Imatges de pàgina
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sarily involved in the terms of it, or in the definition of these terms—just as the properties of a circle lie surely enveloped in the description of a circle. Nay a proposition may be so constructed that the opposite thereof shall involve at first sight a logical absurdity—so that this opposite cannot possibly be apprehended, or even imagined by the mind. Its truth is necessarily bound up in the very terms of it.

It may be said to contain its own evidence within itself, or rather to contain within itself the necessity of its being admitted among the existent truths of Philosophy. The mind cannot, though it would, put it forth of its own belief; or, in other words, put it forth of the place which it occupies within the limits of necessary and universal truth. Now this test of a logical or mathematical necessity in the existent truths of speculation, he would make also the test of a physical necessity in the existent things of substantive and actual Nature. He confounds we think a logical with an actual impossibility. Insomuch that if the conception of the non-existence of any actual thing involve in it no logical impossibility, then that thing is not necessarily existent. He applies the same test to the things of which it is alleged that they necessarily exist, as to the propositions of which it is alleged that they are necessarily true. He holds that if things do necessarily exist, we cannot conceive this thing not to be—just as when propositions have in them an axiomatic certainty, we cannot conceive these things not to be true. And so on the other hand if we can conceive any existent thing not to be, then that

thing exists but does not exist necessarily. It has not the ground of its existence in itself-even as a necessary truth has its evidence or the ground of its trueness in itself. And therefore the ground of its existence must be in another beside itself. It must have had a beginning.— It must not have existed from eternity.

6. It will be at once seen how when furnished with such an instrument of demonstration as this he could on the strength of a mere logical category, go forth on the whole of this peopled universe and pronounce of all its matter and of all mind but the one and universal mind that they have been created. We can conceive them not to exist

and this without any of that violence which is felt by the mind, when one is asked to receive as true that which carries some logical or mathematical contradiction on the face of it. “ The only true idea," he says, “of a self-existent or necessarily existing

a Being, is the idea of a Being the supposition of whose not existing is an express contradiction.” “ But the material world,” he afterwards says,

cannot possibly be such a being”—for “unless the material world exists necessarily, by an absolute necessity in its own nature, so as that it must be an express contradiction to suppose it not to exist; it cannot be independent and of itself eternal." This argument is reiterated in the following terms 66'Tis manifest the material world cannot exist necessarily, if without a contradiction we can con

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This and the other extracts from Clarke given within inverted commas are quotations from his Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God.

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ceive it either not to be or to be in any respect otherwise than it now is.” He proceeds all along on the assumption that there is no necessity in the substantive existence of things, unless the denial of that existence involves a logical contradiction in terms. Nay, if without such contradiction we can imagine any variation in the modes or forms of matter from those which obtain actually, this is enough with him to expel from matter the property of self-existence. Ere we can award to matter this property, “it must,” he says, “ be a contradiction in terms to suppose more or fewer stars, more or fewer planets, or to suppose their size, figure, or motion, different from what it now is, or to suppose more or fewer plants and animals upon the earth, or the present ones of different shape and bigness from what they now are.” At this rate, it will be observed, if we can imagine only five planets and without any such contradiction as that three and four make five_this of itself is proof that the actual state of the planetary system, or the actual state of matter whereof this system is a part, is not a necessary state, and so matter is not necessarily self-existent. In like manner the motion of matter is held not to be necessary because it is no contradiction in terms to suppose any matter to be at rest. Thus throughout, our powers or possibilities of conception within, are with him the measures or grounds of inference as to the realities of Being without. He denies the necessary existence of matter, merely because we can conceive it not to exist; and the necessity of motion, because we can conceive of other direc

tions to it than those which obtain actually; and a necessity for the actual order or number or figure of material things, because without logical absurdity we can conceive of them variously. The necessary trueness of eternal truths may be discovered thus, that in the terms of that proposition which affirmed their non-trueness there would be contradiction. And so he would have it that the necessary existence of eternal things may be discovered thus, that in the terms of that proposition which affirmed their non-existence there would be the like contradiction. And therefore when the opposite of any existent thing can be imagined without such contradiction, it exists not necessarily

-nor is it of itself eternal. The logical is made to be identical with, or made to be the test and the measure of, the actual or the physical necessity.

The one is confounded with the other; and this we hold to be the first fallacy of the a priori argument.

7. On the strength of this fallacy, the puny mind of man hath usurped for itself an intellectual empire over the high things of immensity and eternity—subjugating the laws of nature throughout all her wide amplitudes to the laws of human thought-and finding, as it were, within the little cell of its own cogitations the means of an achievement so marvellous, as that of pronouncing alike on all the objects of infinite space, and on all the events of infinite duration. Because I can imagine Jupiter to be a sphere instead of a spheroid; and no logical absurdity stands in the way of such imagination-therefore Jupiter must have been created. Because he has only four satellites, whilst I can figure him to have ten; and there is not the same arithmetical falsity in this supposition, as in that three and one make up ten-therefore all the satellites must have had a beginning. Because I can picture of matter that it might have been variously disposed, that its motions and its magnitudes and its forms may have been different from what they are, and that space might have been more or less filled by it-because there is not in short a universal plenum all whose parts are immoveably at rest in this Dr. Clarke beholds a sufficient ground for the historical fact that a time was when matter was not, or at least that to the power of another beside itself, it owes its place and its substantive Being in our universe. We must acknowledge ourselves to be not impressed by such reasoning. For aught I know or can be made by the light of nature to believe-matter may, in spite of those its dispositions which he calls arbitrary, have the necessity within itself of its own existence and yet that be neither a logical nor a mathematical necessity. It may be a physical necessity—the ground of which I understand not, because placed transcendentally above my perceptions and my powers—or lying immeasureably beyond the range of my contracted and ephemeral observation.

8. But we have only touched on what may called the negative part of the a priori argumentthat by which matter is divested of self-existence. Thence, on the stepping-stone of actual matter, existent though not self-existent, might we pass by inference to a superior and antecedent Being from whom it hath sprung.

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