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from a finite creature ; and mc>reover (b) the idea of an Infinite
Being involves all possible attiibutes including existence. Ergo,
such a Being really exists. The idea of infinite also clearly implies
perfection and veracity ; but a veracious God cannot have created
me for perpetual and necessary deception. When, therefore, I
have a clear idea, I must be in possession of truth. Scientific
certainty is now restored, and the construction of a bridge from the
subjective to the objective world eftected. I have a clear idea of
mathematical axioms, of the physical universe as extended, &c., &c.
There are several fatal objections to the doctrine of Descartes,
(i) The system of Methodical Doubt leads logically to absolute
scepticism. We cannot prove the veracity of our faculties ; if we
start with even fictitious doubt we can never recover certainty of
any value. (2) The criterion of "clear " ideas is vague, indefinite,
and worthless. (3) His attempted justification involves a vicious
circular argument. The existence and veracity of God are proved
by my possession of a clear idea, and again the validity of my clear
ideas is itself established by the veracity of God. For a full
treatment of Descartes' System, cf. Rickaby, First Principles, c. ix.



THEORIES OF GENERAL KNOWLEDGE. 259



dc memequc les espaccs sont en iin sens le lieu des corps.'" {Recherche
de la Verite, Lib. III. Pt. 2, c. 6.)

We have not, however, a complete comprehension of the Infi-
nite Being. Nor do we behold Him absolutely as He is in Hitnself,
but only as He is in relation to creatures. (This thought was
developed by later ontologists, as in Gioberti's teaching that
the primary act of intelligence is the apprehension of God as
creating existences ; and Rosmini's virtual identification of
our intuition of the ideal, or possible being, with that of the
Infinite Being.) The Divine ideas, in fact, mediate between
our minds and material objects : We see all things in God.

Criticism. — The doctrine that the Infinite Being is the
immediate and proper object of human cognition, and the
source of our knowledge of all other things, is called Ontolo-
gisni. It is exposed to several fatal objections : (i) The most
careful reflective examination of our consciousness fails to
detect the alleged intuition of God. (2) The intuition of God
as having relation to creatures would involve an immediate
apprehension of His essence. (3) All our knowledge starts from
the sensuous perception of material objects, and from these
our analogical conceptions of immaterial beings are formed
by abstraction and exclusion of imperfections incompatible
with supernatural existence. Moreover, we invariably turn
back to sensuous cognitions to illustrate our more abstract
notions, which would not be the case if the Infinite immortal
being were the primitive and proper object of our intellect.
(4) The theory rests on a false assumption of a mere acci-
dental union existing between soul and body, and is in conflict
with the intimate relations subsisting between our sensuous
and intellectual knowledge. (5) All forms of ontologism which
teach that the immediate objects of our perception are not
material creatures, but the ideas or the essence of God incline
on the one hand towards the idealism of Berkeley, and on the
other towards the pantheism of Spinoza, as they tend to
identify the visible universe with God Himself.

In favour of ontologism it is urged that it accounts for the
universality, necessity, and eternal character of our intellectual
ideas, as they possess these properties in God; and, in
addition, it explains the presence of the conception of the
Infinite Being in our minds. The answer is, that these facts
can also be accounted for by intellectual abstraction and
reflexion exercised on the data supplied by sense, without
gratuitously assuming an immediate vision of God.

Christian Philosophy has always taught that the essences
of created beings are faint infinitesimal reflections of arche-
typal ideas in the Divine Mind. The eternal intrinsic
possibility of each object, the ideal plan which when actuahzed



26o RATIONAL LIFE.



makes up its essence, has its ultimate foundation in the
eternal essence of God, contemplated by the Divine Intellect
as imitable ad extra. It is realized in the physical order by
the creative act of the Divine Will ; and it is discovered by
our intellect in the creature, as we perceive the plan of the
artist in his work. Ontologism thus inverts the true order of
knowledge. We do not descend to a knowledge of the thing
through the Divine Idea, but we ascend to the Divine Idea
from the thing.

