« PreviousContinue »
If the last position be the truth, the whole ground of the objection, as above given, is at once annihilated, and the idea is not merely an inseparable existence with the archetype; but is itself the archetype seen in its own absolute and eternal ground of being. Nor would the settlement of this inquiry bear alone upon the point before us, but upon the establishing of the possibility of any and all a priori and transcendental cognition; and would go more directly and effectually to the settlement of some of the most important and fundamental questions of human knowledge, than perhaps any point of mental philosophy now agitated. It would meet the speculations of Hume, in his higher skepticism of all knowledge of a God just where the clear counter speculations of Dr. Reid met both Hume and Berkely, in their skepticism of the knowledge of an external world—by the affirmation of a direct and immediate knowledge. All conflict with the skeptic in relation to the being of a God, or with the affirmed atheist, when followed fully out to its issue, will inevitably come upon the ground of this inquiry; and, by deciding it, we shall decide how we are to combat the peers of skepticism in their very heights;either with Kant, by taking the side of the personality of our rational cognition of ultimate and absolute truth, and then urging against them a faith, based upon all probabilities in its favor and nothing opposed to it, or with Cousin, by taking the ground of its impersonality or direct inspiration, and thus overwhelming them by the conclusiveness of absolute knowledge which is grounded upon immutable necessity. And verily, there is no way of annihilating, by human reason, the last refuge of the philosophical skeptic, but by obliging him, with the first, to feel the folly of standing against all probabilities, with nothing to support him, or, with the last, to feel the absurdity of standing against the verities which are based in absolute necessity. Now this would be the only way to annihilate the difficulty as above stated; but it may be most effectually obviated by a cheaper and easier effort. For admit, as the objection contem
out an archetype. Even if one can be conceived as existing without the other, it is the idea only which can be conceived to have non-existence. The mind may lose the idea, i. e. it may be conceived as having fallen from the mind's consciousness; but the archetype, the absolute truth, cannot cease to be. If then we have the necessary idea of God, although that idea be not conceived as an inspiration of himself by himself, it would still be seen that the idea, when possessed necessarily, implied its antitype in his necessary being.
3. The idea of God may be evolved from our own being, and can thus be no ground for a deduction that God really exists.
This is denied as a matter of fact or possibility. The idea of the indefinite may be evolved from our own being, but not the idea of the absolute. These ideas are as distinct as any two the mind can possibly have. We may expand and augment, in imagination, the attributes which we possess, to an unconditional extent, and thus get the idea of the indefinite, or the unconditionally unlimited—a progression but never a completion. Here, however, is no idea akin to the absolute, the entire, the complete and perfect God. It is only an indefinite expansion of yourself, and not even an approach to the idea of the absolute entireness of an eternal being. If there were no other idea but that of an augmented finite, at the utmost it would be finite still, and could never give the idea which the mind actually has of an infinite God, in his absolute wholeness and entireness of being. Besides, by no indefinite expansion of self, can the mind possibly obtain the elements of universality and necessity, which now inhere in the idea of all ultimate truths, and with which our idea of the absolute God is invested. This expanded self can always be conceived as being or not being—as now and not at another time—as never having been, or if as once having been, not now, or not hereafter. But not so with the absolutely eternal, which is universally and necessarily in being
The ground of the a priori argument is then entirely untouched by this objection; for it would be a mere petitio prin
surdity as the denial of any idea of God. But evidently, this is not the fact. There is no atheist but must admit that he has the idea of God, and that it would be an absurdity to suppose that his idea of the eternal could ever consist with his idea of the annihilation of the eternal. But still he feels no such absurdity himself, nor do others in relation to it, that he denies the real existence of an eternal being. But this absurdity ought so to be felt, if the reality is as necessary as the idea.
To this it is replied, that the absurdity is in truth as great in one case as in the other; but the intuition of one is not as direct and immediate as the other. The denial of the necessity of the most complicated demonstration in Euclid, is, in reality, as great an absurdity, as the denial of one of the first axioms in geometry. But, because the axiom is a first and immediate intuition to all minds, and the conclusion of a complicated problem is a remote intuition, reached only in the process of a series of intuitions, the denial of the truth of the last, cannot appear, to ordinary minds, as absurd as the denial of the first. So with the existence of God. The a priori demonstration is reached only by a process of deductions from the necessary idea; and thus, while the last may be clear to all, and its denial a manifest absurdity to all, yet the steps in the demonstration may prevent many a mind from seeing the absurdity of denying the conclusion. Here, then, is really nothing to militate against the conclusion, that the necessary being of God follows from the necessary idea of him. And such, I think, may be affirmed of all the difficulties that can be presented. They can be obviated, and shown to be irrelevant, and thus, while they leave the direct argument unimpaired, they go farther, and, as they can all be obviated, they give corroboration to the positive proof.
