intelligent being, and which it experiences in itself. We will explain
these ideas more at length.

28. Unity is being; every being is one; and, properly speaking, being
is not found without unity. Let us take a composite object: in it we
discover two things; the simple component elements of it, and the
union of them. The being, properly speaking, does not consist in the
union, but in the united elements. The union is a mere relation, not
even possible without the elements to be united. On the other hand,
these elements in themselves, abstracted from their union, are true
beings, existed before, and will exist after their union. What is an
organized body? An aggregation of molecules united under a certain law,
conformably to a principle presiding over their organization. The
parts existed before their organization, and will continue to exist
after its destruction. The being, therefore, properly consisted in the
elements; and the organization was a relation of them among themselves.

29. Organization requires a principle to rule it, and subject its
functions to determinate laws. Thus we see that even relation is
subject to unity, to the unity of end and to the unity of a ruling and
directing principle.

30. It is inconceivable how the union of distinct things can have any
meaning, or lead to any result, if unity do not preside over it. In
objects submitted to our experience, things are united in three ways:
by juxtaposition in space; by co-existence in time; and by association
in the exercise of their activity. The elements constitutive of
extension are united in the first way; all objects belonging to the
same time, in the second; and in the third all those which unite their
forces and direct them to one and the same end.

31. The union consisting in the continuity of elements in space, has no
value in the eyes of science, save inasmuch as there is an intelligent
being who perceives the forms resulting from this continuity, by
reducing them to unity under ideal types. Four lines of points,
so disposed as to form a quadrilateral figure, have no scientific
meaning until there comes an intelligence and perceives the form of a
quadrilateral figure under the aspect of unity. We do not deny that the
quadrilateral figure exists independently of intellectual perception:
these lines will certainly exist, and be arranged in the same manner,
although we prescind all intelligence; but this disposition in the
quadrilateral form is a relation, not a being distinct from the
aggregation of the elements disposed; and this relation, of itself
alone, is no object of intelligence except inasmuch as presented to it
under the unity of the quadrilateral form.

The intelligence in search of a true being, can find none, save in
elements; and if it wishes to perceive their relation, it must recur to
the unity of form.

32. Co-existence in time, is a relation, which, of itself alone,
neither gives any thing to, nor takes any thing from objects. These
exist independently of this relation; for they must, of necessity,
exist, in order to co-exist. This relation denotes something
perceptible to the understanding, only as it is presented to it under
unity, which, in this case, is unity of time, as in the former it was
unity of space.

33. Neither has the association of activities any meaning, except when
it expresses the convergence of forces towards one and the same object.
If unity be wanting to the point of their direction, their union will
express nothing, and the intelligence will have for its object only
scattered and unrelated activities.

34. We have then shown that unity is a law of our understanding,
founded upon the very nature of things. Absolute being is never found
in the composite, but only in the simple, and relative being is not
even conceivable, if it be not submitted to unity.

35. We discover in the very nature of our mind, the second origin of
its tendency to unity. It in itself is one, is simple, and therefore
disposed to assimilate every thing to itself under this same unity
and simplicity. It feels that it is one in the midst of multiplicity,
permanent even in succession, and under all the immense variety of
sensible phenomena, intellectual and moral, which it unceasingly
experiences. The inward sense attests with irresistible certainty the
identity of the _me_. This unity, this identity, is as certain, as
evident to the child who begins to feel pleasure or pain, and is sure
that he is one and the same that experiences both impressions, as
they are to the philosopher who has spent long years in profoundly
investigating the idea of the _me_ and the unity of consciousness.

The unity and simplicity which we experience in ourselves force us
to reduce the composite to the simple, the multiple to the one. The
perception of things the most composite refers to a consciousness
essentially one: even were we to perceive the whole complicated
universe by a single act, this act would be most simple, since
otherwise the _me_ could not say, _I perceive_.

36. Two reasons, then, exist why our mind in all things seeks unity.
Objects are unintelligible, except so far as subjected to a certain
perceptible unity, to a form, under which the multiple is made one, and
the composite simple. The object of the understanding is being, and
being consists in the simple. The composite involves an aggregation of
simple elements with the relation called _union_; but unless this be
presented under a certain unity, it does not constitute a perceptible

Without the indivisible unity of consciousness, no intelligent subject
is conceivable. Every intelligent being requires this link to unite
the variety of phenomena of which it is the subject. If this unity
fail, the phenomena become an informal aggregation, unrelated among
themselves: intellectual acts without an intelligent being.

The tendency to unity originates in the perfection of our mind, and is
itself a perfection; but it needs to be carefully watched, lest it go
astray, and seek real unity there, where only a factitious unity can be
found. This exaggeration is the cause of pantheism, the fatal error of
our day. Our mind is one, so also is the infinite essence, cause of all
finite beings; but the aggregation of these beings is not one, for even
when united by many ties, they cease not to be distinct. There is in
the world unity of order, of harmony, of origin, and of end; but there
is no absolute unity. Number also enters into unity of harmony, but it
is incompatible with absolute unity, as reason and experience both show.



37. Unity is the first element of number, but does not of itself alone
constitute number, which is not unity, but the collection of unities.

38. _Two_ is a number. What is our idea of the number _two_? Evidently
it is not confounded with its sign, for signs are many and very
different, but it is one and always the same.

39. It would seem at first sight that the idea of two is independent
of the mode of its generation, and that, being one, it may be formed
by addition or subtraction, by adding one to one, or taking one
from three: 1 + 1 = 2; 3-1 = 2. But if we reflect upon these two
expressions, we shall see that the latter is impossible without the
former. We should not know that 3-1 = 2 if we did not previously know
that two entered into the composition of three, and how it entered. We
could know nothing of this had we not already the idea of two, and this
idea is nothing else than the perception of this sum.

40. The idea of two is no sensation, for it extends alike to the
sensible and the non-sensible, to the simultaneous and the successive.
In itself it is simple, its object is composite.

41. Since the collection of objects is small in two, the imagination
can easily figure to itself what the understanding perceives; and the
idea seems clearer to us because made sensible by a representation. The
idea of addition made, _in facto_, that is, the idea of the sum, enters
into that of two, but not of addition _in fieri_. Our idea of this
number is perfectly clear, and yet we do not continually think of one
plus one.

42. The idea of two refers to the simultaneous as well as to the
successive; but our mind does not discover it until after it has the
idea of succession. The object of this perception is the relation of
united things; the understanding perceives them as such, and then only
has it the idea of two.

43. Neither the successive nor simultaneous perception of two objects
unaccompanied by relation is the idea of two. Hence the saying: a man
and a horse do not make two, but only one and one; and the reason of
this is that the man and the horse are represented to the understanding
by their difference, not by their resemblance; and things must be
presented to the mind under a common idea in order to give number.
Thus, if we abstract their difference, and consider them only as
animals, or corporeal beings, or beings simply, or things, they will
make two.

44. In objects, then, totally unlike, or not comprehended under some
common idea, there can be no number. Abstract number is number by
excellence; because it eliminates all that distinguishes the things
numbered, and considers them only as beings, consequently as similar,
as contained in the general idea of being. Concrete numbers are
only numbers so far as they participate in this property. _Two_ is
applicable to one horse and another horse, but not to a horse and a
man, unless we identify them under the idea of animal, and abstract
rationality and irrationality. Concrete number requires a common
denomination; otherwise it is not number.

45. The idea of distinction, that is, that the one is not the other,
enters into the idea of two, so that this idea necessarily involves an
affirmation and a negation. The affirmation is of the real, possible,
or imaginary existence of the things counted; the negation is of the
one with respect to the other. Affirmation without distinction or
negation involves identity. The idea of two, as well as that of every
other number, includes the ideas of identity and distinction. The
identity is of each extreme with itself; the distinction is of the
extremes among themselves. Identity in the thing is the thing itself:
identity in the idea is the simple perception of the thing. Distinction
in the thing is the negation of it with respect to others: distinction
in the idea is the perception of negation. We always perceive a thing
as identical, and consequently every perception includes the idea
of unity. But we do not always, when we perceive a thing, observe
its negation with respect to others, and consequently do not always
perceive number. The idea of number originates in comparison, when we
see an object which _is not_ another.

46. The ideas of being, distinction, and similarity enter into that
of two. The idea of being, because nothing cannot be counted: that
of distinction, or negation of the one being the other, because the
identical does not constitute number: that of similarity, because
things are only numbered when abstraction is made of their difference.
Being is the basis of perception; distinction, of comparison; and
similarity, of union. Perception begins with unity, proceeds with
distinction, and ends with similarity, which is a kind of unity. The
perception of this similarity unites what is distinct; but the union
need not always be of the things, but may be in the idea comprising
them. There are two poles of the world, but they are not united. The
perception of the number two requires something more than the simple
perception of objects; they must be susceptible of comparison, and
consequently united in a common idea. This perception, therefore,
demands comparison and abstraction, and this is why animals cannot
numerate; they can neither compare nor generalize.

47. The analysis of the idea of two is the analysis of all numbers; the
difference is not of nature, but of more and less; in the repetition of
the same perception.

48. If any one now ask whether number be in the things, or in the mind
alone, we reply that it is in things as in its foundation, because both
distinction and similarity are in the things; that is, the one is not
the other, and both have something in common; but it is the mind that
sees all this.

49. After having perceived the distinction and union of two objects,
we can also perceive another object, which will be neither the one nor
the other of them, and will yet be comprehended in one general idea
with them. This is the perception or idea of the number _three_. No
matter how many numbers be imagined, nothing will ever be discovered in
any of them except a simultaneous perception of objects, distinction
of objects, and similarity of objects. If these be determinate, we
shall have concrete number; if they be comprised in the general idea of
being, of thing, we shall have abstract number.

50. The limits of our mind prevent it from comparing many objects at
one time, and from easily recollecting the comparisons it has already
made. To assist the memory, and the perception of these relations, we
make use of signs. When we pass beyond three or four, our power of
simultaneous perception fails, and we divide the object into groups
which serve us as new units, and are expressed by signs. Ten is clearly
the general group in the decimal system; but before we reach the number
ten we have already formed other subalternate groups; since to count
ten, we do not say one and one and one, etc., but one and one, two;
two and one, three; three and one, four, etc. Each unit added forms
a new group, which, in its turn, serves to form another. With two,
we form three; with three, four, and so on. This affords an idea of
the relation of numbers with their signs; but, as this matter is too
important to be here dismissed, we will further develop it in the
following chapters.



51. The connection of ideas and impressions, in a sign, is a most
wonderful intellectual phenomenon, and at the same time of the greatest
help to our mind. Were it not for this connection, we could scarcely
reflect at all upon objects somewhat complex, and above all our memory
would be exceedingly limited.[26]

[26] See L. IV., C. XXVIII. and XXIX.

52. Condillac made some excellent remarks upon this matter: in his
opinion, we cannot, unaided by signs, count more than three or four.
If, indeed, we had no sign but that of unity, we could readily count
two, saying one and one. Having only two ideas, we could easily satisfy
ourselves that we had twice repeated one. But it is not so easy to be
certain of the exactness of our repetition when we have to count three,
by saying one and one and one; still, this is not difficult. It is more
so to count four, and next to impossible to go as far as ten. If we
undertake to abstract the signs, we shall find that it is impossible
to form an idea of ten by repeating one; and that it will be alike
impossible, if we employ no sign, to make sure that we have repeated
one exactly ten times.

53. Suppose the sign two, and one half of the difficulty is obviated;
thus it will be much easier to say two and one, than one and one and
one. In this supposition four will be no more difficult than was two,
since, just as we before said, one and one, two; we now say, two and
two, four. The attention before divided four times by the repetition of
one, is now only divided twice. Six was before a hard number to count,
but, in the present supposition, it is as easy as three was before;
for, if we repeat two and two and two, we shall have six. The attention
before distracted by six signs, is now distracted only by three.
Evidently, if we continue to form the numbers three, four, and so on,
expressive of distinct collections, we shall gradually facilitate
numeration, until we attain the decimal simplicity now in use.

54. It may here be asked if the actual system be the most perfect
possible? And if facility depend upon the distribution of collections
in signs, can there be any thing more perfect than this distribution?
Either there is question of new signs to denote new collections, or
of the combination of signs. There can be no number which we cannot
express with our present system, and consequently there is no need of
inventing any thing to denote new collections. New signs might perhaps
be invented for these collections, and these collections might possibly
be distributed in a simpler and more convenient manner. In this case
we admit an amelioration to be possible, though very difficult; but
none in the former. In a word, the only possible progress would be in
expressing better, not in expressing more.

55. The sign connects many ideas which, without it, would be isolated;
hence its necessity in many cases, its utility in all cases. With the
word hundred, or its numerical representative, 100, we know that we
have one repeated a hundred times. Were this help to fail, we could not
speak of a hundred, base calculations upon it, or even form it. It is,
however, well said that we do not succeed in forming it except by tens,
by repeating the calculation ten ten times.

56. Let it not, therefore, be thought that the idea of the number is
the idea of the sign; for evidently the same idea of ten corresponds to
the word ten, whether written, spoken, or numerically represented by
the figures 10, although these three signs are very different. Every
language has a word of its own to express ten, and all people have the
same idea of it.

57. This last remark creates a difficulty as to what the idea of
ten consists in. We cannot say that it is the recollection of the
repetition of one ten times; first, because we do not think of this
recollection when thinking of ten; and second, because, according to
what has already been said, a clear recollection of this repetition is
impossible. Neither is it the idea of the sign, for the idea signified
existed before the sign was invented, otherwise the invention would
have had no object, and would even have been impossible. There can be
no sign where there is nothing to signify.

The idea of number includes more difficulties than Condillac ever
imagined; who, if he had, after his close analysis of what facilitates
numeration, profoundly meditated upon the idea itself, would not
so readily have censured St. Augustine, Malebranche, and the whole
Platonic school, for having said that numbers perceived by the pure
understanding are something superior to those perceived by the senses.



58. In order clearly to conceive the idea of number, and the way it is
engendered in our mind, let us study its formation in a deaf and dumb

We have no better way of giving such a one an idea of unity than by
presenting an object to him. Now, if we would convey to him the idea of
two, we show him two fingers, then two oranges, then two books, and in
each of these operations make a sign which must be always the same. If
we repeat this operation a number of times, the deaf and dumb person
will associate the idea of two with that of the sign, and one will
suggest the others; and he will endeavor to show us that he has seen
two objects of some kind, by uniting the expression of the object with
the sign of two. The same will take place with three, or four. When we
reach higher numbers, the sign becomes more indispensable; since the
less easily the idea of number is represented, the more necessary is
the sign to secure it. But what we do to convey an idea of number to
the deaf and dumb person, what he himself must do to express the number
which he conceives, we must all do if we would obtain the idea.

59. Numeration is a repetition of operations; and the art of
facilitating it consists in instituting signs which recall to our
memory what we have done. It is an exceedingly complicated labyrinth,
and we cannot trust ourselves to its windings with any expectation of
finding our way out again, if we do not take care to mark the path we
have followed.

It is to the admirable simplicity of the decimal system, united to
its inexhaustible variety, that the facility and fecundity of our
arithmetic are due. Algebra, going a step beyond, expresses without
determining numbers, and presents the results of its operations without
effacing its footsteps on the road travelled, is far superior to
arithmetic, and has made the human mind take gigantic strides. But how?
Solely by aiding the memory. Thus, the very principle that enables the
child to say four and one, five, instead of adding unity five times to
unity, the dumb man to express five by a hand, a hundred by a grain,
enables the algebraist to express the result of his longest operations
by a formula easy of retention by the memory. Both attain their object
simply by aiding the memory. A grain of wheat denotes to the dumb man
the idea of hundred, and this he applies to all similar collections; a
few letters combined in a simple manner designate to the mathematician
a property of certain quantities, and this he applies to all which are
found in the same case.

60. Numeration is only an aggregation of formulas; and the more easy
these are of mutual transformation with a slight modification, the more
perfect will be the numeration. The better one knows the relations of
these formulas and the manner of transforming them, the better will he
know how to count. The greater a person's intellectual power of fixing
simultaneously the attention upon many formulas, and of composing them,
the more perfect arithmetician will he be, because the simultaneous
comparison of many, leads to the perception of new relations.

61. What is our idea of hundred? The union of the units composing it,
a union which we have made more or less frequently when learning to
count. But how do we know that it is the same union? Because we have a
formula called a hundred, expressed by a sign 100. This formula is so
easily recollected that we have no difficulty in recollecting the idea
of hundred and all the properties connected with it. We may be asked
if a hundred is more than ninety. Were we under the necessity counting
one and one and one, we should be bewildered, and never succeed in
distinguishing the greater; but knowing as we do that to reach the
formula hundred, we must pass by another formula ninety, and that this
was in ascending, we know, once for all, that hundred expresses ninety
and something more, that is, a hundred is more than ninety. And if
it be further inquired what is the excess, we shall not undertake to
ascertain this by adding units, but by the two formulas ninety and ten
which compose the formula hundred.

62. By generalization we unite many similar things in one idea. The
general idea is a kind of formula. Numeration unites in one sign many
things contained in a general idea, but this sign has, at the same
time, its own distinctive character. Thus the general idea belongs as a
predicate to each of its particular objects; number belongs to no one
in particular, but to all joined. We perceive in abstraction a common
property, and lay aside all the particular objects which it presents;
in numeration, we perceive similarity, but always with distinction.
Abstraction is the result of comparison, but not comparison. Numeration
implies a permanent comparison, or the recollection of it.

63. The idea of number is not conventional; a hundred is always a
hundred with all its properties and relations, and this, too, prior
to all convention and even to all human perception. The sign, and the
sign only, is conventional. Were there no intellectual creature, and
a hundred beings distinct among themselves were to exist, there would
really be this number. The number three exists in the august mystery
of the Trinity, from all eternity, and of absolute necessity. Number
requires only the existence of distinct things; since, however unlike
they may be, they always have something in common being, which may
be included in a general idea, and consequently they fulfil the two
conditions necessary to number.

64. The perception of being and of distinction, that is, of substantive
being and of relative not-being, is the perception of number. The
science of the relations of every collection, with its measure, which
is unity, is the science of numbers.





1. The explanation of the idea of time is not a matter of mere
curiosity, but of the highest importance. To convince ourselves of
this we have only to consider that the explanation of the whole
edifice of human cognitions is based upon it. The most fundamental and
indispensable principle which supports all others, includes the idea
of time. A thing cannot be and not be at the same time: "impossibile
est idem simul esse et non esse." The impossibility of being and of
not-being regards only the _simul, the same time_. Therefore, the idea
of time necessarily enters into the very principle of contradiction.

2. The idea of time is involved in all our perceptions; it extends to
many more objects than does the idea of space. We estimate not only the
movements of bodies by time, but also the operations of the mind. We
know that a series of thoughts may be measured by time the same as a
series of corporal movements.

3. The idea of succession necessarily enters into that of time, and
_vice versa_, the idea of time into that of succession. We may conceive
that one thing _succeeds_ another; but this would be impossible without
succession, without a _before and after_, that is, without time. This
reasoning, apparently vicious, shows, perhaps, that we must not
explain the ideas of time and succession, the one by the other, since
they are identical.

4. Time does not seem to be distinct from things; for who can imagine
duration without that which lasts, or a succession without that which
succeeds? Is it a substance? Is it a modification inherent in things,
or distinct from them? Whatever is something exists; and yet we nowhere
meet time existing. Its nature is composed of instants divisible
to infinity, essentially successive, and consequently incapable of
simultaneousness. Imagine the minutest instant you can, and it does not
exist, for it is composed of others infinitely minute, which cannot
exist united. To conceive an existing time, we must conceive it as
actual, and in order to do this, we must surprise it in an indivisible
instant; but even this is not time; it involves no succession; it is
not _duration_, containing _a before and an after_.

5. Nothing is easier than to calculate time, and nothing more difficult
than to conceive it in its essence. As to the former the learned and
the ignorant are on the same footing; both have equally clear ideas;
the latter is excessively difficult even to the most eminent men. The
passage in the _Confessiones_ of St. Augustine, in which the Holy
Doctor endeavors to penetrate this mystery is well known.



6. Time is said by many philosophers to be the measure of movement.
This idea is fruitful, but it needs to be illustrated.

When we measure movement we refer to something fixed. Thus we measure
the rapidity with which we have traversed a certain space by noticing
the time denoted by a watch. But how do we measure time by a watch? By
the space passed over by the hand on the dial. If we reflect carefully,
we shall see that this is purely conventional, or rather, that it
depends upon an arbitrary condition. For if we suppose the time marked
to be an hour, the space passed over by the minute hand, that is, the
circumference of the dial, has no relation with the hour except what
the artificer gave it by so constructing the watch that the minute hand
would make one revolution every hour. If the watchmaker had constructed
it differently, as he did the hour hand, the time would be the same,
but the space passed over is very different.

7. The time, therefore, indicated by the watch is no measure, save
as itself is subject to another measure; consequently it is not the
primitive measure. The same can evidently be said of all other watches
which must have been regulated one after another, until we come to the
first of all watches. There was no other watch to regulate this; it
follows, therefore, that no one of the measures furnished by art is the
primitive measure.

8. Not finding this measure in the works of man, we must seek it in
nature; and here we discover fixed measures. If we regard the course
of the sun, and take for unity the time it requires from the time it
leaves the meridian until it returns, we shall have the day; this
divided into twenty-four parts gives us the hours. Here we have a great
watch which will serve to regulate all others.

9. Nevertheless, however lightly we reflect upon this, we cannot help
seeing that the solution is not so satisfactory as it seems at first

Solar time and sidereal time do not agree. Thus, if we note the moment
when a star is in the meridian conjointly with the sun, we shall the
next day see that the star reaches the meridian a little before the
sun. Which is right? Has the star taken just twenty-four hours, or the
sun? If time be a fixed thing independently of movement, neither of
these measures corresponds exactly to time.

10. This argument, which may be called practical, is corroborated by
another purely theoretical. If we take celestial movement for the
measure of time, will it be true that whenever the movement, which
serves as the rule, shall be verified, that there has passed a fixed
and determinate time? If we be answered in the affirmative, we must
infer, that even were this movement to be accelerated or retarded,
as, for instance, if a solar revolution were to be made with a half,
or with twice its ordinary velocity, it would continue to mark the
same time, which, however, is absurd. If it be said that the movement
is supposed to be uniform, we reply, that this is a begging of the
question. Uniformity of movement consists in equal times recurring
after equal intervals. Did time, then, in its nature depend upon the
movement of the sun, or of any star, as primitive measure, neither
uniformity nor variety would have any meaning. If the space of
twenty-four hours depended upon a revolution's being made, no matter in
what manner whether at a snail's pace, or with the velocity of light,
we should never have more or less than twenty-four hours. But if these
depend upon another measure, if prior to them, there was a time which
measured the velocity of movement, and determined whether it had been
accelerated or retarded, then the movement of the stars is not the
primitive measure; they are in the same category as our watches, they
marked the time passed, but time has not passed because they mark it.
Time is the measure of their movement, not their movement the measure
of time. Movement is in time, not time in movement.

11. To appeal to the movement of the superior heavens, is evidently no
solution of this difficulty, for what has been said of the sun, may
also be said of the remotest star in the firmament. Whether we appeal
to annual, solar, or sidereal movements, the same difficulty remains.
Would sidereal years be the same, if the movement be made with greater
or less velocity. If they would, an absurdity would follow; if not,
this is not the primitive measure.

12. Moreover, we perceive, when considering movement, that we seem to
conceive of greater and less velocity; and thus the idea of time, of
necessity, enters into that of velocity, since velocity is the relation
of space passed over in a given time. The idea of time is therefore
prior to, consequently independent of, _every_ particular measure.

13. We measure time by movement, and in order to measure the velocity
of movement we need that of time. Here then, perhaps, is a vicious
circle; but possibly this only shows that these are correlative ideas,
the one explanatory of the other; or, rather, they are different
aspects of one and the same idea. The difficulty of separating them,
and the intimate union which unites them on the one hand as much as
it divides them on the other, confirms this conjecture. To show this,
we ask, what time has passed? Two hours. How do we know this? By our
time-piece. But what if it be too fast or too slow? The measure fails.
This time is thus to us as a fixed measure, prior to that of the watch
by which we undertake to measure it. But what are these two hours, if
we abstract the measure of the watch, that also of the stars, and every
other measure? Two hours, in the abstract, can be found in no category
of real or possible beings; and we cannot, without a measure, give any
idea of them, nor form one for ourselves. The idea of hour refers to a
determinate movement of known bodies; and this in its turn refers to
others; and finally, we come to one in which we can discover no reason
why it should be exempted from the general law to which the others are
subject. No farther reference being possible, all measure fails; and
this failing, time, by the force of analysis, vanishes.

14. Therefore, the referring of time to movement, explains nothing; it
only expresses a thing known, and that is, the mutual relation between
time and movement, a relation known to the unlearned, and of constant
and common use; but the philosophic idea stands intact; the same
difficulty remains; what is time?



15. Time seems to us to be something fixed. An hour is neither more
nor less than an hour, no matter how our time-pieces go, or the world
itself; just as a cubic foot of space is always a cubic foot, neither
more nor less, whether occupied or not occupied by bodies.

16. Time exists independent of all movement, of all succession; if
it is something absolute, has a determinate value of its own, is
applicable to all that changes without itself changing, the measure of
all succession without itself being measured, what is it? That it is
something accidental cannot be reconciled with its immutability and
universality. Every thing lives in it, but it lives in nothing; every
thing dies in it, but death has no power over it. When the substance
perishes, the accident perishes; but time continues the same although
no substance exist. Before all created beings, we conceive ages and
ages, that is, time; and after the destruction, the annihilation of all
beings, we still conceive a successive although unending succession,
which is time. The idea, then, of time, does not demand that of the
universe; it existed before it, and will survive it: but without time
the universe is inconceivable.

17. The idea of time seems to be independent of the idea of any being;
of all duration in it; every thing may endure in it; but it does not
begin or end with what endures in itself; it is applicable to all
that endures, but it is not itself an endurable thing. We imagine
it to be one in the multiple, uniform in the various, fixed in the
movable, eternal in the perishable; and it even seems to contain some
features of the attributes of Divinity; but it is, on the other hand,
essentially despoiled of every property excepting that of succession in
its abstractest signification. It is essentially sterile, has no power
of its own, no condition of being or action, and consequently leads to
the highest imaginations of what a pure idea really is, an abstraction,
which, like space, we have imagined in the presence of things.

18. The points of similarity between time and space are worthy of our
attention. Both are infinite, immovable; both are a general measure;
both essentially composed of continuous and inseparable parts. Limit
them you cannot, determine any limit you chose, and beyond it you will
see an ocean extended. Your powers are impotent; beyond the highest
heaven are unbounded abysses of space; before the beginning of things
there was a long chain of interminable ages.

In vain would you undertake to move space; you can only move yourself
in it, or survey its various points. Its points are all fixed; you
may mark out distances and directions with respect to them, but you
cannot change them. The result will be analogous if you attempt to move
time. The present instant is not the one just past, nor the one next
to succeed; they are of necessity distinct, and of necessity exclude
each other. Their very nature is to succeed each other. If their place
be changed with respect to time, it ceases to be the same. Imagine,
if you can, that to-morrow is to-day, that to-day is yesterday. It
is impossible for that which was at a certain time not to have then
been; but this would not be impossible if time could be moved; for in
order that what was yesterday may not be, it is necessary to convert
yesterday into to-morrow; but this would be an absurdity. The past, the
present, and the future, are essentially distinct things.

A simple space, a space without parts, is no space at all, it is a
contradiction; neither is a simple time, a time without parts, a time,
but is a contradiction.

A space whose parts are not continuous, is not a space; neither is
a time whose parts are not continuous, a time. The parts
of space are inseparable; you may distinguish them one from another,
count them one after the other, compare them one with another, and
consider them one after another, but you cannot separate them. All
imaginable bodies may exist in the apartment where we write, one or
many, at rest or in motion; but the space which we conceive is one,
fixed, and always the same; we can estimate its extent in cubic feet,
if we choose, but these feet are fixed and inseparable; we cannot
separate one cubic foot from another, even if we would; for even while
we annihilate it, it is present to us, and in the same distance that we
need in order to conceive separation. We cannot conceive separation,
if we do not conceive distance; nor conceive distance, if we do not
conceive space. We separate bodies from each other, but not one space
from another. Space remains with the same continuity when bodies are
separated, and it is by this continuity remaining unalterable that we
measure the extent of their separation. The same happens with time; it
is a chain which cannot be broken. Can we conceive three successive,
immediate instants, A, B, C, and then suppress B? Certainly not; such
a suppression would be impossible, or it would be a poor diversion.
We destroy B in our caprice, and A and C are continuous; since being
only separated by B, when it disappears the extremes meet. But in this
case it is no longer A, but B, for B is the instant which precedes C.
We have no other distinction than that of priority with respect to C,
and continuity with A. When, then, by the imaginary disappearance of
B, A is brought into contact with C, it is converted into B. Moreover,
A is not only connected with C, but is preceded by others; if, then,
by the disappearance of B, it makes a step, so also must the whole
infinite chain which precedes it. Each one is then a soldier, or rather
no soldiery is possible, for we have taken an instant from the infinite
chain, and so rendered it finite. Or, more distinctly; can we conceive
yesterday or to-morrow without to-day, a future or a past without the
present? Evidently we cannot. Time, then, is essentially composed of
inseparable parts.

19. This similarity between time and space naturally leads us to
believe that time is an abstract idea just as space is. What we have
said of space is applicable to time, only with a few modifications
exacted by the very nature of the thing. It can in no case be without
utility, in scientific investigations, to approximate and compare
these great ideas, which are as immense receptacles wherein our mind
deposits its treasures. The actual corporeal universe, and all possible
universes, are included in the idea of space; and all finite beings,
corporeal or incorporeal, are included in that of time.

20. We may well suspect that these ideas, so intimately united to our
perceptions, are formed in a similar manner; for it is probable that
they belong to the order of those primitive laws which govern the
development of our intellect.

21. The similarity between space and time must not make us ignore the
differences which distinguish them.

I. All the parts of space are co-existent; otherwise, that continuity
which is essential to them, would be inconceivable. Time is composed
of successive parts; to imagine them co-existent, is to destroy the
essence of time.

II. Space refers solely to the corporeal world, under only one aspect,
that of continuity. Time extends to all that is successive, corporeal
or incorporeal.

III. Consequently, the idea of space exists only in the geometrical
order, of which it is the basis. The idea of time is mingled with every
thing, and more especially with our own acts.

IV. Our soul, when reflecting upon itself, can totally prescind space,
and forget all its relations with extended objects; but it cannot
prescind time, which it finds necessary even to its own operations.

This last difference is a great help to the understanding in what the
idea of time consists; and we venture to recommend it to the attention
and memory of the reader.



22. Time is duration; but duration without something which endures, is
an absurdity. There can then be no time without something existing. The
duration which we conceive, after reducing every thing to nihility, is
a vain imagination; it is not an idea, but is rather in contradiction
with ideas.

An important consequence flows from this; it is, that time in itself,
cannot be defined with absolute elimination of every thing to which it
refers. Time, then, has no proper existence; and separated from beings
is annihilated.

23. Hence, also, it follows that that infinity which we attribute to
time, has no rational foundation. We have no other reason to affirm
this infinity than a vague conception, which presents it as such; but
we cannot fail to perceive that this conception also exists, even if
we suppose all to be reduced to nothing. If, then, there is in this
supposition a vain diversion of the imagination, it is not an idea, but
a contradiction with ideas; and what has once deceived us, no longer
deserves any credit. Those infinite ages of time which we conceive
prior to the creation, are not nothing; they are an imaginary time,
similar to an imaginary space.

24. Time has no necessary relation with movement, since if nothing
were to move, or even no bodies to exist, we should nevertheless
conceive time in the succession of operations of our soul. This last
is indispensable; we must have some succession of things in order to
conceive time. If we suppose nothing to change or to be altered, a
being subject to no external or internal change, having one single
thought always the same, one single will always the same, having no
succession of ideas or acts of any kind whatever, we conceive nothing
to which the idea of time is applicable.

Time is a measure; but what is it to measure in a being of this kind?
Succession? But there is no succession. Duration? But what is there to
measure in a duration always the same, which is only the same being?
Duration must have parts given to it before it can be measured; but
what parts has it? Those of time? But this would be a begging of the
question, since time is applied to it when we are inquiring whether
time is applicable to it. When theologians say that the existence
of God cannot be measured by time, that there is no succession in
eternity, but that all is united in a single point, they utter a
profound truth; and Clarke, before ridiculing it, should have studied
to understand it.

25. Time commences with mutable things; if they perish, it perishes
with them. There is no succession without mutation; and consequently,
no time.

26. What, then, is time? The succession of things considered in the

What is succession? Being and not-being. A thing exists; it ceases to
exist; here we have succession. Whenever time can be calculated, there
is succession; and whenever succession can be calculated a being and
a not-being are considered. The perception of this relation, of this
being and not-being, is the idea of time.

27. Time cannot exist without being and not-being; because in this,
succession consists; wherever there is succession, there is some
mutation; and there is no mutation without something being in another
manner, and this other manner is not possible unless the prior manner
ceases to be.

Substances, modifications, and appearances have no succession without
this being and not-being. What is motion? The succession of the
positions of a body with respect to various points; and this succession
is verified by occupying some of these positions and destroying others.
What is the succession of thoughts or affections of our mind? The
not-being of some which were, and the being of others which were not.

28. Time, then, in things, is their succession, their being and
not-being. Time in the understanding, is the perception of this
mutation, this being and not-being.



29. Is time something absolute? The definition given in the last
chapter shows clearly enough that it is not. Time in things is not
being only, nor not-being only, but the _relation_ of being and
not-being. Time in the understanding, is the perception of this

The measure of time is nothing else than the comparison of mutations
among themselves. To us, those mutations which seem to be unalterably
uniform serve as the primitive measure. For this we have taken the
movement of the sun. This movement varies when compared with that of
the stars, and ceases to be the primitive measure when referred to
this: and it was upon this the scholastics rested when they taught that
the movement of the first heavens was the primitive measure of time.

30. But what if the velocity of the sun were augmented, and it should
make its revolution in one half of its time? Would the hours continue
the same? We distinguish. If this alteration should be verified solely
in the solar movement, we should perceive the discordance between this
and all other movements; and perceiving this alteration in the sun, we
should continue to refer our hours as things fixed to other measures,
to our own movements, to our time-pieces, or to other heavenly bodies.

But if we suppose every thing to be changed at one and the same time,
and in the same proportion; the movement of all the heavens and of
every thing terrestrial to be doubly accelerated, but in such a way as
not to increase the rapidity of our thoughts; we should indeed discover
an alteration, but we should not know whether to attribute it to the
world or to ourselves; we should perceive a discrepancy between our
thoughts and these movements, but should not know whether these were
accelerated or our thoughts retarded.

If this rapidity be also communicated to us, so that such or such
a series of thoughts formerly corresponding to so many minutes is
now made in one half the number, we should then witness a perfect
correspondence in all things; we could perceive no mutation. An hour,
for example, is to us only the perception of the relation of certain
mutations: so long as this relation continues the same, there will be
no alteration in the hour.

31. To take away from time every idea of absolute, seems an absurdity
to the imagination, but not to reason. This case will make this
evident. Not the man, the best skilled in perceiving the succession of
time, can, if he look at no time-piece, nor refer to any measure for
twelve hours, say whether eleven hours and a half or twelve hours have
passed. If he live long in this way, he will become totally incapable
of estimating time; if locked up in a dark dungeon for several months,
he will believe he has spent years there. The idea, therefore, of the
measure of time, is nothing absolute; it is essentially relative; it
is the perception of the relations between various mutations. So long
as these relations remain whole and intact, time will be to us the same.



32. Here arises a serious difficulty: if time be nothing absolute,
greater or less velocity is inexplicable. This seems to result even
from what we have said, that if the relation of movements be not
changed, any augmentation or diminution of velocity is impossible;
because, if velocity be in necessary relation to time, and time itself
be nothing but the relation of mutations, it is inconceivable how time,
and consequently how velocity, can be changed without changing the
relation of mutations. Thus it would be impossible for the velocity of
the whole mechanism of the universe to be changed, just as it would
be absurd to say that the stars and every thing that exists may now
experience the same changes of velocity. This would destroy the very
idea of velocity; at least if taken as something absolute, wherein
different grades may be considered.

33. Let us now examine this difficulty, which indeed deserves to be
examined, for it seems to contradict our most common ideas.

First of all, we must premise that velocity is not something absolute,
but a relation. Physicists and mathematicians express it by a fraction
whose numerator is the space run over and whose denominator is the time
consumed. Making V the velocity, S the space, and T the time, we shall
have V = S/T. This shows the velocity to be essentially a _relation_;
for it cannot be otherwise expressed than by the ratio of the space to
the time.

34. This mathematic formula expresses the idea we all have of velocity;
it expresses in three letters what the unlettered man repeatedly says
to himself. The velocity of two horses is ascertained not solely by the
space they have passed over, nor solely by the time they have consumed
in their career, but by the greater or less space passed over in a
given time; or by the longer or shorter time required to pass over a
given space.

To deny, then, to velocity an absolute nature, is nothing new; for we
all of us make it essentially consist in a relation.

35. In the expression V = S/T two terms enter, space and time. Viewing
the former in the real order, abstraction made of that of phenomena, we
more easily come to regard it as something fixed; and we comprehend it
in a given case without any relation. A foot is at all times a foot;
and a yard, a yard. These are quantities existing in reality; and if
we refer them to other quantities, it is only to make sure that they
are so; not because their reality depends upon the relation. A cubic
foot of water is not a cubic foot because the measure so says, but
on the contrary, the measure so says because there is a cubit foot.
The measure itself is also an absolute quantity; and in general, all
extensions are absolute, for otherwise, we should be obliged to seek
measure of measure, and so on to infinity. True, to call things large
or small depends upon comparison; but this does not change their own
quantity. The diameter of the earth, compared with an inch measure,
is immense; but it is an almost imperceptible point compared with
the distance of the fixed stars; yet this does not prevent the inch
measure, the diameter of the earth, and the distance to the fixed
stars, from being values in themselves determinate, and independent of
each other.[27]

[27] See Lib. III., Ch. XX.

If the denominator in S/T were a quantity of the same kind as space,
that is, having determinate values, existing and conceivable by
themselves alone, the velocity, although still a relation, might also
have determinate values, not indeed, wholly absolute, but only in the
supposition that the two terms, S and T, having fixed values, are
compared. Thus, if we require a velocity of 4, we have only to take a
fixed quantity of space, and another fixed quantity of time, having the
relation to each other of 4 to 1; and this is quite easy, when S and T
are both absolute quantities. If, in this supposition, an acceleration
or delay be required in the whole universe, nothing more would be
required than to augment or diminish the time in which each part would
have to traverse its respective space. But from the difficulties which
we have on the one hand seen presented to the consideration of time as
an absolute thing, and from the fact that, on the other hand, no solid
proof can be adduced to show such a property to have any foundation, it
follows that we know not how to consider velocity as absolute, even in
the sense above explained.

36. Hence a consequence not less important than striking, as to the
possibility of a universal acceleration or retardation. If we would
have an acceleration or retardation of the whole machine of the
universe, and should abandon all motion to which we might refer time,
should at once change all, not excluding the operations of our own
soul, we should have a problem proposed to us that appears insolvable,
nothing less than the realization of an impossibility; the relation of
many terms would have to be changed without undergoing any change. If
velocity be only the relation of space and time, and time only the
relation of spaces traversed, it is the same thing to change them all
in the same proportion, and not to change them at all; it is to leave
every thing as it is.

37. The singularity of such consequences ought not to be a sufficient
excuse for abandoning them. We must not forget that we are examining
the common ideas of time and velocity in their most transcendental
aspect, and that it is by no means astonishing that our mind finds
itself, as it leaves its ordinary walks, in an entirely new atmosphere,
wherein it seems to discover contradictions. When we examine the
ideas of time and velocity, we unwittingly fall into the error of
uniting them in the same explanation. We would prescind them; but this
we do only with great difficulty, and we often fall into a vicious
circle. Hence it is that when, by a great effort, we succeed in
really prescinding, the consequences that follow seem contradictory;
but this apparent contradiction arises solely from our not having
persevered with due firmness in our prescision; and as, in this case,
the understanding starts from two different suppositions, whereas
it believes that it starts from one alone, the results seem to it
contradictory, which in reality they may not be. The same thing occurs
in the examination of the idea of space.[28]

[28] See Lib. III., Chs. XII., XIII., and XIV.



38. The reasons that destroy the absolute nature of time, inasmuch
as it is subject to measure, do not seem fully to obviate another
difficulty, arising from the consideration of time in itself. If indeed
time be succession, what is this succession? It is evident that things
succeed each other; but if there be no _before_ or _after_, that is,
time existing before succession, since succession consists in some
things coming _after_ others, what is the meaning of succeeding each
other? Thus, time is explained by succession, and succession by time.
What is _afterwards_ but a part of time that is in relation with a

39. What we said in the fourth chapter does not seem completely to
solve the difficulty; for being and not-being do not form succession,
save only inasmuch as one comes _after_ the other, that is, inasmuch
as it presupposes the time to be explained already to exist. There may
be a simultaneous being and not-being of distinct things; and there is
in one and the same thing no repugnance between being and not-being,
if not referred to the same time. In such a case, therefore, this is
always presupposed so to be; since in one and the same thing, being and
not-being are inconceivable unless at different instants of time. Hence
it follows that being and not-being do not sufficiently explain time.

40. This difficulty is indeed grave; and we must, in order to solve
it, elaborate a fundamental explanation of succession. This we shall
endeavor to do, and without in any sense supposing the idea of time.

41. There are things which exclude, and things which do not exclude
each other. When we have existence of things which exclude each other,
we have succession. If in a line a--------b--------c, a body be at a,
it cannot pass to b, without ceasing to be at a. The situation at b
excludes that at a; and so also that at c excludes that at b. When we
see things exist notwithstanding this reciprocal exclusion, we find

42. Succession is, in reality, the existence of things mentally
exclusive of each other. What each involves is the being of that which
excludes, and the not-being of that which is excluded.

43. This exclusion prevails in all variations; and therefore, we find
succession in every variation. Variation is the mutation of states;
the loss of one, and the acquisition of another; therefore, there is
exclusion, for being excludes not-being, and not-being, being.

44. When we perceive these distinctions, these exclusions realized,
we perceive succession, time. When we compute these exclusions, these
distinctions in which distinct and exclusive things are offered to us,
such as being and not-being, we compute time.

45. Here arises a difficulty. If succession involves exclusion, and
there is no succession without exclusion, it follows that things which
do not exclude each other are simultaneous; and from this we infer the
absurdity of saying, that the things happening in the time of Adam,
which do not exclude those of our own time, are simultaneous. The
motion of the plants of Paradise excludes not that of plants in gardens
now existing; this motion, then, is simultaneous with that; the motion
that was then is the present; and the present motion was then; which is
inconceivably absurd.

This difficulty is serious: it seems to be based upon a reason founded
in evident truths; but it is not impossible to give a solution of it.

46. Were there to exist one thing which excluded nothing, and was
excluded by nothing, it would be simultaneous with every thing. Know
you what this thing is? There is but one, God. It is therefore that the
theologians say, with great truth, and with a profoundness which has
not, perhaps, been at all times understood even by those who have made
the remark, that God is present to all times; that to him there is no
succession, no _before_ or _after_; that to him every thing is present,
is _now_.

47. Of God alone is this true; in all else there is some exclusion,
being and not-being, and therefore succession. Let us now, for example,
examine how the motion of the plants in our gardens is excluded by that
of the garden of Eden. How are those of our gardens moved? By existing,
and also by being subject to conditions necessary to motion. How do
they exist? By a development of the germs they themselves contain. What
is this development? A series of motions, of being and of not-being,
and consequently of things that exclude each other. There is, then, no
simultaneousness between those of the garden of Eden and those of our
own gardens; for between the former and the first germ, there was no
mediation other than the movement of the first development; whereas,
between the movements of those of our gardens and the first germ, many
others have intervened. Here we have exclusion, being and not-being.
The number of exclusions necessary to existence is very different in
the two cases; therefore, there is no simultaneousness. Considering all
the developments, and all the changes of the orb, as a dilated series
of terms interlaced by a mutual dependence, as in fact they are by the
laws of nature; and calling these terms A, B, C, D, E,--N, the plants
of the garden of Eden belong to the term A, and those of ours, to the
term N.

48. The non-simultaneousness of motion is proved in the same manner
as the non-simultaneousness of existence, for motion is a manner of
existing. Moreover, the air which agitates the plants of our gardens
has been moved by another, and this other by yet another; and these
motions, subject to all the fixed and constant laws of nature, are
all interlinked from the very first motion, just as the wheels are
interlocked in a system of machinery. But as the curvature of one wheel
is not that of the other, so these motions are different, and exclude
one another down to the last, which is the air which moves the present

49. This explanation of succession and time, throws much light on the
idea of eternity; and shows that eternity, or the simultaneousness of
all existence, belongs only to the immutable being. All mutable beings,
which necessarily imply a transition from not-being to being, and from
being to not-being, involve a succession, if not in their substance, at
least in their modifications.

50. This explains how the idea of time is found in almost all our
conceptions, and is expressed in all languages. Man continually
perceives being and not-being in all around him. He perceives it within
him, in the multitude of his thoughts and affections; at one time
agreeing, at another disagreeing; sometimes connected, and sometimes
separated; but always distinguished from one another, always producing
different modifications in the mind: they therefore exclude each
other, and cannot co-exist; because the existence of one excludes the
existence of the other.



51. If the succession of time involves exclusion, there must be
co-existence where there is no exclusion: therefore, supposing that
God has created other worlds, they must necessarily be contemporaneous
with the present; for it is evident that they would not be excluded;
and as they have not the mutual relation of cause and effect like the
phenomena of the present world, we cannot apply to them the explanation
which we gave to show that the motion of the plants of Paradise was not
contemporaneous with the motion of the plants in our gardens. We must,
therefore, hold that it would have been impossible for another world
to exist before the present world; and that though God might create as
many beings as he pleased, yet, so long as they do not exclude each
other, they must be contemporaneous.

52. This difficulty is not easy to solve, unless we have perfectly
understood the meaning of the word exclusion. By exclusion is meant,
not only the intrinsical repugnance of one being to another, but that,
for one reason or another, whether intrinsical or extrinsical, the
existence of one implies the negation of the existence of the other.
This explanation solves the difficulty.

53. Two worlds, entirely independent of one another, could have been
subjected to this exclusion by the will of God. God can create one
without creating the other; in this case, we find the existence of the
first and the negation of the existence of the other. God can cease to
preserve the first, and create the second; we then find the existence
of the second and the negation of the first. In both these cases,
there is _before_ and _after_, a succession in existence. God can
create both; we can conceive the existence of both without the negation
of the existence of either; this is co-existence.

54. We shall understand the whole question much better, if we examine
for a moment the meaning of co-existence. Two beings co-exist, or exist
at the same time, when there is no succession of one to the other, when
both exist, when there is not the existence of one and the negation of
the other. In order to conceive co-existence, we need only conceive the
existence of two beings: we form the idea of succession, by combining
with the idea of the existence of one the idea of the negation of
the other. The co-existence of two beings is their existence; their
succession is the being of one, and the not-being of the other. Being
refers only to the present; the past and the future are not being. That
only is which is, not that which was, or which will be. There is a
profound truth, a sound philosophy, and an admirable ontology in those
words of the sacred text: "I AM WHO AM. He who is, hath sent
me to you."

55. Without being and not-being, there is no succession, there is
no time, there is only the present, there is eternity. To a being
immutable in itself, and in all its acts, one in its intelligence, one
in its will, always its own object, unchangeable, in the plenitude
of its being, without any kind of negation,--to such a being there
is neither _before_ nor _after_; there is only _now_. If you give to
it the succession of instants, you apply to it, without any ground,
the work of your imagination. Reflect well on the meaning of _before_
and _after_, in that which can change in nothing, by nothing, and
for nothing, and you will see that succession is in this case a word
without any meaning. We attribute to it succession because we judge the
object by our perceptions, and our perceptions are successive; they
have an alternative of being and not-being, even when applied to an
immutable object.

56. Every one may experience this in his own mind. Conceive two beings
to exist; add to this thought nothing accessory, neither the negation
of being, nor of time, nor of any thing else,--merely conceive the
existence of two beings, and see if any thing is wanting to complete
your idea of their co-existence. If, on the contrary, you wish to
perceive succession, or difference of instants, you must perceive the
existence of one, and the negation of the existence of the other.
Therefore, the idea of co-existence is simple, and implies only the
existence of the beings, but the idea of succession is composed of the
combination of being with not-being.

57. I must here call attention to the fruitfulness of the idea of
being, which, combined with the idea of not-being, furnishes the idea
of time. We have before seen, that the ideas of unity and number
were favored in the same manner, and we shall soon have occasion to
observe, how, from the ideas of being and not-being, spring others,
which, although secondary in respect to these, are the most important
of all the ideas which the human mind possesses. I call attention to
this, from a desire that the reader may become accustomed to refer all
ideas to a few points where they are united, not by a factitious chain
imposed by arbitrary methods, but by the internal nature of things
themselves. What extension is, in relation to sensible intuitions,
the idea of being is, in relation to conceptions. The intuition of
extension, and the idea of being, are the two fundamental points in
all ideological and ontological science; they are two primitive data
possessed by the mind, by means of which it can solve all problems,
either in the sensible order, or in the purely intellectual. Regarded
from this point of view, every thing becomes clear, and is arranged in
the most logical order, because it is the order of nature.

58. I wish to make one observation on the method which I have followed
in this work. I did not think it well to explain separately my opinion
of these general connections of all ideas; for then it would have been
necessary to treat philosophy in a systematic order, placing at the
beginning what ought to be at the end, and trying to establish as a
preliminary doctrine, what ought only to be the result of a collection
of doctrines. To attain my object, it was necessary to go on analyzing
in succession facts and ideas, without reference to system, without
doing violence to them, in order to make them conform to a system,
but only examining them, in order to ascertain their result. This,
undoubtedly, is the best method. We thus obtain the knowledge of truth
as a fruit of our labors on facts, and are not obliged to alter objects
for the sake of forcing them to bend to the author's opinion. After
the application which we have been making of the ideas of being, and
not-being, to one of the most abstruse points of metaphysics, it is not
out of place to call the reader's attention to this for a moment, so
that he may be able to see the connection of doctrines.



59. After explaining the idea of co-existence, we came to the
definition of the various relations which time presents. They
are principally three: present, past, and future. All others are
combinations of these.

60. The present is the only absolute time: by this I mean, that it
needs no relation, in order to be conceived. The present is conceived
without relation to the past or to the future. Neither the past nor the
future can be conceived without relation to the present.

61. The _past_ is an essentially relative idea. When we speak of
the _past_, we have to take some point to which it refers, and in
respect to which we say it is past. This point is the present, either
in reality, or in the ideal order; that is to say, that by the
understanding, we place ourselves in that point, and make it present to
us, and in reference to it, we speak of the past.

To prove that the idea of past is essentially relative, we may observe,
that by varying the points of reference, the past may cease to be
considered as such, and may be presented as present or future. Speaking
of the events of the time of Alexander, they are presented to us as
past, because we consider them in relation to the present moment; but
if we are speaking of the empire of Sesostris, the epoch of Alexander
ceases to be past, and is converted into future. If we were relating
events contemporary with the deeds of Alexander, this epoch would cease
to be past or future, and would become present.

The past, therefore, is always in reference to a present point, taken
in the course of time, and it is only in respect to this, that any
thing is said to have been, to be past; without this relation, the idea
of past is absurd, and it is impossible to conceive it.

62. What is the relation of past? According to the definition which we
have given of time, when we perceive the being of any thing, and then
its not-being, and the being of something else, we say the first is
past in relation to the second.

63. What would take place, then, if we should perceive the being of
something, and then its not-being, without relation to any other being?
This hypothesis is absurd; for we must always have this other being, if
we perceive being and not-being.

But it may be replied that we may suppose the disappearance of
ourselves, and then the objection would be good. Even though we should
disappear, there would still remain intelligences capable of perceiving
being and not-being. If there were no finite intelligence, there would
still be the infinite intelligence.

64. Here arises a new difficulty; for it may be asked whether the thing
would be passed with relation to the infinite intelligence. If we admit
that it would be, we seem to introduce time with the duration of God,
by which we destroy his eternity, which excludes all succession. If we
say that to the eyes of the infinite intelligence the thing would not
be past, then it would not be past in reality; for things are as God
knows them. Then there would be the idea of being and of not-being, and
still there would not be the idea of past. This difficulty arises from
a confusion of terms.

Let us suppose that God had created only one being, and this being
had ceased to exist; and let us see what would be the result of
this hypothesis. God knows the existence and the non-existence of
the object. This intellectual act is most simple; there can be no
succession in it. There is properly no past with respect to God,
and applied to the object this idea can only mean its non-existence
in relation to its existence which is destroyed. When the ideas are
presented in this light it is easy to understand that there is no past
in God, but that there is the knowledge of past things.

65. On this hypothesis, how can the time of only one creature be
measured? By its changes. But if it has none? On this imaginary
supposition there would be no time.

This conclusion is absolutely necessary, although it may at first sight
seem strange. We must either abandon our definition of time, or else
admit that there is no time where there is no change.

66. Whatever conclusions we form on questions founded on imaginary
suppositions, this, at least, is certain--that the idea of past is
essentially relative, and that on no supposition can we conceive the
past, if we take from it all relation. The expression _has been_
implies both being and not-being,--the succession which constitutes
time. In this relation the order is such that not-being is perceived
after being, and this is why it is called past.

67. The idea of the future is also relative to the present. The future
is inconceivable without this relation. The future is that which is
to come,--that which is to be with respect to a real or hypothetical
_now_; for we may apply to the future what we said of the past, that it
is changed by changing the point of its reference. The future for us
will be past to those who come after us; that which was future to those
past, is present or past to us.

The point of reference of the future is always a present moment; it
cannot be referred to the past as its ultimate term; for it is in
itself referred equally to the present.

68. Therefore all that we find in the idea of time that is absolute is
the present. The present needs no relation. It not only needs none, but
it admits none. We can neither refer it to the past nor to the future,
because these two times both presuppose the idea of the present,
without which they cannot even be conceived.

69. Time is a chain whose links are infinitely divisible. There is no
time which we cannot divide into other times. The indivisible instant
represents something analogous to the indivisible point; a limit which
we approach without ever reaching, an unextended element producing
extension. A geometrical point must be moved in order to generate a
line; but no motion is conceived as possible unless we presuppose
space in which the point moves; or in other words, when we treat of
the generation of extension, we commence by presupposing it. A similar
thing happens in relation to time. We imagine an indivisible instant,
from the fluxion of which results the continuity of duration which we
call time. But this fluxion is impossible, unless we suppose a time
in which it flows. We wish to examine the generation of time, and we
suppose it already existing, prolonged infinitely, as an immense line
on which the fluxion of the instant takes place. What are we to infer
from these apparent contradictions? Nothing but a strong confirmation
of the doctrine which we have established.

Time distinguished from things is nothing. Duration in the abstract,
distinguished from that which endures, is a being of reason,--a work
which our understanding produces from the materials furnished by
reality. All being is present. That which is not present is not-being.
The present instant, the _now_, is the reality of the thing; it is not
sufficient to constitute time, but it is necessary to time. There can
be present without either past or future; but there can be neither past
nor future without the present. When besides being there is not-being,
and this relation is perceived, time begins. To conceive past and
future without the alternation of being and not-being, as a sort of
line infinitely produced in two opposite directions, is to take an
empty play of the phantasy for a philosophical idea, and to apply to
time the illusion of imaginary space.

70. Therefore, if there is only being, there is only absolute, present
duration; therefore no past nor future, and, consequently, no time.
Time is in its essence a successive, _flowing_ quantity; it cannot be
seized in its actuality; for it is always divisible, and every division
in time constitutes past and future. This is a demonstration that time
is a mere relation, and in so far as it is in things, it only expresses
being and not-being.



71. This theory will be much better understood by its application to
the solution of several questions.

I. How long a time had passed before the creation? None. As there was
no succession, there was only the present, the eternity of God. All
else that we imagine is a mere illusion, contrary to sound philosophy.

II. Was it possible for another world to have existed when this world's
existence began? Undoubtedly it was; this would only require that God
had created it, without creating this world; it would only require
the being of the one and the not-being of the other. And as there was
not-being because there was no creation, it follows that if God had
created the one without creating the other, and had ceased to preserve
the first when he created the second, there would have been succession
and priority of time.

III. Here is another question which is somewhat strange, and at
first seems very difficult. Was the existence of a world _prior_
to this possible _in any time_? or, in other words, could another
world have _ceased_ to exist _some time before_ the beginning of the
existence of this world? This question implies a contradiction. It
supposes an interval of time, that is, of succession, without any
thing to succeed. If a world had ceased to exist, and no new world
should exist, there would be nothing but God; there would then be no
succession, there would be only eternity. To ask, therefore, how long a
time they were apart, is to suppose that there is time, where there is
none. The proper answer is, that the question is absurd.

But we shall be asked, were they distant, or were they not? There
is no distance of time where there is no time; this distance is a
mere illusion, by which we imagine time, while, by the state of the
question, we suppose that there is no time.

Then it may be objected, that the two successive worlds must be
necessarily immediate, that is to say, that the first instant of one
must be immediately connected with the last instant of the other.
I deny it. For immediateness of instants supposes the succession
of beings mutually connected in a certain order; the two worlds in
question would have no mutual relation; consequently, there would be
neither distance nor immediateness between them.

But, it may be replied, there is no medium between being and not-being,
and distance being the negation of immediateness, and immediateness the
negation of distance, by denying one, we affirm the other; they must,
therefore, either be distant or immediate. This reply also supposes
something which we deny. It speaks of distance and immediateness,
that is, of time, as though it were something positive, distinct from
the beings themselves. The principle, that every thing is, or is
not, _quodlibet est vel non est_, is applicable only when there is
something; but when there is nothing, there is no disjunctive. The time
of the two worlds is nothing, as distinguished from them; it is the
succession of their respective phenomena; the succession of the two
worlds, the one to the other, is nothing distinguished from them; it is
the being of the one, and the negation of the other, and the being of
the second and the negation of the first. God sees this; an intelligent
creature would also see it, if he could survive the annihilation of
the first world. To the eyes of God, who sees the reality, succession
would be simply the respective existence and non-existence of the two
objects. The intelligent creature would say, that the two worlds are
immediate, if to the perception of the last instant of the annihilated
world, the perception of a new existing world had followed without
another intermediate perception; and he would say, that there is
distance, if he had experienced various perceptions between the
annihilation of the old and the perception of the new creation. The
measure of this time would be taken from the changes of perceptions of
this creature, and would be longer or shorter, according to the number
of these perceptions.

72. The idea of time is essentially relative, as it is the ordered
perception of being and not-being. The mere perception of one of the
two extremes, would not be sufficient to produce the idea of time in
our mind; for this idea necessarily implies comparison. The same is
true of the idea of space, which has always a great resemblance to
time. We cannot conceive space, or extension of any kind, without
juxtaposition; that is to say, without relations of various objects.
Multiplicity necessarily enters into the ideas of both space and time.
Hence, we may say, that if we conceive a being, absolutely simple,
with no multiplicity, either in its essence, or in its acts, but in
which all is identified with its essence, there is no room for the
ideas of space and time; and, consequently, they are mere fictions of
the imagination, when we attribute to them any thing real, beyond the
corporeal world, and before the existence of the created.



73. Having explained the idea of time, and applied it to the most
difficult questions, we may explain this doctrine still farther, by
examining what we have already intimated concerning the resemblance
between time and space.[29] There is analogy in the difficulties;
analogy in the definitions of both ideas; analogy in the illusions
which hinder the knowledge of the truth. What we announced before with
respect to these two ideas, considering the idea of time as only what
it appeared at first sight, we may now assert as the secure result
of analytical investigations. I call attention in particular to the
following parallel, because it greatly explains the ideas of both.

[29] See Ch. III.

74. Space is nothing in itself, distinguished from bodies; it is only
the extension of bodies: time is nothing in itself, distinguished from
things. It is only the succession of things.

