Ye, who live,
Do so each cause refer to Heaven above,
E'en as its motion, of necessity,
Drew with it all that moves. If this were so,
Free choice in you were none; nor justice would
There should be joy for virtue, woe for ill. -- DANTE.
The doctrine of necessity has been, in all ages of the world, the great stronghold of atheism. It is the mighty instrument with which the unbeliever seeks to strip man of all accountability, and to destroy our faith and confidence in God, by tracing up the existence of all moral evil to his agency. |The opinion of necessity,| says Bishop Butler, |seems to be the very basis in which infidelity grounds itself.| It will not be denied that this opinion seems, at first view, to be inconsistent with the free agency and accountability of man, and that it appears to impair our idea of God by staining it with impurity. Hence it has been used, by the profligate and profane, to excuse men for their crimes. It is against this use of the doctrine that we intend to direct the force of our argument.
But here the question arises: Can we refute the argument against the accountability of man, without attacking the doctrine on which it is founded? If we can meet this argument at all, it must be either by showing that no such consequence flows from the scheme of necessity, or by showing that the scheme itself is false. We cannot meet the sceptic, who seeks to excuse his sins, and to cast dishonour on God, and expose his sophistry, unless we can show that his premises are unsound, or that his conclusions are false. We must do the one or the other of these two things; or, whatever we may think of his moral sensibility, we must acknowledge the superiority of his reason and logic. After long and patient meditation on the subject, we have been forced to the conclusion, that the only way to repel the argument of the sceptic, and cause the intrinsic lustre of man's free-agency to appear, is to unravel and refute the doctrine of necessity.
If we could preserve the scheme of necessity, and at the same time avoid the consequences in question, we may fairly conclude that the means of doing so have been found by some of the illustrious advocates of that scheme. How, then, do they vindicate their own system? How do they repel the frightful consequences which infidelity deduces from it? This is the first question to be considered; and the discussion of it will occupy the remainder of the present chapter.
The attempts of Calvin and Luther to reconcile the scheme of necessity with the responsibility of man.
Nothing can be more unjust than to bring, as has often been done, the unqualified charge of fatalism against the great Protestant reformers. The manner in which this odious epithet is frequently used, applying it without discrimination to the brightest ornaments and to the darkest specimens of humanity, is calculated to engender far more heat than light. Indeed, under this very ambiguous term, three distinct schemes of doctrine, widely different from each other, are set forth; schemes which every candid inquirer after truth should be careful to distinguish. The first is that scheme of fatalism which rests on the fundamental idea that there is nothing in the universe besides matter and local motion. This doctrine, of course, denies the spirituality of the Divine Being, as well as of all created souls, and strikes a fatal blow at the immutability of moral distinctions. It is unnecessary to say, that in such a sense of the word, neither Calvin nor Luther can be justly accused of fatalism; as it is well known that both of them maintained the spirituality of God, as well as the reality of moral distinctions prior to all human laws.
The second scheme of fatalism rises above the first in point of dignity and purity of character. It proceeds on the idea that all things in heaven and earth are bound together by |an implexed series and concatenation of causes:| it admits the existence of God, it is true, but yet it regards him as merely the greatest and brightest link in the adamantine universal chain of necessity. According to this scheme, as well as to the former, the very idea of moral liberty is inconceivable and impossible. This portentous scheme was perfectly understood and expressly repudiated by Calvin. In reference to this doctrine, which was maintained by the ancient Stoics, he says: |That dogma is falsely and maliciously charged upon us. For we do not, with the Stoics, imagine a necessity arising from a perpetual concatenation and intricate series of causes contained in nature; but we make God the Arbiter and Governor of all things, who, in his own wisdom, has, from all eternity, decreed what he would do, and now by his own power executes what he decreed.|
Here we behold the nature of the third scheme, which has been included under the term fatalism. It recognises God as the great central and all-controlling power of the universe. It does not deny the possibility of liberty; for it recognises its actual existence in the Divine Being. |If the divine will,| says Calvin, |has any cause, then there must be something antecedent, on which it depends; which it is impious to suppose.| According to Calvin, it is the uncaused divine will which makes the |necessity of all things.| He frequently sets forth the doctrine, that, from all eternity, God decreed whatever should come to pass, not excepting, but expressly including, the deliberations and |volitions of men,| and by his own power now executes his decree. As we do not wish to use opprobrious names, we shall characterize these three several schemes of doctrine by the appellations given to them by their advocates. The first we shall call, |materialistic fatalism;| the second, |Stoical fatalism;| and the third we shall designate by the term, |necessity.|
Widely as these schemes may differ in other respects, they have one feature in common: they all seem to bear with equal stringency on the human will, and deprive it of that freedom which is now conceded to be indispensable to render men accountable for their actions. If our volitions be produced by a series of causes, according to the Stoical notion of fate, or by the omnipotence of God, they would seem to be equally necessitated and devoid of freedom. Hence, in attacking one of these schemes at this point, we really attack them all. We shall first consider the question, then, How does Calvin attempt to reconcile his doctrine with the accountability of man? How does he show, for example, that the first man was guilty and justly punishable for a transgression in which he succumbed to the divine omnipotence?
If a man is really laid under a necessity of sinning, it would certainly seem impossible to conceive that he is responsible for his sins. Nay, it would not only seem impossible to conceive this, but it would also appear very easy to understand, that he could not be responsible for them. In order to remove this difficulty, and repel the attack of his opponents, Calvin makes a distinction between |co-action and necessity.| |Now, when I assert,| says he, |that the will, being deprived of its liberty, is necessarily drawn or led into evil, I should wonder if any one considered it as a harsh expression, since it has nothing in it absurd, nor is it unsanctioned by the custom of good men. It offends those who know not how to distinguish between necessity and compulsion.|(2) Let us see, then, what is this distinction between necessity and compulsion, or co-action, (as Calvin sometimes calls it,) which is to take off all appearance of harshness from his views. We are not to imagine that this is a distinction without a difference; for, in truth, there is no distinction in philosophy which may be more easily made, or more clearly apprehended. It is this: Suppose a man wills a particular thing, or external action, and it is prevented from happening by any outward restraint; or suppose he is unwilling to do a thing, and he is constrained to do it against his will; he is said to labour under compulsion or co-action. Of course he is not accountable for the failure of the consequence of his will in the one case, nor for the consequence of the force imposed on his body in the other. This kind of necessity is called co-action by Calvin and Luther; it is usually denominated |natural necessity| by Edwards and his followers; though it is also frequently termed compulsion, or co-action, by them.
This natural necessity, or co-action, it is admitted on all hands, destroys accountability for external conduct, wherever it obtains. Indeed, if a man is compelled to do a thing against his will, this is not, properly speaking, his act at all; nor is it an omission of his, if he wills to do a thing, and is necessarily prevented from doing it by external restraint. But it should be observed that natural necessity, or co-action, reaches no deeper than the external conduct; and can excuse for nothing else. As it does not influence the will itself, so it cannot excuse for acts of the will. Indeed, it presupposes the existence of a volition, or act of the will, whose natural consequences it counteracts and overcomes. Hence, if the question were -- Is a man accountable for his external actions, that is, for the motions of his body, we might speak of natural necessity, or co-action, with propriety; but not so when the question relates to internal acts of the will. All reference to natural necessity, or co-action, in relation to such a question, is wholly irrelevant. No one doubts, and no one denies, that the motions of the body are controlled by the volitions of the mind, or by some external force. The advocates for the inherent activity and freedom of the mind, do not place them in the external sphere of matter, in the passive and necessitated movements of body: they seek not the living among the dead.
But to do justice to these illustrious men, they did not attempt, as many of their followers have done, to pass off this freedom from external co-action for the freedom of the will. Indeed, neither of them contended for the freedom of the will at all, nor deemed such freedom requisite to render men accountable for their actions. This is an element which has been wrought into their system by the subsequent progress of human knowledge. Luther, it is well known, so far from maintaining the freedom of the mind, wrote a work on the |Bondage of the Human Will,| in reply to Erasmus. |I admit,| says he, |that man's will is free in a certain sense; not because it is now in the same state it was in paradise, but because it was made free originally, and may, through God's grace, become so again.|(3) And Calvin, in his Institutes, has written a chapter to show that |man, in his present state, is despoiled of freedom of will, and subjected to a miserable slavery.| He |was endowed with free will,| says Calvin, |by which, if he had chosen, he might have obtained eternal life.|(4) Thus, according to both Luther and Calvin, man was by the fall despoiled of the freedom of the will.
Though they allow a freedom from co-action, they repudiate the idea of calling this a freedom of the will. |Lombard at length pronounces,| says Calvin, |that we are not therefore possessed of free-will, because we have an equal power to do or to think either good or evil, but only because we are free from constraint. And this liberty is not diminished, although we are corrupt, and slaves of sin, and capable of doing nothing but sin. Then man will be said to possess free-will in this sense, not that he has an equally free election of good and evil, but because he does evil voluntarily, and not by constraint. That indeed, is true; but what end could it answer to deck out a thing so diminutive with a title so superb?|(5) Truly, if Lombard merely meant by the freedom of the will, for which he contended, a freedom from external restraint, or co-action, Calvin might well contemptuously exclaim, |Egregious liberty!|(6) It was reserved for a later period in the history of the Church to deck out this diminutive thing with the superb title of the freedom of the will, and to pass it off for the highest and most glorious liberty of which the human mind can form any conception. Hobbes, it will be hereafter seen, was the first who, either designedly or undesignedly, palmed off this imposture upon the world.
It is a remarkable fact, in the history of the human mind, that the most powerful and imposing arguments used by the early reformers to disprove the freedom of the will have been as confidently employed by their most celebrated followers to establish that very freedom on a solid basis. It is well known, for example, that Edwards, and many other great men, have employed the doctrine of the foreknowledge of God to prove philosophical necessity, without which they conclude there can be no rational foundation for the freedom of the will. Yet, in former times, this very doctrine was regarded as the most formidable instrument with which to overthrow and demolish that very freedom. Thus Luther calls the foreknowledge of God a thunderbolt to dash the doctrine of free-will into atoms. And who can forbear to agree with Luther so far as to say, that if the foreknowledge of God proves anything in opposition to the freedom of the will, it proves that it is under the most absolute and uncontrollable necessity? It clearly seems, that if it proves anything in favour of necessity, it proves everything for which the most absolute necessitarian can contend. Accordingly, a distinguished Calvinistic divine has said, that if our volitions be foreseen, we can no more avoid them |than we can pluck the sun out of the heavens.|(7)
But though the reformers were thus, in some respects, more true to their fundamental principle than their followers have been, we are not to suppose that they are free from all inconsistencies and self-contradiction. Thus, if |foreknowledge is a thunderbolt| to dash the doctrine of free-will into atoms, it destroyed free-will in man before the fall as well as after. Hence the thunderbolt of Luther falls upon his own doctrine, that man possessed free-will in his primitive state, with as much force as it can upon the doctrine of his opponents. He is evidently caught in the toils he so confidently prepared for his adversary. And how many of the followers of the great reformer adopt his doctrine, and wield his thunderbolts, without perceiving how destructively they recoil on themselves! Though they ascribe free-will to man as one of the elements of his pristine glory, yet they employ against it in his present condition arguments which, if good for anything, would despoil, not only man, but the whole universe of created intelligences -- nay, the great Uncreated Intelligence himself -- of every vestige and shadow of such a power.
