« AnteriorContinuar »
and others bound to fulfil contracts made years ago. Under its influence, the virtuous are commended and rewarded, and the vicious blamed and punished for actions long since performed. Under its influence we anticipate the retributions of eternal justice in a future state for the deeds done in the body. Is it possible to avoid making this reference? It is not. You cannot possibly conceive of a thought, for example, without referring it to some subject which thinks. You cannot be conscious of any mental phenomenon, or recall any others of which you were formerly conscious, without referring them to one and the same subject, yourself. The idea of personal identity, then, is necessary. Necessary ideas distinguished as conditional and unconditional.
Here an important distinction between necessary ideas demands special attention. When we contemplate the ideas of space and duration, for example, we find that the objects of these ideas inust exist, whether anything else exists or not. Those ideas, therefore, are not only necessary, but unconditioned and absolute. On the other hand, the ideas of personal identity, and of substance and cause, which we shall hereafter consider, are not, in this sense, necessary. They are only conditionally necessary. Phenomena being given, substance must be. An event being given, the supposition of a cause is necessary. Phenomena and events not being given, we do not affirm the existence of substances or causes. The phenomena of Consciousness not being given, we do not affirm the reality or identity of the self, the subject of these phenomena. Such ideas are conditionally necessary, and not like those of space and time, not only necessary, but unconditioned and absolute.
IDEAS OF PHENOMENA AND SUBSTANCE. .
Idea of substance explained. If the observations which have been made upon the idea of personal identity, have been distinctly understood, the characteristics of the idea of substance will be readily apprehended. All the phenomena of Consciousness and Memory are, as we have seen, by a necessary law of our being, referred to one and the same subject. The phenomena are accidents, perpetually changing. The subject, however, remains the same. Now, in the language of Cousin, “ Being, one
and identical, opposed to variable accidents, to transitory phenomena, is substance.” But thus far we have only personal substance. The same principle, however, applies equally to all external substances. Through the medium of our senses, such objects are given to us as being possessed of a great variety of qualities, and as existing in a great variety of states. The qualities and states, which are perpetually varying, we necessarily refer to one and the same subject, a subject which remains one and identical, amid the endlessly diversified phenomena which it exhibits. This is substance. Idea of Phenomena contingent and relative—that of Sub
stance necessary. Now as it is with our ideas of the phenomena of Consciousness and personal identity, so it is with our. ideas of external phenomena and external substance. The former is contingent and relative; the latter is necessary. When any phenomenon appears, we can readily conceive that it had not appeared. Its appearance also we can admit, only on the supposition of something else, to wit, substance, to which this appearance is necessarily referred. Our ideas of phenomena, therefore, are contingent and relative. .
On the other hand, the idea of substance, relatively to phenomena, is necessary. Phenomena being given, substance must be. It is impossible for us to conceive of the former without the latter.
Our ideas of Substance not obscure, but clear and distinct.
According to Locke, we have no clear idea of substance in general.” This idea also, he represents, as “ of little use in philosophy.” In reply, it may be said, that our idea of substance is just as clear and important, as those of time, space, and personal identity. Of this every one is conscious. The same function of the Inteliigence which apprehends one of these ideas, apprehends them all. Take away the power to apprehend one, and the power to apprehend every other of these ideas is annihilated. Philosophy itself also becomes an impossibility. How could we reason philosophically about ourselves, in the absence of the idea of personal identity ? Equally impossible would it be, to reason about objects external to us, in the absence of the idea of substance. This and kindred ideas, instead of being “ of little use in philosophy,"
are, in reality, the foundation of all our explanations of phenomena, external and internal.
We often hear individuals, in expatiating upon the great ignorance of man, affirming, that all we know of realities in and around us, is their phenomena. Of the substances themselves, we know nothing.” In reply to such rhapsodies, it may be said, that our knowledge of every substance of every kind, is just as clear, distinct, and extensive, as our knowledge of its phenomena. In phenomena, substances stand revealed, the substance being as its phenomena. In the phenomena of thought, for example, we know ourselves, as thinking beings, or substances, our powers being as the thoughts which they generate. Our knowledge of the powers of thought, is just as distinct as that of thought itself. The same holds true, in respect to all substances, material, and mental.
IDEAS OF EVENTS AND CAUSE.