75. The idea of space is the idea of extension in general; the idea of
time is the idea of succession in general.

76. Where there are no bodies, there is no space: where there are no
things which succeed each other, there is no time.

77. An infinite space, before the existence of bodies, or outside of
bodies, is an illusion of the imagination: an infinite time before the
existence of things, or outside of them, is also an illusion.

78. Space is continuous: so is time.

79. One part of space excludes all others; one part of time also
excludes all others.

80. A pure space, in which bodies are situated, is imaginary: a
succession, a time, in which things succeed, is also imaginary.

81. That which is entirely simple has no need of space, and can exist
without it: that which is immutable has no need of time, and can exist
without it.

82. The simple and infinite is present to all points of space, without
losing its infinity: the immutable and infinite is present to all
instants of time, without altering its eternity.

83. Two things are distant in space, because there are bodies placed
between them; this distance is only the extension of the bodies
themselves: two beings are distant in time, because there are other
beings placed between them; this distance is the existence of the
beings which are placed between.

84. Extension needs no other extension, in which to be placed,
otherwise we should have a _processus in infinitum_: the succession
of things, for the same reason, needs no other succession in which to

85. Just as we form the idea of continued succession in space by
distinguishing different parts of extension, and perceiving that one
excludes the others, so we also form the idea of continued succession
of time by distinguishing different facts and perceiving that one
excludes the others.

86. In order to form determinate ideas of the parts of space, we must
take a measure and refer to it: to form an idea of the parts of time we
also need a measure. The measure of space is the extension of some body
which we know: the measure of time is some series of changes which we
know. To measure space we seek for fixed things, as far as possible;
for the want of something better, men have recourse to the parts of
the body, the hand, the foot, the yard, and the pace, which give an
approximate, if not an exact measure. The exact sciences having
advanced, they have taken for their measure the forty-millionth part
of the meridian of the earth: time is measured by the motion of the
celestial bodies, by the diurnal motion, the lunar, solar, and sidereal

87. The idea of number is necessary in order to determine space and
compare its different parts: the same idea is necessary in the same
manner to time. The discrete quantity explains the continuous.



88. If time is nothing distinct from things, how does it happen that
we conceive it in the abstract, independently of things themselves?
How does it happen that it presents itself to us as an absolute being,
subject to no transformation or motion, while within it every thing
is moved and transformed? If it is a subjective fact, why do we apply
it to things? If it is objective, why is it mingled with all our
perceptions? Because it contains a necessity sufficient to be the
object of science.

The idea of time, whatever it may be, seems prior to all perception of
transformation, the consciousness of all internal acts included. It is
impossible for us to know any of these things, unless time serves as a
receptacle in which we may place our own changes and those of others.

89. The idea of time is not the result of observation; for in that case
it would be the expression of a contingent fact, and could not be the
principle of science. We measure time with the same exactness as we
do space, and it is one of the most fundamental ideas of the exact
sciences, in so far as they have any application to the objects of

90. It might seem to follow from this that the idea of time is innate
in our mind; and that it is prior to all ideas, and even sensations;
for both are necessarily involved in successive duration.

91. The necessity of the idea of time seems to prove that time is
independent of transitory things; in this case we are obliged to
convert it into a purely subjective fact, or else to grant it an
objective reality, independent of that which is changeable. By the
former we destroy it; by the latter we make it an attribute of the
divinity. To deny time is to deny the light of the sun; to raise it to
the rank of an attribute of divinity is to admit change in an immutable
being. If we make it purely subjective, we deny it; if objective, we
make it divine: is there no middle way?

92. I agree that the idea of time is not derived from mere experience;
for experience could not furnish an element so solid and so fixed,
on which we may with perfect security rest all the observations of
science. Still less can it be maintained, that the idea of time is
derived from purely sensible experience, or that it is in itself a

93. The idea of time is not a sensation; for it is relative, and
sensation is an affection of our being, without any reference to or
comparison with any thing. When we experience sensations, if we had
only the sensitive faculty, we should be limited to pure sensation,
without any consideration of before or after, or any relation of any
kind. Sensation, being limited to certain objects, cannot, like the
idea of time, extend to all objects. By time, we measure not only the
external world, but also the internal; not only the affections of the
body, but also the most concealed and abstract actions of our mind.
Time is, in itself, succession, and, in our mind, it is the perception
of this succession; it cannot, therefore, present any object to the
mind; even when time refers to objects, and is, as it were, the link
between them, it is not itself either these objects themselves, nor the
intuition of them. The idea of the time which measures the succession
of a sound or of a sight, clearly is not either the sound or the sight,
but the perception of their succession, of their connection. If it were
the sight alone, or the sound alone, either the sight or the sound
would alone be sufficient in order to perceive time, which is absurd;
for there is no time without succession, and consequently there can
be no time which measures two sensations without these sensations.
The idea of time is independent of either of the two; it is superior
to them; it is a sort of universal form, independent of this or that
matter; so that, if after the sound, instead of the sight, another
sound should be perceived by us, the measure of the succession would
be the same, and this measure is nothing more than the idea of time.
Sensations being mere contingent facts, cannot be the foundation of
necessary and universal truths, they cannot serve as the basis of a
science. But the idea of time is one of the principal ideas in all the
physical sciences, and, like extension, is subjected to a very rigorous
calculation; therefore, it is not a sensation, and it is not derived
from sensation.

94. Purely experimental cognitions are confined to the sphere of
experience; the idea of time extends to the whole real and possible
order, it teaches us not only what _is_, but what _may_, and what
_must_ be; its relations are of absolute necessity, and may be
subjected to the strictest calculation; therefore it contains something
more than the elements furnished by sensible or insensible experience.
It is not otherwise possible to explain the necessity which it
involves, or to pass beyond a collection of contingent facts to arrive
at the possession of an element of science.

95. Let us observe, as we pass, that here is found another proof that
the system of Condillac is neither true nor subsistent. His system
has been found insufficient to explain any fundamental idea, and it
does not explain the idea of time, any more than the rest, although it
seems as though this idea must have the most intimate relations to the
sensible order.

96. If the idea of time is not merely experimental, how explain the
priority and necessity of time?



97. Kant uses the same theory to explain time that he used to explain
space. Time, according to him, is nothing in itself, neither is it any
thing in things; it is a subjective condition of intuition, a form of
the internal sense, by means of which phenomena are presented to us
as successive, just as space was the form by which they are presented
as continuous. To speak frankly, it seems to me that this is saying
nothing; it affirms a well-known fact, but does not explain it. Who
does not know that what we perceive we perceive in succession--that
we perceive even our own perceptions in succession? But what is
succession? This is what he ought to have explained.

98. Kant says that time is only in us; but I should like to ask him,
if succession is only in us. He pretends that we know nothing of the
external world, but that we perceive certain appearances, or phenomena;
but he does not deny that beyond the appearance there may be a reality.
If this reality is possible, changes are possible in it; and change
cannot be conceived without succession, nor succession without time.

99. According to Kant, the ideas of space and time are _à priori_, they
cannot be empirical, or experimental; for in that case they could not
be the basis of science; we could only affirm what we had experienced,
and this only with respect to the cases in which we have experienced
it. This is true, and I have demonstrated it in the last chapter; but,
conceding this priority, it proves nothing in favor of Kant's system.
The ideas of space and time, although _à priori_, may nevertheless
correspond to something in reality, as follows from the theory by which
I have explained them.

100. Time is not any thing which subsists by itself, but it is not
equally certain that it does not belong, as an objective determination,
to things, and that nothing remains of it, if we abstract it from all
the subjective impressions of intuition. I have demonstrated that time
does not subsist by itself, and that a duration without any thing
which endures, is an absurdity; but it does not follow from this that
the order represented by the idea of time is not something real in
the objects. Abstracting it from our intuition, there still remains
something which verifies the propositions by which we express the
properties of time.

101. The German philosopher makes time purely subjective, and relies
on the following argument: "If time were a condition belonging to the
things themselves, or an order, it could not precede the objects as a
condition of them, and be known and perceived _à priori_ by synthetical
judgments. This last is easily explained if time is nothing but the
subjective condition under which all intuitions are possible in us. For
then this form of the internal intuition can be represented before the
objects, and consequently _à priori_....

"If we abstract our manner of perceiving ourselves internally, and of
embracing, by means of this intuition, all external intuitions in the
faculty of representation, and consequently take objects just as they
may be in themselves, time is nothing....

"I can say that my representations are successive, but this only means
that we are conscious of them in a succession,--that is, in a form of
the internal sense. Time would not therefore be any thing in itself,
nor a determination inherent in things."[30]

[30] Trans. Æsth. II., A. § 6. w. f.

102. It is easy to see that the philosopher is struggling between two
difficulties. The first is, how to explain the necessity involved in
the idea of time, if he makes it proceed from experience. The second
is, how, if it is not derived from experience, it can be found really
in things, or, at least, how we can know that it is found in them.

Hence, he concludes, that it is not possible to save the necessity
involved in the idea of time, unless by making it a purely subjective
fact, a form of an intuition, entirely independent of the reality of

It seems to me, that by attending to the principles established above,
we can give an objective value to time, independently of our intuition,
and explain its relations to experience, without destroying the
necessity contained in its idea.



103. Things in themselves, abstracted from our intuition, are
susceptible of change. Where there is change, there is succession, and
where there is succession, there is a certain order in the things which
succeed,--an order which is really in the things themselves, although
it does not subsist by itself, separated from them.

Kant might object to this, that perhaps the changes are not in things,
but in the phenomena, or the manner in which they are presented to our
intuition. But he cannot deny, that whether these changes are in the
reality, or not, they are, at least, possible, independently of the
phenomena. Therefore, he asserts, without reason, that time in the
things is nothing, and that it is only the form of our internal sense.
If he admits the possibility of real changes, he must also admit the
possibility of a real time; if he denies that it is possible for the
things in themselves to be really changed, we would ask him how he came
to know this impossibility,--he, who limits all our knowledge to the
purely phenomenal order. We cannot know that a thing is impossible in
an order, if we know nothing of this order; if Kant maintains that we
know nothing of things in themselves, he cannot prove that we know the
impossibility of their really changing.

104. It is then demonstrated that time, or a real order in things, is,
at least, possible. Therefore, we cannot say that time is a purely
subjective condition, to which nothing can correspond in the reality.

105. Admitting the possibility of an objective value of the idea of
time, not only in reference to the purely phenomenal order, but also to
the transcendental, or rather to things considered in themselves, and
abstracted from our intuition; we shall see how the objectiveness of
the idea of time and its relations to experience can be shown, without
destroying the intrinsic necessity which makes it one of the principal
elements of the exact sciences.

106. Time, considered in things, is the order of their being, and their
not-being. The idea of time is the perception of this order in its
greatest generality and abstracted from the objects which are contained
in it. As our understanding evidently can consider a purely possible
order of things, the idea of time extends to the possibility as well as
the reality. This is why we conceive time before and after the present
world, similar to the space which we imagine beyond the limits of the
universe. The idea of being, elevated to a purely possible region, in
which it is abstracted from all individual phenomena, is freed from the
instability to which the objects of our experience are subject: it can
then be an absolutely necessary element of science; for it expresses
a relation which is not affected by any thing contingent. These
observations are a solution of all difficulties.



107. Is the idea of time derived from experience? This question is
answered by what we said of the idea of being. It is not a type
existing previous to all sensation and to all intellectual act; it is
a perception of being and not-being which accompanies all our acts,
but is not presented to us separately until reflection eliminates from
it all that does not belong to it. This perception is the exercise of
an innate activity, which is subjected to the conditions of experience
in all that concerns the beginning and the continuation of its acts,
but not with respect to its laws which are characteristic of it, and
correspond to the pure intellectual order. This activity is unfolded in
the presence of causes or occasions which excite it, and its exercise
ceases when these conditions are wanting; but while the activity acts,
it exercises its functions in accordance with fixed laws which are
independent of the objects exciting it.

108. It is therefore clear that the idea of time is not strictly
derived from experience, except inasmuch as the mind is excited to
develop its activity by experience. Neither is it entirely independent
of experience; for without experience we should have no knowledge of
change, and consequently the intellect would not perceive the order of
being and not-being, in which the essence of time consists.

109. Hence the idea of time is not a form of the sensibility, but of
the pure intellectual order; and although it descends to the field
of sensible experience, it does so after the manner of other general

110. The idea of time is one of the most universal and indeterminate
ideas which our mind possesses; for it is the combination of the two
most general and most indeterminate ideas, being and not-being. Here is
the reason why the idea of time is common to all men, and is presented
to us as a form of all our conceptions and of all the objects known.

The ideas of being and not-being, entering as primitive elements into
all our perceptions, generate the idea of time. We therefore find this
idea in the inmost recesses of our soul as a condition from which we
cannot withdraw ourselves, and from which we exempt the Infinite Being
himself only by an effort of reflection.

111. The transition from the purely intellectual order to the field
of experience takes place in the idea of time, in the same manner as
in the other intellectual conceptions. I have, therefore, nothing
to add to what I have already said on this point when explaining it

[31] See Bk. IV., Chapters XIV. and XV.



112. Time is not only conceived as a general order of change, or
as a relation of being and not-being; but also as something fixed,
which can be measured with exactness. Thus, before the creation of
the world, we conceive not only an abstract order, or time, but a
time composed of years, of centuries, or some other terms. But this,
if we closely examine it, is only an idea in which we conceive the
phenomena of experience under a general view, taking them out of
actuality and contemplating them in the sphere of possibility. Neither
the years nor the centuries existed when there was nothing by which
they could be measured. If we imagine a sort of vague line of duration
prolonged to infinity, abstracting it from the measure and the object
measured, we become the sport of our imagination, and are entangled in
contradictions from which it is difficult to extricate ourselves.

113. The pure and abstract idea of time admits no measure; it is a mere
relation of being and not-being. The measure is possible only when the
idea of time is combined with the phenomena of experience.

Subject as we are to change, and situated amid beings as changeable
as ourselves, we should certainly fall into the greatest confusion of
our ideas, if in this ebb and flow of external as well as internal
existences which appear to us, we had not the greatest facility in
referring them to fixed measures, which are the thread that guides us
in this labyrinth of continual variations.

114. Two things are required for this measure: first, a suitable
phenomenon, and secondly, the idea of number. The common idea of time
which serves for the ordinary purposes of life of these three elements:
the pure idea of time, or the relation of being and not-being;
secondly, a suitable phenomenon to which we apply this pure idea; and
thirdly, the numeration of the changes of this phenomenon. Apply this
observation to all the measures of time, and you will find these three
elements always sufficient, but always indispensable also.

115. From this we deduce the necessity of time, even considered
empirically; for it involves two ideas, the one metaphysical, and the
other mathematical, applied to a fact. The metaphysical idea is the
relation of being and not-being; the mathematical idea is number; and
the fact is the sensible phenomenon, as, for example, the solar, or
human motion. Metaphysics and arithmetic take charge of the absolute
certainty; the fact observed answers for the experimental certainty;
and as, on the other hand, this phenomenon is supposed to be certain,
because, in case it were necessary we could abstract it from the
reality, and attend only to the possibility; it follows that time, even
considered empirically, may become the object of the exact sciences.

116. This theory does not make time a purely subjective condition,
nor grant it a nature independent of things; it reconciles the pure
intellectual order with the order of experience; and places man in
communication with the real world, without creating a contradiction in
his ideas.



117. Let us explain the true meaning of the principle of contradiction.
"It is impossible for any thing to be and not be at the same time."
The connection of the ideas contained in this principle seems at
first sight to be explained without any difficulty; so that, to raise
questions as to its true sense is to place ourselves in contradiction
with one of the fundamental truths on which rests the edifice of our
knowledge. For, if there be any doubt as to the true meaning of the
principle, it may be understood in several ways, and then there will be
another doubt as to whether the generality of men understand it as they
ought to, and whether, consequently, it is for them a solid foundation
of knowledge.

This difficulty ceases to be one when we reflect that the most
evident axioms may be considered in two manners: empirically,
or scientifically; or in other words, inasmuch as they are the
application, or the object of analytical examination. In the first
manner, they are equally certain and equally clear to all men; in
the second, they are subject to difficulties. The principle,--things
equal to a third are equal to each other,--considered empirically, is
absolutely certain and evident to all men: all men, from the wisest
to the most ignorant, compare things with a third, when they wish to
ascertain their equality or inequality; this is only an application of
the principle. If you ask them the reason of this proceeding, although
they may not enunciate the axiom in its precise terms, they refer to it
in different ways: "These two tables are equal, because I have measured
them, and they are each four feet square." Probably the generality of
men, not accustomed to reflect on their knowledge, would not express
the principle in universal and precise terms; as, "These two tables
are equal, because they have a common measure, and things equal to a
third are equal to each other." Yet they are just as clearly certain
of the principle, and apply it, without any danger of error, in all
real and possible cases. This is what I call the empirical knowledge of
principles,--a knowledge which is perfect in the direct order, and is
defective only in the reflex order.[32]

[32] See Bk. I., Ch. III.

It is very easy to reconcile the difficulty in the analysis of the
principle, with its clearness when applied to ordinary purposes, or
to those of science. Thus, in the example given, the analysis of the
term _equal_ leads to the analysis of the term _quantity_: reflection
can discover in this difficulties which, although they do not disturb
mankind in the possession of truth, are difficulties notwithstanding.
Geometry is undoubtedly a science perfectly evident and certain; but
who can deny that the idea of extension presents serious difficulties,
when examined before the tribunal of metaphysics? Universal arithmetic
is, beyond all doubt, a science; yet the ideas of quantity and number,
which are indispensable to it, give rise to the most abstruse questions
of metaphysics and ideology. In general, it may be said that there
is no branch of our knowledge which is exempt from difficulties,
considered in its root; but these difficulties, arising from
reflection, do not in any way lessen the certainty of direct knowledge.

Hence it is no objection that the analysis of the principle of
contradiction presents difficulties; nor are we therefore to fear for
the firmness of the edifice of our knowledge. It would be of no service
to us not to attend to these difficulties, if they really existed; a
difficulty does not vanish because we shut our eyes so as not to see
it. Let us not, therefore, vainly fear to examine the true sense of the
principle of contradiction.

118. It seems that this principle either does not exist, or has no
meaning, unless we presuppose the idea of time; and, on the other
hand, we cannot conceive time, unless we presuppose the principle of
contradiction. Do we thus fall into a vicious circle, and this too in
the fundamental principle of all our knowledge? This is a difficulty
which I shall first develop and present more clearly.

The principle of contradiction presupposes the idea of time,
because there would be no contradiction if being and not-being were
not referred to the same time. This last condition is altogether
indispensable; for, suppressing the simultaneousness, there is no
contradiction in a thing both being and not-being. Not only is there
no contradiction in this, but it is a thing which we constantly meet
with, in every thing around us. We see being and not-being in things
which pass from existence to non-existence, or from non-existence to

Although the simultaneousness may not be expressed in the principle of
contradiction, it is always understood, so that we should gain nothing
by adopting Kant's formula.[33] In whatever terms the principle may be
enunciated, it is always true that the same thing cannot both be and
not be at the same time, but may very well be at one time and not be at
another time.

[33] See Bk. I., Ch. XX.

The idea of time is therefore necessary in order that the contradiction
may follow in some cases, and disappear in others. If the time implies
simultaneousness, it generates the contradiction; if it implies
succession, it destroys the contradiction; because being and not-being
are impossible, unless we presuppose a successive duration, among the
different parts of which, things that would otherwise be contradictory
are distributed.

119. The idea of time also presupposes the principle of contradiction;
for, if time, in things, is only being and not-being, and in the
intellect, the perception of this being and not-being; we cannot
perceive time without having perceived being and not-being; and as
these ideas, without succession, involve a contradiction, we must
perceive the principle of contradiction when we perceive time. I have
said that succession implies the mutual exclusion of the things which
succeed; now, the first exclusion is the principle of contradiction:
in perceiving time, we perceive succession; therefore we have already
perceived the contradiction.

120. These remarks might incline us to believe it necessary to choose
between a vicious circle, which is inadmissible in the foundation of
all our knowledge, and an explanation of time, independently of being
and not-being. If we conceived time as existing by itself, as a sort of
line prolonged to infinity; as a form of things, but distinct from them
all; as a vague capacity in which successive beings might be placed,
just as we situate co-existences in space,--then the idea of time would
not be explained by the principle of contradiction, and we could only
say that it was completed by it. "When we say that it is impossible
for the same thing to be and not be at the same time, but that it is
possible for the same thing to be and not be at different times, the
contradiction is affirmed or taken away, accordingly as the being and
not-being are referred to the same point or to different points in this
vague extension, this infinite line, which we call successive duration,
and in which we conceive changeable things to be distributed." This
explanation is convenient; but it has a defect, that it cannot stand a
philosophical examination, as we have seen in the preceding chapters.
We must therefore have recourse to another class of considerations.

121. To solve this difficulty, it is necessary to determine precisely
the meaning of our ideas. The expression of _vicious circle_ is
improperly applied to this case. If we understand this, the whole
difficulty is solved at once. In explaining things, which are not
identical, a circle is a defect, and is called vicious; but when
two things are identical at bottom, although they appear distinct,
because presented under various aspects, it is impossible to explain
one without stumbling, so to speak, on the other, or to approach one
without meeting the other. Because they are presented under different
aspects we are led to believe them distinct; but examining them
analytically, we abstract the difference of aspect, and penetrate to
the reality, and discover the point where they are united, or, rather,
where they are absolutely identified.

122. We may draw from these observations a criterion which we may
use in a great many cases. When, in explaining two objects, we find
ourselves led alternately from the one to the other, without any
possibility of avoiding a circle, we may suspect that objects, which
appear distinct, are not so in reality, and that the objects presented
to the eyes of our understanding are not two objects, but only one
object perceived in different ways.

123. This is true in the present instance. In explaining the principle
of contradiction we encounter the idea of time, and in defining time
we encounter the principle of contradiction, or the ideas of being and
not-being. This is a circle, but an inevitable one; and therefore it
ceases to be vicious.

124. What is the meaning of the principle of contradiction? Its true
meaning is, that being excludes not-being, and not-being excludes
being; that the nature of these conceptions is such that the
affirmation of one implies the negation of the other, not only in the
order of our ideas, but in reality. Let us call A any being whatever:
the principle of contradiction means that A excludes not-A, and not-A
excludes A. If we think A, the conception of not-A disappears; and
if we think not-A, the conception of A disappears. If we affirm A in
reality, we deny not-A, and if we affirm not-A in reality, we deny
A. This is the true meaning of the principle of contradiction. If we
reflect, we shall find that, as far as possible, we have abstracted the
idea of time; for we have only considered the mutual exclusion of A and
not-A, in reference to a _simul_, an indivisible point of duration,
which, involving no succession, does not give us the idea of time. I
said, _as far as possible_; because as soon as we think A and not-A,
the idea of succession, and consequently of time, arises in our mind.

125. A and not-A imply contradiction; but not so that they absolutely
cannot be realized. The exclusion is conditional; that is, it exists as
long as the contradictory extremes are simultaneous, or referred to an
indivisible _now_; but we discover no intrinsic necessity of existence
in the idea of A: consequently, although we know that while A is,
not-A cannot be, we can very well conceive that A may cease to be, and
not-A may begin to be. There is, in, that case, no contradiction, and
we can easily reconcile in our mind the two ideas of A and not-A, by
referring them to different instants.

126. Hence the perception of time implies the perception of beings that
are not necessary,--of beings which, when they exist, may cease to
exist, and when they do not exist, may begin to exist. The difference
between necessary and contingent being is, that the existence of the
former absolutely excludes its non-existence, while the existence of
the latter excludes its non-existence only conditionally, or on the
supposition of simultaneousness.

127. This is why the principle of contradiction requires the condition
of time. The objects which we perceive are changeable; there is nothing
either in their nature or in their modifications which involves
existence. If they are, they may cease to be; and if this change does
not constantly occur in their substance, it does in their accidents.
Therefore we cannot affirm the absolute, but only the conditional
contradiction of their being and not-being; it exists only on the
supposition of simultaneousness.

128. If we conceived only necessary being, we could have no idea
of time: its existence absolutely excludes its non-existence, and
therefore the contradiction would be always absolute, never conditional.

129. A most important consequence results from this analysis. The
perception of time with us implies the perception of the non-necessity
of things. When we perceive a being which is not necessary, we perceive
a being which may cease to be, in which case we have the idea of
succession, of real or possible time. Here another reflection arises
which is also important: the idea of time is the idea of contingency:
the consciousness of time is the consciousness of our weakness.

130. The idea of time is so deep in our mind, that without it we could
not form the idea of the _me_. The consciousness of the identity of
the _me_ supposes a link[34] which it is impossible to find without
memory. Memory necessarily involves the relation of _past_, and,
consequently, the idea of time.

[34] See Bk. I., Ch. XXV.



Let us collect together the doctrines of the preceding chapters.

131. Time is a question difficult to explain. Whoever denies this
difficulty shows that he has meditated but superficially on the matter.

132. Motion is measured by time; but it is not a sufficient definition
of time to call it the measure of motion.

133. It is impossible to find a primitive measure of motion; we must,
at last, take some measure or another, and although arbitrarily chosen,
we must refer motion to it. It should be the most uniform measure

134. The resemblance between the ideas of time and space creates a
suspicion that they ought to be explained in a similar manner.

135. There is no duration without something which endures; therefore
there is no duration separate from things. If nothing existed, there
could be no duration.

136. There is no succession without things which succeed: therefore
succession cannot be realized as a form independent of things, although
it may be conceived in the abstract by itself.

137. Time implies _before_ and _after_, and, consequently, succession.
It is succession itself, because in conceiving succession, we conceive

138. Succession involves the exclusion of some things by others. This
exclusion may either be founded on the essence of things, or be derived
from an external cause.

139. Time, therefore, involves exclusion: it is the general idea of the
order of changes, or of the mutual relation of being and not-being.

140. If there were no change there would be no time.

141. No time had passed before the existence of the world. There was no
other duration than eternity.

142. Eternity is the existence of the infinite being, without any
alteration either actual or possible.

143. Time is not any thing absolute and independent of things, but is
really in them. It is the order between being and not-being.

144. Co-existence is merely the existence of various beings. To
conceive many beings without the idea of the negation of being, is to
have the perception of co-existence.

145. Time may be considered under three aspects; the present, the past,
and the future. All other relations of time, differently expressed in
different idioms, are only combinations of these.

146. The present is the only absolute time: it is conceived without
relation to the past or the future; but the past and the future are not
conceived without relation to the present.

147. The idea of present accompanies the very idea of being; or rather,
it is confounded with the idea of existence; that which has no present
existence is not being.

148. The idea of past time is the perception of not-being, or of a
being that has been destroyed, in relation to a present being: the idea
of future time is the perception of a possible being proceeding from a
cause already determined, and in relation to a present being.

149. The idea of time is excited by experience; but it cannot be called
a fact of mere observation; for this would be opposed to its intrinsic
necessity, by virtue of which it is the object of the exact sciences.

150. Still less can we say, that this idea is confined to the sensible
order, since it includes every manner of change in general, whether
sensible or supersensible.

151. The idea of time being the perception of the order between being
and not-being, this relation, considered in general, belongs to the
pure intellectual order. The transition to experience is realized in
the same manner as in other general and indeterminate conceptions.

152. It is necessary to make a distinction between pure ideal time
and empirical time: pure ideal time is the relation between being and
not-being, considered in the greatest generality and the most complete
indeterminateness; empirical time is the same relation subjected to a
sensible measure.

153. To measure this succession, three things are necessary, and their
union forms the idea of empirical time. They are, first, the pure idea
of being and not-being, or of change; secondly, the application of this
idea to a sensible phenomenon, as, for example, the solar motion; and
thirdly, the idea of number applied to the determining of the changes
of this phenomenon.

154. We thus conceive why empirical time implies a true necessity, and
is the object of science. Of the three elements which compose it, the
first is a metaphysical idea, the second, a mathematical idea, and the
third, a fact of observation, to which these ideas are applied. If this
fact be not real, it must, at least, be possible, in order to save the
necessity of the calculation which is based upon it.

155. There is a close relation between the idea of time and the
principle of contradiction. Each is explained by the other, yet this
is not a vicious circle. The principle of contradiction consists in
the mutual exclusion of being and not-being, and the idea of time is
the perception of the order between being and not-being. Analysis must
therefore lead to a part which is identical in both, to the comparison
of the ideas of being and not-being.

156. Without the idea of time, memory would be impossible; consequently
also, the unity of consciousness.



157. We may now mark out and determine with perfect exactness the
necessary elements which form the object of the natural and exact
sciences. This is not only curious, but highly important; for it
presents under the simplest aspect, an immense field of knowledge, the
limits of which expand, as we advance; so that, it is impossible to
assign a limit to progress.

158. Space, number, and time, are the three elements of all the
natural and exact sciences. All else contained in them pertains to
mere experience, to the order of contingent facts, which involve no
necessity, and cannot strictly be the objects of science.

159. Universal arithmetic is founded on the idea of numbers, geometry
on that of space, and the idea of time places us in communication with
the sensible world, so as to determine the relations of its phenomena.
These phenomena are isolated contingent facts, and cannot become the
object of science, until subjected to the general ideas of space,
number, and time.

160. Hence, there are two parts in every natural science; the
theoretic, and the experimental. The former is founded on necessary
ideas, the latter on contingent facts; the first without the second,
would not come down to the real world; the second without the first,
would not rise to the regions of science.

161. The natural sciences merit the name of science, in proportion
to the quantity of necessary elements which they contain, and the
closeness of the connection by which they unite with them contingent
facts. But as no natural science can be conceived, without contingent
facts, so there is none entirely free from the contingency which they

162. These observations reveal a great simplicity in the elements of
science, and we may push this simplicity much farther, if we recollect
what has been said when analyzing the ideas of number and time.

163. The idea of number arises from the idea of being and not-being:
the same is also true of the idea of time; therefore, at bottom, these
ideas are but one, though presented under different aspects.

164. Hence, all the natural and exact sciences may be reduced to two
elements: the intuition of extension, and the general conception of
being. Extension is the basis of all sensible intuitions: externally,
it is a necessary condition of the relations which we conceive in the
corporeal world; internally, it is a perception, without which the
sensibility could not represent external objects. The conception of
being, is the basis of all conceptions; developed in different ways,
it generates the ideas of number and time; and these, combined with
extension, constitute the necessary part of all the natural and exact

165. The ideas of space, number, and time are common to all men; the
proof that they are identical to all is, that, in their application,
all are led to the same results, and in speaking of them they all
use the same expressions. All men measure space, and its various
dimensions; they all count, they all conceive time: why, then, is there
so great difficulty in explaining these ideas? why such difference of
opinion among philosophers? Here we have a confirmation of what we have
said[35] of the strength of direct perception, and the weakness of
reflex. When we content ourselves with the direct perception of space,
of number, and of time, our ideas are clear, and the understanding
feels its strength and energy, it extends the sphere of its knowledge
beyond all limits, and raises the edifice of the mathematical and
exact sciences. But as soon as it turns upon itself, and, leaving the
direct perception, passes to the reflex, endeavoring to perceive its
perception, its strength fails, and it falls into a confusion which
gives rise to interminable disputes. We scarce perceive that idea,
which, a moment ago, we applied to every thing, which penetrated
all our cognitions, and circulated, like our life, through all our
perceptions; but in its isolation, and its purity, it continually
escapes from us; mingled with all things, we see that it is something
distinct from them; we separate it from one, and it unites with
another; we make an effort to cut it off from all that is not itself,
and the mind feels a kind of dizziness come over it, every thing
vanishes from before it, and, unable to reach the reality, it is forced
to be contented with names, which it pronounces and repeats a thousand
times, turning over in them the little reality which they contain.

[35] See Bk. I., Chap. III.

167. One of the causes of this weakness and of the errors which are
its ordinary consequence, is, as I have before said, our mad desire of
representing every idea as an internal form, or image, whereas we ought
to consider that in many cases there is only a perception, a simple
act in the lowest depth of our mind,--an act, which can be represented
by nothing, which resembles nothing, and which cannot be explained
in words, because it cannot be decomposed, and it is only present as
a simple fact of consciousness. But this fact of consciousness is an
active fact; by it we penetrate into things, and see what they have
in common, and separate it from what is particular, establishing in
our mind, as it were, a central, culminating point, from which we
contemplate the internal and the external world, and roam through the
boundless regions of possibility.





1. In the works on transcendental philosophy which have been published
of late years, we find the words infinite, absolute, indeterminate,
unconditioned, frequently repeated, and made to play a very prominent
part in the explanation of the most recondite secrets which can be
presented to the consideration of man. The words finite, relative,
determinate, conditional, are easily combined with these; and from this
combination they pretend that a ray of light will arise to dissipate
the darkness of philosophical questions.

2. In spite of the bad use many make of such words, we must confess
that the fact indicated is consoling by reason of the great desire
there is to use them. This desire marks an effort in the human mind
to raise itself from the mire in which the impious school of the last
century has sunk it.

3. What was the world in the eyes of the false philosophers who
preceded the French revolution? A mass of matter, subject to simple
mechanical laws of motion, the whole explanation of which was given
in two words, blind necessity. What was the human mind? Nothing but
matter. What was thought? A modification of matter. In what did the
difference between thinking and non-thinking matter consist? In a
little greater or less subtilty, in a more or less happy disposition
of atoms. What was morality? An illusion. What were sentiments? A
material phenomenon. What was the origin of man? That of matter,--a
phenomenon offered by a quantity of molecules, which at one moment
happen to be disposed one way, and a moment after in a very different
way. If you inquired if there were a destiny beyond the grave, We argue
that question! they would answer with a scornful smile. Have you such
a word as religion? The scorn increased and changed into contempt. Do
you recognize the dignity of the human race? O, yes! we admit this
dignity, and we are of opinion that it is of the same nature as that
of the brutes, only it has reached a higher degree of perfection. We
do not deny that your form may be more noble and elegant than that of
the monkey, nor do we dispute the superiority of your intelligence;
but we would have you take good care not to make pretensions to a
nobler origin or a loftier destiny. The course of ages may develop and
perfect the monkey form, and render it equal with yours; it may develop
and perfect his cerebral organs, so that from this very monkey, whose
extravagant motions and ridiculous attitudes now amuse, men will be
born such as were Plato, Saint Augustine, Leibnitz, or Bossuet.

4. With such a system, it was useless to deal in ideas: they retained
only sensations. Whatever could occupy the mind of man, whether
the most imbecile or endowed with the loftiest genius, was nothing
more than a sensation transformed. The very brutes possessed all
the elements of human intelligence; to think was only to feel more
perfectly. Such was the last term of their analysis; such the result of
their most accurate observation; such the solution their profoundest
philosophy gave to the problems of man's understanding. Plato,
Aristotle, Saint Augustine, Saint Thomas, Descartes, Malebranche and
Leibnitz were nothing but sublime dreamers, whose genius strongly
contrasted with their ignorance of the true nature of things. None of
them knew any thing about ideology or metaphysics; these sciences were
an unknown world until Locke and Condillac came and discovered them.

5. This school, as fatal as frivolous, has involved and stifled mind in
matter. The butterfly could not unfold his wings of fair and various
colors; he was forced to lay them off and to change into a stupid
and filthy worm, entangled in a covering as loathsome and unclean as
itself. In this consisted progress. The limit of ideological perfection
was to deny ideas; that of metaphysical studies, to deny spirits; that
of morals, to deny morality; that of society, to deny authority; that
of politics, to establish license; that of religion, to deny God. Thus,
human reason, thinking to advance, marched in a retrograde direction;
and proposed to raise the edifice of its knowledge, when there was
nothing left to demolish: thus they imagined to attain a scientific
result by denying every thing, and by finally denying themselves.

6. At present, there is a reaction against so degrading a philosophy.
We have only to open the writings of the philosophers of this age to
convince ourselves of this consoling truth. We everywhere meet the word
idea in contraposition to that of sensation; that of mind to that of
matter; that of activity of thought to that of bodily motion; those
of cause, order, liberty, of free will, morality, infinity. The ideas
which accompany them are sometimes inexact, sometimes extravagant; but
at the bottom of all this we distinguish an anxious desire to rise from
the abyss down to which an atheistical and material philosophy had
dragged the human mind. Some who have contributed to the reaction do
not admit a free and intelligent God, distinct from the universe. What
we have said above is therefore true, that pantheism is atheism in
disguise; nevertheless, the atheism of the pantheist now-a-days is an
atheism which is ashamed to confess itself such, and which sometimes,
perhaps, deceives itself, being persuaded that it is not.

7. The atheism of modern philosophers unites itself with the infinite:
it does not reject those great ideas which as relics of a primitive
tradition were common in the old world, and were afterwards fixed,
cleared up and elevated by the superior teaching of Christianity. The
philosophy of the last century sat down in the darkness and shadow
of death and declared itself alone in possession of light and life.
Philosophy now still remains in obscurity, but it is not satisfied with
it, and gropes about in the dark, seeking some outlet to the regions
of light. Hence those desperate efforts to resolve itself, not into
matter, but into the focus of intelligence, into the _me_, that is, the
mind: hence the continual use of the words absolute, unconditional,
infinite, words which, notwithstanding they ordinarily lead to
absurdities, do yet indicate a sublime aspiration.

8. These observations show that we do not confound the philosophy
of to-day with that of the past century; that we do not regard the
pantheism of to-day as a pure materialism, and that, notwithstanding
the atheism of which we accuse the doctrine of certain philosophers, we
do not deny that they have, even in the midst of their extravagance,
preserved a kind of horror of it, and that, lost as they are in the
labyrinth of their speculations, they seek the thread which shall
conduct them to the gates of truth.

9. This act of justice we willingly render to modern philosophers, but
it will not prevent us from combating their pretension to a merit they
do not possess. They style themselves restorers of the spirituality of
the soul, and of human liberty; and when they speak of God they almost
exact a tribute of gratitude from him for having replaced him upon
his throne. Before making such proud pretensions they ought to have
considered that they are even yet far from the truth with respect both
to God and to man, not only as Christianity has at all times taught it,
but also as the most illustrious modern philosophers have professed it.
They are ambitious to be called restorers, but their restoration with
its licentious frequency is a new revolution, at times as terrible as
the evil it attempts to combat.

10. Another consideration ought to have moderated their zeal to be
thought inventors, which is that they have said nothing concerning God,
the human mind, thought, ideas, the liberty of freewill, which may not
be read in all the works of the philosophers who flourished before, or
even in the beginning of, the eighteenth century. Open the text-books
of the schools, and you will find many things which they would have us
believe to be important discoveries. The great philosophers gloried in
knowing what they had before learned when children. The philosophical
tradition of sound ideas was not interrupted during the past century.
In many parts of Europe schools existed which taught them with
scrupulous fidelity. And besides human schools, there was that of the
God-Man, the Church of Jesus Christ, which, among its supernatural
dogmas, preserved even natural truths, notwithstanding the senseless
efforts which have been made to obliterate them.

11. To what, then, are the invention and restoration reduced? Invention
there is not, either with respect to God, to the human mind, or to
morality, for nothing true has been said of them which had not already
been said. Restoration, properly so called, there is not; for what does
not perish cannot be restored. The truth exists; and has been known and
revered during the whole six thousand years it has refused to bow the
knee to Baal. Let not deserters say, when they turn and come back to
the truth that they have restored it, but that they have recovered it;
not that they give, but that they receive it; not that they enlighten
the world, but that they are blind, and that it is the goodness of
Providence which opens their eyes to the light.



12. The examination of the idea of the infinite is of the highest
importance, not only because we meet it in various sciences, the
exact sciences among others, but because it is one of the principal
characteristics by which we distinguish God from creatures. A finite
God would be no God; an infinite creature would not be a creature.

In the scale of finite beings we discover a gradation, by which
they are interlinked; the less perfect, as they are perfected, go
on approaching the perfect; and there are, preserving the limits of
each one's nature, points of comparison by which we may measure their
respective distances. Between the finite and the infinite there is no
comparison; all measures are inadequate and as nothing. We pass from
an imperceptible drop to an immense ocean; from the atom which escapes
observation to the abundance of matter diffused through all space;
and much as these transitions express, they are as nothing to the
transition from the finite to the infinite; these oceans, compared with
the infinite truth, become in their turn imperceptible drops, and thus
an interminable scale baffles the efforts of the mind in search of
something to correspond to its idea. The examination of the idea of the
infinite ought to occupy an important place in the study of philosophy,
although it served for no other purpose than the contemplation of
infinite greatness.

13. The disputes on the idea of the infinite, not only in relation
to its nature, but also to its existence, present a strange anomaly.
If it exists in our mind it ought to fill it entirely, so that it
must be impossible to cease to perceive it. Yet it is well known that
philosophers dispute even on the existence of this idea; although it is
an infinite treasure, those who possess it doubt its reality--just as
the heroes in romance, when they find themselves in a castle richly and
splendidly adorned, imagine it the effect of enchantment.

14. The mere dispute as to whether the idea of the infinite be positive
or negative, is equivalent to the question of its existence. If it is
negative, it expresses an absence of being; if positive, the plenitude
of being. What question can be more vital to an idea than the dispute
whether it represents the absence or the plenitude of being?

15. Here again we meet the fact which we have observed in the preceding
discussions. Reason, after digging at its own foundations, is
threatened with death under the ruins of its loftiest edifices.



16. If we had no idea of the infinite, the word would have no meaning
to us, and when used it would not be understood.

17. Whatever may be the nature and perfection of our idea of the
infinite, it is certain that it involves something fixed, and common
to all intelligences. We apply the idea to things of very different
orders, and it is always understood in the same sense by all men. Even
the difficulty we find in attempting to explain it, in itself or in its
applications, proceeds from the idea itself; it is a difficulty which
we all meet with, because we all conceive in the same manner what is
understood by the infinite, taken in general.

18. Infinite and indefinite express very different meanings. The
infinite implies the absence of limits; the indefinite implies that
these limits retire continually from us; it abstracts their existence,
and only says that they cannot be assigned.

19. Whatever exists is finite or infinite; for it either has limits or
it has not: in the first case, it is finite; in the second, infinite:
there is no medium between yes and no.

20. Hence, properly speaking, there is in reality nothing indefinite;
this word only expresses a mode of conceiving things, or rather a
vagueness in the conception, or indecision in the judgment. When we do
not know the limits of any thing, and, on the other hand, do not dare
to affirm its infinity, we call it indefinite. Thus, space is called
indefinite by those who see no way of assigning a limit to it, and yet
are unwilling to say that it is infinite. Even in ordinary language we
call a thing indefinite which has no limits assigned to it; thus, we
say "a concession has been made for an indefinite time," although it is
limited to some time which has not been determined.

21. The idea of the infinite does not consist in conceiving that
another quantity may always be added to a given quantity, or that
a perfection may be made more intense; this expresses only the
possibility of a series of conceptions by which we endeavor to approach
the absolute idea of the infinite. It is easy to see that the absolute
idea is something distinct from those conceptions, because we regard it
as a type to which the series of connections is referred, but which it
can never equal, no matter how greatly prolonged.

22. Let us consider the words in which we naturally express what passes
within us when we think of the infinite.

What is an infinite line? A line which has no limits. Is it a million,
or a billion miles in length? There is no number to express its length;
it will always be greater than the number. But do we not approach the
infinite in proportion as we prolong a finite line? Certainly, in so
far as _approaching_ means only placing quantities which are found in
what we approach; but not in so far as it means that this difference
can be assigned. There is no comparison between the finite and the
infinite; and therefore it is not possible to assign the difference
between them. Would an infinite line be formed by the addition of all
finite lines? No; for we can conceive the multiplication of each of the
terms of the addition, and therefore an increase in the infinite, which
would be absurd. Would the infinity of the line consist in our not
knowing its limits, or not thinking of them? No; but in its not having

23. Thus, we see, that the idea of the infinite, is in the reach of the
most common intellects, and expresses only what any person of ordinary
understanding would say, even though he had never occupied himself
with philosophical studies; that the idea of the infinite is in our
understanding, as a constant type, to which all finite representations
are unable to arrive. We know the conditions which must be fulfilled,
but at the same time, we see the impossibility of fulfilling them. When
any one tries to persuade us of the contrary, we reflect on the idea
of the infinite, and say: "No; it is a contradiction of infinity; it
is not infinite, but finite." We distinguish perfectly well between
the absence of the perception of the limit and its non-existence. If
any one tries to make us confound these two ideas, we answer, "No;
they must not be confounded; there is a great difference between our
not perceiving an object and the non-existence of that object, and we
are not now examining whether we conceive the limit, but whether it
exists." Though the limit retire and hide itself, so to speak, from our
eyes, we are not deceived: it exists, or does not exist. If it exists,
the condition involved in the conception of infinity is not fulfilled,
and the object is not infinite, but finite; if it does not exist, there
is true infinity,--the condition is complied with.

24. When the idea of the infinite is considered in general, it can
never be confounded with the idea of the finite. There is a line which
divides them, and which prevents all error; for it is the principle of
contradiction itself; it is the distinction between _yes_ and _no_.
When we say _finite_, we affirm the limit; when we say _infinite_, we
deny it. No ideas can be clearer or more exact.



25. The word _infinite_ is equivalent to _not finite_, and seems to
express a negation. But negations are not always truly such, although
the terms imply it; for if that which is denied, be a negation, the
denial of it is an affirmation. This is the reason why two negatives
are said to be equivalent to an affirmative. If I say, it has not
varied, and you deny it, you deny my negation; for it is the same thing
to deny that it has not varied, as to affirm that it has varied. In
order, therefore, to determine whether the word _infinite_ expresses a
true negative, we must know what is meant by the word _finite_.

26. The finite is that which has a limit. A limit is the term beyond
which there is nothing of the object limited. The limits of a line,
are the points beyond which the line does not extend; the limit of
a number, is the extreme where the number stops; the limit of human
knowledge, is the point to which we may arrive, but which we cannot
go beyond. A limit being a negation, to deny a limit, is to deny a
negation, and is consequently an affirmation.

27. It is easy to see from these examples, that a limit in the ordinary
sense, expresses an idea distinct from what mathematicians define
it. They call a limit every expression, whether finite, infinite,
or a nullity, which a quantity may continually approach without
ever reaching. Thus, the value 0/a is the limit of the decrement of
a fraction, the numerator of which is variable x/a; because, if we
suppose X to be constantly diminishing, the fraction will approach
the expression 0/a, without ever being confounded with it, so long as
X does not entirely disappear. If we suppose (b + x)/a an expression
in which X is decreasing, the expression will continually approach (b
+ 0)/a = b/a, which will be the limit of the fraction. If we suppose
the expression a/x, in which X is decreasing, we shall continually
approach the expression a/0 = ∞, an infinite value which
the fraction can never attain, until X becomes 0, which cannot happen,
because X is a true quantity. These examples show that mathematicians
admit limits which are finite, infinite, or a nullity, and prove that
mathematicians employ the word limit in a different sense from its
ordinary as well as philosophical meaning.

28. A limit, therefore, expresses a true negation, and the word
finite, or limited, necessarily involves a negative idea. That which is
not, is not limited; therefore the finite is not an absolute negation.
An absolute negation is nothing, and we do not call the finite nothing.
Therefore, in the idea of finite are contained being, and a negation
of another being. A line one foot in length, involves the positive
value of one foot, and the negation of all value of more than a foot.
Therefore, the finite, in so far as finite, involves a negation
relatively to a being. If we could express this idea in the abstract,
using the word finity, as we have the word infinity, we should say that
finity in itself expresses only the negation of being relatively to a

29. Hence, the word infinite is not negative; for it is the negation
of a negation. The infinite is the not-finite; it is that which has no
negation of being, consequently that which possesses all being.

30. We have, therefore, an idea of the infinite, and this idea is not a
pure negation. But it must not be supposed that we have arrived at the
last term of the analysis of the infinite. We are still far from it,
and it is even doubtful whether we shall obtain any satisfactory result
after long investigations.



31. One of the characteristic properties of the idea of the infinite is
application to different orders. This gives occasion to some important
considerations which greatly assist to make this idea clear in our

32. From the point where I am situated I draw a line in the direction
of the north; it is evident that I may prolong this line infinitely.
This line is greater than any finite line can be; for the finite line
must have a determinate value, and therefore, if placed on the infinite
line, will reach only to a certain point. This line, therefore, seems
to be strictly infinite in all the force of the word, because there is
no medium between the finite and the infinite, and we have shown that
it is not finite, since it is greater than any finite line; therefore
it must be infinite.

This demonstration seems to leave nothing to be desired; yet there is
a conclusive argument against the infinity of this line. The infinite
has no limits, and this line has a limit, because, starting from the
point from which it is drawn in the direction of the north, it does not
extend in the direction of the south.

33. This line is greater than any finite line; but we may find another
line greater still. If we suppose it produced in the direction of the
south, it will be greater by how much it is produced towards the south;
and if it be infinitely produced in this direction, its length will be
twice that of the first line.

34. By the infinite prolongation of a line in two opposite directions
we seem to obtain an absolutely infinite line; for we cannot conceive
a lineal value greater than that of a right line infinitely prolonged
in opposite directions. But it is not so: by the side of this right
line another may be drawn, either finite or infinite, and the sum of
the two will form a lineal value greater than that of the first line;
therefore that line is not infinite, because it is possible to find
another still greater. And as, on the other hand, we may draw infinite
lines and prolong them infinitely, it follows that none of them can
form an infinite lineal value, because it is only a part of the lineal
sum resulting from the addition of all the lines.

35. Reflecting on this apparent contradiction in our ideas, we discover
that the idea of the infinite is indeterminate, and consequently
susceptible of different applications. Thus, in the present instance,
it cannot be doubted that the right line, prolonged to infinity,
has some infinity, since it is certain that it has no limit in its
respective directions.

36. This example would lead us to believe that the idea of the infinite
represents nothing absolute to us; because even among those objects
which are presented the most clearly to our mind, such as the objects
of sensible intuition, we find infinity under one aspect which is
contradicted one by another.

37. What we have observed of lineal values is also true of numerical
values expressed in series. Mathematics speak of infinite series, but
there can be no such series. Let the series be _a_, _b_, _c_, _d_,
_e_, ....: it is called infinite if its terms continue _ad infinitum_.
It cannot be denied that the series is infinite under one aspect; for
there is no limit which puts an end to it in one sense; but it is
evident that the number of its terms will never be infinite, because
there are others greater; such, for instance, is the series continued
from left to right, if continued from right to left at the same time,
in this manner:

.......... _e_, _d_, _c_, _b_, | _a_, _b_, _c_, _d_, _e_, ..........

In this case the number of terms is evidently twice as great as in the
first series.

Therefore the series which are called infinite are not infinite, and
cannot be so, in the strict sense of the term.

38. But what is still more strange is, that the series is not infinite,
even though we suppose it continued in opposite directions; for by its
side we may imagine another, and the sum of the terms of both will be
greater than the terms of either; therefore neither will be infinite.
As it is evident that whatever be the series, we can always imagine
others, it follows that there can be no infinite series in the sense in
which mathematicians use the word series to express a continuation of
terms, not excluding the possibility of other continuations besides the
supposed infinite continuation.

39. The objections against lineal infinity apply equally to surfaces.
If we suppose an infinite plane, it is evident that we can describe an
infinity of planes distinct from the first plain and intersecting it in
a variety of angles; the sum of all these surfaces will be greater than
any one of them. Therefore the infinite extension of a plain in all
directions does not constitute a truly infinite surface.

40. A solid expanding in all directions seems to be infinite; but if
we consider that the mathematical idea of a solid does not involve
impenetrability, we shall see that inside of the first solid a second
may be placed, which, added to the first, will give a value double
that of the first alone. Let S be the empty space which we imagine
to be infinite; and let W be a world of equal extension placed in it
and filling it; it is evident that S + W are greater than S alone.
Therefore, although we suppose S to be infinite, = ∞, W also = ∞;
therefore S + W = ∞ + ∞ = 2 ∞. And as this value expresses the size,
the first is not infinite because it can be doubled. If we take the
impenetrability, the operation may proceed _ad infinitum_.

Therefore the first infinite, far from being infinite, seems to be a
quantity susceptible of infinite increase.



41. The difficulties in the application of the idea of infinity,
seem on the one hand, to prove that either this idea does not exist
in us, or is very confused; and on the other hand, that we possess
it, and in a very perfect degree. Why do we discover that numbers
are not infinite, although at first they seem to be? Why do we deny
the infinity of certain dimensions, notwithstanding their infinite
prolongation in one sense? Because, on examining these objects, we find
that they do not correspond to the type of infinity. If this type did
not exist in our mind, how could it be possible for us to make use of
it? How could we compare beings with it, if we did not know it? Is it
possible to know when any thing arrives at a turn, if we have no idea
of that turn? It is comparing without a point of comparison; that is,
it is exercising a contradictory act.

42. Although these arguments in favor of the existence of the idea of
the infinite, if we examine our own mind, we cannot deny that we find
there a certain vagueness and confusion which inspire strong doubts as
to the reality of this idea. What is presented to our mind, when we
think of the infinite? The imagination abandoned to itself, extends
space, expands dimensions, multiplies numbers indefinitely, but it
offers nothing to the intellect which has the marks of infinity. If we
leave the imagination, and regard the understanding only, it gives a
type by which to judge of the infinity or not-infinity of the objects
presented to it, but if we reflect on the type itself, it loses the
clearness it possessed before, and we even ask if the type really

43. Do we, therefore, deny the existence of this idea? are we going to
renounce our intention of explaining it? We do neither. I believe that
it is necessary to admit the idea, that it is not impossible to explain
it, and that we may even point out the reason of its obscurity.

44. Before passing further, I wish to observe, that one of the causes
of the difficulties in the explanation of the idea of the infinite,
arises from our not distinguishing the intuitive from the abstract
cognition.[36] Many difficulties would be avoided by attending to
this distinction. When we say that the idea of the infinite is not
intuitive, but abstract, we give the key to the solution of the
principal objections brought against it.

[36] See Book V., Ch. XI.

45. We have no intuitive idea of infinity; that is to say, this idea
does not present to our mind an infinite object; we can have this
intuition only when we see the essence of God, which will happen in a
future life.

46. If we had now the intuition of an infinite object, we should see
its perfections as they are, with their true marks; or rather, we
should see how all the perfections dispersed among limited beings, are
united in one infinite perfection. We could not refer the idea of the
infinite to determinate objects, as, for example, to extension, because
these objects contradict the idea. It would be impossible for us to
modify the idea in different ways, and apply it first in one sense,
and then in another very different sense. The idea is one, and simple;
it would, therefore, always relate to an object which is also one and
simple, not vague and indeterminate, as now, but with the determination
of a necessary existence and an infinite perfection. We should have
intuition of infinite being, as we have intuition of the facts of
our consciousness: our cognition of it would be that of an object
eminently incommunicable, as predicate to any order of finite beings;
and it would be as manifest a contradiction, to apply the idea of this
infinity to any number or extension, as it would be to identify an act
of our consciousness with external objects.

47. The indeterminate character in which the idea of the infinite is
presented us, and the ease with which we modify it in various ways, and
apply it to different objects, in different senses, proves that this
idea is not intuitive, but abstract and indeterminate, that it is one
of those general conceptions, by the aid of which the mind obtains a
certain knowledge not afforded by intuition.

This will explain the origin of the vagueness of our idea of infinity.
Indeterminate conceptions, and because they are indeterminate, relate
to no particular object, or quality, which may be conceived by itself
alone, as something which may be realized; they do not contain those
determinations which fix our cognition in an absolute manner. The
indeterminate manner in which they present any property of beings,
causes a difference in the application, accordingly as the particular
properties, which are combined with the general, are different. If we
take a right-angle triangle, in which we know the measure of all the
sides and angles, the determinateness of the idea avoids the vagueness
of the intellect, and prevents the application of this idea to cases
different from that which is determinate and fixed. But if we take a
right-angle, in general, without determining the value of its sides
and angles, its applications may be infinite. The more general and
indeterminate the idea of a triangle becomes, the greater is the
variety of its applications.

48. Indeterminate ideas, in order to represent any thing, must be
applied to some property which is the condition of their actual or
possible realization. Until this application is made, they are pure
intellectual forms, which represent nothing determinate. I do not
mean by this, that these ideas are empty conceptions, which cannot be
applied outside of the sensible order, as was maintained by Kant;[37]
but only that granting them an universal value, I deny that they have
by themselves alone a value representative of any thing that can be
realized, beyond the property which they express. The idea of a _pure_
triangle can not be realized, for every _real_ triangle would contain
something more than is in the idea: it would be a right-angled or
oblique-angled, etc., all which, the pure idea abstracts. The object
will be indeterminate, in proportion to the indeterminateness of the
properties contained in the conception; consequently, that which
is presented to the understanding will also be more vague, and the
applications which may be made of the idea, will be more varied and
numerous, as is the case in the ideas of being, not-being, limit, and
the like.

[37] See Book V., Chapters XIV., XV., and XVI.



49. Supposing that our idea of the infinite is not intuitive but
abstract, let us see how its true nature may be explained.

We have the ideas of being and of its opposite, not-being; these ideas
considered in themselves are general, indeterminate, and may be
applied to every thing which is subjected to our experience.

We may affirm and deny something of every limited being: we may affirm
what it is: we may deny what it is not: the limit is only conceived as
such when something is denied of it.

50. The activity of our being is unceasing, but it is limited by
the absence or the resistance of objects; the external world is an
assemblage of beings presenting a great variety of limitations.

Therefore both internal and external experience give us the idea of the
finite, that is, of a being which involves some not-being. The brute
has sensible perception, but no understanding: it _is_ sensitive, and
herein it has being; it _is not_ intelligent, and herein it is limited.
Man is sensitive and intelligent; the limit of the brute is not the
limit of man. Among intelligent beings some understand more than
others; therefore the limit of all is not the same.

51. Since we find a limit in both internal and external experience, it
is evident that we can form the general idea of limit, that is, of a
negation applied to an object.

52. The same experience teaches that what is the limit of some
things is not the limit of others, and that the limit applied to one
object must be denied of another. When we compare different beings
together, we frequently find ourselves _denying certain_ limits. As
our understanding has the faculty of generalizing, it is evident that
we may conceive in general the negation of _certain_ limits, and form
an indeterminate conception, including the two ideas of _negation_ and

53. I do not see what objection can be made either to the possibility
or to the existence of this conception; but as this fact is necessary
for the explanation of the idea of infinity, I shall make some further
observations for the purpose of confirming it.

We have an idea of negation in general; this is a primitive fact of our
mind: without it no negative judgments would be possible, nor could
we even know the principle of contradiction. It is impossible for any
thing to be _and not be_ at the same time; when we say _not be_ we
express a negation, we therefore have the conception of negation. This
conception is general, because it involves no determination; we speak
of not-being without applying it to any particular object, nor even to
any determinate species or genus. Therefore the conception of negation
is general and absolutely undetermined.

54. We have the idea of limit; for, as we have seen, it is a negation
applied to a being. We have also the idea of the negation of limit; for
just as we conceive the limit as applied or applicable, we may and do
conceive it as not applied or not applicable. At every moment we deny
certain limits; this idea generalized becomes the negation in general
of limit in general.

55. After these remarks we may establish what is contained in the
idea of the infinite. This idea is a general conception involving the
conception of being in general, and the negation of limit in general.
The union of these two conceptions constitutes the abstract idea of the

56. The general conception of the negation of limit gives us an idea
of infinity in the abstract, but not any infinite thing. Without
the intuitive cognition of an infinite object, and with only a very
imperfect idea of it, we may speak of infinity without falling into
contradiction, and determine the cases in which it may be applied to a
being or to an order of beings, whether real or possible. Man has many
ideas of this vague kind, which nevertheless answer his necessities. We
shall make this palpable by examples.

57. Suppose we take an uneducated person and point out to him a number
of learned men, telling him that one of them knows more than all the
rest. The uneducated person has no idea of what the man knows who
knows the most, nor the man who knows the least; he has no idea of the
degrees of science, nor of what science itself is; but he possesses the
general ideas of degree, of more and less, and also of knowledge, and
this enables him to speak, without contradiction or confusion, of the
greater science of the one and the less science of the others, and even
to solve with certainty the questions concerning the science of those
individuals, in so far as these questions are contained in the general
idea that the science of one is greater than that of all the others.

