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latter activity tends towards the universal and the infinite,
ever insatiably conceiving better and more perfect objects
than those presented by experience, so rational desire can
never rest content with the goods and pleasures of this

manque lorsque nous venons a mourir, si nous mourons tout
entiers. Quand nous sortons de la vie, Tadaptation de notre pensee
a son milieu connaturel n'a pas commence ; il reste entre notre
ideal et nous une disproportion radicale. II faut done, pour que la
finalite soit satisfaite, que notre existence se prolonge a I'indefini."
{Destinee de I'Homme, p. 159. Paris, 1898.)


We are not dependent, however, on abstract reasoning for
the establishment of this fact. Our own consciousness, along
with the sages, poets, and philosophers of every age, all
iterate the same truth. There is implanted in our nature a
yearning for happiness which can never be satisfied in our
present sphere. This rational instinct exhibits itself in the
lowest and hardest conditions of human existence ; but the
wealth, the comforts, the luxuries, the art and the science
which civilization brings, are impotent to appease it. The
power of conception ever exceeds the present reality. With
each successive stage of mental development the craving
becomes more and more conscious of itself, and it grows and
expands, proclaiming ever more clamorously that it is not to
be satiated with any finite creature. The brute animal lives
normally in a state of content. Its faculties and instincts find
their proper nutriment, and it is satisfied. But for man "the
eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing."
Though master of the rest of creation, he is condemned
throughout this life by the very constitution of his rational
nature to be ««-satisfied with his lot ! Is it possible, that of
all living beings on earth, man alone — and in his highest
powers — is to be aimlessly dis-proportioned and mis-adapted
to his environment ? Is this highest of rational instincts
destined to be universally frustrated ? Are the loftiest and
best yearnings of the noblest and best work in this rational
universe to be for ever vain and illusory ? and more vain and
dissLppointing precisely in proportion as by moral and intellectual
culture he developes and perfects his highest faculties ?^

Ethical Argument. — It is, however, from the
department oi Ethics that reason puts forth the most

* " II faut done ou que rhomme soit dans la nature un monstre
incomprehensible ou qu'il y ait pour lui quelque chose de plus que
la nature. II faut ou que la vie de I'homme n'ait aucun sens et n'en
puisse jamais avoir . . . qu'elle devienne de plus en plus intolerable
au fur et a mesure, que se deployant davantage, elle enferme plus de
raison ; il faut que la vie de I'homme soit impossible en droit ou v

qu'on la con9oive comme la premiere etape d'une evolution com-
mencee qui doit s'achever ailleurs. Si tout finit avec le dernier
soupir, rhomme est un etre manqu^ ; il est tel par nature ; il Test
d'autant plus qu'il touche de plus pres a son point de maturity. Or
il n'est pas rationnel de croire a une antinomic aussi profonde :
on ne peut admettre que cette meme finality qui s'accuse si visible-
ment dans toutes les especes inferieures, s'arrete brusquement au
plus haut degre de la vie et y fasse a jamais defaut." (Piat, op. cit.
pp. 192, 193. Cf. Martineau, A Study of Religion, Bk. IV.)



irresistible demand for a future life.^ Morality is an
essentially rational phenomenon. The reality of right
and wrong, of duty and virtue, of merit and responsi-
bility, are amongst the most certain convictions of our
rational nature. That what is seen to be clearly
wrong nmst not be done, notwithstanding the temporal
disadvantages which may ensue, is an axiom to which
the intellect gives complete assent, however feeble the
will, may be in actual practice. But in the judgment
that conduct entailing a sacrifice ought to be pursued,
there is implied the further judgment that it cannot be
ultimately worse for the agent himself to do that which is
right. Our intellect, in fact, affirms that right conduct
is always reasonable. The supposition that virtue can
finally result in a maximum of misery for the agent ; or
that wickedness may effect an increase in the total
quantity of his personal happiness is seen to be in
conflict with reason, and to be destructive of all
morality. It is impossible that perfect and fully
enlightened reason can recommend us to do that which
conscience categorically /?y^/(is. But if so, our perma-
nent real interests cannot be injured by right conduct.
Duty cannot be in irreconcilable war with rational self-love.

