Frederick Temple.

The Relations Between Religion and Science Eight Lectures Preached Before the University of Oxford in the Year 1884 online

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Religion also gives warnings; it assures you that the Eternal Moral Law
is supreme; that, sooner or later, those who disobey will find their
disobedience is exactly and justly punished; that no appearance to the
contrary presented by experience can be trusted. But Religion will not
compel you to believe any more than Science will compel you to obey.
Disbelieve if you choose and Religion will do nothing but perpetually
repeat its warnings and add that your disbelief has lowered you in the
scale of being. So too Science gives promises; it promises, to the race
rather than to the individual, life on easier conditions, and of greater
length; fewer pains, fewer diseases; perpetually increasing comforts;
perpetually increasing power over nature. And Science is sure to keep
the promises. And yet we may refuse to accept the promises, and it is
conceivable that the refusal may be far nobler than the acceptance. And
Religion promises also. It promises stainless purity in the soul; and
truth and justice and unfailing love; and tenderness to every creature
that can feel; and a government of all that is under our dominion with a
single eye to the service of God. And we may refuse to believe these
promises or to care whether they are kept or not. But the refusal or
pursuit of such aims as these determines our position in the judgment of
the Supreme and in the court of our own conscience.

God has made man in His own image: that is, He has given man power to
understand His works and to acknowledge Himself. And it is in
acknowledging God that man finds himself divine. He is a partaker of the
divine nature in proportion as he recognises the Supreme Law and makes
it the law of his own will. And therefore has his will been made free as
well as his mind rational: he has the power to choose as well as the
power to know. And our choice lays hold on God Himself and makes us one
with Him.



Contradiction of Free-Will to doctrine of Uniformity. Butler's
examination of the question. Hume's solution. Kant's solution.
Determinism. The real result of examination of the facts. Interference
of the will always possible, but comparatively rare. The need of a fixed
nature for our self-discipline, and so for our spiritual life.



'So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created
He him.' _Genesis_ i. 27.

Religion and Science both begin with the human will. The will is to
Science the first example of power, the origin of the conception of
cause; the bodily effort made by the will lies at the root of the
conception of force. It is by comparing other forces with that force
that Science begins its march. And the will is to religion the recipient
of the Divine command. To the will the inner voice addresses itself,
bidding it act and believe. It is because we have a will that we are
responsible. In a world in which there were no creatures endowed with a
will, there could be no right-doing or wrong-doing; no approval by
conscience and no disapproval; no duty and no faith.

Here is the first possibility of collision between Science and Religion.
Science postulates uniformity; Religion postulates liberty. Science
cannot ever hope to reduce all phenomena to unity if a whole class of
phenomena, all those that belong to the action of human will, are to be
excluded from the postulate of invariable sequence. The action of the
will is in this case for ever left outside. The evidence for the
absolute uniformity of nature seems to be shaken, when it is found that
there is so important a part of phenomena to which this law of
uniformity cannot be applied. If a human will can thus interfere with
the law of uniformity, there enters the possibility that behind some
phenomena may lurk the interference of some other will. Religion, on the
other hand, tells every man that he is responsible, and how can he be
responsible if he is not free? If his action be determined by something
which is not himself, how can the moral burden of it be put on him? To
tell a man that he is to answer for it if he does something which he is
tempted to do, is unmeaning, if he has no power to prevent himself from
doing it.

But this is not all. For besides the sense of responsibility we have a
direct consciousness of being free, a consciousness which no reasoning
appears to extinguish. We sharply distinguish between that which goes on
within us in regard to which we are free and that in regard to which we
are not free. We cannot help being angry, but we can control our anger.
We cannot help our wishes, but we can restrain our indulgence or our
pursuit of them. We cannot directly determine our affections, but we can
cherish or discourage them. There are extreme cases in which our wills
seem powerless, but even here we are conscious of our power to struggle
for self-assertion and self-control. There is very much in us which is
not free; nay, there is much in us which impels us to action which is
not free. But we never confound this with our wills, and when our wills
are overpowered by passion or appetite, we call the act no longer a
perfectly free act, and do not consider the responsibility for it to be
quite the same.

This question of the freedom of the will was considered by Bishop
Butler in the Analogy. He contented himself with proving that, make what
theory we would concerning the necessity of human action, all men in
practice acted on the theory of human freedom. We promise; we accept
promises; we punish; we reward; we estimate character; we admire; we
shun; we deal with ourselves; we deal with others; as if we and all
others were free. And this was enough for his purpose. For he had to
reconcile a Divine system of rewards and punishments with our sense of
justice. And if he could show, as he did, that rewards and punishments
were plainly not inconsistent with that sense of justice in our dealings
with one another, it was impossible to call them inconsistent with that
sense of justice in God's dealings with us.

