Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/311

This page has been validated.
297
REPLIES TO CRITICISMS.

successive deliverances forming the steps of the demonstration, by severally evolving contradictions, show their untrustworthiness, or, (2) if, being trustworthy, they lead to the result that, on certain questions, Reason cannot give any deliverance.

Reason leads both inductively and deductively to the conclusion that the sphere of Reason is limited. Inductively, this conclusion expresses the result of countless futile attempts to transcend this sphere—attempts to understand matter, motion, space, time, force, in their ultimate natures—attempts which, bringing us always to alternative impossibilities of thought, warrant the inference that such attempts will continue to fail, as they have hitherto failed. Deductively, this conclusion expresses the result of mental analysis, which shows us that the product of thought is in all cases a relation, identified as such or such; that the process of thought is the identification and classing of relations; that therefore Being in itself, out of relation, is unthinkable by us, as not admitting of being brought within the form of our thought. That is to say, deduction explains that failure of Reason established as an induction from many experiments. And to call in question the ability of Reason to give this verdict against itself, in respect of these transcendent problems, is to call in question its ability to draw valid conclusions from premises; which is to assert a general incompetence necessarily inclusive of the special incompetence.

 

Closely connected with the foregoing is a criticism from Dr. Mansel, on which I may here make some comments. In a note to his "Philosophy of the Conditioned" (page 39), he says:

"Mr. Herbert Spencer, in his work on 'First Principles,' endeavors to press Sir W. Hamilton into the service of Pantheism and Positivism together" (a somewhat strange assertion, by-the-way, considering that I reject them both), "by adopting the negative portion only of his philosophy in which, in common with many other writers, he declares the absolute to be inconceivable by the mere intellect—and rejecting the positive portions, in which lie most emphatically maintains that the belief in a personal God is imperatively demanded by the facts of our moral and emotional consciousness.... Sir W. Hamilton's fundamental principle is, that consciousness must be accepted entire, and that the moral and religious feelings, which are the primary source of our belief in a personal God, are in no way invalidated by the merely negative inferences which have deluded men into the assumption of an impersonal absolute.... Mr. Spencer, on the other hand, takes these negative inferences as the only basis of religion, and abandons Hamilton's great principle of the distinction between knowledge and belief."

Putting these statements in the order most convenient for discussion, I will deal first with the last of them. Instead of saying what he does, Dr. Mansel should have said that I decline to follow Sir W. Hamilton in confounding two distinct, and indeed radically opposed,