« PreviousContinue »
of finding it out. Ever near us, ever in us, the one Divine and omnipresent mystery of the world, it remains unchanged and insoluble for all the petty strivings of our reason to formulate in words the phases it presents, and transcends immeasurably the most transcendental analysis that man has been able to invent. Yet, when Descartes thought to find the seat of the soul in the pineal gland, many persons were honestly alarmed, and cried Materialism!' Atheism!' and so forth. And when Mr. Buckle transcribed, almost bodily, some pages from Comte, setting forth the somewhat overrated researches of Bichat into the theory of life, there was again heard the familiar cry. And now, when Mr. Spencer says that 'the deepest truths we can reach are simply statements of the widest uniformities in our experience of the relations of Matter, Motion, and Force; and Matter, Motion, and Force are but symbols of the unknown reality,' we are like, it seems, to hear again renewed the insensate anathema. A friend and brother reviewer writes to us, with all earnestness and some eloquence, to affirm as follows:
"The discourse of Mr. Spencer on the law of Evolution contains some admirable things; but the residuum of the whole is simply irreligious nonsense,— that, and no other. True, he tells us that his theory is "no more materialistic than it is spiritualistic, and no more spiritualistic than it is materialistic;" but what avails such a 66 bead-roll of unbaptized jargon," if he insists on formulating every thing in terms of Matter, Motion, and Force? It really is insufferable, puts one out of all patience. Why, if we may thus formulate a flower, we may thus formulate a Shakespeare. The one is no more and no less a phenomenon than the other. And if we may thus formulate a Shakespeare and a Socrates, Plato and the late United States, a railway engine and the mind which fashioned it, what remains - I almost shudder to ask it — what remains that we should not thus formulate our Lord himself? Nay, what is there to forbid the supposition, that the higher mode of being we attribute to what we call God may be but a different conditioning from any of those we have observed of Matter, Motion, and Force?'
"All of which, we feel assured, is thoroughly sincere, but is as completely mistaken as it is possible it should be. For what is proposed is not the possibility of formulating either flowers or steamengines, Platos or Stephensons, ultimately and actually, but of formulating only and exclusively the uniformities of the phenomena they present. Themselves we are ignorant of; and, so far as science is concerned, always shall be. We can no more formulate their true
Being than we can create such true Being. We can take cognizance of the Matter, Motion, and Force by which they speak to us, only as these are in relation with other manifestations of Matter, Motion, and Force;' but it makes all the difference in the world to observe, that these terms are but the convenient and serviceable expressions of our ignorance, and are — in Mr. Spencer's own words, not sufficiently observed by our indignant friend - but symbols of the unknown reality?
The writer in the "Examiner" takes a different view. He says:
"This doctrine is also implied in Mr. Spencer's attempt to formulate all phenomena in 'terms of Space, Time, Matter, Motion, and Force; for, Space and Time being made the conditions of all phenomena, and Force their universal cause, phenomena without exception must be simply motions of matter; that is, changes of position among material wholes and parts, atoms and masses" (p. 241).
Where does he find it asserted by Mr. Spencer, that there can be no other manifestation of force to the human consciousness than under the form of motions of matter? Mr. Spencer recognizes as known to us in space and time the three forms of being, - Matter, Motion, and Force; and regards the first two as modes of the last. But does he therefore say that the last has no other modes? It is true that Mr. Spencer holds all evolution to be change of arrangement in these two modes of Force which we know as Matter and Motion. But what are the entire phenomena of evolution. thus generalized? They are the phenomena of the objective universe as presented to the subjective consciousness, and as continually modifying the substance of consciousness by their presentation to it. Does this view imply that Mr. Spencer regards this substance of consciousness as either Matter or Motion? Has he not distinctly alleged, that the substance of consciousness is another mode of manifestation of Force, or of the unknowable source of things? What, then, becomes of the allegation that Mr. Spencer is bound to
*British Quarterly Review, January, 1863.
show that "all phenomena can be truly reduced to changes of position among atoms and masses," and that the phenomena of consciousness are not simply accompanied by, but consist in, such changes? This representation of Mr. Spencer's position is diametrically opposed to his own statement of it in the last chapter of "First Principles," where he argues that, by virtue of the relations of subject and object, those external manifestations of force which we call Matter and Motion must stand in eternal antithesis with that internal manifestation which we know as Consciousness; and that, though these antithetical modes are probably but different manifestations of the same unknowable Cause, yet they must for ever appear to us to be antithetically opposed to one another, as belonging to self and not-self respectively. By generalizing all phenomena as processes of Evolution and Dissolution (not Evolution only, as the reviewer carelessly states), Mr. Spencer generalizes only the changes of the non ego as they are phenomenally manifested to the ego; and he does not profess to say what these changes are in themselves, or what are in themselves the changes they produce in consciousness.
