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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

meanings of the word belief. This word "is habitually applied to dicta of consciousness for which no proof can be assigned: both those which are unprovable because they underlie all proof, and those which are unprovable because of the absence of evidence."[1] In the pages of this review for July, 1865, I exhibited this distinction as follows:

"We commonly say, 'we believe' a thing for which we can assign some preponderating evidence, or concerning which we have received some indefinable impression. We believe that the next House of Commons will not abolish Church-rates; or we believe that a person on whose face we look is good-natured. That is, when we can give confessedly-inadequate proofs or no proofs at all for the things we think, we call them 'beliefs.' And it is the peculiarity of these beliefs, as contrasted with cognitions, that their connections with antecedent states of consciousness may be easily severed, instead of being difficult to sever. But, unhappily, the word 'belief' is also applied to each of those temporarily or permanently indissoluble connections in consciousness, for the acceptance of which the only warrant is that it cannot be got rid of. Saying that I feel a pain, or hear a sound, or see one line to be longer than another, is saying that there has occurred in me a certain change of state; and it is impossible for me to give a stronger evidence of this fact than that it is present to my mind.... 'Belief' having, as above pointed out, become the name of an impression for which we can give only a confessedly-inadequate reason, or no reason at all, it happens that, when pushed hard respecting the warrant for any ultimate dictum of consciousness, we say, in the absence of all assignable reason, that we believe it. Thus the two opposite poles of knowledge go under the same name; and by the reverse connotations of this name, as used for the most coherent and least coherent relations of thought, profound misconceptions have been generated."

Now, that the belief which the moral and religious feelings are said to yield of a personal God is not one of the beliefs which are unprovable because they underlie all proof, is obvious. It needs but to remember that, in works on natural theology, the existence of a personal God is inferred from these moral and religious feelings, to show that it is not contained in these feelings themselves, or joined with them as an inseparable intuition. It is not a belief like the beliefs which I now have that this is daylight, and that there is open space before me—beliefs which cannot be proved because they are of equal simplicity with, and of no less certainty than, each step in a demonstration. Were it a belief of this most certain kind, argument would be superfluous: all races of men and every individual would have the belief in an inexpugnable form. Hence it is manifest that, confusing the two very different states of consciousness called belief, Sir W. Hamilton ascribes to the second a certainty that belongs only to the first.

Again, neither Sir W. Hamilton nor Dr. Mansel has enabled us to distinguish those "facts of our moral and emotional consciousness" which imperatively demand the belief in a personal God, from those facts of our (or of men's) "moral and emotional consciousness" which,

  1. "Principles of Psychology" (second edition, § 425, note).