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are neither first principles nor entirely based upon incon-
trovertible first principles ?

To this obvious and important question we shall not find
in Newman's treatise any satisfactory reply. He does not
profess, indeed, to be giving much attention to notional
assent ; it is real assent which he is specially anxious to
distinguish from inference. Notional assent, while he con-
tends that it is different from inference, and cites examples
of cases in which he says that it is given, he nevertheless
practically treats, either as if it scarcely had existence, or
as if it were almost synonymous with inference. He writes
as follows : —

"We may call it then the normal state of Inference to
apprehend propositions as notions ; and we may call it the
normal state of Assent to apprehend propositions as things.
If notional apprehension is most congenial to Inference, real
apprehension will be the most natural concomitant on Assent.



IHMnMWHHHl



NEWMANS "GRAMMAR OF ASSENT" 173

An act of Inference includes in its object the dependence of
its thesis upon its premisses, that is, upon a relation, which
is an abstraction ; but an act of Assent rests wholly on the
thesis as its object, and the reality of the thesis is almost a
condition of its unconditionality."^ "In comparison of the
directness and force of the apprehension, which we have
of an object, when our assent is to be called real, Notional
Assent and Inference seem to be thrown back into one and
the same class of intellectual acts, though the former of the
two is always an unconditional acceptance of a proposition,
and the latter is an acceptance on the condition of an accep-
tance of its premisses. In its notional assents as well as
in its inferences, the mind contemplates its own creations
instead of things ; in real, it is directed towards things, re-
presented by the impressions which they have left on the
imagination. These images, when assented to, have an
influence both on the individual and on society, which mere
notions cannot exert."-

IV. Newman's first objection, then, to inference as a source
of assent appears to be one having little or no weight, even
when we put his own interpretation upon the term inference.
Almost identifying it with syllogistic reasoning, he seems to
maintain that, since the propositions constituting the premises
are for the most part incapable of being absolutely demon-
strated, the conclusions drawn from them are for the most
part not unconditionally assented to. The second objection,
which applies to real assent only, is more worthy of atten-
tion. It is, that syllogistic reasoning deals with abstrac-
tions, and on this account can never lead to more than
probable conclusions in relation to concrete things.

In the view that we have taken of the difference in
character between conclusions in the field of natural law
and conclusions in the field of history, the difference has
1 Ch. iv. - Ch. iv. S 2.



174 THE THEORY OF INFERENCE

been regarded as subjective no less than objective. That is
to say, the mind of the reasoner is supposed to be more or
less conscious that its inductive and deductive inferences do
not place it in possession of the same kind of truth about
things as it manages to attain to in another way. It is sup-
posed to recognise the limitations of these modes of reason-
ing, and to perceive that, so far as concrete things are dealt
with by them, they are dealt with only as clothed abstrac-
tions. It is supposed to be more or less aware that it is
not, and cannot be, by following logical methods, that it
comes to assent to propositions in the field of history.
Newman, however, prefers to base his depreciation of logical
argument, as a means to assent in concrete matters, solely
on objective grounds. He endeavours to show that it cannot
be trusted to lead to objective truth about concrete things.
Instead of showing that the mind of the reasoner is not, in
fact, led by the methods of logic to real assent, he seeks to
make good the position that it cannot rely upon the objective
truth of the conclusions to which logic points. The quality
of probability or uncertainty which, in his view, accompanies
logical conclusions in then' application to concrete things is
not regarded as attaching to the mental attitude of the in-
dividual thinker, and making this attitude something different
from real assent ; but it is regarded as belonging objectively
to the external world, and imparting such a character to
logical conclusions about concrete things that no wise man
will unconditionally accept them.

Taking him thus on his own ground, let us see what he
has to say in defence of the position that abstract argument
cannot lead to concrete truth, a position with which we are,
of course, substantially in full accord. Let us see how far,
treating the matter in relation to objective truth, he is suc-
cessful in upholding this thesis. It will be well to give a
somewhat long quotation.



