Borden Parker Bowne.

Philosophy of theism online

. (page 1 of 14)
Online LibraryBorden Parker BownePhilosophy of theism → online text (page 1 of 14)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


THE LIBRARY

OF

THE UNIVERSITY

OF CALIFORNIA

LOS ANGELES



GIFT OF



T^







PHILOSOPHY OF THEISM



BT



BOEDEN P. BOWNE

PROFESSOR OF PHILOSOPHY IN BOSTON UNIVERSITY

AUTHOR OF "metaphysics" " INTEODrCTION TO
PSYCHOLOGICAL THEORY" ETC.



NEW YORK
HARPER & BROTHERS, FRANKLIN SQUARE

1887



Copyright, 1887, by IIarper & Brothers.



All rights reserved.



BL

aoo



PREFACE.



This work does not aim to say everytMng
about theism. I liave rather sought to give an
outhne of the essential argument which might
serve as a text for teachers and as a somewhat
critical survey of the subject for other readers.

Kant pointed out that the ontological argu-
ment properly proves notliing, and that the cos-
mological and the design argument depend on
the ontological. The argument, then, is not
demonstrative, and rests finally on the assumed
existence of a perfect being. In a different
form I have maintained the same position ; but
so far from concluding that theistic faith is
baseless, I have sought to show that essentially
the same postulate underlies our entire mental
Ufe. There is an element of faith and vohtion
latent in all our theorizing. Where we cannot
prove, we beheve. "Where we cannot demon-
strate, we choose sides. This element of faith



iv PREFACE.

cannot be escaped in any field of thought, and
without it the mind is helpless and dumb.
Oversight of this fact has led to boundless verb-
al haggling and barren logic-chopping, in which
it would be hard to say whether the affirmative
or the negative be the more confused. Absurd
demands for "proof" have been met with ab-
surd " proofs." The argument has thus been
transferred from the field of life and action,
where it mainly belongs, to the arid wastes of
formal logic, where it has fared scarcely better
than the man who journeyed to Jericho from
Jerusalem. The conclusion is that theism is
the fundamental iDOstulate of our total life. It
cannot, indeed, be demonstrated without assump-
tion, but it cannot be denied without wi-ecking
all our interests.

This claun has been especially emphasized in
considering the bearing of theism upon the prob-
lem of knowledge. I have sought to show that
our cognitive and speculative interests, as well
as our moral and rehgious interests, are so bound
up with theism as to stand or fall with it. If
we say, then, that theism is strictly proved by
nothing, we must also admit that it is imphcit in
eveiytliing. Anti-theistic schemes are generally



PREFACE. V

in the instinctive stage of thought, where knowl-
edge constitutes no problem and is taken for
granted. In tliis stage any theory whatever
may be held, however seK - destructive ; and
when its suicidal imphcations are pointed out,
the theorist falls back on unreasoned common-
sense, and repudiates, not his own theory, which
is the real offender, but the critic. He sets up
natural selection as the determining principle of
belief, and then repudiates the great catholic
convictions of the race. He shows how the sur-
vival of the fittest must bring thought and thing
into accord, and then rejects the behefs which
survive. He defines mind as an adjustment of
inner relations to outer relations, and forthwith
drifts off into nescience. He presents the Un-
known Cause as the source of all beliefs, and
then rules out most of them as invalid, and, at
times, declares them all worthless. This pitia-
ble compound of instinct and reflection, in which
each destroys the other, has even been regarded
as the final philosophy. Such performances are
both saddening and wearisome. It seems clear
that whoever will reason should regard the con-
ditions of reason, and should not set up theories
which undermine reason. But it will be a lonsj



VI



PREFACE.



step in advance when this simple principle is
recognized. Meanwhile the critic must possess
his tired soul in patience when he sees suicidal
theories parading as science and supreme wis-
dom. The greater the dearth of thought, the
greater the swarm of opinions.

Yet there is some progress. Except in phi-
losophy and theology, there is coming to he a de-
cided conviction that no one has a right to an
opinion who has not studied the subject. Off-
hand decisions of unstudied questions receive
very little consideration nowadays in the sci-
ences. It is to be hoped that this mental seri-
ousness may yet extend to philosophy and the-
ology. At present it is not so. He would be a
rare man indeed who could not settle questions
in theology or Biblical criticism without previous
study ; while the small men who could dispose
of philosophy and philosoi^hers in one after-
noon are legion. Meanwhile the irrelevance,
the misunderstanding, the superficiality are so
apparent that the student is unavoidably re-
minded of our first parents, of whom it is said,
They were naked and were not ashamed.

