Luther A Fox.

Evidence of a future life : from reason and revelation online

. (page 15 of 19)
Online LibraryLuther A FoxEvidence of a future life : from reason and revelation → online text (page 15 of 19)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


show that cerebral psychology has failed to find
any definite relations between the two. Eminent
physiological psychologists, among them Wundt,
have acknowledged that the connection between
them remains a mystery.

A sensation can be discriminated from nerve
movements in the effects of electrical currents.
Dead dogs by these currents have been made to

* Psychology, p. 115.



284 EVIDENCE OF A FUTURE LIFE.

move and even bark. Amputated limbs have been
moved by contractions of the muscles. So marked
were these effects, that hopes were once excited of
being able to find a relation between the electrical
and vital forces, and of being able by means of elec-
tricity to raise the dead. The nerves of the dead
carcass vibrated, but there was no sensation.

2. Another assumption of the theory is that sen-
sation and thought in the elementary forms are
identical. There are confessedly feelings which
are not thoughts, as mere "sense feelings." There
are general states of the human organism which
may give tone to the activities of the mind, but the
nervous state and the mental activity can be dis-
tinguished.

A sensation is in its most general definition sim-
ply a mental state. It is the condition of mental
activity. In this sense it is true that "all know-
ledge takes its rise in the senses." In the same
sense it may be said that sensations are ' ' the raw
materials of consciousness." But sensations are
not knowledge. We know only when we refer the
sensation to some external source or to some con-
dition in ourselves. There must be discrimination
before there is thought. Before the act of discrim-
ination there is nothing but the possibility of



SENSATION. 285

thought. Groups of sensations do not bring us
nearer to intelligence, for no number of bare possi-
bilities constitute a reality. Psychical discrimina-
tion must not be confounded with physical dis-
crimination. Molecules by chemical affinities are
drawn together, each discriminating between those
for which it has affinities and those for which it
does not; but sensations which are abstractions, if
they do not have a subject, or are mere states of
feelings in nerve centres, have no such affinities.
Groupings under physical law cannot be metamor-
phosed into mental facts. Thoughts as transformed
sensations imply a subject to transform them.
IvCwes saw this defect in the old sensational philos-
ophy, and tried to supply it from the social relation,
from inherited powers. That carries the diffi-
culty further back, but does not relieve it. The first
thought — how did it arise? Without a thinking
subject sensation can never be related to thought.
Knowledge rises from the senses, and the senses
are the organs of perception. Sensation is the
condition of perception, but sensation and percep-
tion are distinct psychical facts. There must be a
certain intensity of sensation before there is per-
ception, but beyond that degree they are in inverse
ratio. There must be a certain degree of light



286 EVIDENCE OF A FUTURE LIFE.

before there is sight, but the light may be increased
until there is nothing but sensation. Those senses
which are richest in sensation are poorest in per-
ception. So the nervous impulses may be so vio-
lent as not to be the cause of sensations. Sense is
overwhelmed by the violence of impulses. Pain
may grow in intensity until consciousness is lost.
It is impossible to see the identity of nerve move-
ments and sensations, and sensations and thought,
when by increasing the one factor in either group,
the other factor is destroyed.

Sensation, so far as it emerges in consciousness,
is the reaction of a conscious subject upon a nerv-
ous impulse. The sensation is not in the nerve,
but in the mind. Until the soul reacts there can
be no known sensation, and it is unphilosophic to
reason about that of which we have no possibility
of knowing anything. The mind cannot grow up
out of sensation. The effect cannot be its own
cause. If we start with nothing but neural units,
we cannot, by any sort of complex compounding,
arrive at an ego. This summation of his doctrine
by Mr. Lewes is, when put in the clear light of
consciousness, incomprehensible: "Every act of
consciousness is one; every ego is a unity. But
analysis which resolves a sensation into its constit-



SENSATION. 287

uent neural elements, resolves consciousness into
its constituent processes and the ego into a con-
sensus of psychical activities."* That we have
not misinterpreted consciousness is evident from
the fact that men everywhere distinguish be-
tween themselves and their sensations, between
their sensations and their thoughts, and between
their psychical activities and themselves.