IIHIItllHIIii




NEWMAN'S "GRAMMAR OP^^SSE^" 175

" Science, working by itself, reaches truth in the abstract,
and probabihty in the concrete ; but what we aim at is truth
in the concrete. This is true of other inferences besides
mathematical. They come to no definite conclusions about
matters of fact, except as they are made effectual for their
purpose by the living intelligence which uses them. 'All
men have their price ; Fabricius is a man ; he has his price; '
but he had not his price ; how is this ? Because he is more
than a universal ; because he falls under other universals ;
because universals are ever at war with each other ; because
what is called a universal is only a general ; because what is
only general does not lead to a necessary conclusion. Let
us judge him by another universal. ' Men have a conscience ;
Fabricius is a man ; he has a conscience.' Until we have
actual experience of Fabricius, we can only say, that, since
he is a man, perhaps he will take a bribe, and perhaps he
will not. ' Latet dolus in generalibus ; ' they are arbitrary
and fallacious, if we take them for more than broad views
and aspects of things, serving as our notes and indications
for judging of the particular, but not absolutely touching and
determining facts.

" Let units come first, and (so-called) universals second ;
let universals minister to units, not units be sacrificed to
universals. John, Richard, and Robert are individual things,
independent, incommunicable. We may find some kind of
common measure between them, and we may give it the
name of man, man as such, the typical man, the aiito-
antJiropos. We are justified in so doing, and in investing it
with general attributes, and bestowing on it what we consider
a definition. But we think we may go on to impose our
definition on the whole race, and to every member of it, to
the thousand Johns, Richards, and Roberts who are found
in it. No ; each of them is what he is, in spite of it. Not
any one of them is man, as such, or coincides with the auto-



176 THE THEORY OF INFERENCE

anthropos. Another John is not necessarily rational, be-
cause ' all men are rational,' for he may be an idiot ; — nor
because ' man is a being of progress/ does the second
Richard progress, for he may be a dunce ; nor, because
'man is made for society,' must we therefore go on to deny
that the second Robert is a gipsy or a bandit, as he is found
to be. There is no such thing as stereotyped humanity ; it
must ever be a vague, bodiless idea, because the concrete
units from which it is formed are independent realities.
General laws are not inviolable truths ; much less are they
necessary causes. Since, as a rule, men are rational, pro-
gressive, and social, there is a high probability of this rule
being true in the case of a particular person ; but we must
know him to be sure of it.

" Each thing has its own nature and its own history. When
the nature and the history of many things are similar, we
say that they have the same nature ; but there is no such
thing as one and the same nature ; they are each of them
itself, not identical, but like. A law is not a fact, but a
notion. ' All men die ; therefore Elias has died ; ' but he
has not died, and did not die. He was an exception to the
general law of humanity ; so far, he did not come under that
law, but under the law (so to say) of Elias. It was the
peculiarity of his individuality, that he left the world without
dying : what right have we to subject the person of Elias to
the scientific notion of an abstract humanity, which we have
formed without asking his leave ? Why must the tyrant
majority create a rule for his individual history ? ' But all
men are mortal ; ' not so ; what is really meant by this uni-
versal is, that 'man as such is mortal,' that is, the abstract,
typical mito-anth'opos ; to this major premiss the minor, if
Elias is to be proved mortal, ought to be, 'Elias was the
abstract man;' but he was not, and could not be such, nor
could any one else, any more than the average man of an



NEWMAN'S "GRAMMAR OF ASSENT" 177

Insurance Company is every individual man wlio insures his
life with it. Such a syllogism proves nothing about the
veritable Elias, except in the way of antecedent probability.
If it be said that Elias was exempted from death, not by
nature, but by miracle, what is this to the purpose, undeni-
able as it is ? Still, to have this miraculous exemption was
the personal prerogative of Elias. We call it miracle, be-
cause God ordinarily acts otherwise. He who causes men
in general to die, gave to Elias not to die. This miracu-
lous gift comes into the individuality of Elias. On this
individuality we must fix our thoughts, and not begin our
notion of him by ignoring it. He was a man, and some-
thing more than ' man ; ' and if we do not take this into
account, we fall into an initial error in our thoughts of
him