That nature when driven out with a fork
always comes running back is a discovery of



PREFACE. vii

ancient date. We have an excellent illustration
of this law in the way in which language has
avenged the attempt to discredit the teleological
view of nature. Teleology has taken entire
possession of the language of botany and bi-
ology, especially when expounded in terms of
evolution. Even plants do the most acute and
far-sighted things to maintain their existence.
They specialize themselves with a view to cross-
fertilization and make nothing of changing spe-
cies or genus to reach their ends. A supply is
often regarded as fully explained when the need
is pointed out ; and evolution itself is not infre-
quently endowed with mental attributes. Such
extraordinary mythology arises from the mental
necessity for recognizing purpose in the world;
and as it would not be good form to speak of a
divine purpose, there is no shift but to attribute
it to "Nature" or "Evolution " or " Law " or some
other of the homemade divinities of the day.

The atheistic gust of recent years has about
blown over. Atheism is dead as a philosophy,
and remains cliiefly as a disposition. But the
origin and history of the late atheistic renas-
cence are not without both interest and instruc-
tion. The crude popular reahsm, joined with



YjJJ^ PREFACE.

the notion of necessity, fumislied excellent soil
for an atheistic growth. Not a few atheists
found a disproof of theism in the conservation
of energy, and not a few theists felt that all
depended on discrediting that doctrine. Both
parties ahke agreed in the principle, the more
law, the less God. This grotesque inversion
of reason, together with the doctrine of evolu-
tion in biology, brought about a state of tri-
umph on the one side and of panic on the other
which is unintelhgible now except to one versed
in the philosophy of error, and which is seen to
be equally baseless in both cases. The naive
disportings of the speculators of that period are
at once as charming and as embarrassing to the
modest critic as the contemplation of a state of
paradisaical innocence. Happily, there is an ad-
vance towards clothing and a right mind. That
terrible necessity which left no room for God
has been recognized as only a shadow of the
mind's own thi'owing. Even evolution, that
monster of liideous mien, on the one hand, has
been discovered not to be so potent a solvent
of philosophical questions as was once fancied,
and on the other, even some theists have plucked
up courage enough, not only to endure, but also



PREFACE. ix

to embrace. Fundamental problems are seen to
remain about what they always were in spite of
the advent of the " New Philosophy." When
that philosophy first appeared in the wilderness
of the old philosophy and theology, announcing
that the kingdom of science was at hand, high
hopes were entertained by some, and gloomy
forebodings by others, as to what the end would
be. But as the attraction of novelty and denial
wore off, it became clear that the "New Philoso-
phy " could not hit it off with criticism any more
happily than the old. To the apostles, this was
both a revelation and a sore disappointment.
They meant well and were gifted wiiters, but
they were lacking in patient reflection. They
took more heed to their speculative ways and
became less enthusiastic but wiser men. Some
proof of this is found in the fact that the British
Association for the Advancement of Science has
not favored us with a cosmological manifesto for
the last dozen years. All parties have learned
wisdom. Theists have gained breadth and cour-
age. Anti-theists have found that the way
of anti-theism is hard. The critic must allow
that the theistic outlook was never more en-
couraging. The only exception to this general



X PREFACE.

growth is in the case of the newspaper and mag-
azine scientist — that well of omniscience nnde-
filed. Here, as ever, one finds chiefly words and
hearsay, an exploitation of what the writer does
not know. Boeden P. Bowne.

Boston, July, 1887.



CONTENTS.



CHAPTEB FAOB

Introduction 1

I. Unity of the Wokld-Gkound 41

II. The World-Ground as Intelligent . . . . 62

III. The World-Ground as Personal 122

IV. The Metaphysical Attributes of the World-

Ground 139

V. God and the World 171

VI. The World-Ground as Ethical 211

VII. Theism and Life 241

Conclusion 261



PHILOSOPHY OF THEISM.



INTRODUCTION.

§ 1. Man is religious. However it came about,
our race, at least as . soon as it emerged from
brutisliness, possessed religious ideas and im-
pulses. The earth is full of rehgion; and hfe
and thought, art and literature, are moulded
by it.

