THE PHlLOSOPHY OF EVOLUTlON.
I count it an honor to speak to these hearers and in this place. Those .whom I immediately address are preparing to influence their time by the force of ideas. The place is hospitable to ideas,—the world's thought, whether new or old, finds a focus here. Protectionists did wisely in their generation when they sought to stem the rising tide of free trade by securing the colleges. But it is not so much for its services to science that I value the University. It is because every University is a well-spring of philosophy —a teacher of those fundamental principles which underlie all science, as well as all literature, jurisprudence, morals aud civilization. Therefore, I feel the responsibility as well as the honor of speaking here. And I can best discharge this responsibility, as it seems to me, by directing your attention to a new philosophy, which makes imposing claims upon our allegiance, which is the current sensation of the decade, and which, if accepted, must work great ultimate changes, whether for good or evil, in our methods of thought and life. I propose to you a consideration of what, in America, has been called the Cosmic Philosophy, or what is more generally known as the Philosophy of Evolution.
I speak of this philosophy as the intellectual sensation of the decade, for uot ten years have passed since it made its way to the front. It is not wise to be moved from our critical attitude by the flourish of its trumpets and the seeming weight of its onset. The student of philosophy knows that each decade has its new pretender to the throne of thought. "Our little systems have their day. They have their day and cease to be." Old men among us look back to the time when the reigning philosophy was that of Locke and Hume. The men of middle-age before me remember how that philosophy was attacked and seemingly overthrown by the transcendental idealism of Germany, and how this last became, in turn, the bugbear of orthodox thinkers. We of a younger sort know well that the ghost of transcendentalism has been laid these many years. In its place we have seen rise upon the scene the portentous form of French positivism with its contemptuous denial of causation, and beyond the Rhine the accompanying gross materialism of Biichner, who, like a revived Lucretins, deifies blind atoms. And now that positivism has lost its prestige and power, it is only natural that the generation just entering upon active life should see still another claimant to the honors of the field. It is the scheme which we examine to-night. At first glance the new system seems better armed and
*An address delivered before the Literary Societies of Colby University, Tuesday -evening, July 23,1878.
equipped than any of those which it has superseded. But closer inspection reveals the fact that this equipment is largely made up of spoils taken from these very predecessors. In truth, the new philosophy is an attempt to combine the plausible elements of all the four systems that have gone before; or, in other words, to rehabilitate the sensational method of Locke and Hume in certain discarded robes of the later idealism, while positivism furnishes the facts and materialism the spirit of the whole.
Yet we would not willingly underrate our opponent. Under the constructive hand of Herbert Spencer, this philosophy has a sweep that comprehends the universe. Resources of advanced physical science, such as Locke and Hume never knew, are marshaled in its defense. And to these Mr. Spencer adds a faculty of popular exposition such as no preceding thinker of his ability has possessed. When we grant that he has brought out into strong relief, though he has not discovered, a certain truth of development too much ignored before, we allow to his system certain notable elements of power. But all this is so much the worse if the system, in its essential features, is false. This we desire to show, both as respects the assumptions upon which it proceeds, and as respects the method in which its principles are applied.
As Mr. Jevons has well shown, the Baconian method had its origin, not with Francis Bacon, Lord Verulam, in the sixteenth century, but with Roger Bacon, friar and philosopher, in the thirteenth. This whole method was a recoil from that of the Greek philosophers which the scholastics had perpetuated. The Greek philosophers had assumed certain causes and then had inferred what the effects must be. Give them fire or air or water, and out of them they would construct the existing universe. The Baconian philosophy cast contempt upon all this and taught the world that the only true method of science was to proceed, not from causes to effects, but from effects to causes. First facts, then explanations; observation and induction, the instruments of knowledge; progress ever from the known to the unknown —these were its fundamental principles; and if human knowledge since that day has made progress such as the ancients never dreamed of, it has been because modern investigators have followed these principles in their labors. Now, the first count in our indictment of the philosophy of Evolution is this, that it ignores this settled organon of investigation and attempts to deduce the existing universe by purely necessary laws from an assumed original somewhat, the existence and nature of which is undemonstrated and indemonstrable. That the deductive element, rather than the inductive, is the determining characteristic of the scheme is an offense against modem science, and raises a presumption against it at the start. When Mr. Spencer tells us that if we will grant him the single indubitable truth of the persistence of force, he will show us how nebulae and suns and planets and rocks and plants and brutes and men and histories and civilizations and literatures and philosophies have been necessarily evolved, we seem to be hearing Anaximander over again as he tells us that all things come from infinity — a principle universally diffused and devoid of all qualities which can be described or known, and which is to all intents and purposes equivalent to nothing, endowed with the power of generation, and we turn with relief to the words of Tait, a greater scientific authority than Spencer, when he says r "No a priori reasoning can conduct us demonstrably to a single physical truth."