It is a wonderful inconsistency in Luther, that he should so often and so dogmatically assert that the doctrine of free-will falls prostrate before the prescience of God, and at the same time maintain the freedom of the divine will. If foreknowledge is incompatible with the existence of free-will, it is clear that the will of God is not free; since it is on all sides conceded that all his volitions are perfectly foreseen by him. Yet in the face of this conclusion, which so clearly and so irresistibly follows from Luther's position, he asserts the freedom of the divine will, as if he were perfectly unconscious of the self-contradiction in which he is involved. |It now then follows,| says he, |that free-will is plainly a divine term, and can be applicable to none but the Divine Majesty only.|(8) ... He even says, If free-will |be ascribed unto men, it is not more properly ascribed, than the divinity of God himself would be ascribed unto them; which would be the greatest of all sacrilege. Wherefore, it becomes theologians to refrain from the use of this term altogether, whenever they wish to speak of human ability, and to leave it to be applied to God only.|(9) And we may add, if they would apply it to God, it becomes them to refrain from all such arguments as would show even such an application of it to be absurd.
In like manner, Calvin admits that the human soul possessed a free-will in its primitive state, but has been despoiled of it by the fall, and is now in bondage to a |miserable slavery.| But if the necessity which arises from the power of sin over the will be inconsistent with its freedom, how are we to reconcile the freedom of the first man with the power exercised by the Almighty over the wills of all created beings? So true it is, that the most systematic thinker, who begins by denying the truth, will be sure to end by contradicting himself.
In one respect, as we have seen, Calvin differs from his followers at the present day; the denial of free-will he regards as perfectly reconcilable with the idea of accountability. Although our volitions are absolutely necessary to us, although they may be produced in us by the most uncontrollable power in the universe, yet are we accountable for them, because they are our volitions. The bare fact that we will such and such a thing, without regard to how we come by the volition, is sufficient to render us accountable for it. We must be free from an external co-action, he admits, to render us accountable for our external actions; but not from an internal necessity, to render us accountable for our internal volitions. But this does not seem to be a satisfactory reply to the difficulty in question. We ask, How a man can be accountable for his acts, for his volitions, if they are caused in him by an infinite power? and we are told, Because they are his acts. This eternal repetition of the fact in which all sides are agreed, can throw no light on the point about which we dispute. We still ask, How can a man be responsible for an act, or volition, which is necessitated to arise in his mind by Omnipotence? If any one should reply, with Dr. Dick, that we do not know how he can be accountable for such an act, yet we should never deny a thing because we cannot see how it is; this would not be a satisfactory answer. For, though it is certainly the last weakness of the human mind to deny a thing, because we cannot see how it is; yet there is a great difference between not being able to see how a thing is, and being clearly able to see that it cannot be anyhow at all, -- between being unable to see how two things agree together, and being able to see that two ideas are utterly repugnant to each other. Hence we mean to ask, that if a man's act be necessitated in him by an infinite, omnipotent power, over which he had, and could have, no possible control, can we not see that he cannot be accountable for it? We have no difficulty whatever in believing a mystery; but when we are required to embrace what so plainly seems to be an absurdity, we confess that our reason is either weak enough, or strong enough, to pause and reluctate.
The manner in which Hobbes, Collins, and others, endeavour to reconcile necessity with free and accountable agency.
The celebrated philosopher of Malmsbury viewed all things as bound together in the relation of cause and effect; and he was, beyond doubt, one of the most acute thinkers that ever advocated the doctrine of necessity. From some of the sentiments expressed towards the conclusion of |The Leviathan,| which have, not without reason, subjected him to the charge of atheism, we may doubt his entire sincerity when he pretends to advocate the doctrine of necessity out of a zeal for the Divine Sovereignty and the dogma of Predestination. If he hoped by this avowal of his design to propitiate any class of theologians, he must have been greatly disappointed; for his speculations were universally condemned by the Christian world as atheistical in their tendency. This charge has been fixed upon him, in spite of his solemn protestations against its injustice, and his earnest endeavours to reconcile his scheme of necessity with the free-agency and accountability of man.
|I conceive,| says Hobbes, |that nothing taketh beginning from itself, but from the action of some other immediate agent without itself. And that therefore, when first a man hath an appetite or will to something, to which immediately before he had no appetite nor will, the cause of his will is not the will itself, but something else not in his own disposing; so that it is out of controversy, that of voluntary actions the will is the necessary cause, and by this which is said, the will is also caused by other things whereof it disposeth not, it followeth, that voluntary actions have all of them necessary causes, and therefore are necessitated.| This is clear and explicit. There is no controversy, he truly says, that voluntary actions, that is, external actions proceeding from the will, are necessitated by the will. And as according to his postulate, the will or volition is also caused by other things of which it has no disposal, so they are also necessitated. In other words, external voluntary actions are necessarily caused by volitions, and volitions are necessarily caused by something else other than the will; and consequently the chain is complete between the cause of volition and its effects. How, then, is man a free-agent? and how is he accountable for his actions? Hobbes has not left these questions unanswered; and it is a mistake to suppose, as is too often done, that his argument in favour of necessity evinces a design to sap the foundations of human responsibility.
He answers these questions precisely as they were answered by Luther and Calvin more than a hundred years before his time. In order to solve this great difficulty, and establish an agreement between necessity and liberty, he insists on the distinction between co-action and necessity. Sir James Mackintosh says, that |in his treatise de Servo Arbitrio against Erasmus, Luther states the distinction between co-action and necessity as familiar a hundred and fifty years before it was proposed by Hobbes, or condemned in the Jansenists.|(10) According to his definition of liberty, it is merely a freedom from co-action, or external compulsion. |I conceive liberty,| says he, |to be rightly defined in this manner: Liberty is the absence of all the impediments to action that are not contained in the nature and intrinsical qualities of the agent: as for example, the water is said to descend freely, or to have liberty to descend by the channel of the river, because there is no impediment that way; but not across, because the banks are impediments; and though the water cannot ascend, yet men never say it wants liberty to ascend, but the faculty or power, because the impediment is in the nature of the water and intrinsical.| According to this definition, though a man's volitions were thrown out, not by himself, but by some irresistible power working within his mind, say the power of the Almighty, yet he would be free, provided there were no impediments to prevent the external effects of his volitions. This is the liberty which water, impelled by the power of gravity, possesses in descending the channel of a river. It is the liberty of the winds and waves of the sea, which, by a sort of metaphor, is supposed to reign over the dominions of a mechanical and materialistic fate. It is the most idle of all idle things to speak of such a liberty, or rather, to use the word in such a sense, when the controversy relates to the freedom of the mind itself. What has such a thing to do with the origin of human volitions, or the nature of moral agency? Is there no difference between the motion of the body and the action of mind? Or is there nothing in the universe of God but mere body and local motion? If there is not, then, indeed, we neither have nor can conceive any higher liberty than that which the philosopher is pleased to allow us to possess; but if there be mind, then there may be things in heaven and earth which are not dreamed of in his philosophy.
The definition which Collins, the disciple of Hobbes, has given of liberty, is the same as that of his master. |I contend,| says he, |for liberty, as it signifies a power in man to do as he wills or pleases.| The doing here refers to the external action, which, properly speaking, is not an act at all, but merely a change of state in the body. The body merely suffers a change of place and position, in obedience to the act of the will; it does not act, nor can it act, because it is passive in its nature. To do as one wills, in this sense, is a freedom of the body from co-action; it is not a freedom of the will from internal necessity. Collins says this is |a valuable liberty,| and he says truly; for if one were thrown into prison, he could not go wherever he might please, or do as he might will. But the imprisonment of the body does not prevent a man from being a free-agent. He also tells us truly, that |many philosophers and theologians, both ancient and modern, have given definitions of liberty that are consistent with fate and necessity.| But then, their definitions, like his own, had no reference to the acts of the mind, but to the motions of the body; and it is a grand irrelevancy, we repeat, to speak of such a thing, when the question relates, not to the freedom of the body, but the freedom of the mind. Calvin truly says, that to call this external freedom from co-action or natural necessity a freedom of the will, is to decorate a most diminutive thing with a superb title; but the philosopher of Malmsbury, and his ingenious disciple, seem disposed to confer the high-sounding title and empty name on us, in order to reconcile us to the servitude and chains in which they have been pleased to bind us.
This idea of liberty, common to Hobbes and Collins, which Mackintosh says was familiar to Luther and Calvin at least a hundred and thirty years before, is in reality of much earlier origin. It was maintained by the ancient Stoics, by whom it is as clearly set forth as by Hobbes himself. The well-known illustration of the Stoic Chrysippus, so often mentioned by Leibnitz and others, is a proof of the correctness of this remark: |Suppose I push against a heavy body,| says he: |if it be square, it will not move; if it be cylindrical, it will. What the difference of form is to the stone, the difference of disposition is to the mind.| Thus his notion of freedom was derived from matter, and supposed to consist in the absence of friction! The idea of liberty thus deduced from that which is purely and perfectly passive, from an absolutely necessitated state of body, was easily reconciled by him with his doctrine of fate.
Is it not strange that Mr. Hazlitt, after adopting this definition of liberty, should have supposed that he allowed a real freedom to the will? |I prefer exceedingly,| says he, |to the modern instances of a couple of billiard-balls, or a pair of scales, the illustration of Chrysippus.| We cannot very well see, how the instance of a cylinder is so great an improvement on that of a billiard-ball; especially as a sphere, and not a cylinder, is free to move in all directions.
The truth is, we must quit the region of dead, inert, passive matter, if we would form an idea of the true meaning of the term liberty, as applied to the activity of living agents. Mr. Hazlitt evidently loses himself amid the ambiguities of language, when he says, that |I so far agree with Hobbes and differ from Locke, in thinking that liberty, in the most extended and abstracted sense, is applicable to material as well as voluntary agents.| Still this very acute writer makes a few feeble and ineffectual efforts to raise our notion of the liberty of moral agents above that given by the illustration of Chrysippus in Cicero. |My notion of a free agent, I confess,| says he, |is not that represented by Mr. Hobbes, namely, one that when all things necessary to produce the effect are present, can nevertheless not produce it; but I believe a free-agent of whatever kind is one which, where all things necessary to produce the effect are present, can produce it; its own operation not being hindered by anything else. The body is said to be free when it has the power to obey the direction of the will; so the will may be said to be free when it has the power to obey the dictates of the understanding.|(11) Thus the liberty of the will is made to consist not in the denial that its volitions are produced, but in the absence of impediments which might hinder its operations from taking effect. This idea of liberty, it is evident, is perfectly consistent with the materialistic fatalism of Hobbes, which is so much admired by Mr. Hazlitt.
The sentiments of Descartes, Spinoza, and Malebranche, concerning the relation between liberty and necessity.
No one was ever more deeply implicated in the scheme of necessity than Descartes. |Mere philosophy,| says he, |is enough to make us know that there cannot enter the least thought into the mind of man, but God must will and have willed from all eternity that it should enter there.| His argument in proof of this position is short and intelligible. |God,| says he, |could not be absolutely perfect if there could happen anything in this world which did not spring entirely from him.| Hence it follows, that it is inconsistent with the absolute perfections of God to suppose that a being created by him could put forth a volition which does not spring entirely from him, and not even in part from the creature.