In the concrete. — The issue becomes clearer when
we face the question in the concrete. Can it be
equally well in the end for the successful swindler who
amasses a fortune by the plunder of his clients, and for
the upright man who honestly struggles through a life
of poverty, and resisting temptation, dies in want ?
Can it be ultimately the same for the forger or slanderer
and the innocent man, whose life he has ruined ? Is
there to be no difference, when the last breath is
breathed, between the murderer and his victim, the
adulterer and the chaste, the martyr or the saint and
his malicious persecutor ? History affords plent}' of
examples of bad men, with hardened conscience,
prosperous to the end of their lives, and of virtuous
men who, owing to their honesty, have died with the
stamp of failure on their earthly career. Our whole

* The ethical proof, resting on divine purpose in the world, is
itself teleological, but is conveniently separated from the former proof.


rational moral nature affirms that this cannot be the
final outcome of things : that it cannot in the last
resort be as well or better for those who violate the
principles of justice, and those who faithfully observe
the moral law seeking to conform their conduct to the
ideal of right and holiness. The first postulate of physical
science is that the universe is rational. Its most fundamental
axiom, the law of uniformity , is based on this assumption.
Would it he a rational universe if vice is to be rewarded and
virtue to he punished in the end ? Is it a rational universe
if the moral life of mankind be founded on an illusion ?
Can the holiness of the world's saints, the virtues of its
best heroes, the moral life of the mass of mankind have
had their source and origin, their never-failing food
and support in one huge hallucination ?

Professor Sidgwick merely expressed this truth in
the most moderate terms when, after all decorous
hesitations and qualifications and sub-qualifications,
he conceded that "the existence of a Supreme Being
who will adequately reward me for obeying this rule of
duty or punish me for violating it," is " a matter of life
and death to the Practical (Moral) Reason," and finally
concluded with the truest philosophical statement in
his work. " The whole system of our beliefs as to the
intrinsic reasonableness of conduct must fall, . . .
without a belief in some form or other that the Moral
Order which we see imperfectly realized in the actual
world is yet actually perfect. If we reject this belief,
we may, perhaps, still find in the non-moral universe
an adequate object for the Speculative Reason capable
of being in some sense ultimately understood. But the
Cosmos of Duty is reduced to a Chaos, and the pro-
longed effort of the human intellect to frame a perfect
ideal of rational conduct is seen to be foredoomed to
inevitable failure."^

Immortality makes Morality always reasonable.
— On the other hand, if the present life be, as the
Schoolmen taught, only the antechamber to eternity ; if

5 Methods of Ethics (Edit. 1874), Bk. IV. c. vi. ; cf. also Balfour,
Foundations of Belief, pp. 339 — 354 ; and Mallock, /5 Life ivorth
Living ? c. ix.


the happiness of Heaven means the perfection of man's
highest powers and the satisfaction of his highest
aspirations in a bHssful union with the infinite source of
all beauty and all good by contemplation and love ; and
if a life of virtue here consists in the perfecting of our
nature and the preparation of it for that union with God,
then we have an adequate foundation for all our ethical
notions. And we are provided with an ideal of moral life
and a conception of man's end, which explain and
harmonize our ethical conceptions among themselves,
and their relations with the facts of our temporal life.