" Nor does any real thing admit, by any calculus of logic,
of being dissected into all the possible general notions which
it admits, nor, in consequence, of being recomposed out of
them ; though the attempt thus to treat it is more unpro-
mising in proportion to the intricacy and completeness of
its make. We cannot see through any one of the myriad
beings which make up the universe, or give the full catalogue
of its belongings. We are accustomed, indeed, and rightly,
to speak of the Creator Himself as incomprehensible; and,
indeed. He is so by an incommunicable attribute ; but in
a certain sense each of His creatures is incomprehensible to
us also, in the sense that no one has a perfect understanding
of them but He. We recognise and appropriate aspects of
them, and logic is useful to us in registering these aspects
and what they imply; but it does not give us to know even
one individual being.

" So much on logical argumentation ; and in thus speak-
ing of the syllogism, I speak of all inferential processes
whatever, as expressed in language (if they are such as to

M



178 THE THEORY OF INFERENCE

be reducible to science), for they all require general notions,
as conditions of their coming to a conclusion."^

In the above passage there appear to be contained two
chief grounds for affirming that a general law cannot invari-
ably be applied with truth to a particular case, two main
reasons therefore for refusing to give unconditional assent
to the conclusions of a syllogism. These grounds or reasons
are as follows.

I. Some other general law may, in practice, come into
contact with the one under consideration, modifying or neu-
tralising the result expected. Fabricius as a man, not only
is amenable to bribery, but also offers resistance to it. And
thus it may well happen that on some given occasion he will
not show himself corrupt.

An answer to this objection to the conclusiveness of
syllogistic reasoning may be made in this way. Either, it
may be said, the proposition constituting the major premise
is not the statement of an abstract or a universal truth, and
is therefore quite improperly made use of; or the proposi-
tion containing the conclusion is misinterpreted. The major
premise of the syllogism must properl}^ represent one of two
things, the actually observed universal fact. All men what-
soever, Fabricius included, have been found to have their
price, or an abstract law of nature, Any man whatsoever has
his price. Now if, professing to use a universal, or a law
of nature, we employ a proposition which expresses the
result only of a partial observation of existing things ; if in
the enumeration Fabricius himself has not been included, or
if there is no ascertained relation of causation between man-
hood and venality, then we have no ground, so far as syl-
logism is concerned, for coming to any definite conclusion
whatever about him. If, however, the major premise is a
true law of nature. Any man has his price, then the conclu-
1 Ch. viii. § I.



NEWMAN'S "GRAMMAR OF ASSENT" 179

sion, Fabricius has his price, is properly assented to. But
in the two propositions " having a price " must be inter-
preted similarly. If we demur rightly to the conclusion
that Fabricius is certainly corruptible, then instead of ac-
cepting, Any man is certainly corruptible, as a major premise,
we must allow no more than that, Any man is liable to yield
to bribery.

2. The minor premise, bringing the particular case under
the general law, may be improperly assumed. For every
individual person differs in some respect from his fellows,
and so may be incapable of being placed with them in any
given class. Elias, for instance, in the matter of liability to
death, was not a man like other men, and so was not subject
to the general law of humanity.

To this the answer seems to be twofold. First, in so far
as men are different the one from the other, we do not reason
syllogistically about them. It is not that in the sphere of
difference we have syllogistic conclusions which are only
probable ; but we have, in this sphere, no syllogistic reason-
ing at all. If, in saying, All men die, we mean that liability
to death is an attribute belonging to abstract humanity, we
are using as a major premise an assertion which we are only
justified in making in consequence of having learned that a
cause of death is contained in that humanity which all men
alike share. If it is possible for death to have its cause
in a part of human nature which is not common to all men,
then we err if we construct a syllogism having as its major
premise. All men die. Secondly, on the supposition of
our knowing that there is in abstract humanity a cause of
death, then syllogistic reasoning leads to the certain con-
clusion, that Elias, if he was in the ordinary sense of the
term a man, had in him a cause of death. If he was not a
man, we predicate nothing of him. But Elias, though a
man and having in him a cause of death, did not die. How



i8o THE THEORY OF INFERENCE

is this to be explained ? The simple explanation is, that
experience teaches that together with the cause of death is
sometimes joined a cause which counteracts its working.
This teaching of experience as to the grouping of causes
belongs to the field of history, and in no way detracts from
the certainty of relation between cause and effect in the
field of natural law.