Having thus, with some care, examined the nature and ground of the a priori form of argument for the being of God, it remains to consider,
III. The extent to which it can be conclusively applied in proof of the being of God. We would here estimate the value of this mode of reasoning by itself, disconnected from any other. We
may hereafter see its great use in combination with another form of argument; but here we fix our eye singly and solely upon the pure a priori form, as applied to the proof of the existence of God. And we shall find that its conclusiveness is weakened, and the limits of its application circumscribed, —
not so much, and perhaps not at all, from any defect in the argument itself,—but altogether from the weakness and incompetency of the human mind to give to it the full scope and efficacy of its own inherent power. This difficulty of application will be found,
1. In an obscure and partial apprehension of the ground on which the validity of the argument rests. We deem the ground of the argument, in reality, safe and solid. And this, not merely in the point that a logical deduction from a necessary truth is conclusive, as in all mathematical reasoning, but in the more specific point, that necessary ideas involve the necessary existence of their archetypes, and thus, that they have a necessary ground of being. A necessary idea, with nothing as its object, ground, or archetype, is, in our view, an absurdity. In the divine mind, the idea must itself be the archetype or ground of the reality—the exemplar, from which, as evolved from his efficient causation, all material and spiritual forms and modes of existence must have their origin. But in the finite mind, the idea must be either an acquisition or reception, i. e. either taken by the mind's own action, through some medium, as in sensation, or, given by direct display, impartation or inspiration to the mind's own consciousness, from the ground of all being itself,—as, perhaps, in all rational intuitions of ultimate truth. But, in either case, the idea will be valid for the existence of its object. In the first, the verification of the reality of the object, from the idea, will be on the ground of an absolute faith—a conviction in which all probabilities meet with no conflicting contradictions. In the second, the verification will be on the ground of absolute science-a perceived necessity, immutable and ultimate.
But, though this be the case in reality, the conclusiveness of it will be impaired in most minds, for this reason,—that the principle, which is the ground of all conviction, will be obscure in the conception, and thus be divested of the attributes of an axiom or first truth, clear and self-affirmed in its own light. Of course, any deductions must be unsatisfactory to such
located in a material universe, is an impossibility. They may thus lay down, as first principles in their reasonings, what, to ordinary minds, would be a remote conclusion, found only after a long and labored process of demonstration. And so, in the use of the principle of the a priori argument for the being of God, it is a clear and distinct necessary truth, and thus a first truth in the reasoning, to some minds, and therefore all logical deductions are to them conclusive and convincing ; but to most, the obscurity of the principle must forever vitiate the conclusiveness and validity of this form of demonstration.
2. In the case of those, however, to whom the ground of the a priori argument is plain, there will be a higher difficulty. Their inability to take a position, where they can perceive a necessary idea for every divine attribute, will oblige them to stop short of a full demonstration.
Eternity, immensity, necessary existence, etc., may perhaps be taken at once by the mind, as first truths, seen to be necessary and absolute in their own nature. The necessary existence of the objects or archetypes of these necessary ideas may thus, at once, be deduced from them. Omniscience and omnipotence may, perhaps, be necessary truths from omnipresence and selfexistence; but if they are, the clear idea of this necessity is certainly a much higher intuition than that of the necessary ideas of eternity and immensity; and only in proportion as the necessity of the idea is clear, is the deduction to the necessity of the reality conclusive.
The ultimate idea of right is necessary and universal. The mind perceives a necessity in connection with this idea ; and though to many minds it may be obscure, yet, to others it is as clear and immutable in its necessity as that of any absolute truth in mathematics. The necessary existence of some absolute ground of moral rectitude and perfection is thus a logical deduction. Now to this, it may be, that moral freedom or intelligent choice is a necessary adjunct; but if it be so, it will demand far higher powers of intuition to see the necessary idea and thus infer the necessary reality of such an existence.
So the attributes of benevolence and wisdom may have, and doubtless really do have, a ground of necessary being in God. But, aside from all effects in which God's wisdom, skill and benevolence appear, it must certainly be a most difficult and perhaps impossible position for either man or angel to attain, where, in its own absolute ground of being, it shall be seen