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the state and apprehension of the hearers. To enumerate and analyze these relations, with the conditions under which alone they are discoverable, is to teach the science of Method.” He then, in a subsequent essay, observes that there are two kinds of relation in which objects of Mind may be contemplated, to wit, that of Law and that of Theory. The nature of these two relations will be illustrated and distinguished as we proceed.
Coleridge's Definition of Law. « The first is that of Law, which, in its absolute perfection, is conceivable only of the Supreme Being, whose creative idea not only appoints to each thing its position, but in that position, and in consequence of that position, gives it its qualities, yea, it gives its very existence, as that particular thing. Yet in whatever science the relation of the parts to each other and to the whole, is predetermined by a truth originating in the Mind, and not abstracted or generalized from observation of the parts, there we affirm the presence of a law, if we are speaking of the physical sciences, as of Astronomy, for instance; or the presence of fundamental ideas, if our discourse be upon those sciences, the truths of which, as truths absolute, not merely may have an independent origin in the Mind, but continue to exist in and for the Mind alone. Such, for instance, is Geometry,” &c.
To set the above definition in a clear and distinct light, take the following illustration. Let us suppose a body of men, say one hundred thousand in number, assembled together, all perfectly armed and equipped with all the implements of war, but without officers, without discipline, without order. Here is a congregated mass of powers, but the absence of law. In oth r words, these powers act in conformity with no rule. What is the condition of this army? It is powerless, except for self-destruction, and that in exact proportion to its numbers. Contemplate now this army, officered, disciplined, and all brought into perfect order under some experienced commander. You have the same powers as formerly, but now acting in conformity with certain rules or laws. The army now becomes powerful, not for self-destruction, but for attack and defence. But what is the law which these powers obey, or in conformity with which they act? It is an idea in the mind of the commander. It is this idea which gives to each part of this army its particular position, and in consequence of that position, gives it its qualities, its very existence, as that particular part. The army receives its existence and qualities as that particular army from the law or idea which it obeys, or in conformity with which it acts. The same remarka apply to the discourse of the educated and uneducated, as referred to above.
You will now readily apprehend the meaning of the remark of Coleridge: “Law in its absolute perfection is conceivable only of the Supreme Being, whose creative idea not only appoints to each thing its position, but in that position, and in consequence of that position, gives it its qualities, yea, it gives its very existence, as that particular thing.” The meaning, as far certainly as it is correct, is this : An idea in the mind of God appoints to every power in nature its particular position, and in consequence of that position, gives it its qualities, its very existence, as that particular thing.
In illustration, I would remark, that if we conceive of the powers of nature, as existing each one by itself alone, or as existing in different relations to each other from that which they now sustain, none of the peculiar qualities which they now exhibit would appear. All the phenomena of vegetation, for example, result from the peculiar arrangement of the powers of the material creation relatively to each other. Change this arrangement, and nothing but barrenness and universal desolation would appear. Each particular particle, therefore, receives its qualities, yea, its very existence, as the particular thing manifested to us, in consequence of its position relatively to surrounding particles. Everything we behold or contemplate is to us what it is, in consequence of its existence, position, and consequent action in harmony with an idea in the infinite Intelligence.
Law, subjective and objective. Law, then, may be contemplated in two points of light, subjective and objective. In the first sense, it is an idea, in which powers are contemplated as arranged relatively to each other, so that their mutual action and re-action shall produce results in correspondence to a certain end conceived of, and chosen by the mind. In the second sense, it is the existence, arrangement, and consequent action of these powers, in harmony with that idea.
Conclusion from the above. We come to this conclusion : that whenever powers act in conformity with law, they are acting in obedience to some idea existing in some intelligent mind. To illustrate this, let us suppose an army of one hundred thousand men all dressed and equipped alike, arranged in a given order, and all performing perfectly harmonious motions and evolutions. You here perceive the presence and all-pervading influence of law. Is it possible to conceive all this, and not suppose this law to be some idea in some intelligent mind—a mind that comprehends all the parts, and assigns to each part its position, &c.? If this could not be supposed of intelligent powers, much less could we suppose a similar action of necessary and unintelligent ones. The grand problem, then, the solution of which is the final object and distinctive character of philosophy, when once solved, leads the mind to the direct apprehension and contemplation of the Infinite, of God, whose creative idea is the law of all existences. The problem referred to is this : "For all that exists conditionally (i. e. the existence of which is inconceivable except under the condition of its dependency on some other as its antecedent) to find a ground that is unconditional and absolute, and thereby to reduce the aggregate of human knowledge
to a system.” Now, this ground can be found in nothing · but in the mind of God.
