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he has the will, he wants the ability.

These words are commonly introduced, in questions connected
with Fatalism and the Freedom of human actions, to explain the
meaning of " necessary," " impossible," &c. ; and having them-
selves a corresponding ambiguity, they only tend to increase the
perplexity.



Chaos umpire sits.



And by deciding worse embroils the fray.**

Must MUST.— /^ee" May."

Necessary. xv. NECESSARY. — This word is used as the contrary to
•' impossible" in all its senses, and is of course liable to a corre-
sponding ambiguity. Thus it is " mathematically Necessary" that
two sides of a triangle should be greater than the third ; there is a
"physical Necessity" for the fall of a stone; and a "moral
Necessity" that Beings of such and such a character should act,
when left perfectly free, in such and such a manner; i.e. we are
sure they will act so ; though of course it is in their power to act
otherwise ; else there would be no moral agency.^^ This ambiguity
is employed sophistically to justify immoral conduct; since no one is

^ See the Article "Impossibility;" Note.



app.i.] ambiguous terms, 211

respondhle for any thing done under "necessity," — i.e. "physical Necessary,
necessity;" £^s when a man is dragged anywhere hy external force,
or falls down from heing too weak to stand ; and then the same
excuse is fallaciously extended to " moral necessity" also.

There are likewise numberless different apjMcations of the word
" necessity" (as well as of those derived from it) in which there is a
practical ambiguity, from the difference of the things understood in
conjunction ^\\i\i\l: e.g. ioo^ is " necessary ;" ws;. — to life ; great
wealth is "necessary" — to the gratification of a man of luxurious
habits ; the violation of moral duty is in many cases " necessary" —
for the attainment of certain worldly objects ; the renunciation of
such objects, and subjugation of the desires, is " necessary" — to the
attainment of the Gospel-promises, (kc. And thus it is that
" necessity" has come to be " the tyrant's plea;" for as no one is
at all responsible for what is a matter of physical necessity, — what
he has no power to avoid, — so, a degree of allowance is made for a
man's doing what he has power to avoid, when it appears to be the
less of two evils ; as e.g. when a man who is famishing takes the
first food he meets with, as " necessary" to support life, or throws
over goods in a storm, when it is " necessary" in order to save the
ship. But if the plea of necessity be admitted without inquiring ^br
what the act in question is necessary, any thing whatever may be
thus vindicated ; since no one commits any crime which is not, in his
view, " necessary" to the attainment of some supposed advantage
or gratification.

The confusion of thought is further increased by the employment
on improper occasions of the phrase " absolutely necessary ;" which,
strictly speaking, denotes a case in which there is no possible alter-
native. It is necessary /or a man's safety, that he should remain in
a house which he cannot quit without incurring danger; it is
absolutely [or simply) necessary that he should remain there, if he is
closely imprisoned in it.

I have* treated more fully on this fruitful source of sophistry in
the Appendix (No. I.) to King's "Discourse on Predestination."
In the course of it, I suggested (in the first edition) an etymology
of the word, which I have reason to think is not correct ; but it
should be observed, that this makes no difference in the reasoning,
which is not in any degree founded on that etymology ; nor have I,
tis some have represented, attempted to introduce any new or
inusual sense of the word, but have all along appealed to common
use, — the only right standard, — and merely pointed out the senses in
which each word lias actually been employed. See the introduction
to this Appendix.

xvi. OLD. — This word, in its strict and primary sense, denotes oii
the length of time that any object has existed ; and many are not
aware that they are accustomed to use it in any other. It is.



212 AMBIGUOUS TERMS. [Afp. I.

Old. however, very frequently employed instead of '* Ancient," to denote

distance of time. The same transition seems to have taken place, in
Latin. Horace says of Lucilius, who was one of the most ancient
Koman authors, but who did not live to he old: —



<in9.