Yet Descartes is a warm believer in the doctrine of free-will. On the ground of reason, he believes in an absolute predestination of all things; and yet he concludes from experience that man is free. If we ask how these things can hang together, he replies, that we cannot tell; that a solution of this difficulty lies beyond the reach of the human faculties. Now, it is evident, that reason cannot |make us know| one thing, and experience teach another, quite contrary to it; for no two truths can ever contradict each other. Those who adopt this mode of viewing the subject, generally remind us of the feebleness of human reason, and of the necessary limits to all human speculation. Though, as disciples of Butler, we are deeply impressed with these truths, yet, as disciples of Bacon, we do not intend to despair until we can discover some good and sufficient reason for so doing. It seems to us, that the reply of Leibnitz to Descartes, already alluded to, is not without reason. |It might have been an evidence of humility in Descartes,| says he, |if he had confessed his own inability to solve the difficulty in question; but not satisfied with confessing for himself, he does so for all intelligences and for all times.|
But, after all, Descartes has really endeavoured to solve the problem which he declared insoluble; that is, to reconcile the infinite perfections of God with the free-agency of man. He struggles to break loose from this dark mystery; but, like the charmed bird, he struggles and flutters in vain, and finally yields to its magical influence. In his solution, this great luminary of science, like others before him, seems to suffer a sad eclipse. |Before God sent us into the world,| says he, |he knew exactly what all the inclinations of our wills would be; it is he that has implanted them in us; it is he also that has disposed all things, so that such or such objects should present themselves to us at such or such times, by means of which he has known that our free-will would determine us to such or such actions, he has willed that it should be so; but he has not willed to constrain us thereto.| This is found in a letter to the Princess Elizabeth, for whose benefit he endeavoured to reconcile the liberty of man with the perfections of God. It brings us back to the old distinction between necessity and co-action. God brings our volitions to pass; he wills them; they |spring entirely from him;| but we are nevertheless free, because he constrains not our external actions, or compels us to do anything contrary to our wills! We cannot suppose, however, that this solution of the problem made a very clear or deep impression on the mind of Descartes himself, or he would not, on other occasions, have pronounced every attempt at the solution of it vain and hopeless.
In his attempt to reconcile the free-agency of man with the divine perfections, Descartes deceives himself by a false analogy. Thus he supposes that a monarch |who has forbidden duelling, and who, certainly knowing that two gentlemen will fight, if they should meet, employs infallible means to bring them together. They meet, they fight each other: their disobedience of the laws is an effect of their free-will; they are punishable.| |What a king can do in such a case,| he adds, |God who has an infinite power and prescience, infallibly does in relation to all the actions of men.| But the king, in the supposed case, does not act on the minds of the duellists; their disposition to disobey the laws does not proceed from him; whereas, according to the theory of Descartes, nothing enters into the mind of man which does not spring entirely from God. If we suppose a king, who has direct access to the mind of his subject, like God, and who employs his power to excite therein a murderous intent or any other particular disposition to disobey the law, we shall have a more apposite representation of the divine agency according to the theory of Descartes. Has anything ever been ascribed to the agency of Satan himself which could more clearly render him an accomplice in the sins of men?
From the bosom of Cartesianism two systems arose, one in principle, but widely different in their developments and ultimate results. We allude to the celebrated schemes of Spinoza and Malebranche. Both set out with the same exaggerated view of the sublime truth that God is all in all; and each gave a diverse development to this fundamental position, to this central idea, according as the logical faculty predominated over the moral, or the moral faculty over the logical. Father Malebranche, by a happy inconsistency, preserved the great moral interests of the world against the invasion of a remorseless logic. Spinoza, on the contrary, could follow out his first principle almost to its last consequence, even to the entire extinction of the moral light of the universe, and the enthronement of blind power, with as little concern, with as profound composure, as if he were merely discussing a theorem in the mathematics.
|All things,| says he, |determined to such and such actions, are determined by God; and, if God determines not a thing to act, it cannot determine itself.|(12) From this proposition he drew the inference, that things which are produced by God, could not have existed in any other manner, nor in any other order.(13) Thus, by the divine power, all things in heaven and earth are bound together in the iron circle of necessity. It required no great logical foresight to perceive that this doctrine shut all real liberty out of the created universe; but it did require no little moral firmness, or very great moral insensibility, to declare such a consequence with the unflinching audacity which marks its enunciation by Spinoza. He repeatedly declares, in various modes of expression, that |the soul is a spiritual automaton,| and possesses no such liberty as is usually ascribed to it. All is necessary, and the very notion of a free-will is a vulgar prejudice. |All I have to say,| he coolly remarks, |to those who believe that they can speak or keep silence -- in one word, can act -- by virtue of a free decision of the soul, is, that they dream with their eyes open.|(14) Though he thus boldly denies all free-will, according to the common notion of mankind; yet, no less than Hobbes and Collins, he allows that the soul possesses |a sort of liberty.| |It is free,| says he, in the act of affirming that |two and two are equal to four;| thus finding the freedom of the soul which he is pleased to allow the world to possess in the most perfect type of necessity it is possible to conceive.
But Spinoza does not employ this idea of liberty, nor any other, to show that man is a responsible being. This is not at all strange; the wonder is, that after having demonstrated that |the prejudice of men concerning good and evil, merit and demerit, praise and blame, order and confusion, beauty and deformity,| are nothing but dreams, he should have felt bound to defend the position, that we may be justly punished for our offences by the Supreme Ruler of the world. His defence of this doctrine we shall lay before the reader without a word of comment. |Will you say,| he replies to Oldenburg, |that God cannot be angry with the wicked, or that all men are worthy of beatitude? In regard to the first point, I perfectly agree that God cannot be angry at anything which happens according to his decree, but I deny that it results that all men ought to be happy; for men can be excusable, and at the same time be deprived of beatification, and made to suffer a thousand ways. A horse is excusable for being a horse, and not a man; but that prevents not that he ought to be a horse, and not a man. He who is rendered mad by the bite of a dog, is surely excusable, and yet we ought to constrain him. In like manner, the man who cannot govern his passions, nor restrain them by the fear of the laws, though excusable on account of the infirmity of his nature, can nevertheless not enjoy peace, nor the knowledge and the love of God; and it is necessary that he should perish.|(15)
It was as difficult for Father Malebranche to restrain his indignation at the system of Spinoza, as it was for him to expose its fallacy, after having admitted its great fundamental principle. This is well illustrated by the facts stated by M. Saisset: |When Mairan,| says he, |still young, and having a strong passion for the study of the 'Ethique,' requested Malebranche to guide him in that perilous route; we know with what urgency, bordering on importunity, he pressed the illustrious father to show him the weak point of Spinozism, the precise place where the rigour of the reasoning failed, the paralogism contained in the demonstration. Malebranche eluded the question, and could not assign the paralogism, after which Mairan so earnestly sought: 'It is not that the paralogism is in such or such places of the Ethique, it is everywhere.' |(16) In this impatient judgment, Father Malebranche uttered more truth than he could very well perceive; the paralogism is truly everywhere, because this whole edifice of words, |this frightful chimera,| is really assumed in the arbitrary definition of the term substance. We might say with equal truth, that the fallacy of Malebranche's scheme is also everywhere; for although it stops short of the consequences so sternly deduced by Spinoza, it sets out from the same distorted view of the sovereignty and dominion of God, from which those consequences necessarily flow.
Spinoza, who had but few followers during his lifetime, has been almost idolized by the most celebrated savants of modern Germany. Whether this will ultimately add to the glory of Spinoza, or detract from that of his admirers, we shall leave the reader and posterity to determine. In the mean time, we shall content ourselves with a statement of the fact, in the language of M. Saisset: |Everything,| says he, |appears extraordinary in Spinoza; his person, his style, his philosophy; but that which is more strange still, is the destiny of that philosophy among men. Badly known, despised by the most illustrious of his contemporaries, Spinoza died in obscurity, and remained buried during a century. All at once his name reappeared with an extraordinary eclat; his works were read with passion; a new world was discovered in them, with a horizon unknown to our fathers; and the god of Spinoza, which the seventeenth century had broken as an idol, became the god of Lessing, of Goethe, of Novalis.|
|The solitary thinker whom Malebranche called a wretch, Schleiermacher reveres and invokes as equal to a saint. That 'systematic atheist,' on whom Bayle lavished outrage, has been for modern Germany the most religious of men. 'God-intoxicated,' as Novalis said, 'he has seen the world through a thick cloud, and man has been to his troubled eyes only a fugitive mode of Being in itself.' In that system, in fine, so shocking and so monstrous, that 'hideous chimera,' Jacobi sees the last word of philosophy, Schelling the presentiment of the true philosophy.|
The views of Locke, Tucker, Hartley, Priestley, Helvetius, and Diderot, with respect to the relation between liberty and necessity.
Locke, it is well known, adopted the notions of free-agency given by Hobbes. |In this,| says he, |consists freedom, viz., in our being able to act or not to act, according as we shall choose or will.|(17) And this notion of liberty, consisting in a freedom from external co-action, has received an impetus and currency from the influence of Locke which it would not otherwise have obtained. Neither Calvin nor Luther, as we have seen, pretended to hold it up as the freedom of the will. This was reserved for Hobbes and his immortal follower, John Locke, who has, in his turn, been copied by a host of illustrious disciples who would have recoiled from the more articulate and consistent development of this doctrine by the philosopher of Malmsbury. It is only because Locke has enveloped it in a cloud of inconsistencies that it has been able to secure the veneration of the great and good.
It is remarkable, that although Locke adopted the definition of free-will given by Hobbes, and which the latter so easily reconciled with the omnipotence and omniscience of God; yet he expressly declares that he had found it impossible to reconcile those attributes in the Divine Being with the free-agency of man. Surely no such difficulty could have existed, if his definition of free-agency, or free-will, be correct; for although omnipotence itself might produce our volitions, we might still be free to act, to move in accordance with our volitions. But the truth is, there was something more in Locke's thoughts and feelings, in the inmost working of his nature, with respect to moral liberty, than there was in his definition. The inconsistency and fluctuation of his views on this all-important subject are fully reflected in his chapter on power.
Both in Great Britain and France, the most illustrious successors of Locke soon delivered themselves from his inconsistencies and self-contradictions. Hartley was not in all respects a follower of Locke, it is true, though he admitted his definition of free-agency. |It appears to me,| says Hartley, |that all the most complex ideas arise from sensation, and that reflection is not a distinct source, as Mr. Locke makes it.| By this mutilation of the philosophy of Locke, it was reduced back to that dead level of materialism in which Hobbes had left it, and from which the former had scarcely endeavoured to raise it. Hence arose the rigid scheme of necessity, for which Hartley is so zealous an advocate. In reading his treatise on the |Mechanism of the Human Mind,| we are irresistibly compelled to feel the conviction that the only circumstance which prevents the movements of the soul from being subjected to mathematical calculation, and made a branch of dynamics, is the want of a measure of the force of motives. If this want were supplied, then the philosophy of the mind might be, according to his view of its nature and operations, converted into a portion of mechanics. Yet this excellent man did not imagine for a moment that he upheld a scheme which is at war with the great moral interests of the world. He supposes it is no matter how we come by our volitions, provided our bodies be left free to obey the impulses of the will; this is amply sufficient to render us accountable for our actions, and to vindicate the moral government of God. Thus did he fall asleep with a specious, but most superficial dream of liberty, which has no more to do with the real question concerning the moral agency of man than if it related to the winds of heaven or to the waves of the sea. Accordingly this is the view of liberty which he repeatedly holds up as all-sufficient to secure the great moral interest of the human race.