3. Materialism assumes that all ideas come
through the senses. It is true that all knowledge
has its beginning in the senses. Kant commences
his Critique of Pure Reason with the remark,
"That all our knowledge begins with experience
there can be no doubt." But that does not mean
that every idea is furnished by the senses. "The
primitive source of all knowledge," says Hamilton,
"is in the mind." The senses call out those ideas
which condition all experience, ideas without
which experience would be impossible. Material-
ism has struggled with this problem. Sometimes
it tries to compound them from the sense impres-
sion by the principle of association. Sometimes it
denies them altogether. But they are great facts
of our mental life, and refuse to be ignored.
They cannot be resolved into sensations, or re-

* Problems of lyife and Mind, p. 133.



2S8 EVIDENCE OF A FUTURE LIFE.

manded to the sphere of mere subjectivity. We
know causes, space, time, identity, beauty, right,
the axioms of mathematics, the laws of logic. We
know that they are universal; but our experience
can never reach beyond a very limited sphere.
Since the days of Hume all who have not a theory
to support have seen that the idea of cause cannot
come through the sense, for sense gives us only
succession. If we know it at all, it is by an origi-
nal power of the mind. The idea of space, of time,
of beauty, etc., can all be shown to be intuitions of
the reason, and not of the sense. These ideas do
not exist in the mind as maxims, but powers which
are awakened by the first experiences, and must be
present in the very first sensation that is related to
knowledge. *

4. Materialism assumes that the physical forces
can be converted into sensations. As "light is
converted into heat, and heat into chemical changes,
and chemical changes into electricity, and electric-
ity back to light, thus completing the circuit," so
b}' another circuit physical powers may be changed
into sensations. Sensations are, therefore, the pro-
ducts of mechanical and chemical laws, to be in-
cluded under them and explained by them. But

*See McCosh's Intuitions for a more thorough discussion.



SENSATION. 2S9

we have already seen that this assumption is
wholly unproved. It ignores the great difference
in kind. The mechanical and chemical laws pro-
duce motion cognizable by the senses, but sensa-
tions are cognizable only by consciousness. It
unites phenomena between which there is a great
chasm across which no bridge has been found.

Materialism, if these points are made out, fails,
therefore, to explain the phenomena of sensation.
It does not account either for the details or general
fact. This failure has been admitted by eminent
authorities. Mr. Tyndall said in his address before
the British Association:* "The passage from the
physics of the brain to the corresponding facts of
consciousness is unthinkable. Granted that a
definite thought and a definite molecular action in
the brain occur simultaneously, we do not possess
the intellectual organ, nor apparently any rudiment
of the organ, which would enable us to pass by a
process of reasoning from the one phenomenon to
the other. Were our mind and sense so expanded,
strengthened and illuminated as to enable us to see
and feel the very molecules of the brain, were we
capable of following all their motions, all their
groupings, all their electric discharges, if such

*Aug., 1868.
13



290 evidence: of a future life.

there be, and were we intimately connected with
the corresponding states of thought and feeling,
we should probably be as far as ever from the solu-
tion of the problem. The chasm between the two
classes of phenomena would still remain intellecu-
ally impassable." DuBois-Reymond, whose name
has been associated with some important discover-
ies in the modes of action of the nerves, says: "If
we possessed an absolutely perfect knowledge of
the body, including the brain and all changes in it,
the psychical states known as sensations would be
as incomprehensible as now. For the very highest
knowledge we could get would reveal to us only
matter in motion, and the connection between any
motions of any atoms in my brain, and such unique
undeniable facts as that I feel pain, smell a rose,
see red, is thoroughly iitcomprehensible.^^ *

Materialism is left with the difficulty of ascrib-
ing incompatible phenomena to the same substance.

* Quoted by Dewey.



CHAPTER XVI.
THE IMMATERIALITY OF THE SOUL.

BY the immateriality of the soul we mean that it
is a substance which is not matter. Material
substances are made up of parts into which they
can be resolved. Only atoms, the ultimate units,,
are indecomposable. When we say that the mind
is immaterial, we deny that it has parts or is com-
posed of atoms into which it can be dissolved.
Simplicity is used in the same sense. The judg-
ment is negative. The word spirituality expresses
more. It not only denies that the soul is material,
but affirms that it has intelligence and free will.
It defines by involving two of the characteristics
of the substance.