Concerning this fact three questions may be
asked. These concern respectively, (1) the
source of rehgion, (2) the genesis and history
of rehgion, and (3) the rational fomidation or
warrant of reherion.

The Source of Religion.

§ 2. To this question various answers are given.
Some have been content to \aew religion as a de-
vice of state and priest craft ; but this view has
1



2 PHILOSOPHY OF THEISM.

long been obsolete. The impossibility of impos-
ing purely adventitious and fictitious ideas upon
the mind by external authority makes it neces-
sary to look for the source of religion within the
mind itself. Such source was found at a very
early date in fear. Man being timid and help-
less, feigns gods partly to help himself and part-
ly as projections of his fears. This view, which
finds full expression by Lucretius, has been ex-
tended by Hume, who finds the source of re-
ligious ideas m the personifying tendency of the
mind. Man projects his own life into all his ob-
jects, and thus surrounds himself with a world of
invisible beings. Others have held that the idea
of an invisible world first got afloat through
dreams, trances, fits, etc., and once afloat, it took
possession of the human mind in general, with
the exception always of a few choice spirits of
rare insight ; and from this unseemly origin the
whole system of religious thought has been
developed. Suggestions of this land are num-
berless. They are mainly an extension of the
sensational philosophy into the realm of re-
ligion. As that philosophy seeks to reduce the
rational factors of intellect to sensation, and eth-
ical elements to non-ethical, so also it seeks to



INTRODUCTION-. 3

reduce the religions nature to something non-
rehgious. But in all of these attempts it suc-
ceeds only by tacitly begging the question. If
we take a mind whose full nature is expressed
in the quality A, it will be forever impossible to
develop anything but A out of it. In order to
move at aU A must be more than A ; it must be
A+X, or XA. That X contains the ground of
the movement. A being whose nature is ex-
hausted in sense objects can never transcend
them. Everything must be to him what it
seems. The stick must be a stick, not a fetich.
The sun and moon must be lighted disks and not
gods. To get such a being beyond the sense
object to a rehgious object we must endow him
with more than the A of sensation, or the B of
animal fear. The cattle have both; but only
some very hopeful evolutionists have discovered
any traces of rehgion among them; and if it
should turn out that these traces are not mis-
leading, it would not prove that simple sensa-
tions can become religious ideas, but that the
animal mind is more and better than we have
been accustomed to think.

Another view has been suggested, that religious
ideas are the product of reflective thought. This



4 PHILOSOPHY OF THEISM.

view is disproved by experience. Man was re-
ligious before lie became a philosopher. Specu-
lative thought has had the function of criticis-
ing and clarifying religious ideas, but never of
originating them; and often they have been
much more confidently held without its aid than
with it. On this account many have viewed
speculation in its religious efforts as a kind of
inverted Jacob's ladder.

Hence many have held that religious ideas are
innate. This could only mean that the human
mind is such as to develop rehgious sentiments
and ideas under the stimulus of our total experi-
ence ; and experience shows such difference of
religious thought that the content of this re-
hgious intuition could hardly be more than a
vague apprehension of an invisible and super-
natural existence. The phrase, innate ideas, has
so many misleading connotations that it had
better be avoided.

In the same hue it has been suggested that
the soul has a special organ or faculty for the re-
ception of rehgious truth ; and the state of this
faculty has even been made a ground for impor-
tant theological distinctions. Sometimes it has
been called faith, sometimes feeling, and some-



LNTRODUCTION. 5

times the " God-consciousness." But psychology
long ago discovered that nothing is explained by
reference to a faculty ; since the faculty itself is
always and only an abstraction from the facts
for whose explanation it is invoked or invented.
There is probably no question more utterly arid
and barren than the search for the "faculty"
from which rehgion springs.

The conclusion is this : No external action can
develop an empty mind which has no law, nature,
or direction into anything. This would be to
act upon the void. Hence it is hopeless to look
for the source of rehgious ideas in external ex-
perience alone. We must assume a germ of re-
ligious impulse in the soul in order to make re-
hgious development possible. But, on the other
hand, this germ is not self-sufficient. It develops
only under the stimulus of outer and inner ex-
perience, and unless under the criticism and re-
straint of intellect and conscience it develops into
grotesque or terrible forms. The stimulus may
be manifold. It may lie in our sense of depend-
ence, in the needs of the intellect, in the de-
mands and forebodings of conscience, in the
cravings of the affections, in the words of rev-
elation, and in some direct influence of Grod



6 PHILOSOPHY OF THEISM.

upon the soul. WMcli of these it may be, or
whether all of them enter into actual religious
development, is a question for separate study.