His great disciple, Dr. Priestley, pursues precisely the same course. |If a man,| says he, |be wholly a material being, and the power of thinking the result of a certain organization of the brain, does it not follow that all his functions must be regulated by the laws of mechanism, and that of consequence his actions proceed from an irresistible necessity?| And again, he observes, |the doctrine of necessity is the immediate result of the materiality of man, for mechanism is the undoubted consequence of materialism.|(18) Priestley, however, allows us to possess free-will as defined by Hobbes, Locke, and Hartley.
Helvetius himself could easily admit such a liberty into his unmitigated scheme of necessity, but he did not commit the blunder of Locke and Hartley, in supposing that it bore on the great question concerning the freedom of the mind. |It is true,| he says, |we can form a tolerably distinct idea of the word liberty, understood in its common sense. A man is free who is neither loaded with irons nor confined in prison, nor intimidated like the slave with the dread of chastisement: in this sense the liberty of man consists in the free exercise of his power; I say, of his power, because it would be ridiculous to mistake for a want of liberty the incapacity we are under to pierce the clouds like the eagle, to live under the water like the whale, or to become king, emperor, or pope. We have so far a sufficiently clear idea of the word. But this is no longer the case when we come to apply liberty to the will. What must this liberty then mean? We can only understand by it a free power of willing or not willing a thing: but this power would imply that there may be a will without motives, and consequently an effect without a cause. A philosophical treatise on the liberty of the will would be a treatise of effects without a cause.|(19)
In like manner, Diderot had the sagacity to perceive that the idea of liberty, as defined by Locke, did not at all come into conflict with his portentous scheme of irreligion, which had grounded itself on the doctrine of necessity. Having pronounced the term liberty, as applied to the will, to be a word without meaning, he proceeds to justify the infliction of punishment on the same grounds on which it is vindicated by Hobbes and Spinoza. |But if there is no liberty,| says he, |there is no action that merits either praise or blame, neither vice nor virtue, nothing that ought to be either rewarded or punished. What then is the distinction among men? The doing of good and the doing of evil! The doer of ill is one who must be destroyed, not punished. The doer of good is lucky, not virtuous. But though neither the doer of good nor of ill be free, man is, nevertheless, a being to be modified; it is for this reason the doer of ill should be destroyed upon the scaffold. From thence the good effects of education, of pleasure, of grief, of grandeur, of poverty, &c.; from thence a philosophy full of pity, strongly attached to the good, nor more angry with the wicked than with the whirlwind which fills one's eyes with dust.| ... |Adopt these principles if you think them good, or show me that they are bad. If you adopt them, they will reconcile you too with others and with yourself: you will neither be pleased nor angry with yourself for being what you are. Reproach others for nothing, and repent of nothing, this is the first step to wisdom. Besides this all is prejudice and false philosophy.|
Though these consequences irresistibly flow from the doctrine of necessity, yet the injury resulting from them would be far less if they were maintained only by such men as Helvetius and Diderot. It is when such errors receive the sanction of Christian philosophers, like Hartley and Leibnitz, and are recommended to the human mind by a pious zeal for the glory of God, that they are apt to obtain a frightful currency and become far more desolating in their effects. |The doctrine of necessity,| says Hartley, |has a tendency to abate all resentment against men: since all they do against us is by the appointment of God, it is rebellion against him to be offended with them.|
The manner in which Leibnitz endeavours to reconcile liberty and necessity.
Leibnitz censures the language of Descartes, in which he ascribes all the thoughts and volitions of men to God, and complains that he thereby shuts out free-agency from the world. It becomes a very curious question, then, how Leibnitz himself, who was so deeply implicated in the scheme of necessity, has been able to save the great interests of morality. He does not, for a moment, call in question |the great demonstration from cause and effect| in favour of necessity. It is well known that he has more than once compared the human mind to a balance, in which reasons and inclinations take the place of weights; he supposes it to be just as impossible for the mind to depart from the direction given to it by |the determining cause,| as it is for a balance to turn in opposition to the influence of the greatest weight.
Nor is he pleased with Descartes's appeal to consciousness to prove the doctrine of liberty. In reply to this appeal, he says: |The chain of causes connected one with another reaches very far. Wherefore the reason alleged by Descartes, in order to prove the independence of our free actions, by a pretended vigorous internal feeling, has no force.(20) We cannot, strictly speaking, feel our independence; and we do not always perceive the causes, frequently imperceptible, on which our resolution depends. It is as if a needle touched with the loadstone were sensible of and pleased with its turning toward the north. For it would believe that it turned itself, independently of any other cause, not perceiving the insensible motions of the magnetic matter.|(21) Thus, he seems to represent the doctrine of liberty as a mere dream and delusion of the mind, and the iron scheme of necessity as a stern reality. Is it in the power of Leibnitz, then, any more than it was in that of Descartes, to reconcile such a scheme with the free-agency and accountability of man? Let us hear him and determine.
Leibnitz repudiates the notion of liberty given by Hobbes and Locke. In his |Nouveaux Essais sur L'Entendement Humain,| a work in which he combats many of the doctrines of Locke, the insignificance of his idea of the freedom of the will is most clearly and triumphantly exposed. Philalethe, or the representative of Locke, says: |Liberty is the power that a man has to do or not to do an action according to his will.| Theophile, or the representative of Leibnitz, replies: |If men understood only that by liberty, when they ask whether the will is free, their question would be truly absurd.| And again: |The question ought not to be asked,| says Philalethe, |if the will is free: that is to speak in a very improper manner: but if man is free. This granted, I say that, when any one can, by the direction or choice of his mind, prefer the existence of one action to the non-existence of that action and to the contrary, that is to say, when he can make it exist or not exist, according to his will, then he is free. And we can scarcely see how it could be possible to conceive a being more free than one who is capable of doing what he wills.| Theophile rejoins: |When we reason concerning the liberty of the will, we do not demand if the man can do what he wills, but if he has a sufficient independence in the will itself; we do not ask if he has free limbs or elbow-room, but if the mind is free, and in what that freedom consists.|(22)
Having thus exploded the delusive notion of liberty which Locke had borrowed from Hobbes, Leibnitz proceeds to take what seems to be higher ground. He expressly declares, that in order to constitute man an accountable agent, he must be free, not only from constraint, but also from necessity. In the adoption of this language, Leibnitz seems to speak with the advocates of free-agency; but does he think with them? The sound is pleasant to the ear; but what sense is it intended to convey to the mind? Leibnitz shall be his own interpreter. |All events have their necessary causes,| says Hobbes. |Bad,| replies Leibnitz: |they have their determining causes, by which we can assign a reason for them; but they have not necessary causes.| Now does this signify that an event, that a volition, is not absolutely and indissolubly connected with its |determining cause?| Is this the grand idea from which the light of liberty is to beam on a darkened and enslaved world? By no means. We must indulge no fond hopes or idle dreams of the kind. Volition is free from necessity, adds Leibnitz; because |the contrary could happen without implying a contradiction.| This is the signification which he attaches to his own language; and it is the only meaning of which it is susceptible in accordance with his system. Thus, Leibnitz saw and clearly exposed the futility of speaking about a freedom from co-action or restraint, when the question is, not whether the body is untrammelled, but whether the mind itself is free in the act of willing. But he did not see, it seems, that it is equally irrelevant to speak of a freedom from a mathematical necessity in such a connexion; although this, as plainly as the other sense of the word, has no conceivable bearing on the point in dispute. If a volition were produced by the omnipotence of God, irresistibly acting on the human mind, still it would not be necessary, in the sense of Leibnitz, since it might and would have been different if God had so willed it; the contrary volition implying no contradiction. Is it not evident, that to suppose the mind may thus be bound to act, and yet be free because the contrary act implies no contradiction, is merely to dream of liberty, and to mistake a shadow for a substance?
As the opposite of a volition implies no contradiction, says Leibnitz, so it is free from an absolute necessity; that is to say, it might have been different, nay, it must have been different, from what it is, provided its determining cause had been different. The same thing may be said of the motions of matter. We may say that they are also free, because the opposite motions imply no contradiction; and we only have to vary the force in order to vary the motion. Hence, freedom in this sense of the word is perfectly consistent with the absolute and uncontrolled dominion of causes over the will; for what can be more completely necessitated than the motions of the body?
The demand of his own nature, which so strongly impelled Leibnitz to seek and cling to the freedom of the mind, as the basis of moral and accountable agency, could not rest satisfied with so unsubstantial a shadow. After all, he has felt constrained to have recourse to the hypothesis of a preestablished harmony in order to restore, if possible, the liberty which his scheme of necessity had banished from the universe. It is no part of our intention to examine this obsolete fiction; we merely wish to show how essential Leibnitz regarded it to a solution of the difficulty under consideration. |I come now,| says he, |to show how the action of the will depends on causes; that there is nothing so agreeable to human nature as this dependence of our actions, and that otherwise we should fall into an absurd and insupportable fatality; that is to say, into the Mohammedan fate, which is the worst of all, because it does away with foresight and good counsel. However, it is well to explain how this dependency of our voluntary actions does not prevent that there may be at the bottom of things a marvellous spontaneity in us, which in a certain sense renders the mind, in its resolutions, independent of the physical influence of all other creatures. This spontaneity, but little known hitherto, which raises our empire over our actions as much as it is possible, is a consequence of the system of preestablished harmony.| Thus, in order to satisfy himself that our actions are really free and independent of the physical influence of other creatures, he has recourse to a fiction in which few persons ever concurred with him, and which is now universally regarded as one of the vagaries and dreams of philosophy. If we are to be saved from an insupportable fate only by such means, our condition must indeed be one of forlorn hopelessness.
Before we take leave of Leibnitz, there is one view of the difficulty in question which we wish to notice, not because it is peculiar to him, but because it is very clearly stated and confidently relied on by him. It is common to most of the advocates of necessity, and it is exceedingly imposing in its appearance and effect. |Men of all times,| says he, |have been troubled by a sophism, which the ancients called the 'raison paresseuse,' because it induces them to do nothing, or at least to concern themselves about nothing, and to follow only the present inclination to pleasure. For, say they, if the future is necessary, that which is to happen will happen whatever I may do. But the future, say they, is necessary, either because the Divinity foresees all things, and even preestablishes them in governing the universe; or because all things necessarily come to pass by a concatenation of causes.|(23) Leibnitz illustrated the fallacy of this reasoning in the following manner: |By the same reason (if it is valid) I could say -- If it is written in the archives of fate, that poison will kill me at present, or do me harm, this will happen, though I should not take it; and if that is not written, it will not happen, though I should take it; and, consequently, I can follow my inclination to take whatever is agreeable with impunity, however pernicious it may be; which involves a manifest absurdity.... This objection staggers them a little, but they always come back to their reasoning, turned in different points of view, until we cause them to comprehend in what the defect of their sophism consists. It is this, that it is false that the event will happen whatever we may do; it will happen, because we do that which leads to it; and if the event is written, the cause which will make it happen is also written. Thus the connexion (liaison) of effects and their causes, so far from establishing the doctrine of a necessity prejudicial to practice, serves to destroy it.|(24) The same reply is found more than once in the course of the same great work; and it is employed by all necessitarians in defence of their system. But it is not a satisfactory answer. It overlooks the real difficulty in the case, and seeks to remove an imaginary one. The question is, not whether a necessary connexion between our volitions and their effects is a discouragement to practice, but whether a necessary connexion between our volitions and their causes is so. It is very true, that no man would be accountable for his external actions or their consequences, if there were no fixed relation between these and his volitions. If, when a man willed one thing, another should happen to follow which he did not will, of course he would not be responsible for it. And if there were no certain or fixed connexion between his external actions and their consequences, either as they affected himself or others, he certainly would not be responsible for those consequences. This connexion between causes and effects, this connexion between volitions and their consequences, is indispensable to our accountability for such consequences. But for such a connexion, nothing could be more idle and ridiculous than to endeavour to do anything; for we might will one thing, and another would take place.