The proof of the immateriality of the soul is
not essential to the argument for its immortality.
Tertullian held that the mind is corporeal. "All
things which exist have body. There is nothing
incorporeal except the non-existent." He sup-
posed that the soul could not be acted upon by
bodies unless it was itself a body. He thought the

(291)



292 EVIDENCE OF A FUTURE LIFE.

soul substance was like air, and was luminous and
delicate, in form like the body. Arnobius also
believed that the soul was material, and denied,
therefore, its natural immortality. He taught
that immortality was conferred by the grace of
God. Augustine, Nemesius, Mamertius and Clau-
dianus emphasized its immateriality, and had
much to do with shaping the opinion of the subse-
quent ages upon this subject.

But the immateriality of the soul does not nec-
essarily involve its immortality. It is a depend-
ent being. It does not have the grounds of exist-
ence in itself. As it began to be, so it can also
cease to exist. It will continue only so long as the
force persists which brought it into being. Its im-
mortality depends upon the purpose of God. If
He so wills. He can destroy it. Unless He up-
holds it, though it is a simple substance, it must
sink back into annihilation.

If it were material, it might be immortal. Ter-
tullian had a false philosophy, but it was not ab-
surd. God can give immortality to a material
being as well as to immaterial ones. He who has
held the world together through all the geologic
ages, can hold it forever if He so desires. Knapp
says, "From the argument of the simplicity of the



THE IMMATERIALITY OF THE SOUL. 293

soul, nothing more than the bare possibility of its
immortality can be shown. But this possibility,
if it depends merely upon the will of God, is quite
as obvious, even if the soul has not that absolutely
simple nature which is ascribed to it.^'*

All that is important to our purpose is to show
that the soul is a real being, distinct from the
body, and is not necessarily involved in the fate of
the body. This has been done in the preceding
chapters. We have seen that nothing is known to
science that makes the Christian hope a delusion.
We have seen also that according to the expressed
judgment of some of the greatest savants, science
will never on its present lines make such dis-
coveries.

But it is not doubtful that the soul is immaterial.
Materiality is a complex term, comprehending a
number of qualities which belong to the subjects
of external experience. The mind knows certain
objects as extended, impenetrable, rough or
smooth, cold or hot, figured, colored, elastic, etc.
We call all these extra-mental objects material.
Further than these qualities we do not know the
essence of matter. We do not ascribe these
qualities to mind. Not one is applicable to mind

* Theology, p. 522.



294 EVIDENCE OF A FUTURE LIFE.

as it reveals itself iu consciousness. Its qualities
are to feel, think, remember, imagine, love, fear,
hope, rejoice, will. We cannot know anything of
the essence of mind beyond the facts thus mani-
fested, but we must regard the substance as
different and to express the distinction we call it
immaterial, spiritual being.

This immateriality alone is consistent with the
great utterances of consciousness as to its indivis-
ible unity, its self-activity, its identity, and its
personality. To deny these utterances is to over-
turn all certainty and end with intellectual
suicide.



CHAPTER XVII.
IMMORTALITY OF BRUTES.

THE objection oflfered against the argument of
Bishop Butler for a future life was that it
proved too much, and therefore proved nothing.
It was said that it would prove the immortality of
brutes as well as of man, but as they were certainly
not immortal, it did not prove a future life for
man. The same objection is brought against any
metaphysical argument. In making good the de-
fense of our faith, it is necessary to consider it.

It is commonly taken for granted that the brute
perishes altogether at death. Men believe it with-
out any other reason than common opinion. In
the time of Butler the reason assigned was the
brute's want of a moral nature, to which he offered
two replies: (i) That a moral nature is not essen-
tial to immortality. (2) That for aught we know
they may have an undeveloped moral nature.
The infant gives no more evidence of such nature
than the brute, and if we had known mankind
only in childhood, we would have as good ground

(295)



296 EVIDKNCE OF A FUTURE LIFE.

for denying in them a moral faculty as we now
have for denying it in the brute.

But the question cannot be settled solely upon
the fact of a moral nature. Has the animal intel-
ligence? If so, is it a function of the animal or-
ganism, or is it the function of a distinct im-
material principle? In what respect is its mind
like man's? Does the mere fact of intelligence
warrant a belief in another life?

