Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/405

This page has been validated.

table Power is the most certain of all truths. I have contended that while, to the intellectual consciousness, this Power, though unknowable in nature, must be ever present as existing, it must be, to the emotional consciousness, an object to the sentiment we call religious; since, in substance if not in form, it answers to the creating and sustaining Power toward which the religious sentiment is in other cases drawn out. Yet though in the most emphatic way I have represented this unknown and unknowable Power as the object-matter of religion. Professor Birks represents me as saying that the unknowableness of it is the object matter of religion! Though I hold that an ultimate being, known with absolute certainty as existing, but of whose nature we are in ignorance, is the sphere for religious feeling, he says I hold that the ignorance alone is the sphere for religious feeling!

When in the first sixteen lines specifically treating of my views these three cases occur, it may be imagined what an intricate plexus of misrepresentations, misunderstandings, and perversions fills the three hundred and odd pages forming the volume. Especially may it be anticipated that the metaphysical discussions, occupying five chapters, are so confused that it is next to impossible to deal with them. I must limit myself to giving a sample or two from this part of the work: one of them illustrating Professor Birks's critical fairness, and the other his philosophic capacity.

In his chapter on "The Reality of Matter," he says (page 111), "The sense of reality in things around us, Mr. Spencer has truly said, is one which no metaphysical criticisms can shake in the least"; and the rest of the ' paragraph is devoted to enlarging upon this proposition. The next paragraph begins—"'Permanent possibilities of sensation' is merely an ingenious phrase, to disguise and conceal a self-contradiction": sundry antagonistic criticisms upon this phrase being appended. And then the opening words of the paragraph which succeeds are quoted from "First Principles." Now, since the refutation of my views is the aim of the work; and since both the preceding and succeeding passages specifically refer to my work; and since no other name is mentioned—every reader, not otherwise better instructed, will conclude that as a matter of course the phrase "permanent possibilities of sensation" is mine; and that the criticisms upon it tell against me. Even were there evidence that this phrase, "permanent possibilities of sensation," expressed, or harmonized with, a doctrine entertained by me; yet, as the phrase is not mine, the quoting it as mine would have been a literary misdemeanor. What, then, must be said of it when, instead of standing for any view of mine, it stands for an opposite view? Mr. Mill's expression, quoted by Professor Birks as though it were my expression, belongs to a theory of knowledge entirely at variance with that set forth and everywhere implied in "First Principles"; and a theory which, where the occasion was fit, I have persistently combated (see "Principles of Psychology,"