But must the same necessary connexion exist between the causes of our volitions and the volitions themselves, before we can be accountable for these volitions, for these effects? This is the question. Leibnitz has lost sight of it, and deceived himself by a false application of his doctrine. The doctrine of necessity, when applied to volitions and their effects, is indispensable to build up man's accountability for his external conduct and its consequences. But the same doctrine, when applied to establish a fixed and unalterable relation between the causes of volition and volition itself, really demolishes all responsibility for volition, and consequently for its external results. Leibnitz undertook to show that a necessary connexion between volition and its causes does not destroy man's accountability for his volitions; and he has shown, what no one ever doubted, that a necessary connexion between volition and its effects does not destroy accountability for those effects! Strange as this confusion of things is, it is made by the most celebrated advocates of the doctrine of necessity; which shows, we think, that the doctrine hardly admits of a solid defence. Thus Edwards, for example, insists that the doctrine of necessity is so far from rendering our endeavours vain and useless, that it is an indispensable condition or prerequisite to their success. In illustration of this point, he says: |Let us suppose a real and sure connexion between a man having his eyes open in the clear daylight, with good organs of sight, and seeing; so that seeing is connected with opening his eyes, and not seeing with his not opening his eyes; and also the like connexion between such a man attempting to open his eyes and his actually doing it: the supposed established connexion between these antecedents and consequents, let the connexion be never so sure and necessary, certainly does not prove that it is in vain for a man in such circumstances to attempt to open his eyes, in order to seeing; his aiming at that event, and the use of the means, being the effect of his will, does not break the connexion, or hinder the success.|
|So that the objection we are upon does not lie against the doctrine of the necessity of events by a certainty of connexion and consequence: on the contrary, it is truly forcible against the Arminian doctrine of contingence and self-determination, which is inconsistent with such a connexion. If there be no connexion between those events wherein virtue and vice consist, and anything antecedent; then there is no connexion between these events and any means or endeavours used in order to them: and if so, then those means must be in vain. The less there is of connexion between foregoing things and following ones, so much the less there is between means and end, endeavours and success; and in the same proportion are means and endeavours ineffectual and in vain.|
In like manner, Dr. Chalmers, in his defence of the doctrine of necessity, has in all his illustrations confounded the connexion between a volition and its antecedent, with the relation between a volition and its consequent. To select one such illustration from many, it would be idle, says he, for a man to labour and toil after wealth, if there were no fixed connexion between such exertion and the accumulation of riches.
We reply to all such illustrations, -- It is true, there must be a fixed connexion between our endeavours or voluntary exertions and their consequences, in order to render such endeavours or exertions of any avail, or to render us accountable for such consequences. But it should be forever borne in mind, that the question is not whether a fixed connexion obtains between our volitions and their sequents, but whether a necessary connexion exists between our volitions and their antecedents. The question is, not whether the will be a power which is often followed by necessitated effects; but whether there be a power behind the will by which its volitions are necessitated. And this being the question, what does it signify to tell us, that the will is a producing power? We deny that volitions and their antecedents are necessarily connected; and our opponents refute us by showing that volitions and their sequents are thus connected! We deny that A and B are necessarily connected; and this position is overthrown and demolished by showing that B and C are thus connected! Is it not truly wonderful that such men as a Leibnitz, an Edwards, and a Chalmers, should, in their zeal to maintain a favourite dogma, commit so great an oversight, and so grievously deceive themselves?
The attempt of Edwards to establish free and accountable agency on the basis of necessity -- The views of the younger Edwards, Day, Chalmers, Dick, D'Aubigne, Hill, Shaw, and M'Cosh, concerning the agreement of liberty and necessity.
The great metaphysician of New-England insists, that his scheme, and his scheme alone, is consistent with the free-agency and accountability of man. But how does he show this? Does he endeavour to shake the stern argument by which all things seem bound together in the relation of cause and effect? Does he even intimate a doubt with respect to the perfect coherency and validity of this argument? Does he once enter a protest against the doctrine of the Stoics, or of the materialistic fatalists, according to which all things in heaven and earth are involved in an |implex series of causes?| He does not. On the contrary, he has stated and enforced the great argument from cause and effect, in the strongest possible terms. He contends that volition is caused, not by the will nor the mind, but by the strongest motive. This is the cause of volition, and it is impossible for the effect to be loose from its cause. It is an inherent contradiction, a glaring absurdity, to say that motive is the cause of volition, and yet admit that volition may, or may not, follow motive. This is to say, indeed, that motive is the cause, and yet that it is not the cause, of volition; which is a contradiction in terms.(25) So far from saying anything, then, to extricate the volitions of men from the adamantine circle of necessity, he has exerted his prodigious energies to fasten them therein.
Hence the question arises, Has he left any room for the introduction of that freedom of the mind, which it is the great object of his inquiry to establish upon its true foundations? The liberty for which he contends, is, after all his labours, precisely that advocated by Hobbes and Collins, and no other. It is a freedom from co-action, and not from necessity. But he is entitled to speak for himself, and we shall permit him so to do: |The plain and obvious meaning of the word freedom and liberty,| says he, |in common speech, is the power, opportunity, or advantage, that any one has, to do as he pleases. Or, in other words, his being free from hinderance or impediment in the way of doing or conducting in any respect as he wills. And the contrary to liberty, whatever name we call it by, is a person being hindered, or unable to conduct as he will, or being necessitated to do otherwise.| Here, it will be seen, that liberty, according to this notion of it, has no relation to the manner in which the will arises, or comes into existence; if one's external conduct can only follow his will, he is free.
|There are two things,| says he, |contrary to what is called liberty in common speech. One is constraint, otherwise called force, compulsion, and co-action; which is a person being necessitated to do a thing contrary to his will. The other is restraint; which is, his being hindered, and not having power to do according to his will. But that which has no will cannot be the subject of these things.| This definition, it is plain, presupposes the existence of a volition; and liberty consists in the absence of co-action. It has no relation to the question as to how we come by our volitions, whether they are put forth by the mind itself without being necessitated, or whether they are necessarily produced in us. It leaves this great fundamental question untouched.
On this subject his language is perfectly explicit. There is nothing in Kames, nor Collins, nor Crombie, nor Hobbes, nor any other writer, more perfectly unequivocal. |But one thing more,| says he, |I would observe concerning what is vulgarly called liberty, namely, that power and opportunity for one to do and conduct as he will, or according to his choice, is all that is meant by it, without taking into the meaning of the word anything of the cause of that choice, or at all considering how the person came to have such a volition, or internal habit and bias; whether it was determined by some internal antecedent volition, or whether it happened without a cause; whether it were necessarily connected with something foregoing, or not connected. Let the person come by his choice any how, yet, if he is able, and there is nothing in the way to hinder his pursuing and executing his will, the man is perfectly free according to the primary and common notion of freedom.| Now this is all the definition of liberty with which his |Inquiry| furnishes us; and this, he says, is |sufficient to show what is meant by liberty, according to the common notion of mankind, and in the usual and primary acceptation of the word.|
It is easy to see, that there is no difficulty in reconciling liberty, in such a sense, with the most absolute scheme of necessity or fatalism the world has ever seen. Let a man come by his volition ANY HOW; let it be produced in him by the direct and almighty power of God himself; yet, |he is perfectly free,| provided there is no external co-action to prevent his volition from producing its natural effects!
President Day is not pleased with the definition contained in the |Inquiry;| and in this particular we think he has discovered a superior sagacity to Edwards. But his extreme anxiety to save the credit of his author has betrayed him, it seems to us, into an apology which will not bear a close examination. |On the subject of liberty or freedom,| says he, |which occupies a portion of the fifth section of Edwards's first book, he has been less particular than was to be expected, considering that this is the great object of inquiry in his work. His explanation of what he regards as the proper meaning of the term is applicable to the liberty of outward action, to what is called by philosophers external liberty.| |This is very well as far as it goes. But the professed object of his book, according to the title-page, is an inquiry concerning the freedom of the will, not the freedom of the external conduct. We naturally look for his meaning of this internal liberty. What he has said, in this section, respecting freedom of the will, has rather the appearance of evading such a definition of it as might be considered his own.|(26) Now, is it possible that President Edwards has instituted an inquiry into the freedom of the will, and written a great book in defence of it, and yet has evaded giving his own definition of it? If so, then he may have demolished the views of others on this subject, but he has certainly not established his own in their stead; and hence, for aught we know, he really did not believe in the freedom of the will at all; and, for all his work shows, there may be no such freedom. For how is it possible for any man to establish his views of the freedom of the will, if he is not at sufficient pains to explain his meaning of the terms, and forbears even to give his own definition of them?
But the truth is, the author of the |Inquiry| has placed it beyond all controversy, that he has been guilty of no such omission or evasion. He has left no room to doubt that the definition of liberty, which he says is in conformity |with the common notion of mankind,| is his own. He always uses this definition when he undertakes to repel objections against his scheme of necessity. |It is evident,| he says, |that such a providential disposing and determining of men's moral actions, though it infers a moral necessity of those actions, yet it does not in the least infringe the real liberty of mankind, the only liberty that common sense teaches to be necessary to moral agency, which, AS HAS BEEN DEMONSTRATED, is not inconsistent with such necessity.|(27) He defines liberty in the very words of Collins and Hobbes, to mean the power or opportunity any one has |to do as he pleases;| or, in other words, to do |as he wills.|(28) This definition, he says, is according to the primary and common notion of mankind; and now he declares, that |this is the only liberty common sense teaches is necessary to moral agency.| It is very strange that any one should have read the great work of President Edwards without perceiving that this is the sense in which he always uses the term when he undertakes to repel the attacks of his adversaries. To select only one instance out of many, he says, |If the Stoics held such a fate as is repugnant to any liberty, consisting in our doing as we please, I utterly deny such a fate. If they held any such fate as is not consistent with the common and universal notions that mankind have of liberty, activity, moral agency, virtue, and vice, I disclaim any such thing, and think I have demonstrated the scheme I maintain is no such scheme.|(29) Thus he always has recourse to this definition of liberty, consisting in the power or opportunity any one has |to do as he pleases,| or, in other words, |as he wills,| whenever he attempts to reconcile his doctrine with the moral agency and accountability of man, or to vindicate it against the attacks of his opponents. We must suppose then, that Edwards has given his own definition of liberty in the Inquiry, or we must conclude that he defended his system by the use of an idea of liberty which he did not believe to be correct; that when he alleged that he |had demonstrated| his doctrine to be consistent with free-agency, he only meant with a false and atheistical notion of free-agency.