It was quite customary for a long time to call all
mental activities in the brute mere instinct, but
the study of comparative psychology has collected
a mass of evidence which compels us to make a
distinction between instinct and animal intelli-
gence. Few who have kept pace with the investi-
gations stimulated by the theory of evolution will
deny the fact of intelligence in the higher order
of brutes.

Instinct is defined by Dr. Valentine to be "an
eflfective blind tendency in animals towards specific
kinds of action for self-preservation and the con-
tinuance of the species, regulative of the appetites
and of various functional capacities."* It has been
called a law of action, directed by an innate im-
pulse to some end which the animal does not un-

* Natural Theology, p. 116.



IMMORTALITY OF BRUTES. 297

derstand. It is a law, because it works uniformly.
It is distinguished from mechanical laws by the
fact that there is consciousness of the action. It is
distinguished from intelligence by its want of a
conception of the end of the action. There is no
free choice, but a blind impulse. *'It works out,"
as Dr. Carpenter says, ^'a design formed y^r, not
by it, and the tendency to which is embodied, as
it were, in its organization." With instinct there
is almost always found, as Huber has said, an ele-
ment of reason and judgment. Even the amoeba
has a supposed trace of consciousness. The ele-
ment of judgment is the basis of modified instincts
w^hich Romanes and others have clearly marked
out. The bee, which exhibits instinct so strik-
ingly as to be taken usually as an illustration, also
furnishes evidence of activities implying judg-
ment. The bird builds its nest according to in-
stinct, but there is something more when it sees
the failing limb and supports it by cords. So the
spider by something more than law observes its
falling net and strengthens it. Instinct runs up
through the whole order of animals. We see it
clearly in the dog and "the half reasoning ele-
phant." We find it still in man, but overshadowed
after the earlier days of infancy by his higher
faculties.



298 EVIDENCE OF A FUTURE I.IFE.

The animals of the orders above the lowest have
a nervous mechanism on the same general plan
with the human. They have efferent and afferent
nerves, spinal cord and cerebrum and cerebellum.
The two brains are in proportions different from
man's, but both exist. The spinal cord in the ani-
mal, especially in the lower, has more important
functions than in man. Brainless frogs are said to
be able to discriminate between their male and
female fellows. But there is the same general use
of the cord in both. Animals have the five special
senses. They have eyes, ears, touch, smelling, and
taste, formed as ours are and performing the same
functions. By these organs they discriminate
between the objects of sense. They do perceive ;
though perception has been denied them, because
in perception we distinguish between self and the
object, the ego and the non-ego, and they have no
self. The animal probably does not say to itself,
"this is I," but it does distinguish between itself
as an object and other objects. It has some sort of
self-consciousness. Perception in the high degree
in which w^e have it, they do not have, because
they do not possess some of our higher faculties;
but there is no reason for denying them perception
altogether. Perception is an act of intellect.



IMMORTALITY OF BRUTES. 299

The animals have memory. Within certain
limits they can be taught, and that implies
memory. The dog recognizes his master after
weeks of absence — he remembers him. The
frightened horse shies when he returns to the
place where he was frightened, because he remem-
bers the fright and looks out for the danger. This
has been called association; but the great law of
memory is association, and the brute remembers,
as we do, from associated objects. The animal
memory is perhaps always spontaneous and differs
from ours in having no power of voluntarily
recalling an absent object.

The animal has some power of imagination.
This is seen in the dreams of dogs.

They have the faculty of comparison and draw-
ing conclusions. They have manifested no power
of abstract notions. Their knowledge seems to be
limited to individuals. They do not speak, not
so much because they do not have the physical
organs as because they have no general ideas.
The parrot pronounces words, yet never talks.