I must not be understood as objecting to the Cosmic Philosophy so called simply upon the ground that it makes use of an a priori principle, for all systems whatever are obliged to take for granted certain a priori principles; indeed, without assuming the existence of space and time, the necessity of a cause for every change, and the validity of the common laws of thought, we could not observe or reason at all. What I have thus far objected to is this, that the Cosmic Philosophy, instead of using its abstract fundamental principle as purely regulative, commits the scientific enormity of deriving the whole concrete universe therefrom. This reasoning from the abstract to the concrete, instead of depending for knowledge of the concrete upon observation and induction, constitutes it a purely a priori scheme of the most vicious kind. Mr. Spencer's method would be a wrong one and its results delusive, even if the fundamental principle from which he deduces his scheme were true. But I urge against it a still more important objection: this fundamental principle is not simply undemonstrated and indemonstrable; it is false—false by defect. Add what is necessary to make it true, and no such system of evolution can be based upon it. We are asked to postulate at the beginning simple force, abstract and blind, and the necessity of its persistence. Now we grant the mental necessity that compels this assumption, provided only we be allowed to state the full content of our belief. That belief, fully expressed, is nothing less than this: There is an endlessly persistent will-force. For we know nothing of force at all, except through, and upon occasion of, the exercise of our own wills. In the outward world our senses perceive change, but they do not perceive power. I might look forever upon the sweep of the tempest and the rolling waves of the ocean without inferring that the tempest produced the waves, if it were not that I have within me the experience of effort and of effect produced by effort. I will to raise my arm and strike a blow. In that willing there is direct consciousness of force and its outgoing. If my arm is in a normal condition, the arm is lifted and the external effect is produced — the hammer rings on the anvil; but the stroke of the hammer is not force, and the muscular tension of the arm is not force; these are but indications and effects of force; the anvil may fail to be struck, and the arm from sudden paralysis may fail to strike, but force may still exist and be consciously exerted back of all these, though it be exerted in vain. In short, we know force, not as something perceived by the senses, but as something intuitively cognized by the reason. We know it as the inseparable correlate of effort; as always implying will; in the very conception of force there lies, latent if not expressed, the idea of conative and active mind. We feel compelled, with Mr. Spencer, to postulate force as behind and before all things; but then it is force that has its origin in will; and if it be an endless, universal and infinite force, then a force proceeding from an endless, universal and infinite mind. Force cannot be defined or conceived except in terms of will; and if, as Mr. Spencer declares, our conviction of the persistence of force is "deeper than demonstration, deeper even than definite cognition, deep as the very nature of mind," then we demand that the fundamental principle of his philosophy, false by defect hitherto, be enlarged to take in the full compass of this intuitive deliverance of reason, and that he build his system henceforth, if he can, upon the broader truth that, as the ultimate basis and explanation of all things, there exists and persists an infinite source of energy whose nature is conscious intelligence and will.
The central reason why he truncates this most fundamental of our knowledges until it becomes a torso without sign of life or reason will very soon appear. Let us at present notice the objection which he urges against regarding force as always implying an exercise of will. It is simply this, that upon this view we must consider the muscles of the arm not only, but all external things in nature, as having each its separate consciousness. When you lift a chair from the floor, he would say, you are bound upon your theory to maintain that the chair is as conscious of the force of gravitation which draws it down, as your arm is conscious of the nervous tension which holds it up. Not so, we say. Both the chair and the arm are middle terms, and neither are properly conscious. Both are the instruments of force. The arm communicates and gives effect to a force which does not originate in the arm, and of which the arm is not itself conscious. It is the ego, the mind, that puts forth the force, and is conscious of the strain. So the chair communicates and gives effect to a force which does not originate in the chair, and of which the chair is not conscious. But the mind and will, of which gravitation is the uniform expression, may be supposed to be conscious of each particular instance of its application, unless indeed we be anthropomorphic enough to fancy an infinite mind as not sufficiently capacious to embrace such details without perplexity, and an infinite will as not sufficiently powerful to make such multiplied efforts without weariness.
But the moment we perceive clearly that force is simply a manifestation of will, and has will for its inseparable correlate, we see at once that the persistence of force means the persistence of will. And will is necessarily free. Here then is an incalculable element, at the start, which threatens ruin to any theory of the universe that would explain it as a necessary development of blind forces existing from the beginning. We see at once how important it is for Mr. Spencer to exclude this will from his system. Admit it, and what trouble may it not work — to Mr. Spencer! God is not so easily harnessed, and will not draw so steadily on the evolution-track, as will these perfectly calculable forces. But how is it that force has become forces? A moment ago we had the persistence of force, and the peculiarity of this force was that it was abstract, indefinite, intangible. Suddenly it has become forces, definite forces of attraction, and very inconsistently as it would seem, of repulsion also, and these wonderfully adapted to each other and to the production of matter and motion with the whole universe of things that result from them. Ah, there is but one explanation of it! If forces had been talked of at the beginning, it would have been too plainly seen that they do not necessarily persist. Only the absolute force — which we have seen to be identical with, or correlative to, infinite mind and will — only this absolute force persists of necessity, while what we call forces are mere manifestations of this self-existent force, and may persist or not as the will iu which they have their origin may direct. So Mr. Spencer gets the advantage, to his theory, of investing blind forces with the unchangeableness of the God whom they manifest, while yet the creative will and designing wis<lom of God are set aside. There is a certain truth, indeed, in the doctrine that forces persist; but then it is a mere relative truth of induction, not an absolute truth of philosophy. How far it is true is to be determined, not from our inner consciousness, but from observation and testimony. In all ordinary cases, and for all common purposes of life, tho forces of nature are unchangeable. But no law of necessity ordains their uniformity. The will which they manifest to-day may abolish them to-morrow. It is only the infinite will which they manifest that necessarily persists. And that persists not necessarily in action external to itself. It might conceivably exist for whole eternities absorbed in thought and activity of which there should be no outward manifestation whatever. Infinite will neod not manifest its whole power. God can all that he will, but he will not all that he can,— else God is the slave of bis own omnipotence. He is a great God, and in that limitless mind and unfettered will which constitute the only necessarily persisting force, there are fortunately some things that are not dreamed of in Mr. Spencer's philosophy.