We are not surprised that President Day does not like this definition of liberty; but we are somewhat surprised, we confess, that such an idea of liberty should be so unhesitatingly adopted from Edwards, and so confidently set forth as the highest conceivable notion thereof, by Dr. Chalmers. He does not seem to entertain the shadow of a doubt, either that the definition of liberty contained in the Inquiry is that of Edwards himself, or that which is fully founded in truth. He freely concedes, that |we can do as we please,| and supposes that the reader may be startled to hear that this is |cordially admitted by the necessitarians themselves!|
But this concession he easily reconciles with the tenet of necessity. |To say that you can do as you please,| says he, |is just to affirm one of those sequences which take place in the phenomena of mind -- a sequence whereof a volition is the antecedent, and the performance of that volition is the consequent. It is a sequence which no advocate of the philosophical necessity is ever heard to deny. Let the volition ever be formed, and if it point to some execution which lies within the limits we have just adverted to, the execution of it will follow.|(30) Thus, his notion of liberty makes it consist in the absence of external impediments, which might break the connexion of a volition and its consequent, and not in the freedom of the will itself from the absolute dominion of causes. Such an idea of free-will, it must be confessed, is very well adopted by one who intends to maintain |a rigid and absolute predestination| of all events.
The manner in which Edwards attempts to reconcile the free-agency and accountability of man with the great argument from the law of causation, or with his doctrine of necessity, is, as we have seen, precisely the same as that adopted by Hobbes. There is not a shade of difference between them. It is, indeed, easy to demonstrate that liberty, according to this definition of it, is not inconsistent with necessity; and it is just as easy to demonstrate, that it is not inconsistent with any scheme of fate that has ever been heard of among men. The will may be absolutely necessitated in all its acts, and yet the body may be free from external co-action or natural necessity!
But though there is this close agreement between Hobbes and Edwards, there are some points of divergency between Edwards and Calvin. The former comes forward as the advocate of free-will, the latter expressly denies that we have a free-will. Calvin admits that we may be free from co-action or compulsion; but to call this freedom of the will, is, he considers, to decorate a most |diminutive thing with a superb title.| And though this is all the freedom Edwards allows us to possess, yet he does not hesitate to declare that his doctrine is perfectly consistent with |the highest degree of liberty that ever could be thought of, or that ever could possibly enter into the heart of man to conceive.|
The only liberty we possess, according to all the authors referred to, is a freedom of the body and not of the mind. Though the younger Edwards is a strenuous advocate of his father's doctrine, he has sometimes, without intending to do so, let fall a heavy blow upon it. He finds, for instance, the following language in the writings of Dr. West, |he might have omitted doing the thing if he would,| and he is perplexed to ascertain its meaning. |To say that if a man had chosen not to go to a debauch, (for that is the case put by Dr. West,) he would, indeed, have chosen not to go to it, is too great trifling to be ascribed to Dr. West.| |Yet to say,| he continues, |that the man could have avoided the external action of going, &c., if he would, would be equally trifling; for the question before us is concerning the liberty of the will or mind, and not the body.| The italics are his own. It seems, then, that in the opinion of the younger Edwards it is very great trifling to speak of the power to do an external action in the present controversy, because it relates to the will or mind, and not to the body. We believe this remark to be perfectly just, and although it was aimed at the antagonist of President Edwards, it falls with crushing weight on the doctrine of President Edwards himself. Is it not wonderful that so just a reflection did not occur to the younger Edwards, in relation to the definition of liberty contained in the great work he had undertaken to defend?
We have now seen how some of the early reformers, and some of the great thinkers in after-times, have endeavoured to reconcile the scheme of necessity with the free-agency and accountability of man. Before quitting this subject, however, we wish to adduce a remarkable passage from one of the most correct reasoners, as well as one of the most impressive writers that in modern times have advocated the doctrines of Calvinism. |Here we come to a question,| says he, |which has engaged the attention, and exercised the ingenuity, and perplexed the wits of men in every age. If God has foreordained whatever comes to pass, the whole series of events is necessary, and human liberty is taken away. Men are passive instruments in the hands of their Maker; they can do nothing but what they are secretly and irresistibly impelled to do; they are not, therefore, responsible for their actions; and God is the author of sin.| After sweeping away some attempts to solve this difficulty, he adds: |It is a more intelligible method to explain the subject by the doctrine which makes liberty consist in the power of acting according to the prevailing inclination, or the motive which appears strongest to the mind. Those actions are free which are the effects of volition. In whatever manner the state of mind which gave rise to volition has been produced, the liberty of the agent is neither greater nor less. It is his will alone which is to be considered, and not the means by which it has been determined. If God foreordained certain actions, and placed men in such circumstances that the actions would certainly take place agreeably to the laws of the mind, men are nevertheless moral agents, because they act voluntarily and are responsible for the actions which consent has made their own. Liberty does not consist in the power of acting or not acting, but in acting from choice. The choice is determined by something in the mind itself, or by something external influencing the mind; but whatever is the cause, the choice makes the action free, and the agent accountable. If this definition of liberty be admitted, you will perceive that it is possible to reconcile the freedom of the will with absolute decrees; but we have not got rid of every difficulty.| Now this definition of liberty, it is obvious, is precisely the same as that given by President Edwards, and nothing could be more perfectly adapted to effect a reconciliation between the freedom of the will and the doctrine of absolute decrees. How perfectly it shapes the freedom of man to fit the doctrine of predestination! It is a fine piece of workmanship, it is true; but as the learned and candid author remarks, we must not imagine that we have |got rid of every difficulty.| For, |by this theory,| he continues, |human actions appear to be as necessary as the motions of matter according to the laws of gravitation and attraction; and man seems to be a machine, conscious of his movements, and consenting to them, but impelled by something different from himself.|(31) Such is the candid confession of this devoted Calvinist.
We have now seen the nature of that freedom of the will which the immortal Edwards has exerted all his powers to recommend to the Christian world! |Egregious liberty!| exclaimed Calvin. |It merely allows us elbow-room,| says Leibnitz. |It seems, after all, to leave us mere machines,| says Dick. |It is trifling to speak of such a thing,| says the younger Edwards, in relation to the will. |Why, surely, this cannot be what the great President Edwards meant by the freedom of the will,| says Dr. Day. He certainly must have evaded his own idea on that point. Is it not evident, that the house of the necessitarian is divided against itself?
Necessitarians not only refute each other, but in most cases each one contradicts himself. Thus the younger Edwards says, it is absurd to speak of a power to act according to our choice, when the question relates, not to the freedom of the body, but to the freedom of the mind itself. He happens to see the absurdity of this mode of speaking when he finds it in his adversary, Dr. West; and yet it is precisely his own definition of freedom. |But if by liberty,| says he, |be meant a power of willing and choosing, an exemption from co-action and natural necessity, and power, opportunity, and advantage, to execute our own choice; in this sense we hold liberty.|(32) Thus he returns to the absurd idea of free-will as consisting in |elbow-room,| which merely allows our choice or volition to pass into effect. Dr. Dick is guilty of the same inconsistency. Though he admits, as we have seen, that this definition of liberty does not get rid of every difficulty, but seems to leave us mere |machines;| yet he has recourse to it, in order to reconcile the Calvinistic view of divine grace with the free-agency of man. |The great objection,| says he, |against the invincibility of divine grace, is, that it is subversive of the liberty of the will.|(33) But, he replies, |True liberty consists in doing what we do with knowledge and from choice.|
Yet as if unconscious that their greatest champions were thus routed and overthrown by each other, we see hundreds of minor necessitarians still fighting on with the same weapons, perfectly unmindful of the disorder and confusion which reigns around them in their own ranks. Thus, for example, D'Aubigne says, |It were easy to demonstrate that the doctrine of the reformers did not take away from man the liberty of a moral agent, and reduce him to a passive machine.| Now, how does the historian so easily demonstrate that the doctrine of necessity, as held by the reformers, does not deny the liberty of a moral agent? Why, by simply producing the old effete notion of the liberty of the will, as consisting in freedom from co-action; as if it had never been, and never could be, called in question. |Every action performed without external restraint,| says he, |and in pursuance of the determination of the soul itself, is a free action.|(34) This demonstration, it is needless to repeat, would save any scheme of fatalism from reproach, as well as the doctrine of the reformers.
The scheme of the Calvinists is defended in the same manner in Hill's Divinity: |The liberty of a moral agent,| says he, |consists in the power of acting according to his choice; and those actions are free, which are performed without any external compulsion or restraint, in consequence of the determination of his own mind.| |According to the Calvinists,| says Mr. Shaw, in his Exposition of the Confession of Faith, |the liberty of a moral agent consists in the power of acting according to his choice; and those actions are free which are performed without any external compulsion or restraint, in consequence of the determination of his own mind.|(35) Such, if we may believe these learned Calvinists, is the idea of the freedom of the will which belongs to their system. If this be so, then it must be conceded that the Calvinistic definition of the freedom of the will is perfectly consistent with the most absolute scheme of fatality which ever entered into the heart of man to conceive.
The views of M'Cosh respecting the freedom of the will, seem, at first sight, widely different from those of other Calvinists and necessitarians. The freedom and independence of the will is certainly pushed as far by him as it is carried by Cousin, Coleridge, Clarke, or any of its advocates in modern times. |True necessitarians,| says he, |should learn in what way to hold and defend their doctrine. Let them disencumber themselves of all that doubtful argument, derived from man being supposed to be swayed by the most powerful motive.|(36) Again: |The truth is,| says he, |it is not motive, properly speaking, that determines the working of the will; but it is the will that imparts the strength to the motive. As Coleridge says, 'It is the man that makes the motive, and not the motive the man.' |(37) According to this Calvinistic divine, the will is not determined by the strongest motive; on the contrary, it is self-active and self-determined. |Mind is a self-acting substance,| says he; |and hence its activity and independence.| In open defiance of all Calvinistic and necessitarian philosophy, he even adopts the self-determining power of the will. |Nor have necessitarians,| says he, |even of the highest order, been sufficiently careful to guard the language employed by them. Afraid of making admissions to their opponents, we believe that none of them have fully developed the phenomena of human spontaneity. Even Edwards ridicules the idea of the faculty or power of will, or the soul in the use of that power determining its own volitions. Now, we hold it to be an incontrovertible fact, and one of great importance, that the true determining cause of every given volition is not any mere anterior incitement, but the very soul itself, by its inherent power of will.|(38) Surely, the author of such a passage cannot be accused of being afraid to make concessions to his opponents. But this is not all. If possible, he rises still higher in his views of the lofty, not to say god-like, independence of the human will. |We rejoice,| says he, |to recognise such a being in man. We trust that we are cherishing no presumptuous feeling, when we believe him to be free, as his Maker is free. We believe him, morally speaking, to be as independent of external control as his Creator must ever be -- as that Creator was when, in a past eternity, there was no external existence to control him.|(39)
Yet, strange as it may seem, Mr. M'Cosh trembles at the idea of |removing the creature from under the control of God;| and hence, he insists as strenuously as any other necessitarian, that the mind, and all its volitions, are subjected to the dominion of causes. |We are led by an intuition of our nature,| says he, |to a belief in the invariable connexion between cause and effect; and we see numerous proofs of this law of cause and effect reigning in the human mind as it does in the external world, and reigning in the will as it does in every other department of the mind.|(40) Again: |It is by an intuition of our nature that we believe this thought or feeling could not have been produced without a cause; and that this same cause will again and forever produce the same effects. And this intuitive principle leads us to expect the reign of causation, not only among the thoughts and feelings generally, but among the wishes and volitions of the soul.|(41)
Now here is the question, How can the soul be self-active, self-determined, and yet all its thoughts, and feelings, and volitions, have producing causes? How can it be free and independent in its acts, and yet under the dominion of efficient causes? How can the law of causation reign in all the states of the mind, as it reigns over all the movements of matter, and yet leave it as free as was the Creator when nothing beside himself existed? In other words, How is such a scheme of necessity to be reconciled with such a scheme of liberty? The author replies, We are not bound to answer such a question(42) -- nor are we. As we understand it, the very idea of liberty, as above set forth by the author, is a direct negative of his doctrine of necessity.
