Page images
PDF
EPUB

UNIVERSALIST QUARTERLY

AND

GENERAL REVIEW.

ARTICLE I.

Modern Teleology:

PHILOSOPHERS of all schools have practically agreed upon one fundamental fact as the basis of metaphysical speculation -the existence of a First Cause. However much theories may have differed in regard to its essence, the fact of a First Cause, in some form or other, has been scarcely questioned. Only in the Positivism of Cointe Gö we find any exception. Here the idea of law replaced the idea of cause. But such a system can hardly be called a pilesophy. It is rather a plea for the scientific method.' . It ignores any question as to the origin of the laws which science discovers. Yet at best Positivism was short-lived and had few followers, and even Spencerian Agnosticism diverges from it at this point. cannot think at all about the impressions which the external world produces on us, without thinking of them as caused, and we cannot carry out our inquiry concerning their causation without inevitably committing ourselves to the hypothesis of a First Cause” (First Principles, p. 37). And again says Mr. Spencer, “ We are no more able to form a circumscribed idea of Cause than of Space or Time ; and we are consequently

[ocr errors]

NEW SERIES.

VOL. XXI.

1

obliged to think of the Cause, which transcends the limits of our thought, as positive though indefinite” (F. P., p. 93).

We are justified, then, in taking this common point as a centre from which the wide-reaching speculations of countless philosophies have sought the circumference of truth.

Whether the belief in cause and effect is a primary necessity of human thought, or the result of the experience of the race, the fact remains that every mind does ask for the cause of an event, from the simplest occurrence of daily life to the revolution of the earth on its axis, from the revolution of the earth itself to the origin of a revolving universe. Theism finds this cause in self-existent mind; Materialism in selfexistent matter; Pantheism in the all-pervading essence ; Agnosticism in the Unknowable Something. Still all these systems agree upon the fundamental fact that something is, however much they may disagree as to what that something is. Shall we grant with the Materialist that matter has qualities so unique as to warrant us in asserting that it is sufficient to produce law, harmony, and mind ? Shall we assume with the Pantheist that the attributes of mind and matter, are the attributes of the immanent essence, that material phenomena and the God of our reason are one? Or shall we say with the Theist," thrai. adinitting the existence of a First Cause, we are justified;" from the universality of law, in affirming intelligence as an autta bite this Cause ?

Much criticism upori the. thetstid argument from adaptation is based upon a wrong conception of its scope. It is no real objection to this argument that it is only a “carpenter theory." All that we can liope to prove by it is that God arranges, plans, designs the universe. Nor is it an objection that, reasoning from a finite universe, it cannot prove an infinite Creator. This is giving to the teleological argument the burden of responsibility belonging to entirely different logical processes. This argument is not advanced to prove the existence or the infinity of a God. That belongs to the Ontological or Cosmological argument. Nor does it prove the moral qualities of the First Cause. The argument for the Divine intelli

gence logically succeeds the argument for the Divine existence, and precedes the argument for the moral qualities of the Divine Being. Only after the intelligence of the First Cause has been proved is it possible to prove the moral attributes of the First Cause.

The argument for Mind, then, can be separated logically from the arguments for Existence, Infinity, and Benevolence. We call it the modern teleological argument, although, in the phraseology of Mr. Hicks, in his “Critique of Design-Arguments,” it is eutaxiological. We are not, however, satisfied that the distinction between eutaxiology and teleology is radical, since the authority for this distinction lies in such a separation of will and intelligence as good psychology does not warrant.

In considering, then, the scientific value of the modern teleological argument, we can free the discussion from many of its metaphysical complications, and limit ourselves to the simple question well formulated by Physicus: “ Are the facts of mind and matter of such a nature that they compel us to affirm intelligence of the First Cause, of the Something, the entity in which we must all believe ?

That the adaptation of means to ends is an attribute of intelligence, is a truth which has become an axiom. Every one kuows that an author has a thought before he

pens

the words which convey it. Every one believes that the artist has an idea whic!: precedes the grouping of figures and the harmonizing of colors expressing the idea. This idea, then, in the language of the schools, is the final canse" of the picture. Although there are some well founded objections to the term, - final cause,” the fact that it has been used with varying meanings, is a criticism against ihose employing the term rather than against the term itself. Some technical word is necessary to express the meaning of “ thought," or 6 idea,” as distinct from its material expression, and, if we limit the term to this meaning it cannot be confusing. The final cause, then, is the thought which precedes the picture. It is the idea directing the power which selects the material,

chooses the colors, and guides the brush. Over the kingdom of efficient causes the idea, though invisible and intangible, rules with regal sway. All these efficient causes, — the canvas, the paint, the implements, the moving force, — without which the picture could not exist, are obedient subjects of the kingly idea. If the picture could not exist without the action of material causes, neither could the action of material causes take place without an idea to guide the action.

This does not make the effect precede the cause, as some declare. It does not make the picture precede the materials composir:g it. The idea, the design, the purpose, do precede, but these are not the picture. They are only the guiding force. There is the same difference between the thought, in the mind of the artist, and its embodied form, as there always is between the ideal and its material expression. In art the means are chosen which shall best express the ideal. But this ideal is a purely mental product, and it can only be inferred by examining the finished work. In science, observation suggests the idea which by experiment is expressed in a form for practical use. Here, too, the idea, the thought, which can only be inferred from the coinpleted whole, is the guiding force. The ideal in art and the idea in science, then, are creations of mind. Their existence, though real, is purely psychical, and remains so even after they have found inaterial expression. That the idea and its embodied form are forever distinct does not admit of dispute. The design bears in vari. ably the same relation to the action of efficient causes, that the action of efficient causes bears to the result. That this proportion is complete, that there is an idea preceding the action of inaterial causes forining the world, remains to be proved.

The question then arises, — Is there anything in the universe which leads us to believe that the effects everywhere visible are produced through the agency of material causes guided by a pre-existent idea ? The question of the origin of these causes does not belong here. We are not discussing the omnipotence of God. We are concerned only with the intelligence of God.

In searching for some general principle which shall sum up for us the facts of the universe, the one which presents itself most strikingly, is the all-pervading reign of law.

That the same consequent results from the same antecedent under the same circumstances, is a commonplace of science. It is the beginning and the end of science. It expresses and circumscribes the whole duty of the scientist. When he leaves the domain of natural law, and relinquishies the search for material causes, he abandons the sphere of natural science, and intrudes upon the realm of metaphysics.

But there are laws of mind as well as of matter, although the study of these laws belongs to a different department of science. Universal validity, however, is affirmed as strongly and as consistently of these laws as of the laws of matter. If law is an expression of material necessity, it is also an expression of psychical necessity. If law tells us that steam moves the engine with unwearied speed from shore to shore, so does it also tell us that association of ideas moves the trains of our thoughts, with darting speed, from world to world.

With the possible exception of one of the functions of the mind, the will, psychical laws are universal and unalterable. But practically this is not an exception, since the will has unique laws of its own. The argument, nevertheless, would not be affected should we admit that the will is an exception to the universality of law; for wliat we wish to prove is not that law is everywhere, but that design is everywhere.

We say that design, the adaptation of means to ends, is an attribute of intelligence, but these designs are wholly carried out by the exertion of the will. The will is the very power by which our purposes are accomplished. A man plans a picture, a poem, a system of pliilosophy, and the will is the mov ing force which gives his thought expression. Design, then, is exactly co extensive with the will. But law and the action of the will in man, account for all the phenomena of the universe. Design is co-extensive with the will. If, now, we can show that there is anything in law which implies design, purpose, end, we prove that design is also co-extensive with law; that

« PreviousContinue »