A servant in an establishment where the most beautiful products of
art are collected, may speak of them all without contradiction or
confusion, although he may be incapable of knowing their merit, and
entirely ignorant of the circumstances which constitute the beauty of
the objects. It is sufficient for him to have the idea of perfection
or beauty in general, and to arrange by certain arbitrary signs the
degrees of perfection or beauty of the objects, in order to be able
to point them out to visitors, and talk of the greater skill of one
artist, the poorer success of another; the greater effect and value of
the works of the former, and the inferiority of those of the second,
and to make other remarks of a similar nature, which at first might
make us suppose him a consummate artist, or, at the least, an amateur
of a great intellect and exquisite taste.

58. It would be easy to show by other examples, how fruitful some
general ideas are, and how they may undergo innumerable combinations,
without presenting any thing determinate to the intellect. This is
precisely what happens with the idea of the infinite: in vain we ask
what there is within us which corresponds to it: the conception of
being in general and of the negation of limit present nothing fixed,
except certain abstract conditions to which we continually reduce the
objects which come under our intuition, or are presented to us with
certain characteristic properties which permit us to form a less vague
idea of the negation of limit.



59. We have explained the idea of infinity in general, by the
indeterminate conceptions of being and the negation of limit. In order
to assure ourselves that the explanation is well grounded, and that we
have pointed out the essential marks of the conception, let us examine
whether their application to determinate objects corresponds to what we
have established in general.

If the idea of infinity is what we have defined it to be, we may apply
it to all objects of sensible intuition or of the pure understanding,
and we shall obtain the results which we ought to obtain, including the
anomalies already referred to.[38]

[38] See Chap. V.

60. The anomalies, or, rather, the contradictions which we seem to find
in the applications of the idea of the infinite, when any thing is
presented to us as infinite which we afterwards discover not to be so,
originate in the application of this idea under different conditions.
This variety would not be possible if the idea represented any thing
determinate; but as it only contains the negation of limit in general
joined to being in general, it follows that we subject this negation to
particular conditions in each case, and therefore when we pass to other
conditions, the general idea cannot give us the same result.

61. A line drawn from the point where we are situated in the direction
of the north, and produced infinitely, gives us an infinite and a
not-infinite. This contradiction is only apparent; there is really
only the difference of result caused by the condition under which the
general idea is applied.

When we consider a line infinitely produced towards the north, we do
not apply the idea of the infinite to a lineal value in the abstract,
but to a right line starting from a point and produced only in one
direction. The result is what it should be. The negation of limit is
affirmed under a condition; the infinite which results is subject to
that condition. It may be said that there is no medium between the
infinite and the not-infinite; but it is easy to solve this difficulty,
if we observe that yes and no, to be contradictory, must be referred to
the same thing, which is not the case when the conditions of the object
are changed.

62. If instead of a line produced in one direction only, we had wished
to apply the negation of limit to a right line in general, it is
evident that we should have been obliged to produce the line in the two
opposite directions: which would have given us another infinite under a
new condition.

We have before seen that not even in this case can we have a lineal
value strictly infinite; because this right line only forms a part
of the sum of lines which we can imagine. Is it then infinite, or is
it not? It is both, if we make the proper distinction. It will be
infinite, or we shall have the idea of infinity or negation of limit,
applied to a right line _alone_; but if instead of one _right line
alone_, we take a lineal value, without any condition, the supposed
line will not be infinite; the negation of the limit is not applied
under that condition; the result must therefore be different.

63. We find the same anomaly, if we take two lines alone. Let us
suppose a right line infinitely produced in both directions, and by
its side let us describe a curve with continual undulations extending
infinitely in a direction parallel to the right line. Both lines will
be infinite if we consider only their direction, abstracting their
lineal value; but if we regard this value the curve is greater than
the straight line; for it is evident if we take a part of the curve
corresponding to a part of the straight line, and extend or straighten
this part of the curve, it will be greater than the corresponding part
of the straight line; as this may be done throughout the whole length
of the lines, the lineal value of the curve must be greater than that
of the straight line in proportion to the law of its undulations.

64. This may suffice to show how the idea of infinity may be applied
under different conditions and produce different results, without
any contradiction. What is infinite under one aspect is not so under
another aspect; hence we have the _orders of infinities_ which figure
so largely in mathematics; but I say again that these contradictions
are not susceptible of any explanation if we attribute an absolute
value to the idea of the infinite, instead of considering it as the
abstract representation of the negation of limit.

65. Is it possible to conceive in a right line or curve an absolutely
infinite length or lineal value, to which we may apply the negation
of limit absolutely? I think not: for whatever be the line under
consideration we can always draw others, which, added to the first,
will give a value greater than that of the first above. This is a
case in which there is a contradiction between the negation of limit
and the condition to which it is subjected. You demand a lineal value
to which the negation of limit may be applied absolutely; and on the
other hand you require that this lineal value should be found in a
determinate line, which by the fact of its being determinate, excludes
the absolute negation of limit. The problem supposes contradictory
_data_; therefore the result must be a contradiction.

66. What must we suppose in order to conceive an absolutely infinite
lineal value? We need only suppose no condition which excludes the
absolute negation of limit. We must here distinguish between the pure
conception and the sensible intuition in which it is expressed. The
conception of infinite lineal value exists from the moment that we
unite the two general conceptions of lineal value and negation of
limit. But the sensible intuition, which may represent this conception,
is not so easy to imagine, even in general. To arrive at it we must
imagine a space without any limit; and then considering in general all
the lines whether right lines or curves, which may be drawn in it, in
all directions, and under all possible conditions, we must take the
sum of all these lineal values; and the result will be an absolutely
infinite lineal value; for we shall have applied the negation of limit
without any restriction.

67. We may obtain in the same way an infinite superficial value; for
it is evident that we may apply to it all that we have said of lineal

68. In all these cases we apply the negation of limit to extension
considered only in some of its dimensions. If we wish to obtain
an absolutely infinite extension, we must abstract no dimension;
consequently the absolutely infinite of this order, is extension in
all its dimensions with the absolute negation of limit. But it is also
to be observed that we must presuppose an absolutely infinite value of
extension in order to obtain an absolutely infinite value of lines or
surfaces; because it is equivalent to presupposing an infinite space in
which the lines and surfaces may be drawn in all directions and under
all possible conditions.



69. Can we conceive an infinite number? On one side, it seems not;
because we doubt its possibility, and if we possessed this idea we
should have no doubt of its existence. On the other side, it seems
that we can conceive an infinite number; for we know immediately when
a number is not infinite, and we could not know this if we had not the
idea of infinite number.

Our observations on infinite series would seem to prove that the idea
of infinite number is an illusion; for we find those numbers which we
believed infinite, not to be so.

I think this question may be solved on the same principles as those
of the last chapter. I see no difficulty in admitting the idea of an
infinite number, nor how any contradiction can proceed from it.

70. Number is a collection of units; it is a general idea, because
to conceive the number, we do not need to know of what class, or
how many the units may be. The idea of number in general abstracts
absolutely all such determinations. It is evident that, whatever number
we imagine, we can always conceive another still greater, and if we
assign a limit to a number, we can always remove it indefinitely, so
that the limit of one is not the limit of the other. To the idea of
number, we unite the idea of a limit and of the negation of another
limit. Therefore, if we unite to the idea of number in general, the
idea of the negation of limit in general, we shall obtain the idea of
an infinite number.

71. What does this idea represent? It represents nothing determinate:
it is an entirely abstract conception, formed of two other abstract
conceptions, those of number and the negation of limit. No determinate
object corresponds to it; it is a work of our understanding referred
to objects in general, without a determination of any sort. We may now
solve the difficulties previously intimated.

72. Why is a series of terms presented to us as infinite, which, when
we examine it closely, we find wants some of the marks of infinity?
Because, in the first instance, we apply the negation of limit under a
condition which we take no notice of in the second instance.

Set us the series _a_, _b_, _c_, _d_, _e_, ..........

It is evident that we may continue it infinitely, and conceive the
negation of all limit of this continuation: in this sense, the number
of terms is infinite; for the idea of the negation of limit is really
applied to the series. When we ask if the number of terms is absolutely
infinite, we abstract the condition under which we had united the
negation of limit. That, therefore, which is infinite in one instance
is not so in another. Still there is not any contradiction because the
yes and the no refer to different suppositions.

73. Let us take a line and measure it by feet. Producing this line
we multiply the number of feet; and we may conceive the negation of
all limit of this multiplication. The number of feet will then be
infinite. If instead of a foot we take an inch as the unit of measure,
we shall have a number twelve times as great. This number would also
be infinite, and thus we should have two infinite numbers, one of them
greater than the other. Is there any contradiction in this? Certainly
not: there is only a different combination of ideas. In the first case,
the idea of the negation of limit was subordinated to the condition of
the division of the line into feet: whereas, in the second case, we
introduce a different condition; the division of the line into inches.

74. But, it may be said, these numbers, considered in themselves,
abstracted from their relation to feet or inches, are equal or they
are not equal; consequently they are infinite or not infinite. The
objection vanishes as soon as we correct the error which supports it.
When we abstract all relation to determinate divisions, we consider
number in general; on this supposition there are not two cases, but
only one; there cannot then be a relation of greater or less. We have
only the conception of number in general combined with the idea of the
negation of limit in general; therefore the result must be an infinite
number in the abstract.

The difficulty consists in a contradiction which escapes our sight
at first. We abstract particular conditions in order to know if the
numbers are in themselves infinite or not; and at the same time we do
not abstract them, because it is only in reference to them that the
objection has any meaning, since it supposes the division into various
kinds of units. When, therefore, we speak of particular numbers, and
at the same time pretend to consider them in themselves, we fall into
a contradiction, because we take the numbers both with and without
particular conditions at the same time.

75. From all that has been said, we may conclude that the conception
of infinite number, abstracted from the nature and relations of the
things numbered, involves no contradiction, since it contains only the
two ideas of number, as a collection of beings, and of the absolute
negation of limit; but we cannot affirm from this alone, that an
infinite number can be realized. Infinite number cannot become actual
without an infinite collection of beings; and these beings, when
realized, cannot be abstract beings, which contain nothing else but
being; they must have characteristic qualities, and must be subject to
the conditions imposed by these qualities. As we absolutely abstract
these conditions in the general conception, it is not possible to
discover, from the conception alone, the contradiction which they
may imply. Hence, although there is no contradiction contained in
the conception, there may still be in the reality. In the same
manner, certain mechanical theories are perfectly conceivable, but
they cannot be reduced to practice on account of the opposition of
the matter to which they should be applied. Finite beings are the
matter on which indeterminate and metaphysical conceptions are to be
realized; the possibility of the conceptions does not absolutely prove
the possibility of the beings. The reality may draw with it certain
determinations involving a contradiction which was latent in the
general conception, and is made manifest by the reality.



76. Is infinite extension conceivable? This conception includes
two ideas: the idea of extension, and the idea of the negation of
limit. The idea of extension is a general conception, referring to
the intuition which, whatever may be in itself and in its object,
represents extension and the union of the three dimensions, the pure
form of which is space. It is evident that we can unite, in one
conception, the two ideas of extension in general and the negation of
limit; and if this is what is called the idea of infinite extension, it
is clear that we have this idea. This conception of infinite extension,
abstracts all conditions of the reality; we do not know whether there
be, in the nature of extended things, any thing which prevents the
absolute infinity of their extension; consequently, we are ignorant
whether there is or is not any latent contradiction, which the general
conception does not reveal to us.

77. It must be remembered that I am speaking of the idea and not of
the sensible representation of extension; for although I hold that it
is possible for us to have the conception of an infinite extension, I
do not think the same with respect to its sensible representation. The
latter may be indefinitely expanded, but it cannot become infinite.

Reason demonstrates this impossibility which consciousness makes known
to us. Internal sensible representations are only the repetition of
the external, or at least are formed from the elements which these
latter furnish. Sight and touch are the two senses which produced
the representation of extension, and they both imply a limit. Touch
only reaches that which is immediate to it, and sight cannot see
with a limit which sends the rays of light to it. Internal sensible
representations must always retain this limitation; their object may be
expanded, or the limit removed to a greater distance, but to destroy
this limit would be to destroy themselves. Therefore, the imagination
of an infinite extension is impossible to every sensitive being.

78. I have proposed above (§ 40) an objection against the infinity of
extension, in so far as we may represent it as a size without limits.

The objection was, that as the idea of impenetrability is not
contained in the conception of a solid, we may imagine an infinite
series of infinites placed one inside of another. This difficulty
is only conclusive when speaking of the conception of a solid which
contains something more than the pure idea of extension. The idea of
extension necessarily implies that some parts are _outside_ of others,
and it is not possible to conceive extension otherwise. It is certain
that a body may be situated in a part of space; taking from this body
its impenetrability, we may put another body in the same place, and so
on to infinity; but in that case we conceive something besides pure
extension, we unite something, although in a general and indeterminate
manner, to the idea of things situated in space; otherwise we should
not distinguish the space, representing pure extension, from the solids
placed in it, nor should we distinguish these solids from one another,
if we did not recognize in them some difference, although general and

79. It seems most probable that the pure idea of an infinite extension
is contained in the idea of an infinite size, which is nothing more
than the idea of space. Whatever else is introduced into the idea is
a foreign element, adding to pure extension something which does not
belong to it, such is the difference between extended beings, although
conceived in an indeterminate manner.



80. What are we to think as to the possibility of the infinities which
we conceive? Let us examine the question.

Is an infinite extension possible? There is no incompatibility between
the idea of extension and the negation of limit, at least, according
to our way of conceiving them. It is more difficult for us to conceive
extension absolutely limited, than to conceive it unlimited: beyond all
limit, we imagine space without end.

81. Neither do we discover any impossibility in the existence of
an unlimited extension, if we consider the question in relation to
the divine omnipotence. Beyond all extension God can create another
extension; if we suppose that he has applied his creative power to all
the extension possible, he must have created an infinite extension.

82. Here a difficulty arises. If God had created an infinite extension
he could not create another extension; his power would be exhausted,
and consequently it would not be infinite.

This difficulty proceeds from understanding infinite power in a false
sense. When we say that God can do all things, we do not mean that he
can do things that are contradictory: omnipotence is not an absurd
attribute, as it would be if applied to things that are absurd. An
absolutely infinite extension is contradictory in relation to another
distinct extension; for, being absolutely infinite, it contains all
possible extensions. If we suppose it to exist, no other is possible:
to affirm that God could not produce another, is not to limit his
omnipotence, but only to say that he cannot do a thing which is absurd.

83. We will make this solution clearer. The intelligence of God is
infinite; and he cannot understand more than he now understands; all
progress would suppose imperfection, because it would involve a change
from a less to a greater intelligence. If, then, we say that God will
never understand more than he does now, do we limit his intelligence?
Certainly not. He cannot understand more, because he understands
all that is real and all that is possible, and we cannot, without
contradiction, conceive that he can understand more than he now does:
this is not to limit his intelligence, but to affirm its infinity: it
is not susceptible of perfection, because it is infinite. This will
enable us to understand the expression _cannot_, as applied to God.
What is denied is not a perfection, but an absurdity: wherefore St.
Thomas very opportunely observes, that we should much better say that
the thing cannot be done, than that God cannot do it.



84. The discussions on the possibility of an infinite extension are of
a very ancient date. How could it be otherwise? Must not the glorious
spectacle of the universe, and the space which we imagine beyond the
boundaries of all worlds, naturally have given rise to questions as to
the existence or possibility of a limit to this immensity?

Some philosophers think an infinite extension impossible. Let us see on
what they found their opinion.

85. Extension is a property of a finite substance, and that which
belongs to a finite thing cannot be infinite; therefore it is
impossible to conceive infinity of any kind in a finite being. This
argument is not conclusive. It is true that an extended substance is
finite, in the sense that it does not possess absolute infinity such
as is conceived in the Supreme Being; but it does not follow from
this that it cannot be infinite under certain aspects. Neither is it
correct to say that no finite substance can have an infinite property,
because the properties flow from the substance, and the infinite cannot
proceed from the finite. In order that this argument may be valid, it
is necessary to prove that all the properties of a being emanate from
its substance: figures are accidental properties of bodies, and yet
many of them have no relation to the substance, and are mere accidents
which appear or disappear, not by the internal force of the substance,
but by the action of an external cause. We see extension in bodies; but
as we know not the essence of corporeal substance, we cannot say how
far this property is connected with the substance, whether it is an
emanation from it, or only something which has been given to it and may
be taken from it without any essential alteration.[39]

[39] See Bk. III., Chaps. XIX., XXI., XXIV., XXV., XXVI., XXVII. and

Moreover, when we say that the infinite cannot proceed from the finite,
we do not deny that an infinite property may proceed from a substance
finite in its essence.

When we admit the infinite property, we admit at the same time all that
is necessary in the substance in order that this property may have its
root in it, so long as we do not deny the character of finite which
essentially belongs to every creature. When we deny that creatures are
or can be infinite, we speak of essential infinity, of that infinity
which implies necessity of being and absolute independence under every
aspect; but we do not deny them a relative infinity, such as that of

To undertake to prove that infinite extension is impossible, because
every property of a finite substance must be finite, is equivalent
to supposing the very thing in dispute; for the precise question is,
whether one of these properties, namely, extension, can be infinite. In
order to establish the negative proposition, "No property of a finite
substance can be infinite," it is necessary to prove this of extension.
Hence the argument which we are imposing implies, in some manner, a
begging of the question, when they found it on a general proposition
which can only be certain when the present question is solved.

86. Infinite extension ought to be the greatest of all extensions, but
there is no such extension. From any given extension God can take away
a certain quantity; for example, a yard: in that case the infinite
extension would become finite, for it would be less than the first;
and as the difference between the two extensions is only a yard, it is
clear that not even the first could be infinite; for it is impossible
that there should be only the difference of one yard between the finite
and the infinite.

This difficulty merits a serious consideration: at first sight it
seems so conclusive that no possibility of a satisfactory solution is

The proposition that the difference between the finite and the infinite
cannot be finite, is not wholly correct. We must first of all take
notice that the difference between two quantities, whether finite or
infinite, cannot be absolutely infinite, in the sense of diminution.
Difference is the excess of one quantity over another, and necessity
implies a limit; for as the excess only is considered, the quantity
exceeded is not contained in the difference. Calling the difference
D, the greater quantity A, and the smaller _a_, I say that D can in
no hypothesis be infinite. By the supposition D = A - _a_; therefore
D + _a_ = A; in order that D may equal A it is necessary to add to it
_a_; therefore D cannot be infinite. If we suppose A = ∞,
we shall have D = A - _a_ = ∞ - _a_, or D + _a_ = ∞.
Therefore to make D infinite we must add to it _a_, and we
can never have D = ∞ unless _a_ = 0; but in that case there
would be no true difference, since the equation, D = A - _a_, would be
converted into D = A - 0 = A, and the difference would not be real but

It follows from this that no difference between two positive quantities
can be absolutely infinite; if it is so in some sense, it is not so in
the sense of diminution; and the union of these two ideas of difference
and infinity results in a contradiction.[40]

[40] I am speaking of the difference between _positive_ quantities; for
with regard to other quantities we may express an infinite difference
algebraically. Let the two quantities be (∞ - _a_) and (-_a_). The
difference between them will be expressed in this equation, D=(∞ - _a_)
- (-_a_) = ∞ - a + a = ∞.

The difference between an infinite quantity and a given finite quantity
cannot be another given finite quantity, but it must be infinite in
some sense. Let us suppose an infinite line and a given finite line,
the difference between them cannot be expressed by a given finite
lineal value. For supposing the second line to be a finite and a given
line, we may place it upon the infinite line in any of its directions,
and from any point in it it will reach a certain point of the infinite
line. If we suppose a second given finite line, representing the
difference between the other two lines, we ought to place it upon
the infinite line at the point where the other terminates; and it is
evident that it will terminate at another point determined by its
length; therefore it will not measure the whole of the difference
between the infinite and the finite lines.

We obtain the same result in algebraic expressions. If A be a given
finite value, the difference between A and ∞ cannot be another given
finite value. For, expressing the difference by D, we shall have ∞ - D
± A D. Therefore, D + A = ∞; consequently, if both were given finite
values, an infinite would result from two given finite values, which
is absurd.

Hence, a difference may be in some sense infinite, according to the
meaning we attach to the term infinity. If from the point where we are
situated, we draw a line towards the north and produce it infinitely,
and then produce it, also, infinitely towards the south, the difference
between either of these lines and the sum of them both, will be
infinite only in a certain sense. This is also verified by algebraic
expressions. If we have the infinite value equal 2∞, and compare it
with ∞, the result is 2∞ - ∞ = ∞.

In general, from any infinite value we may subtract any finite
difference in relation to it, so long as the subtrahend is not a given
finite value. Let ∞ be the infinite value,--I say that we can find
in it any finite value; for, ∞ being an infinite value, A contains
all finite values of the same order; therefore it contains the finite
value, A; consequently we may form the equation, ∞ - A = B. Whatever be
the value of B, the relation of B to ∞ is A; for by only adding A to B
we obtain ∞. The equation, ∞ - A = B, gives B + A = ∞, and also ∞ - B =
A; and as A is a given value according to the supposition, and A is the
given finite difference between ∞ and B, it follows that we may find a
finite difference to every infinite value.

We may infer from this that the possibility of assigning a finite
difference to an infinite extension, does not prove any thing against
its true infinity. The infinite, and because it is infinite, contains
all that belongs to the order in which it is infinite. We may take any
sure value, and considering it as a difference, and we shall obtain a
finite difference. But far from proving the absence of infinity, this
confirms its existence; for it shows that all the finite is contained
in the infinite.

In this case, the subtrahend would be infinite under a certain aspect;
but not in the order of diminution, because it wants the quantity which
is taken from it.

87. There is another argument against the absolute infinity of
extension, which seems to have more weight than any of those which
precede, and I cannot see why it has never occurred to those who argue
against this possibility. It is this,--we suppose an infinite extension
to exist. God can annihilate it, and then create another equally
infinite. The sum of both is greater than either alone; therefore
neither of them alone is infinite. This annihilation we may suppose as
often as we wish; hence we may have a series of infinite extensions.
The terms of this series cannot exist at the same time, since one
actual infinite extension excludes all others. Therefore, as the sum
of the extensions is greater than any number of particular extensions,
the absolute infinite extension must be found, not in the particular
extensions, but in the sum, and hence an actual infinite extension is
intrinsically impossible.

To solve this difficulty we must distinguish between extension and the
thing extended: the whole question turns on the intrinsic possibility
of the infinity of extension, considered in itself, abstracting
absolutely the subject in which it is found. The difficulty places
before our sight a series of successive infinite extensions; but in
reality this succession is in the beings which are extended, and the
number of which goes on increasing; but not in the extension itself.
The pure idea of infinite extension in the one case, is not increased
by the new extensions which are produced; the extension appears,
disappears, reappears, and again disappears, but is not increased.
The succession shows the intrinsic possibility of its appearance
and its disappearance, its essential contingency, because it is not
repugnant for it to cease to exist when it exists, or to pass again
from non-existence to existence. If we examine our ideas, we shall
find that we cannot increase the infinite extension which we conceive,
by any imaginable supposition; and that whatever we may do, is reduced
to a succession of productions and annihilations. The idea of infinite
extension seems to be a primitive part of our mind; the infinity
which we imagine in space, is only the attempt which our mind makes
to express its idea in reality. Created with sensible intuition, we
have received the power of expanding this intuition on an infinite
scale,--to do this we require the idea of an infinite extension.



88. The question of the possibility of an infinite extension is very
different from that of its existence. The first we answer in the
affirmative, the second in the negative.

Descartes maintained that the extension of the world is indefinite; but
this is a term which, although it has a very rational meaning when it
refers to the compass of our understanding, has no meaning when applied
to things. There is no objection to saying that the extension of the
world is indefinite, if it only means that we cannot assign its limits;
but in the reality, the limits exist or do not exist, indifferently
of our power of assigning them; there is no medium between yes and
no; therefore there is no medium between the existence and the
non-existence of these limits. If they exist, the extension of the
world is finite; if they do not exist, it is infinite;--in either case,
the word indefinite expresses nothing.

The argument of Descartes proves nothing, or it proves the true
infinity of the world. For, if we must remove its limits indefinitely
because we always conceive indefinitely an extension beyond every
other extension, as, on the other hand, we know that this series of
conceptions has no limit, we may at once transfer the unlimitedness
to the object which corresponds to those conceptions, and affirm that
the extension of the world is absolutely infinite. Unfortunately,
the argument of Descartes is without any basis; for it consists in a
transition from the ideal, or, rather, imaginary order, to the real
order, which is contrary to good logic.[41]

[41] See Book III., Chapter VIII.

89. Leibnitz maintained, that although God could have made the material
universe finite in its extension, it is more in conformity with his
wisdom not to have done so. "Thus I do not say," he writes,[42] "as is
here imputed to me, that God cannot give limits to the extension of
matter; but the appearance is that he does not wish it, but preferred
to give it more." The opinion of Leibnitz is founded on his system of
optimism, which is open to a multitude of objections, but it is not the
place here to examine them.

[42] _Lettres entre Leibnitz et Clarke_, Vième Écrit. de Leibnitz, § 73.

90. To speak frankly my own opinion, I say that this is a question
which cannot be solved on purely philosophic principles; for, as
the ideas contain no intrinsic necessity, either for or against the
existence of an infinite extension, we must look for its solution to
what experience teaches us. All the time occupied in attempting to
solve this question is lost. What we can assert is, that the extension
of the world exceeds all appreciation; and as the science of astronomy
advances, greater depths are discovered in the ocean of space. Where is
the shore? or is there any? Reason cannot answer such questions. What
do we, poor insects, know, whose life is but a momentary dwelling on
this little ball of dust, which we call the globe of the earth?



91. Is an infinite number possible? Does the union of the idea of
number with the idea of the absolute negation of limit, involve any
contradiction which prevents the realization of the conception?

Whatever number we may conceive, we can always conceive one still
greater: this seems to show that no existing number can be absolutely
infinite. If we suppose this number to be realized, an intelligence
may know it, and may multiply it by two, three, or any other number;
therefore the number may be increased, and consequently it is not

This difficulty is far from being conclusive, if we examine it
carefully. The intellectual act of which it speaks, would be impossible
on the supposition of the existence of an infinite number. If the
intelligence should not know the infinity of the number, it might
make the multiplication, but it would fall into a contradiction
through its ignorance; for the number being absolutely infinite,
could not be increased; its multiplication would be an absurdity,
and the intelligence making it, would combine two ideas which would
still be repugnant, although not known to be so by the intelligence.
If the absolute infinity of the existing number were known to the
intelligence, the idea of multiplication could never be associated
with it; for the intelligence would know that all possible products
already exist.

92. An absolutely infinite number cannot be expressed in the algebraic
or geometrical values; the attempt so to express it limits it in a
certain sense, and therefore destroys its absolute infinity. If the
expression ∞, represented an absolutely infinite number, it
would not be susceptible of any combination which would increase it: to
suppose that it may be multiplied by other numbers, finite or infinite,
is to take its infinity in another than an absolute sense.

The fraction a/0 does not express an infinite value in all the
strictness of the word; for it is evident that whatever be the value of
a/0 it will always be less than 2a/0 or, in general, less than na/0 n
representing a value greater than unity.

93. Neither can an infinite number be represented in geometrical values.

Let us take a line one foot long. It is evident that if we produce
this line infinitely in opposite directions, the number of feet will
be in some sense infinite, since the foot is supposed to be repeated
infinite times: the expression of the number of the feet will be the
expression of an infinite value. Now, I say that this number is not
infinite, because there are other numbers still greater. In each foot
there are twelve inches; therefore, the number of inches contained
in the line will be twelve times as great as the number of feet;
consequently the number of feet is not infinite. Neither is the number
of inches infinite; for they in their turn may be divided into lines,
the lines into points; and it is evident that the number of the smaller
quantities will be proportionally greater than the number of the
greater quantities. There will be twelve times as many inches as feet,
twelve times as many lines as inches, and twelve times as many points
as lines; and this progression can never end, because the value of a
line is infinitely divisible.

94. Pushing to infinity the divisibility of an infinite line, we seem
to have an infinite number in the elements which constitute it; but a
slight reflection will dissipate this illusion. For it is evident that
we can draw other infinite lines by the side of the supposed infinite
line; and since according to the supposition, each of them may be
infinitely divided, it follows that the sum of the elements of all the
lines will give a greater number than the sum of the elements of any
one of them.

95. If we wish to find an infinite number of parts in values of
extension, we must suppose a solid infinite in all its dimensions, with
all its parts infinitely divided. But not even then should we have an
absolutely infinite number, although we should have the greatest which
can be represented in values of extension.

Conceding that an infinite extension existed which is infinitely
divisible, the number of its parts would not be absolutely infinite;
for we can conceive other beings besides extended beings, and
considering both under the general idea of being, we might unite them
in a number which would be greater than that of extended beings alone.

96. No imaginable species of beings infinitely multiplied, can give an
absolutely infinite number. The reason is the same as that given in the
last paragraph: the existence of beings of one species does not render
the existence of beings of another species impossible. Therefore,
besides the supposed infinity of the number of beings of a determinate
species, there are other numbers which, united with this, produce a
number greater than the pretended infinity.

97. The existence of an absolutely infinite number requires: first, the
existence of infinite species of beings; and secondly, the existence of
infinite individuals of each species. Let us see if these conditions
can be realized.

98. There seems to be no doubt of the intrinsic possibility of
infinite species. The scale of beings is between two extremes, nothing
and infinite perfection: the space between these extremes is infinite;
and beings may be distributed on it in an infinite gradation.

99. Admitting the intrinsic possibility of an infinite gradation in
the scale of beings, the question occurs, whether their possibility is
only ideal, or also real, that is, may be realized. God is infinitely
powerful; if the infinite gradation is intrinsically possible, God can
produce it; for whatever is intrinsically possible falls within the
reach of divine omnipotence. On the other hand, supposing, as we must,
the liberty of God, there is no doubt but God is free to create all
that he can create. If then there is nothing repugnant in an infinity
of the species of beings distributed in an infinite gradation, these
beings may exist if God will it. Therefore denying all limit to the
number of species and of individuals of each species, it seems that
the infinite number would exist, since it is impossible to imagine any
increase or limitation in the collection of all beings.

On this supposition the most perfect created beings possible would
exist, and no more perfect being in the sphere of creatures could be
conceived. All that can be imagined would already exist, from nothing
to infinite perfection.

100. Still it must be observed that the collection of created beings,
whatever be their perfection, are necessarily subject to the condition
of dependence on another being; a condition from which the infinite
being above is essentially exempt. This condition involves limitation;
therefore, all created beings must be finite.

101. Does the character of finite, which is met with in all created
beings, involve a determinate limit beyond which they cannot pass? If
this limit exists, is not the number of possible species also limited?
And if these species are not infinite, is not an infinite number an

Although the intrinsic possibility of the infinite scale of beings
seems beyond a doubt, we must beware of solving too quickly the present
question. With respect to indeterminate conceptions, we see no possible
limit; but would this still be so, if we had an intuitive knowledge of
the species? Are we sure that in the particular qualities of beings,
combined with limitation and dependence, which are essential to them,
we should not discover a term beyond which they cannot go, by reason of
the constitution of their nature? How impotent philosophy is to solve
such questions!

102. Whatever may be concluded as to this infinity of species and their
respective perfection, I do not believe that an actually infinite
number can exist. Among these species must be counted intelligences
which exercise their acts in succession. This is evidently so; for
in this number are included human minds which think and wish in a
_successive_ manner. The acts of these intelligences may be numbered:
this we know from consciousness. Therefore there would never be an
infinite number, because these acts, being successive, can never be all
at the same time.

103. It may be answered that in this case we might suppose that
spirits, including our own, have only one act of intelligence and will.
To this I reply, that besides contradicting the nature of created
beings, which, because they are finite, must be subject to change, it
is also open to another objection, inasmuch as it eliminates at once
many species of beings, and thus, instead of preserving the infinity,
renders it impossible. Who can deny the possibility of that which
exists? If, as our experience informs us, there now exist beings of
successive activity, why would not these beings be possible on the
supposition that the divine omnipotence had exerted all its infinite
creative power?

104. This difficulty, which is founded on the nature of finite
intelligences, seems to render the existence of an infinite number
impossible, and it becomes still stronger if we examine the question
under a more general aspect.

The existence of an absolutely infinite number excludes the existence
of any other number. That which is numbered is not substance alone,
but its modifications also. This has already been demonstrated with
regard to intelligences, and is true in general of all finite beings.
Every finite being is changeable, and its changes may be counted. The
modifications produced by the changes cannot all exist at once, for
some of them exclude others. Therefore, an actual infinite number is
never possible.

105. Let us apply these considerations to the sensible world. Motion
is a modification to which bodies are subject. This modification
is essentially successive. A motion, the parts of which co-exist,
is absurd. The co-existence of different states, which result from
different motions, is also absurd: things that are contradictory cannot
exist at the same time, and many of these situations are contradictory,
because one of them necessarily involves the negation of others.
If a line falling on another line revolve around a point, it will
successively describe different angles. When it forms an angle of 45
degrees, it will not form an angle of 30 degrees, nor of 40, nor 70,
nor 80; these angles mutually exclude one another. A portion of matter
will form different figures, according to the arrangement which is
given to the parts of which it is composed. When these parts form a
globe, they will not form a cube; these two solids cannot exist at the
same time, formed of the same portion of matter.

106. This variety of motion and form can be numbered. At every step we
measure motion, applying to it the idea of number; at every instant we
count the forms of a portion of matter, as for example, a piece of wax,
to which different forms have been given successively: whatever be the
number of the beings which we suppose to exist, every one of them will
be susceptible of transformations which may be counted. Therefore, in
the very nature of things, there is an intrinsic impossibility of the
existence of an actual infinite number.

107. I believe that these arguments fully demonstrate the impossibility
of an actual infinite number; and if I do not dare to say that I am
sure of having given a complete demonstration, it is because the
nature of the question presents so many and so great difficulties, it
so bewilders and confounds the weak understanding of man, that there
is always reason to fear that even those arguments, which seem the
clearest and most conclusive, may conceal some fault which vitiates
their force, and makes an illusion appear an incontestible truth. Still
I cannot but observe that to combat this demonstration, it seems, to me
that it would be necessary to deny our primary ideas, the exclusion of
being and not-being, and the necessity of succession, of time, to the
realization of contradictory things.

108. Perhaps it may be objected to me that contradictory modifications
are not a part of the infinite number, which only relates to the
possible: but this does not destroy my demonstration; it rather
confirms it. For as the absolute infinite number implies the absolute
negation of all limit, when, in treating of the realization of this
conception, I meet with things that are contradictory, I say that the
realization of the conception is contradictory, because the general and
indeterminate conception is more extended than all possible number.

109. The origin of their greater conception is, that the indeterminate
conception abstracts all conditions, that of time included; but the
reality does not and cannot abstract these conditions. Hence arises the
conflict between the conception and its realization, and this explains
why the conception is not contradictory, although its realization is

Let us suppose a number realized containing all the species and
individuals possible, we may reflect on the conception of the infinite
number, and say that the true infinity of the number requires the
absolute negation of all limit; but thinking of the collection of
things which exists, we can find it a limit, for concerning this
collection of units in general, we may add to it another number
expressing the new modifications which may be produced. At the instant
A, the number of units may be expressed by M. At the instant B, there
will be a new collection of units which may be expressed by N. The sum
of M + N will be greater than either M or N alone. Therefore, neither
M nor N will be absolutely infinite. The indeterminate conception
abstracts instants and relates to the sum above; hence it includes
things which cannot co-exist.



110. We are entering on a difficult question. Serious difficulties are
found in the idea of the infinite in general; the idea of absolutely
infinite being is not less difficult. We have seen that there are
different orders of infinities, each one of which is a conception
formed by the association of the two ideas of a particular being
and the negation of limit. But it is easy to see that none of the
infinities hitherto examined can be called infinite in the strict
sense of the term: they are all limited under many aspects,--none of
them is an infinitely perfect being. The idea of this being is not
fully possessed by us while in this life; still it may be analyzed and
explained with more clearness than it is by most authors. The great
difficulties, which we meet with in this attempt, show the necessity of
deep meditation, and the transcendency of the errors which originate in
a wrong understanding of the word infinite when applied to God.

111. What is an absolutely infinite being? It might seem that we had
said all that is necessary in defining the absolutely infinite being
to be that which has no negation of being: but this is a common notion
which leaves much to be desired. It is an indisputable truth that the
infinite being has no negation of being; but it is a truth so far
beyond our reach that it presents to our weak understanding only a
gloomy confusion, as soon as we attempt to determine exactly its true

112. If the absolutely infinite being has no negation of being, it
seems that nothing can be denied, but that everything may be affirmed
of it, for it must be all; in this case pantheism results from the
idea of infinity. If a true negative proposition can be established in
relation to the infinite being, there is in it a negation of being, or
of the predicate which is denied in the proposition.

It cannot be said that when negative propositions are applied to God,
only a negation is denied, for in reality positive things are denied of
God. When I say that God is not extended, I deny of him a reality which
is extension. When I say God is not the universe, I deny of him the
reality of the universe. Therefore negative propositions, as applied to
God, deny not only negations, but also realities.

It does not seem to solve the difficulty to say that the realities
denied involve imperfection, and are, consequently, repugnant to God.
This is very true, but we are treating at present of the explanation
of the idea of the absolutely infinite, and the difficulty militates
against the supposition that the idea of the absolutely infinite is to
be explained by the absolute absence of negation of being. If these
realities are any thing, when denied of God some being is denied;
and since the proposition cannot be true if there is not in God the
negation of the being denied, it follows that it is incorrect to say
that the absolutely infinite being is that which has no negation of

113. It also seems that a being of this nature could have no
properties; for some positive properties exclude others: thus,
intelligence and extension, freedom of will and necessity with respect
to the same thing are positive properties which mutually exclude one
another. Therefore the infinite being cannot have all properties,
unless we make it a collection of absurdities, after the fashion of

114. The infinite being must have all being which involves no
imperfection. This is very true, but there still remain serious
difficulties to be solved. What is perfection? What is imperfection?
These are questions which it is not easy to answer, and yet we cannot
advance a step until we have determined their meaning.

115. The idea of perfection implies being: nothing cannot be perfect, a
perfect not-being is a manifest contradiction.

116. Not all being is absolute perfection; for there are modes of
being which involve imperfection: what is perfection for one being is
imperfection for another.

117. In finite beings perfection is relative; a very perfect barn would
be a very imperfect church; a painting may be an ornament in a gallery
which would be a profanation if placed in the sanctuary. Perfection
seems to consist in a property being conducive to its end. This idea is
not applicable to the infinite being which can have no other end than
itself. Therefore, perfection in the absolutely infinite being cannot
be relative, but must be absolute.

118. If perfection is being, it seems that the perfection of the
infinite being must consist in certain properties which are found
formally in it, and therefore exclude all imperfection. An absolutely
indeterminate being, that is, a being without any property, is
impossible. What conception can we form of _a thing_ without
intelligence, without will, and without liberty? The propositions in
which these properties are affirmed of God, are true; therefore these
properties really exist in the subject of which they are affirmed.

119. An infinitely perfect being must have all perfection; but in
what sense are we to understand _all_? Does it mean all possible
perfections? But what perfections are possible? Those which are not
repugnant. To what is the repugnance to be referred? It must be either
a mutual repugnance, or a repugnance to a third: if the first, it is
necessary to presuppose one of the two extremes, in order that the
other may be repugnant to it; in that case, which is to be preferred?
If the second, what is the third to which they are repugnant? On what
is it founded?

If by all perfection is meant all that we can conceive, the same
difficulty remains. For if we speak of the conception of a finite
being, the conception is not infinite; if of the conception of an
infinite being, it is a begging of the question, because in explaining
the perfections of the infinite being we appeal to its conception.

These difficulties can only be solved by determining more precisely the
meaning of these ideas.

120. A thing may be denied of another in two manners: by referring
the negation to a property, or to an individual. When I say a surface
is not a triangle, I may refer the predicate either to the species
of triangle in general, or to an individual triangle. In the first
instance, I deny that the figure is triangular; in the second, I deny
that the figure is another given triangle. When I say God is not
extended, I deny a property; when I say God is not the world, I deny an

It is evident that in order to attribute absolute infinity to any
being, it is necessary that no being should be denied of it, either
with respect to properties or to individuals, and that the predicate
should be affirmed without destroying the principle of contradiction.
This exception is absolutely indispensable, unless we wish to make
the infinite being the greatest of all absurdities, a jumble of

I believe that this will explain to a great extent the idea of absolute
infinity, not considered in the abstract, but applied to a really
existent being.



121. We have seen that our cognitions are of two classes: some are
general and indeterminate, others intuitive. All the objects which we
know, whether indeterminately or intuitively, may be affirmed of God,
provided they involve no contradiction.

122. General and indeterminate conceptions are the ideas of being and
not-being, substance and accidents, simple and composite, cause and
effect. All that is real in these conceptions is affirmed of God.

123. Being or that which really exists, is affirmed of God. That which
is not has no property.

124. Substance, or being subsistent in itself, is also affirmed of God.

I do not enter into the discussion of the question greatly disputed in
the schools, whether the ideas of being and substance are applied in
the same sense, or, as logicians say, _univoce_, to God and creatures.
It is sufficient for my purpose that the idea of being is applied to
the infinite being, as opposed to the idea of not-being, and the idea
of substance as opposed to accidents, or rather, as implying a thing
which contains all that is necessary in order to subsist by itself
without inhering in any other.

125. The idea of accident cannot be applied to the infinite being;
but this is not to deny it any thing positive, but rather to affirm
a perfection; for we say that it has no need of being inherent in
another. This is a perfection; it is being: to deny the quality of
accident is to remove a negation. To say that a being is a substance is
to deny that it is an accident: these two ideas are contradictory and
cannot be attributed to the same subject at the same time.

126. Simplicity is affirmed of God. This attribute denies nothing; to
be convinced of this we need only recollect what simplicity is. The
simple is one; the composite is a union of beings. If the parts are
real, as they must be if there is a true composition, the resultant
is a collection of beings subordinated to a certain law of unity.
When, therefore, we say that God is simple, we say that God is not a
collection of beings, but one being. This involves no negation: but on
the contrary it is the affirmation of an existence not divided into
various beings.

127. The idea of cause, that is, of activity which produces in another
the transition from not-being to being, or from one mode of being to
another, is also affirmed of God. This involves no negation, but is an
affirmation of being; for a cause is not only being, but a being which
so abounds in perfection as to communicate it to others.

128. The idea of effect cannot be applied to God; but this is an
affirmation, not a negation. Every effect is a thing produced, which
has, consequently, passed from not-being to being: to deny the quality
of effect is to remove the negation of being, and affirm the fulness of

129. What has been said of the ideas of cause and effect, may be
extended to the ideas of necessary and contingent. The negative
proposition, God is not contingent, is an affirmation; for contingency
is the possibility of not-being. To deny this possibility is to affirm
the necessity of being, which is the fulness of perfection.



130. We have seen that all that is positive in general and
indeterminate conceptions is affirmed of God. Let us see if the same
is true of intuitive ideas. These ideas, in all that touches our
understanding, may be reduced to these four; passive sensibility,
active sensibility, intelligence, and will.

131. Passive sensibility, or the form under which the objects of the
external world are presented to our senses, cannot be attributed to the
infinite being. This negative proposition, the infinite being is not
passively sensible, is strictly true.

Does this proposition deny any thing positive of God? Let us examine it.

The form of passive sensibility is extension, which necessarily implies
multiplicity. The extended is necessarily a collection of parts: to
deny extension of God is to affirm his simplicity; to deny that he is a
collection of beings, and to affirm the indivisible unity of his nature.

132. Besides extension, there is in the passive sensibility of objects
only the relation of causes which produce in us the effects called
sensations. This causality can and must be affirmed of God: for it
is certain that the infinite cause is capable of producing in us all
sensations without the intervention of any medium.

133. The negative proposition: the infinite being is not material,
means nothing more than the other; the infinite being is not passively
sensible. We do not know the intrinsic nature of matter: all we know
is, that it is presented in intuition to our sensibility under the form
of extension, as an essentially multiplex object. When we deny that God
is material or corporeal, we deny that he is passively sensible, or
that he is multiple under the form of extension.

134. The other properties of matter, such as mobility, impenetrability,
and divisibility, relate to extension, or to a particular impression
caused on our senses. The difficulties that may be raised on these
points are solved by the preceding paragraphs.

Inertness, or indifference to rest or motion, is a purely negative
property. It is the incapacity of all action, the absence of an
internal principle productive of change, the purely passive disposition
to receive all that is communicated to it.

135. It therefore remains demonstrated that to deny to God passive
sensibility, or corporeal nature, is to affirm his undivided nature,
his productive activity, and the impossibility of his suffering any
kind of change.

136. Active sensibility, or the faculty of perceiving, presents two
characteristics which must be defined. There are in sensation two
things: the affection caused in the sensitive being by the sensible
object, and the internal representation of the sensible being. The
first is purely passive, and supposes the possibility of being affected
by an object, and, consequently, of being subject to change. This
cannot be attributed to the infinite being: to deny it is to affirm
immutability, or the necessity of remaining always in the same state.
The second is a sort of inferior order of cognition, by which the
sensitive being perceives the sensible object. The representation
of all objects must necessarily be found in the infinite being,
consequently all that is intuitively perceptive in the sensitive
faculty must be contained in the perception of the infinite being; that
is to say, all that sensibility presents to us of external objects,
all that it transfers to our intuition of external existence, must be
contained in the representation which the infinite intelligence has
within itself. Man cannot know under what form objects are presented
to the intuition of the infinite being; but it is certain that all the
_truth_ contained in sensitive representation is presented to this

137. Intelligence, or the perception of objects without the forms of
sensibility, implies the perception of beings and of their relations,
which is something positive. In us it is often accompanied by the
negative circumstance, of the absence of determinate objects to which
the general conception may be referred. The infinite being sees in a
single intuition all that exists and all that can exist, and contains
all that is positive in intelligence, without what is negative, which
is an imperfection.

138. It is evident that will must be affirmed of God; for we cannot
deny the infinite being that internal, spontaneous activity which is
called _to will_, and the nature of which involves no imperfection.

139. The will of God, although one and most simple, is distinguished
into free and necessary, according to the objects to which it is
referred. This gives rise to various negative propositions, which it is
well to examine.

We say: God cannot will moral evil; this proposition, apparently
negative, is, logically considered, affirmative. God cannot will moral
evil, because his will is invariably fixed on good, on that sublime
type of all holiness which he contemplates in his infinite essence.
The impotence of moral evil is in God an infinite perfection of his
infinite holiness.

140. The divine will may be referred to external objects, which, being
finite, can be combined in different manners, and the existence or
non-existence of these combinations depends on the end proposed by
the agent which produces or modifies them. The will of God exerted on
these objects is free; and to say that he has no necessity of doing
this or that is to deny nothing, but to affirm a perfection, namely,
the faculty of willing or not willing, or willing in different manners,
objects which, on account of their finite nature, cannot bind the
infinite will.

141. Hence all the reality contained in general ideas, whether
indeterminate or intuitive, that is not contradictory, is affirmed
of the absolutely infinite being. As to individual realities, it is
evident that those which are finite cannot be affirmed of the infinite
being without contradiction. The proposition: the infinite being is
the corporeal universe, is equivalent to this: the infinite being is
an essentially finite being. The same contradiction will be met with
in every proposition where the subject is the infinite being, and the
predicate an individual reality distinct from the infinite being.
This remark will suffice for the present: they will be more clearly
understood when we come to treat of the multitude of substances, in
refuting the error of pantheists.



142. The infinite being is not a vague object presented in the general
idea of being, but is possessed of true properties which, without
ceasing to be real, are identified with its infinite essence. A being
which is not something, of which some property cannot be affirmed, is
a dead being, which we conceive only under the general idea of thing,
and is presented to us as something which cannot be realized. Such is
not the conception which mankind form of the infinite being; the idea
of activity has always been associated with the idea of God: this is
not a general, but a fixed and determinate activity; internally, it is
the activity of intelligence; externally, the activity which produces

143. The idea of activity in general does not exclude all imperfection:
activity to do evil is an imperfect activity: the activity by which
some sensible beings act on others, is subject to the conditions
of motion and extension, and is, consequently, not exempt from
imperfection. Pure, internal activity, considered in itself, involves
no imperfection; this is intellectual activity. It is an inoffensive
activity, and of itself does no harm; it is an immaculate faculty, and
of itself is never stained.

144. To know good, is good; to know evil, is also good; to wish
good is good; to wish evil is evil; here is a difference between the
understanding and the will; the will may be defiled by its object, the
understanding never. The moralist considers, examines, and analyzes
the greatest iniquities, and studies the details of the most degrading
corruption; the politician knows the passions, the miseries, and
the crimes of society; the lawyer witnesses injustice under all its
aspects; the naturalist and the physician contemplate the most filthy
and loathsome objects; and in all this no stain attaches to the
intelligence. God himself knows all the evil there is or can be in
the physical or in the moral order, and yet his intelligence remains

145. Created beings abuse liberty as such; for it is essentially a
principle of action, and may be directed to evil; but the intelligence,
as regards itself alone, cannot be abused. It is essentially an
immanent or intransitive act in which are represented real or possible
objects; the abuse does not commence until the free will combines the
acts of the intelligence and directs them to a bad action; there is
no evil knowledge until the act of the will is introduced into the
combinations of the understanding. A collection of stratagems to commit
the most horrible crimes, may be the innocent object of intellectual

146. A wonderful thing is intelligence. With it there is relation,
order, rule, science, art; without intelligence there is nothing.
Conceive, if you can, the world without the pre-existence of
intelligence; all is chaos; imagine the order which now exists, destroy
intelligence, and the universe is a beautiful picture placed before the
extinguished sight of a corpse.

147. We conceive beings as more perfect accordingly as they are higher
in the order of intelligence. Leaving the sphere of the insensible
and entering the order of sensitive representation, a new world
commences. The first degree is the animal in which sensations are
limited to a small number of objects, and the summit is intelligence.
Morality flows from intelligence, or, rather, is one of its laws,
it is the prescription of conformity to an infinitely perfect type.
Morality is explained with intelligence; without intelligence it is an
absurdity. The intelligence has its laws, its duties, but they proceed
from itself, as the sun enlightens itself by its own light. Liberty
is explained with intelligence; without it, liberty is an absurdity.
Without intelligence causality is presented to us as a farce operating
without an object or a direction, without a sufficient reason, and is
consequently the greatest of absurdities. When some theologians said
that the constitutive attribute of the essence of God is intelligence,
they expressed an idea which contains a wonderfully profound
philosophical meaning.

148. By the intellectual act being does not go out of itself:
intelligence is an immanent act which may be extended to infinity,
and exercised with infinite intensity without the intelligent leaving
itself. The more profound its understanding is, the more profound is
its concentration on the abyss of its consciousness. Intelligence is
essentially active: it is activity. See what happens in man: he thinks,
and his will awakes and acts: he thinks, and his body moves: he thinks,
and his strength is multiplied, all his faculties are subject to his
thought. Let us imagine an intelligence infinite in extension and in
intensity, an intelligence in which there is no alternation of action
and rest, of energy and abatement, an infinite intelligence which knows
itself infinitely, and knows infinite, real, or possible objects with
an infinitely perfect knowledge; an intelligence, the source of all
light without any darkness, the origin of all truth without any mixture
of error; we may then form some idea of the absolutely infinite being.
By this infinite intelligence I conceive an infinitely perfect will;
I conceive creation, a pure act of will calling into existence, from
nothing, the types which pre-existed in the infinite intelligence; I
conceive infinite holiness, and all the perfections identified in that
ocean of light. Without intelligence I conceive nothing: the absolute
being, which is in the origin of all things, seems the old chaos, and
I try in vain to induce some order into it. The ideas of being, of
substance, and of necessity are knocked about in the greatest confusion
in my understanding; the infinite is not a focus of light for me, but
an abyss of darkness: I know not whether I am immerged in an infinite
reality, or lost in the imaginary space of a vague and empty conception.



149. The examination of the idea of the infinite is of the greatest
importance, because it is inseparably united with the idea of God.

150. We have the idea of the infinite; but the disputes concerning its
nature, and even its existence, denote its obscurity.

151. The finite is that which has limits.

152. The infinite is not the same as the indefinite. The infinite is
that which has no limits--the _not-finite_; the indefinite is that to
which no limits are assigned--the _not-defined_.

153. The difference between the infinite and the finite is founded
on the principle of contradiction: the finite affirms limits; the
infinite denies them: there is no medium between yes and no.

154. Limit is the negation of a being, or of something real, applied
to a being: the limit of a line is the point which terminates it; the
limit of a force is the point beyond which it does not extend.

155. The idea of the infinite, denying limit, denies a negation;
therefore it is an affirmative idea: the idea of the finite is
negative, because it affirms a negation.

156. The idea of the infinite is applied to many orders of beings, and
presents strange anomalies, which seem contradictions. A line produced
to infinity in only one direction appears infinite, since it is greater
than all finite lines; and it is not infinite, because it has a limit
in the point where it starts. The same thing is verified in surfaces
and solids. To explain these anomalies we must attend to the following

157. The idea of the infinite is not intuitive. We have no intuition of
an object either absolutely or relatively infinite.

158. The idea of the infinite is an indeterminate conception formed by
the union of the two indeterminate ideas of being in general, and the
negation of limit in general.

159. The indeterminate conception of the infinite gives us no knowledge
of any thing infinite.

160. The anomalies and apparent contradictions, which we find in the
application of the idea of the infinite, vanish when we reflect that
the difference of the results depends on the different conditions
under which we apply the idea of the infinite. Things which would be
infinite under one condition cease to be so when considered under other
conditions: the apparent contradiction is caused by one not remarking
the change of conditions.

161. We have the conception of infinite number, for we can unite in
our mind the two indeterminate conceptions of number and the negation
of limit.

162. We have the conception of infinite extension, for we can unite the
two indeterminate ideas of extension and the negation of limit.

163. The possibility or non-contradiction of conceptions in the purely
ideal order does not prove their possibility in the real order. When
the conceptions are realized, their reality is not in an abstract
extension or an abstract number, but in individual extended beings,
or individual numbers: the determinateness implied by the reality may
involve contradiction to the true infinity, although it be impossible
for us to discover any contradiction in the indeterminate conception,
which abstracts the conditions of their realization.

164. Although we have the conception of infinite extension, it is
impossible for us to imagine it.

165. No extrinsic or intrinsic repugnance can be discovered in the
existence of infinite extension.

166. We cannot know by purely philosophical means whether the extension
of the universe is infinite or finite.

167. Although an absolutely infinite number may be indeterminately
conceived, it is not susceptible of any arithmetical or geometrical
expression: no series of what mathematicians call infinite expresses an
absolutely infinite number.

168. The intrinsic impossibility of an _actual_ infinite number may be
demonstrated from the intrinsic repugnance of the _co-existence_ of
certain things which may be _numbered_.

169. The idea of the absolutely infinite real being cannot be
indeterminate: it necessarily involves positive and formal perfections.

170. All that does not imply a contradiction must be affirmed of the
infinite being. That which is absurd is not a perfection.

171. Analyzing indeterminate and intuitive ideas, we find that all the
reality contained in them is affirmed of God.

172. The absolutely infinite being must be intelligent.

173. Intelligence is a perfection which does not imply contradiction.

174. Will and liberty must also be found in the absolutely infinite

175. The indeterminate idea of the infinite is favored by the
combination of the ideas of being and not-being.

176. The idea of an absolutely infinite being consists in the idea of a
union of all being that involves no contradiction.

177. The indeterminate idea of a real infinite being, or of God, is
formed from the idea of an absolutely infinite being, combined with
the intuitive ideas of intelligence, will, liberty, causality, and all
others that can be conceived without imperfection, in any infinite





1. What is substance? Have we a clear and distinct idea of it? The
disputes of philosophers concerning the idea of substance and the
continual applications which we make of it, prove two things: first,
that the idea of substance exists; and secondly, that its clearness and
distinctness are not all that could be desired. A mere name, containing
no idea, could not so strongly draw the attention of all philosophers,
nor be used so generally, even in ordinary language; a clear and
distinct idea could not give occasion to so much dispute.

2. The importance of this idea may be seen in the results to which
philosophers are led, according to the way in which they explain
it. The entire system of Spinosa is founded on wrong definition of

3. In the present question as in many others, it does not seem to be
the shortest way to begin with a definition, unless the thing defined
is only a name: to define a thing is to explain it, and we cannot
explain it if we are ignorant of what it is, and we are ignorant, or
are supposed to be ignorant of this, when we enter on investigations
in order to ascertain what it is. If philosophers, at the beginning
of their treatises, would not say, substance is this, but only, this
is what I understand by substance, they would escape a number of

4. After defining the name of substance, and making a clear and
distinct idea correspond to it, it is still necessary to show how far
the idea represents objects really existing, or, whether it belongs to
the class of ideas expressing only the relation of different ideas,
without our having any means of ascertaining whether this relation is
found in the positive world or not; that is to say, whether the idea of
substance is only the work of our understanding, a mere result of the
combination of certain ideas, or is furnished us by experience itself.
I shall try not to fall into any of these faults; I know not, however,
whether I can escape them. For this purpose, I shall first analyze the
word, with respect to its etymological sense, and then examine the
various meanings which have been given to it. The analysis of words is
very useful for the analysis of ideas: words often contain a great deal
of truth, which we lose by not attending to their common meaning.

5. The word substance, _substantia_, implies something which is under,
_substat_, which is the subject on which other things are placed; just
as its correlative, accident or modification, expresses something which
happens to the subject, _accidit_; something which modifies it, which
is in it, as a mode of being, _modus_.

6. By substance we seem to understand something constant in the
midst of variation, something which, although it is in various ways
successively, according to the variety of modifications which affect
it, remains constant and identical under different transformations.
When we say that the substance has received any new modification,
although we understand by this that the substance is, in a new mode,
we do not mean that it is different in itself, that it has lost its
internal primitive being, and taken a new being; but we only consider
this change as external, and as leaving untouched a certain base, which
is what we call substance.

If it were not so, if we did not conceive something constant and
identical under modifications, we could not distinguish substance from
its modifications. The modification passes from not-being to being,
and from being to not-being; now it is, and now it resigns its post
to another and very different modification. But the substance is the
same under different modifications; it does not pass from not-being
to being with the succession of its modifications. From the moment
that we attribute to substance the instability which belongs to its
modifications, it ceases to be distinguishable from them.

Ordinary language confirms this truth. When there is a variation of
modifications we say that the substance changes, that is, we conceive
something which existed before the change, and exists after it. We say
that a modification has entirely disappeared; we do not say this of the
substance, but only that it is, or is presented to us, in a different
manner. We therefore conceive something which remains constant and
identical under different modifications: the subject in which these
changes occur, this something which does not disappear with the
disappearance of the modifications, which is not changed internally
with these changes, we call substance, _substantia_, _substratum_.



7. Let us apply the ideas contained in that of substance to a corporeal
object: this will help explain these ideas, and perhaps suggest others.

The paper on which I am writing is susceptible of various
modifications: I may write on it a thousand different things, in
various characters, and in different colors; I may fold it in various
ways, and give it an infinite variety of positions in relation to the
objects around it, and I may move it in all imaginable directions.
Under this infinity of changes there is something constant, something
which does not change. There are many new things, but there is one
which is not new, which is always the same. There is one which suffers
these changes, but retains something which does not change. If I make
the paper blue and then red, that which is now red is the same that was
blue, and before that white, and to this which is constant all those
changes are referred. If a white paper is shown me, and then another
paper that is blue, and then one that is red, it is clear that it is
not the same as though I gave all these transformations to the same
paper. The impression which the color produces in me remains the same;
in what, then, does the difference consist? The difference is, that in
the one case there is something permanent, which has passed through
successive changes; in the other case this _something_ is not the same,
but is another and different thing. In the one case there are different
modifications; in the other there are different substances.