Tlie History of Religion.

§ 3. This question does not concern us. It is
referred to (1) because it is a separate question,
and (2) because there is a fancy that the truth
of rehgion can be determined by studying its de-
velopment either in the individual or in the his-
tory of the raoe. But a httle reflection shows
that the psychological genesis of an idea is not
to be confounded with its philosophical worth.
"Wlien the latter question is up the former is en-
tirely irrelevant, unless it be shown that philo-
sophical value is compatible with only one form
of psychological genesis. This showing has
never been attempted. Meanwhile the rational
value of a proposition can be determined only
by considermg its content and the reasons
which are offered for it.

The Grounds of Religion.

§ 4. But our present concern is with neither of
the first two questions, but rather with the third,
the rational foundation of religion, and more par-



INTRODUCTION. 7

ticularly vath the rational foundation of the
theistic idea, which is the central conception of
rehgion. We set aside, therefore, all inquiry into
the origin and development of rehgious ideas,
and inquire rather whether they have any ra-
tional warrant now that they are here. We take,*
then, what we may call the theistic consciousness
of the race as the text for a critical exegesis with
the aim of fixing its content and philosophical
worth. We do not aim at a philosophical deduc-
tion or speculative construction of rehgion, nor
yet at a genetic unfolding of religion; we aim
only to analyze and understand the data of the
religious consciousness.

The outcome of this inquiry might conceiv-
ably be threefold. The theistic idea might be
found to be (1) contradictory or absurd, (2) an
implication of the religious sentiment only, and
without any significance for pure intellect, and
(3) a demand of om^ entire nature, intellectual,
moral, aesthetic, and rehgious. In the first case it
would have to be abandoned. In the second it
would be a fact of which no further account
could be given, but which need not, on that ac-
count, be rejected. In the last case theism would
appear as the imphcation of aU our faculties, and



8 PHILOSOPHY OF THEISil.

would have the warrant of tlie entire sonl. How
this may be the course of oiir study must show.

§ 5. The function of the theistic idea in human
thought as a whole is very complex. Fu^st, the-
ism may be advanced as an hypothesis for the
explanation of phenomena. As such it has no
rehgious function at all, but solely a logical and
metaphysical one. The question is considered
under the law of the sufficient reason ; and the
aim is to find an adequate explanation of phe-
nomena, especially those of the external world.
Most theistic argument has been carried on on
this basis. The facts of the outer world have
been appealed to, especially those which show
adaptation and adjustment to ends; and the
claim has been set up that only intelhgence could
account for them. These facts have been sup-
plemented with various metaphysical considera-
tions concerning the absolute and the relative,
the infinite and the finite, the necessary and the
contingent, the self -moving and the moved ; and
the work was done. How far this comes from
satisfying the rehgious nature is evident.

Second, theism may be held as the implication
and satisfaction of our entire nature, intellectual,



INTRODUCTION. 9

emotional, aesthetic, ethical, and religious. These
elements reach out after Grocl so natui'ally and,
when developed, ahnost so necessarily, that they
have always constituted the chief actual grounds
of theistic behef. Accordingly the human mind
has always adjusted its conception of God with
reference less to external nature than to its own
internal needs and aspirations. It has gathered
its ideals of truth and beauty and goodness, and
united them into the thought of the one Per-
fect Beinsc, the ideal of ideals, God over all and -r ,
blessed forever. A purely setiological contempla-
tion of the world and life with the sole aim of find-
ing an adequate cause according to the law of the
sufficient reason would give us an altogether dif-
ferent idea of God from that which we possess.

Hence it has been a frequent claim, even among \
theologians, that arguments for theism are worth- '
less. They may jDroduce some assent but no
hving conviction; and when they are strictly
logical they reach only barren results which \
are religiously worthless. These sterihties are
transformed into fruitfuhiess only by imphcitly
falling back on the h^dng rehgious conscious-
ness ; and this might as weU be done openly and
at the start.