Actual sanctions imperfect. — It is true, of course, that the
present life is not devoid of moral sanctions, that extreme
courses of vice generally meet with retribution, and that, as a
rule, honesty is the best policy — at least where the police
system is efficient. But it cannot be seriously pretended that
this is always the case ; and still less that each individual act
of virtue, and every noble sacrifice for the sake of duty gains
its just recompense. It is indisputable that in the lives of the
great majority of men a certain judicious mixture of unscrupu-
lousness would secure to the agent an increase in the dividend
of the sources of happiness. It is urged also that the
sanctions of conscience and of public opinion, compensate for
all other deficiencies. We should be very sorry to unduly
depreciate the value of a good conscience : but the assertion
cannot stand the test of experience. It is generally only in
the virtuous that conscience is sensitive ; and good men
probably suffer sharper pangs for smaller faults than the
wicked do for grievous crimes. Indeed, the more abandoned
the criminal, the fainter the internal moral chiding becomes ;
whilst agreeable elation or complacent self-satisfaction over
his meritorious performances is not a kind of pleasure in
which the truly virtuous man is wont to indulge. Finally, if
belief in a future retribution be recognized as illusory, both
the menace and the promise which make up the chief part of
the sanction of conscience are annihilated. The claim put
forward on behalf of public opinion as an adequate sup-
plementary sanction is equally invalid. For, firstly, the
censure of society cannot reach secret sins and a very large
part of man's moral life ; whilst it is extremely likely to err
regarding motives on which the goodness or badness of conduct
essentially depends. Secondly, the only public opinion for
which the individual cares is that of his own class or neigh-
bourhood ; and this not infrequently is opposed rather than
favourable to virtuous actions.


Formal Theistic Proof. — Formally assuming the
existence of God as independently established in
Natural Theology, the argument for a future life may
now be thus enunciated : An infinitely wise and
benevolent God could not have implanted in all men
a yearning for happiness whilst intending this natural
desire to be necessaril}^ finally, and universally frus-
trated. Nor could He as a just and holy legislator
have imposed upon mankind His Moral Law whilst
leaving it incomplete and imperfect through defective
sanction. But if there be no future life for man, God
has done this : hence v/e are bound to conclude that
God has designed to continue the soul's conscious
existence after death.

Argument from Universal Belief. — Another argu-
ment upon which much stress has always been laid is
the practical universality of the belief in a future life.
Such a conviction in opposition to all sensible appear-
ances must spring, it was urged, from man's ritional
nature, and must be allowed to be true unless we are
prepared to hold that man's rational nature inevitably
leads him into error in a matter of fundamental import-
ance to his moral life. To admit this, it was argued,
logically leads to scepticism. Adequate treatment of
this argument would require considerable space.

Scholastic Metaphysical or Ontological Arg-ument. — In

addition to the arguments just given, the schoolmen deduced
a proof of the soul's future preservation from its nature as a
simple spiritual being. This ontological demonstration, it must
be admitted, has not the persuasiveness with the modern mind
which it possessed in the schools. Nevertheless, when properly
understood, its defensive value is considerable. It enables
the spiritualist to meet all materialistic attacks by showing
that the subject of our conscious life is constructed to resist
the destructive agencies which corrupt material beings ; and
it furnishes a conception by which a future life becomes more
intelligible. We shall briefly state it in its scholastic shape.

By death is understood cessation of life in living beings.
Such cessation of life might conceivably be brought about by
either of two causes : annihilation of the living being, or
corruption of its vital principle. Anniliilation means the
reduction of the object into absolute nothingness. A creature


is, strictl}' speaking, annihilated only when it so ceases to be
that no element of it remains. A being is said to be incor-
ruptible when it is incapable of perishing either by dissolution
into the constituent parts or elements which may compose it,
or by destruction of the subject in which it inheres or upon
which it depends for its existence. Corruption from the
philosophical point of view may thus in scholastic language
be of either of two kinds, corriiptio per se, essential corruption,
or corriiptio per accidens, accidental corruption.^ In corruption
per se there is a dissolution of the being into its component
principles, as in the death of a man and the combustion
of firewood. A being was said to suffer corruption per
accidens when put an end to indirectly by the destruction of
the subject on which it depends. An accident perishes in this
way when the subject in which it inheres is broken up or
changed in such a manner as to be no longer a fit support for
it, as in the case of the disappearance of the shape and
colour from a ball of melting snow or butter. According to
the opinion most commonly received among the schoolmen,
the extinction of the vital activity of brute animals and plants
is an instance of corriiptio per accidens.