8. Let us go deeper into the matter. If we only received the successive
impressions without any means of referring them to the same object,
to connect them in a common point, we should find no difference
between the two cases of which we have been speaking. If a piece of
white paper be placed before us, and, after turning our eyes aside
for a moment, we find a blue paper in the same place, with the same
dimensions, and after again turning our eyes aside we find a red paper:
it is clear that it would be impossible for us to distinguish, by the
mere succession of the visual impressions, whether the same paper has
been differently colored in succession, or different papers have been
substituted for the first. But if we keep our eyes on the place where
the paper is, we see whether the paper is colored or changed. In the
first case, the appearance of the new color will continue with the same
sensation of the paper, unmoved, the transformation is made without our
losing sight of it, and the paper receives the continued succession
of its motions and positions under the hand of the one who colors it.
We are then sure that the paper is the same, because there has been
a continuity of sensation, or rather a connection of the different
colors with a third, resulting from the situation of the paper and
its motions, and from all that by which we know what is common to the
first and the second. But if there is no new coloring of the paper, but
a substitution of a differently colored paper, we see that the first
paper is taken away; the whole order of the sensation is interrupted,
and new sensations are presented. These last have no connection with
the first; there is, consequently, for us a different _thing_.

9. This shows how the idea of substance with respect to bodies is
generated in us, or, to speak more properly, how we apply the idea of
substance to bodies. When we discover a link which unites the different
sensations in one point, we call that in which they are united,
substance. And as we meet in nature with many of these points which are
independent of one another, we naturally say there are many corporeal

10. When we perceive an impression we never call it a substance, if
we refer it to an object, or consider it as objective: for the object
is not, of itself alone, capable of connecting various sensations.
We receive the sensations of red, and not only ordinary people, but
even philosophers, when not philosophizing, make the color objective,
and consider the red, not as a simple sensation, but as an external
quality. No one would call this quality by itself a substance; for
it is not capable, of itself alone, of connecting other impressions
or qualities. If there is a change of color the red disappears,
and the new impression is connected in the order of time with the
sensation of the red, but does not reside in it. If there is a change
of form, although the red continues, we do not conceive this color as
the necessary link between the two forms, because we know that the
continuance of the red is indifferent to the variety of form, which may
be changed with or without the continuance of this color.

As in general we have experienced that no sensation is necessarily
connected with another, and that among sensations connected at a common
point, some disappear without the rest disappearing, we infer that
none of them is a necessary link; and therefore, although we make them
objective, we do not give them the character of a substance, of any
thing remaining identical through changes, of which it is, as it were,
the recipient.

11. There is a property in bodies which is necessary to all sensations,
or at least, to the two principal sensations of sight and touch. This
property is extension, which, whether considered subjectively or
objectively, we regard as a recipient of all sensations. We neither see
nor imagine the white or black; we neither touch nor imagine the hard
or the soft, the warm or the cold, without the extension in which the
whiteness or blackness, the hardness or softness, the warmth or the
cold reside. Thus extension might perhaps merit the honor of substance,
if it were not subject to another condition, which deprives it of this

Although when we conceive extension in general, in the abstract,
considering it as a mere continuity, we absolutely abstract it from
all form; when we have need of an applied extension as the recipient
of sensations, it is impossible to find it without a determinate
form and figure. We do not see a color simply, but we see it in a
circular, triangular, or other extension. These forms are confounded
with extension itself as its applications; and do not serve as a link
for other sensations. Sometimes, it is true, the same figure receives
different colors, different positions, different degrees of heat or
cold, etc., but the contrary also sometimes occurs, and with the same
color, and the same degree of heat or cold, with the same continuance
of the other sensations, the object changes its form; just as a red
circle may become a green circle, a red object may become circular, and
afterwards triangular. In the first case, the circular figure is the
link connecting the sensations of the colors; in the second, the color
is the link connecting the figures.

12. Having deprived extension of the honor of substance, as well as
all other sensations, in so far as objective; we may observe that all
these variations in the objects are successive, and the sensations are
connected with each other. Thus the same circle may take different
colors; and the same color different figures; the colors may be again
changed, and the first reproduced, the figure remaining the same; or
the first figure may be reproduced, the colors remaining the same. We
conclude that under this variety there is something constant, that
under this multiplicity there is something which is one; that under
this succession of being and not-being there is something permanent;
and this which is constant, one, and permanent, the recipient of these
changes, the point outside of us which connects them, and enables us to
conceive them connected,--this is what we call substance.



13. What is the permanent subject of transformations in the sensible
order? Is it a pure illusion? Is it a reality? What reality can it be?
Does it not seem rather an abstraction? A thing which is no color,
but lends itself all colors; which is none of the qualities which we
experience, but the subject and cause of them all; which is no form,
but accommodates itself to all forms; which is not pure extension,
because this is an abstraction, and it is something which serves as the
ground of other things; a corporeal object which, in itself, can affect
none of the senses; what is it? Is it what the Aristotelians call an
occult quality, a mysterious, and fantastic being, a mere illusion? Let
us examine it by the light of experience.

14. Let us take a piece of wax and without letting it go out of
our hands paint it different colors successively, subject it to
different degrees of temperature, softening it by warming, and then
cooling it; let us give it different forms, of a globe, a cylinder, a
parallelopipedon, a table, a vase, or a statue; do all these changes
take place in the same thing? Yes. Is this thing not a color, or a
figure, or a degree of temperature? No; because all these qualities
were and ceased to be whilst the thing remained the same. How do I
know that the thing remained the same? Because there was a continuity
of sensation in the eye fixed upon the object; in the touch which,
although it felt the modifications of warm and cold, hard and
soft, experienced also an uninterrupted sensation of an object,
which remained constantly in the hand, and the weight of which was
continuously felt. Therefore there is something there which is not the
modifications, but is that which is modified, something common to them
all, which receives and connects them, outside of me and within me.

15. Examining one conception of this permanent something, we find that,
after abstracting its qualities, we have:

I. The idea of being. We say the thing, the something, the subject,
etc., we therefore speak of a being, of a quality. Without the reality
there is nothing; and nothing cannot be the subject of modifications,
or the link connecting impressions.

II. The idea of being, which we here find, is not pure, it is not being
alone. The qualities exist, are beings, and still we do not confound
them with the subject.

III. That which accompanies the idea of being is the idea of permanence
amidst succession, and the relation of this permanence as the point of
connection, the immovable centre in the midst of succession.

16. If, therefore, we wished to define substance, we could only say
that it is _a permanent being in which occur the changes which are
presented to us in the sensible phenomena_. Our knowledge is all
reduced to this; all that we can add beside, is only hypothesis or
conjecture. In vain you ask me, what is this being? Give me the
intuition of the essence of corporeal things, and I will tell you;
but while I know them only by their effects, that is, the impressions
which they produce in me, I cannot answer you. I know that it is
something; I know its relation to its forms; I know that the forms are
in the subject, and are not the subject; but here is the limit of my
knowledge. The object corresponding to the idea composed of a permanent
being and its relation to various forms is what I call corporeal

17. Since the substance changes its accidents, remaining the same
itself, it follows that its existence is independent of the accidents.
Abstracting, for the present, whether it can or cannot exist without
any, I only affirm that none in particular is necessary to it. Here
we must take note of the difference between substance in itself, and
in the medium by which it is manifested to us, and placed in active
or passive communication with us. The accidents are this medium; they
are the transitory forms it puts on. How can we know the existence of
bodies, except by sensations? The object of sensation is not substance
in its inner nature, but only its qualities as affecting us.



18. In the idea of corporeal substance the idea of permanence is
perfectly included, the idea of unity only imperfectly. The unity which
we conceive in every corporeal substance is a factitious unity; since
that which is constant is not one but an aggregate of many, as is
proved by the divisibility of matter; out of every corporeal substance
we may make many which will have the same right as the first to be
called substances. A piece of wood is a substance; but we may slit it
into several pieces which will be equally substances. These pieces,
joined together, formed what are called _one_ substance; but it is
clear that this unity was very imperfect, and was rather a union than a
unity, and that if we consider it as _one_, it was in relation to the
unity of effect which it produced in us, by the connection which it
gave to our sensations and to the phenomena which resulted from it.

19. Hence, every corporeal substance involves multiplicity, or
combination of the elements which compose it. Experience informs us
that this combination is not permanent; there is, consequently, no
corporeal substance which does not imply at least one modification,
namely, the arrangement of its parts. Abstracting the changes which
this modification may undergo, it can never be confounded with the
substance: although the bodies might be presented constantly to our
senses with the same arrangement of the parts, the permanent _being_
would be in the parts, not in their arrangement. The latter is
something external which is added to the thing existing; there can be
no union and combination without parts which are united and combined.

20. A difference which we observe between the substance and
its modifications is, that the substance is independent of the
modifications, but the modifications are not independent of the
substance. The substance, while remaining the same, changes its
accidents, but an accident cannot change its substance and remain the
same. The same block may receive different figures successively; but a
figure, numerically the same, cannot pass from one block to another.
Two blocks may have a similar or a different figure, whether cubic,
spherical, or pyramidal, and one may take the figure of the other; but
in that case, the figures are not identical, but similar, they are
specifically but not numerically the same.

21. If I am asked how I know that there is only similarity and not
numerical identity in the figures which bodies take successively, that
there is no _permanence_ in the figures which change their subject,
and consequently that the same figure cannot pass from one substance
to another, in the same manner that the same substance passes from
one figure to another; I shall not find it difficult to prove what I

There is no one who does not see what an extravagant thing it would
be for a cubic figure to leave a body and pass to another. What is
this figure separated from the body? How is it preserved during the
transition? Why is it not exactly the same in both, but presented
with slight modifications? Has it undergone a modification in its
passage from one body to another? Then there would be a modification
of a modification, and the figure in itself abstracted from all body,
would be a kind of substance of a secondary order, permanent under
modifications. These are but absurd dreams in which that is applied
to the concrete which belongs to the idea only in the abstract. This
transition of the forms would suppose their separate existence, and
thus we might have all kinds of abstract figures, cubes, spheres,
circles, triangles, etc., subsisting in themselves without application
to any thing figured.

22. A still stricter demonstration of this truth is possible. If we
suppose a figure, numerically the same, to pass from one body to
another; the block A, which loses the cubic form, transmits it to the
body B. Now, this individual form cannot be in both at the same time.
Suppose that after the cubic form has left the block A, we turn it back
before it has touched the body B, evidently it will not be the same
in both: therefore the body B has not acquired the same, but only a
similar form. It is also evident that in order to give the cubic form,
we need not take it from another; therefore, the form of one is not
_individually_ that of the other; otherwise we should have to say that
it is and is not, that it is preserved and ceases to exist at the same

23. The term _transmission_ or _communication_ of motion, which is so
much used in physical science, expresses something real so long as
limited to the phenomenon which is under calculation; but it would be
an absurdity, if it meant that the _same_ motion which was in one
body has _passed_ to another. The sum of the quantities of motion is
the same in elastic bodies after impact as before it; the velocity
being divided between them, and the one gaining what the other loses.
This is proved by calculation, and confirmed by experience. But it is
evident that one body does not impart the _same_ individual velocity
which it contained to the other body; for not only can the velocity
not be separated from the body and pass from one subject to another;
but it cannot even be conceived except as a relation, the idea of
which includes the ideas of a body moved, of space, and of time. It
is true that Q representing the quantity of the motion before impact,
the value of Q remains the same after impact; but this only expresses
the phenomenon in relation to its effects, as subject to calculation;
not that the velocity in the second member of the equation is composed
of the parts of the first. Let A and B represent two bodies, the
individual masses of which are expressed by these two letters; and V,
_v_ their respective velocities before impact. The quantity of motion
will be Q = A × V + B × _v_. After impact there will be a new velocity
which we may call _w_, and the quantity of motion will be Q = A × _w_
+ B × _u_. Mathematically speaking, the value of Q will be the same;
but this only means that if the results of the motion be expressed in
lines or numbers, we shall have the same after impact as before it; it
does not and cannot mean that in the velocity _u_, considered as united
to the subject, there is a portion of velocity which has been detached
from V to be joined to _v_.

24. Hence, we do not conceive the accidents of bodies as possible
without a subject in which they are inherent; and that substances are
not inherent in another being, but are conceived and really exist
without this inherence. A figure cannot exist without a thing figured,
but the thing figured may still exist, through all other things are
destroyed. The analysis of the nature of substance shows that its
existence supposes the existence of another being which produced
it; but relation between them is that of cause and effect, not of
inherence, or that of the subject and its modification.

25. These last observations explain another mark of corporeal
substances. In the third chapter of this book we found the three
characteristics of being, the relation of the permanent to the
variable, and the subject of the variations; we now find a fourth,
which is a negation, non-inherence in another. This negative
characteristic is included in the positive one, _permanent subject of
variations_; for it is clear that in conceiving a subject _permanent
amid variations_ we do not include inherence, but rather deny it, at
least implicitly. Non-inherence supposes something positive, something
on which is founded the denial of the necessity of being inherent.
What is this something? We know not. We know that it exists, but its
explanation is beyond our reach. It is probably inexplicable without
the intuition of the essence of things;--an intuition which we have not.



26. The idea of substance, such as we have thus far explained it,
implies a relation to accidents in general. The idea we are now
examining is not that of an indeterminate substance, but of corporeal
substance; and it must be confessed that it is difficult to conceive a
particular corporeal substance without any accident. If I take from
the paper, on which I am writing, its figure, extension, and all that
relates to my senses, what is there left for me to conceive something
particular and determinate, something which is not the idea of being
in general, but of this being in particular? It is clear that, in
order that the object may not disappear altogether, and losing its
individuality be confounded in the universal idea, I must reserve
something by which I can say _this_: that is to say, that which is
here, or which has affected me in this or that manner, or has been
the subject of such or such modifications. I consider at least its
position with respect to other bodies, or its causality in relation to
the effects which it has produced in me, or its nature as the subject
of determinate accidents. Just as the idea of finite substance in
general involves relation to certain accidents in general, the idea of
a particular substance involves relation to particular accidents.

27. We find this relation in our mode of conceiving corporeal
substance; we cannot assert that it is involved in the nature of the
substance. This nature is unknown to us, and when we attempt to examine
it, we pass to another question, that of the essence of bodies.

28. Neither can we say how far the identity of the corporeal substance
continues under its different transformations. The partisans of
corpuscular philosophy consider all transformations as mere local
motions, and all the variations which we see in bodies as mere results
of the different position of the corpuscles among themselves. Leibnitz
resolved matter into an infinity of monads, differing from the atoms
of Epicurus, but conducing to the substantial invariability of bodies,
which are only a collection of indivisible substances, which he calls
monads. The Aristotelians believed that, of the changes of bodies, some
were accidental, as figure, motion, density, warmth, cold, etc.; others
substantial, as the change of wood to ashes. But in all the variety of
systems, all admit something permanent, the subject of the changes. The
Atomists and Leibnitz evidently admitted the identity of the subject.
As to the Aristotelians, although the change which introduced a
substantial form different from the first substantially transformed the
being, so that after the change of the substantial form it could not
be said that one was substantially the other, they still thought there
was a common subject in these substantial transformations, and this
was what they called the first matter, _materia prima_. All systems of
philosophy admit this clear and evident truth, that in the midst of the
transformations of the corporeal world, there is something permanent.

29. This corporeal substance being a reality, must not only exist, but
it must be something determinate. This substantial determination of
the body, which makes it this particular thing, and distinguishes it
in its internal nature, in its essence, from all other bodies of other
species, the Aristotelians called the substantial form. The subject of
this form, or actuality, which was common to all bodies, they called
the _materia prima_, which was a pure potentiality, a sort of medium
between pure nothing and actual being.

30. Ever since there have been schools of philosophy, these points
have been disputed; and it is probable they always will be; but it is
to very little purpose. We know the existence of the corporeal world,
we know its relations to ourselves, we know its properties and its
laws, so far as they are subject to our observation; but its intrinsic
nature is beyond the reach of our senses, or our instruments. Increased
acuteness of observation and improvement in the power and delicacy of
instruments, discovers new mysteries, and man finds the barriers which
he believed the _ne plus ultra_, removed from him as he advances. Will
he ever be able to pass them? Will he ever make the entire circuit
of this scientific world? Is the knowledge of the intrinsic nature of
the subject of this infinity of phenomena which astonish us, reserved
to the future? It is hard to believe it. The telescope, becoming more
perfect, extends the limits of the universe, and seems to behold the
infinitely great; the perfection of the microscope, advancing in the
opposite direction, regards the infinitely little. Where are the
limits? It is probable that man is not permitted to reach them while
in this world. The mind of man in its fruitful activity, struggles
alternately after the two extremes, but just as he flatters himself
he is reaching the last limit, he feels that something stronger than
himself withholds him from attaining the object of his noble desires;
it is the chain that binds him to the mortal body, and obstructs the
flight of his pure spirit.



31. We have not found perfect unity in corporeal substances: all that
are subject to our senses may be resolved into a number of others
equally substances in their turn; a body is rather an aggregate of
substances, than one substance. We do not find the unity in the bodies;
we attribute it to them either inasmuch as they form a common link of
our sensations, or inasmuch as we consider the different substances
subordinated to one being and governing substance. Thus the parts of
an animated body constitute a sort of unity, inasmuch as they are
subordinate to the principle which animates them.

32. We do not conclude from this that true unity does not exist in
bodies; if we could know their essence, we should doubtless discover
it, whether in the monads, as maintained by Leibnitz, or in something
else more or less resembling them. Although this knowledge of their
essence is denied us, reason leads us to this unity. The composite
is formed of parts; if these parts are in turn formed of others, we
must at last come to something which has no parts; here we find the
indivisible, or rather, the true unity. This reasoning is equally
valid, even though we suppose matter to be infinitely divisible.
Infinite divisibility would suppose an infinity of parts into which
any body may be divided: these parts would therefore exist; these
infinitesimal elements would be real: the unity would be in them.

33. Independently of the external world, we find the idea of substance
in ourselves; consciousness reveals its real application and perfect
unity. Consciousness makes known to us that we think, desire, feel, and
experience an infinity of affections, some of which are subject to our
will and are the product of the internal activity of our soul; others
are independent of us, they come without our will, and often against
it, and it is not always in our power to reproduce them even if we wish

This ebb and flow of ideas, volitions, and sentiments, have a point
in which they are connected, a subject which receives them, remembers
them, combines them, and seeks or avoids them; this being, of which we
are internally conscious, philosophers have called the _me_. It is one
and identical under all transformations; this unity, this identity, is
an indisputable fact which consciousness reveals to us. Who could make
us doubt that the _me_ which thinks at the present moment is not the
same which thought yesterday, which thought years ago? Notwithstanding
the variety of thoughts and desires, the changes of opinion and will,
who could deprive us of the firm and deep conviction which we have
that we are the same who experience them all, that there is something
here within us which is the subject of them all?

34. If there were not something in us permanent in the midst of this
variety, the consciousness of the _me_ would be impossible. Memory and
combination would also be impossible; for there would be within us only
a succession of unconnected phenomena. Thinking is impossible without
something which thinks and remains identical under the variety of the
forms of thought. There is, therefore, within us a simple subject which
connects all the changes which occur in it: there is a substance. In it
there is unity: the unity which we only find in corporeal substances
after an infinite series of decompositions, is presented to us in
the spiritual substance, at the first instant, as a simple internal
fact, without which, all the phenomena which we perceive within us are
absurd, and all experience of the external world impossible.

Without the unity of the _me_ there can be no sensation, and without
sensation no experience of the beings around us.



35. The proposition, _I think_, can have no sense unless we admit
that the soul is a substance. Philosophy loses its resting-point, and
all that experience within us is a series of unconnected phenomena,
incapable of being observed, or subjected to any rule.

36. My present thought is not individually my thought of yesterday,
as my thought of to-morrow will not be my thought of to-day. These
thoughts, considered in themselves and abstracted from a subject in
which they are found, have no connection with one another: perhaps
their objects are without any relation to each other, or even
contradictory; perhaps the thought of to-day is the denial of the
thought of yesterday.

37. The same is true of all thoughts, all acts of the will, of all
sentiments, imaginary representations, and sensations, and, in general,
of all that I experience within myself. Turning my attention to all
internal affections, whatever they may be, I see in them only a
series of phenomena, a sort of current of existences passing away and
disappearing, some never to return, others to reappear at a different
time, _expressly_ presenting this difference. The reappearance is not
individual, but similar: the affection which is repeated is not the
same, but another resembling it. When the affection returns, I am
conscious of its presence at the time, and conscious of its presence at
a previous time; this double consciousness constitutes recollection,
makes me distinguish between the two affections, and necessarily
implies the judgment that one is not the other. There would be no
recollection, if the affection _recalling_ were identified with the
affection _recalled_. A thing _presents_ itself, but does not _recall_

38. Therefore every thing passes away within us never to return, the
disappearance is real, the reappearance but apparent; that which ceases
to be can never return to be again; there may be a similar thing, but
not the same; that which was, is passed, and time does not retrace its

39. Therefore, the series of internal phenomena, considered in
themselves and abstracted from the subject in which they reside, are
necessarily unconnected, and there is no way of subordinating the terms
of the series to any law, or connecting link.

40. Still this law exists in all our intellectual acts; reason, without
laws which govern it, would be the greatest of absurdities; this link
is found in all our affections. That they pass from us with their
distinction and difference and resemblance is a fact of our mind, to
which we are subjected, as to a primitive and inevitable condition of
our existence.

41. The proposition, _I think_, in the sense in which the word _think_
includes all internal affections, does not relate to isolated phenomena
alone, but it necessarily implies a point, which we call the _me_, in
which these phenomena are connected. If this point does not exist,
if it is not one and identical, the thought of to-day can have no
connection with the thought of yesterday: they are two distinct things,
at different times, and perhaps contradictory: when I say to-day, _I
think_, and mean that the _I_ is the same as in the proposition, _I
thought yesterday_, my language would be absurd; if they are mere
phenomena, two thoughts without any connecting link, the _me_ is
nothing, I cannot say, _I thought, I think_; but I must say _there
was_ thought, _there is_ thought. If, then, you ask me, _where? in
whom?_ I must reply, that there is no _where_, no _who_; I must deny
the supposition, and confine myself to repeating, _there was_ thought,
_there is_ thought.

42. To say _me_, it is necessary to suppose a permanent reality; a
reality, because that which is not real is nothing; permanent, because
that which passes away disappears, ceases to be, and cannot serve as
the point to unite other things.



43. The permanent reality of the _me_, considered in itself and
abstracted from the things which pass within it, is a fact which we
perceive in our intuition, and which we express in all our words.
If this presence, this internal experience, be what is called the
intuition of the soul, then we have intuition of our soul. This
intuition is reproduced in every particular intuition, and in all
internal affections in general; for, although they are isolated
phenomena, they imply the intuition of the _me_, because they imply the
consciousness of themselves.

44. The variety of isolated phenomena instead of proving any thing
against the unity of the intuition of the _me_, on the contrary,
evidently confirms it. If we conceived only one fixed and identical
thought, there would be less necessity of uniting with it the idea of a
subject in which it resides; but when there is a multitude of different
phenomena, which cannot co-exist without contradiction, we must refer
them to something constant, or else the internal world is converted
into an absolute chaos.

45. The soul has, therefore, an intuition of itself; that is to say,
it is conscious of its unity in multiplicity, of its identity in
diversity, of its permanence in succession, of its constant duration
in the appearance and disappearance of phenomena. Either we must
admit this, or we must renounce the legitimacy of all testimony of
consciousness, and embrace the most complete skepticism that ever
existed, extending it both to the internal and to the external world.

46. We find within us the realization of the indeterminate conceptions
of _being_, _unity_, _permanence_, and _subject of modifications_;
this realization is revealed by consciousness, and is confirmed by the
logical analysis of the series of phenomena in their relation to a
point of connection.

47. All that is included in the idea of finite substance is contained
in these four terms: _being_, _one_, _permanent_, and the _subject of
modifications_. All this is in our soul, and we perceive by experience
that we are internally affected by it. If this perception is called
intuition, we have intuition of the substantiality of our soul.

48. The thinking being not only perceives itself but it knows itself
as a real object, to which, by means of reflection, it applies the
ideas of being, unity, permanence, and the subject of modifications.
Therefore the soul may be the true predicate of propositions resting on
logic and consciousness.

49. Have we any other intuition of the soul, besides that which has
just been explained? To this I answer, that we have not while in
this life, and at the same time I ask whether any other than that of
consciousness is possible. Accustomed as we are to sensible intuitions
which imply extension in space, we ask what the soul is in itself, and
we do not seem to be satisfied without seeing its image. Leaving the
order of sensibility and rising to the purely intellectual sphere, who
knows whether we can say that there is no other intuition of the soul
than that which we now have; whether the soul in itself, in the unity
and simplicity of its entity, is the force which we perceive; whether
this force is the subject of the modifications, the substance, without
its being necessary to imagine another support in which this force
might reside? Why may not this force be subsistent? Why must we imagine
another _substratum_ to support it? If it were so, if we must apply to
the substance of the soul what the great Leibnitz thought applicable to
all substances, making the idea of substance to consist in the idea of
force; why may we not say that the pressure of the internal sense, the
consciousness of itself, is all the intuition of itself which the soul
can have?

50. You may ask me, what is the soul separated from the body? What will
it perceive and know of itself, when it exists _alone_? As though it
did not now perceive and know _alone_, or as though the organs, which
it uses, could perceive or think. Does it, perchance, know how it uses
them, or even know otherwise than by experience that it uses them at
all? Is it not alone in the depths of its activity with its thoughts
and the acts of its will, its sentiments, its joy and its sadness,
its pleasures and its pains? Say, then, that perhaps we do not form
sufficiently clear ideas of the _mode_ of consciousness which we shall
have of ourselves after this life; say that perhaps other intuitions
of our self are possible; but do not imagine the soul as inconceivable
alone. Leave me thought, will, sentiment, all that is internally
present to my consciousness, to find myself; I ask no more. Give me
communication with other beings, which affect me or are affected by
me, which transmit to me thoughts and wills, which cause me pleasure
or pain; I need nothing more in order to have a world which I can very
well conceive. I am ignorant of the quality of the things, not of their
possibility: the soul changes its state, not its nature.



51. The psychological arguments in favor of the substantiality of the
soul are mere paralogisms, in Kant's opinion; although they prove an
ideal substance, they can never lead to a real substance. Besides the
arguments with which this philosopher attacks the psychological proof
of the substantiality of the soul, he had also a personal argument,
which, considering the weakness of the human heart, was very powerful.
He had either to place the substantiality of the soul in doubt, or
else consent to the ruin of his whole system. "It would be," he says,
"a great and even the only stumbling-block in our whole _critique_, if
there were a possibility of demonstrating _a priori_ that all thinking
beings are in themselves simple substances, and (which is a consequence
of the principle of this demonstration) are inseparably accompanied
by personality and the consciousness of their existence distinct from
all matter. For, in this case, if we had taken a single step out of
the world of the senses, we should have entered into the field of the
_noumena_, and no one would dispute our right to extend farther into
it, to build in it, and, according to each one's good luck, to take
possession of it."[43]

[43] Von den Paralogismen der reinen Vernunft, p. 297.

52. In Kant's conception, the first paralogism of pure psychology in
favor of the substantiality of the soul is the following:--"Every
thing, the representation of which is the _absolute substance_ of our
judgments, and which cannot serve as a determination of any thing else,
is a substance. The _me_, as thinking being, is the absolute substance
of all possible judgments, and this representation of itself cannot be
the predicate of any thing else; therefore the _me_, as thinking being,
is a substance."

These are the terms in which he presents the psychological reasoning
which he proposes to attack, in the first edition of his _Critic
of Pure Reason_; in the second edition, wishing to be more clear,
or, perhaps, more obscure, he expresses the same argument in these
words:--"That which cannot be thought otherwise than as subject, does
not exist otherwise than as subject, and is therefore substance. Now a
thinking being, regarded merely as such, cannot be thought otherwise
than as subject. Therefore it exists only as such, that is, as
substance." We must confess that if psychology could find no clearer
expounders than Kant, and should have to use in its demonstrations the
forms which this philosopher employs in these passages, it would have
but a small number of proselytes, for the simple reason that very few
could understand its language. I am sure that but few readers would be
convinced by the syllogisms proving the substantiality of the soul,
such as Kant presents them; in this way there is a great advantage in
the position of the philosopher; for he has to prove that an argument,
the force of which has not been felt, has no force. But let us suppose
the philosopher to descend from the Olympus of incomprehensible
abstractions, and deign to use the humble language of mortals,
presenting the psychological argument under a more simple form, who
knows but what the conviction which it would produce would be somewhat
more difficult to destroy? Let us see.

53. A substance is a being remaining identical with itself, a permanent
reality in which different modifications occur. But there is within me
this reality which, remaining identical, has a variety of thoughts,
acts of the will, sentiments, and sensations, as is revealed by
consciousness. Therefore that which is within me is a substance.

I defy all the philosophers in the world to point out a false, or even
a doubtful proposition in this syllogism, or to show a fault in the
consequence, without placing themselves in open contradiction with the
testimony of consciousness on the one hand, and with all the laws of
human reason on the other.

54. Kant pretends that the argument in favor of the substantiality
of the soul is not conclusive, because the pure categories, and
consequently that of substance also, have absolutely no objective
value, except in so far as applied to the diversity of an intuition
subject to them: that is to say, the conception of substance is a
purely logical function, without any objective value or meaning except
as referred to sensible things, and as soon as we leave the sphere
of sensibility, it can lead to no result. It is evident that the
substantiality of the soul cannot be the object of sensible intuition;
consequently, to apply to the soul the idea of substance is to extend
the conception beyond what its nature allows. It must be confessed
that Kant's reasoning is conclusive, if we admit his principles; and
here we have a proof of the necessity of combating certain theories,
which, because they are in the realm of abstractions, seem innocent,
but in reality are most dangerous, on account of the results to which
they lead. Such is the system of Kant as denying the objective value
of the pure categories, and this is why I have combated it,[44]
demonstrating: I. That indeterminate conceptions, and the general
principles founded on them, have an objective value beyond the field of
sensible experience, in respect to beings which are in nowise subject
to our intuition; II. That it is not true that we have only sensible
intuition, for we have intuitive knowledge of a pure intellectual
order, above the sphere of sensibility. This doctrine overthrows the
whole of Kant's argument, for it destroys its foundation.

[44] See Bk. IV., Chs. XIII., XIV., XV., XVI., XXI., XXII.

55. The German philosopher seems to have perceived the weak point
in his reasoning, and therefore he tries to give the psychological
argument in such terms as to show a transition from the ideal order
to the real, keeping out of sight the point which unites things
so distant. His language is purely ideological: "Every thing, the
_representation_ of which is the absolute substance of our judgments,
and which cannot serve as a _determination_ of any thing else, is a
substance." Observe that he defines substance by the _representation_
and the incapacity of serving as a _determination_ of any thing else;
that is, by purely ideological or dialectic attributes. The form which
he employs in the second edition suffers from the same defect. "That
which cannot be _thought_ otherwise than as _subject_, does not exist
otherwise than as subject, and is, therefore, substance." Why does he
not tell us that the substance here spoken of is a permanent being,
in which the modifications are realized, but which remains identical
with itself? Why does he speak only of _representation_, of _thought_,
of the _determination_ or predicate? Because it helped his purpose to
present the argument as a sophism in which there is a transition from
one order to another entirely different order; because it was for his
interest to give an obscure form, so that he could make the following
observations:--"In the major, a being is spoken of which can be thought
under any view in general, and consequently, also, as it is given in
the intuition. But, in the minor, the same being is spoken of in so
far as it is regarded as subject, in relation only to thought and the
unity of consciousness, but not at the same time in relation to the
intuition by which the unity is given to the thought as its object.
Consequently the conclusion follows only by a fallacy, _per sophisma
figuræ dictionis_." And in a note he says: "Thought is taken in the two
premises in an entirely different sense; in the major, as belonging
to an object in general, and such, consequently, as it may be given
in the intuition; but in the minor only as it is in relation to the
consciousness of self, where it is not thought in any object, but is
merely represented in relation to itself, as subject, as the form of
the thought. In the first case, a thing is spoken of which can only
be thought as subject; but, in the second, thought is spoken of, not
things, since abstraction is made of all objects; and in the thought
the _me_ always serves as subject of the consciousness; hence the
conclusion which follows is not, that I cannot exist otherwise than
as subject, but only, that I cannot make use of myself in the thought
of my existence, otherwise than as subject of the judgment, which is
an identical proposition, revealing absolutely nothing concerning
the manner of my existence.[45] It makes one indignant to see a man
attempt, by such a confusion of ideas and of words, to rob the human
mind of its existence; for it amounts to the same thing, to deny
that it is a substance. It makes one indignant to see a philosopher
pretend, by such an absurd confusion, to attack one of the clearest,
most evident, and most irresistible arguments which can be presented to
human reason. I thought yesterday, I think to-day: in all the variety
of my situations, I find myself the same and not another; this reality,
which remains identical in the midst of diversity, I call my soul;
therefore my soul is a permanent reality, the subject of modifications;
therefore it is a substance. Can any thing be clearer?"

[45] Critik der reinen Vernunft, p. 298.

56. Psychology does, it is true, make use of the general idea of
substance in proving the substantiality of the soul: but it appeals
to a fact of experience, to the testimony of consciousness, in order
to apply this idea to the present case. What does Kant mean when he
pretends to have demonstrated that the conception of a thing which
can exist of itself as subject, but not as mere attribute, does not
involve any objective reality? When he speaks of _subject_, does he
mean a real subject, the subject of modifications? Then the soul is a
subject; but we do not say that it is a subject _only_; we conceive
its reality under this aspect without, therefore, denying that it has
other characters: on the contrary, we expressly acknowledge that it is
an active principle, which implies something more that the mere subject
of modifications, for this last is a passive, rather than an active,
quality. If by subject Kant understands the logical subject, we deny
that this is exclusively the character of the soul in such a way that
it cannot logically be the attribute or predicate of a proposition.

57. "The conception of a thing," says Kant, "which can exist as its
own subject, but not as a mere predicate, draws with it no objective
reality; that is, one cannot know whether any object corresponds to
it, since one cannot conceive the possibility of such a manner of
existing, consequently there is absolutely no cognition. In order that
it may indicate under the denomination of substance, an object which
may be given, in order that it may be a cognition, a constant intuition
must be placed at the foundation, as the indispensable condition of
the objective reality of a conception, namely, that by which alone
the object is given. But we have nothing constant in the internal
intuition, for the _me_ is only the consciousness of my thought; if,
therefore, we confine ourselves to the thought alone, the necessary
condition of the application of the conception of substance, that is,
of a subject subsisting in itself as thinking being."[46]

[46] Critik der reinen Vernunft, p. 299.

No argument could be more common-place and sophistical. Kant does
not admit the substantiality of the soul, because we cannot take the
substance itself and present it in sensible intuition; but then he
ought not to speak of _pure intellectual conceptions_ of _logical
functions_, or of _ideas_; for all these are things which are out of
the order of sensibility, and therefore cannot be given us in the
sensible intuition. Yet they really exist as internal phenomena, as
subjective facts, of which Kant is continually talking, and to which
he devotes the greater part of his _Critic of Pure Reason_. Will it,
perchance, be said that the pure idea of relation means nothing,
because we cannot present an abstract relation in sensible intuition?
Will it be said that the principles from which proceed the phenomena
of attraction, affinity, electricity, magnetism, galvanism, light, and
all that charms or astonishes us in nature,--will it be said that they
do not exist, that they are not permanent things, but empty words,
because we cannot represent them in sensible intuition? Such a manner
of arguing is unworthy of a philosopher. It might be excusable in an
uneducated person, accustomed only to the phenomena of sensibility,
who had never descended to the depths of the soul in the sphere of
pure intelligence,--such a person might be pardoned if, when we speak
of a _spirit_, a _cause_, or a _substance_, he should ask, _what is
it?_ and require us to show the insensible under a sensible form: but
one who pretends to excel all philosophers, ancient or modern, one
who from the inaccessible height of his wisdom looks down with such
sovereign contempt on all the arguments which were before regarded as
conclusive, ought to produce some other title of his superiority than
merely saying: one cannot conceive the possibility of such a manner of
existing: we have no internal intuition of this permanent thing which
you speak of; the _me_ is only the consciousness of my thought. What
then! is any thing more necessary in order to prove what we propose,
than this consciousness. Is not this consciousness _one_ amid the
variety of our thoughts? Is there not a point connecting yesterday's,
to-day's, and to-morrow's thought? Different and contradictory as they
are, do they not all belong to the same thing, to this _thing_ which we
call the _me_, and which authorizes us to say: _I_ who think to-day,
am the same who thought yesterday, and who will think to-morrow?
Can any reasoning be clearer or more convincing than affirming the
real permanence which we perceive in the internal testimony of our
consciousness? I do not see my substance, you may say, I have no
intuition of it; I only perceive my consciousness. What more do you
want? This consciousness which you experience, which is one amid
multiplicity, identical amid distinction, constant amid variety, and
permanent in the midst of the succession of the phenomena which appear
and disappear; this consciousness, which is no one of your individual
thoughts, which endures while they pass away, not to return; this
consciousness presents to you the substantiality of your soul, it
presents it in a certain manner in intuition, not in the intuition
of _sensations_, but in the intuition of the _internal sense_, as
a thing affecting you deeply, and the presence of which you cannot
doubt, as you do not doubt the pleasure or pain in the act by which you
experience it.

58. In attacking the psychological for the substantiality of the
soul, Kant supposes that those who make use of it, attempt to prove
the substantiality of the soul by starting from the pure and simple
category of substance. This mistake might have occasioned the form
in which Kant presents this argument; but we have seen that, whether
intentionally or not, this form is arranged in the best manner for
affording weak points for the attacks of the philosopher. Open any
treatise on psychology and you will find that although the general
idea of substance is employed, it is only made use of after it has
been legitimated by a fact of experience; it is not inferred from the
pure category of substance that the soul is a substance; but only
after we have established the idea of substance as a general type, we
scrutinize the depth of consciousness to see if there is any thing
there to which this type may apply. This is what has been done in the
preceding paragraphs, and if Kant had wished to be more exact in his
account of the opinions of his adversaries, he would not have said that
the first argument of rational psychology only gives a light, which is
pretended to be true, when it presents the constant logical subject of
the thought, as the cognition of the real subject of the inherence.
"Far from its being possible," he says, "to infer these properties
from the pure and simple category of a substance, on the contrary, the
permanence of a given object cannot be taken as a principle, except by
starting from experience, when we wish to apply to it the empirically
general conception of a substance." The philosopher is right: the
properties of the pure and simple category of a substance cannot take
us out of the ideal order, unless we rest on a fact of experience; but
he forgets a part of the psychological argument when he adds that in
the present case we have not placed at the foundation any experience,
and that we have only drawn our conclusions from the conception of
the relation of every thought to the _me_ as the common subject with
which this thought is connected. The experience exists in this very
consciousness of the relation of all thoughts to the _me_; in this
point with which they are all connected; the relation to the _me_ is
not possible if the _me_ is not something; thoughts cannot be connected
in the _me_ if the _me_ is a pure nothing. "Referring the thought to
the _me_," Kant goes on to say, "we cannot establish this permanence
by a certain observation; because, although the _me_ is found at
the bottom of every thought, besides that there is no intuition to
distinguish it from every other perceptible object, it is connected
with this representation." It is true that we do not perceive the
permanent _me_ in the same manner that we do the objects of the other
intuitions; but we perceive it by the internal sense, by that presence,
of which we cannot doubt, and which, as Kant himself confesses, makes
us refer all thoughts to the _me_ as to a common subject which connects

59. "It may be observed," he says, "that this representation (that of
the _me_) is constantly reproduced in every thought; but not that it
is a fixed and permanent intuition in which variable thoughts succeed
each other." There is an evident contradiction in this passage. The
representation of the _me_ is constantly reproduced in every thought:
but the _me_ either means nothing, or it means something identical
with itself; for if the _me_ which thinks to-day is not the _me_ which
thought yesterday, the word _me_ means something very different from
what all the world understands by it; therefore, if the representation
of the _me_ returns in every thought, the _me_ is the same in every
thought; therefore the _me_ is fixed and permanent, and consequently
the _me_ is a substance in which all variable thoughts succeed.

60. I cannot see any answer to this argument, founded on Kant's own
words when establishing a phenomenon, the existence of which he was
unable to place in doubt, namely, the presence of the _me_ in every
thought. This is not the place to examine the philosophical questions
on the uninterruptedness of consciousness, or whether there is any
time in which the soul does not think, and is not conscious of itself.
Many philosophers believe there is such an interruption; and they rest
their opinion on our experience when asleep, and our not recollecting
what happens to us in that state; but Leibnitz thinks that thought is
never entirely extinguished, that there is never an absolute pause
of consciousness, that our thought is a light which sheds but little
lustre at times, but which never goes entirely out. Whichever of these
opinions be the true one, the permanence of the substance of the soul
is beyond a doubt; and it is worthy of remark that the interruption of
thought and of consciousness, far from favoring those who oppose the
permanence of the soul, confounds them in a most conclusive manner. For
if it is impossible to conceive, without supposing something permanent,
how different phenomena, continued in an uninterrupted series, are
connected in consciousness; it is still more inconceivable how they
can be connected, if we suppose this series to be interrupted, and
a certain space of time to intervene between the existence of the
connected phenomena.

61. Let A, B, C, D be thoughts which are continued without any interval
of time between them, and Q the consciousness through which they pass;
if this Q is not something, it is impossible to conceive how the
terms of the series can be connected, and, how, notwithstanding their
difference and diversity, there is found at the bottom of them all
something constant and identical, which we call the _me_, and by virtue
of which we can say: I, who think D, am the same who thought C, and B,
and A.

But if the consciousness is interrupted, if some hours have passed
between C and D, during which there was no thought, no consciousness,
it is still more inconceivable how at the bottom of the thought _me_
there is found the same _me_ which was in the thought C; it is still
more inconceivable, because in thinking D we may say: I, who think
D, am the same who thought C, and who have been for a certain time
deprived of thought. Without something permanent, something which
lasts during the succession, how explain this connection? Are we,
perchance, speaking of unknown facts? Is not this our daily experience
on awaking? If this is not conclusive, let us deny consciousness, let
us deny reason; but let us not waste time in talking philosophy.



62. Kant attacks the argument founded on the testimony of consciousness
in a particular manner in the examination of what he calls _the
Paralogism of Personality_. He gives the argument in this form;
"Whatever has the consciousness of its numerical identity at different
times is, by this fact alone, a person; this is verified of the soul;
therefore soul is a person." Kant uses the word _person_ in a very
incorrect sense: it not only means an intelligent substance, but one
that is the complete principle of its actions, independently of all
connection with any other substance, or a union with a _supposition_.
At any rate, the German philosopher understands here by person an
intelligent substance; and in this sense he proposes to combat the
argument proving the personality of the soul.

63. "If I wish," he says, "to know by experience the numerical
identity of any external object, I apply my attention to that which
is constant in the phenomenon, to which all the rest is referred, as
a determination to its subject; and I observe the identity of the
subject at the time in which the determination changes. I am an object
of the internal sense, and time is only the form of this sense; I
therefore refer all my successive determinations, and each one of
them in particular, to that which is numerically identical, in all
time, that is, in the form of the internal intuition of myself. Hence
the personality of the soul ought only to be deduced or concluded
as a proposition perfectly identical with consciousness in time;
consequently, this proposition is valid _a priori_, because it does not
really announce any thing else than that in all the time in which I am
conscious of myself, I am conscious of this time as a thing, which is
a part of my unity. This is the same as to say: All this time is in me
as individual unity, or rather, I am in all this time with numerical

It would have been desirable if Kant had shown why the internal sense
of the numerical identity may be expressed by the proposition; all this
time is in me as an individual unity, or in this other; in all the
time in which I am conscious of myself, I am conscious of this time as
a thing, which is a part of my unity. It is true that the numerical
unity is perceived in the diversity of time; but it is not true that we
are conscious of time as a thing which is a part of us. He is treating
of the consciousness of self, as it is found in the greatest part of
mankind, who, far from considering time as a thing which is a part of
themselves, regard it as a sort of vague extension or succession in
which they and all that is variable exist.

It is well known that philosophers themselves dispute on the true
nature of time; and that it is the form of the internal sense is an
opinion of Kant's, which is not accepted by many others, and which, as
I have shown,[47] he explains badly and proves still worse, although he
pretends to have raised his theory to the height of an incontestible
doctrine. Whether time is an internal or an external form, whether,
even, it is an illusion or a reality, we perceive our numerical
identity in its succession; therefore when the German philosopher bases
himself on his theory of time, in order to attack the solidity of the
argument of consciousness, he rests on a supposition which we are not
required to admit, and what is more, he explains this sentiment of
identity in terms which no one ever used before him. If he wishes to
make time enter into the sentiment of numerical identity, he might say:
I find myself in all this time in a numerical identity, or: all this
time has passed over me as over an individual unit; but not that we are
conscious of time as a thing which is a part of ourselves. If we look
to consciousness, we should rather be inclined to believe that time
is a sort of successive extension, in which we live, and by which our
existence is measured.

[47] See Book VIII., Chapters XII. and XIV.

64. "The identity of the person," continues Kant, "must inevitably be
found in my consciousness; but if I regard myself from the point of
view of another (as the object of his external intuition) this other
observer conceives me only in time; for, in the apperception, time
is not strictly represented except within me; therefore he will not
conclude my objective permanence from the _me_, which he admits, and
which accompanies all representations in all time in my consciousness,
and in a perfect identity. The time in which the observer places me
not being the same which is found in my own sensibility, but that
which accompanies his intuition, it follows that the identity which is
necessarily joined to my consciousness, is not joined to his, that is,
to the external intuition of my subject." It is difficult to understand
precisely what Kant means in this passage, and it seems very doubtful
whether he understood it himself; however, let us see what can be
deduced from it against the permanence of the soul.

The German philosopher admits that the identity of the person is
inevitably found in our consciousness; that is, the _me_ finds itself
numerically identical in the diversity of time. It is also true that a
strange observer conceives the _me_ only in time, that is, if one man
reflects on the soul of another man, he conceives it only in time. But
this does not show why Kant says that the observer would not infer from
this the objective permanence of the soul observed. What would happen
would be this. If the man who reflects on the soul of another man
believes that same passes in the soul of this man which he perceives
within himself, he will infer that the other soul is permanent, for the
same reason that he affirms the permanence of his own soul. It is true
that as he cannot enter into the consciousness of the other, he can
only know it by external marks; but if he is convinced that these marks
are sufficient to denote a series of phenomena of consciousness similar
to those which he experiences in himself, he will infer that the soul
which he observes is as permanent as his own. What does Kant mean then,
when he says that the identity which is necessarily connected with
_my_ consciousness, is not connected with that of the observer? Who
ever doubted this truth? Who ever supposed that the perception of the
identity in relation to one's own consciousness is not very different
from that which relates to another's? Our own identity is revealed to
us by immediate consciousness; the identity of another is shown to
us by a series of external phenomena which lead us by reasoning and
analogy to the conviction that outside of us there are beings similar
to ourselves.

65. "The identity of the consciousness of myself at different times,"
Kant goes on to say, "is only a formal condition of my thoughts and
their connection; but it does not prove the numerical identity of
my subject, in which, notwithstanding the logical identity of the
_me_, such a change may take place, as to render it impossible to
preserve the identity of this _me_, which does not prevent our always
attributing to it the identical _me_, which _me_ may still preserve
in another state, and even in the metamorphosis of the subject, the
thought of the previous subject, and transmit to it all that comes
afterwards." This is precisely what Kant ought to have explained;
because the phenomenon of the sentiment of identity in the midst of
continual variety, is what irresistibly inclines us to believe that
the _me_ is something permanent. It is not true that we have only the
topical identity of the _me_, for we are not speaking of the subject
of a proposition, but of a real subject, experienced, perceived in the
depth of our consciousness.

Kant imagines that he can explain this sentiment of identity with
great simplicity. I will try to express his strange opinion in an
intelligible manner. Let A, B, C, D, E, ... be instants of time, and
let _a_, _b_, _c_, _d_, _e_, ... be thoughts or any other internal
phenomena, corresponding to them. At the instant A, the thought _a_
exists. At the instant B, the thought _b_ succeeds. At the instant B,
the soul which existed at the instant A, no longer exists. The soul at
the instant B, is something entirely new; it is not _a_ but _b_. The
same is true of all the rest. But how, you will say, is it possible for
the soul at all these instants to believe itself the same? It is very
simple: the subject _a_ transmits the thought to the subject _b_; _b_
transmits its own and _a_'s to _c_. Nothing remains identical; but the
consciousness of the identity always lasts. Does not such an hypothesis
seem truly wonderful and philosophical? What could be imagined clearer
and more satisfactory?

The reader may perhaps think that I am jesting, and that I present
Kant's opinion under a ridiculous aspect for the sake of combating it
more easily; but it is just the reverse; the exposition which I have
just made of Kant's philosophy is more serious than his own. These
are his words: "One elastic ball striking another in a right line,
communicates to the latter its whole motion, and consequently its
whole state (considering only their positions in space). Admit now, by
analogy with these bodies, certain substances, of which one transmits
representations to another, with the consciousness which accompanies
them; we may then conceive a whole series of such representations,
in which the first communicates its state, and the consciousness of
its state to the second; the second communicates its state, together
with that of the preceding substance, to the third; the third, in like
manner, communicates the states of both of the preceding substances
together with its own, and the consciousness which accompanies them to
the fourth. The last of the series will then have the consciousness
of all the states of the substances which preceded it, as of its own;
because these states, and the consciousness of these states have been
transmitted to it. Still it will not have been the same person in all
these states."

Kant, in trying to refute the psychological argument founded on
consciousness, overthrows and destroys the character of consciousness:
a transmitted consciousness is not a true consciousness; it is only the
cognition of a previous thought.

These substances, existing successively and transmitting their
consciousness from one to another, would be something distinct from the
act of consciousness, or they would not. If distinct, we must admit a
subject of the consciousness, which in itself, and as subject, does
not come under the sensible intuition; and consequently we may argue
_ad hominem_, and retort Kant's objection against himself. If these
transitory substances are only the act of the consciousness, when the
act ceases, nothing remains of the substances, and therefore, there is
nothing transmissible.

Transmission supposes something which may be transmitted; if, then, the
act of consciousness is transmitted, it must be something permanent in
itself, in the midst of the succession of the substances; and this is
a very strange conclusion to which the German philosopher is brought
by his theory of transmission. All psychologists had said that the
substance of the soul is permanent, and its phenomena transitory; now,
on the contrary, we find that the transitory is the substance, and that
which is permanent is the phenomenon, or the act of consciousness which
is transmitted.

66. Perhaps it may be answered that by transmission is not meant the
communication of any thing constant, but merely the succession of
phenomena united by any tie among themselves. Thus, supposing the
instants A, B, C, D, the acts of consciousness, _a_, _b_, _c_, _d_,
corresponding to them, will not be strictly identical in number,
but successive, and connected. But this reply, which avoids the
necessity of admitting the permanence of the act of consciousness,
explains nothing, and makes it incomprehensible, how, at the instant
D, for example, there can be consciousness of the acts _c_, _b_, _a_,
which there is an irresistible inclination to believe have at bottom
something numerically identical. When _d_ exists there is no longer
any thing of _c_ left; there is no substance remaining, because, by
the supposition there either is no such substance, or it is something
transitory; there is no act of consciousness remaining, because _a_
is numerically distinct from _c_, and besides, we have seen that
the permanence of the phenomena cannot be admitted. Therefore it is
absolutely impossible to explain or to comprehend how there can be in
the act _a_ the representation of _c_.

67. To say that the phenomena are united by any tie whatever is to
elude the difficulty by a foolish play upon words. What is the meaning,
in this case, of uniting, of a tie? They are metaphors which if they
mean any thing must express the permanence of some _thing_ amid the
variety of the phenomena; the tie, the bond, must extend to the various
things which it connects and unites: therefore it must be _common_ to
them all; and this something, whatever it be, which remains constant in
variety, we call substance.

68. The mere succession of the phenomena or acts of consciousness is
not sufficient to transmit the belief of the numerical identity; if it
were, all men would be conscious of the previous acts of others. Let
_a_, _b_, be two successive acts of consciousness: if, in order that
the act _b_, which is numerically distinct from _a_, may represent
the numerical identity of consciousness, it is sufficient that _b_
should succeed _a_; since this succession is met with in the acts
of consciousness of different men, it must follow that all men have
consciousness of all the acts of the others. _Risum tematis?_ And yet
this conclusion is absolutely necessary: it cannot be avoided by saying
that there is a form of the internal sense, and that the succession
takes place in each man in his respective internal sense, and that
therefore the succession of the internal phenomena of one is in a
different time, in a different form from what it is in another. The
words, _respective_ internal sense, internal form of _each_ man, have a
meaning, if we admit something permanent in our interior; but if there
is nothing but successive phenomena, the word _respective_ is absurd,
because there can be no respective internal sense if there is nothing
to which it can refer. Suppose the man M, and the man N be merely
a succession of phenomena, and in _each_ one there is only a mere
succession: there is the same reason why the phenomena of N should be
connected with each other as with those of M. Therefore, if there is
a community of consciousness in the phenomena of M, without any other
sufficient reason than the mere succession, this community should be
found in all the phenomena, because they all have the same sufficient

69. It must be observed that in all this argument, I abstract the
nature of the substance of the soul, and only purpose to demonstrate
that we must admit something constant in the midst of the variety of
the phenomena, and common to them all. Call it a tie, a form, an act
of consciousness, or what you will, it is either something real or it
is not. If it is not something real, whoever expresses it, employs a
word without any meaning: if it is something real, the substantiality
of the soul is acknowledged, because a permanent reality is admitted
in the midst of the variety of the phenomena. We, who admit this
substantiality, do not pretend that the soul can be given in sensible
intuition, nor that we can express in an exact definition its internal
properties abstracted from the phenomena which we experience in it.
What we say is, that we know its real existence, its permanence, and
its numerical identity in the midst of the succession and diversity
of the phenomena. Therefore from the moment that it is admitted
that there is within us something real, permanent, and numerically
identical in the midst of diversity, the substantiality of the soul,
which we defend, is admitted. Disputes may arise on the distinctive
character of its nature; whether it is or is not a force, as Leibnitz
maintained, whether its essence consists in thought, as was the
opinion of Descartes: but these questions are foreign to the matter
now in hand. Is there something real and permanent amid the variety of
internal phenomena? If there is not, the consciousness of numerical
identity is absurd; if there is, then the substantiality of the soul is

70. "The opinion of some ancient philosophers," says Kant, "that all
is transitory and nothing constant in the world, although it cannot be
maintained if we admit substances, still it cannot be refuted by the
unity of consciousness; because we cannot even judge by consciousness,
whether, as something, we are or are not permanent; for we attribute
to our identical _me_ only that of which we have consciousness, and
thus we must necessarily judge that we are precisely the same in all
the durations of which we are conscious." Kant expressly acknowledges
that the judgment that we are the same is necessary, that is, that
the identity of the _me_ is for us a necessary fact of consciousness.
It would be difficult to imagine a confession more injurious and more
conclusive against the arguments of the German philosopher. If we are
forced to judge ourselves identical, if consciousness tell us so, can
we deny or doubt this identity without destroying the fundamental
fact of all psychological investigations, and consequently falling
into the most complete skepticism? If the testimony of consciousness
is not valid, if the judgment to which it _necessarily_ forces us is
not certain, what shall we catch hold of in order that we may not be
precipitated into the most absolute skepticism? where shall we look for
a solid foundation for the edifice of our knowledge?

71. "But," Kant continues, "from the point of view of another, we
cannot hold this judgment valid, because, finding in the soul no
other constant phenomenon than the representation of the _me_ which
accompanies and unites all the other phenomena, we can never decide
that this _me_ (a simple thought) is not as fleeting as the other
thoughts, which are respectively connected by it." Do not, then, admit
that the representation of the _me_, although essentially representing
an identity, is valid; say that, although transitory it _necessarily_
brings us to the illusion of permanence; but draw also all the
consequences of this doctrine, and maintain that human reason avails
nothing, absolutely nothing; say that recollection is a pure illusion,
that although we are necessarily induced to believe that the thought
which we now have is the recollection of another previous thought,
that all this is pure illusion; that we are not sure that there is
the relation of recollection, and that we only know that at present
we have the consciousness of a thought which _seems_ to us connected
with another previous thought; say too that reasoning has no validity,
for all conviction of ideas is impossible without memory; and that,
although an internal representation necessarily produces an assent,
we must distrust the judgment which necessity demands: say too that
all that we think, all that we perceive, all that we will, all that
we experience within us, cannot enable us to know any thing, that we
are condemned to a complete impotence of acquiring any certainty of
any thing; and that the language of every philosopher should be the
following: "This now seems so; I am conscious of it; I know nothing
further; I experience a necessity of believing it, but perhaps this
belief is a pure illusion; I know nothing of the external world; I know
nothing either of the internal world; all knowledge is denied me; I
myself am only a succession of phenomena which pass away and disappear;
an irresistible necessity impels me to believe that these phenomena
have a common tie, but this tie is nothing; because when a phenomenon
disappears nothing is before it; if I acknowledge any reality, no
matter what, I fall into the substantiality of the soul, which I have
resolved not to admit; all is illusion, all is nothing, because, as I
am not even certain of the facts of consciousness, I am not certain
even of the illusion." Who can encounter such consequences?



72. I have confined myself in the preceding chapters to proving the
substantiality of the soul; to do which it was only necessary to
demonstrate by the testimony of consciousness that there is within
us a permanent reality, the subject of the modifications which we
experience. I shall now demonstrate that this substance is simple.

To proceed methodically, let us fix the meaning of the word _simple_.
When many beings are united and form a collection, the result is called
a composite being; so that there is a true composition wherever beings
substantially distinct are united; the band which unites them may be
of different species, which produces the diversity of compositions.
Simplicity is opposed to composition; the idea of simplicity
essentially excludes the idea of composition; as this last includes a
_number_ of distinct things which are united to form a whole, the idea
of simplicity essentially excludes the idea of number of things united
to form a whole. Therefore the simple is strictly one, and there is
simplicity in a substance when it is not a collection of substances.

When, therefore, we say the substance of the soul is simple, we mean
that it is not a collection of substances, but one substance.

73. The idea of simplicity thus determined with exactness, let
us see if it belongs to our soul. As the soul is not given us in
intuition after the manner of sensible things, and we only know it
by the presence of the internal sense, and by the phenomena which we
experience in the depths of our consciousness, we must examine these
two sources to see if we can find simplicity in them.

It is an indisputable fact that in all our acts, in all our internal
affections, we perceive the identity of the _me_.[48] There is no
identity between things that are distinct: consequently the internal
sense at once rejects the multiplicity of the soul. It may be said that
this identity does not exist between distinct substances, but that a
composite substance is identical with itself, and perhaps the identity
revealed by consciousness is only the identity of a composite with
itself: but this reply is destroyed by merely examining the testimony
of consciousness. That which we perceive as various and multiple is not
the _me_, but that which takes place in the _me_: we think, we will, we
perceive different things; but consciousness attests that what thinks
them, wills them, and perceives them, is one and the same, the _me_.
Therefore, the testimony of consciousness alone proves the simplicity
of the soul; for it is impossible to explain otherwise how we perceive
within us the permanent unity amid the multitude of internal phenomena.

[48] See Chaps. VI., VII., VIII., IX., and X.

74. Abstracting the testimony of the internal sense, and looking only
at the nature of the internal phenomena, it may be demonstrated that
the subject of them is a simple substance. If it were not so, the
thinking substance would be composed of various substances; let us see
what would follow from this supposition. Let the component substances
be three, for example, A, B, C; I say that this collection cannot
think. To demonstrate it with the most complete evidence, let us take
this judgment: metal is a body, and let us see if it is possible for
the collection of A, B, C, to form this judgment. Let us suppose the
representation of the subject, _metal_, to be in the substance A; the
idea of the predicate, _body_, to be in B; and the general idea of the
relation of the predicate to the subject, or the copula, _is_, to be
in C; can a judgment be the result? By no means. A will perceive the
metal, B the body, and C the general idea of the copula, _is_. Each
of these substances will have consciousness of its own; but as it is
not conscious of what is in the other two, it can form no judgment,
for this essentially consists in the relation of the predicate to the

75. If you say that each of the substances contains the representations
of the three things, we shall have three judgments, and there will
not be one thinking being, but three. Besides, either of the three
substances A, B, C, is composed of others, or it is not. If it is
not, is simple, and we have a simple and perceptive substance, why
then suppose three when one is enough? If it is composed of others,
the difficulty is increased; for supposing A to be formed of two
substances, which we may call _m_, _n_; the representation of metal
which was in A will be distributed between _m_ and _n_, in which case,
far from obtaining a judgment, we should not even have a subject; for
it would not be possible to form the representation of metal, supposing
it to be divided between _m_ and _n_.