Allowing, however, that force can exist, and can be differentiated into forces without implying will or design, we have still to see whether matter and motion can be derived from mere force. We maintain that this cannot be done without denying that matter is matter and that motion is motion. All we know of matter in tho last analysis, it is said, is that it resists or that it presses. Boscovitch concluded that the only proper conception of matter was that which regarded it as consisting of mere centres of force. But how can there be pressure or resistance whore there is nothing that presses or resists, and where there is nothing that is pressed or resisted? We see clearly that, unless we accept the purely idealistic hypothesis that nothing really exists but sensations and impressions, we must affirm that over against the mind that has the sensations and impressions there exists an external matter that produces them. Impressions without something that impresses and something that is impressed, sensations without something that has sensation and something that causes sensations, are figments of the imagination. In reality, we know the external, thing perceived, and the conscious ego that perceives, in the same concrete act in which we cognize the internal fact of perception. We know the existence of external matter with the same certainty as we know our own existence. But a philosophy which resolves matter into mere force must make it a purely subjective thing, internal and not external to the mind. It must believe in impressions without anything to make them, and resistance without anything that resists, and this is the principle of absolute idealism. And this pitfall Mr. Spencer's philosophy cannot escape, except by being utterly inconsistent with itself and admitting a principle of realism which will destroy it. No, let us say it out so plainly that none can mistake,— matter is matter, and not the mere feeling of it, and if it be something really external to the mind, then neither force nor forces can account for it, and much less produce it. And yet without matter force has nothing to work with, and is unavailable for the purposes of evolution. Is it not easy to see that a Creator is required, before even Mr. Spencer's forces can build up a universe? When we perceive with Professor .Cook, of Cambridge, that the elements, oxygen, hydrogen, carbon, are wonderfully adapted to each other in their original constitution, and with Professor Clerk Maxwell, of England, that the indivisible atoms in their absolute uniformity bear all the marks of being "manufactured articles,"' can we not say that the theory of Creation is an infinitely simpler and more credible one than that of the chance development of matter from the action of loose forces in the empty void? But then, if matter was created, it may be destroyed, and what then will become of the great principle of the indestructibility of matter which forms so natural a corollary to the persistence of force? Ah, that is Mr. Spencer's quandary, and not ours! To us who believe in creation, the indestructibility of matter is no a priori and necessary truth, as it seems to Mr. Spencer, but only a relative truth, the limits of which are to be determined by observation and experience. The same God who creates can also destroy.
So with motion. This, too, is called a mere manifestation of force. But can we be sure that, even with force and matter on hand at the outset, continuous motion will necessarily follow? What is meant by inertia? Is it not this, that matter is not self-moving? Surely one portion of matter cannot move another portion without a previous adjustment of the one portion to the other. And so to the magnificent scheme of development suggested by Laplace—development of the universe from a primeval tenuous mist of atoms, drawing together, and so revolving, and so heating, and so intensifying and liberating its latent forces until chaos turns to cosmos— we only reply that force alone cannot explain motion. Force may be only latent, or it may draw all matter to a common centre of blackness and death, or it may involve matter in boundless waste and confusion. If the universe consisted of a single atom, however richly endowed with force, it would never move at all. As matter is inexplicable without creation, so motion is inexplicable without adjustment. For the operation of force there isrequisite, plurality of atoms and relation between them. And this relation can be constituted only by mind; above all, motion that shall evolve anything is impossible without coordinating intelligence. That nebulous matter moved at all, and especially that it moved so as to produce, even after vast cycles of time, the order and beauty of suns and stars with their measured orbits and their mutual influences, this has its root in purpose and plan, not in mere force without prescience or wisdom. No cosmos is possible without a plan, and while we should have only praise for Mr. Spencer in this portion of his researches, if he were setting forth the method of divine working, we can feel only reprobation for a scheme which makes so large a place for matter and motion, but which has no place for mind.
Thus far we have criticised only Mr. Spencer's general method and the particular a priori principles upon which his philosophy is founded. To follow him minutely in the practical application of these principles would be an almost endless task. Yet every system must be finally tested by its applications. Does it actually explain the facts? We maintain that Mr. Spencer's scheme not only does not account for the most critical and important of these facts, but is compelled either to ignore them or virtually to deny them. I shall try to show its defects in three important features: 1st, as an explanation of the origin of life and mind; 2dly, as a theory of human knowledge with regard to truth and God; and 3rdly, as a basis for scientific and practical morality.
1. You are aware that the Mosaic record recognizes both creation and cosmogony. It recognizes the present order of things as the result, not simply of an originating flat of God, but also of subsequent arrangement and development. A fashioning of inorganic materials subsequently to their creation is described, and also a use of these materials in providing the conditions of organized existence. Life is depicted as reproducing itself, after its introduction, according to its own laws and by virtue of its own inner energy. The earth brings forth and the waters swarm; the tree has seed in itself and the animal creation is self-multiplying. But although this principle of development is recognized in Genesis, as Origen and Augustine and Anselm perceived many centuries ago, yet it has not been allowed its full weight by the interpreters of Scripture. They have been so impressed with the unique declarations of God's absolute Creatorship that they have not sufficiently attended to the accompanying declarations of subsequent evolution according to natural law. It is this last principle which Mr. Spencer has made the characteristic of his system; but the principle is not only as old as the church-fathers,—it is as old as Moses. We thank him for emphasizing a truth too much neglected. But we charge him with narrowness in excluding from his scheme the greater truth that in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. His philosophy demands this truth for its supplement and explanation, but, since it is a truth which could come only from revelation, he will none of it. How is it that the Hebrews alone of all nations had the idea of absolute creation? We find no trace of it in classic times. With the heathen, there were only eternal processes of birth or growth from something pre-existing, —the question as to origination none attempted to answer. Science could never have informed the Hebrews, for science was not. Physical science can observe changes, but it knows nothing of origins. As Sir Charles Lyell has well said: "Geology is the earth's autobiography — but no autobiography can give account of the birth of its subject." But what science cannot give, revelation did give to that least scientific nation of ancient times. They knew of God, the Creator of the very substance of the universe. They knew of development, but they knew also of an originating act of God by which this development was prefaced, and of successive manifestations of divine power by which this development was supplemented.