But the purpose of these Lectures requires something more, and that for
two reasons. For, in the first place, the doctrine of necessity was most
often in Bishop Butler's days derived from a conception of a Divine
foreknowledge arranging everything by supreme Will, not from the
conception of a blind mechanical rule holding all in its unrelaxing
grasp. And though to the cold reason it may make no difference how the
will is bound, yet to the moral sentiment the two kinds of compulsion
differ as life and death. To have no liberty because of being absolutely
in the hands of Almighty God is quite another thing from having no
liberty, as being under the dominion of a dead iron rule. It seems
possible to accept the one and call it an unfathomable mystery; but to
accept the other is to call life a delusion and the moral law a dream.
And in the second place, the doctrine of necessity advanced as a theory
and based on arguments not resting on facts, is a very different
antagonist from the same doctrine advanced as a conclusion of science,
and as deducible from a mass of co-ordinated observations. We may
dismiss the mere theory after showing that it has not substance enough
to hold its ground in ordinary life. We cannot so treat what claims to
be a scientific inference.

The modern examination of the question begins with Hume, who maintains
that the doctrine of liberty and that of necessity are both true and of
course compatible with each other. But his arguments touch only the
broad question whether they are true for practical purposes, not whether
either is true in the strict sense and without exception or
modification. To Kant's system, on the contrary, it was essential that
both doctrines should be true in the strictest sense. Holding that
invariable sequence was a law of Nature known independently of
experience and applicable to all phenomena in the minutest detail, he
could not allow that any act of the human will lay outside the range of
this law. Such an act being a phenomenon must, in his view, be subject
to the law which the constitution of our minds imposed on all phenomena
apparent to us. And yet, on the other hand, holding that the eternal
Moral Law made us responsible for all our acts, he could not but
maintain that in the doing of those acts we must be free. His mode of
reconciling the two opposites amounted to this, that our action
throughout life considered as a whole is free, but that each separate
act considered by itself is bound to the preceding acts by the law of
invariable sequence. We may illustrate this by the familiar instance of
a prism acting on a ray of light. The ray has or may have a colour of
its own before it passes through the prism. The prism spreads it out and
shows a series of colours. The order in which this series is arranged is
determined by the character of the prism acting on the nature of the
ray. The colours when combined give the colour of the ray; when
separated by the prism each has its own distinct character, and the
order of the colours is determined, and invariably determined, by the
prism. So too in Kant's view the character of a man in itself may be
free, but when it passes through the prism of time into the world of
phenomena and is spread over many years it shows a number of separate
actions, no one of which taken by itself exhibits the man, though all
put together are the true representation of him to human perception. The
man is free. His life represents his free choice. But his separate acts
are what that free choice becomes when translated into a series of
phenomena, and are bound each to the preceding by the law of invariable
sequence. It is plain at once that this does not satisfy our
consciousness. We are not conscious of freedom as regards our life as a
whole; we are conscious of freedom as regards our separate actions. Our
life as a whole embraces our past which is absolutely unchangeable, and
our future which is not yet within our reach; we are conscious of no
present power over either. Our separate acts are perceptibly subject to
our own control; nay, it is by the use of our free-will in our separate
acts that we are able to change the character of our life or to preserve
it from change; and with this corresponds our responsibility. We hold
ourselves responsible for each act as it is done; we hold ourselves
responsible for the character of our lives only so far as we might have
changed it by our acts. The solution leaves the difficulty where it was.

It is now customary with the advocates of the doctrine of necessity to
express it by a different word, and call it the doctrine of determinism.
The purpose of changing the word is to get rid of all associations with
the idea of compulsion; just so in Science it is thought better to get
rid of the words cause and effect, and substitute invariable sequence,
in order to get rid of the notion of some compulsion recognisable by us
in the cause to produce the effect. Determinism does not say to a man
'you will be forced to act in a particular way;' but 'you will assuredly
do so.' There will be no compulsion; but the action is absolutely
certain. Just as on a given day the moon will eclipse the sun, so in
given circumstances you will do the precise thing which it is your
character in such circumstances to do. And your sense of freedom is
simply the sense that the action proceeds from yourself and not from any
force put upon you from without.