Now the Ontological argument claims to prove three
propositions : (A) that the human soul is both per accidens and
per se incorruptible ; (B) that it can be annihilated neither by
itself nor by any other creature ; (C) that no sufficient reason
can be assigned for supposing that God will ever annihilate it.
It should be clearly understood that Almighty God could by
an exercise of His absolute power'' annihilate the human
soul or any other creature. For every creature continues to
exist and act only in virtue of the constant conservation and
concurrence of God. But the argument proves that the soul

^ " A Being is incorruptible if it does not contain within itself a
principle of dissolution ; it is indestructible if it can resist every
external power tending to destroy or annihilate it. If the indestruc-
tible and incorruptible Being is endowed with life, it is called
immortal." (Kleutgen, op. cit. § 844.) The signification of these
terms varies slightly with different writers. Kleutgen points out
that annihilation is always possible to God by the mere withdrawal
of His conserving act.

"^ The phrase potentia absoluta denotes the range of the Divine
Power abstracting from all self-imposed degrees. Within its sphere
is included the production of anything not involving a contradiction,
such as would be, e.g., a square circle. Potentia ordinata signifies the
range of God's power as conditioned by His free decrees. Thus, if
God has once promised a particular reward on the fulfilment of a
certain condition, He cannot henceforward retract.


is fitted in its nature to survive, and that God is the only
Agent by whom its destruction could be accomplished.

(A) The Soul is incorruptible. — It has been already demon-
strated (i) that the soul is a substantial bein^, (2) that
it is simple or indivisible, (3) that it is spiritual or not
intrinsically dependent on the body for its action or existence,
(c. xxi.) But a simple substantial being is incapable of
corruption per se, for it is not composed of distinct parts or
principles into which it might be resolved ; and a spiritual
substance is exempt from corruption /^^r accidens, since it does
not intrinsically depend on the body for its existence.
Therefore the human soul is incapable of corruption in either
of these alternative ways. Incorruptibility is thus a conse-
quence of immateriality. If the mind were a function of the
brain, or an aspect of nervous processes, then dissolution of
the organism would necessarily involve destruction of the
soul. The refutation of these hypotheses in our first three
chapters has, consequently, removed the chief argument
against the possibility of a future life.

(B) The Soul cannot be annihilated either (i) by itself or (2) by
any creature. — Annihilation is the reduction of something to
nothing. But this result cannot be the effect of any positive
action ; for every positive action must terminate in a positive
reality. A positive act, other than that of creation, can only
change the state of the materials upon which it operates. It
cannot make them disappear altogether. Any action accord-
ingly, whether of the soul itself or of another creature, could
at most effect merely a change or modification in the soul.
Annihilation is possible only by the withdrawal of the con-
serving or creative power which has sustained the being in
existence. Now, as creation and conservation in existence
pertain to God alone. He only can cease to preserve; and,
therefore, He alone can annihilate. The argument has been
thus concisely stated : " Inasmuch as it is a simple spiritual
substance, the soul can come into existence only through the
creative act of God ; and, therefore, only through annihilation
by God can it perish. Annihilation consists in the refusal
of any further creative conservation : accordingly, He alone
who preserves and sustains a being can let it sink back into
nothing. In fact, no created force can subdue Omnipotence
exercising creative conservation, so as to reduce into nothing-
ness that which God preserves in existence. Divine creation
and conservation consists merely in the effective volition that
something be. Now, either God wills that the soul exists
longer, or He does not will it. If He wills it, then His will
can be overcome by no finite power. If He does not will it,
then it ceases of itself to exist without any other agency beine


cause of its cessation. Consequently, the soul can in no way
be destroyed by any finite power." ^

(C) There is no reason to suppose that the Soul will ever
perish. — It has been now proved by the ethical and teleological
arguments that the soul will not perish at death, and by
this ontological argument that it is of its own nature
incorruptible, and that it can be destroyed neither by itself
nor by any created being ; it only remains to be shown that
there is no ground for supposing that God will ever annihilate
it. The ultimate end and purpose for which the Almighty
conserves the soul in existence is His own extrinsic glory,
both objective and formal.'' But this end remains for ever;
therefore the act of conservation ought to be everlasting.