Pantheistic Monism. — Notwithstanding his exaggerated
dualism, Descartes' inaccurate definition of substance as, "that
which so exists that it stands in need of nothing else for its
existence," his denial of all real causal action by creatures,
and his reduction of the essence of matter to extension, and
that of the soul to thought, contain the germs of the pan-
theistic Monism developed by the Jew, Baruch Spinoza (1632 —
1677). The fact that the exposition of mental life given by
various popular writers on empirical psychology at the
present day admittedly results in Spinoza's monism, is our
excuse for devoting here some space to the founder of modern
pantheism.^ His system is elaborated in his chief work, the
Ethica, in geometric fashion from a few definitions and axioms:
Substance is "that which exists in itself, and is conceived
by itself, i.e., the conception of which can be formed without
the aid of the conception of anything else." It follows from
this definition that there can be only one substance, self-
existing and infinite. Attribute is "that which the mind
perceives as constituting the essence of substance." A mode
is " the accident of substance, or that which is in something
else through the aid of which it is conceived." The one
absolutely infinite substance is constituted by innumerable
relatively infinite attributes, of which only two are known to
us. These are extension and thought. They manifest them-
selves in finite modes which comprise the universe of physical
things and minds with which we are acquainted. Every
particular existence is only a modification, an individualiza-
tion of the universal substance. Neither human souls nor
material objects are self-subsistent; they are merely transitory
modes, or as recent writers say, " aspects " of the one
infinite being. This one eternal, absolute substance is God.
This God is the immanent indwelling, self-evolving cause of
the totaUty of things. It is neither intelligent nor free. All
things are identified in it. God and the universe differs
merely as natiira naturans and natura naturata. The Divine
substance evolves itself according to the inner necessity of

3 Cf. Sully, The Human Mind, Vol. II. p. 369; Hoffding, Outlines
of Psychology, p. 68.



THEORIES OF GENERAL KNOWLEDGE. 261

its being, and this is the only " freedom " which it possesses.
The laws of nature are absolutely immutable. They proceed
from the essence of God with the same necessity as its
geometrical properties flow from the essence of the circle or
triangle. Divine action is not in view of ends ; there are no
final causes.

Thought never acts on the extended, nor matter on mind.
Both harmoniously develop their serial changes in parallel
lines, but in mutual independence. The dualism of Descartes
is thus retained, but only to be unified in the identity of the
infinite substratum. The soul is the " idea " — the subjective
aspect — of the body. They are really one individual thing
differently conceived. Both are merely modes or phases of the
Divine substance ; the one of the attribute of thought, the
other of extension.* All things are animated, though in varying
degrees of perfection. The supposed freedom of the human will
is an illusion. Every incident in the history of the universe is
necessarily evolved out of the infinite substance, and so has
been inexorably predetermined from all eternity. Good is that
which is useful to human well-being ; evil is the reverse. Since
the soul is merely an aspect of the body, immortality in the
form of a continuity of personal life after dissolution of the
body is of course impossible. The individual will be re-
absorbed in the omnivorous infinite substance. We are only
" tiny wavelets on the great ocean of substance, we roll
our little course, and sink to rise no more." Such is the
philosophical conception of the human soul, of God and of
the universe, to which much of the current psychology is
designed to conduct the reader. It, therefore, seems desirable
that the student should clearly understand whither he is to be
led by the " new Spinozism."

We cannot enter into a criticism of pantheism here. It
suffices to say that Spinoza's theory is entirely built up out of
his definitions and axioms, and that these have been shown
to be inaccurate and untenable by many writers ; whilst even
in his demonstrations the author does not consistently adhere
to them.'^ The identification of God with blind necessarily-
evolving all-devouring substance is little, if at all, preferable
to bald and naked atheism. The fatalism involved in the

•* " Mens (humana) at corpus unum idemque sunt individuum,
quod jam sub cogitationis, jam sub extensionis attribute concipitur."
{Ethica, Pt. II. Prop. 21.)

^ Cf. Boedder, Natural Theology, pp. 200 — 205, and 449 — 460 ;
Martineau, Types of Ethical Theories, Vol. I. pp. 234 — 370; Saisset,
Modern Pantheism, Vol. I. pp. 92 — 160. Ueberweg's History of
Philosophy, Vol. II. pp. 55, seq. , also contains some good criticisms
of Spinoza's system.



262 NATIONAL LIFE.



system is subversive of tiie notions of responsibility, merit,
duty, and sin, good and evil, together with all moral ideas.
Finally, the belief of mankind in a future life is an idle
dream.