If it is not possible to form a judgment, or even the idea of one term,
it is evident that all reasoning and thought would be impossible; for
reasoning implies a connection of judgments from which it deduces the
conclusion contained in the premises.

76. Acts of the will are also impossible in a composite substance;
there is no will where there is no cognition, and this latter is, as
we have just seen, inseparable from simplicity. But we may extend the
demonstration still further. An act of the will implies an inclination,
tendency, or whatever it may be called, towards an object known. Let us
suppose the two substances A and B to compose a substance which has a
will; and let us suppose all that is necessary for the act of willing
to be divided between them in such manner that the knowledge of the
object willed is in it, and the inclination or tendency in B; I say
such an act or will is absurd. To feel the force of this truth let us
suppose that the act of the will is to be formed of the cognition of
one man, and the inclination of another towards the object known by
the first; the pure cognition of one is not the act of the will, and
the inclination of the other towards an object is impossible unless he
has the cognition of the object towards which he is inclined, because
this is equivalent to supposing a relation without any term to which it
relates. These contradictions must be admitted by every one who denies
the simplicity of the substances which will; for either the inclination
and the cognition must be divided between the parts of the substances,
or all concentrated in one part, and then the others are unnecessary.

Moreover, the substances composing the substance which will are either
simple or composite; if simple, then there are simple substances which
know and will; if composite, each act of the will would be an aggregate
of the action of the parts, and what would an act of the will be which
should consist in an aggregate?

77. The union which we conceive in distinct substances is either
juxtaposition in space, simultaneousness in time, or the concourse
of forces producing a common effect: juxtaposition in space or
simultaneousness of time does not help us to explain thought, the
act of the will, nor any internal phenomena; and neither does the
concourse of forces producing a common effect solve the problem.
On this supposition we should have to conceive internal phenomena
as the products of an elaboration to which various substances have
occurred. Let us for a moment admit this absurdity; we advance
nothing by it, for we then ask, where does the phenomenon reside?
If in all the substances jointly it must be in itself composite,
and its consciousness would also be composite; none of the component
substances could say _I_ with respect to this phenomenon; there
would, therefore, be a multiplicity of consciousnesses. Either these
consciousnesses would be united in a point in order to form a common
consciousness, or they would not. If they are united, their point of
union must be a simple substance, or we relapse into the multiplicity
of consciousnesses: if they are not united, the different internal
consciousnesses of each man will be like the consciousnesses of
different men; each substance will think its own, without knowing what
the other thinks.

78. Finally, this divisibility of substance and of consciousness
will extend to infinity, or it will not; if the former, instead of
one thinking being, there will be an infinite number of thinking
beings within each one of us; if the latter, we must come to simple
substances with thought and consciousness, which is precisely what our
adversaries are opposed to. Infinite divisibility does not save them
from simplicity; the division separates the parts, but it supposes them
distinct; therefore, infinite division must suppose an infinite number
of simple beings which make the division possible.



79. Kant calls the argument, by which we have just proved the
simplicity of the soul, the second paralogism of psychology. He gives
it in these terms: "Every thing, the action of which can never be
conceived as the concurrence of many agents, is simple: the soul or
thinking substance is of this nature; therefore the soul is simple."
The German philosopher admits that this argument is not a mere sophism,
invented by some dogmatist for the purpose of giving his assertions
a slight appearance of truth; and he confesses that it seems to defy
the most attentive examination and the most profound reflection. Still
he flatters himself that he can expose its fallacy, showing that this
principal support of rational psychology is a false foundation, and
that, consequently, the whole edifice of this science is built in the

80. Kant observes that the _nervus probandi_ of the argument is in
the fact that many representations cannot form a thought, except
inasmuch as they are contained in the absolute unity of the thinking
subject; "but no one," he says, "can prove this proposition _by
conceptions_. Where could he begin? The proposition: 'A thought can
only be the effect of the absolute unity of the thinking subject,'
cannot be analyzed; the unity of thought (and even thought results from
many representations) is collective; and as to simple conceptions,
their unity may just as well be referred to the collective unity of
substances which contribute to produce the thought (just as the motion
of a body is the motion of all its parts) as to the absolute unity of
the subject. The necessity of the supposition of a simple substance
cannot consequently be known by the rule of identity in a composite
thought. No one who understands the reason of the possibility of
synthetic judgments _a priori_, as we have explained them above, will
dare to affirm that this proposition can be known synthetically, and
perfectly _a priori_, or by pure conceptions." This reasoning is pure
sophistry, and will vanish in the light of evidence.

81. In the first place, it is not correct to say that all thoughts
result from many representations; in the perception of a simple idea,
as of being, for example, there are not many representations; therefore
Kant's argument fails at the first step; for if there be even one
thought which requires simplicity, it has already been demonstrated
that, if the soul is simple in one instance it cannot cease to be so in

82. Let us now examine how the diversity of representations enter
into those thoughts which admit of this diversity. When these
representations form what is called a thought, they are united, as
it were, in a point which requires the unity of the perception and
of the subject perceiving. In the thought called judgment various
representations are combined, that of the subject and that of the
object; but these different representations do not constitute the
thought called judgment, except inasmuch as they are presented as
connected with the relation which authorizes us to affirm or deny the
predicate of the subject; therefore at the bottom of the diversity
there is unity, that is to say, the relation; therefore the thought by
which this relation is perceived is one, and the action of perceiving
is essentially one, notwithstanding the variety of the representations.

83. There is no order in our thoughts except as we compare them with
each other: all our intellectual acts are reduced to the perception and
comparison of ideas; in perception there is simplicity, as there must
also be in comparisons, since there can be no comparison of that which
is varied, except by reducing the varied to that which is one, that
is, to the relation which is perceived in the comparison. Therefore
in every thought there is unity; thought can never be conceived as
the concurrence of many agents; therefore the proposition, which Kant
considered indemonstrable, is demonstrated,--that many representations
cannot form a thought except in so far as they are contained in the
absolute unity of a thinking subject.

84. Let us present the same demonstration under a stricter form.
Suppose A, B, C, to be the three agents concurring in the formation of
the thought; each part will yield its contingent; let us suppose _a_
to correspond to the first, _b_ to the second, and _c_ to the third,
the result will be the union composed of _a_, _b_, and _c_; this will
be the thought; it will therefore be triple and can never constitute a
point of comparison; therefore, we must either reject this hypothesis,
or deny thought. Kant's sophism proceeds from his attending solely
to the diversity of the representations, and abstracting the unity
which is always met with in the perception of this diversity; hence
it is nothing strange that he does not find unity in the conception
of thought. He presents this conception incompletely, or rather,
falsely; he presents thought as a collection of representations, and
not as a most simple point in which representations unite, in order
to be perceived in the relation which they have among themselves. The
diversity of the representations does not form a collection after the
manner of sensible objects; the thought, in which the relation of two
different triangles is known, cannot be expressed by the sum of the
figures of the two triangles; it is something different from them;
something which is in the midst of them; which unites them by comparing
them, and which joins their diversity in the unity of their relation.

85. The example brought by Kant manifests the rudeness of his idea of
the character of the union of the representations in the formation of
a whole thought. The unity of the thought is, he says, collective, and
may be referred to the collective unity of many substances, just as the
motion of a body is the motion composed of all the parts of the body.
Here we see clearly wherein Kant's equivocation consists; he takes
the collection of the representations for the thought which relates
to them, and therefore it is no wonder that he cannot see the unity
implied in the diversity, on the supposition that this diversity has to
be thought.

To carry conviction to the farthest point, let us take this example of
motion, and suppose a cube to be moved. Let us call its eight verticles
A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H; they all move, and the collection of their
motions, with those of the points which are between them, forms the
whole motion. What is there common in the result of this concurrence of
agents? Nothing, except juxtaposition in space, and the relation which
they preserve by the equal velocity of the motion. But the motion of
the vertex H is not the motion of the vertex A, as is evident if we
consider that the vertex A may be cut off from the cube, and remain
at rest without discontinuing or altering the motion of the vertex
H; therefore, the two motions are things absolutely distinct. It is
evident that the same holds true with respect to the other points;
therefore the unity of the composite motion is purely factitious; what
there is, in reality, is a multiplicity of substances, and of motions,
without any other than a purely extrinsical connection, the relation of
positions in space.

Let us change the vertices into representations, and see what will
be the result. Do they exist without any other connection than their
co-existence? Then they do not form a thought, but only a collection
of phenomena which may be considered as a _union_ of things, but not
a thought; in that case the sum of all the representations will be
similar to the sum of the motions; but it will produce no result in
relation to the object which we are now examining. If we give these
representations a point of union, that is, the relation under which
they are perceived, we shall have a thought; but what has this act,
which is _one_ and most simple, in common with, the totality of a
number of points in motion?

86. If Kant had wished to present a more seductive example, he ought
to have made use of a theory in mechanics, the application of which
to the present case presents, if not more difficulty, at least a more
deceitful appearance; I mean the resultant of a system of forces and
their point of application.

When several forces act upon a line, a plane, or a solid, they produce
an effect equal to that one force alone, which is called the resultant:
this force has a determinate direction and a point of application, as
though it were simple or had not emanated from others; why cannot this
be applied to thought? Why may not a thing, although it is simple,
be the product of the concurrence of various agents? This example
is more specious, because it presents the result of the composition
concentrated in a point, but if we examine it well, we shall find that
it proves nothing against us.

The disparity is this: thought is a simple act in itself, whilst the
resultant of the forces is so only in its relation to the effect
experienced, which is all that comes under our calculation. If two
forces are applied at the two extremities of an inflexible right line
the effect will be the same as though we applied one force equal to
the sum of them both at one point of the line, at a distance from
either extremity inversely proportioned to the value of the first
forces. But the unity of this effect depends on the cohesion of the
parts, which, not permitting isolated motions, must make the force
act on a single point; but the component forces do not cease to be
distinct and separate, so that at the moment the cohesion should
cease, the respective parts would each feel the action of the force
corresponding to it, and move in the direction and with the velocity
which the force impresses on them. If, while the cohesion lasts, it
were possible to give each of the component forces the consciousness of
its action, there would be two consciousnesses really distinct, which
could never form one common consciousness, and could only be united in
the production of an effect. If the point of their application should
have the consciousness of the action which it experiences, it might
have a consciousness similar to that of the action of one force, equal
to the sum of the components, if it did not know the manner in which
their action is transmitted to it; but from the moment that it becomes
conscious of their respective action, it would know that the result is
owing to the impossibility of each of them producing its effect in an
isolated manner. If, therefore, we compare the thinking subject to this
point of application of the forces, we must attribute to this subject
the consciousness of the origin of the representations which concur in
the production of the whole effect.

Perhaps it may be said that by the very analysis of the example,
we have prepared the way for the triumph of the adversaries of the
simplicity of the soul; because after arbitrary suppositions we
have at last come to a simple effect inherent in a simple thing,
and produced by the concurrence of various agents; but if we look
closer to it, we shall find that this pretended triumph was never
farther from being realized than it is in the last result to which we
are led by the analysis of the forces. For, in order to arrive at a
simple result produced by the concurrence of various forces, we also
require a simple point in which this result is concentrated. Then, and
precisely because we have arrived at this simplicity, we can abstract
the component forces, and consider the result as a simple effect,
produced by a simple force, and inherent in a simple subject, which
is the indivisible point, to which we consider the force as applied.
Therefore, continuing the comparison, we ought to say that, whatever
may be the number of the agents concurring in the production of the
thought, this thought must reside in a simple subject, and in that
case the simplicity of the soul is admitted. It is true that we should
then suppose a certain number of agents acting on the soul in order
to produce the thought; but the thought once produced, the soul alone
would be the thinking subject, just as the indivisible point is the
only one which unites the action of the component forces.

Thus all that our adversaries would have gained would be the burden of
the ridiculous invention of the concurrence of agents, and be forced
notwithstanding, to admit a simple thinking substance, which is all
that we proposed to demonstrate.

87. Kant pretends that it is impossible to deduce from experience
the necessary unity of the thinking subject, as the condition of the
possibility of all thought, because experience reveals no necessity,
and the conception of absolute unity belongs to an order different
from that which we are here considering. It is certain that experience
alone does not reveal any necessity; for it is limited to particular,
contingent facts, and does not reach the universal reason of objects;
but this is not true of experience regarded objectively, or in relation
to the cognition of the general reasons of things; for although
this cognition, considered subjectively as an individual act, is a
contingent fact, still inasmuch as it exists it represents a true
necessity in certain objects; unless we wish to renounce the certainty
of all the sciences, mathematics included.

It is clear that in speaking of thought and the thinking subject, we
cannot forget experience, since it is impossible to abstract the basis
of all psychological investigations,--_I think_,--a proposition which
expresses a fact of consciousness, an act of internal experience; but
with this experience is combined the idea of unity in general, or the
exclusion of distinction and multiplicity from the act of thought and
from the thinking subject. Thus the demonstration of the simplicity
of the soul follows in the same path as all demonstrations which
are confined to the purely ideal order, and which consequently are
formed of one premise which contains a necessary truth, and another
which establishes a fact of experience. In the present instance, the
necessary premise is the very definition of unity and simplicity;
the other expresses the fact experienced, that is, the nature of the
thought, as it is revealed in consciousness.

88. Hence the demonstration of the simplicity of thinking beings is not
limited to the human mind, but extends to all the subjects in which
the fact of consciousness exists. When Kant says we cannot extend this
demonstration, because we then go out of the field of experience, we
reply with this argument: our demonstration is founded on the idea of
unity and the fact of consciousness; the idea of unity is general,
and consequently is valid in all cases; the fact of consciousness
is a thing which is found in every thinking being, since thought is
inconceivable without a subject, which may say, _I think_; therefore,
we proceed legitimately in extending the demonstration of simplicity,
unless you mean to give to the word _think_ a very different meaning
from that which we all give to it, in which case we go out of the arena
of philosophy and enter on a discussion of words.

89. We must have received the idea of a thinking being from internal
experience: we may expand or restrict this idea, increasing or
decreasing its perfection; but at bottom it remains always the same,
and we cannot conceive thought in another being without attributing
to it something similar to what we experience in ourselves. In this
respect Kant is therefore right when he says that if we wish to
represent to ourselves a thinking being we must put ourselves in the
place of the object. According to him, we require for thought the
absolute unity of the subject, only because without this unity it would
be impossible to say, _I think_; since, although the totality of the
thought may be distributed among the various subjects, the subjective
_me_ cannot be divided or separated, and every thought supposes this
_me_. The proposition, I think, is the foundation on which psychology
raises the edifice of its knowledge: Kant admits this, but I cannot
understand why, admitting that this proposition is the form of the
apperception which is joined with and precedes all experience, he still
says that it is not experimental; as though the thought were not just
as subject to a real experience as its form; whereas if we closely
examine it, we should rather say that the form is experienced than the
thought itself, on the supposition that the latter is distinct whilst
the form is identical in every instance; for the form in itself is only
the consciousness of the unity identical in the midst of diversity.

90. In conceiving this absolute unity in the _me_, we do not, as Kant
pretends, conceive a topical unity, but a real unity, if we suppose
it to remain really the same through the variety of thought. When we
enunciate this unity in the proposition, I think, we do not speak of
a form in the abstract, common to all perceptions, but of something
positive which is within us, and the reality of which is indispensable
to the possibility of thought.

91. The German philosopher further says: "This subjective condition
of all knowledge cannot with propriety be converted into a condition
of the possibility of a knowledge of the objects; that is, into a
conception of thinking being in general, since we cannot represent
this being to ourselves without putting ourselves in its place by the
formula of our consciousness." I do not believe that the psychologists
who have pretended that they could demonstrate the simplicity of the
soul, ever flattered themselves with arriving at a perfect idea of
thinking beings, or denied that we obtain the type of this idea from
our own experience; what they have pretended is, that reason leads them
to infer that there is absolute unity of the subject wherever there is
a thinking being; whether its thought may belong to a higher or lower
order than our own.

92. When Kant observes that the subject in which the thought inheres is
only indicated in a transcendental way, without its properties being
discovered, and that, therefore, we do not know the simplicity of the
subject itself, he declares a fact which is in some sense admissible,
but he deduces from it a false consequence. It is true that we only
know the substance of the soul by the presence of the internal sense,
and by its relation to its acts; and consequently that the soul in
itself abstracted from all the phenomena which we experience, is not
given in immediate intuitions, and that when we arrive at this point we
are reduced to the idea of a simple being, but this indeterminateness,
and vagueness, in the knowledge of the substance of the soul, does not
prevent our knowing its simplicity, if this simplicity is revealed by
the internal sense, and also by the nature of the phenomena by which we
know the thinking subject.

93. Some persons may believe that the indeterminateness of the
knowledge of the substance of the soul is a fact recently discovered
by the German philosopher; but it is easy to show that it had
been observed long before, and is laid down in a very special and
interesting manner in the writings of St. Thomas. This eminent
metaphysician proposes the question whether the intellectual soul knows
itself by its essence, _utrum anima intellectiva seipsam cognoscat
per suam essentiam_, and after the various remarks on intelligence,
and the intelligibility of objects, he solves it in these remarkable
words: "Our understanding does not know itself by its essence, but by
its act; and this in two ways: in one way, in particular; inasmuch as
Sortes or Plato perceives that he has an intellectual soul, because
he perceives that he understands: in the second way, in general;
inasmuch as we consider the nature of the human mind in the act of
the understanding. But it is true that we derive the judgment and
efficacy of the knowledge by which we know the nature of the soul, by
the light of the divine truth of which our intellect participates, and
in which are contained the reasons of all things, as was said above.
Hence, Augustine says, in the ninth book on the Trinity: We have
intuition of the inviolable truth by which we perfectly determine,
as far as possible, not what the mind of each man is, but what it
should be according to the eternal reasons. But there is a difference
between these two cognitions, for, to have the first, we only need the
presence of the mind, which is the principle of the act by which the
mind perceives itself, and, therefore, we say that it knows itself
by its presence; but for the second, the presence of the mind is not
sufficient, but a careful and subtile investigation is necessary. Hence
many are ignorant of the nature of the soul, and many also have erred
on the nature of the soul; wherefore in the tenth book on the Trinity,
Augustine, speaking of this investigation, says: The soul should not
try to see itself as something absent, but endeavor to distinguish
itself as something present; that is, to know its difference from other
things, which is to know its quiddity and nature."[49]

[49] Non ergo per essentiam suam, sed per actum suum se cognoscit
intellectus noster, et hoc dupliciter. Uno quidem modo particulariter,
secundum quod Sortes, vel Plato percipit se habere animam intellectivam
ex hoc, quod percipit se intelligere. Alio modo in universali, secundum
quod naturam mentis humanæ ex actu intellectus consideramus. Sed verum
est quod judicium, et efficacia hujus cognitionis per quam naturam
animæ cognoscimus, competit nobis secundum derivationem luminis
intellectus nostri a veritate divina, in qua rationes omnium rerum
continentur, sicut supra dictum est. Unde August. dicit in 9 de Trin.
Intuemur inviolabilem veritatem, ex qua perfecte quantum possumus,
deffinimus, non qualis sit uniuscujusque hominis mens, sed qualis esse
sempiternis rationibus debeat. Est autem differentia inter has duas
cognitiones; nam ad primam cognitionem de mente habendam sufficit
ipsa mentis præsentia, quæ est principium actus, ex quo meus percipit
seipsam: et ideo dicitur se cognoscere per suam præsentiam. Sed ad
secundam cognitionem de mente habendam, non sufficit ejus præsentia:
sed requiritur diligens, et subtilis inquisitio. Unde et multi naturam
animæ ignorant, et multi etiam circa naturam animæ erraverunt. Propter
quod August. dicit 10 de Trin. de tali inquisitione mentis, Non velut
absentem se quærat mens cernere; sed præsentem quærat discernere; id
est cognoscere differentiam suam ab aliis rebus, quod est cognoscere
quidditatem, et naturam suam. S. Thom. _Sum. Theol._ P. I. Q.,

94. It is to be observed that St. Thomas admits two cognitions of the
soul by itself;--that of its presence, as we perceive it in perceiving
our thought, _percipit se habere animam intellectivam ex hoc quod
percipit se intelligere_; and another which we deduce from the analysis
of the intellectual act reasoning from general considerations, and
reflecting on the light which the eternal reasons shed upon this
fact of experience. This is how St. Thomas explains the knowledge of
presence or consciousness contained in the proposition, _I think_; and
the general knowledge which we deduce from the same intellectual act in
its relations to the unity of the subject exercising it. That this last
contains something abstract and indeterminate no one denies; and when
Kant calls attention to it, he tells us nothing which the holy Doctor
had not already told us when he expressly affirmed that the soul knows
itself not in its essence, but in its acts. These few laconic words
express all the truth which is contained in Kant's diffuse explanation
of the limitation of our cognition to the acts of consciousness, and
the absence of the intuitive knowledge of the substance of the soul,
the transcendental subject of the thought.



95. In the idea of substance as formed from the beings around us and
from the testimony of our consciousness we find the relation to changes
which occur in it as their subject or recipient. But we have before
remarked that besides this relation there is a negation of inherence
in another as the modifications are inherent in the substance; this
negation implies a perfection which exempts it from the necessity of
inherence to which the changeable and transitory beings which we call
accidents or modifications are subject. As we are ignorant of the
intrinsic essence of substances, we do not know what this perfection
is; yet we cannot doubt that it exists in the very nature of the
subject, and is independent of the modifications which transform it.
If then the essence of the substance must consist in any thing, it
must be in this perfection of which we have a knowledge, but not an
intuitive cognition. When therefore substance is defined in relation
to accidents, _quod substat accidentibus_, it is rather defined by the
manner in which it is presented to us than by what it is in itself.

96. Hence, of the two definitions usually received in the schools:
_Ens per se subsistens_, a being subsisting by itself, and, _id quod
substat accidentibus_, the subject of accidents; the first is the more
correct, because it comes nearer the expression of what it is in
itself. Although we know finite substances only inasmuch as revealed by
accidents, and even our own mind knows itself only in its acts, reason
tells us that in order to be known things must exist, and in order that
our mind may find in them something permanent, it is necessary that
this something should be in them. Our knowledge does not produce its
objects; in order to be known they must exist.

97. These reflections manifest the possibility of the existence of a
substance not subject to accidents or change of any kind; and that
this substance not only does not lose the character of substance by
being immutable, but possesses it in a much more perfect degree. The
perfection of substance is not in its changes but in what is permanent
in it, not in having a succession of modifications inherent in it,
but in existing in such a manner as not to need to inhere in another.
The substance which should possess this permanence, this perfection
enabling it to exist by itself, and at the same time should have no
modification, should experience no change, would be infinitely superior
to all other substances. This substance is God.

98. Now it is easy to answer the question whether when applied to God
the idea of substance is understood in the same sense as when applied
to creatures; or, to speak in the terms of the schools, whether it is
taken univocally or analogously.

99. In the idea of every substance is contained the idea of being; what
does not exist cannot be a substance. Inasmuch as we conceive being as
a reality, as opposed to nothingness, the idea of being belongs both
to God and to creatures: God is, that is to say, God is a real thing,
not nothing. But if from this general idea, such as we conceive it in
opposition to nothingness, we pass to its realization in objects, to
the manner of its application, so to speak, we find all the difference
that there is between the contingent and the necessary, the finite and
the infinite. Although we do not intuitively see the infinite being,
nor the essence of finite beings, still we have evident knowledge that
the word _being_ applied to the infinite means something very different
from what it does when applied to the finite.

100. In the idea of substance is also contained the idea of something
permanent; this permanence belongs also to God: the infinite being is
essentially permanent.

101. In the substances around us we find this permanence combined
with the succession of the modifications which affect them; these
changes are impossible in God. The relation to modifications is a
characteristic quality of finite substances.

102. Substances are not inherent in others as modifications are
inherent in them; this non-inherence also belongs to the divine

103. Substances must contain something which exempts them from the
necessity of inherence and raises them above the things which so
rapidly succeed each other, and in their existence always need another
to sustain them; this perfection is found in the divine substance which
is being essentially, the fountain of perfection.

104. It follows from this analysis that all the perfection contained in
the idea of substance may be applied to the infinite being; and that
all that is contained in this idea which cannot be applied to this
being is what implies negation or imperfection.



105. When we say, that a substance is a being subsisting by itself,
we do not mean that it is a being which has absolutely no need of
another for its existence. To confound these two things would produce
a frightful confusion of ideas, and is itself produced by a not less
frightful confusion of the relation of cause and effect with the
relation of substance and accidents.

106. The relation of cause and effect consists in the cause giving
the effect its being; the relation of substance and accident consists
in the substance serving as subject to the accident. So great is the
difference between these two relations that not only does reason
show them to be distinct, but at every moment experience presents
them as separate. Our soul is the subject of many accidents in the
production of which it has no part, but on the contrary opposed to
their production as far as it is able. Such are all painful sensations,
all disagreeable impressions, all troublesome thoughts which present
themselves in spite of us, and when we wish to think of something else.
In these cases the soul is the subject, and not the cause: it has the
relation of substance to things of which it is not the cause, and with
respect to which it is entirely passive. If I am not greatly mistaken,
this example is conclusive, and marks the line which divides causality
from substance, effect from accident.

107. To be subsistent by itself expresses an exclusion; if this
exclusion is referred to causality, to be subsistent by itself is to be
not caused; if referred to inherence, it means to be not inherent in
another as accidents are in their substance. When substance is defined
a being subsistent in itself, it is understood in the second sense, not
in the first, and this distinction is sufficient to overthrow the whole
system of Spinoza, and all the pantheists, whatever be the aspect under
which they present their error.

108. In order to enter on the question of pantheism free from all
confusion, let us sum up in a few words all that reason and experience
teach concerning substance.

I. Within us there is a being, one, simple, identical, permanent, the
subject of the phenomena which we experience.

II. Outside of us there are objects which preserve something constant
through the variety of this phenomena.

III. In the idea of substance are contained the ideas of permanence and
non-inherence in another as a modification.

IV. The relation of a subject to its modifications, is found in all
finite substances.

V. Relation to modifications is not inseparable from the ideas of
being, permanence, and non-inherence in another.

VI. An immutable substance implies no contradiction.

VII. To subsist by itself is not the same as to be independent of
all other beings. The relation of cause and effect ought not to be
confounded with the relation of substance and accident.

VIII. _Non-inherence_ in another is characteristic of substance; but
this negative idea must be founded on something positive; on the
_force_ to subsist by itself without the necessity of adhering to



109. The idea of substance and all its applications, as well to the
external as to the internal world, are far from leading us to infer the
existence of a _single_ substance; on the contrary, reason according
with experience forces us to acknowledge a _multitude_ of substances.
Why should we admit only one substance? This is one of the most
important questions of philosophy, and from the most ancient times has
given occasion to the most serious errors; it consequently deserves a
careful investigation.

110. Those who admit only one substance must found their opinion either
on the idea of substance or on experience; our mind can have no other
recourse than to its primitive ideas, or the teachings of experience.
Let us begin with the _a priori_ method or that which is founded on the

111. What do you understand by substance? we ask. If by substance you
understand a being subsisting by itself, and by this subsistence you
mean that it has no need of another, and never had any need of another
in order to exist, then you are speaking of a being that is _not
caused_, of a necessary being which has in itself the sufficient and
necessary reason of its existence. If you say this being is only one,
or that there is no other of its kind, we agree with you, only we tell
you that you take the name of substance in an improper sense. But at
bottom the difference would be only in the name; and in order to come
to a mutual understanding it is only necessary for us to know that
by substance you understand an absolutely necessary, and consequently
absolutely independent being. But if you assert that this being is the
only one in the sense that there is nothing, and can be nothing beside
it, then your assertion is gratuitous and we ask for joint proof.

Why should the necessary being exclude the possibility of other beings?
Is it not more reasonable to conclude that it contains the reason of
their possibility and existence? The being which has in itself the
necessity of existing, must possess activity, and the external term of
this activity is production. Why may not other beings be the result of
this production? Inasmuch as produced they would be distinct from the
being producing them.

112. Without going beyond our ideas we find contingency and
multiplicity. Experience reveals a continual succession of forms within
us; these appearances are something; they cannot be a pure nothing,
for they must be something, though only appearances. In them we behold
a continual transition from not-being to being, and from being to
not-being; therefore there is a production of something which is not
necessary, since it is, and ceases to be; therefore there is something
besides the being which is supposed the only one. This argument is
founded on the purely internal phenomena, and, therefore, is valid even
against the idealists, against those who take from the external world
all reality, and reduce it to mere appearances, to simple phenomena of
our mind. These appearances exist at least as appearances; they are
then something, they are contingent, they are not therefore necessary
being. Therefore besides this being there is something which is not it;
therefore the system which asserts the existence of only one being is
not sustainable.

The idea of a being absolutely independent by reason of its absolute
necessity does not exclude the existence of contingent beings; it only
shows that the necessary being is the only necessary being, not that it
is the only being.

113. Neither does it follow from the idea of necessary being that
there cannot be contingent beings, _caused_, and yet subsisting by
themselves in the sense that they are not inherent as modifications in
others. Not to be caused and not to be inherent are two very distinct
things; the first implies the second, but the second does not imply
the first. Every being not caused must be free from inherence, because
if it is not caused it is necessary, and contains in itself all that
is necessary in order not to inhere in another. If necessary, it must
be absolutely independent of all others, which it would not be if it
needed them as a modification needs a substance. But not every thing
which is not inherent is necessarily not caused, for its cause may have
made it such that it does not need to be inherent as a modification in
another. It would then depend on another as an effect on its cause, but
not as an accident on its substance; there would be between them the
relation of causality, but not that of substance; things which we have
shown in the last chapter to be very distinct.

114. Never will the pantheists be able to prove that because a thing is
not a modification it must be not caused; and this is precisely what
they must prove in order to carry their system through in triumph. Once
prove that whatever subsists in itself is not caused, and you will
have proved whatever subsists in itself to be necessary. And as the
necessary being must be only one, you will have proved that there is
only one substance.

115. The secret of pantheism is the confounding of non-inherence with
absolute independence; and the means of overthrowing its arguments
is always to distinguish these two things. All that is not caused is
substance, but not all that is substance is uncaused. All that is
not caused is necessary and therefore not inherent, but not every
substance is necessary. Finite substance is not inherent in another
being, but it is caused by another being. It cannot exist without this
other being, it is true; but this dependence is not the dependence of a
modification on its substance, but that of an effect on its cause.

The cause gives being to the effect; the substance sustains the
accident: the cause is not modified by the effect; the substance is
modified by the accident. These ideas are clear and distinct; by them
pantheism is destroyed in all its transformations, and forced, as old
Proteus was by Menelaus, to resume its primitive form. Atheism is its
nature, and should be its name. Many of the erroneous systems which
disturb the ideal world are founded on an equivocation; to oppose
them with success, we must fix ourselves on the point which clears
up their equivocation, and not go out of it. The equivocation will
assume different forms, but we must not suffer ourselves to be deceived
or confounded by it; we must always return to the same distinction
and make that the battle-ground. The passage of the immortal poet
in the place just alluded to, might be taken as a fable giving an
excellent method of defeating sophisms: "Collect all your strength
and courage," says the goddess Idothea to Menelaus, "and, throwing
yourself upon him, hold him tightly despite all his efforts; for he
will metamorphose himself in a thousand ways in order to escape from
you: he will take the semblance of all the most savage animals. He
will also change himself into water; he will become fire: but let none
of these frightful forms terrify you, or force you to let him go; on
the contrary, hold him and strain him the more tightly. But as soon as
he returns to _the first form_ in which, he was, ... then use no more
violence, but let him go.[50]" So it is with pantheism, it will speak
of matter, of mind, of the reality of phenomenal, of the _me_, of the
_not-me_, of subsistence and non-subsistence, of the necessary and the
contingent; but do not allow it to go beyond the fundamental ideas,
lead it to them; it will at last return to its first form, and when it
has returned to this, then let it go, showing it to the world as it
is, saying: "See it in its horrible deformity; it has always been what
it is now; notwithstanding all its transformations, it is nothing but

[50] Odyss., Bk. IV.



116. If pantheism is unsustainable in the region of ideas, it is not
less so in the field of experience. The latter, far from leading us to
the exclusive unity of substance, shows us on all sides multiplicity.

117. There is unity where there is no division, when in the thing that
is one no others can be distinguished, when it admits no negative
judgment. Nothing of all this is observed in the external world; but a
constant experience presents directly the contrary.

118. In the external world division is visible, palpable; there is
no other unity than that of order, of direction to an end; besides
this, all is multiplicity. The only medium by which we are placed
in communication with the external world are the senses, and they
encounter multiplicity on every side--sensations distinct in number,
diverse in species, graduated in a thousand different ways, distributed
into infinite groups, which, although they are connected in this or
that point, may be divided and are divided in a thousand others.

119. Multiplicity is as truly revealed by the testimony of the senses
as the very existence of objects. If we deny the competency of their
testimony in the first, we must deny it also in the second. They not
only tell us that such a body exists, but that it is not another body.
We know nothing with more certainty than that an external object
corresponds to a sensation, that the objects of two distinct sensations
are distinct.

To say that the senses are not good judges in this matter, because they
are limited to mere sensation, and consequently cannot judge of the
objects of the sensation, is to appeal to idealism, for by the same
reason we may assert that the senses, limited to mere sensation, cannot
give us certainty of the existence of their respective objects.

120. To establish unity outside of ourselves is to annihilate the
corporeal world. The idea of extension contradicts unity. In that which
is extended some parts are not the others. This is evident, and whoever
attempts to doubt it attacks the basis of the certainty of geometry. If
the world is something real, it is extended; if it is not extended, we
cannot be certain that it is any thing real. We have the same certainty
of its extension as of its existence. Its very existence is manifested
by the extension presented to our senses. If, then, this extension does
not exist, sensations are a mere internal phenomenon, a pure illusion,
in so far as we attribute to them a correspondence to the exterior.

121. This argument seems to me one of the most conclusive than can
be brought against Spinosa, who, together with the oneness of the
substance admits extension, as one of its attributes. The extended
is essentially multiplex; it always involves the distinction between
its parts; we can always say of it: "The part A is not the part B."
Pantheism cannot escape this argument except by taking refuge in
pure idealism; and in this respect Fichte and Hegel are more logical
than most persons give them credit for being. In order to maintain
the exclusive oneness of substance, it is necessary to convert the
external world into mere phenomena, whose only reality consists in
their being thus presented to us. This is to absorb the world in the
_me_, and concentrate the reality in the idea; but this absorption,
this concentration, notwithstanding its obscurity, is a necessary and
logical consequence of the principle established. There is absurdity,
but there is at least the consequence of the absurdity.

122. Those who call Spinosa the disciple of Descartes, have not
observed that there is a necessary contradiction between the two
systems. The argument founded on extension, which I have just
presented, although conclusive under every hypothesis, is still more
so against those who admit with Descartes, that the essence of bodies
consists in extension. In that case, the various parts of extension
are essentially distinct, since each part constitutes an essence. The
essential and substantial multiplicity of bodies would be in proportion
to the multiplicity of extension.

123. If you maintain that extension is not the essence of bodies, but
an attribute or modification of bodies, whether a determination founded
on their essence or an accidental determination, and pretend that
this modification or attribute may belong to the only substance, we
ask you whether this substance in itself abstracted from extension is
simple or composite. If composite, it implies multiplicity, and Spinosa
coincides with the common opinion of a corporeal world, composed of
many parts, one of which will have no more right than another to be
the true substance. For then there would not be a single substance,
but one composed of many; and the corporeal universe cannot be called
a substance except in the sense in which it is commonly called one,
that is, not taking the oneness in a strict sense, but inasmuch as all
its parts are connected together, and disposed in a certain order to
conspire to the same end. If the substance, the subject of extension is
simple, the result will be a simple substance determined or modified
by extension, a simple extended substance, which is a contradiction.
A thing cannot be conceived as a modification of another unless it
is modified by it; this is what the words express. A modification
modifies, giving to the thing modified the form of the modification,
applying itself to the thing modified. Extension cannot modify except
by making the thing modified extended; and to be extended, and to
have extension, are absolutely identical expressions. Therefore it
is repugnant for a simple substance to have extension for one of its
modifications; therefore Spinosa's system is absurd.



124. The multiplicity of substances is no less attested by the
consciousness of ourselves, or of the internal world. Our first
reflex act reveals within us something which is one, indivisible, and
remaining always the same through all the transformations of our being.
This unity of the _me_ is indispensable to the connection of all the
phenomena in a point; without it all memory, all combination, and all
consciousness are impossible; our own being disappears, and there
remains only a series of unconnected phenomena. But this unity, which
we must take as an internal fact which consciousness places beyond
all doubt, and the conviction of which it is impossible for us to
withstand,--this unity produces the knowledge of multiplicity. There is
something which affects us and which is not ourselves. Our will, our
activity, is impotent to resist other activities which act upon us;
there is, then, something which is not ourselves, which is independent
of us. There is something which is not a modification of ourselves,
because very often it does not affect us, does not modify us. This
something is a reality, for nothing cannot affect any thing. It is not
inherent in us; it is, then, in itself, or in something which is not
ourselves. There is, therefore, a substance which is not our substance;
and the _me_ and the _not-me_ which have made so much noise in German
philosophy, far from leading to the unity of the substance, lead to
multiplicity; and destroy pantheism entrenched behind idealism.

125. At the very first we meet at least with duality, the _me_ and the
_not-me_; but carrying our observations a little farther, we find a
striking multiplicity.

Our mind is not alone: the consciousness of what we daily experience
proves our communication with other minds, which, like our own, have
the consciousness of themselves--a sphere of activity of their own,
and, like our own mind, are subjected to other activities without their
will, and sometimes even against it. The _me_ and the _not-me_ existing
for our consciousness, exists also for theirs; what in us alone was
duality becomes a wonderful multiplicity by means of the repetition of
the same fact which we have experienced in ourselves.

126. To attribute this variety of consciousnesses to the same being,
to take them as modifications of the same substance, as revelations
of itself to its own eyes, is a gratuitous assertion; and not only
gratuitous but absurd.

With full confidence I can defy the greatest philosopher of the world
to assign any reason, I do not say satisfactory, but even a specious
reason, proving that two individual consciousnesses belong to a common
consciousness, or are consciousnesses of the same being.

127. In the first place, this doctrine is in contradiction to common
sense, and is rejected with irresistible force by the internal sense
of every man. The sentiment of our existence is always accompanied by
the sentiment of our distinction from other beings like us. We are not
only certain that we exist, but that we are distinct from others; and
if in any thing the sentiment of this distinction is profoundly marked,
it is in what regards the phenomena of our consciousness. Never at any
time, in any country or phase of society, could men be persuaded that
the consciousness of all their acts and impressions belonged to one and
the same being in which individual consciousnesses were united. It is a
bad philosophy which begins by struggling against humanity, and placing
itself in open contradiction to an irresistible sentiment of nature.

128. The very idea of consciousness excludes this monstrous absurdity,
which attempts to transform individual consciousnesses into
modifications of one universal consciousness. Consciousness, that is,
the internal sentiment of what a being experiences, is essentially
individual, it is, so to speak, incommunicable to every other. To
others we communicate the knowledge of our consciousness, but not
our consciousness itself. It is an intuition or a sentiment which is
completed in the innermost recesses of our being, in that which is most
our own. What, then, would that consciousness be which does not belong
to us as individuals, which is not our own which is nothing of what we
believe it to be, but only a property of an unknown being,--a being of
which we have no knowledge, and of which we are only a phenomenon, a
passing modification? Where would be the unity of consciousness in the
midst of such diversity, opposition, and mutual exclusion? This being,
modified by so many consciousnesses, would have no consciousness of its
own, for it could give itself no account of what it experiences.



129. I am going to fulfil a promise made in the beginning of this
work,[51] to explain and refute the system of Fichte. We have seen
the cabalistic forms employed by the German philosopher to obtain a
simple result, which amounted to neither more nor less than Descartes'
principle, "I think, therefore, I am." The reader could never imagine
that any one should attempt to found pantheism on this fact of
consciousness, and that the human mind, because it finds itself, should
have the arrogance to maintain that nothing exists beside itself,
that whatever there is, proceeds from itself, and what is still more
extraordinary, that it is itself produced by itself. In order to
believe that such things have been written we have to see them, and
therefore in explaining Fichte's system, I shall copy his own words.

[51] See Bk. I., Chap. VII.

Thus, although he may suffer a little from the foreign garb, and the
reader may be fatigued with deciphering enigmas, he will have an idea
of the matter and of the form of the system, which he could not have,
if we should take from the philosopher his extravagant originality,
which, however, relates to the form, rather than to the substance.

130. "This act, namely X = I am, is founded on no higher principle."[52]

[52] _Grundlage der gesammten Wissensehaftslehre._ Erst. Th. 1. § 6. b.

This is true to a certain extent, inasmuch as it affirms that in the
series of the facts of consciousness, we come to our own existence
as the last limit, and can go no farther. The reflex act, by which
we perceive our existence, is expressed by the proposition, _I am_,
or, _I exist_; but this proposition by itself alone, tells us nothing
as to the nature of the _me_, and is very far from proving our
absolute independence. On the contrary, from the moment that we begin
to reflect, internal facts are presented to us which incline us to
believe that our being is dependent on another; and in proportion as
we continue to reflect, we acquire a deep conviction of this truth,
arising from a rigorous demonstration.

In no way can we affirm that the act, _I am_, does not depend on any
higher principle, if we mean by that, that the act does not spring
from any _principle of action_, and that by itself alone, it produces
existence. Besides plainly contradicting common sense, this assertion
is without any proof, and is also opposed to the most fundamental
notions of sound philosophy.

131. Fichte thinks differently, and without knowing why, he deduces
from the above propositions these consequences: "Therefore it (the
act, X = _I am_) is _supposed absolutely_, and _founded on itself_,
as the principle _of a certain_ (and, as will be seen by the whole
_Doctrine of Science_, _of every_) act of the human mind, consequently,
also of its pure character,--the pure character of activity in itself,
abstracted from its particular empirical conditions." It is no great
discovery that the character of _act_ is _activity_; but this character
is not _pure_, since in us no act is pure activity, but it is always a
particular exercise of activity.

"Consequently," he continues, "the supposition of the _me_ by itself is
its pure activity. The _me supposes itself_, and it _is_, in virtue of
this mere supposition by itself; and on the other hand, the _me is_ and
it _supposes_ its being, by virtue of its mere being. It is at the same
time the acting, and the product of the act; the active, and that which
is brought about by the activity; act and fact are one and precisely
the same thing; and, therefore, _I am_ is the expression of an act, and
also of the only one possible, as must be seen from the whole _Doctrine
of Science_."

He that can, may understand what is the meaning of a being which is at
the same time producing and produced, principle and term of the same
action, cause and effect of the same thing. He that can, may understand
the meaning of existing in virtue of a mere action, and exercising this
action in virtue of existence. If these be not contradictions, I know
not what is. In God, who is infinite being, essence, existence, and
action are identical; but we cannot say that the action _produces_ his
being, that he _supposes_ himself by his action; we say that he exists
necessarily, and that it is therefore impossible that he should have
been produced, that he should have passed from not-being to being.

132. There occurs to me here a rational explanation of Fichte's
language, an explanation which even if admissible would not excuse the
philosopher for expressing very simple things in contradictory terms.
However, it is this. The soul is an activity; its essence consists in
thought, by which it is manifested to its own eyes, and finds itself
in the act of consciousness. In this sense we may say that the soul
supposes itself, that is, knows itself, takes itself as subject of a
proposition to which it applies the predicate of existence. The soul is
the principle of its act of consciousness; and thus it is productive;
it is also presented in the act of consciousness as object, hence it
may also be said, though inexactly, that in the ideal order it is
produced; in this way it is the principle and the term of the action,
but under different respects. This explanation, whether more or less
founded, is at least reasonable and even intelligible, and the basis on
which it rests, that the essence of the soul consists in thought, has
the name of Descartes in its favor. Thus although we do not defend the
words of Fichte, we might at least defend his ideas. But unfortunately,
the philosopher has taken good care to prevent even this; his words
could not have been more opposed to it.

"We now consider once more," he says, "the proposition: _me is me_.

"The _me_ is supposed absolutely. If it is admitted that the _me_ which
in the above proposition stands in the place of the formal subject is
the _me supposed absolutely_; and that in the place of the predicate
means the _existing me_; it is expressed in the judgment which is
absolutely valid, that both are completely one, or supposed absolutely;
that the _me_ is, _because_ it has supposed itself."

Every judgment implies identity of the predicate and the subject; but
in the proposition: _me_ is _me_, the identity is not only implied but
explicitly asserted; for which reason, the proposition belongs to the
class of what are termed identical propositions, because its predicate
explains nothing concerning the idea of the subject, but only repeats
it. Whence then does Fichte deduce that the _me_ exists because it has
supposed itself? So far we have only the _me_ saying: _me is me_; it
affirms itself and thus _supposes_ itself as subject and predicate of
a proposition: but it is clearer than day-light that to _suppose by
affirming_ is altogether different from _supposing by producing_: on
the contrary, common sense and reason alike teach that the existence of
the thing affirmed is necessary to the legitimacy of the affirmation.
To confound these two ideas, to consider it the same thing to _affirm_
as to _suppose by producing_, is an inconceivable absurdity.[53]

[53] Here, as elsewhere, in the examination of Fichte's system, I
have translated the German word _setzen_ and the Spanish _poner_ by
the verb _to suppose_. Had I known any better word I should have used
it, but I think this sufficiently explains the philosopher's meaning.
I have also found the French word _poser_ which exactly corresponds
to it, and which M. Cousin uses in his sketch of Fichte's system,
translated _suppose_ by Mr. Ripley, in the _Specimens of Foreign

133. Explaining this in a note, Fichte adds what follows: "It is also
certainly so according to the logical form of every proposition. In the
proposition A = A, the first A is that which is supposed in the _me_
either absolutely as the _me_ itself, or on any other ground as every
determined _not-me_. In this case the _me_ represents the absolute
subject, and hence the first A is called the subject. The second A
denotes what the _me_, which takes itself as the object of reflection,
finds as _supposed_ in itself because it has first supposed it in
itself. The judging _me_ predicates something, not properly of A, but
of itself, namely, that it finds an A in itself; and hence the second A
is called the predicate. So in the proposition: A = B, A denotes that
which is supposed now; B that which is found already supposed. _It_
represents the transition of the _me_ from the act of supposing to the
reflection on that which is supposed."

What does Fichte mean by this comparison of ideas and of language? Does
he mean that in this proposition the _me_ is subject and predicate
according to the different aspects under which it is considered? Does
he mean that the _me_, in so far as it occupies the place of subject,
expresses simply existence, and that as predicate it is presented as
an object of reflection? What does he mean by the word _suppose_? If he
means by it to produce, how is it possible for a thing which is not to
produce itself? If he means by it the manifestation of itself, so that
the object manifested may serve as the logical term of a proposition,
why does he tell us that the _me_ exists because it supposes itself?
But let us follow the German philosopher in his wandering deductions.

134. "The _me_ in the first acceptation and that in the second must
be absolutely the same. We can therefore invert the above proposition
and say: the _me_ supposes itself, absolutely _because_ it is. It
_supposes_ itself by its mere being, and _is_ by its mere supposition."

Without defining the sense of the word _suppose_, without saying any
thing more than what all the world knows; that the _me_ is the _me_; he
infers that the _me_ exists because it supposes itself, and supposes
itself because it exists: he identifies existence with supposition
without even noticing that at least some preliminary remarks were
necessary before placing himself in direct opposition with common sense
and the doctrines of all philosophers, including Descartes, who make
existence necessary for action, and regard it as a contradiction for a
thing to be active without existing. Leibnitz thought that there was
nothing and could be nothing without a sufficient reason; but thanks
to the author of the _Doctrine of Science_, we may henceforth people
the world at pleasure with finite or infinite beings, and if asked
whence they came, we may answer that they have been supposed; if we
are further asked why they have been supposed, we may answer; because
they exist; and if still again asked why they exist, we may say,
because they have been supposed; thus we may pass from supposition to
existence, and from existence to supposition, without any danger of

135. Although this philosophy is any thing but clear, it seems to have
satisfied its author, who goes on with admirable gravity to say: "Thus,
then, it is _perfectly clear_ in what sense we here use the word _me_,
and we are led to a determinate explanation of the _me_ as absolute
subject. _Every thing whose being (existence) consists solely in its
supposing itself as being_, is the _me_, as absolute subject. So far
as it _supposes_ itself, it _is_; and so far as it _is_, it _supposes_
itself; and the _me_ is therefore absolute and necessary for the _me_.
That which is not for itself is no _me_." Ideal pantheism could not be
established more explicitly, and at the same time more gratuitously;
one is astonished to find one's self seriously occupied with such
extravagances. They have made a noise, because they have not been
known; they ought therefore to be presented to the reader as they are,
even at the risk of fatiguing him.

136. Fichte tries to make his ideas clearer, but we may be always sure
that each explanation will add to their obscurity. Let us permit him to

"Explanation! One often hears the question asked, _what_ was I before
I came to the consciousness of myself? The natural answer to this is:
_I_ was nothing at all; for I was not the _me_. The _me_ is only in
so far as it is conscious of itself. The possibility of this question
is founded on a confusion of the _me_ as _subject_, and the _me_ as
_object_ of the reflection of the absolute subject, and is entirely
inadmissible. The _me_ represents itself, takes itself so far under the
form of the representation, and is now for the first time _something_,
an object; consciousness receives under this form a substratum which
_is_, and although without actual consciousness, is here thought
corporeally. Such a case is considered, and it is asked: what was then
the _me_; that is, what is the substratum of consciousness? But even
then we think the _absolute subject_ as that which has intuition of
this substratum, _together with it_, although we do not take note of
it; we also, without taking note of it, at the same time think that
which we pretended to abstract, and thus fall into a contradiction. We
can think absolutely nothing without at the same time thinking the _me_
as conscious of of itself; we can never abstract our own consciousness:
hence all questions of this kind are unanswerable; for they would be,
if well understood, unaskable."

That the _me_ did not exist as the object of its reflection before
it had consciousness of itself, is an evident truth; before thinking
itself, it does not think itself; who ever doubted it? But the
difficulty is, whether the _me_ is any thing, independently of its
own reflections or its objectiveness in relation to itself; that is,
whether there is in the _me_ any thing more than the being thought
by itself. The question is not contradictory, but it is one which
naturally presents itself to reason and to common sense; for reason as
well as common sense resist the taking as identical, that which exists,
and that which is known; that which knows itself, and that which
produces itself. We are not now examining whether we have or have not
a clear idea of the _substratum_ of consciousness; but it is curious
to hear the German philosopher remark that when we do not conceive
the _me_ as the object of reflection, we conceive it under a bodily
form. This is to confound imagination with ideas, things, as I have
elsewhere[54] shown, which are very different.

[54] See Bk. IV., from Ch. I. to X.

137. It follows from Fichte's doctrine that the existence of the _me_
consists in its supposing itself by means of consciousness; and that
if consciousness should not exist, the _me_ would not exist. In this
case to be and to be known are the same thing. Although I might ask
Fichte for his proofs of so extravagant an assertion, I shall confine
myself to insisting on the difficulty which he proposes, and which he
only eludes by a confusion of ideas. What would the _me_ be, if it were
not conscious of itself? If to exist is to have consciousness, when
there is no consciousness there is no existence. Fichte answers that
the _me_ without consciousness is not the _me_, in which case, it does
not exist; but that the question rests on an impossible supposition,
the abstraction of consciousness. "We can think absolutely nothing,"
he says, "without at the same time thinking the _me_ as conscious of
itself; we can never abstract our own consciousness." I say again;
these words do not solve the difficulty; they only elude it. I pass
over his assertion that consciousness is the same as existence: but
it is certain that we conceive an instant in which the _me_ is not
conscious of itself. Has this conception never been realized? Has
there, or has there not, been an instant in which the _me_ was not
conscious of itself? If we admit this instant, we must admit that at
this instant the _me_ did not exist; therefore it never could have
existed, unless Fichte will concede that the _me_ depends on a superior
being, and thus admit the doctrine of creation. If we do not admit this
instant, the _me_ has always existed, and with the consciousness of
itself; therefore the _me_ is an eternal and immutable intelligence;
it is God. There is no way for Fichte to escape this dilemma. There is
no room here for the distinction between the _me_ as subject and the
_me_ as object: we are speaking of the _me_ as having consciousness
of itself,--that consciousness in which Fichte makes its existence
consist,--and we ask whether this _me_ has always existed or not; if
the first, the _me_ is God; if the second, you must either acknowledge
creation, or hold that a being which does not exist can give itself

138. Fichte does not retreat from the first consequence, and although
he does not call _me_ God, he gives it all the attributes of divinity.
"If the _me_," he says, "is only in so far as it supposes itself, it
is only _for_ the supposing, and supposes only for being. _The me
is for the me_,--but if it supposes itself absolutely as it is, it
supposes itself necessary, and is necessary, for the _me_. _I am only
for myself; but I am necessary for myself_--(in saying _for myself_ I
always suppose my being.)

"_To suppose itself_, and _to be_, are, speaking of the _me_, entirely
the same. The proposition: I am, because I have supposed myself, can,
therefore, be also expressed in this manner: _I am absolutely, because
I am_.

"Moreover, the _me_ which supposes itself, and the _me_ which is, are
entirely identical; they are one and the same thing. The _me_ is for
that _which_ it supposes itself; and it supposes itself as _that_ which
it is. Therefore, _I am absolutely, what I am_.

"The immediate expression of the act which we have now developed would
be the following formula: _I am absolutely_, that is, _I am absolutely,
because I am; and am absolutely, what I am; both for the me_.

"But if the enunciation of this act is intended to be placed at
the head of a doctrine of science, it should be expressed somewhat
in the following manner: _The me originally supposes its own being

[55] _Grundlage der gesammten Wissenschaftslehre_, I. Theil, § I., pp.

There is only one fact which is clear in all this extravagance of
expression; and that is, the pantheism openly professed by Fichte;
the deification of the _me_, and, consequently, the absorption of all
reality in the _me_. The _me_ ceases to be a limited spirit; it is an
infinite reality. Fichte does not deny it: "The me determines itself,
the absolute totality of reality is ascribed to the _me_. The _me_
can determine itself only as reality, for it is supposed absolutely as
reality, and no negation whatever is supposed in it.[56]

[56] Ib., II., Th. § 4. B., p. 129.

"But reality is supposed in the _me_. Therefore the _me_ must be
supposed as the _absolute totality_ of reality, (therefore as a
quantity, which contains all quantities, and which may be a measure for
them all;) and this, too, originally and absolutely, if the synthesis,
which we have just explained problematically, be possible, and the
contradiction is to be solved in a satisfactory manner. Therefore:

"The _me_ supposes absolutely, without any foundation, and under no
possible condition, the _absolute totality of reality_, as a quantity,
than which, by virtue of this supposition, none greater is possible;
and this absolute maximum of reality it supposes _in itself_. All
that is supposed in the _me_ is reality: and all reality that is, is
supposed in the _me_....

       *       *       *       *       *

... "The conception of reality is similar to the conception of
activity. All reality is supposed in the _me_, is the same as: All
activity is supposed in the _me_, and reversely; all in the _me_ is
reality, is the same as: The _me_ is _only_ active; it is the _me_ only
in so far as it is active; and in so far as it is not active, it is the

[57] Ib., D., pp. 137-8.

"Only in the understanding is there reality; it is the faculty of the
_actual_; _in_ it the ideal first becomes real."[58]

[58] Ib., Deduction der Vorstellung, III., pp. 233-4.

"The _me_ is only that which it supposes itself; it is infinite; that
is, it supposes itself infinite....

"Without the infinity of the _me_,--without a productive faculty whose
tendency is unlimited and illimitable,--it is impossible to explain the
possibility of representation."

139. Let us give a glance at these ravings. Psychology starts from a
fundamental fact--the testimony of consciousness. The human mind cannot
think without finding itself; the starting-point of its psychological
investigations is the proposition, I think; in this is found the
identity of which Fichte speaks--the _me_ is the _me_. All thought,
from the first moment that it exists, perceives itself subject to a
law; the perception of every thing involves the perception, either
explicit or implicit, of the identity of the thing perceived. In this
sense, the most simple formula in which we can express the first law
of our perception is: A is A; but this formula is as sterile as it is
simple; and it is impossible to conceive how any one could pretend to
raise upon it a system of philosophy. This formula, supposing it to be
enunciated, involves the existence of the _me_ which enunciates it.
It cannot be said that A is A, if there is not a being in which the
relation of identity is supposed. If the proposition A = A is true, it
is necessary to suppose an A, or a being in which it exists. A purely
ideal truth, without any foundation in a real truth, is an absurdity,
as we have elsewhere proved and explained at great length.[59]

[59] See Bk. IV., Chs. XXIII., XXIV., XXV., XXVI., and XXVII.; and Bk.
V., Chs. VII. and VIII.

140. But the existence of an ideal truth, _in so far as it is
represented in us_, that is to say, in so far as it is a fact of our
consciousness, is not necessary, but hypothetical, it exists when
it exists; but when it exists it may not exist, or when it does not
exist it may exist. Necessity cannot be inferred from existence:
the testimony of consciousness assures us of the fact; but in this
consciousness we find no proof that the fact is necessary, that it has
not depended on a higher agent; quite the contrary, the sentiment of
our weakness, the shortness of the time to which the recollections of
our consciousness extend, the natural and periodical interruptions of
them which we experience during sleep, every thing shows that the fact
of consciousness is not necessary, and that the being which experiences
it has but a little while ago commenced its existence, and might lose
it again as soon as the infinite being should cease to preserve it. The
_me_ which we perceive within us knows itself, affirms itself; the word
_supposes_ itself has no reasonable meaning, unless it mean that the
_me_ affirms its existence; but this knowing itself is not producing
itself; whoever asserts such an absurdity is under obligation to prove

141. In truth it requires all the gravity of Fichte to pretend to
connect such a collection of extravagant absurdities into science. It
was reserved for modern times to see a man seriously occupied with a
system whose existence will, with difficulty, be believed by those
who read the history of the aberrations of the human mind. The system
of Fichte is already judged by all thinking men, and there is no
surer means to make it forgotten than to expose it to the eyes of the
judicious reader.

142. Having established the necessary and absolute existence of the
_me_, Fichte proposes to demonstrate that from the _me_ proceeds the
_not-me_, that is to say; all that is not the _me_. "But the _not-me_
can only be supposed in so far as a _me_, to which it is opposed, is
supposed in the _me_ (in the identical consciousness).

"But the _not-me_ must be supposed in the identical consciousness.

"Therefore the _me_ must also be supposed in it in so far as the
_not-me_ is supposed in it."

... "If _me_ = _me_, all is supposed which is supposed in the _me_....
"The _me_ and the _not-me_ are both products of original acts of the
_me_, and the consciousness itself is a product of the first original
act of the _me_, of the supposition of the _me_ by itself."[60]

[60] Ib., § 3., pp. 106-7.