10 PHILOSOPHY OF THEISM.

This claim is partly true and partly false. It
is true that purely setiological arguments, hke
that from design, are inadequate, but they may be
good as far as they go. It is also true that pui-e-
ly metaphysical arguments concerning the abso-
lute, or unconditioned, do not bring us in sight
of ]iYmg rehgious sentiment, but they have their
value nevertheless. On the other hand, it is a
grave oversight to suppose that such considera-
tions alone can give the full rehgious conception
of God. The actual grounds of theistic behef
are manifold, being inteUectual, emotional, 88S-
thetic, and ethical ; and no one can understand
the history of the behef without taking aU of
these into account.

But here the very grave doubt meets us wheth-
er most of these elements are proper grounds
of behef, and whether theistic argument does
not confessedly proceed by a much looser logic
than ol^tains in our mental procedure elsewhere.
This compels us to take a short survey of mental
method in general.

§ 6. It is a traditional superstition of intellect
that notliing is to be accepted which is not either
seK-evident or demonstrated. The correspond-



INTRODUCTION. H

ing conception of method is this : Let lis first
find some in\dncible fact or principle, something
which cannot be doubted or denied without ab-
surdity, and from this let us deduce by cogent
logic whatever may be got out of it. ^Yhen we
reach the end of our logic let us stop. In other
words, admit nothing that can be doubted. Make
no assmnptions, and take no step which is not
compelled by rigorous logic. And, above all, let
no feehng or sentiment or desire have any voice
in determining behef . If we foUow this rule we
shaU never be confounded, and knowledge will
progi'ess.

Opposed to this conception of method is an-
other, as f oUows : Instead of doubting everything
that can be doubted, let us rather doubt nothing
until we are compelled to doubt. Let us assume
that everything is what it reports itself until
some reasons for doubt appear. In society we
get on better by assuming that men are truthfid,
and by doubting only for special reasons, than
we should if we assumed that all men are hars,
and beheved them only when compelled. So in
aU investigation we make more progress if we as-
sume the timthfulness of the universe and of our
own nature than we should if we doubted both.



12 PHILOSOPHY OF THEISil.

Sucli are the two metliocls. The former as-
sumes eyeiything to be false until proved true ;
the latter assumes everything to be true until
proved false. All fruitful work proceeds upon
the latter method; most speculative criticism
and closet-philosophy proceed upon the former.
Hence their perennial barrenness.

§ 7. The fii'st method seems the more rigorous,
but it can be applied only to mathematics, which
is purely a subjective science. ^Yhen we come to
deal with reahty the method brings thought to a
standstill. At the beginning of the modern era,
Descartes pretended to doubt everything, and
found only one unshakable fact — I think ; there-
fore, I am. But from this he could deduce noth-
ing. The bare fact, " I think," is philosopliical-
ly insignificant. What I think, or how I think,
whether rightly or wrongly, is the important
matter. But from the bare " I think " Descartes
could reach neither the world of things, nor the
world of persons, nor the world of laws. The
method was so rigorous as to leave thought "wdth-
out an object. And in general, if we should begin
by doubting everything that can be doubted, and
by setthng all questions in advance, we should



INTRODUCTION. 13

never get under way. There are questions in
logical theory, in the theory of knowledge, and
in metaphysics, which even yet are keenly de-
bated. The sceptic and agnostic and ideahst
are still abroad.

§ 8. If, then, man were only an abstract specu-
lator, this method of doubting everything which
cannot be demonstrated would condemn the
mind to a barren subjectivity. But man is not
only, or chiefly, an abstract speculator, he is also
a living being, with practical interests and neces-
sities, to which he must adjust himself in order
to hve at all. It has been one of the perennial
shortcomings of intellectuahsm that man has
been considered solely as an intellect or under-
standing; whereas, he is a great deal more.
Man is wiU, conscience, emotion, aspiration ; and
these are far more powerful factors than the
logical intellect. Hence, in its practical unfold-
ing the mind makes a great variety of practical
postulates and assmnptions which are not log-
ical deductions or speculative necessities, but a
kind of modus vivendi with the universe. They
represent the conditions of our fullest hf e ; and
are at bottom expressions of our practical and



14 PHILOSOPHY OF THEISM.


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Online LibraryBorden Parker BownePhilosophy of theism → online text (page 1 of 14)