We are ourselves evolutionists then, within certain limits, and we accept a large portion of the results of Mr. Spencer's work. We gratefully appropriate whatever science can prove. We have long ceased to respect the objection of Leibnitz to the Newtonian law of gravitation. We know that gravitation does not take the universe out of the hands of God, but only reveals the method of the divine working. So, the day is past, in our judgment, when thoughtful men can believe that there was a creative fiat of -God at the introduction of every variety of vegetable and animal life. God may work by means, and a law of variation and of natural selection may have been and probably was the method in which his great design in the vast majority of living forms was carried out. But what we claim is that no law of mere evolution can furnish an exhaustive explanation of the facts. There are outstanding problems which this philosophy can never solve. The origin of life upon the earth—the beginning of organic existence,— this is utterly beyond the powers of Mr. Spencer's calculus. For Bastian's theory of spontaneous generation there is not a shadow of scientific warrant, and Sir William Thomson's method of bringing in a vegetable germ hidden in the cleft of some meteorite from the stellar spaces is too manifestly a shoving-back of the difficulty to some other sphere, where he cannot well be followed, to merit anything better than ridicule. Again, when we come to the origin of mind this philosophy is utterly at fault. It can show that psychical processes are always accompanied by physical processes, and that mind and body are mutually dependent in the present state of being; but it has never made an approach to proving that consciousness is transformed physical or nervous force, or that thought is a mode of motion. Indeed, the fact which Mr. Bain brings out so clearly, namely, that when thought begins there is not the slightest break in the line of physical sequences, and that when thought ends there is no perceptible addition to the sum of the physical forces of the universe, is conclusive evidence that the physical and the psychical are not mutually correlative. But if mind cannot be got from matter, still less can man be got from the brute. His possession of general ideas, of self-consciousness, of a moral sense, and of free self-determination—in short, his personality — cannot have been derived by auy process of development from the inferior creatures. Even if his body were descended from some primitive simian ancestor, his soul cannot be; for the differences between man's soul and the principle of intelligence in the lower animals, as Wallace has shown, are differences, not of degree, but of kind, so that there is no explanation of his lofty and complex being but that of the Scripture: "There is a spirit in man, and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth him understanding." But, last of all, there rises before us the form of the living Christ—a new beginning in human history, not to be explained from His Jewish antecedents — transforming human nature because He transcends human nature — and as we gaze upon Him we are compelled to confess the new-creating power of God. These three — organic life, the human soul, the realized ideal of manhood in Christ — these three owe their origin, not to processes of natural law, but to direct interpositions of God. Even if all the remaining history of the planet, from primeval fire-mist down, could be explained on principles of development, here are three great facts which cannot be so explained. The Philosophy of Evolution meets Life, in its three typical forms, as CEdipus met the Sphynx of ancient fable ; and since the Philosophy of Evolution cannot solve the riddle of Life, it must confess itself vanquished, and yield itself to denth as gracefully as it may.
So we add to the truth of Creation, which ensures God's independence and sovereignty, the other truth of Superintendence, which is inseparable from his omnipresence and control. Ho is in the universe while he is above it,— immanent while he is transcendent,—ablo to work upon occasion by direct exercise of will, while his ordinary method of working is through natural law. And, without taking into account this superintending care and wisdom, none of the great assumed facts of evolution would be credible or rational. The rotation of the nebula, inexplicable except by some impact from without; the heat-producing condensation of the diffused mass, in spite of operative forces of repulsion; the origin of the varieties which natural selection finds ready to its hand, and the most useful of which it only preserves; the beauty of insect-wings and of diatom-markings, so much of which could serve no purpose of utility, because unseen by any eye but God's; the progress of life along a line of gradual improvement, instead of along a Hue of gradual deterioration, such as Mr. Darwin declares to be equally possible upon his theory; the history of human civilization, and the gradual overbalancing of sensual instincts by the force of moral ideas,— all these things are indications that something more than force, groping blindly to its ends, is at work in the universe; all these things are explicable only upon the view that there is a thinking mind, a loving heart, an ordaining will, who superintends the forces of matter and of mind, and directs them to the accomplishment of a plan of far-reaching wisdom. But such a view can find no standing ground upon the premises of the Cosmic Philosophy. It is denounced as anthropomorphism — an unmanageable pseud-idea that has no claim to respect. We see no reason why Mr. Spencer should be unwilling to endow his all-originating force with the attributes of mind and will, unless it be this, that he knows too well that, if he puts intelligence and freedom in at the beginning, he will be obliged to recognize them when they come out at the end. But this he cannot do, and adhere to his system. It is essential to that system to regard the universe as consisting only of one substance, of which matter and mind are equally manifestations. Now we cannot give up the natural dualism of our ordinary thinking, without calling mind matter, or matter mind. Mr. Spencer chooses the former alternative. To him mind is matter. At least it is conceived and construed under physical analogies, and the priority of thinking and willing spirit is denied. And so, having no mind at the beginning, he can have none at the end. Mind is really resolved into the motion of material particles, and man is logically reduced to an automaton. So monism convicts itself of folly. Its conceit of wisdom ends in degrading man, instead of exalting him. This is worse than the fate of Ulysses' companions, for Circe's cup only turned men into swine,—this philosophy makes them machines.
2. What estimate shall we place upon Mr. Spencer's theory of knowledge? Can the human mind cognize truth,— can we reach reality? If not, philosophy would seem the vainest of vain pursuits. But, if we are to have knowledge at the end, we must have knowledge at the beginning. The child whose study of the alphabet should lead him to the conclusion that A was probably A,— but then, it might also be B, or it might be nothing,—would surely have a very insecure basis for his future attainments. If I do not know with absolute certainty that I think, that I exist, that my faculties in their normal action do not deceive me, how can I possibly know any of the other things that are built upon these foundations? But now comes Mr. Spencer, and assures us that nothing can be absolutely known. The 'relativity of knowledge '— misleading and fatal phrase, borrowed though it bo from Mansel and Hamilton —is a very watchword of this philosophy. All knowledge, it is said, is a very watchword of this philosophy. All knowledge, it is said, is relative to the knowing agent; that is, what we know, we know, not as it is objectively, but only as it is related to our own senses and faculties. The conclusion is drawn, that there is ever a subjective element in what we call knowledge, which vitiates it and robs it of its certainty. Now we regard this whole method of representation as a most reprehensible mystification of the truth. We grant that we can know only that which has relation to our faculties. But this is only to say that we know only that which we come into mental contact with, that is, we know only what we know. But we deny that what we come into mental contact with is known by us as other than it is. So far as it is known at all, it is known as it is. In other words the laws of our knowing are not merely arbitrary and regulative, but correspond to the nature of things,— they are laws of thought because they are laws of things. Upon the opposite principle, man's search for truth is the boy's search for the pot of gold at the foot of the rainbow. Who will search for truth, if there be no truth to be found? Every elaborate philosophy like Mr. Spencer's is a practical refutation of the relativity of knowledge. It must contradict itself, indeed, to maintain a moment's existence. As another has put the words into Mr. Spencer's mouth, so we may quote them: "All knowledge is, not absolute, but relative. Our knowledge of this fact, however, is not relative but absolute!" Therefore it is not absolutely true that all knowledge isvelative, aud Mr. Spencer's theory of knowledge falls to the ground.