It may not be amiss to notice in this connection, that
Newman appears to have a very inadequate conception of
the order of nature in the domain of natural law. While
recognising a certain amount of invariableness in nature^
he does not admit the existence of a uniform and necessary
relation between cause and effect. Instead of attributing
similar effects to precisely similar phenomenal causes, and
variations in them to the modifying action of concurrent
causes, he prefers to look upon them as owing their existence
to Divine Will, concerning which Will absolute uniformity
cannot, of course, be predicated. So much has already been
said in previous chapters of this book on the subject of
causation, that there is no need to enter here upon a dis-
cussion of it. It will suffice — after reminding the reader
that the view here taken is, that all inference is based upon
a conception of the order of nature, and that this conception
in no way interferes with the further conception of a Crea-
tor and Governor whose Will is itself a cause, though not
a phenomenal one — to quote from Newman's words. He
writes as follows : —

"Of these two senses of the word 'cause,' viz., that which
brings a thing to be, and that on which a thing under given
circumstances follows, the former is that of which our experi-
ence is the earlier and more intimate, being suggested to
us by our consciousness of willing and doing. The latter
of the two requires a discrimination and exactness of thought
for its apprehension, which implies special mental training ;



NEWMAN'S "GRAMMAR OF ASSENT" i8i

else, how do we learn to call food the cause of refreshment,
but day never the cause of night, though night follows day
more surely than refreshment follows food ? Starting, then,
from experience, I consider a cause to be an effective will ;
and, by the doctrine of causation, I mean the notion, or first
principle, that all things come of effective will ; and the
reception or presumption of this notion is a notional assent.

" As to causation in the second sense (viz., an ordinary
succession of antecedents and consequents, or what is called
the Order of Nature), when so explained, it falls under the
doctrine of general laws ; and of this I proceed to make
mention, as another first principle or notion, derived by
us from experience, and accepted with what I have called a
presumption. By natural law I mean the fact that things
happen uniformly according to certain circumstances, and
not without them and at random : that is, that they happen
in an order ; and, as all things in the universe are unit and
individual, order implies a certain repetition, whether of things
or like things, or of their affections and relations. . . .

" There are philosophers who go farther, and teach, not
only a general, but an invariable, and inviolable, and necessary
uniformity in the action of the laws of nature, holding that
everything is the result of some law or laws, and that excep-
tions are impossible ; but I do not see on what ground of
experience or reason they take up this position. Our experi-
ence rather is adverse to such a doctrine, for what concrete
fact or phenomenon exactly repeats itself? ... It seems
safer then to hold that the order of nature is not necessary,
but general in its manifestations. . . .

" A law is not a cause, but a fact ; but when we come to
the question of cause, then, as I have said, we have no
experience of any cause but Will. If, then, I must answer
the question, What is to alter the order of nature ? I reply,
That which willed it; — That which willed it can unwill it;



i82 THE THEORY OF INFERENCE

and the invariableness of law depends on the unchangeable-
ness of that Will." ^

V. Newman, then, as we have seen, differs from us in his
view of what logical inference is, and also in his view of the
nature of the conclusions of syllogistic reasoning. But he
agrees with us in holding that logical inference does not lead
to assent in concrete matters. Further, agreeing with us that
such assent is a fact of human nature, he largely differs from
us, as we have now to see, in his view of the manner in
which it is attained. We, on the one hand, have had ex-
plicitly before us a process by which, as it would seem, the
mind travels onwards from the known to the unknown. He,
on the other hand, considers that the process is substantially
a hidden one, not capable of being set forth in words.
While we have sought to follow, step by step, the mind's
dealing with a number of results of past experience, he is
content, or almost content, to lay it down that the mind
instinctively draws its conclusions from them.