This, then, is how according to Fichte, the _not-me_, that is to
say; this which we call the external world, and all that is not the
_me_, is born of the _me_; the distinction of one thing from another
is a pure illusion, a play of relations by which the _me_ conceives
itself as _not-me_ in so far as it limits itself; but the _me_ and the
_not-me_ are absolutely identical. "The _me_ and the _not-me_ inasmuch
as they are supposed identical and opposed by the conception of
mutual limitation, are something in the _me_ (accidents) as divisible
substances, supposed by the _me_, the absolute and illimitable subject,
to which nothing is identical and nothing opposed. There all judgments,
the logical subject of which is the limitable or determinable _me_,
or something which defines the _me_, must be limited or defined by
something higher; but all judgments, the logical subject of which is
the absolutely illimitable _me_, cannot be determined by any thing
higher, because the absolute _me_ is not determined by any thing they
are founded on, and defined absolutely by themselves." This is the last
result of Fichte's system, the _me_ converted into an absolute being,
which is determined by nothing above itself, into an unlimited and
illimitable subject, an infinite being, into God. Every thing emanates
from this absolute subject. "In so far as the _me_ supposes itself
as infinite, its activity (that of supposing itself) is spent on the
_me_ itself, and on nothing else than the _me_. Its whole activity is
spent on the _me_, and this activity is the ground and the compass of
all being. The _me_ is therefore _infinite in so far as its activity
returns to itself_, and consequently so far also is its activity
infinite as its product, the _me_, is infinite. (Infinite product,
infinite activity; infinite activity, infinite product; this is a
circle, but not a vicious one, for it is one from which reason escapes,
for it expresses that which is absolutely certain by itself, and for
its own sake. Product, activity, and active are here one and the same
thing, and we separate them only in order to express ourselves.)
The _pure activity_ of the _me_ alone, and _the pure me alone_ are
infinite. But pure activity is that which has no object, but returns to

"In so far as the _me_ supposes limits, and, according to what we
have said, supposes itself in these limits, its activity is not spent
immediately on itself, but on a _not-me_ which is to be opposed to

[61] Ib., III., Th. § 5, II., p. 256.

How shall we sum up this doctrine? In the words of Fichte: "In so far
as the _me_ is absolute, it is _infinite_ and _unlimited_. It supposes
all that is; and that which is not supposed, is not (_for_ it; and
_out of_ it there is nothing). But all that it supposes, it supposes
as _me_; and it supposes the _me_ as all that it supposes. Hence in
this respect the _me_ contains in itself all, that is, an infinite,
unlimited reality.

"In so far as the _me_ opposes to itself a _not-me_, it necessarily
supposes _limits_, and supposes itself in these limits. It divides the
totality of the being supposed in general between the _me_ and the
_not-me_; so far supposes itself necessarily as _finite_."[62]

[62] Ib., p. 255.

143. Thus Fichte in a few words destroys the reality of the external
world, converting it into a modification or development of the
activity of the _me_. Is it necessary to stop any longer to refute
such an absurd doctrine, one, too, founded on no proof? I believe
not: especially since I have established on solid principles the
demonstration of the existence of an external world, and have
explained the origin and character of the facts of consciousness,
without having recourse to such extravagant absurdities.[63]

[63] See Bks. II., III., and IV.



144. I have already shown[64] how Kant's system leads to Fichte's.
When a dangerous principle is established, there is never wanting an
author bold enough to deduce its consequences, whatever they may be.
The author of the _Doctrine of Science_, led astray by the doctrines
of Kant, establishes the most extravagant pantheism that was ever
invented. In concluding his work, he says that he leaves the reader
at the point where Kant takes him; he ought rather to have said that
he takes the reader at the point where Kant leaves him. The author
of the _Critic of Pure Reason_, by converting space into a purely
subjective fact, destroys the reality of extension, and opens the door
to those who wish to deduce all nature from the _me_; and by making
time a simple form of the internal sense, he causes the succession of
phenomena in time to be considered as mere modifications of the _me_ to
the form of which they relate.

[64] See Bk. III., Ch. XVII.

145. But it is far from being necessary for us to hunt after
deductions; the philosopher himself, in the midst of his obscurity
and enigmatical language, does not cease to lay down in the most
precise manner this monstrous doctrine. Let us hear how he speaks in
his transcendental Logic, where he proposes to explain the relation
of the understanding to objects in general, and the possibility of
knowing them _a priori_. "The order and regularity in phenomena, that
which we call nature, _is consequently our own work_; we should not
find it there if we had not placed it there by the nature of our mind;
for this natural unity must be a necessary unity, that is to say, a
certain unity _a priori_ of the connection of the phenomena. But how
could we produce a synthetic unity _a priori_, if there were not in
the primitive sources of our mind subjective reasons of this unity _a
priori_, and if these subjective conditions were not at the same time
_objectively valid_, since they are the grounds of the possibility of
knowing in general an object in experience?"[65] Who does not see in
these words the germ of Fichte's system, which deduces from the _me_
the _not-me_, that is to say, the world, and gives to nature no other
validity than that which it has received from the _me_?

[65] Kant, _Critik der reinen Vernunft, Trause. Log._

146. But Kant is still more explicit, where he is explaining the nature
and attributes of the understanding. He says: "We have before defined
the understanding in different ways; we have called it a spontaneity of
knowledge, (in opposition to the receptivity of sensibility,) a faculty
of thought, or rather, a faculty of conceptions or judgments; these
definitions, rightly explained, are but one. We may now characterize
it as a _faculty of rules_. This character is more fruitful, and comes
nearer to the essence of the thing: sensibility gives us forms (of
intuition) and the understanding rules. The latter is always applied
to the observation of phenomena in order to find in them some rule.
The rules, if objective, (if, consequently, necessarily united to the
knowledge of the object,) are called laws. Although we know many laws
by experience, still these laws are only particular determinations
of other higher laws, the highest of which (to which all the others
are subjected) _proceed_ a priori _from the understanding itself_,
and are not taken from experience, but, on the contrary, they give to
the phenomena their validity, and therefore make experience possible.
The understanding, then, is not simply a faculty of making rules for
itself, and comparing phenomena; _it is also the legislation for
nature; that is to say, that without the understanding there would
be no nature_, or synthetic unity of the multiplicity of phenomena
according to certain rules. For the phenomena, as such, cannot exist
out of us; on the contrary, they only exist in our sensibility; but
this, as the object of the knowledge in an experience, with all that
it can contain, is only possible in the unity of the apperception.
The unity of the apperception is the transcendental foundation of
the necessary legitimacy of all the phenomena in an experience; this
unity of the apperception in relation to the multiplicity of the
representations (in order to determine the multiplicity by starting
from only one) is the rule, and the faculty of these rules is the
understanding. All phenomena, then, as possible experiences, are _a
priori_ in the understanding, and from it they derive their formal
possibility, in the same manner that they are pure intuitions in the
sensibility, and are only possible by it in relation to the form."

In the _deduction of the pure conceptions of the understanding_, Kant
not only pretends that the objects of our knowledge are not things in
themselves, but that it is impossible that they should be, because
we could not then have conceptions _a priori_. He adds, that the
representation of all these phenomena, consequently all objects which
we know, are all in the _me_, and are determinations of _my identical
me_, which expresses the necessity of a universal unity of these
determinations in only one and the same apperception.

147. From these passages it clearly follows that Fichte's system, or
the ideal pantheism which reduces every thing to modifications of the
_me_, accords with the principles established in the _Critic of Pure
Reason_, and is even expressly laid down, although it does not form its
principal object in that work. For the sake of impartiality I cannot
do less than refer the reader to the seventeenth chapter of the third
book, where I have intimated that the German philosopher attempts to
explain his expressions so as to escape idealism, which he professes to
refute. But this he seems to me to do only by an inconsequence.

148. However, my opinion of the connection of modern pantheism with the
_Critik der reinen Vernunft_ is confirmed even by the Germans. "From
these depths," says Rosenkranz, speaking of this work, "the results
of the transcendental æsthetics and logic receive a new importance in
the great problems of theology, cosmology, morals, and psychology,
which was not even suspected by the dull sense of the greater part of
its admirers. They know nothing of the chain which unites Fichte's
_Doctrine of Science_, Schelling's _System of Transcendental Idealism_,
Hegel's _Phenomenology and Logic_, and Herbart's _Metaphysics_, with
Kant's _Critic_....

"I may say that the English and French in particular will understand
nothing of the development of German philosophy since Kant, until they
have penetrated the _Critic of Pure Reason_, for _we Germans always
look to that_.... Just as we use the houses, the palaces, the churches,
but most of all the towers which rise over every thing to guide us in
a large city; so also in contemporary philosophy, amid the labyrinth
of its quarrels it is impossible to take a single step with security
unless we keep our sight fixed on Kant's _Critic_. Fichte, Schelling,
Hegel, and Herbart made this work the great centre of their operations
for attack or defence."[66]

[66] Preface of the edition of Leipsic, 1838.

149. I do not mean by this that the German philosophers since Kant have
added nothing to the _Critic of Pure Reason_: I have already observed
(in the seventh chapter of the first book) that the cause of the
greater obscurity which is found in Fichte's words, proceeds from his
having gone farther than Kant in his abstraction of all objectiveness
both external and internal, placing himself in I know not what pure
primitive act, from which he pretends to deduce every thing; in which
he differs from the author of the _Critic of Pure Reason_, whose labors
did not so absolutely annihilate the objectiveness of the internal
world, and therefore his observations are less incomprehensible, and
even present here and there some few luminous points: I only wished to
show the baneful importance of Kant's works, to place those incautious
persons on their guard, who, judging from what they have heard, are
inclined to regard him as the great restorer of spiritualism and sound
philosophy, when, in reality, he is the founder of the most pernicious
schools which the history of the human mind has known, and would be one
of the most dangerous writers that ever existed, were it not that the
obscurity of his ideas, increased by the obscurity of their expression,
renders him intolerable to the immense majority of readers, even of
those versed in philosophical studies.



150. I do not know how any philosopher who has meditated on the human
mind can incline to pantheism. The deeper we go into the _me_ from
which it is pretended to deduce such an absurd system, the more we
discover the contradiction in which pantheism appears in respect to the
primary ideas and facts of our mind. My development of this observation
will be brief, for it turns on questions largely examined in their
respective places.

151. We have seen (Bk. VI., Ch. V.) that the idea of number is found
in every understanding, and experience teaches that we employ it
explicitly or implicitly in almost all our words. We scarcely speak
without using the plural, and this can have no meaning without the
supposition of the idea of number. Pantheism reduces all existence
to an absolute unity; multiplicity either has no real existence, or
is limited to phenomena, which, in the judgment of some followers
of this system, contain no reality of any sort, and, in the opinion
of all pantheists, can contain no substantial reality. According to
them, therefore, the idea of number either has no correspondence in
the reality, or it relates only to modes of being, to the various
modifications of the same being, and therefore does not extend to
the beings themselves, for in this system there is only one being.
If this be so, how is it that the idea of number exists in our
understanding? how is it that we conceive not only many modes of being,
but many beings? In the system of the pantheists not only is there no
multiplicity of beings, but it is impossible that there should be; why,
then, has our understanding this radical vice which necessarily leads
it to conceive the multiplicity of _things_, if this multiplicity is
absurd? why is this ideal defect confirmed by experience which also
necessarily leads us to believe that there are many distinct _things_?

152. In the system of the pantheists our understanding is only a
modification, a manifestation of the only substance; but it is
impossible to explain this disagreement between the phenomenon and
the reality, this necessary error into which the phenomenon of the
substance leads us in respect to the substance itself. If we are a mere
manifestation of the unity, why do we find the idea of multiplicity as
a primitive fact within us? Why this continual contradiction between
the being and its appearances? If we are all one same unit, whence do
we obtain the idea of number? If the phenomena of experience are only
evolutions, so to speak, of this one unit, why do we feel ourselves
irresistibly inclined to suppose multiplicity in the phenomena, and to
multiply the _things_ in which they succeed?

153. The idea of distinction opposed to that of unity is also
fundamental in our mind;[67] yet pantheism gives it no correspondence
in the reality. If there is only being, if all is identical, there is
nothing distinct, and the idea of distinction is a pure chimera. In
this system distinction not only does not exist, but it is impossible;
consequently the idea of distinction is absurd; therefore one of the
primary facts of our mind is a contradiction.

[67] See Bk. V., Chs. IX. and X.

154. Negative judgments form a considerable part of the wealth of
our understanding;[68] pantheism destroys them. In this system the
proposition: A is not B, can never be true; for, if all is identical,
one thing cannot be denied of another, there would be no distinct
things, there would be no _one_ or _another_; all would be one; the
negative judgment must be limited to the following: in reality A is the
same as B, there is only the appearance of distinction; B is A existing
or _presented_ differently.

[68] See Bk. V., Ch. IX.

155. The idea of relation is also absurd in the pantheistic system;
there is no _relation_ without a term of _reference_, and there is no
reference without distinction. According to the pantheists the subject
referred and the term of the reference are absolutely identical; there
are, consequently, no true, but only apparent, relations; thus we find
another of the primary facts of our understanding radically absurd,
because it is in contradiction with the reality, and even with the

156. The support of all our knowledge, the principle of contradiction,
it is impossible for the same thing to be and not to be at the same
time, is without meaning, and can have no real or possible application,
if the doctrine of pantheism be admitted. When we say that it is
impossible for the same thing to be and not be at the same time, we
understand that there is the possibility of not-being; in our mind
the idea of being excludes that of not-being only with respect to
the same thing and at the same time. If there is only one being, and
all other being is impossible, it follows that the idea of not-being
is absolutely contradictory, and all the propositions in which it is
expressed are absurd. There is in this case only one being which is
every thing, to this being negation of being can never be applied; this
negation, then, is absolutely absurd, and another idea of our mind is
absolutely contradictory.

157. The idea of contingency is also contradictory if pantheism
be admitted; all that can be is, and all that does not exist is
impossible; therefore when we distinguish contingency from necessity
we contradict both the reality and the possibility. Hence there is
another primary illusion of our mind which presents to us as possible,
and even existent, that which in itself is absurd.

158. Neither can the ideas of finite and infinite co-exist in the
system. One of them must be contradictory; if the only being is
infinite, there is and can be nothing finite; therefore the opposition
between the finite and the infinite is a chimera of our mind, to which
there is nothing in reality corresponding. There is only one thing;
it must be finite or infinite; in either case, one of these terms
must disappear, one of these ideas is contradictory, since it is in
opposition to an absolute necessity.

159. The system of absolute unity destroys the idea of order. In this
idea is contained the arrangement of distinct things, distributed in
a convenient manner to conspire to an end. If there is no distinction
there is no order, and the distinction is impossible if there is
absolute unity. The idea of order is still one of the fundamental ideas
of our mind; literary and artistic unity, and in general that of all
sensible beauty, is the unity of order: substitute for this absolute
unity, and you destroy all beauty of the imagination; art becomes
absorbed by chaos.

160. It is useless to add that pantheism destroys liberty of will; this
liberty of which we are so clearly and vividly conscious, and which
accompanies us through every moment of our existence. In this monstrous
system absolute unity is inseparable from absolute necessity; the
existent and the possible are confounded; nothing which is can cease to
be; nothing which is not can be. The action must spring from the only
substance by a spontaneous development; understanding by spontaneity
the absence of an external cause; but this action cannot but exist, it
will be an irradiation, as it were, of the only substance, just as
light radiates from luminous bodies. Without liberty of will merit is
absurd; a being that acts by absolute necessity can have no merit or
demerit. Then laws are to no purpose, rewards and punishments useless;
the history of individuals as of all mankind is only a history of the
phases of the only substance, which goes on eternally developing itself
in subjection to absolutely necessary conditions which have no other
foundation than the substance itself.

161. Pantheism not only destroys freedom of will, but it renders
unintelligible all affections which relate to _another_. If there is
only one being, what mean the sentiments of love, respect, gratitude,
and in general, all those which suppose a person distinct from the _me_
which experiences them? No matter how distinct we suppose the term
of these affections, they can never have any; and although they seem
to proceed from different principles, they spring from only one. The
man who loves one man and hates another is the _me_ loving and hating
itself; appearances denote diversity and opposition, but at bottom
there is unity, identity. Who can accept such absurdities?

162. Thus pantheism, after destroying the intellectual man,
annihilates the moral man; after declaring the fundamental ideas of
our mind contradictory, it attacks the most precious fact of our
consciousness,--the freedom of will; it destroys the sentiments of
the heart, denying our individuality, it precipitates us all into the
deep abyss of the only substance, the absolute being, confounding and
identifying us with it, till we lose within it our own existence, as
the molecules of a grain of dust are lost in the immensity of space.



163. The principal arguments on which pantheism rests are founded
on the unity of science, the universality of the idea of being, the
absoluteness and exclusiveness of the idea of substance, and the
absoluteness and exclusiveness of the conception of the infinite.

164. Science must be one, say the pantheists, and it cannot be
completely so, unless there is unity of being. Science must be certain,
and there cannot be absolute certainty, unless there is identity of the
being which knows with the thing known.

The solution of these difficulties consists in denying the gratuitous
propositions on which they are founded.

It is not true that human science must be one, nor that unity of
being is necessary for the unity of science. They must prove both
these assertions; to triumph in a discussion it is not enough to
assert. Far from either of them being sufficiently proved, they are
both contradicted by reason and by experience. It is unnecessary to
repeat here, what I have explained at full length when treating of
the possibility and existence of transcendental science as well in
the absolute intellectual order as in the human. For this I refer the
reader to the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters of the first

The second proposition which exacts the identity of the subject
knowing with the object known, has also been sufficiently refuted.
I have elsewhere shown that the system of universal identity does
not help to explain the problem of representation, and I have proved
by incontestible arguments, that besides the representation of
identity, there are the representations of causality and ideality.[69]
I have also demonstrated the objective value of ideas, in so far
as distinguished from objects, founding my proof on the unity of

[69] See Bk. I., Ch. VIII. to XIV.

[70] See Bk. I., Ch. XXV.

The doctrines of Kant which convert the external world into a purely
subjective fact, and thus give rise to Fichte's transcendental
idealism, are refuted in the second book, where I have demonstrated the
objectiveness of sensations,--in the third book, where I have proved
the reality of extension, and in the seventh book, where I have proved
that time is not a pure form of the internal sense.

165. The argument founded on the idea of the universality of being,
that is, the impossibility of more than one being, because the idea
of being is absolute and embraces every thing, is a sophism in which
there is a transition from the ideal order to the real, by which an
indeterminate and abstract idea is converted into an absolute being.
To form a perfect conception of this idea and its relations to the
reality, see what has been said in the fifth book, when treating of the
idea of being.

166. Spinosa, Fichte, Cousin, Krause, and all who have taught pantheism
under one form or another, start with a wrong definition of substance.
It is impossible to overrate the necessity of acquiring clear and
distinct ideas of this definition, for there is no doubt but that here
is the origin of the error of the pantheists, and the secret to put a
stop to their progress. When one examines profoundly the principles of
systems which have made so much noise in the philosophical world, one
is surprised at contemplating their insubsistency in its nakedness. The
doctrines summed up in Chapter XIV. should be kept always in sight.

167. In the importance and transcendency of the definition, the notion
of the infinite may compete with that of substance. It is incredible to
what extent this word has been abused without any care to explain its
different senses, or its origin, or the legitimacy of its applications.

All the arguments which the pantheists pretend to found on the idea
of the infinite vanish like smoke when we clearly understand the
character, the origin, and the application of this idea.[71]

[71] See the whole of Book VIII.

168. I will conclude with one remark. I am profoundly convinced
that the most baneful systems in philosophy arise in great part
from confusion of ideas, and the superficiality with which the most
fundamental points of ontology, ideology, and psychology are examined.
My ruling idea in the present work is to prevent this evil; this is
why I have so greatly extended the part of _fundamental philosophy_,
abstracting, as far as possible, all secondary questions. These last
are easily answered, after we have once acquired a clear and exact
knowledge of the fundamental ideas of human science. (4)





1. Beings are divided into two classes: necessary and contingent;
necessary being is that which cannot but be; contingent is that which may
be and cease to be. In these definitions every thing is said; but their
laconism does not permit all that is expressed in them to be easily
understood. Necessity and contingency may refer to different aspects
and give rise to very diverse considerations. This makes a careful
analysis of the ideas expressed by them necessary.

2. What is meant by necessity? In general that is called necessary
which cannot but be; but the expression _cannot_, may be taken in
different senses: in a moral sense, as when we say: I cannot but fulfil
this duty; in a physical, as in this proposition; a paralytic cannot
move himself; and in a metaphysical sense, as: A triangle cannot be a
quadrilateral. In the first example, the obstacle is founded on a law;
in the second, it arises from nature; in the third, it follows from the
essence of the things. In all these suppositions, necessity implies the
impossibility of the contrary, and this impossibility results from the

3. Hence it follows that the ideas necessity and impossibility are
correlative, and that is metaphysically necessary whose opposite is
metaphysically impossible. Impossibility consists in the exclusion
of one thing by another; thus, "a circular triangle is impossible,"
means the same as "the nature of a triangle excludes the nature of a
circle." In all impossibility, therefore, there is a term denied; as in
all necessity there is a term affirmed; the metaphysically necessary
is that whose opposite is contradictory; the existence of the absurd
is impossible, the non-existence of the necessary is absurd. It is
contradictory for a triangle to have four sides; and it is absurd for a
triangle not to have three angles.

4. In the purely ideal order we see many necessities without any
relation to existence; such are all geometrical truths. Even in the
real order we conceive many hypothetical necessities in contingent
beings: such are those which are obtained by applying absolute
principles to any hypothesis furnished by experience. The principle
of contradiction serves in an infinity of cases to found a certain
necessity even in contingent beings. There is no absolute necessity
of the existence of extended beings; but on the supposition that they
exist, it is necessary for them to have the properties proceeding from

5. In no finite being can there be an absolute necessity; the only
necessity which it can have is hypothetical. The relation of its
essential attributes is necessary; but, as its essence does not exist
necessarily, whatever is necessary in it is so only hypothetically,
that is, on the supposition that it exists.

6. We must then distinguish two necessities: one absolute, the other
hypothetical. The latter relates to the essences of things, abstracting
their existence, although implying it as a condition, and supposing
another necessary as the ground of its possibility;[72] the former
relates to the existence of the thing. The absolutely necessary is that
whose existence is absolutely necessary.

[72] See Bk. IV., Chs. XXIII., XXIV., XXV., XXVI., and XXVII.

7. The essence of the necessary being must contain existence; its idea
must involve the idea of existence, not only logical and conceptual,
but also realized.

8. We can conceive the existence of the necessary being distinct from
its essence, but the reason of this is in the imperfection of the idea,
which with us is not intuitive, but discursive; and consequently, we
can distinguish between the logical order and the real order.

Here we find the defect of Descartes' argument by which he pretends
to demonstrate the existence of God from the fact that the predicate,
existence, is included in the idea of a necessary and infinite being.
The idea of necessary being involves existence, but not real existence,
only logical and conceptual; since after we have the idea of the
necessary being, it still remains to be proved that there is an object
which corresponds to this idea; the predicate belongs to the subject
according to the manner in which the subject is taken, and as this is
only in the purely ideal order, the predicate is also purely ideal.

9. The reality of the necessary idea cannot be demonstrated from its
idea alone; but it may be demonstrated with complete evidence by
introducing into the argument other elements which experience furnishes

Something exists; at least ourselves; at least this perception which we
have in this act; at least the appearance of this act. I leave aside
for the present all the questions disputed between the dogmatists
and the skeptics; I only suppose a _datum_ which no one can deny me,
though he carry skepticism to the utmost exaggeration. When I say that
something exists, I only mean to affirm that not every thing is a pure

If something exists, something has always existed, or there is no
moment in which it could be said with truth: there is nothing. If
such a moment of universal nothingness had ever been, nothing would
now exist, there never could have been any thing. Let us imagine a
universal and absolute nothingness; I then ask: Is it possible that
any thing should come from nothing? Evidently not; therefore on the
supposition of universal nothingness reality is absurd.

10. Therefore something has always existed, with a cause, without a
condition on which it depends; therefore there is a necessary being.
Its existence is supposed always, without relation to any hypothesis;
therefore its _not-being_ is always excluded under all conditions;
therefore there exists an absolutely necessary _being_, that is, a
being whose _not-being_ implies a contradiction.

11. Summing up the doctrine which precedes, we may say:

I. That we have the idea of a necessary being.

II. That we deduce its existence from its idea alone.

III. That in order to demonstrate the existence of a necessary being,
it is sufficient to know that something exists.

IV. We know by experience that something exists; for experience
presents to us, if nothing else, the existence of our own thought.



12. The words, conditioned and unconditioned, are greatly used in
modern philosophy; as the ideas which these terms express have a great
analogy to those explained in the last chapter, I will briefly consider
them here.

13. The conditioned is that which depends on a condition; that is
to say, that which is supposed if another thing, which is called
the condition, is supposed. If the sun is above the horizon, there
is light; here the light is the conditioned, the sun the condition.
The unconditioned is that which supposes no condition, as its name

14. The universe is an assemblage of conditioned beings; this is
manifested by both internal and external experience: does any thing
unconditioned exist? Yes.

15. Representing the universe by a series A, B, C, D, E, F, ...
etc., the condition of F is in E; the condition of E in D; that of
D in C; that of C in B, and so on successively. If there is nothing
unconditioned this retrogression will extend to infinity, and we shall
have an infinite series of conditioned terms.

To arrive at any term, for example, B, it will have been necessary to
pass through the infinite conditions which precede it: the infinite
series will have been exhausted: this is contradictory. And as what
is said of B may be said of A, or of any other of the preceding or
succeeding terms, it follows that they are all impossible: therefore
the series is absurd.

16. In the supposed series all is conditioned, there is nothing
unconditioned; and still the existence of its successive totality is
necessary. Therefore the series in itself is unconditioned; therefore
a collection of conditioned terms is unconditioned, although it is
supposed impossible to assign any thing, out of the series, which is
unconditioned. Who would admit such an absurdity?

17. Let us give a more precise formula to the argument. Taking any
three terms in the series; A ... F ... N, we may form the following

  If A exists, F and N will exist.
  If N exists, F and A have existed.
  If F exists, A has existed and N will exist.

Objections.--I. Whence arises the connection of the conditions with one

II. Why should any one of them be supposed?

18. By admitting a necessary, unconditioned being which contains the
condition of whatever exists, every thing is explained. To the first
objection it may be answered, that the connection of the _conditioned_
conditions depends on the _unconditioned_ condition. To the second,
it may be said that the primitive condition has no need of any other
condition, supposing it to be a necessary being. To ask _why_ it should
be supposed, is to fall into a contradiction; since it is unconditioned
it has no _why_, the reason of its existence is in itself.

19. But if we admit nothing necessary, nothing unconditioned, neither
the terms nor their connection can be explained. Infinite terms would
exist, necessarily connected, with any internal or external sufficient
reason. There would be no more reason for the existence of the universe
than for its non-existence; being and nonentity would be indifferent to
it; and it cannot be conceived why existence should have prevailed. For
nothing it is evident that nothing is required; why then is there not
an absolute and eternal nothing?

20. The more we examine the necessity of the connection of the
conditions, one with another, the stronger this difficulty becomes; for
if it be said that one condition cannot exist without another; with
still more reason we ask why a first condition is not necessary for the
collection of the conditions, or the entire series.

21. Therefore the conditioned supposes the unconditioned; the first
given, we can conclude the second. The conditioned is given us in
the external and in the internal world. Therefore there exists an
unconditioned being, whose existence has no reason in any thing outside
of itself.



22. The absolutely necessary and unconditioned is immutable. For
its existence _is_, or, to speak in modern language, is _supposed_
absolutely, by intrinsic necessity, without any condition; and
with this existence its _state_ is also supposed. We abstract for
the present the nature of this state, whether it be of this or
that perfection, this or that degree, or even finite or infinite.
Its existence being supposed unconditionally, its state is
supposed unconditionally also; therefore as its _non-existence_ is
contradictory, (Ch. I.) its _no-state_ is also contradictory. Change
is only a transition from one state to another state which implies
the _no-state_ of the first; therefore change in the necessary is

23. In order to present this in a clearer and more precise manner, we
will call E the necessary and unconditioned being. As E is supposed
absolutely by intrinsic necessity, without any condition, the _not-E_
must be contradictory. E is not abstract but real being, consequently
it must have certain perfections, as intelligence, will, activity,
or any other whatever; and it must have these perfections in a
certain degree, abstracting for the present, whether it be greater or
less, finite or infinite. With the absolute existence of E a state
of perfection, which we shall call N, is also supposed. What has
determined the state N? By the supposition, it can have been determined
by nothing; since the state is unconditioned. Therefore, if the state N
is absolutely and necessarily, the _not-N_ is contradictory. Therefore
the change by which E would pass from N to _not-N_ is contradictory.

24. But let us for a moment suppose a change in the necessary being,
and suppose it to have proceeded from this being itself. As the
reason of the change must be necessary and eternal, we should have to
admit an infinite series of evolutions, and should again fall into
the impossibility of reconciling the infinity of the series with the
existence of any one of its terms.[73]

[73] See Ch. II.

25. Thus it is demonstrated that the necessary and unconditioned being
can suffer no change which would cause it to lose its primitive state.

The necessary being can lose nothing; it cannot pass from N to _not-N_;
but who knows but what it is possible that without losing N, or
passing to _not-N_, it might acquire something which could be united
to N in one way or another. In other words; N being given, _not-N_
is contradictory, but would N + P be contradictory, P expressing a
perfection, or degree of perfection? This would be impossible; because
P which is added must emanate from N; therefore all that is in P was
already in N; therefore there has been no change, and to suppose it is

26. It may be replied that P was in N virtually, and that the new state
only adds a new form. But does this form, as such, involve something
_new_ in reality? Either it does or it does not: if it does not, there
is no change; if it does, it was either contained in N or not contained
in it; if contained in it, there is no change; if not contained in it,
whence does it come?

27. To elude this demonstration, some have imagined various necessary
beings acting on each other, and mutually producing changes in each
other,--by this means they attempt to explain whence the _new_ states
come. But these are not only fictions, and evidently groundless cavils
in contradiction with the principles of ontology, but they may be
destroyed by one conclusive argument.

Let A, B, C, D, be the necessary and unconditioned beings; each
is supposed absolutely, and with primitive states, which we shall
respectively call _a_, _b_, _c_, _d_. Then, taking them in their
primitive state, the collection of the existences will be united with
a collection of necessary and unconditioned states, which we may
represent in this formula: A_a_, B_b_, C_c_, D_d_, (1.) This expression
represents a primitive, necessary, and unconditioned state: now I
ask: whence come the changes? All is unconditioned; how then is the
conditioned, the mutable introduced?

28. The force of the argument is not weakened by supposing the
primitive and mutual action of A, B, C, D, to be implied in the
primitive states _a_, _b_, _c_, _d_. For the mutual actions, being
primitive and absolute, would produce primitively and absolutely a
result in their respective terms. This result would be primitively
necessary, and would be contained in the formula. (1.) Therefore
the formula would suffer no variation by the new supposition; and
consequently there would have been no change of any kind.

29. By imagining that the mutual action does not suppose a primitive
state, but a successive series of states, we fall into the infinite
series, and consequently into the impossibility of arriving at any term
of it, without supposing the infinity to be exhausted, (Ch. II.).

30. Again, the essences of the necessary and unconditioned beings A, B,
C, D, being distinct, what reason is there for supposing them to be in
relations of activity? What is the ground of this relation if they are
all four necessary, unconditioned, and therefore independent of each

31. But let us leave such absurdities, and go on with our analysis of
the idea of a necessary and unconditioned being. Immutability excludes
perfectibility, so that it is necessary either to suppose the summit
of perfection primitively in the necessary being, or to admit that
it can never attain this perfection. Perfectibility is one of the
characteristics of the contingent, which improves its mode of being by
a series of transformations; the absolutely necessary is what it is,
and can be nothing else.

32. The contingent must emanate from the necessary, the conditioned
from the unconditioned; therefore all perfections, of whatever order,
must be found in the necessary and unconditioned being; therefore
all the perfections of existing reality must be in it, at least,
_virtually_, and those which imply no imperfection must be contained in
it _formally_.[74]

[74] See Bk. VIII., Ch. XX. to the end.

33. The possibility of the non-existent must have a foundation;[75]
possible perfections must exist in a real being, if their idea is
possible; therefore the infinite scale of perfections, which we
conceive in the order of pure possibility, besides those which exist,
must be realized in the necessary and unconditioned being.

[75] See Bk. IV., Chs. XXII. to XXVIII., and Bk. V., Chs. VII. and VIII.



34. We have the idea of cause; the continual use which we are always
making of it shows this. Philosophers do not alone possess it; it is
the inheritance of mankind. But what do we understand by cause? All
that makes any thing pass from not-being to being, as the effect is all
that which passes from not-being to being. I am not now considering
whether that which passes from not-being to being is substance or
accident, nor the manner in which the cause influences this transition.
Hence the definition includes every class of cause, and every species
of causality.

35. The idea of cause contains:

I. The idea of being.

II. The relation to that which passes from not-being to being, as of a
condition to the conditioned.

The idea of effect contains:

I. The idea of being.

II. The idea of the transition from not-being to being.

III. The relation to the cause, as of the conditioned to the condition.

36. Axiom I.--Nothing cannot be a cause; or in other terms: every cause
is a being, or exists.

37. I say that this is an axiom, because it cannot be demonstrated,
since the predicate existence, is evidently contained in the idea of
cause. That which is a cause, is; if it is not, it is not a cause. To
affirm the cause and deny that it is, is to affirm and deny at the same
time. Therefore this proposition is an axiom. To be convinced of its
truth, we need only to attend to the ideas of cause and effect, and we
see the idea of being evidently contained in the idea of cause. The
explanation which I give must not be regarded as a demonstration, but
as an illustration, for the purpose of better comparing the two ideas.
Whoever compares them as he ought will want no demonstration, he will
see it intuitively, and this is what constitutes the character of an

38. Axiom II.--There is no effect without a cause.

39. To understand the sense of this axiom it must be observed, that
here the word _effect_ only means that which passes from not-being
to being, whether it be caused or not; for, if by effect was meant a
thing caused, the axiom would be an identical and useless proposition.
Substituting for effect its meaning, it would be, "There is nothing
caused without being caused,"--which is very true, but of no use. The
sense then is this: whatever passes from not-being to being, requires
something distinct from itself, which produces this transition.

40. I say that this proposition is an axiom, and to be convinced of
it, we need only fix our attention upon the ideas contained in it. Let
us consider a thing that is, and transfer it to the time when it was
not. Let us abstract all that which is not it, let us suppose no other
being which may have produced it or taken part in its production; I
assert that we see evidently that the transition to being, will never
be made. Not only is it impossible for us to make the object emanate
from the pure idea of its not-being, but we also see that it can never
emanate from it. There is no being, no action, no production of any
kind; there is pure nothing; whence will the being emanate? The truth,
of the proposition is then intuitively presented to us: we not only do
not see the possibility of the apparition of being in the pure idea
of not-being by itself, but we see in this idea the impossibility of
this apparition. They are ideas which exclude each other; not-being is
possible only by the exclusion of being, and _vice versa_.

41. When we conceive a productive action, we either refer it to the
thing which from not-being must pass to being, or to something distinct
from this. In the first case, we fall into contradiction; because we
suppose an action and do not suppose it, since there is no action in
pure nothing. Let us suppose that the thing is cause before being; we
then find ourselves in contradiction with Axiom I, (§ 36). In the
second case, we already conceive the cause, since cause is only that
which produces the transition from not-being to being.

42. The common expression, "ex nihilo nihil fit," is a truth, if
understood in the sense of Axiom II.



43. Are there in the world any cause and effect? This is equivalent to
asking whether there is any change in the world. All change involves a
transition from not-being to being. The least change is inconceivable
without this transition. Whatever is changed is, after changing, in
_another_ way than it was before the change; therefore it has this mode
of being which it had not before. This mode did not exist _before_, it
exists _now_; it has passed, therefore, from not-being to being.

44. Even if we were not in relation with the external world, and our
mind was confined to internal facts alone, to the consciousness of the
_me_ and its modifications, we should know that there is transition
from not-being to being, by the testimony of the successive appearance
of new perceptions and affections. Within ourselves we experience the
ebb and flow of modifications which pass from not-being to being, and
from being to not-being.

45. It is clear, from what has been said, that the ideas of cause and
effect suppose a real or possible order of contingent beings. If there
were only necessary and immutable beings, there could be no causes and

46. I said (Chap. IV.) that the idea of cause contains the idea of
being and the idea of relation to the not-being which has passed or
passes to being. The idea of cause is not a simple idea; it is composed
of these two. The idea of being alone is not sufficient to constitute
it; for we may conceive being without conceiving cause. What the idea
of cause adds to the idea of being is something distinct from the
idea of being, and not contained in it; it may be called causality,
power, productive force, activity, or any such term; they all express
the relation of one being to realize in another the transition from
not-being to being.

47. In the idea of causality is likewise included another simple idea,
which, though accompanying the idea of being, must not be confounded
with it. If any one should call it a modification of the idea of being,
I should have no objection.

48. Whence does the idea of causality arise? The mere intuition of the
idea of being does not seem sufficient to produce it. The idea of being
is simple, it expresses nothing but being; we can, therefore, find in
it no relation to the transition from not-being to being.

49. Does it, perchance, spring from experience? Here we must
distinguish between the idea of causality, and the knowledge of the
existence of the cause. Experience reveals the succession of beings,
that is, their transition from not-being to being, and _vice versa_.
We have already remarked that in the intuition of not-being with
relation to being we see the impossibility of a transition, without the
mediation of some being which executes it; therefore the certainty of
the existence of the cause arises from experience, combined with the
intuition of the ideas of being and not-being.

50. If this experience did not exist, we should not know that causality
is possible; because in the idea of being, as we possess it, we do
not see the idea of force: we might perhaps conceive the force, but
we could not know whether any thing in reality corresponds to it. We
should thus have the _notion_ of the force, but not the _notice_ of its
existence, nor even the certainty of its possibility.

51. But if we examine it well, this want of experience is an impossible
supposition; because a limited intelligent being, as uniting
intelligence with limitation, feels the succession of its perceptions,
and, consequently, experiences within itself the transition from
a not-being to being. And as, on the other hand, it perceives its
power of combining ideas, it perceives within itself the existence of
causality, of a power which produces its reflections.

52. The exercise of our will, whether with respect to internal or
external acts, likewise gives us the knowledge of the dependence of
some things upon others; and the impressions which we receive without
our will, or against it, confirm us in this conviction. Without this
experience we should see the succession of the phenomena, but should
not know their relations of causality; for it is clear that the
inclination to assign as the cause of a phenomenon that which preceded
it, supposes the idea of cause and the knowledge of the dependence of
the phenomena in the relation of causes and effects.

53. Some philosophers say that man has no idea of the creation, from
which, without intending it, they come to the conclusion that we have
not the idea of any cause. By creation is meant the transition of a
substance from not-being to being, by virtue of the productive action
of another substance. I hold that this is only the idea of causality
in its highest degree, that is, as applied to the production of a
substance; but since therefore we have the idea of cause, the idea
of creation is not a new and inconceivable idea, but a perfection of
an idea which is common to all mankind. We have seen that the idea
of cause contains the idea of producing a transition from not-being
to being; this power is an attribute of every active being, but with
this difference, that finite causes have only the power to produce
modifications, whilst the infinite cause has also the power to produce

54. Here we find the same thing as in other branches of our
philosophical cognitions: the idea of the essence pertains to reason,
the knowledge of its existence depends on experience. The first is
independent of the second, and we may reason on the essence by means
of the condition of existence, that is, by means of a postulate.[76]
We always have this postulate, if in nothing else, at least in the
phenomena of our consciousness.

[76] See Bk. V., Chs. VII. and VIII.



55. The principle of causality, or the proposition: all that commences
must have a cause; has been somewhat disputed latterly; hence it is
necessary for us to place it beyond the reach of attack. I believe
it possible to do this, by presenting the doctrine of the preceding
chapters under a clear point of view, which shall drive away all doubt
and clear up all difficulty. I beg the reader's attention for a few
moments to the argument which I am going to propose.

56. Let us take any being, A. In order that the principle of causality
may be applied to it it is necessary that it should have begun to be,
and that it should not have existed before; for, if we do not suppose
this beginning, A must have existed always.

We can then assign a duration in which A was not, and in which there
was not-A. Therefore in the order of duration there has been a little
series of two terms:

  not-A ... A.

To begin is to pass from the first term, not-A to A. The principle of
causality says: the transition from the first term to the second is not
possible without the intervention of a third term, B, which must be
something real.

57. What does the term not-A represent by itself alone? the pure
negation of A, the mere nonentity of A. In the conception of not-A,
instead of A, we find its contradictory term; so that, instead of the
second being contained in the former, they mutually exclude each other,
and make the proposition: it is impossible for not-A and A to exist at
the same time, absolutely true. Thus it is impossible for A ever to
emanate from the conception not-A, and consequently without a real term
to produce the transition it is impossible to pass from not-A to A,
even in the purely ideal order.

58. Observe, however, that I do not pretend to say that, conceiving
not-A so as to deny A as known, it would be impossible to conceive
A; for it is evident that whoever conceives not-A, must have just
conceived A, and he might conceive it entirely alone, by simply
destroying the negation; but I say that on the supposition that there
is an absolute conception of not-A, conformed to the absolute objective
not-A, A could never emanate from this conception; and if we reflect on
it we shall see that there could not even be this conception, since the
thought of pure negation is no thought, no conception. There would then
be an absolute absence of conception; and in the purely ideal order,
we should find ourselves in the first term of the series, in a pure
negation, in not-A, without any means of passing to the second term, A.

59. Those, then, who deny the principle of causality, conceive the
transition from not-A to A without any reason, or any intermediary:
those who deny creation, admit what is a thousand times more
incomprehensible than creation. Whence do they infer the possibility of
this transition? Not from experience; because experience presents only
succession, and therefore not absolute appearance in the manner which
they suppose: not from reason; because reason cannot make a positive
conception emanate from a pure negation.

60. How is the transition from not-A to A effected? Those who admit
the principle of causality, say it is effected by the action of B,
which they call the cause. If it is a substance which is produced, they
suppose the intervention of an infinite power. But those who deny the
principle of causality can only answer that the transition from not-A
to A is made absolutely. They imagine the instant M, in which A did
not exist; and then the instant N, in which A exists. But why? They
allege no reason: without their knowing how, A has arisen from nothing,
without the action of any thing. This is a manifest contradiction.

61. The principle of causality is founded on the pure ideas of being
and not-being. Suppose only not-being, and we see evidently that
being cannot begin. The principle then is purely ontological: those
who, in order to establish, or oppose it, appeal _only_ to reasons of
experience, put the question badly; they take it from its true field;
they confound the _notice_ of causality with the _notion_ or idea of

Those philosophers who keep within the sensible order, cannot give a
solid foundation to this principle; for this reason, they who admit
no other ideas than sensations, have all fallen into errors or doubts
on this point; and all sensists would have fallen into the same doubt
if they had only been logical enough to draw the last consequences of
their doctrine.



62. The transition from not-being to being implies succession: to
conceive that something begins, we must conceive that something did not
exist. The series

  not-A, A,

has no sense if either term is wanting; and these terms, inasmuch as
they are contradictory, cannot exist at the same time.

63. Let us imagine absolute nothingness. The first term, not-A, stands
alone. All existence is denied: nothing can be affirmed without
contradicting the supposition. Then there is no time; for time being
only the succession of things, or of being and not-being,[77] cannot
exist when there is nothing which can succeed. If we suppose any thing
to begin, we establish the series not-A, A; in which case we imagine
two different instants M and N, to which the terms of the series
respectively correspond in this manner:

[77] See Bk. VII.

  not-A .. A.
  M .... N.

It may be said with truth: M is not N. What is the meaning of this
proposition? Since time and duration in general is not distinct from
the things that endure[78], N can only represent the existence of A,
in relation to not-A; M in the same manner can represent only not-A,
in relation to A. Hence the conception of A, in so far as it begins,
contains the relation to not-A, without which it could not be conceived
as _begun_.

[78] See Bk. VII., Chs. IV. and V.

64. What we have explained is conceivable on the supposition at least
of one intelligence; because this intelligence would refer not-A
and A to their proper duration, successively, if this duration were
successive like ours; in some other way, if this duration were not
successive. But if there is absolutely nothing, the series, not-A ...
A, is inconceivable, since the relation of A, in so far as it begins,
has no real or conceived term of comparison, unless we imagine a pure
time, entirely empty, in which we suppose the terms of the series to be

65. Thus it seems that by the mere fact of thinking A, in so far
as begun, we think also a preceding existence, because there is no
beginning unless not-A preceded A; and this precedence means nothing
unless there is an existence to which it relates, either as to a
successive series, or as to an immutable duration.

66. If A must be preceded by an existence B, then nothing can begin
independently of a preceding existence, or unless something already
exists; or the simple conception of succession implies the necessity of
something _always_ existing, in order that something may begin.

67. As duration is nothing distinct from things, the two terms of
the series, B, A, of which one precedes the other, cannot be placed
in an absolute duration distinct from the things themselves, as in
two distinct instants, independently of the things. The relation,
then, which exists between B and A is not a relation of one instant
to another, since the instants in themselves are nothing, but of one
thing to another. Therefore A, inasmuch as it begins, has a necessary
relation to B. Therefore B is the necessary condition of the existence
of A. Therefore it is demonstrated that every being which begins,
depends on an existent being.

68. This demonstration, though differently developed, is found in
the works of Baron Pascual Galuppi, Professor of Philosophy in the
University of Naples;[79] and although it is impossible to deny that
it is very profound, still it does not leave the understanding wholly
satisfied. These are the words of the Italian philosopher:

[79] _Lett. filos. sulle vicissit. della filosofia_, Lettera XIV.

"Is the proposition: there is no effect without a cause, an identical
proposition? I have demonstrated its identity in this manner: whatever
has a beginning of existence must have been preceded either by an
empty time or by a being; because otherwise the thing of which we are
speaking would be the first existence, and the first letter of the
alphabet of beings, and it could not be said that it begins to be, for
the notion of _beginning of existence_ implies a priority in relation
to the being which begins. These two notions, _existence begun_, and
_existence preceded by another_, are then identical; but is it possible
for an existence to be preceded by an empty time? I have proved that
an empty duration is a chimera, a product of the imagination, without
any reality. The development of this proof, which I shall not give in
this place, may be found in my _Essays on the Critique of Knowledge_.
I have there established that time is nothing else than the _number
of productions_. Aristotle said that time was the _number of motion_.
Therefore an _existence begun is an existence preceded by another
existence_. This proposition is identical; but how can an existence
be preceded by another? Is that which precedes, perchance, found in
an instant of time prior to that in which that which is preceded is
found? Then we fall again into the doctrine of a time distinct from
existent things. Thus we must admit that the existence which precedes
is such as to make the existence preceded _existence begun_. It is not
begun because it is preceded; the _priority_ of the existence which
precedes, is a priority of _nature_, an objective priority, which makes
the beginning of the existence which is preceded; it is therefore
the _efficient cause_ of this existence. Thus the great principle
of causality stands invincibly demonstrated,--it is an identical

69. I say again that this demonstration does not leave one wholly
satisfied; not because it is not conclusive in itself, but because
it needs greater development. The nerve of the proof is in the
impossibility of conceiving a _beginning_, without conceiving something
pre-existent; or to conceive precedency, without the relation of that
which begins to that which pre-exists. It is not easy to conceive how
from this may be inferred the intrinsic dependence of the things;
and founding the argument upon so difficult an idea as that of time,
greatly increases the doubt.

70. Let us suppose the world to exist, and something to begin now.
Precedence is then conceived without dependence. This, in fact,
happens continually; since beings are continually beginning which are
preceded by others on which they do not depend. It may be said that
they do not depend on all those which precede them, but still they
depend on one of them. This is precisely what is to be proved. In
order to prove that the principle of causality is demonstrated by the
mere idea of the order of duration, it is necessary to prove that the
relation of precedence is a relation of dependence. That which begins
supposes something: certainly; but it remains to be proved that it
depends on this thing as on something producing it, and not only as on
a condition which makes the conception of beginning possible for us.
Until it is proved that the _action_ of a being is indispensable for
the transition from not-being to being, the principle of causality does
not seem to be proved, but only that of precedency; and as the order
of things in duration, as priority and posteriority, can represent no
other dependence than that of pure succession, it would follow that if
we should confine ourselves to precedency, we should not prove that
every thing that begins must depend on another, but that every thing
that begins must succeed another; this last is not the principle of
causality, but of succession.

71. We will make these ideas clearer. The difficulty raised against
the former demonstration will be better understood, if we observe
that those who reject the principle of causality, do not conceive it
impossible for _any_ thing to begin at _any_ moment without any cause.
Let us represent the successive beings of the universe by the series
... A, B, C, D, E, ... and the times in which they exist, by the series
... _a_, _b_, _c_, _d_, _e_.... According to the demonstration which we
are examining, no term could have begun, unless another had preceded
it; wherefore, D _begun_ means the same as D _preceded_. Therefore D
has a necessary relation to C, because the instants _d_ and _c_ are
nothing in themselves, as distinguished from D and C.

Any one who does not admit the principle of causality will say that
D may begin without any dependence on C; and that in order that the
conception of beginning may be possible, it is only necessary that
there should _always_ have been something existing, although the terms
_preceding_ and those _preceded_ have no relation to each other. Thus
as the order of beings is represented by the series ... A, B, C, D,
E, ... another series ... M, N, P, Q, R, ... may be imagined, to both
of which the series ... _a_, _b_, _c_, _d_, _e_, ... corresponds.
Then D may begin without any _necessary_ dependence on C, for it is
sufficient that P pre-exists at the instant _c_, in order to make the
conception of beginning possible for us; in which case, D will have
no _necessary_ relation, either to C or to P; since the precedence
of either is sufficient. And as it is evident that what we have said
of C and P may be said of any other terms of these or other series,
it follows that the demonstration only leads us to the necessity of
conceiving something _pre-existent_; and this only in order to make
the conception of a beginning possible. If to this we add the peculiar
difficulty proceeding from the nature of the ideas of time and of all
duration, I think we must conclude that the demonstration is not so
satisfactory as might be desired. Those who have not examined the idea
of time very profoundly will scarcely understand the meaning of the
proof; the others will see the contradiction involved in an absolute
beginning demonstrated, and therefore the necessity of something having
been _always_ existing; but not the intrinsic dependence implied in
the relation of an effect to a cause. These difficulties render a more
rigorous and profound examination necessary.

72. The principle of precedency leads us to an important result. Our
understanding conceives absolutely an external existence; since it is
impossible for it to conceive an absolute beginning without a preceding

73. The conception of absolute nothing is impossible. I. Because this
conception would be entirely void, or rather, the absence of all
conception. We conceive negation relatively to an existence,[80] but
not absolutely. II. Because a conception is not possible without
consciousness, and consciousness implies the idea of a being, of
something, and this is contradictory of absolute nothing.

[80] See Book V., Chap. IX.

74. Unable to conceive absolute nothing, we always conceive something
existing; and since, as we have demonstrated, we cannot conceive an
absolute beginning, it follows that we cannot think without our thought
implying an eternal existence.

How luminous a truth! What reflections it inspires! Let us continue to
meditate on it.

75. Hence the necessity of thinking the necessary and eternal is a
primitive fact of our mind, and the confusion which we feel in thinking
on duration in the abstract, and the inclination to imagine time
before the world existed, arise from the necessity of conceiving the
eternal,--a necessity, from which our mind cannot emancipate itself so
long as it thinks.

76. The basis of the principle of contradiction, the idea of being,
is found in our conceptions in an absolute manner; its opposite, the
conception of not-being is found only in relation to the contingent,
and is a sort of condition implied by contingency.

77. Every thing contingent includes some not-being, so far as
contingent it can _not be_, and therefore its not-being is at least
in the order of possibility. But these transitions from not-being to
being are not even conceivable without presupposing something existing,
necessary, and eternal.

78. Thus in our ideas we find being as absolute, and not-being only as
relative; and we can conceive being which has proceeded from not-being,
or has begun, only in relation to an absolute being.

79. This relation considered objectively does not seem at first sight
to be the relation of causality, but only of succession; but it
presents a subjective fact which brings us to the knowledge of the
objective truth. Our conceptions of not-being and being are connected
in such sort that we cannot conceive the transition from not-being to
being without conceiving a pre-existent being: here we find a reflex
of objective causality which is revealed to us in subjective facts.
Duration, as distinct from things, is a pure imagination; the relation
of durations is therefore a relation of beings. True, in this relation
of durations we discover only succession, and not intrinsic dependence;
but this dependence, though not known intuitively, is represented in
the very connection in which we conceive beings in duration. It is
certain that we can imagine different series; but that of time is a
pure imagination in so far as we conceive it distinct from others.
If the series of times disappears, there remains only the series of
things: the relation between the terms will be the relation between the
things; and what is called the dependence of _succession_ will be the
dependence of _reality_. The real relation of that which passes from
not-being to being, with that which is absolutely, is a dependence of

80. Let us imagine any series of realities. A, B, C, D, E, ... M, N, P,
Q, R....

The series of times _a_, _b_, _c_, _d_, _e_, in so far as distinct
from the others, means nothing. In this case it may be eliminated, and
all the relations of some of the terms on others will be relations of
things, not of time.

Now, it has been demonstrated that a term, D, for example, cannot
be conceived as passing from not-being to being, or as beginning,
without a relation, and it has been shown that this relation is a real
relation of D to any of the terms. It has been objected that D, in
order to begin, requires only a term which would make the conception of
priority, and consequently, of beginning, possible, which term might be
sought in another distinct series; but this is really only to change a
name; for, if the term which is necessary for the beginning is found in
another series, the cause is found in it also, for in it is found that
which is necessary for the effect.

81. All the terms begun presuppose another, either one or more, for
we here abstract their unity; therefore we must come at last to one
or more terms not begun. Those which have begun could not have begun
without the existence of those which have not begun; therefore the
existence of these is necessary for the existence of those. Therefore
the existence of these last contains the reasons of the beginning of
the existence of the others; therefore they contain true causality.

82. The difficulties opposed to this demonstration arise from
inadvertently violating the supposition by attributing to duration an
existence distinct from the beings. In order to perceive the whole
force of the proof, it is necessary to eliminate entirely the imaginary
conception of pure duration: and then it will be seen that the
dependence represented as the relation of duration is the dependence of
the beings themselves,--a dependence which represents nothing else than
the relation expressed by the principle of causality.

83. After completely eliminating the conception of pure duration as a
thing distinct from the beings, there remains only the transition from
not-being to being as all that is expressed by the word, beginning.
In this case we find that the principle of precedency is the same as
the principle of causality; and as we have had to abstract entirely
duration in itself in order to solve the difficulties, we find that if
the principle of causality is to be placed beyond all doubt, and to be
regarded as an axiom, it can only rest on the contradiction between
not-being and being, or the impossibility of conceiving a being which
suddenly makes its appearance, without any thing more than a pure
not-being preceding it.

84. Thus, after examining the question on every side, we come to what
we established in the preceding chapters: a not-being cannot arrive
at being without the intervention of a being: the series not-A, A, is
impossible without the intervention of a being, B. We find it so even
in our ideas, and to contradict this truth is to deny our reason.

I believe, then, that the principle of causality is completely
explained only in the manner in which we have treated it in the
preceding chapters. To begin supposes a not-being of that which
begins; and it is impossible and contradictory to deduce being from
the conception of not-being. The principle is true subjectively,
because it is founded on our ideas; but it is also true objectively,
because in these cases objectiveness is necessarily joined with
subjectiveness.[81] The being which suddenly appears, without a cause,
without a reason, without any thing, is an absurd representation which
our intellect rejects as instantly and as strongly as it accepts the
principle of contradiction.

[81] See Bk. I., Chap. XXV.

As time is the relation of not-being to being--the order of the
variable--it is a contradiction to conceive succession without any
thing which pre-exists; and thus the principle of precedency confirms
the principle of causality; or rather, it shows that the two are one,
though presented under different aspects: the principle of precedency
relates to duration, that of causality to being; but both of them
express an application of the fundamental principle: it is impossible
for the same thing to be and not be at the same time.



85. Causality implies relation: if in exercise, it implies actual
relation; considered not in exercise, but _in potentia_, it implies a
possible relation. Nothing causes itself; causality always relates to
another. There is no cause where there is no effect; and there is no
effect where there is no transition from not-being to being. If this
transition takes place in a substance which was not, but begins to be,
it is called creation; and is said to be passive, relatively to the
effect, and active, in relation to the cause. If the transition is of
accidents only, the effect is a _new_ modification; we do not then say
that there is a new being, but that the being is _in another manner_.

86. From this it may be inferred that causality is not the same
as activity: all causality is activity, but not all activity is
causality. God is active in himself; but he is cause only in relation
to the external. His intelligence and his will are certainly infinite
activity, considered in themselves, and abstracted from creation, as
we conceive God from all eternity before the beginning of the world;
yet, inasmuch as they are purely immanent, they are causality, for they
produce nothing new in God. His intelligence is a pure act, infinitely
perfect, and can never suffer any change; the same must be said of
his will: therefore the divine intelligence and will with respect to
God himself are not acts of causality. Even as referred to external
objects, they are a producing cause in reality, only by subjection to
the free will of the Creator; for otherwise we should have to admit
that God created the world necessarily.

Activity in creatures, even in immanent operations, is always
causality; for they cannot exercise their activity without producing
new modifications. Acts of understanding and will are the exercise of
an immanent activity, and yet they modify us in different ways. When we
think or will we are in _a different manner_ from that in which we are
when we do not think or will; and when we pass from thinking or willing
one thing to think or will another, this transition cannot take place
without our experiencing _new modes_ of being.

87. In what does the relation of efficient causality consist? What is
the meaning of the dependence of the effect in relation to the cause?
This is a difficult and a profound question; one of the most difficult
and most profound which can be presented to science. The majority of
men and even of philosophers imagine that they can solve it, by using
words which, rightly analyzed, explain nothing.

88. To cause, it is said, is to give being. What means to give? To give
is here synonymous with to produce. What means to produce? With this
the explanations are at an end, unless one should wish to fall into a
vicious circle, saying that to produce is to cause or give being.

A cause, it is also said, is that from which a thing results. What is
understood by resulting? To emanate. What is to emanate? To emanate is
to proceed, to flow from another. Always the same thing: metaphorical
expressions which at bottom have all the same meaning.

It is said that a cause is that which _gives_, _produces_, _makes_,
_communicates_, _generates_, etc., and that an effect is that which
_receives_, _proceeds_, _emanates_, _results_, _flows_, _comes_,
_springs_, etc.

89. Causality implies succession, but is not identified with it. We can
clearly conceive that B is after A, without A being the cause of B.

Internal and external experience present continual examples of
succession distinct from causality. A man goes out into the field,
another follows him: between the going out of both there is succession,
but there may be no causality. The two phenomena, whether considered
objectively in themselves, or subjectively, as known by us, are
connected by the relation of succession, but not by that of causality.
There is as great a difference in philosophy as in ordinary language
between _post_ and _propter_, _after_ and _because_ of. The same is
true in purely internal phenomena. I think of a question of philosophy,
and then pass to a literary question: the two thoughts are successive,
but one is not the cause of the other.

90. The relation of causality is not the connection of the ideas of
things. The representations of A and B may be strongly connected in
our mind without our even thinking of the relation of causality. We
have seen in a place a scene which made a profound impression on us;
ever afterwards the remembrance of the place recalls the scene, and
the recollection of the scene reminds us of the place; here we find
two internal representations strongly connected, without our therefore
attributing to the objects the relation of causality. We know that two
persons arrive at the same place and without the coming of the one
influencing the coming of the other. The idea of the coming of the
one will be associated in the mind with the idea of the coming of the
other. There will then be a connection of representations, although we
deny to the objects the relation of causality.

91. Although the connection of the ideas in our understanding may,
in consequence of a constant experience, be such that one is always
preceded by the other, as the conditioned is by the condition, this
is not enough for true causality. An observer may have remarked the
correspondence of the ebb and flow of the tide with the motion of the
moon; but whether for reasons of philosophy, or because it has never
occurred to him that the motion of the moon could influence the motion
of the sea, he considers these phenomena entirely independent of one
another, although he may try hard to explain so strange a coincidence.
In the mind of this observer the two phenomena will be always joined,
in such a way that the phenomenon of the moon will always be that of
the ebb and flow, without its being possible to invert the order and
make the ebb and flow precede the motion of the moon. Here then is a
necessary priority in an idea, and yet true causality is not attributed
to the object.

92. There is a fact in the history of philosophy which proves with the
greatest evidence the truth of what I have just said. This fact is the
system of occasional causes maintained by eminent philosophers. If a
body, they say, strike another body at rest, it will communicate to it
its motion; but this communication does not imply a true causality, but
that the motion of the impinging body is a mere occasion of the motion
of the body impinged. Here then a thing is conceived as a necessary
condition of the existence of another, and yet it is denied that there
is between them the relation of causality. In thinking of the two
phenomena we cannot invert the order, and conceive the motion of the
body impinged as the condition of the motion of the impinging body,
yet we can deny the relation of causality between the condition and
the conditioned. Therefore the idea of causality represents something
besides the necessary order of things among themselves.

