Of the Metaphysics which have been resorted to on the side of Theism.
(MR. HUME'S OBJECTION TO THE A POSTERIORI ARGUMENT,
(GROUNDED ON THE ASSERTION THAT THE WORLD IS A SINGULAR EFFECT.)
1. THE doctrine of innate ideas in the mind, is wholly
different from the doctrine of innate tendencies in the mind - which tendencies
may lie undeveloped till the excitement of some occasion have manifested or
brought them forth. In a newly formed mind, there is no idea of nature or of a
single object in nature - yet no sooner is an object presented, or is an event
observed to happen, than there is elicited the tendency of the mind to presume
on the constancy of nature. At least as far back as our observation extends,
this law of the mind is in full operation. Let an infant for the first time in
its life, strike on the table with a spoon, and, pleased with the noise, it
will repeat that stroke with every appearance of a confident anticipation that
the noise will be repeated also. It counts on the invariableness wherewith the
same consequent will follow the same antecedent. In the language of Dr. Thomas
Brown, these two terms make up a sequence - and there seems to exist in the
spirit of man, not an underived, but an aboriginal faith, in the uniformity of
2. This instinctive expectation of a constancy in the succession of events is not the fruit of experience ; but is anterior to it. The truth is that experience, so far from strengthening this instinct of the understanding as it has been called, seems rather to modify and restrain it. The child who elicited a noise which it likes from the collision of its spoon with the table would, in the first instance, expect the same result from a like collision with any material surface spread out before it - as if placed for example, on the smooth and level sand of a sea-shore. Here the effect of experience would be to correct its first strong and unbridled anticipations - so that in time it would not look for the wished for noise in the infliction of a stroke upon sand or clay or the surface of a fluid, but upon wood or stone or metal. The office of experience here is not to strengthen our faith in the uniformity of nature's sequences, but to ascertain what the sequences actually are. The effect of the experience is not to give the faith, but to the faith to add knowledge. At the outset of its experience a child's confidence in the uniformity of nature is unbounded - and it is in the progress of its experience, that it meets with that which serves to limit the confidence and to qualify it. It goes forth upon external nature furnished beforehand with the expectation of the invariableness which obtains between nature's antecedents and her consequents - but it often falls into mistakes in estimating what the proper antecedents and consequents are. To ascertain this is the great use of experience. The great object of repetition in experiments is not to strengthen our confidence in the constancy of nature's sequences - but to ascertain what be the real and precise terms of each sequence. It is for this purpose that experiments are so varied - for in that assemblage of contemporaneous things amid which a given result takes place, it is often not known at the first which of the things is the strict and proper antecedent - and it is to determine this, that sometimes certain of the old circumstances are detached from the groupe and certain new ones added, till the discrimination has been precisely made between what is essential and what is merely accessary in the process.
3. This predisposition to count on the uniformity of nature is an original law of the mind, and is not the fruit of our observation of that uniformity. It has been well stated by Dr. Brown that there is no more of logical dependence between the propositions, that a stone has a thousand times fallen to the earth and a stone will always fall to the earth, than there is between the propositions that a stone has once fallen to the earth and a stone will always fall to the earth. "At whatever link of the chain we begin," he says, "we must always meet with the same difficulty, the conversion of the past into the future. If it be absurd to make this conversion at one stage of inquiry, it is just as absurd to make it at any other stage; and, as far as our memory extends, there never was a time at which we did not make the instant conversion." The truth is, that experience teaches the past only - not the future. It tells us what has happened before the present moment - and to infer from this what will happen afterwards, requires the aid of a distinct principle - the instinctive principle of belief, in short, whose reality we are now contending for.
4. The constancy of nature and man's faith in that constancy do not stand related to each other like the terms of a logical proposition, or in the way of cause and consequence. There is a most beneficent harmony between the material and the mental law - but it is altogether a contingent harmony; and the adaptation of the one to the other is perhaps the most precious evidence within the compass of our own unborrowed light, for a presiding intelligence in the formation or arrangements of the universe. The argument unfolded by Dr. Paley with such marvellous felicity and power, is founded chiefly on the fitnesses that meet together in man's corporeal economy, and on the adjustments of its parts to external nature. It is true that our mental economy offers nothing so complex or so palpable on which to raise a similar argument; and yet can we instance a more wonderful adjustment, or one more prolific of good to our species, than that which obtains between the unexcepted uniformity of nature's processes, and the prior, independent disposition which resides in the heart of man to count upon that uniformity, and to proceed on the unfaltering faith of it ? Were it not for this, man should for ever remain a lost and bewildered creature among the appearances around him - and no experience of his could in the least help to unravel the confusion.
The regularity of nature up to the present moment would be of no avail, without his faith in the continuance of that regularity - and it is only by the force of this instinctive anticipation, that the memorials of the past serve him as indices by which to guide his way through the futurity that lies before him. The striking accordancy is, that there should be such an expectation deposited in every bosom; and that from every department of the accessible creation there should be to this expectation the response or the echo of one wide and unexcepted fulfilment. It is like a whisper to the heart of man of a universal promise, which can only be executed by a hand of universal agency - and as if the same Being who infused the hope by an energy within, did, by a diffusive energy abroad, cause the response of an unfailing accomplishment to arise from all the amplitudes of creation and providence. This intuitive faith is not the acquisition of experience; but is given as if by the touch of inspiration for the purpose of stamping on experience all its value - not gathered by man from his observation of outward nature; but forming an original part of his own nature, and yet in such glorious harmony with all that is around him throughout the innumerable host of nature's sequences, that he never once by trusting in her constancy is disappointed or deceived. Such is the steadfastness of her manifold processes that nature never misgives from her constancy. Such is the strength of his mental instinct that man never misgives from his confidence. Had it not been for the union of these two man had been incapable of wisdom. The establishment of both bespeaks at once the wisdom and the faithfulness of a God.