But although he has taken so much pains to dissent from his necessitarian brethren, and to advocate the Arminian notion of free-will, Mr. M'Cosh, nevertheless, falls back upon the old Calvinistic definition of liberty, as consisting in a freedom from external co-action, in order to find a basis for human responsibility. It may seem strange, that after all his labour in laying the foundation, he should not build upon it; but it is strictly true. |If any man asserts,| says he, |that in order to responsibility, the will must be free -- that is, free from physical restraint; free to act as he pleases -- we at once and heartily agree with him; and we maintain that in this sense the will is free, as free as it is possible for any man to conceive it to be.| And again: |If actions do not proceed from the will, but from something else, from mere physical or external restraint, then the agent is not responsible for them. But if the deeds proceed from the will, then it at once attaches a responsibility to them. Place before the mind a murder committed by a party through pure physical compulsion brought to bear on the arm that inflicts the blow, and the conscience says, here no guilt is attachable. But let the same murder be done with the thorough consent of the will, the conscience stops not to inquire whether this consent has been caused or no.|(43) Thus, after all his dissent from Edwards, he returns precisely to Edwards's definition of the freedom of the will as the ground of human responsibility; after all his strictures upon |necessitarians of the first order,| he falls back upon precisely that notion of free-will which was so long ago condemned by Calvin, and exploded by Leibnitz, and which relates, as we have so often seen, not to acts of the will at all, but only to the external movements of the body.
The sentiments of Hume, Brown, Comte, and Mill, in relation to the antagonism between liberty and necessity.
Mr. Hume has disposed of the question concerning liberty and necessity, by the application of his celebrated theory of cause and effect. According to this theory, the idea of power, of efficacy, is a mere chimera, which has no corresponding reality in nature, and should be ranked among the exploded prejudices of the human mind. |One event follows another,| says he; |but we never can observe any tie between them. They seem conjoined, but never connected.|(44)
We shall not stop to examine this hypothesis, which has been so often refuted. We shall merely remark in passing, that it owes its existence to a false method of philosophizing. Its author set out with the doctrine of Locke, that all our ideas are derived from sensation and reflection; and because he could not trace the idea of power to either of these sources, he denied its existence. Hence we may apply to him, with peculiar force, the judicious and valuable criticism which M. Cousin has bestowed upon the method of Locke. Though Mr. Hume undertakes, as his title-page declares, to introduce the inductive method into the science of human nature, he departed from that method at the very first step. Instead of beginning, as he should have done, by ascertaining the ideas actually in our minds, and noting their characteristics, and proceeding to trace them up to their sources, he pursued the diametrically opposite course. He first determined and fixed the origin of all our ideas; and every idea which was not seen to arise from this preestablished origin, he declared to be a mere chimera. He thus caused nature to bend to hypotheses; instead of anatomizing and studying the world of mind according to the inductive method, he pursued the high a priori road, and reconstructed it to suit his preestablished origin of human knowledge. This was not to study and interpret the work of God |in the profound humiliation of the human soul;|(45) but to re-write the volume of nature, and omit those parts which did not accord with the views and wishes of the philosopher. In the pithy language of Sir William Hamilton, he |did not anatomize, but truncate.|
If this doctrine be true, it is idle to talk about free-agency, for there is no such thing as agency in the world. It is true, there is a thing which we call volition, or an act of the mind; but this does not produce the external change by which it is followed. The two events co-exist, but there is no connecting tie between them. |They are conjoined, but not connected.| In short, according to this scheme, all things are equally free, and all equally necessary. In other words, there is neither freedom nor necessity in the usual acceptation of the terms; and the whole controversy concerning them, which has agitated the learned for so many ages, dwindles down into a mere empty and noisy logomachy. Indeed, this is the conclusion to which Mr. Hume himself comes; expressly maintaining that the controversy in question has been a dispute about words. We are not to suppose from this, however, that he forbears to give a definition of liberty. His idea of free-agency is precisely that of Hobbes, and so many others before him. |By liberty,| says he, |we can only mean a power of acting or not acting according to the determination of the will: that is, if we choose to remain at rest, we may; if we choose to move, we also may.|(46) Such he declares is all that can possibly be meant by the term liberty; and hence it follows that any other idea of it is a mere dream. The coolness of this assumption is admirable; but it is fully equalled by the conclusion which follows. If we will observe these two circumstances, says he, and thereby render our definition intelligible, Mr. Hume is perfectly persuaded |that all mankind will be found of one opinion with regard to it.| If Mr. Hume had closely looked into the great productions of his own school, he would have seen the utter improbability, that necessitarians themselves would ever concur in such a notion of liberty.(47)
If Mr. Hume's scheme were correct, it would seem that nothing could be stable or fixed; mind would be destitute of energy to move within its own sphere, or to bind matter in its orbit. All things would seem to be in a loose, disconnected, and fluctuating state. But this is not the view which he had of the matter. Though he denied that there is any connecting link among events, yet he insisted that the connexion subsisting among them is fixed and unalterable. |Let any one define a cause,| says he, |without comprehending, as part of the definition, a necessary connexion with its effect; and let him show distinctly the origin of the idea expressed by the definition, and I shall readily give up the whole controversy.|(48) This is the philosopher who has so often told us, that events are |conjoined, not connected.|
The motives of volition given, for example, and the volition invariably and inevitably follows. How then, may we ask, can a man be accountable for his volitions, over which he has no power, and in which he exerts no power? This question has not escaped the attention of Mr. Hume. Let us see his answer. He admits that liberty |is essential to morality.|(49) For |as actions are objects of our moral sentiment so far only as they are indications of the internal character, passions, and affections, it is impossible that they can give rise either to praise or blame, when they proceed, not from these principles, but are derived altogether from external violence.| It is true, as we have seen, that if our external actions, the motions of the body, proceed not from our volitions, but from external violence, we are not responsible for them. This is conceded on all sides, and has nothing to do with the question. But suppose our external actions are inevitably connected with our volitions, and our volitions as inevitably connected with their causes, how can we be responsible for either the one or the other? This is the question which Mr. Hume has evaded and not fairly met.
Mr. Hume's notion about cause and effect has been greatly extended by its distinguished advocate, Dr. Thomas Brown; whose acuteness, eloquence, and elevation of character, have given it a circulation which it could never have received from the influence of its author. Almost as often as divines have occasion to use this notion, they call it the doctrine of Dr. Brown, and omit to notice its true atheistical paternity and origin.
The defenders of this doctrine are directly opposed, in regard to a fundamental point, to all other necessitarians. Though they deny the existence of all power and efficacy, they still hold that human volitions are necessary; while other necessitarians ground their doctrine on the fact, that volitions are produced by the most powerful, the most efficacious motives. They are not only at war with other necessitarians, they are also at war with themselves. Let us see if this may not be clearly shown.
According to the scheme in question, the mind does not act upon the body, nor the body upon the mind; for there is no power, and consequently no action of power, in the universe. Now, it is known that it was the doctrine of Leibnitz, that two substances so wholly unlike as mind and matter could not act upon each other; and hence he concluded that the phenomena of the internal and external worlds were merely |conjoined, not connected.| The soul and body run together -- to use his own illustration -- like two independent watches, without either exerting any influence upon the movements of the other. Thus arose his celebrated, but now obsolete fiction, of a preestablished harmony. Now, if the doctrine of Hume and Brown be true, this sort of harmony subsists, not only in relation to mind and body, but in relation to all things in existence. Mind never acts upon body, nor mind upon mind. Hence, this doctrine is but a generalization of the preestablished harmony of Leibnitz, with the exception that Mr. Hume did not contend that this wonderful harmony was established by the Divine Being. Is it not wonderful that so acute a metaphysician as Dr. Brown should not have perceived the inseparable affinity between his doctrine and that of Leibnitz? Is it not wonderful that, instead of perceiving this affinity, he should have poured ridicule and contempt upon the doctrine of which his own was but a generalization? Mr. Mill, another able and strenuous advocate of Mr. Hume's theory of causation, has likewise ranked the preestablished harmony of Leibnitz, as well as the system of occasional causes peculiar to Malebranche, among the fallacies of the human mind. Thus they are at war with themselves, as well as with their great coadjutors in the cause of necessity.
M. Comte, preeminently distinguished in every branch of science, has taken the same one-sided view of nature as that which is exhibited in the theory under consideration; but he does not permit himself to be encumbered by the inconsistencies observable in his great predecessors. On the contrary, he boldly carries out his doctrine to its legitimate consequences, denying the existence of a God, the free-agency of man, and the reality of moral distinctions.
Mr. Mill also refuses to avail himself of the notion of liberty entertained by Hobbes and Hume, in order to lay a foundation for human responsibility. He sees that it really cannot be made to answer such a purpose. He also sees, that the doctrine of necessity, as usually maintained, is liable to the objections urged against it, that |it tends to degrade the moral nature of man, and to paralyze our desire of excellence.|(50) In making this concession to the advocates of liberty, he speaks from his own |personal experience.| The only way to escape these pernicious consequences, he says, is to keep constantly before the mind a clear and unclouded view of the true theory of causation, which will prevent us from supposing, as most necessitarians do, that there is a real connecting link or influence between motives and volitions, or any other events. So strong is the prejudice (as he calls it) in favour of such connection, that even those who adopt Mr. Hume's theory, are not habitually influenced by it, but frequently relapse into the old error which conflicts with the free-agency and accountability of man, and hence an advantage which their opponents have had over them.
These remarks are undoubtedly just. There is not a single writer, from Mr. Hume himself, down to the present day, who has been able either to speak or to reason in conformity with his theory, however warmly he may have embraced it. Mr. Mill himself has not been more fortunate in this respect than many of his distinguished predecessors. It is an exceedingly difficult thing, by the force of speculation, to silence the voice of nature within us. If it were necessary we might easily show, that if we abstract |the common prejudice,| in regard to causation, it will be as impossible to read Mr. Mill's work on logic, as to read Mr. Hume's writings themselves, without perceiving that many of its passages have been stripped of all logical coherency of thought. The defect which he so clearly sees in the writings of other advocates of necessity, not excepting those who embrace his own paradox in relation to cause and effect, we can easily perceive in his own.
The doctrine of causation, under consideration, annihilates one of the clearest and most fundamental distinctions ever made in philosophy; the distinction between action and passion, between mind and matter. Matter is passive, mind is active. The very first law of motion laid down in the Principia, a work so much admired by M. Comte and Mr. Mill, is based on the idea that matter is wholly inert, and destitute of power either to move itself, or to check itself when moved by anything ab extra. This will not be denied. But is mind equally passive? Is there nothing in existence which rises above this passivity of the material world? If there is not, and such is the evident conclusion of the doctrine in question, then all things flow on in one boundless ocean of passivity, while there is no First Mover, no Self-active Agent in the universe. Indeed, Mr. Mill has expressly declared, that the distinction between agent and patient is illusory.(51) If this be true, we are persuaded that M. Comte has been more successful in delivering the world from the being of a God, than Mr. Mill has been in relieving it from the difficulties attending the scheme of necessity.