Now the truths which we must know as the conditions and foundations of all other knowledge are of the class called a priori. Space, time, substance, cause, design, God — these are cognitions incontrovertibly prior to all others. They cannot be derived from experience, because without them no experience is possible. They cannot be derived from reasoning, because all reasoning, inductive as well as deductive, is founded upon them. And yet they are not things perceived by the senses — they are cognized by the mind. Sense occasions them, but does not account for them. Plato thought them reminiscences of things apprehended in a previous state of being. We see that they are part of the original furniture of the reason, which experience draws forth from latency into power. The mind is not a tabula rasa at the start, but is so constituted that upon occasion of cognizing body it necessarily perceives that body to exist in space; upon occasion of cognizing succession, it necessarily perceives that succession to exist in time; upon occasion of cognizing qualities, it necessarily perceives the existence of substance in which qualities inhere and find their unity; upon occasion of cognizing change, it necessarily perceives that change to be due to some producing cause or power; upon occasion of cognizing order and useful collocation pervading a system, it necessarily perceives this to be the result of design; upon occasion of cognizing finiteness, dependence and obligation, it necessarily perceives the existence of an infinite and independent being, to whom obligation is due. These truths do not come to us as the result of observation or inference, because both observation and inference presuppose them. You could not observe the dispositions of matter, without the prior idea of space. You could not conduct any process of inference, except upon the tacit assumption of a designing intelligence which has so put things in relation that you can argue from one to the other. There can be no science of the merely relative. What we call law is something utterly imperceptible to the senses. Mere successions and coexistences give no relations — the senses perceive no connecting link between external facts,— and science is the pursuit of relations, not the cataloguing of facts. And a philosophy that ignores or denies these a priori cognitions of the human mind, not only forfeits its claim to be called a philosophy, but opens the way for a thorough-going and boundless skepticism; for if the mind's testimony to these most fundamental of all truths be cast away as worthless, then no other knowledge, however plausible it may seem, is worthy of a moment's confidence.
Mr. Spencer's treatment of this most important matter is ingenious in the extreme. Positivism, with its denial that we can know anything but the phenomena of sense, is too bald a misrepresentation of the facts of consciousness. Mr. Lewes's idea that the mere recording of facts is philosophy, and the only philosophy, does not satisfy the aspirations of so great a thinker as Mr. Spencer. We cannot deny that there is an a priori element in our knowledge which the acquisitions of no single lifetime can explain; each man finds himself in possession of ideas, the origin of which he cannot trace to his own observation and experience. Now, the new system professes to recognize the a priori element in all human knowledge, while yet it shows this a priori element to have been derived from the sense-experiences of past generations. It is transcendental for the individual, but empirical for the race. Well, let us be thankful for small favors from Mr. Spencer's school! Even this is an advance on John Stuart Mill, who denied that we had any reason to believe even the axioms of mathematics to be valid in other worlds than ours, and according to whose view two parallel lines might possibly enclose a space in the star Sirins, and three times three make ten in Orion. Such an attempt, as this of Mr. Spencer, to make peace with the intuitionalists, shows that the intuitionalist artillery has done some execution within the enemy's lines. None the less is it true that the peace proposed is a hollow and delusive one. No peace is possible except upon surrender of the sensationalist position. Mr. Spencer assumes, provisionally, the validity of these a priori truths, only that he may the more effectively argue them out of existence. And he can do no otherwise. He must assume these necessary laws even in his argument to show that they are not necessary. We propose to him, therefore, a dilemma. Either these assumptions are true, and then his argument against them must be false; or, these assumptions are false, and then the argument which is built upon them is false, likewise. In either case, as has been said, he plants his battery over an adversary's mine, and is hoisted at his first fire.
What is gained by carrying back the origin of these ideas to past millenniums, when the demand for explanation is the same even there? Of what avail is it to call them the results of past experiences of the race, when the first experience presupposes them and is impossible without them? The first experience of individual positions of external matter logically presupposes the knowledge of space. The first act of self-consciousness or judgment presupposes memory and the knowledge of time. They cannot be an outgrowth of successive inductions of primitive man, for the first induction was impossible without the assumptions of cause and design and the implicit acceptance of all the laws of logical reasoning. Mr. Spencer tells us that all cognition is really recognition; but when we ask how, then, there could be a first cognition, he mumbles something about gradual growth and slowly Accumulating impressions,— but there is absolutely no explanation of the first fact of actual attention or observation or memory or judgment or reasoning. In truth, nothing so clearly shows Mr. Spencer's ignorance or evasion of the real question at issue as his treatment of the intuitions. To him, they are not different in essence from tho accumulated force of association in the brute; to him, there is as much in the dog to be accounted for as in the man. We do not envy him his view of the human mind, although we can easily see how his philosophy corresponds to it. It is a good philosophy for the brute, for it is a plausible explanation of the brute's psychology; but self-respect forbids our accepting it as a philosophy for man. It is easy to see that, however much regard Mr. Spencer may think it politic to pay to tho intuitions at the outset of his investigations, they are left with but sorry claims to respect at the end of his investigations. All knowledge is proved to be only transformed sensation, and these a priori knowledges among the rest. And, now that we know just what they have come from, we can judge of their weight and validity. Here is much that sensation cannot justly give. Let it be regarded, therefore, only as provisional and regulative truth; in other words, let us give it as little credence as we can, and as soon as possible let us get rid of it altogether. So the realism with which Mr. Spencer begins turns out to be an exceedingly transfigured realism. In fact, when we hear him saying of consciousness that it "contains no element, relation or law that is like any element, relation or law in the external body," it seems to be hardly distinguishable from idealism. And here Mr. Spencer belongs. He is an idealist, though a materialistic idealist. Dr. Carpenter can say: "That whatever thinks exists, is known to us as a necessary a priori truth by its own evidence; but that I myself exist is known to me, not by evidence of any kind, but by consciousness, to be a particular contingent fact of supreme certainty." But Mr. Spencer cannot consistently say this. That the external ,world exists, or that spirit exists within, must be upon his principles problematical. He and his school are Humists. The soul, to them, is but a screen for shadows, or rather a mere succession of shadows without any screen, though it passes knowledge how they can be certain that even the shadows themselves exist.