Chronological Antecedent to this Idea. As Mind wakes into conscious existence, and contemplates the action of the powers of nature within and around it, it at once perceives all things existing and acting as a means to an end. Everywhere diversity blended with harmony, presents itself. Now, this presentation of the powers of nature is the chronological antecedent of the idea of Law in the Reason. Hence the great inquiry ever after imposed upon the Intelligence, to wit: What are the laws in conformity to which they act ? In this inquiry, the Intelligence begins to “feel after” the Infinite, and it never rests until it finds itself in the presence of “ that creative idea, which appoints to each thing its position, and in consequence of that position, gives it its qualities, yea, its very existence as that particular thing."
Apparent Mistake in respect to Law. Philosophers, as well as others, often appear at least to speak on this subject, as if, in their judgment, the powers of nature, with their present arrangement, on the one hand, existed, and Law on the other, as a separate something controlling their action. Coleridge maintains, that law (and by law, he means thought), is the only reality. Now, it should be borne in mind, that when we depart from ideas, nothing relative to the powers of nature exists, but the powers arranged in such a manner, that their mutual action and reaction shall produce results in harmony with such ideas. Look, as an illustration, at the steamboat. There is not here powers arranged in a given order, and then a something else, which controls their action. All the results we witness arise from the nature, and the peculiar arrangement of the powers here combined. So in all other instances.
Theory and Law distinguished. The term theory is used in two senses somewhat different. The first meaning may be illustrated by a reference to what is denominated the Theory and Practice of Medicine. The end for which medicinal substances are used in cases of disease is the controlling of the disease, and its consequent removal. Now, when a certain disease appears, a particular course is adopted. The results are marked down. That course which, in given circumstances, is attended with the most favorable results, is set down as the course to be pursued in the treatment of this disease. The course becomes a Theory, to which medical practice is conformed. According to this usage, the term Theory supposes certain powers arranged under some one point of view, and certain principles of action adopted for the purpose of controlling these powers.
According to another usage, Theory means a certain hypothesis which has been adopted for the explanation of a given class of facts; an hypothesis, in conformity to which, it is supposed, the facts may be explained. In respect to a given class of facts, it frequently happens that all admit of an equally ready explanation, on either of two or more distinct and opposite hypotheses, and hence a corresponding number of Theories are adopted for their explanation. Thus we have two distinct and opposite Theories of electricity, all the
facts presented being equally explicable in conformity to each.
Now Law, as distinguished from Theory, is an hypothesis which sustains to a given number of facts the relation of a logical antecedent. The facts being given, the hypothesis must be assumed as the ground of their explanation. The facts must not only be explicable by the hypothesis, but affirmed by it, in such a form as to contradict every other hypothesis which can be adduced for their explanation. This condition we find realized in the facts adduced by Newton, in demonstration of the law of attraction.
Nature of Proof One thought suggested by the preceding analysis demands special attention—the nature of proof. No proposition is, properly speaking, proven, till facts or arguments are adduced, which not only affirm its truth, but contradict every opposite proposition. How often is this fundamental law of evidence overlooked and disregarded in almost every department of human investigation. In Theology, for example, how often is an hypothesis denominated a doctrine, which merely consists with a given class of passages of Holy Writ, assumed as absolutely affirmed by these passages, when, in reality, they equally consist with the contradictory hypothesis. Let it ever be borne in mind, that no passage or passages of Scripture prove any one doctrine which do not contradict every opposite doctrine. No facts affirm any one hypothesis which do not equally contradict every contradictory hypothesis.
Fundamental and superficial Thinkers. Another suggestion which presents itself is this - the difference between superficial and fundamental thinkers. The former dwell only upon the surface of subjects, and having there found certain hypotheses which consist with mere exterior facts, they gravely conclude that they “ have heard the conclusion of the whole matter.” They have discovered all that can be known, and “wisdom will die with them." The latter class, on the other hand, retire into the interior of subjects, and taking their position upon some great central facts, announce the existence and operations of universal laws, sustaining to exterior facts the relation of logical antecedents, and explaining them all. The reason why the positions assumed by such men are uniformly so impregnable