-"quo fit ut omnis



Votiva pateat veluti descripta tabella
Vita Senis,"

The present is a remarkable instance of the influence of an ambi-
guous word over the thoughts even of those who are not ignorant
of the ambiguity, but are not carefully on the watch against its
effects; the impressions and ideas associated by habit with the
word when used in one sense, being always apt to obtrude them-
selves unawares when it is employed in another sense, and thus to
affect our reasonings. E.G. *'Old times," — '*the Old world," &lc.
are expressions in frequent use, and which, oftener than not, produce
imperceptibly the associated impression of the superior wisdom
resulting from experience, which, as a general rule, we attribute to
Old men. Yet no one is really ignorant that the world is older now
than ever it was; and that the instruction to be derived from
observations on the past (which is the advantage that Old persons
possess) must be greater, supposing other things equal, to every
successive generation ; and Bacon's remark to this purpose appears,
as soon as distinctly stated, a mere truism : yet few, perhaps, that
he made, are more important. There is always a tendency to appeal
■with the same kind of deference, to the authority of " Old times,"
as of aged men.

It should be kept in mind, however, that ancient customs, institu-
tions, &c., when they still exist, may be literally called Old; and
have this advantage attending them, that their effects may be esti-
mated from long experience ; whereas we cannot be sure, respecting
any recently-established Law or System, whether it may not produce
in time some effects which were not originally contemplated.^^

xvii. ONE — is sometimes employed to denote strict and proper
numerical Unity ; sometimes, close Resemblance ; — correspondence
with one single description. — See " Same."

' Facies non omnibus UNA,



Nee di versa tamen; qualem decet esse soroium."— Oy. Mei. h. ii.

It Is in the secondary or improper, not the primary and proper
sense of this word, that men are exhorted to '*be of one mind;" i.e.
to agree in their faith, — pursuits, — mutual affections, <fec. "The
Church" [viz. the Universal or Catholic Church] **is undoubtedly
one, and so is the Human Race one; but not as a Society. It was

10 See, however, the Article reprinted letter to Earl Grey on Secondary Punish-
from the London Review, in the first ments.



AlP. I.I AMBIGUOUS TERMS. 213

from the first composed of distinct Societies ; which were called one, One.
because formed on common principles. It is One Society only when
considered as to its future existence. The circumstance of its having
one common Head, Christ, one Spirit, one Father, are points of
unity, which no more make the Church One Society on earth, than
the circumstance of all men having the same Creator, and being
derived from the same Adam, renders the Human Race one
Family. "20

It is also in this sense that two guineas, e.g. struck from a wedge
of uniform fineness, are said to be " of one and the same form and
weight," and also *' of one and the same substance." In this
secondary or improper sense also, a child is said to be *' of one and
the same (bodily) substance witli its mother;" or, simply "of the
substance of its mother:" for these two pieces of money, and two
human Beings, are numerically distinct.

It is evidently most important to keep steadily in view, and to
explain on proper occasions, these diff"erent uses of the word ; lest
men should insensibly slide into error on the most important of all
subjects, by applying, in the secondary sense, expressions which
ought to be understood hi the primary and proper. — [See "Person. ")
Unity is, as might have been expected, liable to corresponding
ambiguities. E.G. Sometimes what the Apostles say concerning
" Unity of Spirit" — of Faith — &c. is transferred to Unity of Church-
Government.

xviii. PAY. — In the strict sense, a person is said to " pay," who ^"^
transfers to another what was once his own : in another sense " pay"
is used to denote the mere act of handing over what perhaps never
was one's own. In this latter sense a gentleman's steward or house-
keeper is said to pay the tradesmen their bills ; in the other sense,
it is the master who pays them.

It is in the secondary or improper sense that an executor is said
to pay legacies, — a landowner or farmer to pay tithes, &c., since
the money these hand over to another never was theirs. See " Evi-
dence," (in vol. of Tracts,) p. 339.

xix. PERSON, ^^ in its ordinary use at present, invariably implies Person,
a numerically distinct substance. Each man is one Person, and
can be but one. It has also a peculiar theological sense, in which
we speak of the "three Persons " of the blessed Trinity. It was
probably thus employed by our Divines as a literal, or perhaps
etymological, rendering of the Latin word "Persona." I am
inclined to think, however, from the language of Wallis (the Mathe-
matician and Logician) in the following extract, as well as from that
of some other of our older writers, that the English word Person

20 Encyclop. Metrop., p. 774.

21 Most of the following observations will apply to the word " Personality."



214 AMBIGUOUS TERMS. [App. L

Person. was formerly not so strictly confined as now, to the sense It bears in
commo'u conversation among us.