Leibnitz (1646 — 1716). — In marked opposition to the sensa-
tionism of Locke on the one hand and to the monism of Spinoza
on the other stands the German Leibnitz. Agreeing with the
Cartesian view of the soul as essentially active, he defended
the existence of innate ideas against the English empiricist ;
whilst instead of the one universal substance of the Jewish
pantheist he substitutes an infinite number of individual
substances, monads. Retaining the excessive dualism of
Descartes, with its inevitable denial of interaction between
soul and body, yet seeking to avoid alike the continuous
series of miracles required by the doctrine of " Occasion-
alism," the mysticism of the Vision en Dieii, and the fatalistic
Pantheism of Spinoza, Leibnitz invented the ingenious
theory of Pre-established Harmony. The universe he holds to
be composed of an infinite number of monads. These monads
are simple unextended substances, energetic atoms, endowed
with forces analogous to the ideas or emotions of the mind.
A laiv of continuity in the form of a continuous gradation in
stages of perfection holds universally throughout creation
from the lowest and most imperfect to the highest created
monad. God is the primitive, uncreated, infinite monad.
Spirits and human minds are single monads of high rank.
Material substances, including the human body, consist of
aggregates of inferior monads. There is no real transient
action between different monads. The existence of each is
made up of a series of immanent changes developed in
harmony with those of the rest of the universe of monads.
The states or "ideas" of each monad reflect, more or less
clearly in proportion to its rank, the condition of all other
monads. Each monad is thus a mirror of the universe — a
microcosm imaging the macrocosm. The soul and body of man
have been so created and mated by God as to run, like two
clocks started together, through parallel series of changes.
Since all monads have been originally created with appro-
priate initial velocities and corresponding rates of develop-
ment, Leibnitz holds that all the phenomena of perception
and volition are adequately accounted for. Such is the theory
of Pre-established Harmon)-.

The principle of sufficient reason, that nothing can happen
without a sufficient or determining reason, plays an important
part in his scheme. The Divine and the human will alike
require a determining ground for every act. The creation of
the present out of all possible worlds which hovered eternally



THEORIES OF GENERAL KNOWLEDGE. 263

before the mind of God, is optimistically explained by its
being the absolutely best. Its evolution is the gradual
realization of a Divine plan.*^ Descartes' mechanical doctrine
of inert matter, Locke's conception of a purely passive
recipient mind, and the pantheistic monism of Spinoza in
which all existing beings are resolved into mere modes of
one infinite substance, are thus replaced by a system in which
all reality, whether spiritual or material, is transformed into
a hierarchical multiplicity of living forces. To Locke's
aphorism. Nil est in intellect u quod non fuerii pvius in sensu,
Leibnitz replied. Nisi intcllectiis ipse, defending the inherent
activity of the mind, and ascribing to it an original fund of
native endowments. Intellectual ideas and fundamental
principles must be innate, for they could not have been
generated by sensuous experience. We find them within us
as soon as we attain to perfect consciousness ; and they have
the character of universality and necessity, while sense dis-
closes only the particular and the contingent. We possess
the ideas of God, of our own Ego, and, consequently, of
duration and of change, none of which are in any way
derivable from experience. Still, like Descartes, Leibnitz at
times tones down the theory of innate ideas until it almost
vanishes. The ideas do not exist as actual cognitions from
the beginning; neither quite as pure potencies. They are
best described, comme des inclinations, des dispositions, des
habitudes, on des virtualites natnrelles, et non pas comme des
actions. They exist merely as unconscious perceptions until
they are evoked into the stage of apperception ; that is, until

^ Hence Leibnitz is commonly spoken of as an Idealist. The
ambiguity of this word should be carefully borne in mind by the
student. Idealism or rationalistic idealism in one usage is equivalent
to Teleologism, and denotes the view that the world is governed by
an idea or plan. Aristotle and theistic philosophers are idealists
in this sense, though they may believe in the existence of a real
material world. A special form of this teleological idealism is
optimism, which maintains the ideal perfection of the world. Idealism
in another signification, or Phenomenal Idealism, as we have explained
in a previous chapter, means the theory which denies all material
reality. We can only know ideas, viz., sensations, phenomena, &c.
Hume and Dr. Bain are idealists in this sense. Idealism in the
first signification is opposed to a purely mechanical theory of the
genesis and conservation of the world ; in the last to realism, or
the assumption of the existence of a real extra-mental world. The
term Realism is also ambiguous. It is employed (i) in the sense just
mentioned to signify the doctrine of a real independent world, and
(2) as opposed to Nominalism and Conceptnalism to denote the theories
(exaggerated and moderate realism) which maintain the objective
validity of general notions. Cf. First Principles, Ft. II. cc. ii. iv.