5. But this harmony between the intellectual constitution of man and the general constitution of nature, is not only of use in a theological argument - it might also be applied to strengthen the foundations of our Philosophy. It forms a demonstration of the perfect safety wherewith we might confide in our ultimate or original principles of belief. We have experimental evidence of this in our anticipation of nature's constancy being so fully realized. This anticipation is not the fruit of experience, but is verified by experience. It is an instinct of the understanding; and that it should have been so met and responded to over the whole domain of creation is like the testimony of a concurrent voice from all things inanimate to the Creator's faithfulness. Seeing that one of the instinctive tendencies of the mind has been so palpably accredited from without - we may commit ourselves, as if to an infallible guidance, in following its other instinctive tendencies. There is a scepticism that is suspicious, as if they were so many false lights, of our original and universal principles whether in judgment or taste or morals - and which looks upon them at best as but the results of an arbitrary organization.
From the instance now before us it is plain that the arbiter of our constitution, the artificer of the mechanism of our spirits, has at least most strikingly adapted it to the constitution and the mechanism of external things - the hope or belief of constancy in the one meeting in the other with the most rigid and invariable fulfilment. This is the strongest practical vindication which can be imagined, of the unshaken faith that we might place in the instinctive and primary suggestions of nature. It restores that feeling of security to our intellectual processes which the Philosophy of Hume so laboured to unsettle: And we again feel a comfort and a confidence in the exercises of reason - when thus reassured in the solidity of those axioms which are reason's stepping-stones, in the substantive truth and certainty of those first principles whence all argumentation takes its rise.
6. But the mention of David Hume leads to the consideration of that atheistical argument which has been associated with his name - an argument not founded however on any denial of the regularity of nature's sequences - but proceeding on the admission of that regularity; and only assuming the necessity of experience to ascertain what the sequences actually are. Mr. Hume's argument is this: After having once observed the conjunction between any two term's of an invariable sequence - it is granted that from the observed existence of either of the terms, we can conclude without observation the existence of the other - that from a perceived antecedent we can foretell its consequent, although we should not see it; or on the other hand from the perceived consequent we can infer the antecedent, although it should not have been seen by us. Having had the observation once of the two terms A and B, and of the causal relation between them, the appearance of A singly would warrant the anticipation of B, or of B singly the inference of A.
But then it is required for any such inference that we should have had the observation or experience, at least once, of both these terms; and of the conjunction between them. If we have seen but once in our life a watch made, and coming forth of the hands of a watch-maker; we, in all time coming, can, on seeing the watch only, infer the watch-maker. But this full experience comprehensive of both terms is wanting, it is alleged, in the question of a God. We may have had an experience reaching to both terms of the sequence in watch-making - but we have had no such experience in world-making. Had we but seen a world once made, and coming forth from the observed fiat of an intelligent Deity, then the sight of every other world might have justified the inference that for it too there behoved to have been -a world-maker. It is the want of that completed observation which we so often have in the cases of human mechanism, that constitutes it is apprehended the flaw or failure in the customary argument for a God - as founded on the mechanism of nature. It is because the world is to us a singular effect - it is because we have only perceived the consequent a world, and never perceived the alleged antecedent the mandate of a Creator at whose forth-putting some other world had sprung into existence - it is because in this instance we have but witnessed one term of a succession and never witnessed its conjunction with a prior term, that we are hopelessly debarred it is thought, from ever coming soundly or legitimately to the conclusion of a God.
7. The following are so many of the passages from Hume containing the argument in his own words: "But it is only when two species of objects are found to be constantly conjoined that we can infer the one from the other; and were an effect presented which was entirely singular and could not be comprehended under any known species, I do not see that we could form any conjecture or inference at all concerning its cause. If experience and observation and analogy be indeed the only guides which we can reasonably follow in inferences of this nature - both the effect and cause must bear a similarity and resemblance to other effects and causes which we know, and which we have found in many instances to be conjoined with each other."* Again - "If we see a house, we conclude with the greatest certainty that it had an architect or builder; because this is precisely that species of effect, which we have experienced to proceed from that species of cause. But surely you will not affirm that the universe bears such a resemblance to a house, that we can with the same certainty infer a similar cause, or that the analogy is here entire and perfect. The dissimilitude is so striking, that the utmost you can here pretend to is a guess, a conjecture, a presumption concerning a similar cause; and how that pretension will be received in the world I leave you to consider." - - " When two species of objects have always been observed to be conjoined together, I can infer by custom the existence of one, wherever I see the existence of the other; and this I call an argument from experience.
* Hume's Essays, Vol. IL p. 157, being an extract from his Essay on Providence and a Future State.
"But how this argument can have place, where the objects as in the present case, are single, individual, without parallels or specific resemblance, may be difficult to explain. And will any man tell me with a serious countenance, that an orderly universe must arise from some thought and act, like the human; because we have experience of it? To ascertain this reasoning, it were requisite, that we had experience of the origin of worlds; and it is not sufficient surely, that we have seen ships and cities arise from human art and contrivance." - - " Can you pretend to show any such similarity between the fabric of a house, and the generation of a universe? Have you ever seen nature in any such situation as resembles the first arrangement of the elements? Have worlds ever been formed under your eye? and have you had leisure to observe the whole progress of the phenomena, from the first appearance of order to its final consummation ? If you have, then cite your experience and deliver your theory."*
* The above extracts are taken from Hume's Dialogues concerning Natural Religion.