The chief evil of this system of philosophy is, however, that it shuts out all knowledge of God. It claims to be far more reverent than orthodox religionists, in that it abstains from all sacrilegious endeavors to describe or define that which is essentially and forever unknowable. The force which is manifested in the processes of nature it declares to be beyond human conception, and what is inconceivable must bo unknown. Now, we admit that we know only that of which we can conceive, if by "conceive" we mean our distinguishing, in thought, the object known from all other objects. This we claim we can do with respect to God. We distinguish him, as the infinite Spirit, Love and Holiness, from every other being whatever. But, by "conceive," Mr. Spencer means something entirely different from this, namely, to form an adequate mental image. He confounds conception with that which is merely its occasional accompaniment and help — the picturing of the object by the imagination. This is an erroneous use of the word "conception," and, taken in this sense, conceivability is by no means a final test of truth. The formation of a mental image is not essential either to conception or to knowledge. As a matter of fact, we both conceive and know many things of which we cannot form a mental image of any sort that in the least corresponds to the reality. We know our own minds; but who can picture to himself the form or substance of that which he thus knows? We have a conception of space, in the sense that we can distinguish it in thought from the body that fills it, and from the time in which that body moves; but who can figure space in his imagination? The mind possesses the body; the soul is present, there is reason to suppose, in every part of the body at once, even as God is in every part of his universe — totus in omni parte — but who can image the soul under spatial relations? Yet, certain of these unpicturablo things are positively known to be true. To conceive is not to picture; and, therefore, the fact that we cannot form an adequate mental image of God is no proof that we cannot conceive of him or know him. The truth is that Mr. Spencer's test of inconceivability is not only false in itself; he applies it arbitrarily, and at times surrenders it altogether. For example, the idea of a self-existent and infinite mind and will is rejected because, in Mr. Spencer's sense, it is inconceivable. Mr. Spencer allows that the force, of which all things are manifestations, is equally inconceivable; but, in spite of its inconceivability, he accepts the idea of it as the most primitive and fundamental of truths. Such a test is a convenient one —it will admit Mr. Spencer's God, but will shut out every other man's.
But the stock-objection to theism employed by the philosophy of nescience is that God cannot be known, because to know is to limit or define; hence, it is concluded that the Absolute as unlimited, and the Infinite as undefined, cannot possibly be known. But we reply that such an infinite and absolute as Mr. Spencer has in mind is a mere abstraction and chimera,—it is not the being for the knowledge of whom we are contending. To this being the most fundamental of all attributes is that of perfection; all other attributes are qualified by this. A God incapable of movement or revelation is not the God of whom we speak, nor have wo in mind a God who can be all things evil as well as all things good. God is absolute, not as existing in no relation, but as existing in no necessary relation. No relation is imposed upon him from without. If he enters into relations, he does it by virtue of a self-determination from within; and if he continues in these relations, he does it in perfect freedom. So, God is infinite, not as excluding all co-existence of the finite with himself; for a God who must in the nature of things be the sole being, cut off from all communication of himself to others, is laden with imperfection and impotence. God is infinite, then, as being the ground of the finite, and so unfettered by it. He is, therefore, a being so limited and defined as to render knowledge of him possible. Indeed, it is not irreverence to say that in his own moral nature and unchangeableness he is the most limited being in the universe; but that he cannot lie or sin or die is his perfection and glory. Here, too, Mr. Spencer rejects theism upon grounds which should compel him to reject the doctrine of force also. For, while he declares that by becoming cause God would cease to be absolute, his unknowable force becomes cause without impairing its absoluteness in the least. "But if it can be cause without ceasing to be absolute," says an able critic, "why can it not be known without ceasing to be absolute? So, too, if everything known is a form of the unknowable, the unknowable is modified, and the absolute or unmodified unknowable has no existence. But if the absolute can be modified without ceasing to be absolute, why can it not be known without ceasing to be absolute?" We can then know God in relation, and this is the only God we wish to know or need to know. And all this Mr. Spencer practically confesses when he confers upon his Unknowable so great a number of definite and characterizing appellatives. One cannot even call a thing unknown and unknowable without showing that he already knows one thing about it, namely, that he does not know it and that it cannot be known. But how great the compass of one's knowledge must be when he is able to speak of this Unknowable, as Mr. Spencer does in various places, as the one, eternal, ubiquitious, infinite, ultimate, absolute existence, power and cause! Here are nine separate designations, and with the term "unknowable" we have ten. It is absurd to say that an Infinite and Absolute that can be thus described and defined is beyond the sphere of human knowledge.
Mr. Spencer's quarrel, however, is chiefly with the idea of personality. This he would extirpate as a self-contradictory and meaningless notion when applied to the power that moves in nature and in mind. The uniformities of natural order, he would say, negative God's personality; in other words, absolute regularity of action excludes the possibility of intelligence and freedom. But is this true? Do we call the capricious variability of childhood the best evidence of purpose and wisdom? On the other hand, do we not find that increasing maturity always brings with it increase of system? Are not the wise man's actions the easiest to predict? What is this but to say that the more perfect intelligence and will become, the more uniform is the thought and life? The nearer we approach to ideal personality, the more we escape from caprice and thoughtlessness. Why then should we refuse to apply the predicate ' personal' to God? The perfect personality might be perfectly regular in the methods of his operation. Mr. Spencer claims, indeed, that he only refuses to attribute personality to the power above us because he believes in something higher — something as far above personality as our intelligence and will are above the modes of being of the plant. But so long as he refuses to recognize what we can know, it is vain to console us by assuring us that something exists which we cannot know. It must ever remain true that a being without intelligence and will must be less perfect than one who possesses them. We see in our own being, if not in the outward world, effects which demand a personal cause. The very constitution of our minds compels us to attribute to that cause, though in an infinite degree, all the highest qualities of the human spirit; to recognize that the methods of the divine mind and of the human mind are similar, and that man is made in God's image. All this, theism recognizes, but agnosticism denies. Yet Mr. Spencer fancies himself a mediator between science and religion. He proposes terms of reconciliation between these two. They are ancient enemies, he says, but only ignorance of each other keeps them apart. He has discovered the truth which they hold in common. Let each give up that which is purely accidental, and unite upon that which is essential and eternal. What is this common truth? It is simply this: There is a Causal Power which is inscrutable to man. Now this is, to say the least, a very abstract account of religious belief. Mr. Spencer claims that it is all in which the various religions can be said to agree. This we deny. We maintain, on the other hand, that personality in the cause or causes which control and vivify the universe is an indestructible element in every religion, from fetichism up to Christianity. The sense of mystery and dependence is not religion; it is only the felt need of religion. Religion is the practical faith in a personal power, or in personal powers, that comes in to supply that felt need. The religion which Mr. Spencer would save is nothing that now goes by that name. It is simply the recognition of a need that is never satisfied. The truly religious man must be a Tantalus. The moment he professes to know anything about the inscrutable power around him and above him, he becomes an example of the impiety of the pious. The moment he tries to satisfy his need of religion, he ceases to be religious. What practical difference is there between saying that there is no God, and saying that there is no God apprehensible by us, no God that we can distinguish from the sum total of things, no God that certainly exists apart from our subjective ideas of Him?