264 RATIONAL LIFE.



they are formally realized in consciousness. However,
although there appears to be placed a distinction between
the origin of intellectual ideas and the acts of sensuous
apprehension, the theory of Pre-established Harmony
necessarily makes them both equally the result of a purely
subjective evolution of the native possessions of the mind.

Criticism. — The system of Leibnitz is a beautiful and
ingenious creation of a great intellect, but fanciful and
incredible in the highest degree. As regards the special
question of perception, the hypothesis of a universe of
isolated monads working out independent lines in pre-
established harmony is gratuitous, incapable of proof,
and impossible to reconcile with the veracity of God or
the Freedom of the Will. The sole ground of the creation
of this world is, Leibnitz teaches, its superior rationality,
its absolute consistency, and inner perfection. Yet when
examined, it turns out to be a gigantic sham. " While none
of its members condition each other, everything goes on as if
they did."" With all the semblance of real unity and inter-
action, the parts possess no more genuine connexion than the
incidents of an unreal dream. As regards the wavering
exposition of the nature of innate ideas by both Descartes
and Leibnitz,^ it maj^ be observed, that, if all which is claimed
to be innate is the capability of forming ideas out of materials
presented by sense, then the doctrine is correct ; but if
instead it is held to be purely out of the mind's own resources,
apart from any real co-operation of external objects, that
our ideas are evolved, then all the objections to the innate
theory already indicated stand. There can, moreover, be
advanced no reason, which does not involve flagrant petit io
principii, for asserting that innate ideas truly represent the
objective world; and the logical outcome is therefore subjec-
tive idealism. For Leibnitz, especially, it is peculiarly inde-
fensible to assume the real existence of the material world
which, in his view, effects no real change in our mental states.
Nay, were it annihilated it would not be missed ! This
amazing consequence is worth remembering in view of the
frequent advocacy at the present day of theories of psycho-
physical parallelism, which similarly deny all interaction
between mental and bodily processes.

Rosmini (1797 — 1855) I'educed the stock of innate cogni-
tions to the single conception of ideal being, which he considers
to be a mental form, a condition of knowledge, and the light

' Cf. Lotze, Metaphysic, § 79.

8 Cf. Liberatore On Universals (Trans.), pp. 78, 90 — 102; also
Stockl, Geschichtc dcr Neucren Philosophie, Vol. I. § 78.



THEORIES OF GENERAL KNOWLEDGE. 265

of reason. This idea is involved in every other idea and
judgment, and so must precede them all. By the application
of this innate form to our sensations sensuous apprehension
is converted into the intellectual perception of objective exist-
ence. Against this single idea, all the old objections to the
larger hypothesis still hold. Moreover, the alleged combi-
nation of the intellectual form with the sensation presents to
us a very obscure and dubious conception, and affords an
extremely unsatisfactory account of the objective reality of
our knowledge of being. The inference from the universality
of the idea of being in our cognitions to its innate origin is
unwarrantable. Every perception contains this idea, because
every external object apprehended involves this attribute. It
is a form of all knowledge, a datum of all cognition, but not
therefore an innate form, a subjective datum. This idea is
generated at the dawn of intellectual life, though at first it is
presented in the vaguest and most ill-defined form. Finally,
if this idea which is predicated of all real objects be, as
Rosmini in his later writings implies, an intuition of the
Infinite Being, the doctrine leads to Pantheism.''

Innate a priori Mental Forms. — Excited by the thorough-
going scepticism of Hume, which destroyed the possibility of
knowledge, Kant (1724 — 1804) attempted to elaborate a theory
of cognition which, combining the elements of truth possessed
by Locke, Descartes, and Leibnitz, would afford a solid basis
for science. The chaotic and conflicting systems of specula-
tion with which Germany has been deluged during the past
century are very significant evidence as to the amount of
success attending Kant's eftbrt.