The only conceivable grounds which can be suggested for
the cessation of God's preserving action are, (a) the incapacity
of the soul to act when separate from the body, with its
consequent inability to apprehend, to praise, or to love God,
and (b) the unworthiness of the souls of the wicked to exist.
As regards (a), the ethical argument proves that the soul must
live at least for a time after death, and be capable of experi-
encing reward or punishment. It must, therefore, be endowed
with intelligence and will, and so be capable of contributing
to the formal glory of God. The mode, however, of its action,
following the mode of its existence, must be different from
that of its present state, (b) As for the wicked, it is at
least possible that they may be preserved for ever to vindicate
by their punishment the justice and offended majesty of God ;
though that this is a fact cannot be proved by philosophy alone.
For, absolute certainty of eternal punishment, as of everlast-
ing reward, is afforded us only by the infallible testimony of
Holy Writ. The congruity of such unending punishment was
deduced by scholastic theologians from consideration of the
infinite majesty of the Person offended, and the infinite claims
which He possesses over His creatures. The rebellion and
ingratitude of the creature constituting an offence under a
certain aspect infinite was held to be — even in the light of
pure reason — not unfittingly punished by a penalty finite in

^ Gutberlet, Die Psychologie, pp. 314, 315.

'-^ The extrinsic or external glory of God is that given to Him by
His creatures ; intrinsic or internal, is that aftbrded by Himself The
former is finite, the latter infinite. Both kinds may be either
objective or formal. The objective glory of God is that conferred by
the mere existence of His perfections, whether manifested in Him-
self or in His works. The latter is compared to that reflected on
the painter by his pictures. The formal glory of God consists in
the recognition and acknowledgment of the Divine excellences,
whether by Himself or by created intelligences.


intensity but unlimited in duration. The adequate treatment,
however, of this difficulty would lead us into the territory of
dogmatic theology.

Objections against the doctrine of a Future
Life. — As the proofs of Immortality are nowadays
attacked from various standpoints, it is most desirable
to define accurately how much each can reall}^ estab-
lish. A want of clearness and precision on this point
is not infrequently exhibited by defenders of a future
life ; and they sometimes forget that the use of an
unsound argument, or the misuse of a sound one, has
often seriously damaged a good cause. To us it seems
best to admit frankly that whilst each of the ordinary
proofs has some special merit, it is also subject to
some particular defect or limitation ; and that it is only
by their collective combination that the complete
doctrine can be satisfactorily established.

(i) The ethical argument demonstrates that there must
be a. future co7iscioiis existence ; but it hardly proves that
this must last for ever. For it would be difficult to show
that God could not adequately reward and punish
virtue and vice in a finite period. (2) The teleological
argument also proves a future conscious existence in
which the higher aspirations of Intellect and Will can
be satisfied. And although it may not rigidly demon-
strate that the future life must be endless^ it points to
that conclusion, at least in the case of the good. But it
is more complex than the previous argument : it pre-
supposes the formal establishment of the law of finality
by Natural Theology or Science ; and so its persuasive
power is less. Further, respecting the future existence
of the wicked, its logical force is distinctly weaker.
(3) The argument from universal belief is subject to these
same limitations. All three proofs merely establish the
fact of a future existence. None of them suggest how
this is to be reconciled with the tendency to decay
witnessed in all living organisms. They simply leave
us with the antinomy or seeming conflict between experi-
ence and reason unsolved. (4) Here the ontological
argument comes to our aid. It removes the conflict by
showing that the objections based on the corruption of


material beings lose their force when directed against
the subject of thought and self-consciousness. It also
shows that continuity of existence is natural to the soul ;
that is, that the soul is apt to endure, and that it is not
liable to destruction by any created agency. But since
this continuity of existence is a contingent fact, depend-
ing on the free-will of God, the simplicity or spirituality
alone cannot prove that this continuity will be certainly
realized. To secure this recourse must be had to some
form of the teleological argument. Further, since in our
experience consciousness is liable to interruptions ; and
since, as far as our knowledge goes, mental states are

Online LibraryMichael MaherPsychology: empirical and rational → online text (page 54 of 63)