8. Now it appears to us that this argument of Hume has not been rightly met by any of his antagonists. Instead of resisting it they have retired from it - and, in fact, done him the homage of conceding the principle on which it rests. They have suffered him to bear away one of the prime supports of Natural Theism; and, to make up for this loss, they have attempted to replace it with another support which I hold to be altogether precarious. Hume denies that we have any experimental evidence for the being of a God - and that simply because we have not any experience in the making of worlds. Had we observed once or oftener the sequence of two terms A and B - then afterwards on our observing B though alone we might have inferred A. Had we observed though only once, a God employed in making a world - then when another world was presented to our notice we might have inferred a God. But we have never had the benefit of such observation; and hence the conclusion of Mr. Hume is, that the reasoning for a God is not founded on the basis of experience. Now how is this met both by Reid and Stuart ? - by conceding that the argument for a God is not an experimental one at all - the inference of design from its effects being a result neither of reasoning nor of experience. When the question is put, on what then is the inference grounded - the never-failing reply in a difficulty of this sort, and in which more than once these philosophers have taken convenient refuge is, that it is grounded on an intuitive judgment of the mind.
9. Our own opinion of this evasion is that to say the least it was unnecessary - and we think that without recurring to any separate principle on the subject, Mr. Hume's argument might be satisfactorily disposed of, though we had no other ground for the inference of a designing cause, than that upon which we reason from like consequents to the like antecedents that went before them.
10. It appears to us that these philosophers have most unnecessarily mystified the argument for a God, besides giving an untrue representation of the right argument. The considerations on which Reid and Stewart would resolve the inference of design from its effects into an original principle, distinct from that by which we infer any other cause from its effects - even our prior observation of the conjunction between them, appear to us most singularly weak and inconclusive. They say that we can only infer design on the part of a fellow-creature from its effects in this instinctive or intuitive way, because we never had any direct perception of his mind at all, and therefore never had a view of the antecedent but only of the consequent. But we have the evidence of consciousness, the strongest of all evidence, for the existence of our own mind; we have both the antecedent and the consequent in this one instance, both the design and its effects when ourselves are the designers ; and, from the similarity of those effects which proceed from ourselves to those which proceed from our neighbours, we infer on a sufficient experimental ground that there are design and a designing mind on their part also. It comes peculiarly ill from Mr. Stewart to say that we know nothing of mind but by its operations and effects, who himself has so oft affirmed that all our knowledge of matter comes to us in the same way; and that the properties of which sense informs us as belonging to the one form no better evidence for the substantive existence of matter, than that for the substantive existence of mind afforded by the properties of which consciousness informs us as belonging to the other.
And even though we should allow that, apart from all that experimental reasoning by which from the observation of what passes with ourselves we make inference as to what passes with others of our kind, we arrive by means of a direct and instinctive perception to the knowledge of the existence of other human minds beside our own - there is no analogy between this case and that of the divine mind as inferred from the effects or the evidences of design in the workmanship of nature. God does not by this workmanship hold himself forth to observers in visible personality as our fellow-creatures do. He has left for our inspection a thousand specimens of skilful and beauteous mechanism; but he has left us to view them as separate from himself. These philosophers would have us to infer a designing God from the works of nature, just as we infer a designing mind in man not from the works of man but from man in the act of working - even as if the divine spirit animated nature in the same manner as the human spirit animates the framework by which it is encompassed.
Now the proper analogy is to view a piece of human workmanship, after it is completed and may be seen separately from the man himself; and to compare this with the workmanship of nature viewed separately from God. We take cognizance of the former as the work of man, just because in previous instances we have seen such work achieved by man. This consideration proceeds altogether upon experience; and what we have now to ascertain is, in how far experience warrants us to conclude a designing cause for the workmanship of nature. We hold that this conclusion too has a strict experience for its basis; and that, notwithstanding that the principle has been given up by Stewart as is evident from his following reply to Hume's argument, "The argument as is manifest proceeds entirely on the supposition that our inferences of design are in every case the result of experience, the contrary of which has been already sufficiently shown - and which indeed (as Dr. Reid has remarked) if it be admitted as a general truth, leads to this conclusion - that no man can have any evidence of the existence of any intelligent being but himself."* (here follows a lengthy footnote which I have italicised for clarity - Ed.))
* Stewart's Philosophy of the Moral and Active Powers, Vol. II. p. 25.
In this treatise Mr. Stewart has rather presented the opinions of others, than come forth in propria persona with any sustained pleading of his own; and, as in most of his other performances, instead of grappling with the question, he presents us with the literature of the question - made up of history therefore rather than of argument, and altogether composing but the outline of what had been said or reasoned by other men, though accompanied with a very few slight yet elegant touches from his own hand. We by no means agree with those who think of this interesting personage, that, considering the few substantive additions which he made to philosophy, he therefore as a philosopher had gained an unfair reputation. It is true, he has not added much to the treasures of science ; yet, in virtue of a certain halo which by the glow of his eloquence and the purity and nobleness of his sentiments he threw around the cause, he abundantly sustained the honours of it. It reminds us of what is often realized in the higher walks of society, when certain men vastly inferior to others both in family and in fortune, do, in virtue of a certain lofty bearing in which they are upheld by the consciousness of a grace and a dignity that natively belong to them, not usurp the highest place in fashion, but have that place most readily awarded to them by the spontaneous consent and testimony of all. It was thus with Stewart in the world of letters. His rank and reputation there were not owing either to the number or importance of the discoveries achieved by him. But he had what many discoverers have not. He had the sustained and the lofty spirit of a high-toned academic; and never did any child, whether of science or poetry, breathe in an atmosphere more purely ethereal. The je ne scats quoi of manner does not wield a more fascinating power in the circles of fashion, than did the indescribable charm of his rare and elevated genius over our literary circles ; and, when we consider the homage of reverence and regard which he drew from general society, we cannot but wish that many successors may arise in his own likeness - who might build up an aristocracy of learning, that shall infuse a finer element into the system of life, than any which has ever been distilled upon it from the vulgar aristocracies of wealth or of power.
11. Let us therefore resume our observations on the strong instinctive confidence of the human mind in the uniformity of nature - and thence apply ourselves to the consideration of this seemingly formidable argument.
