Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/309

This page has been validated.
295
REPLIES TO CRITICISMS.

REPLIES TO CRITICISMS.
By HERBERT SPENCER.
I.

WHEN made by a competent reader, an objection usually implies one of two things. Either the statement to which he demurs is wholly or partially untrue; or, if true, it is presented in such a way as to permit misapprehensions. A need for some change or addition is in any case shown.

Not recognizing the errors alleged, but thinking rather that misapprehensions cause the dissent of those who have attacked the meta-physico-theological doctrines held by me, I propose here to meet, by explanations and arguments, the chief objections they have urged: partly with the view of justifying these doctrines, and partly with the view of guarding against the incorrect interpretations which it appears are apt to be made.

It may be thought that the pages of a periodical intended for general reading are scarcely fit for the treatment of these highly-abstract questions. There is now, however, so considerable a class interested in them, and they are everywhere felt to be so deeply involved with the great changes of opinion in progress, that I have ventured to hope for readers outside the circle of those who occupy themselves with philosophy.

Of course the criticisms to be noticed I have selected, either because of their intrinsic force, or because they come from men whose positions or reputations give them weight. To meet more than a few of my opponents is out of the question.

Let me begin with a criticism contained in the sermon preached by the Rev. Principal Caird before the British Association on the occasion of its meeting in Edinburgh, in August, 1871. Expressed with a courtesy which, happily, is now less rare than of yore in theological controversy, Dr. Caird's objection might, I think, be admitted without involving essential change in the conclusion demurred to; while it might be shown to tell with greater force against the conclusions of thinkers classed as orthodox, Sir W. Hamilton, and Dean Mansel, than against my own. Describing this as set forth by me, Dr. Caird says:

"His thesis is, that the provinces of science and religion are distinguished from each other as the known from the unknown and unknowable. This thesis is maintained mainly on a critical examination of the nature of human intelligence, in which the writer adopts and carries to its extreme logical results the doctrine of the relativity of human knowledge which, propounded by Kant, has been reproduced with special application to theology by a famous school of