*' That which makes these expressions " {viz. respecting the
Trinity) ** seem harsh to some of these men, is because they have
used themselves to fansie that notion only of the word Person,
according to which three men are accounted to be three persons, and
these three persons to be three men. But he may consider that
there is another notion of the word Person, and In common use too,
wherein the same man may be said to sustain divers persons, and
those persons to be the same man: that is, the same man as
sustaining divers capacities. As was said but now of Tully, Tres
Fersonas Unus sustineo; meam, adversarii, judicis. And then it
will seem no more harsh to say, The Three Persons, Father, Son,
and Holy Ghost, are one God, than to say, God the Creatour, God

tlie Redeemer, and God the Sanctifier, are one God it is

much the same thing whether of the two forms we use." — Letters
on the Trinity, p. 63.

" The Avord Person [persona) is originally a Latin word, and does
not properly signify a Man ; (so that another person must needs
imply another man) for then the word Homo would have served,
and they needed not have taken in the word Persona ; but rather,
one so circumstantiated. And the same Man, if considered in other
circumstances (considerably different) is reputed another person.
And that this is the true notion of the word Person, appears by
those noted phrases, personam induere, personam deiDonere, per^
sonam agere, and many the like, in approved Latin authours. Thus
the same man may at once sustain the Person, of a King and a
Father, if he be invested both with regal and pa/er?iaZ authority.
Kow because the King and the Father are for the most part not
only different persons but different men also, (and the like in other
cases) hence it comes to pass that another person is sometimes
supposed to imply another man; but not always, nor is that the
proper sense of the word. It is Englished in our dictionaries by
the stale, quality or condition whereby one man differs from another ;
and so, as the condition alters, the Person alters, though the man
be the same.

" The hinge of the controversy, is, that notion concerning the
three soraewlmts, which the Fathers (who first used it) did intend
to design by the name Person ; so that we are not from the word
Person to determine what was that Notion; but from that Notion
which they would express, to determine in what sense the word
Person is here used," &lc. &c. — Letter V. in answer to tlie Arian^s
Vindication.'^

22 Dr. WalHs's theolosical works, con- Ariatis and Socinians of that period. Of

siclering his general celebrity, are won- course he incurred the censure, not only

dert'ully little known. He seems to have of them, but of all who, though not pro-

b>ien, in his day, one of the ablest Defen- fessedly Arian, gave such an exposition

dtjra of the Church's doctrine, against the of their doctrine as amounts virtually to



App. I.] AMBIGUOUS TERMS. 215

What was precisely the notion which these Latin Fathers intended Person,
to convey, and how far it approached the classical signification of the
word *' Persona," it may not he easy to determine. But we must
presume that they did not intend to employ it in what is, now, the
ordinary sense of the word Person; hoth because " Persona" never,
I believe, bore that sense in pure Latinity, and also because it is
evident that, in that sense, " three divine Persons" would have
been exactly equivalent to "three Gods;" a meaning which the
orthodox always disavowed.

It is probable that they had nearly the same view with which
the Greek theologians adopted the word Hypostasis ; which seems
calculated to express ** that which stands under {i.e. is the Subject
of) Attributes." They meant, it may be presumed, to guard
against the suspicion of teaching, on the one hand, that there are
three Gods, or three Parts of the one God ; or, on the other hand, that
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are no more than three names,'-^ all,
of the same signification; and the}'' employed accordingly a term
which might serve to denote, that, (though divine Attributes belong
to all and each of these, yet) there are Attributes of each, respec-
tively, which are not so strictly applicable to either of the others, as
such ; as Avhen, for instance, the Son is called especially the
** Redeemer," and the Holy Spirit, the *' Comforter or Paraclete,"^
&c. The notion thus conveyed is indeed very faint., and imperfect ;
but is perhaps for that very reason, (considering what Man is, and
what God is,) the less likely to lead to error. One may convey to
a blind man a notion of seeing, correct as far as it goes, and
instructive to him, though very imperfect: if he form a more fvdl
and distinct notion of it, his ideas will inevitably be incorrect. — See
Essay VII. § 5, Second Series. ^^ .