12. We have already remarked on the perfect agreement which there is between the constancy of nature, and the instinctive belief which men have in that constancy. There seems no necessary connexion between these two things. It might for aught we know have been otherwise. There might have been a tendency in the human mind always to look for the like event in the like circumstances - and this anticipation on our part may have been thwarted at every turn by the most capricious and unlooked for evolutions, on the part of the actual world that is around us. Or there might have been the same uniformity that there is in nature now - but no such constitutional propensity with us to count upon that uniformity. In either case we should not have profited by the lessons of experience. The remembrance of the past could have furnished no materials on which to ground or to guide our expectations of the future.
It is not because of one thing, that nature is constant ; but it is because of two things, that nature is constant and that we have been endowed with an irresistible faith in that constancy - it is because of a concurrence in fact between two elements that might have been separated the one from the other, it is because of an adaptation between the mental economy in man and that general economy of things in the midst of which he is placed, that any wisdom at all can be reared on the basis of observation ; or that, on the appearances which are before our eyes, we can either reason back to those which have preceded, or forward to those which are hereafter to ensue from them.
13. Our expectation of the constancy of nature in all time coming, because of our experience of that constancy in all past time, is not a deduction of reason - but an immediate and resistless principle of belief in the human constitution. It is no more the fruit of an argumentative process than any sensation or emotion is. That, on the observation of a certain event in given circumstances, there should be a confident anticipation of the same event in the same circumstances - this is the assumed principle of many a reasoning; but it is not reasoning which has conducted us thereto. It is an underived and intuitive belief, and not a belief that we reach by a succession of steps - and is, as far as we can discern, as strong in infancy as it is in mature and established manhood. It is vain to say that the constancy of nature throughout every former generation of the world, is a reason for the constancy of nature throughout every future generation of it. The two statements are distinct, the one from the other - and there is surely no logical necessity why because the first statement is true, the second should be true also. Nevertheless, and without reasoning, we are led from believing by observation in the first, irresistibly to believe by anticipation in the second. There is a harmony, but it is a contingent harmony, between our strong instinctive conviction that it shall be so, and the unfailing universal accomplishment of it. The very strongest among the principles of the human understanding is faithfully responded to by the very surest among the processes of external nature; and this adaptation, due to no will and to no reasoning of ours, yet without which reasoning would be left without a basis - is perhaps the most striking proof which can be given, that man, even when stalking in the pride of his intellectual greatness along the high walk of philosophy, is but the creature of an instinct that should ever be leading him astray - had not God made the laws and the arrangements of his universe to correspond with it.
14. But while we thus advocate the independence of the two laws on each other, that is, of the mental or subjective law of man's instinctive faith in the constancy of nature, on the external or objective law of nature's actual constancy - it should well be understood, that the view we are now to give of Hume's atheistical argument does not rest on any metaphysical theory whatever, as to the origin of this universal belief. Whether it be distinct from experience or the fruit of experience, it is not upon this that we join issue with our antagonist. Inquirers may differ as to the origin of our belief in the uniformity of nature's successions. On this topic we exact no particular opinion from them. It is enough if we agree in the soundness of that belief, whatever the descent or the derivation of it may have been. It is man's universal judgment, that the same consequents are ever preceded by the same antecedents, and the two questions are altogether distinct from each other - whence does that judgment take its rise, and whether that judgment is a true one. We may differ or agree upon the first. It matters not, if we agree upon the second, which forms the basis of Hume's reasoning. We concede to him his own premises - even that we are not entitled to infer an antecedent from its consequent, unless we have before had the completed observation of both these terms and of the succession between them. We disclaim the aid of all new or questionable principles in meeting his objection, and would rest the argument a posteriori for the being of a God, on a strictly experimental basis.
15. The uniformity of nature lies in this, that the same antecedents are always followed by the same consequents. Grant that the former agree in every respect - then the latter will also agree in every respect. This invariable following of two events, the one by the other, is termed a sequence; and there is not a more unfailing or universal characteristic of nature than the constancy of these sequences.
16. For the argument of this chapter it is enough that we and our antagonists have a common belief in the constancy of these sequences - though they who think, as we do, that the belief is of instinctive origin, cannot but feel how wondrous the coincidence is between the constancy itself and the fact, that from the very first dawnings of mental perception this constancy is counted upon. It does not at all appear that the experience of nature's constancy is first waited for ere it is anticipated by the mind. And even although it had to be waited for; and the observation had been made for years of nature's constancy - it is still to be explained why we should infer from this the same constancy in the years which are to come. It does not follow that because nature hath proceeded in a certain invariable course throughout the whole retrospect of our experience, it must therefore do the same throughout the whole range of our future anticipations. The one fact does not necessarily involve the other. There has been an unfailing constancy in nature through the years that are past - and there appears no necessity which can be assigned, why on this account there should be as unfailing a constancy of nature through the years that are to come. It may be, or it may not be, - but yet the firm impregnable conviction of all, is that most certainly it shall be - and this anticipation, which all without exception have, is followed up by the most unexcepted fulfilment.
17. The heat that is of a certain temperature will always melt ice. The impulse that hath once given direction and velocity, will always in the same circumstances be followed up with motion. The body that is raised from the earth's surface, and then left without support, will always descend. The position of the moon in a certain quarter of the heavens, will always be responded to by the rising or falling tides upon our shores. These antecedents may be variously blended; and this will give rise to different results; but the very same assemblage of antecedents will always be followed by the same consequents. Our own personal experience may have been limited to a few square miles of the earth that we tread upon - yet this would not hinder such a faith in the immutability of nature, that we could bear it in confident application all over the globe. In other words, we count upon this constancy far beyond what we ever have observed of it - and still the topic of our wonder and gratitude is, that a belief in every way so instinctive should be followed up by an accomplishment so sure.
18. But we shall dilate no further on the general position, that our faith in the future constancy of nature is intuitive, and not deduced by any process of reasoning however short, from our observation of its past constancy. Let us here recommend the masterly treatise of Dr. Thomas Brown on Cause and Effect - a philosopher who, with occasional inadvertencies in the ethical department of his course, hath thrown a flood of copious and original light over the mysteries of the human understanding; and who seems, in particular, to have grappled successfully with a question at one time dark and hopeless as the metaphysics of the schoolmen.