93. This brings us to a new phasis of the question. Is the relation of
causality faithfully represented in the conditional proposition: if
A exists, B will exist? The connection expressed by this proposition
is not the relation of causality. If the fruit-tree N flourishes in a
certain country, M will flourish. A constant experience proves it. The
conditional proposition in this case does not express the relation of
causality of the flourishing of N with respect to the flourishing of
M; yet the proposition is true. One phenomenon may be the sign of the
immediate approach of another, without being its cause.

94. Conditional propositions, in which the existence of one object
is affirmed as the condition of the existence of another, express a
connection; but this may not be a connection of the objects with each
other, but with a third. If a gentleman's servant goes to a place, and
then another servant of the same gentleman goes to the same place, the
cause of the going of the second may not be the going of the first, but
simply that their master wished them to go one after the other. The
crops in one field indicate the state of the crops of another field,
and this indication may be expressed by a conditional proposition.
Why so? Is it on account of the causality of the crops in one field
in relation to those in another? Certainly not; but because the
circumstances of the climate and the soil produce a sufficiently fixed
order between them to verify the conditional proposition, without the
intervention of the idea of the causality of one in relation to the

95. There are many cases in which the relation between the condition
is necessary, and yet the condition neither is, nor can be, the
cause of the conditioned. We are here treating of efficient cause,
of that which gives being to the thing, and it would often be absurd
to attribute this kind of causality to conditions which on the other
side are necessarily connected with the conditioned. Take away the
pillar on which a body rests, and the body will fall; the connection of
the condition with the conditioned, or of the taking away the pillar
with the fall of the body is necessary; the proposition in which this
connection is expressed is true and necessary in the natural order;
and still it cannot be said that the removal of the pillar is the
_efficient_ cause of the fall of the body.

96. Even a purely occasional connection is all that is necessary for
the truth of the conditional proposition; and no one ever confounds
the occasion with the cause. In the present example, the body cannot
fall unless the pillar is removed; and it must necessarily fall if it
is removed; but the cause of the fall is not in the removal of the
pillar, but in the weight of the body, as is evident if we suppose the
specific gravity of the body to be equal to that of the fluid in which
it is submerged, since in that case, the removal of the pillar is not
followed by the fall of the body.

97. Causality cannot express a necessary relation of the condition to
the conditioned, unless we deny all free causes. Supposing the idea of
causality to be correctly expressed in this proposition: if A exists,
B will exist; by substituting God and the world for A and B, it will
become: if God exists the world will exist; which would lead us into
the error of the necessity of the creation. By substituting man and
determinate actions for A and B, we shall have the proposition: if man
exists, his determinate actions will exist, which implies necessity,
and destroys free will.

98. Here arises the question: would the relation of causality be
correctly expressed by a conditional proposition, taken in an inverse
sense, or with the effect, as the condition and the cause as the
conditioned, (not conditioned in the order of existence, but only as
a thing necessarily supposed,) that is, if, instead of saying: if A
exists, B will exist, we say: if B exists, A exists? In this case, the
proposition may be applied even to the dependence of creatures on God,
and in general of all free actions on their causes; for we can say with
truth: if the world exists, God exists; if there is a free action,
there is a free agent.

99. Although at first sight this seems to explain the relation of
causality, this new formula cannot be regarded as correct. For, though
it is true in general, that if there is an effect there is a cause,
it is also certain that oftentimes one thing supposes another, not
as its cause, but as a mere occasion, as a condition _sine qua non_;
which is far from being true causality. Supposing the body supported
by the pillar to be so placed that it cannot fall unless the pillar
is removed, we might form the conditional proposition: if the body
has fallen, the pillar has been taken away; the proposition is true,
although the removal of the pillar is not the efficient cause of the
fall of the body.

100. God could have so created the world that creatures would have no
true action of causality upon one another, and yet have so arranged
them that the phenomena would correspond with each other in the same
manner as they now do. This is the opinion of defenders of the doctrine
of occasional causes, and to this is reduced the _pre-established
harmony_ of Leibnitz, according to which all the monads constituting
the universe are like so many clocks, which, though independent of one
another, agree with admirable exactness. On this hypothesis we might
form infinite conditional propositions expressing the correspondence of
the phenomena without the idea of causality entering into any of them.

101. From what has been said we must infer that this idea is something
distinct from the necessary connection, and that it is not correctly
expressed in all its purity by the relation contained in the
conditional propositions, whether the cause be taken as the condition
or as the conditioned. The dependence of the effect on its cause is
something more than the simple connection. To say that whatever is
necessarily connected, even successively and in a fixed order, is
connected by the relation of causality, is to confound the ideas of
common language as well as those of philosophy.



102. We have just seen that the necessary connection of two objects is
not enough to establish the character of causality; what circumstances
are then necessary?

103. If we conceive an object, B, which begins, and suppose that the
object A was _necessary_ to its existence, and that _of itself alone_
it was sufficient for the existence of B, we find in the relation of
A to B the true character of the relation of a cause to its effect.
For the complete character of _absolute_ cause, two conditions are
indispensable: I. The necessity of the existence of A for the existence
of B. II. That the existence of A be sufficient for the existence of B,
without any thing more being requisite.

These conditions may be expressed in the following propositions or

If B exists, A exists.

The existence of A alone is sufficient for the existence of B.

When the relation between two objects is such that both these
propositions are true at the same time, there is a relation of absolute

104. From this explanation it is evident that the character of cause
must be denied to all mere occasions, since the second proposition
cannot be applied to them. When two facts are occasionally connected,
it may be said that if the one exists the other must exist, and the
first proposition is verified in this case; but it cannot be said that
the existence of the one is sufficient for the existence of the other;
and therefore the second proposition fails of its application. If two
men have agreed that the one shall fire a pistol when the other gives
a signal with his hand, it may be said that if the signal is given the
pistol will be fired, but not that the signal alone contains what is
sufficient for the firing of the pistol. For, supposing the man with
the pistol to be asleep, the signal may be repeated a number of times
without the firing of the pistol.

105. The character of cause must also be denied to every condition
which is only the removal of an obstacle (_removens prohibens_). To
such the first proposition is applicable, but not the second. In the
case of a body resting on a pillar so that it cannot fall unless the
pillar be removed, we may say: if the body has fallen, the pillar has
been taken away; but not that the removal of the pillar is sufficient
for the fall of the body; because if the body were of a less specific
gravity than the fluid in which it is submerged, or united to another
body which would prevent its falling, it would not fall. It is evident
that the removal of the obstacle is not sufficient for the fall, but
that something more is required, as the force of gravity, or an impulse.

106. All phenomena connected in succession of time necessarily and in
a fixed order, must be denied the relation of cause and effect, unless
the application of these ideas is made legitimate by something else;
because, although the constant order authorizes us to say that if A
happens, B will happen, and then C, and then D, and so on successively,
it cannot be said that in the existence of A is contained that which is
sufficient for the existence of B, nor in the existence of B what is
sufficient for the existence of C, since we suppose an indispensable
condition outside of the series.

107. The first proposition: if B exists, A exists; is true of every
cause whether necessary or free. The second proposition is likewise
applicable to both these classes of causes. It is necessary to observe
with care that the proposition does not say that if A exists, B will
exist; but that the existence of A is all that is requisite in order
that B _may_ exist. If, supposing A, B is necessarily supposed also,
the cause is necessary; but if, supposing A, only that which is
sufficient for the existence of B is supposed, the cause remains free;
because the existence of B is not affirmed, but only the possibility of
its existence.

108. Let us apply this doctrine to the first cause. If the world
exists, God exists: this proposition is absolutely true. If God exists,
the world exists; this proposition is false, because, God existing,
the world might not have existed. If God exists, the world may exist;
that is, in the existence of God is contained that which is sufficient
for the possibility of the existence of the world: this proposition
is true; because in the infinite being is contained the possibility
of finite beings, and in him is found sufficient power to give them
existence, if he thus freely wills it.



109. In determining in the last chapter the conditions of true
causality, I spoke only of _absolute_ causality; the reason of this,
which I shall now explain, turns on the difference between the first
cause and second causes.

110. We have seen that the pure idea of absolute causality is the
perception of three conditions: the necessity of one thing for the
existence of another; the sufficiency of the first alone for the
existence of the second; and lastly (when the cause is free) the act
of the will necessary for the production of the effect. These three
conditions are fulfilled absolutely in the first cause, since nothing
can exist unless God exists; and for the existence of any object
the existence of God, with the free will of creating the object, is
sufficient. It is evident that causality cannot be applied in the
same sense to second causes; of none of them can it be said that its
existence is absolutely necessary for the existence of the effect,
since God could have produced it either by means of another secondary
agent, or immediately by himself; neither is its existence alone
sufficient for the existence of the effect, since whatever exists
presupposes and requires the existence of the first cause.

111. Thus, then, the idea of causality applied to God has a very
different meaning from that which it has when applied to second causes:
it is necessary to bear this in mind, and not to raise questions
concerning second causes before the meaning of the word _cause_ is
strictly defined. It is certain that the relation of an effect to its
cause is a relation of dependence; but we have seen that the words
dependence, connection, condition, etc., are susceptible of different
meanings; if they are not clearly and strictly determined it is
impossible to give any solution to these questions.

112. What then is meant by secondary causality? After the observations
which we have made, it is not difficult to say. In the order of created
beings A will be the cause of B when the following conditions are

I. That the existence of A is necessary (according to the order
established) for the existence of B; which may be expressed by this
formula: if B exists, A exists or has existed.

II. That in the order established B and A form a series which goes back
to the first cause, without the concurrence of the terms of any other
series being requisite.

This last condition will not, perhaps, be understood, unless explained
by some examples.

113. The motion of my pen is the effect of the motion of my hand; here
I have the true relation of secondary causality, for I pass through
a series of conditions, which do not require the conditions of any
other series: the motion of the pen depends on the motion of my hand;
that of my hand depends on the animal spirits (or whatever cause
physiologists may please to assign); that of the animal spirits depends
on the command of my will; and my will depends on God, who created it,
and preserves it. I here find a series of second causes to which I
give the true character of causality, in so far as it can exist in a
secondary order; and the efficient cause, the principal among secondary
causes is my will; because in the secondary order of it is the first
term of the series. The motion of the pen of my secretary depends on
my will, not however as its true efficient cause, but as its occasion;
because in the secretary is found the same series as in the former
example: the first term of this series is his will, which I cannot
absolutely determine, since being free, it determines itself. There is
true efficient causality in the will of the secretary; because there
ends the series whose first term is at my disposal only in an improper
sense, that is to say, so long as the secretary pleases.

114. The body, A, in motion strikes upon the body, B at rest: the
motion of the body A is the cause of the motion of the body B, and the
causality will be found in all the terms of the series, that is, in
all the motions whose successive communication has been necessary in
order that the motion might reach the body B. Let us suppose that in
the series of these communications obstacles have been removed which
impeded the communication of the motion; the removal of the obstacles
is an indispensable condition on the supposition that they existed,
but it is not a true cause, since it is a term foreign to the series
of the communications, and might not have existed, without the motion
therefore ceasing to exist. For, supposing there had been no obstacles,
they would not have been removed, and yet the motion would have been
communicated. But it is not the same with respect to the terms which
form the series of the communications; for if we represent them by A.
B. C. D. E. F. . . . . . . . . . the motion of A cannot reach F if one
of the intermediate bodies serving as the vehicle of the communication
be taken away.

115. From this theory it follows that the idea of secondary causality
represents a concatenation of various objects forming a series, which
terminates in the first cause, whether by a necessary order, as in the
phenomena of corporeal nature, or by the medium of a first term in the
secondary order with a determination of its own, as is the case in
things which depend on free will.



116. It may be asked, of what nature is this connection of the terms of
the series; _how_ one communicates with another; _what_ it is which is
communicated; by virtue _of what quality_ they are placed in relation.
All these questions arise from a confusion of ideas which has been the
occasion of interminable disputes. In order to avoid them we must
remember the difference between intuitive and discursive knowledge,
and between determinate and indeterminate, intuitive and not-intuitive
ideas, as explained in its proper place.[82]

[82] See Bk. IV., Chaps. XI., XIII., XIV., XV., XVI., XIX., XX., XXI., and

117. I there said[83] that the pure intellect may exercise its
functions by indeterminate ideas, or those representing general
relations which are not applied to any real or possible object, until
a determination furnished by experience is added to them.[84] The idea
of cause is indeterminate;[85] and, consequently, taken in general, it
cannot be presented to us without the relation of being and not-being,
or of beings united among themselves by a certain necessity, but in
an absolute indeterminate manner.[86] Therefore the idea of cause
is not enough to determine the character of this activity and its
means of communication; this idea by itself can tell us nothing of
the particular; it can only teach us certain truths _a priori_; the
application of these truths to beings rests on experience.

[83] See Bk. IV., Chap. XXI.

[84] Ib., § 135.

[85] Ib., § 134.

[86] Ib., § 130.

118. I said[87] that our intuition is confined to passive sensibility,
active sensibility, intelligence, and will; whatever lies outside
of this sphere we can know only by indeterminate conceptions, and,
consequently, it is impossible for us to expose to the intuition of
another that which we feel to be wanting to our own. We may develop
this doctrine farther by applying it to the philosophical questions on

[87] Ib., Chap. XXII.

119. There have been great disputes as to whether bodies exercise a
true action on each other; and those who hold the negative are always
asking, _how_ one body can cause any thing in another? _what_ that
is which is transmitted, and what is the _character_ of its active
quality? Various replies have been made; but I greatly doubt if it
is possible to make any which is satisfactory, without considering
the doctrine which I have just explained,--what answer, then, can
be made? It is this: we know nothing intuitively of bodies except
passive sensibility, which, in the last result, is only extension
with its various modifications.[88] Now these modifications are
reduced to figure and motion; whatever would make us depart from
these two intuitions, requiring an explanation with characteristic
determinations, would ask for that which is beyond the power of man.
The limits of our intuition on this point are confined to extension and
motion, and their relations to our sensibility; we must, therefore, be
contented with observing the phenomena of bodies, and subjecting them
to calculation within the circle of this intuition: all beyond this
is impossible. We know that the body A moves with a certain velocity,
which we measure by the relation of space to time; when it arrives at
the place where it meets B, B moves in a corresponding direction and
with a corresponding velocity. Here there is a succession of phenomena
in time and space; the phenomena are subject to constant laws, which
are known by experience. Our intuitive cognitions go no farther; when
we attempt to go beyond this we find the general relations of being
and not-being, of being _before_ and being _after_, of condition and
conditioned, which present nothing determinate by which we can explain
the true character of secondary causality.

[88] Ib., § 139.

120. Philosophy, when treating of bodies, is limited to what is
strictly called physics; when it attempts to rise to the region of
metaphysics bodies disappear, in so far as they are phenomena subject
to sensible observation, and there remains only the general and
indeterminate ideas of them.

121. As regards the sensitive faculty, we are in some sort passive,
inasmuch as we receive the impressions which we call sensations.
Whatever activity we possess in sensation does not depend on our free
will, supposing that we are subject to the conditions of sensibility.
If you put your hand in the fire it is impossible for you not to
experience the sensation of heat. In what regards the causality which
we have as to the reproduction of past sensations or the production of
new sensible sensations, it is vain to ask us the _manner_ in which
we exercise this activity: its exercise is a part of consciousness;
all we know about it is that it exists in such or such a manner in our

122. The same may be said of the elaboration of ideas. None of the
philosophers can explain the _manner_ of this immanent production;
ideological investigations go no farther than the characterizing and
classifying these phenomena and showing the order of their succession;
they can tell us nothing concerning the manner in which they are

123. The exercise of the will presents to our intuition, or if you
please, to our consciousness, another series of phenomena, of the
manner of the production of which we know nothing. Consciousness
testifies that the free principle which exercises this activity is
within us: this is all that we know about it. These phenomena are
found at times connected with motions of our bodies, which a constant
experience presents as depending on our will, but how things so
different are connected, we know not: philosophy will never know.



124. In what does creation consist? How can God produce things from
nothing? Such a thing is incomprehensible. This is the language of
many who do not reflect that the same incomprehensibility is found in
the exercise of secondary causality, both in the corporeal and in the
incorporeal world. If we knew God in the intuitive manner in which,
according to the Catholic dogma, the blessed see him in the mansion
of glory, we might know intuitively the manner of the creation. As
it is, we say that in so far as we can form any idea of the action
of the Creator, he produces all things from nothing by the force of
his will; which besides according with the teachings of religion, is
in harmony with what we experience in ourselves. God wills, and the
universe springs up out of nothing: how can this be understood? To him
who asks this, I say: man wills, and his arm rises; he wills, and his
whole body is in motion. How can this be understood? Here is a small,
weak, and incomplete, but true image of the Creator: an intelligent
being which wills, and a fact which appears. Where is the connection?
If you cannot explain it to us in so far as concerns finite beings, how
can you ask us to explain it with respect to the infinite being? The
incomprehensibility of the conception of the motion of the body with
the force of the will does not authorize us to deny the connection;
therefore the incomprehensibility of the connection of a being which
appears for the first time with the force of the infinite will cannot
authorize us to deny the truth of the creation: on the contrary,
the finding a similar thing in ourselves greatly strengthens the
ontological arguments which demonstrate its necessity. In the dogmas of
the Christian religion, besides what they reveal that is supernatural,
we find at every step philosophical truths as profound as they are

125. The causality which relates to purely possible effects can only
be understood by placing it in an intelligence. The cause which does
not produce an effect, but which may produce it, involves a relation
of the existent to the non-existent; the cause exists, the effect does
not exist; the cause does not produce it, but may produce it; what is
the relation of that which exists to that which does not exist? is not
a relation without a term to which it relates, a contradiction? It
is certainly, if abstracted from the intelligence: the intelligence
alone can relate to that which does not exist; for it can _think the
non-existent_. A body can have no relation to a body which does not
exist; but an intelligence may have a relation to that which does not
exist, even knowing that it does not exist; we may ourselves wander at
pleasure through the regions of pure possibility.

126. The will also participates of this character of the intellect.
Desire relates to an enjoyment which is not, but which may be; we will
and will not, we love and hate things that are often purely ideal, and
whose identity we know perfectly well, still this does not prevent
our willing them. Thus we desire things to happen which are not, and
we may even desire things which we know to be impossible. We may wish
to recover that which we know is lost forever; we may wish for the
presence of a friend whom we know to be at so great a distance as to
render his coming impossible; we may wish that time would stop or hurry
on in conformity to our wants or our caprices.

127. Thus we find both the intellect and the will in relation to that
which does not exist;--a relation which is not even conceivable in a
being destitute of intellect. This leads to an important result. The
absolute beginning of any thing is not possible unless we conceive
causality as having its root in the intellect. That which begins
passes from not-being to being, and how is it possible that a being
has produced in _another_ a transition from not-being to being, if the
relation to the _other_ before it existed was intrinsically impossible?
An intelligent being may think another although the other does not
exist; but for an unintelligent being if the other does not exist in
_reality_ it does not exist at all; consequently no relation to it is
possible, any such relation that may be imagined is contradictory, and
therefore it is absurd to suppose that which is not to begin to be.

128. This reasoning proves that in the origin of things there is
an intelligent being, the cause of every thing, and that without
this intelligence nothing could have begun. If something has begun,
something must have existed from all eternity; and that which began was
_known_ by that which existed. Not admitting intelligence, beginning is
absurd. Imagine in the origin of things a being without intelligence,
its relations can only be to that which exists; it can have no relation
to the non-existent; how then is it possible for the non-existent to
begin to exist, through the action of the existent? In order that the
non-existent may begin to be, some reason is necessary; for otherwise
the beginning of one thing or of another, and even its beginning or
not-beginning would be indifferent. Unless we suppose a being which
knows that which does not exist, and may establish, so to speak, a
communication with nothing, the being which does not exist can never



129. To understand more clearly the idea of causality, it will be
useful to reflect on the ideas of activity and action, as also on those
of inertness, or inactivity, and inaction.

130. An absolutely inactive being is a being without intelligence,
without will, without sensibility, without any kind of consciousness,
containing in itself nothing which can change its own state or that of
any thing else.

Thus absolute inactivity or inertness requires the following
conditions: I. The absolute denial of all principle, of intelligence,
of will, of sensibility, and in general of every thing which is
accompanied by consciousness. II. The absolute denial of all principle
of change in itself. III. The absolute denial of all principle of
change in others. The union of these three conditions forms the idea of
absolute inactivity or inertness: the state of such a being is that of
absolute inaction.

131. A being of this nature, regarded in general, presents only the
idea of an existing thing: we may also consider it as a substance,
supposing it not to inhere as a modification in another, or rather,
supposing it as a substratum capable of receiving modifications by the
action of other beings upon it.

The only means by which we can characterize to a certain extent this
general idea, so that it may be presented to our intuition, is to add
to it the idea of extension, by which we make in some manner the idea
of inert matter.

132. After the ideas of inertness and inaction are explained, their
opposites, the ideas of activity and action, are clearly understood.

When we conceive a being which has the reason of its changes within
itself, we conceive an active being.

When we conceive a being which has within itself the reason of the
changes of other beings, we conceive an active being.

When we conceive a being which knows, wills, perceives, or has
consciousness in any way, we conceive an active being.

Hence activity may represent three things to us: the origin of its own
changes; the origin of the changes of others; and consciousness.

133. The first kind of activity can belong only to changeable beings;
the second also to immutable beings, which are causes; the third is
an activity which belongs to mutable or immutable beings, abstracting
absolutely the idea of causality.

134. The general relation of principle of its own or another's changes,
is an indeterminate idea; consequently the only activity of which
we can have an intuitive idea is that of intelligence, of will, and
in general of whatever relates to the phenomena which require the
perception called consciousness.

135. We must consider consciousness as an activity, and include in this
order the idea of intelligence and will abstracted from all relation to
their own or another's changes, unless we mean to say that God was from
all eternity an inactive being, because he had no other action than the
immanent acts of knowing and willing.

136. Therefore not all activity is transient, but there is a true
immanent activity, of which we have an intuitive knowledge in the
phenomena of our consciousness.

137. The activity which we can conceive in bodies is reduced to a
principle of their own changes or those of some other being; it is
therefore something of which we can have no intuitive knowledge. In
fact, we are in relation with bodies only by means of the senses, which
present but two orders of facts with respect to corporeal nature;
subjective facts, or the impressions which we experience and call
sensations, and which we believe to emanate from the action of bodies
upon our organs; and objective facts, that is, extension motion, and
the different modifications which the senses discover in extended
things which move. Neither the first class of facts nor the second give
us an intuitive idea of the activity of corporeal beings.

Subjective facts or sensations are immanent, that is, are in us, not
in the things; and inasmuch as subjective tell us nothing of what is
outside of us, but only what is within us. Even supposing sensations
to be a true effect of the activity of bodies, this activity is not
presented in the effect. When our hand is warmed by the fire we have
the intuitive perception of the sensation of heat, inasmuch as it is
in us; if we suppose that this sensation is really an effect of the
activity of the fire, we know the relation of our sensation to this
activity considered in general, and indeterminately as the origin of
our sensation; but we do not know the activity intuitively in itself,
because as such it is not represented in our sensation.

Neither do objective facts, that is, extension, motion, and whatever
we conceive which is not in our sensation, but in the object itself,
give us any intuitive idea of the activity of corporeal things. The
modifications of extension, or figures, motion with all its accidents,
and in general all that presents the corporeal world to our senses, are
the changes themselves and their relations, but not the principle of
these relations or of these changes. The body A, which is in motion,
strikes upon the body B at rest; B after the impact begins to move:
without considering whether the impact of A is the cause of the motion
of B, that which we are certain of is, that we have no intuition of the
activity producing the motion. What do the senses tell us of the body
A? They only tell us that it has moved with a certain velocity towards
the point M where the body B was situated. What do they tell us of the
body B? Only that it began to move the instant the body A reached the
point M: so far we have only the relations of space and time between
the two extended objects A and B. Where is the intuition of the
activity of A, and of its action on B? We see absolutely nothing of it.
By reasoning, by analogy, by considerations of order, of agreement, and
such like, we may prove with more or less evidence that in the body A
there is an activity which causes the motion of the body B; but this
gives us only an indeterminate idea, not an intuition of activity.

138. These considerations are conclusive as applied to all the
phenomena of corporeal nature. Take any one you please, select that one
which leads us most strongly to imagine a true activity; analyze it
well, and you will find our intuition limited to relations of extension
in space and in time.

That all bodies are heavy is a fact of experience; do we know
intuitively the principle from which the phenomena of weight proceed?
By no means. Let us examine it in the subjective order and in the
objective. What does weight as perceived by us present to us? Only
that affection which we call heaviness, that is, the pressure on
the members of the body. What does it present objectively? Only the
direction of bodies towards a centre with a certain velocity depending
on circumstances. We find in all this only a purely internal fact,
which is the unpleasant sensation of weight or heaviness, or the pure
relations of extended objects in space and time.

139. The fire burns objects and reduces them to ashes; nothing could be
better suited to give us the idea of activity. Still we cannot say that
we know it intuitively. In the subjective order we have the painful
sensation of burning, which thus far is a purely internal fact; in the
objective order we have the disorganization of the bodies burnt, which
presents to the senses only a change in the size, figure, color, and
other qualities relative to our senses--all this may be the effect of
the activity, but it is not the activity itself.

140. The light reflected from an object strikes our eyes, painting
on the retina the object which reflects it. Have we in this case an
intuition of the activity of light. Not at all. In the subjective order
we find the sensation called _seeing_; in the objective order, we find
the size, figure, and other qualities of the object in space. If we
consider the light itself, we find a fluid whose rays have this or that
direction in subjection to determinate laws, but we have no intuitive
knowledge of its activity; and in order to persuade ourselves that the
activity exists, we reason from principles which are not within the
sphere of our intuition.

141. The four intuitions of passive sensibility, active sensibility,
intelligence, and will, may be reduced to two:[89] extension and
consciousness; including in extension all its modifications, and in
consciousness all the internal phenomena of a sensitive or intellectual
being; in so far as they have the common ground of consciousness.
We therefore know intuitively two modes of being: consciousness and
extension; consciousness is within us, it is a subjective fact;
extension is external, its existence is revealed by sensations,
particularly those of sight and touch.

[89] See Book IV., Ch. XXII.

142. The classification of these two intuitions is important
beyond measure for the distinction of the active from the inert. In
consciousness we find a type of true activity; in extension, as such,
we have a type of true inertness. In thinking of consciousness, we
think of something active without adding any other idea; when we think
of extension, it presents to us the image of a thing susceptible of
various modifications, the principle of none of which is contained in
extension; in order to think of a corporeal activity we have to go out
of the pure idea of extension, and consider a principle of change in
general, which is not the object of the intuition of the extended.

143. Thus the only activity which we know intuitively is that of
consciousness; for we have only indeterminate ideas of corporeal
activity. The words action, reaction, force, resistance, impulse,
express only indeterminate relations, and represent something fixed and
determinate, only in their effects. Mechanists express forces by lines
or numbers, that is, by results subject to calculation. Even Newton, in
establishing his system of universal attraction, declares his ignorance
of the immediate cause of the phenomenon, and confines himself to
assigning the laws to which the motions of bodies are subjected.

144. Activity in changeable beings represents a principle of their own
and others' changes, a sort of superabundance of being which constantly
develops itself, and, in proportion as it is developed, perfects
itself. We find an example of this development in our own mind. The
child at its birth receives in a confused manner the impressions of all
that surrounds it. By the repetition of these impressions its activity
is developed; that which was obscure becomes clear, the confusion is
put into order, that which was feeble becomes strong, thought arises,
comparison begins, reflection is unfolded, and the being which was
torpid and almost inert becomes perhaps a genius which astonishes the
world. Materials have come to it from without, but of what use would
they have been without that living fire of activity which transformed
them and deduced from them new and valuable products? The same
phenomena of nature are presented to the eyes of brute animals as to
Kepler or Newton; but what for the first is only a sensible impression
is for the latter a starting-point of sublime and wonderful theories.

145. The active being possesses virtually the perfections which it is
to acquire; it may be compared to the acorn which contains the mighty
oak, whose development depends on circumstances of soil and climate. On
the other hand, the inactive being can give itself nothing; it has a
state, and it preserves it till some other changes it; and it remains
in this new state until another action from without takes it away and
communicates another.

146. Activity is a principle of its own or another's changes; this
activity may operate in two ways: with intelligence and without it.
When the being is intelligent its inclination to that which is known
is called will. The will is inclined to the object necessarily or not
necessarily: in the first case, it is a necessary spontaneity; in the
second, it is a free spontaneity. Liberty, then, does not consist
solely in the absence of coaction; it requires the absence of all, even
spontaneous, necessity; the will must be able to will or not will the
object; if this condition is wanting there is no freewill.

147. It is worthy of remark that our intuition of the external relates
only to the inactive, to extension; and that internal intuition
relates principally to activity, to consciousness. By the first we
know a substratum of changes, since all change seems to take place in
extension; by the second we know no subject intuitively, but only the
changes themselves. We prove the unity of their subject by reasoning,
but we do not see it intuitively.[90] Extension, as such, is presented
to us as simply passive: consciousness, as such, is always active; for,
even in those cases in which it is most passive, as in sensations,
in so far as there is consciousness, it implies activity; for by it
the subject gives itself an account, explicitly or implicitly, of the
affection experienced.

[90] See Bk. IX., Chs. VI., VII., IX., and XI.



148. Having marked the limits of our intuitive knowledge with respect
to causality and activity, it is easy to answer the objections against
secondary causality, which arise from confounding intuitive and
indeterminate ideas; but we have still to examine whether there are
true second causes, that is, whether there really is in finite beings
a principle of their own and others' changes. Some philosophers,
among others the illustrious Malebranche, have denied the efficacy of
second causes, thus reducing them to mere occasions. The author of the
_Investigation de la Vérité_ goes so far as to maintain that secondary
causality not only does not exist, but is impossible.

149. The universe contains two classes of beings,--immaterial beings,
and corporeal beings: each presents difficulties which it will be well
to examine separately. Let us begin with matter. It is said that matter
is incapable of all activity, that its essence is indifferent to every
thing, susceptible of any sort of modification. I cannot discover on
what this general proposition is founded, nor do I see how it is
possible to prove it either by reason or by experience.

150. In order to maintain that matter is completely inactive, or
incapable of any activity, it would be necessary to know its essence;
but this we do not know. By what right do we deny the possibility of
an attribute when we are ignorant of the nature of the object to which
it should belong, when we do not know even one of its properties to
which this attribute is repugnant? It is true that we deny to matter
the possibility of thought, and even of sensation; but we can do so
only because we know enough of matter, to establish this impossibility.
In matter, whatever may be its intrinsic essence, there are parts,
consequently there is multiplicity; and the facts of consciousness
necessarily require a being which is one and simple.[91]

[91] See Bk. IX.

It is not the same with respect to activity; for activity, when it
does not present the intuitive idea of consciousness, gives us only
the indeterminate conception of a principle of changes in itself or
in other beings. This does not contradict the idea of multiplicity.
Suppose bodies in motion to have a true activity which really produces
motion in others, there is no contradiction in this activity being
distributed among the different parts of the other body, which at the
moment of impact produce their respective effects, causing motion in
the parts of the other body with which they come in contact.

151. Consequently, examining the question _a priori_, or considering
the idea of body, we can find no reason for denying the possibility of
its being active. It is true that the extension of bodies, inasmuch as
extension, is presented to us as something without life, indifferent
to all figures and to all motions, and that we do not discover in it
any principle of activity;[92] but this can prove nothing, unless we
suppose that the essence of bodies consists in extension, and that
extension contains nothing more than is presented to our senses, that
it includes nothing on which its activity can be founded. The first is
an opinion, but one without any foundation; the second can never be
demonstrated, because it escapes all observation, and cannot be the
object of investigations _a priori_.

[92] See Ch. XIII.

152. How can it be proved that the essence of bodies consists in
extension?[93] What we may say is, that we experience it, and that all
corporeal nature is presented to us under the form of extended. If we
assert any thing more than this we do so without any foundation, we
substitute for the reality a play of our fancy. The essence of any
thing is that which constitutes it what it is, that which serves as
the internal ground or root of the properties: who can say that we
know this ground, this root, in corporeal objects? Our senses, it is
true, perceive nothing not extended: we cannot conceive to what bodies
would be reduced if deprived of extension; but from this we can only
infer that extension is a form under which bodies are presented to our
senses; that this form is a necessary condition of the affection of our
sensibility; but not that the form is the essence of the thing, not
that there is in the object nothing more intimate in which the form
itself has its root.

[93] See Bk. III.

153. If the essence of bodies consisted in extension, such as it
appears to our senses, extension being equal there would be equality
of essence; the essences of bodies might be measured like their
dimensions; two globes of equal diameters, would be two essentially
equal bodies. Experience, and even common sense are opposed to this. It
may be said, that pure dimension, in so far as subject to measure, is
not enough to form equality of essence; but that the equality of nature
of the extension of both bodies is also requisite; but what, I ask,
is the meaning of the _nature_ of extension? If the word nature here
means any thing, it must mean something distinct from extension, in
so far as subject to our sensibility; in which case I infer that just
as in order to diversify the essences of bodies something is imagined
which is not contained in extension in so far as subject to sensible
intuition, something may in the same manner be supposed which is
capable of activity, and which offers to our understanding an accessory
idea giving life, so to speak, to the dead matter which we find in
extension, considered as the simple object of purely geometrical ideas.

154. Experience cannot demonstrate the impossibility of the activity
of bodies. Absolute inactivity cannot affect us, and therefore cannot
be known by experience. We can only experience action, or the exercise
of activity; inaction, or the state of an absolutely inactive thing,
cannot be the object of experience without a contradiction.



155. Experience, far from authorizing us to infer the absolute
inertness of bodies, on the contrary inclines us to believe that they
are endowed with activity. Although the senses do not give us intuition
of any corporeal activity, they present a continuous series of changes
in a fixed order in the phenomena of the corporeal world; and if the
true activity of some on others can be inferred from the coincidence
of their relations in space and time, from the constant succession in
which we see some follow others, and the invariable experience that the
existence of some suffices for the existence of others; then we must
admit true activity in bodies. Whatever this argument may be worth at
the tribunal of metaphysics, it has always been sufficiently powerful
to convince the majority of mankind, and hence it is that the denial of
the activity of bodies is contrary to common sense.

156. If we consider our relations to the corporeal world, we are
equally led to believe that there is true activity in bodies. Whatever
may be our ignorance of the manner in which sensations are produced
within us, it is certain that we experience them in the presence of
bodies which are connected with us in space and time, and in a fixed
and constant order, which authorizes us to prognosticate with safety
what will follow in our senses if such or such bodies are placed in
relation with our organs. The idea of activity presents to us the idea
of a principle of changes in other beings; bodies are continually
producing real or apparent changes in us. The exercise of the sensitive
faculties implies a communication with corporeal beings; in this
communication the sensitive being receives from bodies a multitude of
impressions causing continual changes.

157. It is said that experience shows bodies to be indifferent to rest
or motion, and some works on physics at the very beginning lay it down
as a thing beyond all doubt, that a body placed at rest would remain in
the same state for all eternity, and if put in motion it would move for
all eternity in a right line, and always with the same velocity which
it at first received. I do not know how they could have learned this
from experience; and I maintain that not only they could not know it,
but experience seems to prove directly the contrary.

158. Where was there ever a body that was indifferent to rest or
motion? In all terrestrial bodies we find a tendency to motion, if no
other, at least that of gravitation towards the centre of the earth.
Celestial bodies, so far as our observation extends, are all in motion;
calculation agrees with experience in showing them to be subject to
universal attraction: where, then, is the indifference to rest or
motion, revealed by experience? We should rather say that experience
reveals a general inclination of bodies to be in motion.

159. It would be objected that this inclination does not flow from
any activity in the bodies, but that it is a simple effect of a law
imposed by the Creator. Let it be so: but at least do not tell us that
experience presents bodies as indifferent to motion or rest; explain
motion, if you will, without activity, maintain that there is no
activity, despite the appearances of experience; but do not tell us
that these appearances show the absence of activity.

160. If I place a body on my table, it remains at rest, I find it there
the next day, and if I return after many years I still find it there.
But this body is not indifferent to motion or rest; here it is at rest,
but it is continually exercising its activity, as is evident from its
pressure on the table which supports it. This exercise is incessant,
it is experienced at every moment; try to raise it and it offers
resistance, take away the table and it falls, place your hand under
it and it will press upon your hand, and it changes the form of soft
bodies on which it rests.

161. To say that the attraction of the centre of the earth acts upon
the body, proves nothing against corporeal activity but rather confirms
it; for this centre is another body, and thus you take activity from
one body to give it to another. Moreover, all observations show that
attraction is mutual, and therefore attractive activity is a property
of all bodies.

162. The corporeal world, far from appearing to us as an inert mass,
presents the appearance of an activity developing its colossal forces.
The mass of bodies which move in space is colossal; the orbit which
they describe is colossal; their velocity is colossal; the influence,
at least apparent, which they exercise upon each other, is colossal;
the distance at which they communicate is colossal. Where is the want
of activity revealed by experience? Rays of light inundate space,
producing in sensitive beings the wonderful phenomena of sight: rays
of heat extend in all directions, and motion and life spring up on
all sides; where is the want of activity revealed by experience? Do
not the vegetation which covers our globe, the phenomena of life
which we experience within us, and in the animals around us, require
a continual motion of matter, an ebb and flow, so to speak, of action
and reaction of bodies on each other, in reality or in appearance? Do
not the phenomena of electricity, of magnetism, of galvanism, appear
to be principles of great activity, the origin of motion wherever they
exist, rather than objects indifferent to motion or rest? The ideas of
activity, of force, of impulse, are not alone suggested to us by our
internal activity, but also by the experience of the corporeal world,
which displays before our eyes, and in obedience to constant laws, a
continual variety of magnificent scenes, whose origin seems to indicate
a fund of activity surpassing all calculations.

163. With how little reason then do you appeal to experience to combat
the existence of causality in bodies, and how much more in accordance
with experience are those philosophers who give a true activity to
bodies, is apparent from what I have said. In assigning the limits of
our intuition in relation to causality and activity in themselves,[94]
I said enough to show that I do not judge it possible to demonstrate
metaphysically the existence of activity in the corporeal world; yet I
cannot but insist that if the constant relation of phenomena in space
and time, and the invariable succession of some things after others,
prove any thing in favor of causality, we must admit the opinion which
holds that there is true activity in bodies; that in a secondary order
the reason of the changes of some is contained in others; and that
consequently there is in the corporeal world a chain of second causes
which reaches back to the first cause, the origin and the reason of all
that is.

[94] See Chs. XI. and XIII.



164. Consciousness reveals the existence of a faculty within us which
produces certain internal phenomena. If we concentrate our attention
by means of a free act of our will, we experience the production of
images and ideas. The works of the imagination are an irrefutable proof
of our internal activity. Sensations furnish the materials; but the
fancy builds edifices with them. Who, if not ourselves, gave them their
new form? We must confess that if we are absolutely without activity,
nature completely deludes us, making us believe that we are active.

Our recollections offer another proof of true activity. We propose
to think of a country which we have visited, and wish to recollect
its details; at the command of the will the imagination is aroused
and displays to our intuition the scenes which we once saw. But these
images already existed, it will be said, and it was only necessary to
awaken them; but it cannot be said that they existed in act, for we
had no actual consciousness of them; and the command of our will was
necessary and sufficient in order to force them to reappear. This new
presence adds something to our habitual state, and is produced within
us by the mere act of the will.

It is true that we do not know the manner of this production; but it
is certain that consciousness assures us that it immediately follows
an act of our will; and we have, to say the least, a strong proof that
there is in us a force which produces the transition of these images
from their habitual to an actual state. The same may be said of all
recollections; and if we often find that we cannot recollect all that
we wish to, this only proves that our active faculties are limited by
certain conditions from which they cannot free themselves.

165. Without considering recollections, every one knows how ideas are
elaborated in meditation. Our ideas are not the same when we begin to
reflect on any subject, as after we have meditated for a long time
on it. Sometimes without the assistance obtained by reading any new
work or hearing any new observation, by the mere force of our own
reflection we have made clear and distinct what was before only a
confused idea. To say that the new ideas are the result of others which
already existed in our mind only proves that our understanding has
a true activity; for this result, whatever its origin, is something
new, it produces a new state in the soul, since it now knows perfectly
what before it either knew not at all, or only in a confused manner.
The relations of the sub-secant to the secant, and of the sub-tangent
to the tangent, are geometrical ideas within the reach of the most
ordinary intellects: so also are the similarity of the triangles which
are imagined for the purpose of comparing lines with each other, and
the successive approximation of the sub-secant to the sub-tangent, and
of the secant to the tangent; but to reduce those elements to the point
where the wonderful theory of infinitesimal calculus shines forth with
the strongest light, an immense distance has to be passed over. Shall
we say that those geniuses who first crossed over this distance thought
nothing new, because they already had the elements from the combination
of which this theory results?

166. If this productive activity is clearly seen in any phenomena, it
is certainly in the acts of freewill. What becomes of freedom, if the
soul does not produce its volitions? Freedom means nothing, if they
are only phenomena produced by another being, in which the soul has no
other part than that it is the subject in which they are produced. It
is a contradiction to say that the soul is free, and at the same time
deny that it is the principle of its determinations.

167. Mere intelligence, even mere sensibility, and in general, every
phenomenon implying consciousness, seems to be the exercise of an
activity; and in this sense I have shown[95] that we have intuition of
an internal activity. If to know, to will, to have consciousness of
a sensation, are not _actions_, I know not where the type of a true
action can be found. To perceive a thing, to will it, the imperative
act of the will which makes me seek the means of obtaining it, are
undoubtedly actions; and action is the exercise of activity. The
idea of life represents activity in its most perfect degree; and
among the phenomena of life, the most perfect are those which imply
consciousness; if we do not call these actions, we must say that we
have no idea of action or of activity.

[95] SeeCh. XII.

Although we do not know the manner of the production, we are conscious
of it, we have intuition of the action in itself. When we see a bodily
motion we behold a passive modification; but when we experience within
ourselves the phenomena of consciousness, we behold an action, and
consequently have an intuition of our activity.

168. Here an objection arises. If internal phenomena are truly actions,
why are they so often independent of our will? We suffer despite
ourselves; ideas come upon us which we would fain cast off; thoughts
arise so quickly and spontaneously as to seem rather inspirations than
the fruit of labor. Where in such cases is the activity? Are we not
forced to say that these phenomena are wholly passive?

169. This objection, apparently so conclusive, proves nothing against
internal activity. In the first place, we might answer that the soul
being passive in some cases, does not prove that it is so in all;
and that in order to affirm the existence of internal activity, we
require only certain phenomena to be produced by it. But it is not even
necessary to admit that activity is not found in the cases proposed by
the objection; for, if we carefully examine them, we shall find that
even there the soul exercises a true activity.

The force of the objection rests on the appearance within us of certain
phenomena without the concurrence of our will, and at times in spite of
it; but this only leads us to infer that there are other functions in
the soul independent of freewill without obliging us to believe that
these functions are not active. With this observation the difficulty at
once disappears. There are within us certain phenomena which we neither
willed before nor after they appeared; so far I concede. Therefore
there are within us phenomena in which the soul is purely passive; this
I deny. The consequence is illegitimate; all that could logically be
deduced is, that certain phenomena appear and are continued in the soul
without the concurrence of our will.

The same thing happens with the body: there are functions which it
exercises independently of our freewill, such as the circulation of the
blood, respiration, digestion, assimilation of food, transpiration, and
others; but there are others which are only performed at the command
of the will, as eating, walking, and in general whatever relates to
the motion and position of the members. Why may not a similar thing
happen in the soul? Why may not the soul have active faculties which
are developed, and produce various phenomena, without the concurrence
of the will?

I do not believe any reply to this solution possible. Still I propose
to strengthen it by some remarks on the character of the phenomena in
which it is pretended that the soul is purely passive.

170. The objection speaks of painful sensations, in which apparently
the soul has no activity. Who will say that a man to whom I apply
a burning iron, and who suffers horrid pain, exercises in this the
activity of his soul? Is it not more reasonable to say that the soul
is here purely passive, and in a state very like that of the body
when pressed down by the weight of another body? If any activity is
exercised in such a case it is rather that of reaction against a
painful sensation. Reflect well upon these observations, and you will
find that they contain no difficulty whose solution cannot be found in
the preceding paragraph. I admit that the painful sensation does not
depend on the freewill of the sufferer, and that his free action is
opposed to this sensation; but despite all this, the soul may have a
true activity in the mere fact of perceiving: it only shows that the
exercise of this activity is subject to necessary conditions which
when they exist are more powerful for its development than is our will
to prevent it. Nothing is more certain than the development of certain
active faculties independently of our freewill. What more active than
violent passions? And yet it is often impossible for us not to feel
them; and it requires all the command of our freewill to restrain them
within the bounds of reason.

171. Sensation in itself cannot be all passive; and those who maintain
that it is, show that they have meditated but little on the facts of
consciousness. These facts are essentially individual, and inasmuch as
they are facts of consciousness, absolutely incommunicable. Another may
feel a pain very like, and even equal to, that which I suffer; but he
cannot experience the same _numerically_ considered; for my pain is so
essentially mine, that if it is not mine it does not exist. Therefore
pain cannot be communicated as an individual entity to me, and all that
can be done to produce it in me, is to excite my sensitive power so as
to experience it.

This observation shows that sensations cannot be merely passive facts.
A passive modification is all _received_; the subject suffering _does_
nothing. From the moment that the subject has in itself some principle
of its modification, it is not purely passive. Sensation cannot be all
_received_; it must be _born_ in the subject under some influence or
other, on this or that occasion; but the being which experiences it
must contain a principle of its own experience; otherwise it would be a
_lifeless_ being, and could not perceive.

172. The objection speaks of painful sensations as though their
necessity were an exception from the general rule; whereas all
sensations, pleasant or unpleasant, are equally necessary, provided
the sensitive faculties are placed in the conditions necessary for
their exercise. There is the same necessity in the pain which I feel
if a burning coal is placed in my hand, as in the sight of a beautiful
painting placed before my eyes.

173. The spontaneousness of internal phenomena, in the pure
intellectual order, or in that of imagination or sentiment, confirms
the existence of an activity independent of our freewill, and by no
means indicates that these phenomena are purely passive.

There is an important circumstance to be observed here. The exercise
of the functions of the soul is connected with the phenomena of the
organization. Experience teaches that the soul perceives with more or
less activity, according to the disposition of the body; and it is a
fact known from all antiquity that certain liquors have an inspiring
power. The state of the digestion causes heavy dreams and torments the
fancy with horrible forms; fever raises or depresses the imagination;
sometimes it increases the strength of the understanding, and sometimes
it produces a stupor in which intelligence is extinguished. These
phenomena offer a greater field to observation when they reach a
very high degree, as happens when the organic functions are greatly
disturbed; but this shows that there is an immense scale passed over
before arriving at the extremity; so that some phenomena, whose
spontaneous appearance seems inexplicable, perhaps depend on certain
unknown conditions to which our organization is subject. Whatever
opinion be adopted as to the equality or inequality of human souls, no
one has any doubt but that the differences of organization may have
an influence on the talent or character, and that certain minds of
extraordinary faculties owe a part of their endowments to a privileged

Hence it may be inferred that what is called the spontaneity of the
soul, and which has attracted so much attention from some modern
philosophers, is a phenomenon very generally known, and one which
neither destroys internal activity nor tells us any thing new as to its

It is certain that there are certain phenomena in our soul which are
independent of our freewill; but there is no doubt that their presence
is sometimes sudden and unexpected, because the conditions of our
organization with which they are connected are unknown. But this is
only extending to a greater number of cases what we have frequently
remarked in psychological facts, the effects of disease, and what we
constantly experience in sensations. What is a sensation but a sudden
appearance of a phenomenon in our soul, produced by a change in the
state of the organs?

174. I do not mean by this to say that all spontaneous thoughts, and in
general all phenomena which suddenly appear within us without any known
preparation, arise from affections of the organization; I only wished
to recall a physiological and psychological fact, the neglect of which
might produce useless and even dangerous speculations. In reading the
works of some modern philosophers who treat this point, it seems as
though their object were to prepare the way for maintaining that the
individual reason is only a phenomenon of the universal and absolute
reason; and that inspirations, and in general all spontaneous phenomena
independent of freewill, are only indications of the absolute reason
appearing to itself in the human reason; that what we call our _me_ is
a modification of the absolute being; and the personality of our being
is only a phasis of the absolute and impersonal reason.

175. What is called spontaneity, the intuition of former times,
to the eyes of reason and of criticism can only be the primitive
teaching which the human race received from God: whatever some modern
philosophers say to the contrary is only a partly disguised repetition
of the sophisms of the incredulous of every epoch, presented in a
deceitful dress by men who abuse the talents which they possess. Read
with reflection the writings to which we allude, strip them of some
high-sounding and enigmatical terms, and you will find in them nothing
more than what Lucretius and Voltaire had already said after their own



176. There is nothing easier than to write a few brilliant pages on
the phenomenon of spontaneity; some philosophers of our day discourse
of the genius of the poets, of the artists, and of the captains of all
ages, the fabulous and the heroic times, mysticism and religion, in
books which are neither philosophy, nor history, nor poetry, but which
can only be regarded as a flood of agreeable and harmonious words with
which writers of sparkling fancy and inexhaustible eloquence deluge the
overpowered intellect of the ingenuous reader. And after all, what is
this spontaneity, this inspiration of which they tell us so much? Let
us fix our ideas by establishing and classifying facts.

177. Reason properly so called is not developed in the human mind
when completely isolated from other minds; the sight of nature is not
sufficient to arouse it. The stupidness of children found in the woods
and the scanty intelligence of deaf-mutes are undeniable evidence of
this truth.

178. The human mind, when placed in communication with other minds,
experiences a development in part direct and spontaneous, in part
reflex and elaborate. This is another fact which we all perceive
within ourselves. Minds are developed with greater spontaneousness in
proportion as their qualities are more advanced.

179. Of the thoughts which occur to us suddenly and which seem to us
purely spontaneous, not a few are reminiscences, more or less faithful,
of what we have before read, heard, or thought; and consequently they
proceed from a _preparatory_ fact, which we do not remember. This
explains how labor perfects the inventive faculty.

180. As the organization of our body exercises a powerful influence
in the development of the soul's faculties, we may say that the
spontaneity of some internal phenomena is connected with certain
changes of our organization.

181. There is no _philosophical_ difficulty in admitting an _immediate_
communication of our mind with another mind of a higher order; and
consequently there is none in admitting that some internal spontaneous
phenomena arise from the direct influence of this higher mind upon ours.

182. The human race did not originally have a spontaneous development
independent of the action of the Creator; philosophy shows us the
necessity of a primitive teaching, without which the human race would
have remained in a state of brute-like stupidity. This last remark
requires a further explanation.

183. Religion reveals a primitive instruction and education of the
human race given by God himself to the person of the first man; this is
in perfect conformity with what both reason and experience assert.

Our mind possesses innumerable germs, but their growth requires an
external cause. What would a man be who had been alone from his
infancy? Little more than a brute: the precious stone would be covered
with coarse earth which would prevent its glistening.

Language does not and cannot produce ideas; this is certain: the
reason of ideas is not in language, but the reason of language is in
ideas. Words are signs; and that which is not conceived can have no
sign. But this sign, this instrument is of a wonderful use; words are
to the understanding what wheels are to the power of a machine; the
power imparts motion, but the machine would not go without wheels. The
understanding might have some motion without language, but very slow,
very imperfect, very heavy.

184. The Bible represents man as speaking as soon as created; language
was therefore taught him by God. This is another wonderful fact
which reason fully confirms. Man could not invent language. This
invention surpasses all that can be imagined, and would you attribute
it to beings so stupid as men without language? Better to say that a
Hottentot could suddenly invent infinitesimal calculus.

185. The most ignorant man who knows a language possesses an incredible
treasure of ideas. In the simplest conversation we may find many
physical, metaphysical, and moral ideas. Take the following sentence,
which is within the comprehension of the lowest mind: "I did not wish
to pursue the beast farther for fear that, becoming irritated, he
might do harm." Here are the ideas of time, act of the will, action,
continuity, space, causality, analogy, end, and morality.

Time past:--I _did_ not;

Act of the will:--_wish_;

Action:--to _pursue_;

Continuity and space:--_farther_;

Analogy:--_becoming irritated_; since from irritation in other
instances, it is inferred in the present; and it is also known from
what happens to ourselves if molested.

Motive and end:--_for fear_, _that irritated_, etc.;

Causality:--_he might do harm_;

Morality:--_not to harm others_.

186. Science is discovering the affinity of languages, finding them
united in great centres. The dialects of savages are not elements, but
fragments; they are not the lisping speech of infancy, but the torpid
and extravagant jargon of degradation and ebriety.

187. Language cannot produce in the mind the idea of a sensation which
it has not: all the words in the world could not give one born blind
the idea of color. Still less could pure ideas, distinct from all
sensation, result from language; and this is a strong argument in favor
of innate ideas.

188. The ideas of unity, number, time, and causality express things
which are not sensible; therefore they cannot be produced in us by any
sensible representation expressed in language. Yet these ideas exist
in us as germs susceptible of a great development, first by sensible
experience, and then by reflection. The child who burns his hand in the
fire begins to perceive the relation of causality, which he afterwards
generalizes and purifies. The great ideas of Leibnitz on causality were
the ideas of Leibnitz the child. The difference was in the development.
Thus the organization of the giant oak is contained within the shell of
the acorn.

Some have said that man's understanding is like a blank tablet on which
nothing is yet written; others that it was a book which he had only to
open in order to read; I believe it may be compared to a letter written
in invisible ink, which looks white until rubbed with a mysterious
liquid which brings out the black characters. The magic liquid is
instruction and education.

189. Show me a single nation which of itself has emerged from a savage
or a barbarous state. All known civilizations are subordinated one to
another in an uninterrupted chain. European civilization owes much to
Christianity, and something to the Roman; the Roman to the Greek;
the Greek to the Egyptian; the Egyptian to the Oriental; and over the
Oriental civilization hangs a veil which can be lifted only by the
first chapters of Genesis.

190. In order to know the human mind it is necessary to study the
history of humanity; whoever isolates objects too much runs in danger
of mutilating them; hence so many ideological frivolities which have
passed for profound investigations, although they were as far from true
metaphysics as the art of arranging a museum symmetrically is from
the science of the naturalist.

191. If innate ideas be defended, it is impossible to deny to our
understanding a power to form new ideas accordingly as objects,
especially language, excite it; otherwise it would be necessary to say
that we do not learn any thing, and cannot learn any thing; that we
have every thing beforehand in our mind, as if written in a book. Our
understanding seems to resemble a case containing all kinds of types;
but, in order that they may mean any thing, the hand of the compositor
is necessary.

This image of printer's types reminds me of an important ideological
fact: I mean the scanty number of ideas which are in our mind, and
the great variety of combinations of which they are susceptible. All
that is in the intellectual order, or is contained in the categories,
whether we adopt those of Kant or those of Aristotle, or any others,
may be reduced to a very few. Each of those ideas which we call
generative is like a ray of light which, passing successively through
innumerable prisms and refracted on a number of spectra, presents an
infinite variety of colors, shades, and figures.

As our thought is almost entirely reduced to combination, and as this
combination may be made in various ways, there is a wonderful agreement
in the fundamental combinations which all minds have. In the secondary
points there is divergence, but not in the principal. This proves that
the human mind, in its existence and in its development, depends on an
infinite intelligence, which is the cause and master of all minds.

192. Reject these doctrines so accordant with philosophy and with
history, and spontaneity, whether of the individual or the race, either
means nothing, or it expresses the vague and absurd theories of ideal



193. Those beings which act by intelligence must have, besides their
efficient activity, a moral principle of their determinations. In
order to will, the faculty of willing is not alone sufficient; it is
necessary to know that which is willed, for nothing is willed without
being known. Hence arises _final causality_, which is essentially
distinct from efficient causality, and can exist only in beings endowed
with intelligence.

194. Recalling what was said in the tenth chapter of this book, we may
observe that final causes form a series distinct from that of efficient
causes; what in the latter is physical action, is in the former, moral
influence. In a painting, the series of efficient causes is the pencil,
the hand, the muscles, the animal spirits, and the command of the will.
This series, which is necessary for the execution of the painting,
may be combined with different series of final causes. The artist may
purpose by the brilliancy of his genius to acquire renown, and by
renown to enjoy the happiness of a great name. Another series may be,
to please a person for whom he is working; and this in order that the
person may pay him a sum of money; and the money in order to gratify
the artist's wants or pleasures. A third series may be, in order to
seek in painting a distraction from a grief; and this in order to
preserve his health. It is evident that many series of a purely moral
or intellectual influence may be imagined, and which concur in the
production of the effect only, in so far as combined with the series of
efficient causes, they influence the artist's determination.

195. This moral influence may be exerted in two ways: either
necessarily bending the will, or leaving it free to will or not will;
in the first case, there is a voluntary, but necessary spontaneousness;
in the second, there is a free spontaneousness. Every free act is
voluntary, but not every voluntary act is free. God freely wills the
conservation of creatures; but he necessarily wills virtue, and cannot
will iniquity.

196. Regarding only efficient causality, we have only the relations
of cause and effect; but considering final causality, a new order of
ideas and facts is presented, which is _morality_. Let us first of all
establish the existence of the fact.

197. Good and evil, moral, immoral, just, unjust, right, duty,
obligation, command, prohibition, lawful, unlawful, virtue, and vice,
are words which we all use continually, and apply to the whole course
of life, to all the relations of man with God, with himself, and
with his fellow-men, without any doubt as to their true meaning, and
perfectly understanding each other, just as when we speak of color,
light, or other sensible objects. When the term lawful or unlawful
is applied to an act, who ever asks what it means? When this man is
called virtuous, that vicious, who does not know the meaning of these
expressions? Is there any one who finds a difficulty in understanding
the expressions which follow: he has a right to perform this act; he
is obliged to comply with that circumstance; this is his duty; he
has neglected his duty; this is commanded; that is prohibited; this
is right; that is wrong: this is a heroic virtue; that is a crime?
No ideas are more common, more ordinarily used, by the ignorant as
by the learned; by barbarous as by civilized nations; in the youth
of societies as in their infancy, and in their old age; in the midst
of pure customs, as of the most revolting corruption; they express
something primitive, innate in the human mind and indispensable to
its existence, something which it cannot throw off while it retains
the exercise of its faculties. There may be more or less error and
extravagance in the application of these ideas to certain particular
cases: but the generative ideas of good and evil, just and unjust,
lawful and unlawful, are the same at all times, and in all countries;
they form, as it were, an atmosphere in which the human mind lives and

198. It is remarkable that even those who deny the distinction between
good and evil, are forced to admit it in practice. A philosopher, with
his pen in his hand, laughs at what he calls the prejudices of the
human race concerning the difference between good and evil; but say
to him: "It seems to me, Sir Philosopher, that you are a detestable
wretch, to spend your time in destroying that which is most holy on
earth;" and you will see how soon he will forget his philosophy and all
that he has said of the empty meaning of the words virtue and vice,
become indignant at being thus addressed, warmly defend himself, and
attempt to prove to you that he is the most virtuous man in the world,
giving repeated arguments of _honesty_, _sincerity_, and _honor_. It
matters little that in his lofty theories, honor, sincerity, and
honesty, are unmeaning words, since they can have no sense unless
the word order is admitted; the philosopher is not staggered by an
inconsequence, or rather, he takes no notice of it; moral ideas and
sentiments are awakened in his mind as soon as he hears himself called
immoral, he ceases to be a sophist, and becomes a man again.