Again, the reviewer says, "Every mechanical philosophy, like Mr. Spencer's, touches only the surface of things; since mechanism is inexplicable, except through dynamism" (p. 243). Here Mr. Spencer's philosophy is represented as mechanical, as distinguished from dynamical; yet, if one term more completely than any other describes it, dynamical is the word. Does not Mr. Spencer, in his chapter on "Matter, Motion, and Force," resolve our experiences of matter and motion into experiences of Force conditioned in certain ways? Does he not, in his chapters upon the "Indestructibility of Matter and the Continuity of Motion," point out that all which we can prove to be indestructible in Matter is the Force it manifests, and that all which we can prove to be continuous in Motion is the Force it implies? And does he not, in his chapter on the "Persistence of Force," repeatedly and most emphatically dwell on the truth, that all other forms of being are resolvable into this form? Yet his system is actually de
scribed as one from which the idea of power is left out, mechanical, and not dynamical! The reviewer goes on to say," Although Mr. Spencer has much to say about Force, he identifies Force with Unknowable, and thus empties his philosophy of all dynamism that is intelligible:" from which sentence, if it has any meaning at all, it is to be inferred that the reviewer does not identify Force with the Unknowable, but that to him it is knowable. Why, then, has he delayed so long explaining to us what Force is? Probably, by an "intelligible dynamism," he will say that he means the action of a personal God; but if this action is intelligible to him, as solving the problem of Force for the human intellect, he evidently has a new revelation to make, one for which the thinking world has been seeking these thousands of years.
In the next sentence, he goes on to say that Mr. Spencer "borrows largely from a source that is shut from every consistent empiricist, in taking from transcendentalism the idea of strict universality." Here is another instance of applying a wrong title, and then pointing out an inconsistency, on the assumption that that title is the right one. On what authority does he call Mr. Spencer "a consistent empiricist," ing, of course, an empiricist in the sense commonly given to the word? Does he not know, that, ever since he commenced publishing, Mr. Spencer has been an antagonist of pure empiricism? The antagonism was displayed in his first work, "Social Statics." It was still more definitely displayed in his "Principles of Psychology," where, in his doctrine of "the Universal Postulate," he contended, in opposition to Mr. Mill, that certain truths must be accepted as necessary. The controversy between the two, pending since that time, has been recently revived. In the "Fortnightly Review" for July 15, 1865, Mr. Spencer re-asserted and re-inforced the position he had before taken, that, even supposing all knowledge to be interpretable as having originated in experience, there are nevertheless certain truths which must be accepted as a priori before the interpretation becomes possible.
Again the reviewer says, "Force must be either a personal God, an impersonal entity, or a property of matter. Mr.
Spencer denies that it is a personal God." Where does Mr. Spencer deny that Force, or the unknown cause of things, is a personal God? So far from doing so, he distinctly says ("First Principles," chap. v.) that a personal God can neither be affirmed nor denied. Having asserted that Mr. Spencer denies that which he distinctly says cannot be denied, — that is, that Force, or the unknown cause of things, is a personal God, he goes on to say, that "he ought to treat it as a property of matter, whereas he seems to regard it as an impersonal entity." This is diametrically opposed to a previous representation made by the reviewer himself, only two pages back, where he recognizes Mr. Spencer's doctrine as being, that Force is the universal Cause of which Matter and Motion are manifestations. If, as Mr. Spencer everywhere asserts or implies, Force is the ultimate unknowable Cause, manifested to us in the forms of Matter and Motion, under certain conditions of time and space, how is it possible for him to regard Force as "a property of Matter?" According to him, Matter cannot be known to us, except as the resistance of co-existent positions in space; it cannot be conceived, save as a statical embodiment of forces occupying space. If, then, when matter is conceived to be deprived of its forces, nothing remains, how can Force be conceived as a property of Matter? Again, the reviewer says,
"But Mr. Spencer has here fallen helplessly into a vicious circle. On the one hand, all phenomena can be formulated under a single law, because the materialist and spiritualist controversy is absurd: on the other hand, the materialist and spiritualist controversy is absurd, because all phenomena can be formulated under a single law."
Now, neither of the propositions said to constitute this vicious circle is anywhere to be found in Mr. Spencer's writings, either expressed or implied. What are the facts? Mr. Spencer carefully goes through in detail the various classes of phenomena, for the purpose of seeing whether they exemplify the law he alleges. He distinctly points out, that this law is a universal induction from the phenomena examined. And he then goes on to verify it, by showing that it is also