19. Without, therefore, expatiating any farther on the origin of this belief, and certainly without laying the least argumentative stress upon it in the reasonings which we have now to offer - let it suffice for the present that there exists such a belief in our mind, and that it meets with its correspondent reality in nature.
20. There are two processes of inference, which, however identical in their principle, may be distinguished the one from the other. When there is an invariable connexion between certain antecedents and certain consequents - then, upon our seeing the antecedents, we look confidently forward to the appearance of the consequents - or, when we see the consequents, we conclude that their proper antecedents have gone before them. But it may so happen, that various antecedents shall be mingled together at the same time - some of which have an influence upon the result, and some of which have none; but still so as to make it a necessary exercise of mind to disentangle the trains from each other, and to discriminate what be the terms which stand to each other in the strict relation of a sequence that is invariable.
21. But to descend from the obscure language of generalities upon this subject. Let us take the case of a watchmaker, and a watch, the former being the antecedent and the latter the consequent - both of which, and the actual conjunction of which, we have already observed, if we have ever seen a watch made. Now, on looking first to the antecedent, there is room for distinguishing between the proper and the accidental. It were wrong to say of this antecedent, that it comprises all the particulars which meet and are assembled together in the person of the watchmaker. It has nothing to do, for example, with the colour of his hair, or with the quality of his vestments, or with the height of his stature, or with the features of his countenance, or with the age and period of his life. The strict and proper antecedent is distinct from one and all of these particulars; and may be said to lie enveloped, as it were, in a mass or assemblage of contemporaneous things which have nothing to do with the fabrication of the watch. The watch, in fact, is the consequent of a purposing mind - putting itself forth in the execution of a mechanism for the indication of time, and possessed of competent skill and power for such an execution. The mind of the observer separates here the essential from the accessary. Should he ever again meet with the forth-putting of the same essential antecedent as before, he will expect the same consequent as before - even though he should never meet with an antecedent compassed about with the same accessaries. The next watchmaker may differ from any he had ever before seen, in a multitude of particulars - in age, in stature, in dress, and general appearance, and a thousand other modifications which it were endless to specify. Yet how manifestly absurd to look for another consequent than a watch because of these accidental variations. It is not to any of these that the watch is a consequent at all. It is solely to a purposing mind, possessed of competent skill and power - and this was common both to the first and the second watchmaker.
The next time that we shall see a watchmaker addressing himself to his specific and professional object, there is little probability that we shall see in him the very same assemblage of circumstantials that we ever witnessed before in any other individual of his order. And yet how absurd to say that we are now looking to a different antecedent from any that we ever before had the observation of - that, just as Hume calls the world a singular effect, we are now beholding in this new watchmaker the operation of a singular cause - and that therefore it is impossible to predict what sort of consequent it may be, that will come out of his hands. It is true that there are many circumstantial things in and about the man which, if we admit as parts of the antecedent, will make up altogether a singular antecedent. But in the strict essential antecedent there is no singularity. There is a purposing mind resolved on the manufacture of a watch, and endowed with a sufficient capacity for the achievement of its object. This is what we behold now, and what we have beheld formerly - and so, in spite of the alleged, and indeed the actual singularity of the whole compound assemblage, we look for the very same consequent as before.
22. What is true of the antecedent is true also of the consequent. There may be an indefinite number of accessary and accidental things, associated with that which is strictly and properly the posterior term of the sequence. In a watch it is the adaptation of rightly shapen parts to a distinctlv noticeable end, the indication of time which forms the true consequent to the thought and agency of a purposing mind in the watchmaker. But in this said watch there are a thousand collateral things which, rightly speaking, form no part of the essential consequent - though altogether they go to a composition different perhaps, in some respects, from any that was ever exemplified before; and therefore go to the construction of a singular watch. There is the colour of the materials, there is their precise weight and magnitude, there is the species of metal - each of these and of many other things apart from that one thing of form and arrangement, which indicates the work and contrivance of an artist. Were the things with their existing properties presented before me in a confused mass, the inference of a designing cause would instantly vanish. It is the arrangement of things, obviously fashioned and arranged for the measurement of time, that forms the sole consequent - a consequent which does not comprise all the other circumstantial peculiarities that we have now specified, but which rather lies enveloped in the midst of them. These circumstantial things, it is very possible, were never precisely so blended, as they are in the specimen before me. There never, it is most likely, was just such a colour, united with just such a weight, and with just such a magnitude, and with just such an exact order of parts in. the machinery, as altogether obtain in the individual watch upon which I am now reasoning. When looked to, therefore, in this general and aggregate view, it may be denominated a singular effect. Yet who does not see that the inference of a designing cause is in no way spoiled by this ? As a whole it may be singular but there is that in it which is not singular. There is the collocation of parts which has been exemplified in all other watches; and on which alone the inference is founded, of an artist with skill to devise and power to execute, having been the producer of it. It is this which the observer separately looks to, and singles out, as it were, from all the collateral things which enter into the assemblage that is before his eyes. In the effect, the strict and proper consequent is the adjustment and adaptation of parts for an obvious end. In the cause, the strict and proper antecedent is a designing intelligence, wherewith there may at the same time be associated a thousand peculiarities of person, and voice, and manner, to him unknown - but to him of no importance to be known, for the purpose of establishing the sequence between a purposing mind which is not seen, and the piece of mechanism which is seen.