His chief works are the Critique of the Pure Reason and

^ Besides the arguments in favour of innate ideas indicated in
the brief accounts given of the above writers, it has been urged : (i)
that thought is essential to the human mind, and so must have been
ever present ; (2) that at all events the desire of happiness, which
involves many ideas, is innate ; (3) that axioms or first principles,
intellectual and moral, are known by all from an early age, and
must therefore be implanted from the beginning. It may be
replied: (i) that \.h.e faculty of thought is essential to the soul, and
possibly the exercise of its vegetative or sentient functions may be
continuous, but there is absolutely no evidence that actual thought is
essential ; (2) that the aptitude or disposition to seek happiness
when occasions are presented to us, is indeed innate ; but this is quite
different from innate actual desires or cognitions of particular forms
of happiness; (3) that such universal cognitions are also merely
the result of our common faculties. Given certain experiences, the
intellect of man is at an early age capable of discovering by
observation, comparison, and reflexion, simple and obvious truths.



266 RATIONAL LIFE.



the Critique of the Practical Reason. The former treatise
comprises an examination into the origin, extent, and hmits
of knowledge. Tlie first step in Philosophy must be criticism
as opposed to dogmatism on the one side, and to scepticism on
the other. By criticism Kant means an attempted scrutiny
into the range and validity of our knowledge. Dogmatism, he
maintains, assumes while scepticism rejects, alike unwarrant-
ably, the veracity of our faculties. Kant's criticistn results in
the denial of real knowledge of everything transcending
experience. There is a purely subjective or mental co-efficient
in all cognition which destroys its validity. This is especially
illustrated in synthetic a priori judgments. Judgments are
either synthetic or analytic. The latter, always necessary in
character, are formed by mere analysis of the subject, e.g.,
the whole is greater than a part. Synthetic judgments may be
either a posteriori and contingent, e.g., England is a naval
power; or a priori and necessary, e.g.. Nothing can begin to
exist without a cause. Two straight lines cannot inclose a
space. How are these synthetic a priori judgments possible ?
Whence is their peculiar necessity and their universality ?
This is the problem attacked by the Kantian philosophy.
These judgments are not, it is asserted, derived from mere
experience ; for mere empirical generalizations can never
attain this absolute kind of certainty. Yet they are not purely
analytical or verbal propositions. Synthetic a priori judgm.ents
are effected, Kant answers, by the action of certain innate
mental forms which condition all our knowledge.^** Whatever
is presented to the mind is moulded by these forms of the
Ego, and unified in the transcendental unity of apperception, thsit
is, in the permanent activity of the pure original unchange-
able self-consciousness. Human cognition is an amalgam of
two elements, a product of two co-efftcients — the form {die
Form) due to the constitution of the mind, and the matter
{der Stoff) due to the action of the external object. We can
only know the phenomenon — the mental state resulting from
both factors. To the noumenon, the Ding-an-sich, the thing in

^•^ Kant thus agrees with Descartes and Leibnitz in maintaining
that universal and necessary axioms cannot be gathered from
external experience, but must have their source in the original
furniture of the mind itself. Whilst, however, the latter philoso-
phers ascribe to these cognitions, in spite of their subjective origin,
real or ontological validity, Kant more logically renounces this
tenet. Previous to Kant a priori knowledge meant knoidedge of
effects from their causes. He has arbitrarily changed the meaning of
the phrase to mean knowledge the necessity of which he asserted
to be due solely to the mind, and so to be independent of experience.
Cf. Ueberweg's Hist, of Phil. Vol. H. pp. i6i, 162.



THEORIES OF GENERAL KNOWLEDGE. 2Gj



itself, we can never penetrate. It is only revealed to ns as
shaped by the a priori fonn of the mind.

In Perception the a priori element is exhibited, as we have
described at length in chapter vi. in the sensnous intuitions
of space and iime, which mould our external and internal
sensibility.^^ The acts of the Understanding, which unify the
chaotic manifold presented by sense, are conditioned by
another class of twelve purely mental forms called categories.
These notions are a priori. They " lie ready in the under-



Online LibraryMichael MaherPsychology: empirical and rational → online text (page 26 of 63)