199. Can the idea of this moral order be a prejudice, which, without
any thing in reality corresponding to it, or any foundation in human
nature, owes its origin to education, so that it would have been
possible for men to have lived without moral ideas, or with others
directly contrary to those which we now have? If it is a prejudice,
how comes it that it is general to all times and countries? Who
communicated it to the human race? who was strong and powerful enough
to make all men adopt it? How did it happen that the passions, when in
possession of their liberty, renounced it, and suffered a bridle to be
put on them? Who was that extraordinary man who subdued all times and
all countries, the most brutal customs, the most violent passions, the
most obtuse understandings, and diffused the idea of a moral order over
the whole face of the earth, notwithstanding the diversity of climates,
languages, customs, and necessities, and the differences in the social
condition of nations, and gave to this idea of the moral order such
force and consistency that it has been preserved through the most
complete revolutions, amid the ruins of empires, and the fluctuations
and transmigrations of civilization, remaining firm as a rock, unmoved
by the furious waves of the river of ages?

Here is not the hand of man; a phenomenon of this sort does not
spring from human combinations; it is founded on nature, and it is
indestructible because it is natural; thus, and thus only, is it
possible to explain its universality and permanence.

200. To deny all difference between good and evil is to place one's
self in open contradiction with the ideas the most deeply rooted in the
human mind, with all its most profound and most powerful sentiments;
all the sophisms of the world could not persuade any one, not even the
sophist himself, that there is no difference between consoling one who
is afflicted, and adding to his afflictions; between assisting the
unfortunate, and increasing their misfortunes; between being grateful
for a favor, and doing evil to the benefactor; between fulfilling a
promise, and breaking it; between giving alms, and taking what belongs
to another; between being faithful to a friend, and betraying him;
between dying for one's country, and selling it to the enemy; between
respecting the laws of modesty, and violating them without shame;
between sobriety and drunkenness; between temperance and moderation
in all the acts of life, and the disorder of unbridled passions. No
argument, nor genius, nor cavil can destroy the dividing line. The
sophist discusses, imagines, feigns, subtilizes, but in vain; nature is
there; she says to senseless man: So far mayst thou go, but here shall
thy pride be broken.

201. If there is no intrinsic difference between good and evil, and all
that is said of the morality and immorality of actions is a collection
of words which have no meaning, or only such as they have received from
human convention; how is it that whilst the just man sleeps securely
in his bed, the evil-doer is tossed about with a heart struggling with
remorse? Whence come those sentiments of love and respect inspired by
what we call virtue, and the aversion created by what is called vice?
Do not the love of children, the veneration of parents, fidelity to
friends, compassion for suffering, gratitude towards benefactors, the
horror which all men have for a cruel father, a parricide son, an
unfaithful wife, a dishonest friend, a traitor to his country, a hand
red with the blood of its victim, oppression of the weak, desertion of
the orphan, do not all these sentiments show clearer than the light of
day the hand of the Almighty engraving in our souls the ideas of the
moral order, and strengthening us with sentiments which instinctively
show us, even when we have not time to reflect, the path which we
should follow?

202. I do not deny that serious difficulties are encountered in
examining the grounds of morality; I admit that the analysis of
the knowledge of good and evil is one of the most hidden points of
philosophy; but these difficulties prove nothing against the difference
we have established. No one denies the existence of a building because
he cannot see how deep its foundations go: its depth is a proof of its
solidity, a guaranty of its duration. The difference between good and
evil demonstrated _a priori_ by the interior sentiments of the heart,
is strengthened with further evidence if we regard the consequences
of its existence or non-existence. Let us admit the moral order,
and suppose all men to regulate their conduct conformably to this
_prejudice_. What will be the result? The world becomes a paradise;
men live like brothers, using with moderation the gifts of nature,
dividing with each other their happiness, and aiding one another to
bear misfortune; the most lovely harmony reigns in the individual, the
family, and society; if the moral order is a prejudice, let us confess
that never did prejudice have more grand, beneficial, and delightful
consequences; if virtue is a lie, never was there one more useful,
fairer, or more sublime.

203. But let us make the counterproof. Let us suppose this prejudice
to disappear, and all men to be convinced that the moral order is a
vain illusion which they must banish from their understanding, their
will, and their acts; what will be the result this time? The moral
order destroyed, the physical alone remains; every one thinks and acts
according to his views, passions, or caprices; man has no other guide
than the blind instinct of nature or the cold speculations of egotism;
the individual becomes a monster, all the ties of family are broken
asunder; and society, sunk in a frightful chaos, rapidly advances to
complete destruction. These are the necessary consequences of the
rejection of the _prejudice_. Language would be horridly mutilated if
the ideas of the moral order should disappear; good and bad conduct
would be words without meaning; praise and blame would have no object;
even vanity would lose a great part of its food; flattery would be
forced to confine itself to natural qualities, considered in the purely
physical order; to pronounce the word merit, would be forbidden under
pain of falling into absurdity.

204. See, then, if any objection could be sufficient to make such
consequences admissible. Whoever, frightened at the difficulties
accompanying the examination of the first principles of morality,
should undertake to deny morality, would be as foolish as the
husbandman who, seeing the stream which waters his fields, should
insist on denying the existence of its waters because inaccessible
crags prevent his approach to their source.



205. There have been many disputes concerning the origin and character
of the morality of actions; the same happening here as elsewhere, that
the understanding becomes perplexed and confused whenever it attempts
to penetrate into the first principles of things. As I am not going
to write a treatise on morals, but only to analyze the foundations of
this science, I shall confine myself to giving the character, as far
as possible, of the primitive ideas and sentiments of the moral order,
without descending to their application. In this I shall proceed, as
usual, on the analytic method, decomposing the fact established in the
preceding chapter, glancing at the various explanations which have been
given of it, showing the insufficiency and inexactness of some of them,
before coming to the only one which appears to me true and complete.

206. What is good? what is evil? why are things good or evil? in what
does goodness or evil consist? what is their origin?

We are told that good is that which is conformed to reason, that which
is in harmony with the eternal laws, that which is pleasing to God, and
that evil is that which is opposed to reason, that which contradicts
the eternal law, that which displeases God. This is true, but does it
completely solve the question on a scientific ground?

The moral worth of the dictate of reason depends on its conformity to
the eternal law; when, therefore, to found the moral order, you call in
the former, you also appeal to the latter; they are not therefore two
solutions of the question, but only one.

Acts cannot please or displease God, except as conformed to the eternal
law; therefore, to judge of the goodness or evil of acts by their
relation to the pleasure or displeasure of God, is to judge of them by
their conformity to the eternal law.

From this it may be inferred that, although an act conformed to reason,
one agreeing with the eternal law, and one displeasing to God, express
different aspects of an idea, they all mean the same when used in
explaining the foundations of the moral order.

207. The rules of the eternal law do not depend on the _free_ will of
God, since, in that case, God could make good evil, and evil good.
The eternal law cannot be any thing else than the eternal reason,
or the representation of the moral order in the divine intellect.
Morality thus seems, according to our mode of conception, to precede
its representation; that is to say, morality seems to be represented
in the divine intellect because it is; but not that it is because it
is represented. In the moral order we come to something resembling
metaphysical and geometrical science. Geometrical truths are eternal,
inasmuch as they are represented in the eternal reason; and this
representation supposes an intrinsic and necessary truth in them,
since the representation would otherwise be false. As this truth must
have some eternal foundation,[96] and this foundation cannot be in
any finite being, it must be sought for in the essentially infinite
being, which contains the reason of all things. The infinite intellect
represents the truth, and is, therefore, true; but this truth is itself
founded on the essence of the infinite being which knows it.

[96] See Bk. IV., Chs. XXIV., XXV., XXVI., and XXVII.

208. Moral truths are not distinguished in this respect from
metaphysical; their origin is in God, moral science cannot be
atheistic. Why are some things represented in God as good and others
as evil? To ask the reason of this is like asking why triangles are
not represented as circles, and circles as triangles. If there is an
intrinsic necessity, either we can assign no reason for it or we must
at any rate come to a reason which can be explained by no other reason.
It will in any case, be necessary for us to come to a point where
we can only say: It is so. Any further satisfaction, which we might
desire, is beyond our reach, as we do not intuitively see the infinite
essence which contains the first and ultimate reason of all things.

209. It is necessary first to suppose good and evil before things can
be represented as such, or even conceived as so represented. What is
a good thing? If we say it is being represented as good in the divine
mind, the thing defined is contained in the definition; the difficulty
still remains: what is it to be represented as good?

Goodness cannot consist in the simple representation, so that whatever
is represented in God is good; for then every thing would be good, as
every thing is represented in God.

Therefore, in order that a thing may be good, it must not only be
represented, but represented under such or such a character which makes
it good; but still the difficulty remains: what is this character?

210. Let us make these ideas clearer by comparing a metaphysical with a
moral truth. All the diameters of the same circle are equal; this truth
does not depend on any particular circle, it is founded on the essence
of all circles; this essence is in turn represented eternally in the
infinite essence, where with the plenitude of being, is contained the
representation and knowledge of all the finite participations in which
the wisdom and power of God may be exercised. All the participations
are subject to the principle of contradiction, in none of them can
being cease to exclude not-being, or not-being to exclude being; hence
proceeds the necessity of all the properties and relations, without
which the principle of contradiction cannot subsist; among these is the
equality of all the diameters of the same circle.

211. These considerations suggest the question: is it possible to
explain the moral order like the metaphysical and mathematical, by
showing it contained in the principle of contradiction?

212. It is easy to see that in all metaphysical and mathematical
truths, identity is expressed or denied. All formulas are reduced to A
is B, or A is not B; this is the general formula of all truths of an
absolute order. But it is otherwise in the moral order, where nothing
is ever expressed absolutely, as is shown by the very form of the
propositions. God is good, expresses a metaphysical truth, God must
be loved, or in other words, we ought to love God, expresses a moral
truth. Note the difference: in one case we say _is_ absolutely; in the
other, _must be_, _ought to be_, _there is obligation_, etc., using
different expressions which all mean the same thing; but in all, the
verb _to be_, as an absolute affirmation, disappears. It seems that no
moral proposition could be thus expressed, if we regard the primitive
elements of our moral ideas; for all these propositions express the
idea of duty, which is essentially a relative idea.

213. To love God is good. This is a moral proposition whose structure
seems to contradict what I have just established. Here an absolute
affirmation is found expressed simply by _is_, as in metaphysical or
mathematical propositions. Still, the least reflection will suffice to
show that this absolute character is destroyed by the nature of the
predicate. What is the meaning of _good_? Here we have an essentially
relative idea which communicates this character to the proposition. To
love God is good, is the same as: to love God is a thing conformed to
reason, or to the eternal law, or pleasing to God, or a thing which we
are under obligation to do; it is always a relative idea, and never
absolute, like being, not-being, a triangle, a circle, etc.

214. Good, say some, is that which leads to the end which corresponds
to intelligent beings. This explanation must not be confounded with
the theory of private interest;--a theory alike rejected by religion
and by the sentiments of the heart, and combated by the most profound
thinkers;--here, in speaking of end, the last end is meant, which is
something superior to what is understood by the expression, private
interest. Without doubt, to arrive at the last end, is a great interest
of every intelligent being; but at least this interest is taken in
an elevated sense, and does not promote the development of a paltry

Having thus designated the difference between these doctrines, I say
that not even the latter seems to me admissible. Moral good must lead
to the end; but this does not constitute the character of morality.
For, what is meant by end? If God himself is meant, a moral act is
that which leads to God; in which case the difficulty still remains,
for we again ask, what is meant by _leading_? If it means to conduce
to the happiness which consists in a union with God, _how_ does
it conduce to this happiness? By the performance of what God has
commanded;--certainly; but then we ask: I. Why does doing what God
has commanded conduce to happiness? II. Why has God commanded some
things and prohibited others?--which is equivalent to putting anew the
question of intrinsic morality.

215. Besides, the idea of happiness represents something very different
from the idea of morality. Imagining a being which sacrifices all
that it possessed for the sake of other beings, we have the idea of
a highly moral being, but not a happy being. If morality consisted in
happiness, the participation of happiness would be the participation
of morality; every enjoyment would be a moral act; and could only be
immoral because too short or feeble. In proportion as we rose to the
idea of a stronger and more lasting enjoyment, we should form the
idea of a more elevated morality; the enjoyment the most free from
trouble would be the purest act of morality; who does not see that this
overthrows all our moral ideas, and is repugnant to every sentiment of
the heart?

216. It is not enough to say that a moral being will obtain happiness,
and that its happiness will be great in proportion to its morality;
this only proves that happiness is the reward of morality; it does not
authorize us to confound the two, the guerdon with the merit.

217. To confound morality with happiness is to reduce morality to
a calculation, to strip virtue of the pure lustre which charms and
attracts us, and makes it appear more beautiful accordingly as it is
joined with greater suffering. If we identify happiness with morality,
disinterestedness becomes a calculation of interest, a sacrifice of a
smaller to a greater interest, a loss for the present to gain in the

No! the morality of actions is not an affair of calculation: the
virtuous man obtains a reward; but, in order that the act may be
virtuous, something more is necessary than a combination for the
purpose of obtaining it; there must be something which makes the act
merit the reward; and we cannot even conceive that a reward can be
reserved for any act, unless the act is in itself meritorious.

When God prepared punishment for some acts and rewards for others,
he must have found an intrinsic difference in them; and therefore he
gave them different destinies; but, according to the systems which
we are opposing, acts could be good only inasmuch as they lead to a
reward, and there would be no reason why some should lead to it rather
than others. This reason must be found in an intrinsic difference in
the acts themselves; or we fall into the absurdity of saying that all
actions are in themselves indifferent, and the good may be evil, and
the evil good.

218. To lead to the good of mankind is another incomplete character of
the morality of actions. It is clear that this morality would be only
human, and would not include the intrinsic morality which we consider
common to all intelligent beings.

219. What, too, is the good which is spoken of? In what state are
mankind considered? Do you mean a society constituted as a nation, or
mankind, properly so called; one generation or many; their destiny
on earth or hereafter in another life? Are you speaking of their
_well-being_, or of their development and perfection abstracted from
their greater or less well-being? If the morality of actions is to be
placed in their _conduciveness_, so to speak, to the general good of
mankind, in what does this supreme good consist? Is it the development
of the understanding, of the imagination, or of the heart; or in the
perfection of the arts, which secure material enjoyments? You must not,
then, place moral perfection as the end; for by the supposition it is
only the means; and the actions will be more moral accordingly as they
are more useful means of obtaining the general good.

220. To say that morality is only the object of sentiment, and that no
other mark of what is good can be given than the mysterious perfection
which we find in virtue, is to banish morality as a science, and to
shut the door against all investigation. I do not deny that there is
in us a moral sentiment, or that our heart feels mysterious sympathy
for virtue; but I believe the scientific study of the foundations of
the moral order to be compatible with this fact. It is necessary to
acknowledge the primitive character of some facts of our mind, and not
attempt to explain every thing; but we must guard against exaggeration
in this respect, which is only the more dangerous when covered with the
cloak of modesty.



221. There must be something absolute in morality. It is not possible
to conceive any thing all relative, without something absolute on which
it is founded. Moreover, every relation implies a term to which it
relates, and, consequently, though we suppose a series of relations, we
must come to a last term. This shows why purely relative explanations
of morality do not satisfy the understanding; reason, and even
sentiment seek an absolute basis.

Besides, this purely ontological argument in favor of the absolute in
morality, there are others not less conclusive, and which are within
the reach of ordinary men.

222. In the infinitely perfect being we conceive infinite holiness,
independently of the existence of creatures; and what is infinite
holiness but _moral_ perfection in an infinite degree? This argument
is decisive for all the world, excepting atheists: whoso admits the
existence of God must admit his holiness; the contrary is repugnant to
reason, to the heart, to common sense. Therefore something absolutely
moral exists; therefore morality in itself cannot be explained by any
relation of creatures to end, since morality in an infinite degree
would exist though there had never been any creature.

223. In conceiving a created intelligent being, we also conceive
morality as an inflexible law to which the actions of this being must
be subjected. It is to be observed that we conceive this morality, even
supposing only one intelligent being; therefore morality cannot be
explained by the relations of creatures to each other. Imagine one man
all alone on the earth, can you conceive him exempt from all morality?
Would he be equally beautiful in the moral order, whether he labored
to perfect his intellect and develop his faculties harmoniously, or
abandoned himself to his coarse instincts, lowering himself to the
level of the beasts by his stupidity and debasement? Imagine the
earth, the whole corporeal universe, and all created beings, except
one intelligence, to disappear; can you conceive this creature wholly
exempt from all moral law? Can you suppose all his thoughts and acts of
the will to be indifferent, and that morality is for him an unmeaning
word? Impossible, unless you place yourself in open struggle with our
primary ideas, with our profoundest sentiments, with the common sense
of mankind. This, then, is another proof that in the moral order there
is something absolute, an intrinsic perfection, independent of the
mutual relations of creatures; that certain acts of an intelligent and
free creature have a beauty of their own.

224. The imputability of actions offers another argument in
confirmation of this truth. Morality is never measured by the result;
its perfection is appreciated by what is _immanent_, that is, by
the motives which have impelled the will, by the greater or less
deliberation which preceded the act of the will, by the greater or less
intensity of the act. If the result is sometimes considered, all its
moral worth arises from the interior of the soul. Whether the result
was foreseen or unforeseen; whether it was possible or not to foresee
it; whether it was willed or not; whether it was proposed as the
principal or secondary object; whether it was desired or accepted with
sorrow; these and other such considerations are present when the merit
or demerit of an action which has had such or such result, is weighed
and appreciated. Hence this result has no weight in the moral order
except in so far as it is the expression of the act of the will.

225. This character of _immanence_, which is essential to all moral
acts, overthrows all the theories which found morality on external
combinations; and shows that the act of a free and intelligent being
is good or bad in itself, absolutely abstracted from its good or bad
consequences, which were not contained in the internal act in one
way or another. A man, who, by an act which he did not and could
not foresee, should seriously injure the whole human race, would
be innocent; and another who with an evil intention should benefit
mankind, would be guilty. It is not a virtuous act to save one's
country through a motive of vanity or ambition; and the unfortunate
man, who with a pure and disinterested intention and with an ardent
desire to save his country, should by an error produce its downfall,
would not cease to be virtuous; the very act whose result is so sad, is
considered an act of virtue.

226. In what, then, does absolute morality consist? Where is the hidden
source of this ray of beauty which we all perceive, which penetrates
every thing, making all things beautiful, and without which the world
of intelligences would wither and fade away?

It seems to me that on this point, as on many others, science has not
paid sufficient regard to the admirable profoundness of the Christian
religion, which answers with one word, as full of tenderness as of
meaning: _Love_.

I particularly call the attention of my readers to the theory which I
am going to unfold. After so many difficulties as we have hitherto
encountered concerning the moral order, we must try to gain some light
on so important a subject. This light will more and more confirm a
truth which science reveals. When we come to the principles or the last
results of science, the ideas of Christianity are not useless; they
throw light on the foundation and on the summit of the edifice of human

Let not the reader imagine that instead of a scientific theory, I am
going to offer him a chapter of mysticism. I am sure that in the end
the reader will be convinced that, even under a purely scientific
aspect, this doctrine is much more exact and profound than that of
those authors who carefully avoid using the word _God_, as though this
august name would be a blot on the pages of science.

227. Absolute morality is the love of God; all moral ideas and
sentiments are applications and participations of this love.

Let us give a proof of this by carrying this principle to all the parts
of the moral world.

What is absolute morality in God? What is the attribute of the infinite
being, which we call holiness? The love of himself, of his infinite
perfection. In God there is no duty, properly so called, there is
an absolute necessity of being holy; for he is under the absolute
necessity of loving his infinite perfection. Thus morality in its most
absolute sense, in its highest degree, is infinite holiness; it is
independent of all freewill. God cannot cease to be holy.

228. But it may be asked, why _must_ God love himself? This question
has no meaning if the matter is rightly understood; for it supposes
that what is entirely absolute can be exactly expressed in relative
terms. The proposition: God _must_ love himself is not exact; strict
exactness is expressed only in this: God loves himself; for it
expresses an absolute fact in an absolute manner. If it is now asked,
why God loves himself; I answer that it might as well be asked, why
God knows himself, why he knows the truth, or why he exists; when we
come to these questions, we have arrived at the primitive origin, at
absolute, unconditioned things; therefore every _why_ is absurd.

229. Morality can, therefore, be expressed in an absolute proposition.
It is in itself, in an infinite degree, an absolute truth; it implies
an identity whose opposite is contradictory: it is not less connected
with the principle of contradiction than all metaphysical and
geometrical truths. Its simplest formula is: the infinite loves itself.

230. God in his intelligence sees from all eternity an infinity
of possible creatures. Containing in himself the ground of their
possibility and of all their relations among themselves or to their
Creator, nothing can exist independent of him; hence it is not possible
for any being to cease to be directed to God. The end which God
proposed in the creation can be no other than himself; since before
the creation only God existed, and after the creation there were no
perfections in creatures which were not contained in God in an infinite
degree, either formally or virtually. Therefore this direction of all
creatures to God as their last end, is a condition inseparable from
them, and seen by God from eternity in all possible worlds. Whatever
is created or may be created is a realization of a divine idea, of
that which was represented in the infinite mind, with the absolute or
relative properties which pre-existed in that representation. Therefore
whatever exists or may exist must be subject to this condition, it must
be directed to God, without whom its existence would be impossible.

231. Among the creatures, in which is realized the representation
pre-existing in the divine mind, there are some endowed with will,
which is an inclination to what is known, and, by means of an act of
the understanding, becomes a principle of its own determinations.
If the creature knew God intuitively, the acts of its will would be
necessarily moral; for it would necessarily be an act of the love
of God. The rectitude of the created will would then be a constant
reflection of the infinite holiness, or of the love which God bears
himself. The moral perfection of the creature would not in that case be
free, though it would still be an eminent degree of moral perfection.
There would be a perpetual conformity of the created will to the will
of God, for the creature loving God by a happy necessity, could will
nothing but what God wills. The morality of the created will would be
this constant conformity to the divine will, which conformity would not
be distinguished from the essentially moral and holy act, by which the
creature would love the infinite being.

But since the knowledge of God is not intuitive, since the idea which
the creature has of God is an incomplete conception involving many
indeterminate notions, the infinite good is not loved by necessity,
because it is not known in its essence. The will has an inclination to
good, but to good indeterminately; and therefore it does not feel a
necessary inclination to any real object. The good is presented under a
general and indeterminate idea, with various applications, and to none
of them is the will inclined necessarily; hence proceeds its freedom
to depart from the order seen by God as conformed to his sovereign
designs; when freedom, far from being a perfection, is a defect arising
from the weakness of the knowledge of the being which possesses it.

232. The rational creature conforming in its acts to the will of God,
realizes the order which God wills; loving this order, it loves what
God loves. If, although realizing this order, the creature in its
freedom does not love the order, but acts from motives independent of
it, its will, performing the act materially, does not love what God
loves; and here is the line which divides morality from immorality. The
proper morality of an act consists in explicit or implicit conformity
of the created will to the divine will; the mysterious perfections of
moral acts, that loveliness in them which charms and attracts us, is
nothing else than conformity to the will of God; the absolute character
which we find in morality is the explicit or implicit love of God, and,
consequently, a reflection of the infinite holiness, or of the love by
which God loves himself.

By applying this doctrine to facts, we shall see more clearly still its
perfect exactness.

233. To love God is a morally good act; to hate God is a morally evil
act, and of the most detestable character. Where is the morality of the
act of loving God? In the act itself, the reflection of the infinite
holiness, which consists in the love which God has for his infinite
perfection; here is a palpable proof of the truth of our theory. The
love of the creature for the Creator has always been regarded as an
essentially moral act, as the purest morality; which shows that in the
secondary and finite order, this act is the purest and most faithful
expression of absolute morality.

234. If we ask why we must love God, we are ordinarily reminded of
the benefits which he has conferred upon us, of the love which he
bears us, and even of the example of the love which we owe to our
friends and benefactors, and especially our parents; these reasons are
certainly very useful in order to make the morality of the act in some
sense palpable, and to move our heart; but they are not completely
satisfactory in the field of science. For, if we could doubt that we
ought to love the infinite Being, the author of all beings, it is
clear that we should also doubt that we ought to love our parents,
our friends, or our benefactors. Therefore our love for them must be
founded on something higher, or else, when asked why we love them, we
must remain without an answer.

235. To wish to perfect the understanding is a moral act in itself.
Whence proceeds the morality of this act? God, in giving us
intelligence, evidently wished us to use it. Its use, therefore, enters
into the order known and willed by God; in willing this order, we will
what God wills; we love this order which God loved from all eternity,
as a realization of his supreme designs; if, on the contrary, the
creature does not perfect his intellectual faculties, and making use
of his freedom leaves these faculties unexercised, he departs from the
order established by God, he does not will what God wills, he does not
love what God loves.

236. A man may perfect these faculties merely for the sake of obtaining
the pleasure of being praised by others; in this case he realizes the
order in the perfection of his understanding, but he does not do so
from love of the order in itself, but from love of something distinct
which does not enter into the order willed by God; for it is evident
that God did not endow us with intellectual faculties for the fruitless
object of obtaining each other's praise. Here, then, is the difference
which we know, which we perceive between two equal actions done with
different ends: the will in one perfects the understanding as a simple
realization of the divine order; perhaps we may not be able to explain
what there is there, but we know for certain that this will is right;
in the other the will is the same, it wills the same thing, but it
suffers something foreign to this order to mingle with it; and the
understanding and the heart both tell us this act which does something
good, is not good, it is not virtue,--it is meanness.

237. There is a person in great want, but who, nevertheless, has every
probability of soon improving his fortunes, Lentulus and Julius each
give him an alms. Lentulus gives his, because he hopes that when the
poor man is better off he will remember his benefactor, and assist
him if necessary. The action of Lentulus can have no moral value; in
judging of it we see a calculation, not a virtuous act. Julius gives
the alms solely in order to succor the unfortunate man, who excites his
pity, without thinking of the return which may be made; the action of
Julius is morally beautiful, it is virtuous. Whence this difference?
Lentulus does good, assisting the needy; but not from love of the
internal order of the act; he bends this order towards himself. God,
willing that men should stand in need of each other, also willed that
they should mutually help one another; to help one, therefore, simply
in order to alleviate his wants is to realize simply the order willed
by God; to help one for a particular end, is to realize this order
not as it is established by God, but as combined by man. There is a
_complication_ of view, the _simplicity_ of intention is wanting,--this
simplicity so recommended by Christianity, and even in philosophy
containing a profound meaning.

238. Regarding the purely natural order, we find that all moral
obligations have in the last result a _useful_ object; as all
prohibitions are directed to prevent an injury; but it does not suffice
for morality, that we will its utility, we must will the order itself
from which the utility results; for the greater the reflection, and
the love with which this order is willed, without any mixture of
heterogeneous views, the more moral is the act.

To help the poor with the _simple_ view of assisting them, out of
love for them, is a virtuous act; to help them, out of this love, and
with the _explicit_ reflection that it is complying with a _duty_ of
humanity, is still more virtuous; to help them, for the thought of God,
because you see in the poor man the image of God, who commands you
to love him, is a still more virtuous act than either of the other
two; to help them, even against the inclination of your own heart,
excited by resentment against them, or moved by other passions, to
subdue yourself with a firm will for the love of God, is an act of
heroic virtue. Observe that the moral perfection of the act increases
in proportion as the thing in itself is willed with greater reflection
and love; and arrives at the highest point when, in the thing loved,
it is God himself that is loved. If the views are selfish the order
is perverted, and morality is banished; when there are no selfish
views, but the act is prompted principally by sentiment, the action is
beautiful, but belongs rather to sensibility than to morality; when
the sacrifice tears the heart, but the will preceded by reflection
commands the sacrifice, and the duty is performed because it is a duty;
or perhaps an act not obligatory is done for the love of its moral
goodness, and because it is agreeable to God, we see in the action
something so fair, so lovely, so deserving of praise, that we should
be confounded if asked the reason of the sentiment of respect which we
feel for the person who for such noble motives sacrifices himself for
his fellow-men.

Conformably to these principles we may clearly and exactly determine
the ideas of morality.

239. Absolute morality, and consequently the origin and type of the
moral order, is the act by which the infinite Being loves his infinite
perfection. This is an absolute fact of which we can give no reason _a

In God there is, _strictly_ speaking, no duty; there is the absolute
necessity of being holy.

240. The act essentially moral in creatures is the love of God. It is
impossible to found the morality of this act on the morality of any
other act.

241. The acts of creatures are moral in so far as they participate of
this love, explicitly or implicitly.

242. Creatures which see God intuitively, love him necessarily; and
thus all their acts, stamped with this august mark, are necessarily

243. Creatures which do not see God intuitively necessarily love good
in general, or under an indeterminate idea; but they do not love
necessarily any object in particular.

244. In this love of good in general, these free acts are moral, when
their will wills the order which God has willed, without mingling with
this order foreign or contrary combinations.

245. In order that an act may be moral, it is not necessary that the
one who performs it should think explicitly of God, nor that his will
should love him explicitly.

246. The act is more moral, in proportion as it is accompanied with
greater reflection on its morality and its conformity to the will of

247. Moral sentiment was given us in order that we might perceive the
beauty of the order willed by God; it is, so to speak, an _instinct_ of
love of God.

248. As this sentiment is innate, indelible, and independent of
reflection, even atheists experience it.

249. The idea of moral obligation or duty results from two ideas: the
order willed by God, and the physical freedom to depart from this
order. God granting us life, wills us to try to preserve it; but man is
free, and sometimes kills himself. He that preserves his life fulfils
a duty; he that destroys himself, infringes it. Thus the idea of duty
contains the idea of physical freedom, which cannot be exercised,
in a certain sense, without departing from the order which God has

250. Punishment is a sanction of the moral order; it serves to supply
the necessity which is impossible in free beings. Creatures that act
without knowledge, fulfil their destiny by an absolute necessity; free
beings do not fulfil their destiny by an absolute necessity, but by
that kind of necessity produced by the sight of a painful result.

251. Here may be seen the difference between physical evil and moral
evil even in the same free being; physical evil is pain; moral evil is
the departure from the order willed by God.

252. Unlawful is what is contrary to a duty.

253. Lawful is what is not opposed to any duty.

254. The eternal law is the order of intelligent beings, willed by God
conformably to his infinite holiness.

255. Intrinsically moral acts are those which form a part of the order
which God (supposing the will to create such or such beings) has willed
necessarily, by force of the love of his infinite perfection. Such
actions are commanded because they are good.

256. The actions which are good because they are commanded are those
which form a part of the order which God has willed freely, and of
which he has given creatures knowledge.

257. The command of God is his will communicated to creatures. If this
will is necessary, the precept is natural, if free, the precept is

258. Regarding the natural only, the order willed by God is that which
leads to the preservation and perfection of created beings. Actions are
moral when conformed to this order.

259. The natural perfection of beings consists in using their faculties
for the end for which their nature shows them to be destined.

260. Nature has charged each individual to take care of his own
preservation and perfection.

261. The natural impossibility of man's living alone, shows that the
preservation and perfection of individuals must be obtained in society.

262. The first society is the family.

263. Parents must support and educate their children; for without this
the human race could not be preserved.

264. Conjugal duties arise from the order necessary for the
preservation and perfection of the society of the family, which is
indispensable for the preservation of the human race.

265. The more necessary the connection of an act with the preservation
and perfection of the family, the more necessary is its morality, and
consequently the less subject to modifications.

266. The immorality of acts contrary to chastity, and especially
of those against nature, is founded on great reasons of an order
indispensable for the preservation of the individual and the species.

267. Passions, because they are blind, are evidently given us as means,
not as ends.

268. Therefore, when the gratification of the passions is taken, not
as a means, but as the end, the act is immoral. A simple example will
explain this idea. The pleasure of eating has a very useful object in
the preservation of the individual; thus to eat _with_ pleasure is not
evil, but good; to eat _for_ the pleasure of eating is to invert the
order: the act is not good. The same action which in the first case is
very reasonable, in the second, is an act of _gluttony_. Common sense
renders any proof of this superfluous.

269. If a man lived all alone, the use of his physical freedom could
never injure any one but himself; the moral limit of his freedom would
be to satisfy his wants and desires in conformity to the dictates
of reason. But as men live in society, the exercise of the physical
freedom of one necessarily interferes with the freedom of others; to
prevent disorder it is necessary that the physical freedom of each one
should be restricted a little, and that all should be subjected to
an order conformed to reason and conducive to the general good; hence
the necessity of civil legislation. But as the legislation cannot
be established or preserved by itself alone, a public power becomes
necessary. The object of society is the general good, in subjection
to the principles of eternal morality; the same is the object of the
public power.

270. This theory explains satisfactorily the double character presented
by the moral order: the absolute, and the relative. The heart, reason,
and common sense force us to acknowledge in the moral order something
absolute and independent of the consideration of utility; this is
explained by rising to an absolute act of absolute perfection, and
regarding the morality of creatures as a participation of that act.
Reason and experience teach that the morality of actions has _useful_
results; this is explained by observing that the absolute act includes
the love of the order which must rule among created beings in order
that they may fulfil their destinies. This order, then, is at the
same time _willed_ by God, and _conducive_ to the special end of each
creature; therefore it is at the same time both _moral_ and _useful_.

271. But these two characters are always kept essentially distinct;
the first we _perceive_; the second we _calculate_. When the first is
wanting, we are _evil_; when the second fails, we are _unfortunate_.
The painful result is _punishment_ when our will has knowingly violated
the order; otherwise, it is simply _misfortune_.

272. I hope I may flatter myself that this theory is somewhat more
satisfactory than those invented by some modern philosophers for the
purpose of explaining the absolute nature of morality. I had need of
the idea of God, it is true; but I conceive no moral order, if God be
taken from the world. Without God morality is nothing but a blind
sentiment, as absurd in its object as in itself; the philosophy which
does not found it on God, can never explain it scientifically; it must
confine itself to establishing the fact as a necessity whose character
and origin they know nothing of.

273. I shall add one observation which is an epitome of my whole
theory, and will show wherein it differs from others which likewise
acknowledge that the foundation of the moral order is in God, and that
the love of God is the first of all duties. The systems to which I
refer, suppose the idea of morality to be distinct from the idea of
the love of God; but I say that the love of God is the _essence_ of
morality. Thus I assert that the infinite holiness is _essentially_ the
love with which God loves himself; that the first and essentially moral
act of creatures is the love of God; that the morality of all their
actions consists in explicit or implicit conformity to the will of God,
which is the same as the explicit or implicit love of God.

One of the most remarkable results of this theory which places the
essence of morality in the love of God, or of the infinite good, is
that it destroys the difference of form of moral and metaphysical
propositions, showing that the _must_ and _ought_ of the former is
reduced to the absolute _is_ of the latter.[97] The explanation of this
important result is the following. The proposition: to love God is good
morally, is an absolute and identical proposition; for moral goodness
is the same thing as the love of God.

[97] See §§ 210, 211, 212, and 213.

The proposition: to love our neighbor is good, is reduced to the
former, since to love our neighbor is, in a certain sense, to love God.

The proposition: to help our neighbor is good, is reduced to the last,
for to help is to love.

The proposition: man ought to preserve his life, is explained by this
absolute proposition: the preservation of man's life _is_ willed by
God. Thus the word _ought_ expresses the necessity that man should
preserve his life, if he does not mean to oppose the order willed by

These examples are enough to show how easily moral propositions may
be reduced to an absolute form. I cannot see how this is possible, if
instead of saying that the love of God is morality, we distinguish
between morality and love, saying that the love of God is a moral act.

274. Whatever judgment may be formed of this explanation, it cannot
be denied that by it, a profound wisdom, even in the natural and
philosophical order, is recognized in that admirable doctrine of our
divine Master, in which he calls the love of God the first and greatest
of the commandments; and in which, when he wishes to point out the
character of the moral good, he especially designates the fulfilment of
the divine will.

275. If we place the essence of morality in love, that which is moral
must appear beautiful, since nothing is more beautiful than love; it
must be agreeable to the soul, since nothing is more pleasing than
love. We see also why the ideas of disinterestednessss and sacrifice seem
so beautiful in the moral order, and make us instinctively reject the
theory of self-interest; nothing more disinterested than love, nothing
more capable of great sacrifices.

276. Thus egotism is banished from the moral order: God loves himself,
because he is infinitely perfect; outside of him there is nothing to
love which he has not created. The love which he has for creatures is
completely disinterested, since he can receive nothing from them. The
creature loves itself and also others; but what it loves in itself and
in other creatures, is the reflection of the infinite good. It desires
to be united to the supreme good, and in this it places its last
happiness; but this desire is united with the love of the supreme good
in itself, which the creature does not love precisely for the reason
that thence results its own happiness.



277. I have approached the term of my labor; and it is well to cast a
glance over the long path which I have travelled.

I proposed to examine the fundamental ideas of our mind, whether
considered in themselves, or in their relations to the world.

278. With regard to objects, we have found in our mind two primitive
facts; the intuition of extension, and the idea of being. All objective
sensibility is founded on the intuition of extension; all the pure
intellectual order in what relates to indeterminate ideas, is founded
on the idea of being. We have seen that from the idea of being proceed
the ideas of identity, distinction, unity, number, duration, time,
simplicity, composition, the finite, the infinite, the necessary, the
contingent, the mutable, the immutable, substance, accident, cause, and

279. We find in the subjective order, as facts of consciousness,
sensibility, or sensitive being, (including, in this, sentiment as well
as sensation,) intelligence, and will; whence we have intuitive ideas
of determinate modes of being, distinct from extended beings.

280. Thus all the elements of our mind are reduced to the intuitive
ideas of extension, sensibility, intelligence, and will, and the
indeterminate ideas which are all founded on the idea of being.

281. From the idea of being, combined with not-being, springs the
principle of contradiction, which of itself produces only indeterminate
cognitions. In order that science should have an object that could be
realized, the idea of being must be presented under some form. Our
intuition gives two: extension, and consciousness.

282. Consciousness presents three modes of being: sensibility, or
sensitive being; intelligence, and will.

283. Extension, considered in all its purity, as we imagine it in
space, is the basis of geometry.

284. The same extension modified in various ways, and placed in
relation with our sensibility, is the basis of all the natural
sciences, of all those which have for their object, the corporeal

285. Intelligence gives rise to ideology and psychology.

286. The will, in so far as moved by ends, gives rise to the moral

287. The idea of being begets the principle of contradiction; and, by
this principle, the general and indeterminate ideas, whose combination
produces ontology, which circulates, like a life-giving fluid, through
all the other sciences.

288. Such I conceive the tree of human science: to examine its roots
was the object of the _Fundamental Philosophy_.



 There are not wanting those who have believed that time is a thing
 very easily explained. Such is the opinion of Buffier in his
 celebrated _Traité des premières verités_.[98] After explaining in his
 own way in what duration and time consist, he adds:

 [98] Part II., ch. xxiii. De la durée et du temps.

 "J'admire donc que tant de philosophes aient parlé du _temps_ et de
 la _durée_ comme de choses inexplicables ou incompréhensibles: _si
 non rogas, intelligo_, leur fait-on dire, et selon la paraphrase de
 Locke, _plus je m'applique à découvrir la nature du temps, moins je
 la conçois. Le temps qui découvre toutes les choses ne saurait être
 compris lui-même._ Cependant, à quoi se réduisent tous ces mystères? A
 deux mots que nous venons d'exposer."

 It is strange that so distinguished a writer should not have known, or
 should not have remembered, that the difficulty of explaining time was
 acknowledged not only by the philosophers of whom he speaks, but even
 by so eminent a man as St. Augustine. The words to which he alludes
 are from St. Augustine, and are found in the fourteenth chapter of the
 second book of his confessions:

 "Quid enim est tempus, quis hoc facile, breviterque explicaverit? Quis
 hoc ad verbum de illo proferendum vel cognatione comprehenderit ...
 quid ergo est tempus? Si nemo ex me quærat scio, si quærenti explicare
 velim nescio."

 "What is time? If no one ask me, I know, but if I wish to explain it,
 I know it not."

 The great doctor discovered here a profound question, and like all
 great geniuses when they find themselves in sight of a deep abyss, he
 felt a strong desire to know what was hidden in its bottom. Full of a
 holy enthusiasm, he turns to God, and begs him to explain this mystery:

 "Exarsit animus meus nosse istud implicatissimum enigma. Noli
 claudere, Domine Deus, bone pater; per Christum obsecro, noli
 claudere desiderio meo ista et usitata, et abdita, quominus in ea
 penetret, et dilucescant allucente misericordia tua, Domine! Quem
 percunctabor de his? et cui fructuosius confitebor imperitiam meam
 nisi tibi, cui non sunt molesta studia mea flammantia vehementer
 in scripturas tuas? Da quod amo; amo enim, et hoc tu dedisti. Da,
 pater, qui vere nosti data bona dare filiis tuis. Da, quoniam suscepi
 cognoscere te; et labor est ante me donec aperias.

 "Per Christum obsecro, in nomine ejus sancti sanctorum nemo mihi
 obstrepat. Et ego credidi propter quod et loquor. Hæc est spes mea, ad
 hanc vivo, ut contempler delectationes Domini. Ecce veteres posuisti
 dies meos, et transeunt; et quomodo, nescio. Et dicimus, _Tempus et
 tempus, tempora et tempora. Quamdiu dixit hoc ille; quamdiu fecit hoc
 ille; et quam longo tempore illud non vidi; et duplum temporis habet
 hæc syllaba; ad illam simplam brevem._ Dicimus hæc, et audimus hæc: et
 intelligimur, et intelligimus. Manifestissima et usitatissima sunt, et
 eadem rursus nimis latent, et nova est inventio eorum. (Lib. XI., cap.

 "Video igitur tempus quamdam esse distensionem, sed video an videre
 mihi videor? Tu demonstrabis lux, veritas. (Cap. xxiii.)

 "Et confiteor tibi (Domine) ignorare me adhuc quid sit tempus; et
 rursus confiteor tibi (Domine) scire me in tempore ista dicere, et
 diu me jam loqui de tempore, atque idipsum diu, non esse nisi moram
 temporis. Quomodo igitur hoc sciam, quando quid sit tempus nescio? an
 forte nescio quemadmodum dicam quod scio? Hei mihi qui nescio saltem
 quid nesciam! Ecce Deus meus coram te, quia non mentior; sicut loquor
 ita est cor meum. Tu illuminabis lucernam meam, Domine Deus meus;
 illuminabis tenebras meas." (Cap. xxv.)

 To present as easy things which seemed difficult to the greatest men,
 is, to say the least of it, rather bold. The author flatters himself,
 in such instances that he has settled the question when he has not
 penetrated beyond its surface. It often happens that objects seem
 very clear at first, and we only discover the difficulty which they
 present, when we examine them more closely. Ask a man unskilled in
 questions of philosophy, what extension is, or space, or time, and he
 will wonder that you find any difficulty _in things so clear_. And
 why? Because his first reflex act does not go beyond the ordinary idea
 of these objects, or rather, the use of this idea. Father Buffier
 says, in the chapter from which we quoted before:

 "Dans toutes ces recherches de métaphysique, si embarassées en
 apparence, il ne faut, comme je l'ai dit d'abord, que distinguer les
 idées les plus simples que nous avons dans l'esprit d'avec les noms
 qui y sont attachés par l'usage, pour y découvrir ce qui nous doit
 tenir lieu de première vérité à leur sujet."

 I do not deny that this observation presents a useful criterion; but
 I cannot see in it so simple a means of solving the most difficult
 questions of philosophy. For the difficulty is in distinguishing with
 exactness these simple ideas, which, because they constitute the
 foundation of our knowledge, are, for this very reason, generally
 placed at a greater depth, and covered over with a thousand different
 objects, which hinder us from perceiving them clearly and distinctly,
 Father Buffier was led astray by the very clearness of his explanation
 of time, and believed he saw the bottom of the abyss, when he only saw
 the reflection on its surface:

 "Qu'est-ce que durer? C'est _exister sans être détruit_: voilà
 l'explication la plus nette qu'on puisse donner de la durée; mais le
 simple mot de _durée_ fait comprendre la chose aussi clairement que
 cette explication.

 "Outre l'idée de la durée, nous avons l'idée de la mesure de la durée,
 qui n'est pas la durée elle-même, bien que nous confondions souvent
 l'une avec l'autre; comme il arrive d'ordinaire de confondre nos
 sentiments ou avec leurs effets, ou avec leurs causes, ou avec leurs
 autres circonstances.

 "Or, cette mesure de la durée n'est autre chose que ce que nous
 appelons le _temps_; et le temps n'est que _la révolution régulière
 de quelque chose de sensible_, comme du cours annuel du soleil, ou
 du cours mensuel de la lune, ou diurnal d'une aiguille sur le cadran
 d'une horloge.

 "L'attention que nous avons à cette révolution régulière fait
 précisément en nous l'idée du temps. L'intervalle de cette révolution
 se divisant en de moindres intervalles forme l'idée des parties du
 temps, auxquelles nous donnons aussi le nom de _temps_ plus long ou
 plus court, selon les divers intervalles de la révolution.

 "Quand nous avons une fois acquis cette idée du temps, nous
 l'appliquons à toute la durée que nous concevons ou que nous supposons
 répondre à tel intervalle de la révolution régulière, et par là nous
 donnons à la durée même le nom de temps, appliquant le nom de de la
 mesure à la chose mesurée; mais sans que la durée qu'on mesure soit au
 fond le temps auquel on la mesure, et qui est une révolution. Ainsi,
 Dieu a duré avant le temps, c'est-à-dire _a été sans cesser d'être
 avant la création du monde, et avant la révolution régulière d'aucun

 Here follows the passage already quoted, where the author shows his
 surprise that the explanation of time has been found so difficult.
 After giving his rule that _the simplest ideas must be separated from
 the terms which custom has joined to them_, he concludes with these

 "Par ces deux moyens nous trouvons tout d'un coup l'idée ou la notion
 de _durée_ et de _temps_: j'ai l'idée d'un être en tant qu'il ne cesse
 pas d'être, c'est ce qui s'appelle _durée_; j'ai l'idée de cette durée
 en tant qu'elle est mesurée par la révolution régulière d'un corps
 ou par les intervalles de cette révolution, c'est ce que j'appelle
 _temps_. Il me semble que ces notions sont aussi claires qu'elles
 peuvent l'être, et celui qui cherche à les éclaircir davantage est à
 peu près aussi peu sensé que celui qui voudrait éclaircir comment deux
 fois deux font quatre et ne font pas cinq."

 What explanation is contained in these passages? I can see none.
 Duration, says Buffier, is uninterrupted succession, and time is the
 measure of this duration. But he ought to have reflected that only
 what has quantity can be measured; and consequently duration cannot
 he measured, unless he supposes a length before the measure. This
 is precisely what the difficulty consists in. It is well known that
 time is measured by reference to the revolution of some quantity.
 But what he ought to have explained was, the nature of that which is
 measured, of this quantity, or length, independently of the measure.
 Measure requires _a greater and a less_, and this _greater and less_
 exists independently of all measure. What, then, is the nature of this
 quantity, of this _greater and less_?

 Father Buffier observes, that although there were no succession of
 thought in us, and we should have only one thought, we should still
 have the idea of duration as much as ever. This is true, if we make
 the idea of duration the same as the idea of uninterrupted existence.
 But on this hypothesis we could not measure this duration, and
 consequently could not have the idea of time.

 "In God," says Buffier, "there is no succession, for, does not his
 being endure always?" No doubt of it; but this argument instead of
 confirming his doctrine, only shows its weakness. The duration of
 God cannot be measured unless we suppose a _greater and less_ in the
 duration of necessary and infinite being. Therefore, the idea of
 duration, or uninterrupted existence, does not give us the idea of
 time, or of a duration that can be measured.


 The denial of all succession in eternity, and making it all present,
 without any past or future, must not be regarded as a vain subtlety of
 the schools. Long before the scholastics this had been taught by the
 most eminent authors. St. Augustine says:

 "Idipsum enim tempus tu feceras: nec præterire potuerunt tempora
 antequam faceres tempora. Si autem ante cœlum et terram nullum
 erat tempus, cur quæritur quid tunc faciebas? Non enim erat tunc, ubi
 non erat tempus; nec in tempore tempora præcedis; alioquin non omnia
 tempora præcederes.

 "Sed præcedis omnia tempora præterita, celsitudine semper præsentis
 æternitatis: et superas omnia futura; quia et illa futura sunt; et
 cum venerint præterita erunt; _tu autem idem ipse es, et anni tui
 non deficient_. Anni tui nec eunt, nec veniunt: isti autem nostri,
 et eunt, et veniunt, ut omnes veniant. Anni tui omnes simul stant,
 quoniam stant; nec euntes à venientibus excluduntur, quia non
 transeunt: isti autem nostri omnes erunt cum omnes non erunt. Anni tui
 dies unus: et dies tuus non quotidie, sed hodie: quia hodiernus tuus
 non cedit crastino neque succedit hesterno. Hodiernus tuus æternitas;
 ideo coæternum genuisti, cui dixisti: Ego hodie genui te. Omnia
 tempora tu fecisti, et ante omnia tempora tu es, nec aliquo tempore
 non erat tempus." (Conf. Lib. XI., cap. xiii.)

 In another place we find the same doctrine in these terms:

 "Anni Dei æternitas Dei est. Æternitas ipsa Dei substantia est, quæ
 nihil habet mutabile. Ibi nihil est præteritum, quasi jam non sit;
 nihil est futurum, quasi nondum sit. Non est ibi, nisi _est_. Non est
 ibi, _fuit_ et _erit_, quia et quod fuit jam non est; et quod erit
 nondum est; sed quidquid ibi est, non nisi est." (In Psal. 101; Serm.
 2, num. 10.)

 Plato was not ignorant of this truth, and the holy fathers have
 constantly taught it. When the scholastics adopted the definition of
 Boëthius, that eternity is _interminabilis vitæ tota simul et perfecta
 possessio_, they only embraced a doctrine as solid as it was universal.

 It is difficult to explain these sublime ideas in a more lofty or
 a more profound manner than Fenelon does in his _Treatise on the
 Existence of God_.[99]

 [99] II. part, ch. ii., § 9.

 "C'est retomber dans l'idée du temps, et confondre tout, que de
 vouloir imaginer en Dieu rien qui ait rapport à aucune succession. En
 lui rien ne dure, parce que rien ne passe: tout est fixe; tout est à
 la fois; tout est immobile. En Dieu rien n'a été, rien ne sera; mais
 tout est. Supprimons donc pour lui toutes les questions que l'habitude
 et la faiblesse de l'esprit fini, qui veut embrasser l'infini à sa
 mode étroite et raccourcie, me tenterait de faire. Dirai-je, ô mon
 Dieu, que vous aviez déjà une éternité d'existence en vous-même
 avant que vous m'eussiez créé, et qu'il vous reste encore une autre
 éternité, après ma création, où vous existez toujours? Ces mots de
 _déjà_ et d'_après_ sont indignes de celui qui est. Vous ne pouvez
 souffrir aucun passé et aucun avenir en vous. C'est une folie que de
 vouloir diviser votre éternité, qui est une permanence indivisible:
 c'est vouloir que le rivage s'enfuie, parce qu'en descendant le long
 d'un fleuve, je m'éloigne toujours de ce rivage qui est immobile.
 Insensé que je suis! Je veux, ô immobile vérité, vous attribuer
 l'être borné, changeant et successif de votre créature! Vous n'avez
 en vous aucune mesure dont on puisse mesurer votre existence; car
 elle n'a ni bornes ni parties; vous n'avez rien de mesurable:
 les mesures même qu'on peut tirer des êtres bornés, changeants,
 divisibles et successifs, ne peuvent servir à vous mesurer, vous qui
 êtes infini, indivisible, immuable et permanent. Comment dirai-je
 donc que la courte durée de la créature est par rapport à votre
 éternité? N'étiez-vous pas avant moi? Ne serez-vous pas après moi?
 Ces paroles tendent à signifier quelque vérité; mais elles sont à la
 rigueur indignes et impropres. Ce qu'elles ont de vrai, c'est que
 l'infini surpasse infiniment le fini; qu'ainsi votre existence infinie
 surpasse infiniment en tout sens mon existence, qui, étant bornée,
 a un commencement, un présent et un futur. Mais il est faux que la
 création de votre ouvrage partage votre éternité en deux éternités.
 Deux éternités ne feraient pas plus qu'une seule: une éternité
 partagée, qui aurait une partie antérieure et une partie postérieure,
 ne serait plus une véritable éternité: en voulant la multiplier, on
 la détruirait, parce qu'une partie serait nécessairement la borne
 de l'autre par le bout où elles se toucheraient. Qui dit éternité,
 s'il entend ce qu'il dit, ne dit que ce qui est, et rien au delà; car
 tout ce qu'on ajoute à cette infinie simplicité l'anéantit. Qui dit
 éternité ne souffre plus le langage du temps. Le temps et l'éternité
 sont incommensurables, ils ne peuvent être comparés; et on est séduit
 par sa propre faiblesse toutes les fois qu'on imagine quelque rapport
 entre des choses si disproportionnées. Vous avez néanmoins, ô mon
 Dieu, fait quelque chose hors de vous; car je ne suis pas vous, et il
 s'en faut infiniment. Quand est-ce donc que vous m'avez fait? Est-ce
 que vous n'étiez pas avant que de me faire? Mais que dis-je? Me voilà
 déjà retombé dans mon illusion et dans les questions du temps. Je
 parle de vous comme de moi, ou comme de quelque autre être passager
 que je pourrais mesurer avec moi. Ce qui passe peut être mesuré avec
 ce qui passe; mais ce qui ne passe point est hors de toute mesure et
 de toute comparaison avec ce qui passe: il n'est permis de demander
 ni quand il a été, ni s'il était avant ce qui n'est pas, ou qui
 n'est qu'en passant. Vous êtes, et c'est tout. O que j'aime cette
 parole, et qu'elle me remplit pour tout ce que j'ai à connaître de
 vous! Vous êtes _celui qui est_. Tout ce qui n'est point cette parole
 vous dégrade. Il n'y a qu'elle qui vous ressemble. Eu n'ajoutant
 rien au mot d'être, elle ne diminue rien de votre grandeur. Elle
 est, je l'ose dire, cette parole, infiniment parfaite comme vous. Il
 n'y a que vous qui puissiez parler ainsi, et renfermer votre infini
 dans trois mots si simples. Je ne suis pas, ô mon Dieu, ce qui est.
 Hélas! je suis presque ce qui n'est pas. Je me vois comme un milieu
 incompréhensible entre le néant et l'être. Je suis celui qui a été; je
 suis celui qui sera; je suis celui qui n'est plus ce qu'il a été; je
 suis celui qui n'est pas encore ce qu'il sera; et dans cet entre-deux
 que je suis, un je ne sais quoi qui ne peut s'arrêter en soi, qui n'a
 aucune consistance, qui s'écoule rapidement comme l'eau; un je ne sais
 quoi que je ne puis saisir, qui s'enfuit de mes propres mains, qui
 n'est plus dès que je le veux saisir ou l'apercevoir; un je ne sais
 quoi qui finit dans l'instant même où il commence; en sorte que je
 ne puis jamais un seul moment me trouver moi-même, fixe et présent à
 moi-même, pour dire simplement: Je suis. Ainsi, ma durée n'est qu'une
 défaillance perpétuelle. O que je suis loin de votre éternité qui est
 indivisible, infinie, et toujours présente tout entière! Que je suis
 même bien éloigné de la comprendre! Elle m'échappe à force d'être
 vraie, simple et immense; comme mon être m'échappe à force d'être
 composé de parties, mêlé de vérité et de mensonge, d'être et de néant.
 C'est trop peu que de dire de vous que vous étiez des siècles infinis
 avant que je fusse. J'aurais honte de parler ainsi; car c'est mesurer
 l'infini avec le fini qui est un demi-néant. Quand je crains de dire
 que vous étiez avant que je fusse, ce n'est pas pour douter que vous
 existant, vous ne m'ayez créé, moi qui n'existais pas: mais c'est pour
 éloigner de moi toutes les idées imparfaites qui sont au-dessus de
 vous. Dirai-je que vous étiez avant moi? Non; car voilà deux termes
 que je ne puis souffrir. Il ne faut pas dire, _vous étiez_; car _vous
 étiez_ marque un temps passé et une succession. Vous êtes: et il n'y
 a qu'un présent, immobile, indivisible et infini que l'on puisse vous
 attribuer, pour parler dans la rigueur des termes. Il ne faut point
 dire que vous avez toujours été, il faut dire que vous êtes; et ce
 terme de _toujours_, qui est si fort pour la créature, est trop faible
 pour vous; car il marque une continuité et non une permanence. Il vaut
 mieux dire simplement et sans restriction, que vous êtes. O Etre! ô
 Etre! votre éternité, qui n'est que votre être même, m'étonne; mais
 elle me console. Je me trouve devant vous comme si je n'étais pas; je
 m'abîme dans votre infini; et loin de mesurer votre permanence, par
 rapport à ma fluidité continuelle, je commence à me perdre de vue, à
 ne me trouver plus, et ne voir en tout que ce qui est; je veux dire
 vous-même. Ce que j'ai dit du passé, je le dis de même de l'avenir.
 On ne peut point dire que vous serez après ce qui passe; car vous ne
 passez point. Ainsi, vous ne serez présent en parlant de vous. On ne
 dit point d'un rivage immobile, qu'il devance ou qu'il suit les flots
 d'une rivière: il ne devance ni ne suit; car il ne marche point. Ce
 que je remarque de ce rivage par rapport à l'immobilité locale, je le
 dois dire de l'être infini par rapport à l'immobilité d'existence. Ce
 qui passe a été et sera, et passe du prétérit au futur par un présent
 imperceptible, qu'on ne peut jamais assigner. Mais ce qui ne passe
 point existe absolument, et n'a qu'un présent infini: il est, et c'est
 tout ce qu'il est permis d'en dire: il est sans temps dans tous les
 temps de la création. Quiconque sort de cette simplicité, tombe de
 l'éternité dans le temps."


 (3) Perhaps some of my readers, who are not well acquainted with the
 history of philosophy, may think that I have extended the explanation
 of the idea of the infinite to too great length, and consider these
 questions as serving rather to subtilize, than to acquire solid
 knowledge. This is a great mistake. At all times the philosophical
 questions of the idea of the infinite have held a prominent position,
 and at the present time there is scarcely any which require to be more
 carefully examined, if we wish to stay the progress of pantheism.
 I shall not cease to repeat that a great many of the most serious
 errors have their birth in a confusion in their fundamental ideas;
 if one is well grounded in these ideas, he has nothing to fear from
 certain works whose secret in leading one astray, consists in using
 incomprehensible words, or in giving a false sense to those which can
 be understood. However this may be, I would remind those who believe
 these questions mere scholastic cavils, that they must regard as
 cavillers the most eminent philosophers of ancient and modern times.


 (4) I know that some modern philosophers, and more especially M.
 Cousin, reject the accusation of pantheism, and explain in their own
 way those passages of their works in which this error is professed.
 As it is not possible for me to examine at any length, a question
 which would require the insertion of long extracts, I merely refer the
 reader to what I have said in the body of the work, and with respect
 to M. Cousin, to the extracts which I have made in my _Letters to a
 Skeptic in Matters of Religion, Letter I_. It is not the fault of M.
 Cousin's adversaries that he has used such clear expressions that no
 man of sound judgment can doubt that they contain a full profession
 of pantheism. Leaving to the philosopher the responsibility of his
 intentions, I shall only beg our young men not to judge lightly of the
 disputes of the neighboring kingdom, which are not always received
 here through faithful organs; and to withhold their faith from those
 who would attempt to persuade them that there is no ground for the
 alarms of men of sound philosophical doctrine.


       *       *       *       *       *

 Transcriber's Notes

 Obvious typographical errors have been silently corrected.

 Variations in hyphenation have been standardised, but other variations
 in spelling, accents and punctuation are as in the original.

 Italics are represented thus _italic_.

 § 18, Book VII, fourth paragraph
  "A space whose parts are not continuous, is not a space; neither is
  a time whose parts are not continuous, a space."
 The final space has been changed to time.

 Footnote 61 read "III. Th. § 5, II., p. 256.". From the context it
 appears that Ib., was omitted.

 Book X Chapter 1. The first sentence read
 "1. Beings are divided into two classes: necessary and contingent;
 necessary being is that which cannot be;"
 This has been changed to "cannot but be;"

 The repetition of the title of each book on consecutive pages at
 the beginning has been removed.

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