23. But ere we can bring this reasoning to bear on the Atheism of Hume - there is still a farther abstraction to be made. Hitherto we separated the essential consequent from the accessaries in a watch - so that though each watch may be singular in respect of all its accessaries taken together - yet all the watches have in common that essential consequent from which we infer the agency of design in the construction of them. That consequent is adaptation of parts for the specific end which the mechanism serves - that is, the measurement of time. But it should be further understood that, for the purpose of inferring design, it is not necessary that the end of the arrangement in question should be some certain and specific end. It is enough to substantiate the inference that the arrangement should be obviously conducive to some end - to any end. From what the end particularly is, we learn what the particular object was which the artist had in view - but for the purpose of warranting the general inference that there was an artist who had a something in view, it matters not what the end particularly is. It is enough that it be some end or other - and that, an end which the structure or working of the machine itself obviously announces.
In the case of a watch the following are the counterpart terms of the sequence. The consequent is a mechanism adapted for the measurement of time. And its counterpart antecedent is an intelligent adaptation, putting forth his ability and skill on the production of a mechanism for the measurement of time. But though we should lop off, as it were, the measurement of time or this specific end from each of these terms; and substitute in its stead an end generally, or a whatever end, the inference of an intelligent adaptation would still hold good. The consequent then would be a mechanism adapted for a whatever end (and that an end to be learned from the examination of the mechanism itself); and its counterpart antecedent would be an intelligent adaptation for that whatever end. For either the more special or the more general inference, we equally arrive at an intelligent adaptation. When we in the consequent restrict our attention to what the end particularly is, then we proportionally restrict the antecedent to an intelligent mind bent on the accomplishment of that specific end. But when in the argument we make but a general recognition in the consequent of some end or other, the conclusion is equally general of an intelligent mind bent on the accomplishment of that some end or other.
All this might be provided for in the reasoning, by laying proper stress on the distinction between the adaptation of parts for the end, and the adaptation of parts for an end. The latter, in fact, is the only essential consequent to the antecedent. of a purposing mind - and from the appearance of the latter we are entitled to infer this antecedent. By taking this distinction along with us, we come to perceive how far the argument of final causes may be legitimately extended.
24. We already understand then how on having seen one watch made, we are entitled to infer a maker for the second watch - though in many of its accessaries it may differ most widely, and therefore differ most widely on the whole or as a compound assemblage from the first. With all these contingent variations in the two machines, there is one thing which they have in common - adaptation of parts for the end of measuring and indicating time; and this justifies the inference of a common antecedent - even a purposing mind that had this specific object in view. But we contend that, in all sound logic, we are warranted to extend the inference farther - not merely to a second watch but to a second machine of any sort, though its use or the end of its construction was wholly different from that of a watch. If, for example, instead of a mechanism which served to mark a succession of hours, there were presented a mechanism which served to evolve a succession of musical harmonies, we should just as confidently infer an intelligent artist in the one case as in the other, although we had only seen the making of a watch, and never seen the making of an harmonicon. The truth is that it is not the particular end either of the one machine or the other, which leads to the inference of an intelligent maker - but the inference rests nakedly and essentially on this, that there is adaptation of parts for any end at all. Between one watch and another there is this common consequent - adaptation of parts for the end; and on this we ground the conclusion of there having been design and a designer in the fabrication of each of them.
But between the watch and the musical apparatus there is also a common consequent - not adaptation of parts for the end, but still adaptation for an end; and on this we are equally warranted to ground the conclusion of design having been employed in the formation of each of them. The definite article is always comprehensive of the indefinite, so that whenever there is the end, there is always an end. But the indefinite is not also in the same way comprehensive of the definite, so that in the case of an adaptation having an end, it may not be the end which we have ever witnessed in the putting together of any former adaptation. Still it matters not. The inference, not of a mind purposing the specific thing for which we have formerly observed both a contrivance and a contriver, but still of a mind purposing something or a purposing mind, is as legitimate as ever. And so there lies enveloped in the watch this consequent - the adaptation of parts for the end - but there also lies enveloped there, the adaptation of parts for an end - and the latter we distinctly perceive to be in the music-box as well as in the time-piece. When we look to the latter machine we feel sensible that we never before witnessed the putting forth of intelligence in the adaptation of parts for the end. In this respect there is novelty, because we never before saw a machine made for the performance of tunes. But we at the same time are abundantly sensible, that whether in the example of a watch or of something else, we have a thousand times witnessed the putting forth of intelligence in the adaptation of parts for an end. In this respect there is no novelty; so that whether it be the watch that we have seen made or the music-box that we have not seen made, there is the same firm basis of a sure and multiplied experience on which to rest the conclusion of an Intelligent Maker for both.
25. And thus it is that we do not even require a special experience in watch-making to warrant the application of this argument from final causes either to this or to any other machines whatever. There may be a thousand distinct products of art and wisdom in which our observation has been restricted to the posterior, and has never reached to the prior term of the sequence - that is, where we have seen the product, and never either witnessed the production nor seen the producer - and yet we have a firm experimental basis on which to rest the inference, that a producer there was, and one too possessed of skill to devise and power to execute. The truth is that we every day of our lives, and perhaps every hour of each day, witness the adaptation of means to an end, in connexion with design and a designer - though never perhaps to the end in any instance of hundreds of distinct machines which could be specified - and which therefore, are in this respect to us singular effects. But still each of these machines has in it adaptation to an end, as well as adaptation to the end; has in it therefore that posterior term, of whose connexion with the prior term of an intelligent cause we have had daily observation. It is not, we should remark, on the adaptation to any object quoad the end - but on the adaptation to it quoad an end that the inference is grounded. It is thus that though introduced for the first time to the sight of a watch or a gun-lock or a cotton-mill or a steam-engine, we are as sure of intelligence having been engaged in the execution of each of them as if we had been present a thousand times at their fabrication. The truth is that we have been present many thousand times, though not at the process of formation in either of these individual pieces of mechanism, yet at other processes which have enough in common with the former ones to make an experimental argument in every way as good. We have had lessons every day of our life, by which to read what the characteristics be of those arrangements that indicate a mind acting for purpose; though not a mind acting for the purpose.
This matters not. The conclusion is as good the one way as the other - the valid conclusion, if we will but reflect upon it, not of a subtle but of a sound and substantial process of reasoning.