But this too does not solve the problem. It is true that in regard to a
very large proportion of our actions the sense of freedom seems to be no
more than negative. We do what it is our custom, our inclination, our
character to do. We are not conscious of any force being put upon us;
but neither are we conscious of using any force ourselves. We float as
it were down the stream, or hurry along with a determined aim, but
having no desire nor purpose to the contrary, the question of freedom or
necessity never seems to arise. It is even possible and common for us
not to know ourselves as well as others know us, and to do many things
which an observer would predict as sure to be our actions, but which we
ourselves fancy to be by no means certain. Even in these cases we
sometimes awake to the fact that what we are thus allowing in our lives
is not consistent with the law of duty, and, do what we may, we cannot
then escape the conviction that we are to blame, and that we had power
to act otherwise if only we had chosen to exert the power. But it is
when a conflict arises between duty and inclination that our inner
certainty of our own freedom of will becomes clear and unconquerable. In
the great conflicts of the soul between the call of duty and the power
of temptation there are two forces at work upon us. We are never for a
moment in doubt which is ourselves and which is not ourselves; which is
the free agent and which is the blind force; which is responsible for
the issue, and which is incapable of responsibility. There is in this
case a real sense of compulsion from without, and a real sense of
resistance to that compulsion from within. It is impossible in this case
to account for the sense of being a free agent, by saying that this
merely means that we are conscious of no external force. We are
conscious of an external force and we are conscious that this will of
ours which struggles against it is not an external force, but our very
selves, and this distinction between the will and the forces against
which the will is striving is ineffaceable from our minds. That the will
is often weak and on that account overpowered, and that after a hard
struggle our actions are often determined, not by our wills but by our
passions or our appetites, is unquestionable. Often has the believer to
pray to God for strength to hold fast to right purpose, and often will
he feel that without that strength he must inevitably fall. But he knows
that whatever source may supply the strength, it is he that will have to
use it, and he that will be responsible for using it or neglecting to do

The advocates of determinism urge that every action must have a motive,
and that the man always acts on that motive which is the stronger. The
first proposition may be granted at once. The freedom of the will is
certainly not shown in acting without any motive at all. If there be
any human action which appears to be without any motive, it is not in
such action that we find human freedom. Such action, if possible at all,
must inevitably be mechanical. A man who is acting from mere caprice is
even more completely at the mercy of passing inclination than one who is
acting from passion or from overpowering temptation. The freedom of the
will is not shown in acting without motive, but in choosing between
motives. But when it is further said that a man always acts from the
stronger motive, the question immediately follows, what determines which
is the stronger motive? It cannot be anything in the motives themselves,
or all men would act alike in the same circumstances; and it is clear
that they do not. It must be therefore something in the man. And if it
be something in the man, it must be either his will acting at the
moment, which in that case is free, or his character. But if it be his
character, then follows the further question, what determines his
character? If we are to maintain the uniformity of nature, we must
answer by assigning the determination to the sum total of surrounding
and preceding circumstances. Nothing will satisfy that law of
uniformity but this; that, given such and such parents, such and such
circumstances of birth and life, there must be such a character and no
other. At what point is there room in this case for any responsibility?
I did not on this supposition make my character; it was made for me; any
one else born in my stead, and living in my stead, would of necessity
have acted exactly as I have done; would have felt the same, and aimed
at the same, and won the same moral victories, and suffered the same
moral defeats. How can I be held responsible for what is the pure result
of the circumstances in which I was born? But if, on the other hand, it
be said that our character is not the mere fruit of our antecedents and
surroundings, the law of uniformity is clearly broken. A new element has
come into the world, namely, my character, which has not come out of the
antecedents and surroundings according to any fixed law. The antecedents
and surroundings might have been quite the same for any one else, and
yet I should have my character and he his, and our lives would have
altogether differed.

It is clear that determinism does not get us out of the difficulty.
Here, too, as in regard to the necessary truths of mathematics, and in
regard to the relativity of all our knowledge, the theory has purchased
completeness by the cheap expedient of calling one of the facts to be
accounted for a delusion. Such a solution cannot be accepted. In spite
of all attempts to explain it away, the fact that we think ourselves
free and hold ourselves responsible remains, and remains unaffected.

But let us examine how far the difference between the scientific view
and the religious view of human action extends.

Observation certainly shows that a very large proportion of human
action, much even of that which appears at first sight to be more
especially independent of all law, is really as much regulated by laws
of nature as the movements of the planets. I have already pointed out
how often an observer can predict a man's actions better than the man
himself, and how often the will is certainly passive and consents
instead of acting. In these cases there is no reason whatever to deny
that nature and not the will is producing the conduct. And not only so,
but that which seems most irregular, the kind of action that we call
caprice, there is very often just as little reason to call free, as to
assign free-will as the cause of the uncertainties of the weather. But
it is not in observing individuals so much as in observing masses of men
that we get convincing proof that men possess a common nature, and that
their conduct is largely regulated by the laws of that nature. That
amongst a given large number of men living on the whole in the same
conditions from year to year, there should be every year a given number
of suicides, of murderers, of thieves and criminals of various kinds,
cannot be accounted for in any other way than by the hypothesis that
like circumstances will produce like conduct. So, too, in this way only
can we account for such a fact as the steadiness in the proportion of
men who enter any given profession, of men who quit their country for
another, of men who remain unmarried all their lives, of men who enter a
university, of men who make any particular choice (such as these) which
can be tested by figures. Now, this argument is unanswerable as far as
it goes; but it succeeds, like all the other arguments for the
uniformity of nature, in establishing the generality, and not at all the
universality of that uniformity. Indeed, it falls far short of proving
as much uniformity in human action as is proved in the action of
inanimate things. The induction which proves the uniformity of the laws
of mechanics, of chemistry, of physics, is so far greater than the
induction which proves the uniformity of human conduct, that it is
hardly possible to put the two side by side. When we turn from abstract
arguments to facts, the doctrine of necessity is unquestionably