3. We have thus tested Mr. Spencer's philosophical principles by inquiring whether they could explain the origin of life and mmd, and whether they led to a proper theory of knowledge. Let us now, with greater brevity, ask with regard to the moral aspects of the system, and its influence upon practical life. Here, as in every scheme of moral philosophy, all the important questions may be reduced to four, and they all centre in the idea of obligation. The first is a question about right : What is the historical origin of the feeling of obligation? The second has to do with law: What is the rational ground of obligation? The third concerns itself with conscience: What is the psychological faculty which determines obligation? And the fourth is conversant with will: What power is there to discharge obligation?
To the first of these questions Mr. Spencer replies that the feeling of obligation is the result of ancestral experiences of utility. Right is adaptation of constitution to conditions. Action unfitted to its surroundings has developed a generic repugnance to similar action in future, and accumulated impressions of this unfitness have become transformed into an instinct so strong and persistent that it is at last independent of conscious experience, and is worthy the name of an intuition. Now we readily grant that an instinctive appetency for certain courses of action, and a blind aversion to certain others, might be plausibly accounted for in this way. We object to the theory that it fails to account for the very thing to be accounted for, namely, the feeling that the latter are reprehensible and the former obligatory. In short, right is confounded with advantage, and wrong with mere unfitness or inutility. All the languages of mankind distinguish between these two ideas and put an immeasurable gulf between them. The awkward countryman at a full-dress reception has a crushing sense of his unfitness to his surroundings, but who would call his feelings those of remorse? I look back with satisfaction to some past right action; do I mean when I call it right, that it was an action that brought me pleasure or advantage? No, the moral feelings are of a wholly different sort — they affirm not advantage but obligation. The peculiarity of these feelings is that they refer action, not to an external standard of utility, but to an inward standard of right. The words "I ought!" have in them an imperativeness which is wholly absent when I am calculating what self-interest may be. The old Associationalism accounted for the sentiment of obligation by calling it the result of education or of human enactment. It was well replied: If the sense of right comes from education, whence did the first educator, that is, the first man, derive it? And can it come from law, when law is founded upon obligation and simply expresses it? But Mr. Spencer has discovered a more excellent way. The sense of right is but the transformed feeling of utility or fitness. If this be so, there must have been a first time when utility or fitness was seen to be right; in other words, when useful or fit action was seen to be obligatory. Now, he who knows what snow is, and what white is, may affirm that snow is white. But the man who had no notion of snow, or of white, could never affirm the one of the other. So he who first perceived that the useful was obligatory must have brought this notion of the obligatory with him, instead of getting it from the utility he was scrutinizing. In other words, the idea of right is not inherent in things or actions, but is brought to them by the mind. It does not come from experience, but is an intuition. And Mr. Spencer's attempt to account for the right, by calling it an outgrowth from the useful, labors under the same fatal difficulty which we saw attending his explanation of the other intuitions. In the very first recognition of right on the part of any human being we have necessarily involved a fact of intuition, the judging according to an inward standard that transcends all experience, the evolution of a knowledge that comes from some higher source than mere nature.
So we pass to the second of the questions with regard to the moral aspects of the system. What is its view of law? In what is this recognized obligation grounded? Mr. Silencer's answer is, by implication, already before us. An action is right, not only as it is useful, but became it is useful. The foundation of moral obligation is in utility, and this utility is to be found in happiness — in the last analysis, the happiness of the individual. It is enough to say that the common judgment of mankind reverses this order, and declares an action to be useful because it is right, and not right because it is useful. To be virtuous for the sake of the happiness that is to come thereby is not to be virtuous at all. Supreme regard for our own interest is not virtue, but is selfishness, the opposite of all virtue. In truth, it is a most serious mistake to regard happiness in any sense, even the happiness of the universe including God himself, as the highest good or as the ground of duty. For this is to say that virtue is not a good in itself, but is good only for the sake of happiness, good only as a means to an end. It is to say that in eternity past, before creation began, God was holy only for the sake of the happiness that holiness would bring — in other words, that holiness has no independent existence in his being, and that he might be unholy if greater happiness would come thereby. This is to merge all his moral attributes in a profound and overmastering self-love, or what is the same thing, to deny them altogether. So the theory that the general well-being is the highest end proves itself to be only a refined form of the utilitarian view — God is righteous only because of what he can make by it. Let those who maintain the good of being in general to be the ground of obligation ask themselves, why they are bound to seek the general good. That question demands an answer. The only answer will be because God has so made Tis. We are created in his image, and we reach the end of our being only by conforming to his character. In short, the moral character of God, in whose image we are made, and not the good that will come from right action, is the true ground of moral obligation. How far from this view Mr. Spencer is, we have sufficiently seen. All virtue is reduced to the slippery calculation of our personal interest, and unselfish action for right's sake and for God's sake is not only excluded from the category of morality, but is rendered logically impossible.