Before giving his own account of this matter, it may be
pointed out, that the possibility of formulating a method of
illative inference appears to be dependent upon our regarding
phenomena as other than individual. We have looked upon
concrete things, or things in the field of history, as related to
other things around them ; and in our search for causes and
effects we have associated phenomena together as presumably
forming parts of one and the same whole. Newman, how-
ever, looking upon concrete things as individual, is without
means to find an exact method, outside the domain of logic,
of passing from the known to the unknown. He can do no
more than bring together, as grounds or arguments, a number
of propositions, and maintain that by their instrumentality
the mind somehow reaches the state of assenting to a newly
discovered concrete truth. The following passages will

1 Ch. iv. § I.



iwwwvswHwwiiiiwmiwn



NEWMAN'S "GRAMMAR OF ASSENT" 183

suffice to exhibit his view of this action of the mind, action
which he terms informal inference. Although in them he
is speaking of the state of certitude, or feeling certain, yet
apparently we must take it that simple assent is regarded as
being arrived at in a similar way.

" It is plain that formal logical sequence is not in fact the
method by which we are enabled to become certain of what
is concrete ; and it is equally plain, from what has been
already suggested, what the real and necessary method is.
It is the cumulation of probabilities, independent of each other,
arising out of the nature and circumstances of the particular
case which is under review ; probabilities too fine to avail
separately, too subtle and circuitous to be convertible into
syllogisms, too numerous and various for such conversion,
even were they convertible." ^

"This I conceive to be the real method of reasoning in
concrete matters ; and it has these characteristics : — First, it
does not supersede the logical form of inference, but is one
and the same with it ; only it is no longer an abstraction,
but carried out into the realities of life, its premisses being
instinct with the substance and the momentum of that mass
of probabilities, which, acting upon each other in correction
and confirmation, carry it home definitely to the individual
case, which is its original scope.

" Next, from what has been said it is plain, that such a
process of reasoning is more or less implicit, and without the
direct and full advertence of the mind exercising it. As by
the use of our eyesight we recognise two brothers, yet with-
out being able to express what it is by which we distinguish
them ; as at first sight we perhaps confuse them together,
but, on better knowledge, we see no likeness between them
at all ; as it requires an artist's eye to determine what lines
and shades make a countenance look young or old, amiable,
1 Ch, viii. § 2.



1 84 THE THEORY OF INFERENCE

thoughtful, angry or conceited, the principle of discrimination
being in each case real, but implicit ; — so is the mind unequal
to a complete analysis of the motives which carry it on to a
particular conclusion, and is swayed and determined by a
body of proof, which it recognises only as a body, and not
in its constituent parts.

"And thirdly, it is plain, that, in this investigation of the
method of concrete inference, we have not advanced one step
towards depriving inference of its conditional character; for
it is still as dependent on premisses as it is in its elementary
idea. On the contrary, we have rather added to the ob-
scurity of the problem ; for a syllogism is at least a demon-
stration, when the premisses are granted, but a cumulation
of probabilities, over and above their implicit character, will
vary both in their number and their separate estimated value,
according to the particular intellect which is employed upon
it. It follows that what to one intellect is a proof is not so to
another, and that the certainty of a proposition does properly
consist in the certitude of the mind which contemplates it.
And this of course may be said without prejudice to the
objective truth or falsehood of propositions, since it does not
follow that these propositions on the one hand are not true,
and based on right reason, and those on the other not false,
and based on false reason, because not all men discriminate
them in the same way."-^

"On the whole, I think it is the fact that many of our
most obstinate and most reasonable certitudes depend on
proofs which are informal and personal, which baffle our
powers of analysis, and cannot be brought under logical rule,
because they cannot be submitted to logical statistics."^


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