26. And if we can thus infer the agency of design in a watch-maker, though we never saw a watch made - we can on the very same ground infer the agency of design on the part of a world-maker, though we never saw a world made. We concede it to our adversaries, that, when reasoning from the posterior term or consequent to the prior term or antecedent of a sequence, both terms must have been seen by us in conjunction on former occasions - else we are not warranted to infer the one from the other of them. We are aware of the use which they make of this principle. They tell us that we cannot argue from a world to a God - because the world, if an effect, is a singular effect - that we have no experience in the making of worlds, as we may have in the making of watches - that had we seen a world made and a God employed about it, then on being presented with another world, we might have inferred the agency of a God in the creation of it - and this they contend to be the whole length to which our experience can carry us. But they overlook the distinction between what is essential in the consequent, and what is merely circumstantial therein; and it is here that the whole mistake lies. The essential consequent we have seen produced or we have seen in conjunction with its proper antecedent a thousand times - and thus it is, that we should confidently infer a designing artificer from the view of a watch, though we had just as little experience in the making of watches as we have in the making of worlds. We may never have seen a watch made - but in the watch before our eyes, we see the manifest adaptation of means to an end; and this we have frequently before witnessed, as the posterior term of a sequence, in connexion with the forth-putting of sagacity and skill on the part of a purposing mind, as its prior term., We have not seen the whole consequent named a watch produced by the whole antecedent named a watchmaker - but we have seen daily and familiarly that which is in the watch, adaptation of means to an end, produced by that which is in the watch-maker, a designing intellect. These two terms we have seen in constant conjunction in thousands of other instances; and we have therefore the warrant of a manifold experience for inferring that they were conjoined in this instance also.
We carry the inference no farther than to the skill and power of the artificer. It is this part and this only, that we make the antecedent to the observed consequent before us. We may have never seen a watchmaker in contact with a watch - but we have often seen the effort and skill of a designing mind in contact with the adaptation of useful and subservient means. This has been a frequently observed sequence, from either term of which we may infer the other. Now the consequent of this sequence, the adaptation of useful and subservient means, lies enveloped in the watch; and we infer that the antecedent in this sequence, the effect and skill of a designing mind, lies enveloped in a watch-maker so that though we should never have seen a watch made, and never seen a watch-maker employed in the formation of one, though we should never have had this particular experience, yet we have had experience enough to infer from the mechanism thereof the wisdom that presided over the fabrication.
27. In the case of God and the world we have only one term of the sequence before us. We see the world - but we have never seen God; and far less have we ever seen Him employed in the formation of a world. We never saw the whole consequent, a world actually emanated and brought forth by the whole antecedent a God. But both in the mechanism of the world, and in the innumerable products wherewith it teems, do we see the adaptation of means to desirable ends - and this we have seen emanated and brought forth in many hundreds of instances by a purposing mind as its strict and proper antecedent. It is thus that we hold ourselves to be abundantly schooled, and that too on the basis not of a partial but of a full experience, for the inference of a God. We carry the argument upward from the adaptations in nature to a contriving intellect; just because we have often witnessed similar adaptations, and witnessed them too in conjunction with an antecedent wisdom that planned and that performed them. It is because we have had manifold observation, and observation inclusive of both terms of the sequence, that from the one term in the present instance even the adaptations which nature offers to our view, we infer the other term even a designing mind, at whose will and by whose power and wisdom they have been effectuated. We have never seen a whole nature ordered into being - and which therefore in its entireness and totality may be denominated to us a singular effect - just as on the first sight of a watch, the watch regarded as a whole is to us a singular effect. But neither with the one nor the other is there any singularity in the essential consequent. The singularity lies only in certain circumstantials which have properly no part in the reasoning, and which for the proof of an antecedent wisdom in either case may be dismissed from the sequences altogether. In that which the mind strictly bears regard to in this argument there is no singularity. We have seen a multitude of times over that which is in the watch, accommodation of parts to a desirable end - and whenever we had the opportunity of perceiving also the antecedent term, there was uniformly the mind of one who devised and purposed the end - and so, on the principle which gives truth to all our reasoning from experience, we infer the agency of such a mind in the formation of a watch, though it be a formation that we never witnessed. And the same of this world, though we never saw the formation of a world. Our present state gives us to see the posterior term - even all of creation that is visibly before us. Our past history hath not given us the opportunity of seeing the creation itself or of seeing the anterior term,.even that agency by which it was effected. But in the course of our experience we have seen adaptations innumerable conjoined with a prior agency that in every instance was the agency of a scheming and a skilful intellect - and just as not from the watch but from the adaptations in it, so not from the world but from the adaptations in it, do we on the basis of an accumulated experience, reaching to both terms of many an actually observed sequence, infer the existence of a world-maker, who contemplated and devised the various ends for which we behold so manifest a subserviency of parts in the universe around us.
28. After all then the economy of atheism would be a very strange one. We are led by the Constitution of our minds to count at all times on the uniformity of nature - and it is an expectation that never deceives us. We are led to anticipate the same consequents from the same antecedents, or to infer the same antecedents from the same consequents - and we find an invariable harmony between the external truth of things and this inward trust of our own bosoms. Within the limits of sensible observation we experience no disappointment - and from such an adaptation of the mental to the material, we should not only argue for the existence of an intelligent Designer, but should hold it to be at once an indication of His benevolence, and His truth that He so ordered the succession of all objects and events, as to make of it an universal fulfilment to the universal conviction which Himself had implanted in every human bosom. It were strange indeed if this lesson of nature's invariableness which is so oft repeated, and which within the compass of visible nature has never been found to deceive us, should only serve to land us in one great deception when we come to reason from nature to nature's God - or that in making that upward step which connects the universe with its originating cause, there should for once and at this great transition be the disruption of that principle whereof the whole universe, as far as we can witness or observe, affords so glorious a verification.