We do not need to answer at length our third and fourth questions. We asked what upon this theory was conscience. The only reply is that conscience is simply the mind's power of comparing utilities. No intuitional element enters into it. With no hold upon God's law or God's nature to steady it, it is simply the record of shifting human opinion. There is no immutable morality for it to echo, and conscience has no power to echo it, if there were. What seem to be the impulses of a higher power, commanding obedience to the right, are only misinterpreted instincts to secure our own advantage; what seem to be the threats of a coming judgment upon wrong doing, are but base-born and cowardly fears of ill success. A faculty that cognizes the right as distinct from the agreeable, and that affirms its everlasting obligatoriness, a faculty that adds its sanction to all subordinate judgments as to right which are formed by the intellect, and invests them with its own indefeasible authority — such a faculty as this cannot well be evolved out of mere pleasurable and distasteful sensations. But such a faculty conscience really is, and because it is such a faculty there is no room for it in the system of Mr. Spencer. And it is just so with will, the last subject of our questioning. Free-will — the executive faculty of the soul, the power of discharging obligation — how can this find place in a scheme of blind material development? Nothing can come out at the end but what goes in at the beginning. Without freedom in the Creator, you can have no freedom in the creature. What seems to be freedom, therefore, is but a show. Man's will is necessitated in its action by his external circumstances and conditions. He is not a moral agent. History is a fatalistic development. In short, Ethics is only another name for Physics.
Cicero is reported to have said, with regard to the first of these moral questions, that he who confounded the honestum with the utile, or the right with mere advantage, deserved to be banished from society. Since his judgment can hardly have been due to theological bigotry, it may well be commended to the consideration of all thorough-going evolutionists. We agree with Cicero in fearing the influence of such a system upon practical life. For, abstract and lofty as speculations like these may seem, like water from the clouds falling upon well-nigh impervious rock, they filter their way after a while to the lowermost strata of society. A system of monism like Mr. Spencer's, with its delusive simplicity, has an inexpressible fascination for those whose intellectual pride cannot brook the perpetual tyranny of pressing but unsolved problems. Especially is such a system attractive to that great multitude of men whose inmost moral feeling is one of dislike to the idea of a God who imposes moral law, and who will execute penalty upon those who are unlike him in moral character. And besides these will be numbers who are carried away unawares by the popular current of opinion, and who accept this philosophy simply because they know no other. To all these, the breadth of its generalizations, the novelty of its solutions of perplexing questions, and the wealth of scientific knowledge displayed in its illustrations, will make it seem a new gospel of science for mankind.
I believe that this system will be destructive to morality, because history has abundantly shown that life follows doctrine. The denial of God's moral being and governorship takes away the practical authority of conscience. When the solemn voice of duty is hushed, and right is regarded as only an imposing name for utility or pleasure, there is no longer any question whither men's passions and ambitions will lead them. The descent to the pit of rapacity and sensuality is sure, and none the less for the philosophical composure with which the descent began. The philosopher himself may not reach the depths to which his followers are plunged. Early influences of habit and culture, and above all the Christian principles that by a sort of endosmosis have been unconsciously imbibed from the surrounding atmosphere, still keep the thinker outwardly pure and inwardly satisfied. But the very basis of morality is gone from the system, and they whose education is conducted under its influence, and whose principles of living are derived wholly from it, will have no care for truth or love or duty for truth's or love's or duty's sake, and will learn to be false without self-reproach, and to be vicious without fear. Crime is but a name for the ill-repute of crime; make immorality reputable and it ceases at once to be; the new Paul and Virginia, on their island, find that with their advanced ideas of obligation as grounded in the greatest happiness, they can do just what they please. I do not wonder that certain of the representatives of this school are already discussing, with some anxiety, in their Symposia, the question whether belief in a God is not after all necessary to morals. The signs of the times might teach them. Art has begun to feel the poisonous breath of the new philosophy, and the heroic and religious in both painting and sculpture have sensibly withered under it. Pictures for the boudoir have taken the place of pictures for the altar, and a broad immodesty or a piquancy of evil suggestion largely supplants the pure simplicity and lofty purpose of an earlier day. And literature — how vast the change since the transcendental and ideal poetry of Wordsworth gave way to the pagan sensuousness of Algernon Swinburne. All these things are signs of moral decadence under the influence of the general philosophical spirit of our day — a spirit of which Mr. Spencer's system is the most conspicuous and typical example. Let us remember that Epicurus and Lucretins were genial philosophers, but the results of their fatalism in practice are seen in the shamelessness of the Pompeian frescoes, and in the atrocities of the Roman gladiatorial shows under the empire. Thus, with the loss of a God who can be known and obeyed, we lose every true interest of man. To oppose a philosophy which results in so great disaster is therefore the duty of every lover of his kind. It is a congeries of fallacies and of assumptions, but the most vital point at which it may be attacked is its denial of the divine creatorship. There is the first root-falsehood of the scheme; for, without creatorship, God cannot be sovereign over the universe, but must ever fill the subordinate place of a fashioner of intractable material made ready to his hand; indeed, without creatorship, God cannot be personal now that the universe exists, for a God necessarily bound to s self-existent universe is no longer self-determining or free. The Christian philosopher or theologian who grants the eternity of matter plays unconsciously into the hands of the enemy. The very book-revelation that is so denounced and contemned bears on its forefront the one and only solution to the problem of the universe: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." The Sabbath, the weekly memorial of creation, revenges itself on its violators, by proclaiming with all its multitudinous bells the personality of God, manifested not only in the first creation of the universe, but in the new creation of humanity at the resurrection of Christ. And with the Bible and the Sabbath every heart that has been brought into living, loving relation to the heavenly Father, gives in its testimony, not only that God is, and that he can be known, but that this is eternal life that we might know him. To this crowd of witnesses let us join ourselves. For I am persuaded that in this day, when the popular currents of the scientific world are running toward a theory of atheistic evolution which would sweep away the very foundations of knowledge, break down the principles of morality, degrade man to the level of the brute, and hurl almighty wisdom and love and justice from its throne, we can have set before us no nobler task than that of leading the van of a return movement to the old faith in man, the truth, and God.