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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/427

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REPLIES TO CRITICISMS.

and that which is thought about, and did I propose to treat of the order of things, not as phenomenally manifested but as noumenally proceeding, the objection would be fatal. But, the aim being simply to formulate the order of things as present under relative forms, the antithetical Non-relative here named as implied by the conception of the Relative is that which, in any act of thought, is independent of and beyond it, rather than which is inclusive of it. Further, it should be observed that this Non-relative, spoken of as a necessary complement to the Relative, is not spoken of as a conception but as a consciousness; and I have in sundry passages distinguished between those modes of consciousness which, having limits, and constituting thought proper, are subject to the laws of thought, and the mode of consciousness which persists when the removal of limits is carried to the uttermost, and when distinct thought consequently ceases.

This opens the way to the reply here to be made to Mr. Martineau's criticism, namely: that while by the necessities of thought the Relative implies a Non-relative; and while, to think of this antithesis completely, requires that the Non-relative shall be made a conception proper; yet, for the vague thought which is alone in this case possible, it suffices that the Non-relative shall be present as a consciousness which though undefined is positive. Let us observe what necessarily happens when thought is employed on this ultimate question.

In a preceding part of the article criticised, I have, in various ways, aimed to show that, alike when we analyze the product of thought and when we analyze the process of thought, we are brought to the conclusion that invariably "a thought involves relation, difference, likeness;" and that, even from the very nature of Life itself, we may evolve the conclusion that, "thinking being relationing, no thought can ever express more than relations." What now must happen if thought, having this law, occupies itself with the final mystery? Always implying terms in relation, thought implies that both terms shall be more or less defined; and, as fast as one of them becomes indefinite, the relation also becomes indefinite, and thought becomes indistinct. Take the case of magnitudes. I think of an inch; I think of a foot; and, having tolerably definite ideas of the two, I have a tolerably definite idea of the relationship between them. I substitute for the foot a mile; and, being able to represent a mile much less definitely, I cannot so definitely think of the relation between an inch and a mile—cannot distinguish it in thought from the relation between an inch and two miles, as clearly as I can distinguish in thought the relation between an inch and one foot from the relation between an inch and two feet. And now if I endeavor to think of the relation between an inch and the 240,000 miles from here to the moon, and the relation between an inch and the 92,000,000 miles from here to the sun, I find that while these distances, practically inconceivable, have become little more than numbers to which I frame no answering ideas, so, too, have