The views of Kant and Sir William Hamilton in relation to the antagonism between liberty and necessity.
|To clear up this seeming antagonism between the mechanism of nature and freedom in one and the self-same given action, we must refer,| says Kant, |to what was advanced in the critique of pure reason, or what, at least, is a corollary from it, viz., that the necessity of nature which may not consort with the freedom of the subject, attaches simply to a thing standing under the relations of time, i. e., to the modifications of the acting subject as phenomena, and that, therefore, so far (i. e., as phenomena) the determinators of each act lie in the foregoing elapsed time, and are quite beyond his power, (part of which are the actions man has already performed, and the phenomenal character he has given himself in his own eyes,) yet, e contra, the self-same subject, being self-conscious of itself as a thing in itself, considers its existence as somewhat detached from the conditions of time, and itself, so far forth, as only determinable by laws given it by its own reason.|(52)
Kant has said, that this |intricate problem, at whose solution centuries have laboured,| is not to be solved by |a jargon of words.| If so, may we not doubt whether he has taken the best method to solve it? His solution shows one thing at least, viz., that he was not satisfied with any of the solutions of his predecessors, for his is wholly unlike them. Kant saw that the question of liberty and necessity related to the will itself, and not to the consequences of the will's volitions. Hence he was compelled to reject those weak evasions of the difficulty of reconciling them, and to grapple directly with the difficulty itself. Let us see if this was not too much for him. Let us see if he has been able to maintain the doctrine of necessity, holding it as a |demonstrated truth,| and at the same time give the idea of liberty a tenable position in his system.
If we would clear up the seeming antagonism between the mechanism of nature and freedom in regard to the same volition, says he, we must remember, that the volition itself, as standing under the conditions of time, is to be considered as subject to the law of mechanism: yet the mind which puts forth the volition, being conscious that it is a thing somewhat detached from the conditions of time, is free from the law of mechanism, and determinable by the laws of its own reason. That is to say, the volitions of mind falling under the law of cause and effect, like all other events which appear in time, are necessary; while the mind itself, which exists not exactly in time, is free. We shall state only two objections to this view. In the first place, it seems to distinguish the mind from its act, not modally, i. e., as a thing from its mode, but numerically, i. e., as one thing from another thing. But who can do this? Who regards an act of the mind, a volition, as anything but the mind itself as existing in a state of willing? In the second place, it requires us to conceive, that the act of the mind is necessitated, while the mind itself is free in the act thus necessitated. But who can do this? On the contrary, who can fail to see in this precisely the same seeming antagonism which Kant undertook to remove? To tell us, that volition is necessitated because it exists in time, but the mind is free because it does not exist in time, is, one would think, a very odd way to dispel the darkness which hangs over the grand problem of life. It is to solve one difficulty merely by adding other difficulties to it. Hence, the world will never be much wiser, we are inclined to suspect, with respect to the seeming antagonism between liberty and necessity, in consequence of the speculations of the philosopher of Koenigsberg, especially since his great admirer, Mr. Coleridge, forgot to fulfil his promise to write the history of a man who existed in |neither time nor space, but a-one side.|
Though Kant made the attempt in his Metaphysics of Ethics to overcome the speculative difficulty in question, it is evident that he is not satisfied with his own solution of it, since he has repeatedly declared, that the practical reason furnishes the only ground on which it can be surmounted. |This view of Kant,| says Knapp, |implying that freedom, while it is a postulate of our practical reason, (i. e., necessary to be assumed in order to moral action,) is yet inconsistent with our theoretical reason, (i. e., incapable of demonstration, and contrary to the conclusions to which the reflecting mind arrives,) is now very generally rejected.|(53)
In regard to this point, there seems to be a perfect coincidence between the philosophy of Kant and that of Sir William Hamilton. |In thought,| says the latter, |we never escape determination and necessity.|(54) If the scheme of necessity never fails to force itself upon our thought, how are we then to get rid of it, so as to lay a foundation for morality and accountability? This question, the author declares, is too much for the speculative reason of man; and being utterly baffled in that direction, we can only appeal to the fact of consciousness, in order to establish the doctrine of liberty. |The philosophy which I profess,| says he, |annihilates the theoretical problem -- How is the scheme of liberty, or the scheme of necessity, to be rendered comprehensible? -- by showing that both schemes are equally inconceivable; but it establishes liberty practically as a fact, by showing that it is either itself an immediate datum, or is involved in an immediate datum of consciousness.|(55) We shall hereafter see, why the scheme of necessity always riveted the chain of conviction on the thought of Sir William Hamilton, and compelled him to have recourse to an appeal to consciousness in order to escape its delusive power.
The notion of Lord Kames and Sir James Mackintosh on the same subject.
Lord Kames boldly cut the knot which philosophy had failed to unravel for him. Supposing the doctrine of necessity to be settled on a clear and firm basis, he resolved our feelings of liberty into |a deceitful sense| which he imagined the Almighty had conferred on man for wise and good purposes. He concluded that if men could see the truth, in regard to the scheme of necessity, without any illusion or mistake, they would relax their exertions in all directions, and passively submit to the all-controlling influences by which they are surrounded. But God, he supposed, out of compassion for us, concealed the truth from our eyes, in order that we might be induced to take care of ourselves, by the pleasant dream that we really have the power to do so.
We shall not stop to pull this scheme to pieces. We shall only remark, that it is a pity the philosopher undertook to counteract the benevolent design of the Deity, and to expose the cheat and delusion by which he intended to govern the world for its benefit. But the author himself, it is but just to add, had the good sense and candour to renounce his own scheme; and hence we need dwell no longer upon it. It remains at the present day only as a striking example of the frightful contortions of the human mind, in its herculean efforts to escape from the dark labyrinth of fate into the clear and open light of nature.
Sir James Mackintosh, though familiar with the speculations of preceding philosophers, was satisfied with none of their solutions of the great problem under consideration, and consequently he has invented one of his own. This solution is founded on his theory of the moral sentiments, which is peculiar to himself. This theory is employed to show how it is, that although we may come by our volitions according to the scheme of necessity, yet we do not perceive the causes by which they are necessarily produced, and consequently imagine that we are free. Thus, the |feeling of liberty,| as he calls it, is resolved into an illusory judgment, and the scheme of necessity is exhibited in all its adamantine strength. |It seems impossible,| says he, |for reason to consider occurrences otherwise than as bound together by the connexion of cause and effect; and in this circumstance consists the strength of the necessitarian system.|(56)
We shall offer only one remark on this extraordinary hypothesis. If the theory of Sir James were true, it could only show, that although our volitions are necessarily caused, we do not perceive the causes by which they are produced. But this fact has never been denied: it has always been conceded, that we ascertain the existence of efficient causes, excepting the acts of our minds, only by means of the effects they produce. Both Leibnitz and Edwards long ago availed themselves of this undisputed fact, in order to account for the belief which men entertain in regard to their internal freedom. |Thus,| says Edwards, |I find myself possessed of my volitions before I can see the effectual power and efficacy of any cause to produce them, for the power and efficacy of the cause are not seen but by the effect, and this, for aught I know, may make some imagine that volition has no cause.| We shall see hereafter that this is a very false account of the genesis of the common belief, that we possess an internal freedom from necessity; but it is founded on the truth which no one pretends to deny, that external efficient causes can only be seen by their effects, and not by any direct perception of the mind. It was altogether a work of supererogation, then, for Sir James Mackintosh to bring forth his theory of moral sentiments to establish the possibility of a thing which preceding philosophers had admitted to be a fact. It requires no elaborate theory to convince us that a thing might exist without our perceiving it, when it is conceded on all sides, that even if it did exist, we have no power by which to perceive it. With this single remark, we shall dismiss a scheme which resolves our conviction of internal liberty into a mere illusion, and which, however pure may have been the intentions of the author, really saps the foundation of moral obligation, and destroys the nature of virtue.
The conclusion of Moehler, Tholuck, and others, that all speculation on such a subject must be vain and fruitless.
Considering the vast wilderness of speculation which exists on the subject under consideration, it is not at all surprising that many should turn away from every speculative view of it with disgust, and endeavour to dissuade others from such pursuits. Accordingly Moehler has declared, that |so often as, without regard to revelation, the relation of the human spirit to God hath been more deeply investigated, men have found themselves forced ... to the adoption of pantheism, and, with it, the most arrogant deification of man.|(57) And Tholuck spreads out the reasoning from effect to cause, by which all things are referred to God, and God himself only made the greatest and brightest link in the chain; and assuming this to be an unanswerable argument, he holds it up as a dissuasive from all such speculations. He believes that reason necessarily conducts the mind to fatalism.
We cannot concur with these celebrated writers, and we would deduce a far different conclusion from the speculations of necessitarians. This sort of scepticism or despair is more common in Germany than it is in this country; for there, speculation pursuing no certain or determinate method, has shown itself in all its wild and desolating excesses. But it is sophistry, and not reason, that leads the human mind astray; and we believe that reason, in all cases, is competent to detect and expose the impositions of sophistry. We do not believe that one guide which the Almighty has given us, can, by the legitimate exercise of it, lead us to a different result from that of another guide. We are persuaded that if reason seems to force us into any system which is contradicted by the testimony of our moral nature, or by the truths of revelation, this is unsound speculation: it is founded either on false premises, or else springs from false conclusions, which reason itself may correct, either by pointing out the fallacy of the premises, or the logical incoherency of the argument. We do not then intend to abandon speculation, but to plant it, if we can, on a better foundation, and build it up according to a better method.
The true conclusion from the foregoing review of opinions and arguments.
All the mighty logicians we have yet named have yielded to |the demonstration| in favour of necessity, but we do not know that one of them has ever directed the energies of his mind to pry into its validity. They have all pursued the method so emphatically condemned by Bacon, and the result has verified his prediction. |The usual method,| says he, |of discovery and proof by first establishing the most general propositions, then applying and proving the intermediate axioms according to these, is the parent of error and the calamity of every science.|(58) They have set out with the universal law of causality or the principle of the sufficient reason, and thence have proceeded to ascertain and determine the actual nature and processes of things. We may despair of ever being able to determine a single fact, or a single process of nature, by reasoning from truisms; we must begin in the opposite direction and learn |to dissect nature,| if we would behold her secrets and comprehend her mysteries.
By pursuing this method it will be seen, and clearly seen, that |the great demonstration| which has led so many philosophers in chains, is, after all, a sophism. We have witnessed their attempts to reconcile the great fact of man's free-agency with this boasted demonstration of necessity. But how interminable is the confusion among them? If a few of them concur in one solution, this is condemned by others, and not unfrequently by the very authors of the solution itself. We entertain too great a respect for their abilities not to believe, that if there had been any means of reconciling these things together, they would long since have discovered them, and come to an agreement among themselves, as well as made the truth known to the satisfaction of mankind. But as it is, their speculations are destitute of harmony -- are filled with discordant elements. Instead of the clear and steady light of truth, illuminating the great problem of existence, we are bewildered by the glare of a thousand paradoxes; instead of the sweet voice of harmony, reaching and calling forth a response from the depths of the human soul, the ear is stunned and confounded with a frightful roar of confused sounds.
We shall not attempt to hold the scheme of necessity, and reconcile it with the fact of man's free-agency. We shall not undertake a task, in the prosecution of which a Descartes, a Leibnitz, a Locke, and an Edwards, not to mention a hundred others, have laboured in vain. But we do not intend to abandon speculation. On the contrary, we intend to show, so clearly and so unequivocally that every eye may see it, that the great boasted demonstration in favour of necessity is a prodigious sophism. We intend to do this; because until the mental vision be purged of the film of this dark error, it can never clearly behold the intrinsic majesty and glory of God's creation, nor the divine beauty of the plan according to which it is governed.