It is perhaps to be regretted that our Divines, in rendering the
Latin "Persona," used the word Person, whose ordinary sense, in
the present day at least, differs in a most important point from the
theological sense, and yet is not so remote from it as to preclude
all mistake and perplexity. If " Hypostasis," or any other com-
pletely foreign term had been used instead, no idea at all would

Tri theism. I beg to be understood how- For some very important remarks on
ever as not demanding an imphcit defer- that si<,niification, see Hinds's History,
ence for his, or for any other human and also a Sermon on the Name Emmaii-
authority, however eminent. We are uel in the vol. I lately published,
taught to " call no man Master, on earth." 2i English readers are not usually aware
But the reference to Dr. Wallis may that the title of " Paraclete" is ever dis-
serve both to show the use of the word tinctly applied to Christ in Scripture, as it
in his days, and to correct the notion, is in IJohn ii. 1, because it is there trans-
should any have entertained it, that the lated "advocate" instead of "comforter."
views of the subject here taken are, in 25 Jt is worth observing, as a striking
our Church, any thing novel. instance of the little reliance to be placed
^ It is possible that some may have on etymology as a guide to the meanmg
used this expression in the very sense of a word, that " Hypostasis," "Substan-
r.ttachedby others to the word "Person;" tia," and " Understanding," so widely
Ifcd, in a great degree, by the peculiar ditferent in their sense, correspond iu their
significatiou of "Name" iu Scripture, etymology.



216 AMBIGUOUS TERMS. [App. I.

Person. have been conveyed except that of the explanation given ; and thus
the danger at least of being misled by a word, would have been
. avoided. ^^

Our Reformers however did not introduce the word into their
Catechism; though it has been (I must think, injudiciously)
employed in some popular expositions of the Catechism, without any
explanation, or even allusion to its being used in a peculiar sense.

As it is, the danger of being not merely not understood, but
msunderstood, should be guarded against most sedulously, by all
who wish not only to keep clear of error, but to inculcate important
truth ; by seldom or never employing this ambiguous word without
some explanation or caution. For if we employ, without any such
care, terms which we must be sensible are likely to mislead, at least
the unlearned and the unthinking, we cannot stand acquitted on the
plea of not having directly inculcated error.

I am persuaded that much heresy, and some infidelity, may be
traced in part to the neglect of this caution. It is not wonderful
that some should be led to renounce a doctrine, which, through the
ambiguity in question, may be represented to them as involving a
self-contradiction, or as leading to Tritheism ; — that others should
insensibly slide into this very error ; — or that many more (which I
know to be no uncommon case) should, for fear of that error,
deliberately, and on principle, keep the doctrine of the Trinity out
of their thoughts, as a point of speculative belief, to which they have
assented once for all, but which they find it dangerous to dwell on ;
though it is in fact the very Faith into which, ^^ by our Lord's
appointment, we are baptized.

Nor should those who do understand, or at least have once
understood, the ambiguity in question, rest satisfied that they are
thenceforward safe from all danger in that quarter. It should be
remembered that the thoughts are habitually influenced, through the
force of association, by the recurrence of the ordinary sense of any
word to the mind of those who are not especially on their guard
against it. See " Fallacies," § 5.

The correctness of a formal and deliberate Confession of Faith, is
not always, of itself, a sufficient safeguard against error in the
hahitual imjjressions on the mind. The Romanists flatter themselves
that they are safe from Idolatry, because they distinctly acknowledge
the truth, that "God only is to be served;'' viz. with "Latria;"
though they allow Adoration, ("hyperdulia" and "dulia") to the
Virgin and other Saints, — to Images, — and to Relics : to which it has
been justly replied, that supposing this distinction correct in itself,
it would be, in practice, nugatory ; since the mass of the people

2<5 1 wish it to be observed, that it is the circumstance is rather an advantage.— 5*65

ambUjuity of the word Person which Essay VI. (Second Series) § 4, Note.

renders it objectionable; not, its being 27 j,v to e»j,««, " /w/o the Name;" not

nowhere employed in Scripture in the in the Name." Matt, xxviii. 19.
technical sense of theologians; for this



Afp. I.] AMBIGUOUS TERJVIS. 217

must soon (as experience proves) lose sight of it entirely in their rersoa.
hahitual devotions.

Nor again is the habitual acknowledgment of One God, of itself a
sufficient safeguard ; since, from the additional ambiguities of *' One "
and "Unity," (noticed in a preceding Article) we may gradually
fall into the notion of a merely figurative Unity ; such as unity of
substance merely, (see a preceding Article) — Unity of purpose, —
concert of action, kc, such as 4s often denoted by the phrase " one
mind." See "Same," in this Appendix, and "Dissertation,"
Book IV. Ch.^V.