The animal has appetites. Its desires growing
out of its physical organization are like those
which belong to man. It has fears, at least in the
presence of immediate danger. It has affections



300 EVIDENCE OF A FUTURE LIFE.

and sympathies. Many of them are gregarious
because drawn by sympathy. A horse will leave a
better pasture simply to be with another horse.
Domestic animals respond to human kindness and
return marks of affection. *

All these things are mental. They have none
of the characteristics of matter. There is no more
length, breadth, and thickness to the memory or
affection of an animal than there is to correspond-
ing acts in man; and if these things imply an
immaterial substance in man, they must also in
the brute. If these acts be set down to the animal
organism as mere functions of it, we can not save

* Among a great number of instances we may take the
following as illustrating several points in animal intelligence:
"The anthropoid ape, Mafuka, kept lately in the Zoological
Gardens at Dresden, saw how the door of her cage was un-
locked, and not only did it herself, but even stole the key and
hid it under her arm for future use; after watching the
carpenter she seized his brad-awl and bored holes with it
through the little table she had her meals on; at her meals she
not only filled her own cup from the jug, but what is more
remarkable, she carefully stopped pouring before it ran over.
The death of this ape had an almost human pathos; when her
friend, the director of the gardens, came to her, she put her
arms around his neck, kissed him three times, and then lay
down on her bed, and giving him her hand, fell into her last
sleep." Tylor's Anthropology, p. 51.



IMMORTALITY OF BRUTES. 3OI

a distinct entity in man. Within a certain sphere
there is a likeness too marked to be ignored, and
if these are the products of matter the higher
faculties of man, which grow out of and depend
upon the lower, are also.

This has led some to believe in the immortality
of brutes. Agassiz said, "Most of the arguments
of philosophy in favor of the immortality of man
apply equally to the permanency of the immaterial
principle in other living things. May I not add
that a future life, in which man should be deprived
of that great source of enjoyment and intellectual
and moral improvement which result from the
contemplation of the harmonies of an organic
world, would involve a lamentable loss? And may
we not look to a spiritual concert of the combined
worlds and all their inhabitants in the presence of
their Creator as the highest conception of para-
dise?"* If the argument for the immortality of
man rested exclusively or chiefly upon the fact
that the soul is an immaterial principle, it would
include the brutes, but the argument proves only
the possibility. We are not authorized to go
further than to say that the animal may survive
th^ death of the body.

* Essay on Classification, quoted by Cook, Biology, p. 209.



302 EVIDENCE OF A FUTURE I.IFE.

The question lias been discussed by philosophers
whether the mind of the animal differs from man
in kind or in degree. They have not always fully
understood each other, and have disputed often
when they were substantially agreed. The old
philosophers, from Aristotle to Descartes, held that
the difference was only in degree. Descartes
taught that the brutes were automata. Locke and
his school ascribed their actions to association and
the power of habit. Reid and Stewart returned
more to the theory of Descartes. Huxley revives
the mechanical view of Descartes and extends it
to human actions. Bowen opposes the doctrine
of difference of degree and regards it as of kind.
If by kind is meant an entire difference in all fac-
ulties, there is only a difference in degree; but if
only a wider range of powers, it is a difference in
kind. The somnambulist does not perceive pre-
cisely as a man awake, but it is not an absolutely
different kind. But man perceives more, remem-
bers better, reasons more correctly than the brute
in things common to both, and has faculties of
which the brute gives no intimation. There is no
evidence of their having reason or the faculty of
knowing the supersensible. They have some kind
of sense of the beautiful, as the bird of its own



IMMORTALITY OF BRUTES. 303

song and of the music of an instrument, or as the
peacock of its own gaudy colors; but it may be
only the beauty of sense, the pleasurable emotions
from harmonious physical sensations. There are
some things pleasant to our feelings, as soft light
or soft sounds, and other things disagreeable, awak-
ening a feeling known as "creeping of the flesh,"
and that sense in the brute which appears to be
that of the beautiful may be of no higher order
than this. They do not appreciate the beauty of
art. They know nothing of the principles of
philosophy. It is very questionable whether any
animal has been able really to count at all. It is
certain that they know nothing of abstract rela-
tions of time and space. They have never indi-
cated anything of a moral nature. The dog of
Sir Walter Scott is said to have manifested shame
after actions for which he had before been rebuked,
but even if it were not a fear of being again
scolded, it was a long remove from a moral feeling.
When we compare the intelligence of animals


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 15 17 18 19

Online LibraryLuther A FoxEvidence of a future life : from reason and revelation → online text (page 15 of 19)