Throughout all the phenomena in creation we find no exception to the constancy or the uniformity of sequences - and it were truly marvellous if the great phenomenon of creation itself, offered the only exception to a law, which, throughout all her diversities and details, she so widely exemplifies - or if, while in every instance along the world's history of a produced adaptation we find that there have been contrivance and a contriver, the world itself with all the vast and varied adaptations which abound hi it, instead of one great contrivance, is either the product of blind necessity, or some random evolution of unconscious elements that had no sovereign mind either to create or to control them.
29. And here we may observe that the very abstraction which we find to be necessary for the vindication of our cause from the sceptical argument of Mr. Hume, is that, too, on which we might found one of the proper refinements of a rational Theism. To preserve our argument, we had to detach all the accessaries from that which is common to the works of nature and of art, and so to generalize the consequent into adaptation for an end. In like manner should we detach all that is but accessary from the authors of nature and art - and so generalize the antecedent into that which is common to both, even an intelligent and a purposing mind. When we thus limit our view to the strict and proper consequent, we are led to limit it in like manner to the strict and proper antecedent. All we are warranted to conclude of the antecedent in a deduction thus generalized and purified is that it is purely a mental one. This is the alone likeness between God and man to which the argument carries us. The gross imaginations of anthropomorphitism are done away by it - and the argument by which we thus establish the reality of a God, serves also to refine and rationalize our conceptions of Him.
30. It is thus then that we would meet the argument by Hume, of this world being a singular effect. We have already said that though unable to demonstrate a primitive creation of matter, we might have still abundant evidence of a God in the primitive collocation of its parts. And we now say that though unable to allege our own observation or presence at the original construction of any natural mechanism - though we never saw the hand of an artist employed in the placing and adaptation of parts for the end of any such mechanism - yet, beholding as we do every day from our infancy adaptations for an end, and that too in conjunction with an antecedent mind which devised them - we have really had experience enough on which to ground the inference of a living and intelligent God. On comparing a work of nature with a work of human art, we find a posterior term common to both - not adaptation for the end, because each has its own specific use, and the one use is distinct from the other - but adaptation for an end. It is on the strength of this similarity that we can carry the inference of a designing cause from the seen to the unseen in specimens of human handiwork; and, by a stepping-stone in every way as sure, from the seen handiwork of man to the unseen handiwork of God.
In each we behold not subserviency to the same end, but subserviency to an end - and on this generality in the consequent of each, we infer for each an antecedent of like generality - a mind of commensurate wisdom to devise, and of commensurate power to execute, either of the structures that are placed before our eyes. It is not brute matter in lumpish and misshapen masses that indicates a deity. It is matter in a state of orderly arrangement as in the great apparatus of the heavens; or matter more finely and completely organized, as in the exquisite structures of the animal and vegetable kingdom. It is true we never saw such pieces of workmanship made - but we have seen other pieces made dissimilar to these only in the end of their fabrication, yet like unto these in subserviency to an end - dissimilar therefore in that which is not essential to our argument, but similar in that which is fully sufficient for our argument. It is precisely in the oversight of this distinction that the fallacy of the atheistical reasoning lies. The singularity that has been charged upon the world belongs to certain circumstantial things which have really no place in the premises of our argument, and are therefore not indispensable to the conclusion. In the essential premises there is no singularity. The formation of the whole world is like to nothing that we have ever witnessed - but in the formation of .all that in the world holds out to us the lesson of a Divinity, there is likeness to that which we have often witnessed. We have, times and ways without number, had experience of both terms in the adaptation of parts to an end. It is on this experience - the experience of a completed sequence, that reason founds her conclusions. We never with the eye of sense have perceived the actual emanation of a creature from the fiat of its Creator. But we have often seen the succession between the working of a mind, and its workmanship, in a piece of fashioned and adjusted materialism. And therefore it is that the thousand goodly complications which be on the face of our world - the trees, and the flowers, and the insects, and the feathered birds, and the quadrupeds that browse upon the earth, and the fishes of the sea whose peculiar habitudes fit them for peopling that else desolate waste of mighty waters; and lastly, amidst this general fulness both of animal and vegetable life, erect and intelligent man, curiously furnished in body and in mind, with aptitudes to all the objects of external nature, and which turn into a theatre of busy interest and enjoyment the crowded and the glowing scene over which he expatiates - therefore it is, we say, that all bears so legibly the impress of a governing spirit, that all speaks in reason's ear so loudly of a God.
31. By this reasoning we avoid the necessity of recurring to a new principle in order to repel or ward off an assault of infidelity - an expedient, which, unless the principle be very obvious in itself, gives an exceeding frailty to the argument, and causes it to be received with distrust. Perhaps the tendency both of Reid and Stuart, was to an excessive multiplication of the original laws in our mental constitution, which they all the more readily indulged, as it savoured so much of that unshrinking Baconian philosophy, from the application of which to the science of mind, they augured so sanguinely - and in virtue of which, unseduced by the love of simplicity, they would take their lesson as to the number of ultimate facts whether in the world of mind or matter from observation alone.
Now it is well to acquiesce in every phenomenon, like that of magnetism, as if it were a distinct and ultimate principle of which no further account can meanwhile be given - so long as it withstands all the attempts of analysis to resolve it into another phenomenon of a more general and comprehensive quality. But this is very different from a gratuitous multiplication of first principles, and more especially from the confident affirmation of one before unheard of till framed for the accomplishment of a special service. It appears to be a resting of the theistical argument on a very precarious foundation, when the inference of design from its effects, is made a principle sui generis - instead of making it what it really is one case out of the many, where by a principle more comprehensive, we, on the recurrence of the same consequent as before, infer the same antecedent as before. We deprecate the introduction of such an auxiliary as calculated to give a mystical and arbitrary character to the Philosophy of Religion; and hold it a far better offering to the cause, when it is palpably made to rest on no other principles than those which are recognised and read of all men.
END OF SCANNED SECTION
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