And this agrees with the result of a careful examination of the facts of
human consciousness from the opposite point of view. We cannot but
acknowledge that when we look very closely we find a very large
proportion of our own actions to be by no means the result of an
interference by the will. A large proportion is due to custom; a large
proportion to inclination, of which the will takes no special notice,
and is not called on by the conscience to notice; a large proportion to
inclinations which we know that we ought to resist, but we do not
resist; a much smaller proportion, but still some, to passions and
appetites against which we have striven in vain; only a very small
proportion to deliberate choice. There is, in fact, no irresistible
reason for claiming freedom for human action except when that action
turns on the question of right or wrong. There is no reason to call
action free that flows from inclination or custom, or passion, or a
desire to avoid pain, or a desire to obtain pleasure. The will claims to
be free in all these cases, but it is free in the sense that it might be
exerted; and so, since it is not exerted, the action is not free. But
when, at the call of duty, in whatever form, the will directly
interferes, then and then only are we conscious not only that the will
is free, but that it has asserted its freedom, and that the action has
been free also.

The relation of the will to the conduct falls under four distinct heads:
for sometimes the will simply concurs with the inclination; sometimes it
neither concurs nor opposes; sometimes it opposes but is overpowered;
sometimes it opposes and prevails. In the first case, inclination of
some kind or other prompts the man to action. The inclination, whether
set up by an external object of desire or by an internal impulse of
restlessness or blind craving or the like, comes clearly from the
nature, and is not free choice. There is no reason to believe that it is
not in most cases, possibly in all cases, under the dominion of fixed
law. It may be as completely the product of what has preceded it as the
eclipse of the sun. And if the will concurs in the inclination, it is
needless to discuss the question whether the will acts or not. The
conduct is the same whether the will adds force to the inclination or is
simply passive. The freedom of the will may in this case be considered
as negative. So, too, may the freedom of the will be considered negative
in the second case, which is that of the will neither concurring with
inclination nor opposing it. In this case there may be a distinct
consciousness of freedom in the form of a sense of responsibility for
what inclination is permitted to do. A man in this case knows that he is
free, perhaps knows that he ought to interfere and control the conduct.
But as he does not interfere, the freedom of the will is not asserted in
act. And it is possible that, as far as all external phenomena are
concerned, there may be no breach in uniformity of sequence. This,
however, can hardly be in the third case, which is when the will and the
inclination are opposed, and the will is overpowered. Although the
inclination prevails, yet the struggle itself is an event of the most
important kind, and is sure to leave traces on the character, and to be
followed by consequences. In this case we are distinctly conscious of a
power to add force to that one of the contending opposites which is most
identified with our very selves, and we know whether we have added that
force or not. And not only may we add this force directly from within;
we may and we often do go outside of ourselves to seek for aids to add
still more force indirectly, and we do for this purpose what we should
not do otherwise. We dwell in thought on the higher aims which are the
proper object of will; we read what sets forth those higher aims in
their full beauty; we seek the words, the company, the sympathy of men
who will, we are sure, encourage us in this the higher path. And, on the
other hand, we turn away from the temptation which gives strength to
the evil inclination, and if we cannot escape from its presence we
endeavour to drive the thought of it from our minds. All this action is
not for the sake of anything thus done, but for the sake of its indirect
effect on the struggle in which we are engaged. Whenever there is a
struggle, we are not only conscious that the will is free, but that it
is asserting its freedom. In these struggles there is not a mere contest
between two inclinations. We are distinctly conscious that one of the
combatants is our very selves in a sense in which the other is not. But,
nevertheless, when all has been said, it still remains in this case that
the will is beaten and inclination prevails, and the conduct in the main
is determined by the inclination, which is under the dominion of the law
of uniformity, and not by the will, which claims to be free. The fourth
case in which the will prevails may, of course, make a momentous breach

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Online LibraryFrederick TempleThe Relations Between Religion and Science Eight Lectures Preached Before the University of Oxford in the Year 1884 → online text (page 4 of 11)