When, however, I speak of the necessity of explanations, the
reader is requested to keep in mind, that I mean, not explanations
of the nature of the Deity, but of our own use of words. On the one
hand we must not content ourselves with merely saying that the
whole subject is mysterious and must not be too nicely pried into ;
while we neglect to notice the distinction between divine revelations,
and human explanations of them; — between inquiries into the
mysteries of the divine nature, and into the mysteries arising from
tlie ambiguities of language, and of a language, too, adopted by
uninspired men. For, whatever Scripture declares, the Christian
is bound to receive implicitly, however unable to understand it : but
to claim an uninquiring assent to expressions of man's framing,
(however judiciously framed) without even an attempt to ascertain
their meaning, is to fall into one of the worst errors of the
Komanists.

On the other hand, to require explanations of what God is in
Himself, is to attempt what is beyond the reach of the human
faculties, and foreign from the apparent design of Scripture-revela-
tion ; which seems to be, chiefly, if not wholly, to declare to us, (at
least to insist on among the essential articles of faith,) with a view
to our practical benefit, and to the influenchig of our feelings and
conduct, not so much the intrinsic nature of the Deity, as, what He
is and does, relatively to us. Scripture teaches us (and our Church-
Catechism directs our attention to these points) to "believe in God,
who, as the Father, hath made us and all the world, — as the Son,
halh redeemed us and all mankind, — as the Holy Ghost, sanctifieth
us, and all the elect people of God.^ And this distinction is, as I
have said, pointed out in the very form of Baptism. Nothing,
indeed, can be more decidedly established by Scripture, — nothing-
more indistinctly explained (except as far as relates to us) than the
doctrine of the Trinity;^ nor are we perhaps capable, with oui*
present faculties, of comprehending it more fully.

In these matters, our inquiry, — at least our first inquiry, — should

23 Hawkin's Manual, p. 12. Word of God is to be rightly understood:

29 Compare together, for instance, such Luke i. 35, and John xiv. 9; John xiv.

passages as the following* for it is by 16,18,26, Matt, xxviii. 19, 20; John xvi.

cowjoanX^ Scripture with Scripture, no't 7, Colos. ii. 9; Phil. i. 19, 1 Cor. vi. 19;

by dwelling on insulated texts, that the Matt. x. 20, and John xiv. 23.



SIS AMBIGUOUS TERMS. [App. I.

PerMn. always Tdg, what is revealed: nor, if any one refuses to adopt as an
article of faith, this or that exposition, should he be understood as
necessarily maintaining its falsity. For we are sure that there must
be many truths relative to the Deity, which we have no means of
ascertaining : nor does it follow that even every truth which can be
ascertained, must be a part of the essential faith of a Christian.

And as it is wise to reserve for mature age, such instructions as
are unsuitable to a puerile understanding, so, it seems the part of a
like wisdom, to abstain, during this our state of childhood, from
curious speculations on subjects in which even the ablest of human
minds can but " see by means of a glass, darkly," On these, the
Learned can have no advantage over others ; though we are apt to
forget that any mysterious point inscrutable to Man, as Man, — sur-
passing the utmost reach of human intellect, — must be such to the
learned and to the ignorant, to the wise and to the simple, alike ; —
that in utter darkness, the strongest sight, and the weakest, are on
a level. ** Sir, in these matters," (said one of the most eminent of
our Reformers, respecting another mysterious point,) " I am so
fearful, that I dare speak no further, yea almost none otherwise,
than as the Scripture doth as it were lead me by the hand.

And surely it is much better thus to consult Scripture, and take
it for a guide, than to resort to it merely for confirmations, containec^
in detached texts, of the several parts of some System of Theology,
which the student fixes on as reputed orthodox, and which is in
fact made the guide which he permits to '* lead him by the hand;"
while passages culled out from various parts of the Sacred Writings
in subserviency to such system, are formed into what may be called
an anagram of Scripture : and then, by reference to this system as
a standard, each doctrine or discourse is readily pronounced Ortho-
dox, or Socinian, or Arian, or Sabellian, or Nestorian, &c. ; and all



Online LibraryRichard WhatelyElements of logic → online text (page 28 of 34)