The universe within and around us, presents the constant spectacle of endlessly diversified and ever changing phenomena. Some of these are constantly conjoined, in the relation of “ immediate and invariable antecedence and consequence." The connection between others is only occasional. În reference to events of the former class, the mind judges, that the relation between them is not only that of antecedence and consequence, but of cause and effect. In reference to every event, however, whether its antecedent is perceived or not, we judge that it had a cause. This judgment is universal, extending to all events, actual and conceivable. It is absolutely impossible for us to conceive of an event without a . cause. Let any one make the effort to form such a conception, and he will find that he has attempted an impossibility.
Here it should be noticed, that we do not affirm that every effect has a cause. That would be mere tautology. It would be equivalent to the affirmation, that whatever is produced by a cause, is produced by a cause. All this might be true, and the proposition, every event has a cause, be false, notwithstanding. The idea of Events contingent and relative; that of Cause
necessary. The relation between the idea of an event, and that of a
cause, may be readily pointed out. Whenever the mind witnesses, or is conscious of, the occurrence of an event, it apprehends that event as contingent and relative. It might or might not have happened. There is no impossibility in making these different suppositions. The occurrence of an event also necessarily supposes something else, to wit, a cause. On the other hand, no event uncaused can possibly be conceived to have taken place. The idea of an event, then, is contingent and relative. The idea of cause is necessary, conditionally so, as shown above.
Theory of Dr. Brown and others. The speculations of certain philosophers respecting the subject under consideration, here demand our attention. The relation of cause and effect, according to Dr. Brown and others, is nothing more than that of “immediate and invariable antecedence and consequence.” A cause, says Dr. B., is nothing else than “ an immediate and invariable antecedent.” According to this philosopher, in no instance whatever is there any reason, in the nature of any particular cause, why it should produce one event rather than another, Succession, mere antecedence and consequence immediate and invariable, without any reason in the nature of the antecedent and consequent why this order of succession should arise, rather than another, is all that exists in any instance. In regard to this theory, it is enough to say that no man does or can believe it. Let any man, for example, behold a piece of wood and a metallic substance put together into a heated furnace. The wood is immediately consumed, and the metal changed from a solid to a fluid state. Can he avoid the conviction, that there is, in the nature of these two substances, a reason, why, that when acted upon by the same cause, one is consumed, and the other changed from a solid to a fluid state ? When the Almighty said, “ Let there be light, and there was light,” who dares believe that there was not, in the nature of that fiat, a reason, why, as its consequent, light, rather than any other substance, should appear? When two pounds weight are placed on one side of a balance, and five on the other, who does not believe, that aside from the particular sequence which follows here, there is, in the circumstances supposed, a reason why one particular sequence should follow, rather than any other? In the succession of day and night, also, we have an order of sequence impe
diate and invariable. Is this equivalent to the declaration, that day causes night, or night causes the day? It would be so, if the theory under consideration was true. For all the conditions of that theory are here fulfilled. We have an order of sequence immediate and invariable.
As a further illustration, let us, for a moment, consider the theory of “pre-established harmony” between the action of the Soul and Body, proclaimed by Leibnitz. According to this author, Matter and Mind do, and can exert no influence upon each other, whatever. I will, for example, a motion of my arm, or of any other part of the body, and the motion follows. Still my volitions have no influence in causing or controlling that motion. So in all other instances. God, foreseeing the states of our minds, has so constituted our bodies, that the action of the latter shall always be in perfect harmony with that of the former, though wholly uninfluenced by it. In this theory, the relation of cause and effect, as announced by the theory of Dr. Brown, is perfectly fulfilled. Between the states of our minds, and the corresponding action of our bodies, we have an order of sequence immediate and invariable. But who does not regard the Liebnitzian theory as announcing a relation totally distinct and opposite to what is universally believed to exist between our minds and bodies ? When we say, that the motion of the body is in immediate and perfect harmony with that of the mind, we say one thing. When we say, that the action of the mind causes that of the body, we introduce, in the judgment of all men, an entirely different idea. Sequence immediate and invariable is all that we perceive to exist between any antecedent and consequent; but it is, by no means, all that we believe, yea know to exist.
Observations on Mr. Dugald Stewart. The following remarks of Mr. Stewart also demand a passing observation :
“ It seems now to be pretty generally agreed among philosophers, that there is no instance in which we are able to perceive a necessary connection between two successive events, or to comprehend in what manner the one proceeds from the other, as its cause. From experience, indeed, we learn, that there are many events, which are constantly conjoined, so that the one invariably follows the other : but it is possible, for anything we know to the contrary, that this