I made him just and right;
Sufficient to have stood, though free to fall.
Such I created all the ethereal powers
And spirits, both them who stood and them who fail'd; Freely they stood who stood, and fell who fell. -- MILTON.
We have already witnessed the strange inconsistencies into which the most learned and ingenious men have fallen, in their attempts to reconcile the doctrine of necessity with the accountability of man, and the glory of God. Having involved themselves in that scheme, on what has appeared to them conclusive evidence, they have seemed to struggle in vain to force their way out into the clear and open light of nature. They have seemed to torment themselves, and to confound others, in their gigantic efforts to extricate themselves from a dark labyrinth, out of which there is absolutely no escape. Let us see, then, if we may not refute the pretended demonstration in favour of necessity, and thereby restore the mind to that internal satisfaction which it so earnestly desires, and which it so constantly seeks in a perfect unity and harmony of principle.
The scheme of necessity is based on a false psychology.
There are three great leading faculties or attributes of the human mind; namely, the intelligence, the sensibility, and the will. By means of these we think, we feel, and we act. Now, the phenomena of thinking, feeling, and acting, will be found, on examination, to possess different characteristics; of which we must form clear and fixed conceptions, if we would extricate the philosophy of the will from the obscurity and confusion in which it has been so long involved. Let us proceed then to examine them, to interrogate our consciousness in relation to them.
Suppose, for example, that an apple is placed before me. I fix my attention upon it, and consider its form: it is round. This judgment, or decision of the mind, in relation to the form of the apple, is a state of the intelligence. It does not depend on any effort of mine, whether it shall appear round to me or not: I could not possibly come to any other conclusion if I would: I could as soon think it as large as the globe as believe it to be square, or of any other form than round. Hence this judgment, this decision, this state of the intelligence, is necessitated. The same thing is true of all the other perceptions or states of the intelligence. M. Cousin has truly said: |Undoubtedly different intellects, or the same intellect at different periods of its existence, may sometimes pass different judgments in regard to the same thing. Sometimes it may be deceived; it will judge that which is false to be true, the good to be bad, the beautiful to be ugly, and the reverse: but at the moment when it judges that a proposition is true or false, an action good or bad, a form beautiful or ugly, at that moment it is not in the power of the intellect to pass any other judgment than that it passes. It obeys laws it did not make. It yields to motives which determine it independent of the will. In a word, the phenomenon of intelligence, comprehending, judging, knowing, thinking, whatever name be given to it, is marked with the characteristic of necessity.|(101)
Once more I fix my attention on the apple: an agreeable sensation arises in the mind; a desire to eat it is awakened. This desire or appetite is a state of the sensibility. Whether I shall feel this appetite or desire, does not depend upon any effort or exertion of my will. The mind is clearly passive in relation to it; the desire, then, is as strongly marked with the characteristic of necessity, as are the states of the intelligence. The same is true of all our feelings; they are necessarily determined by the objects in view of the mind. There is no controversy on these points; it is universally agreed that every state of the intelligence and of the sensibility is necessarily determined by the evidence and the object in view of the mind. It is not, then, either in the intelligence or in the sensibility that we are to look for liberty.
But once more I fix my attention on the apple: the desire is awakened, and I conclude to eat it. Hitherto I have done nothing except in fixing my attention on the apple. I have experienced the judgment that it is round, and felt the desire to eat it. But now I conclude to eat it, and I make an effort of the mind to put forth my hand to take the apple and eat it. It is done. Now here is an entirely new phenomenon; it is an effort, an exertion, an act, a volition of the mind. The name is of no importance; the circumstances under which the phenomenon arises have called attention to it, and the precise thing intended is seen in the light of consciousness. Let us look at it closely, and mark its characteristic well, being careful to see neither more nor less than is presented by the phenomenon itself.
We are conscious, then, of the existence of an act, of a volition: everybody can see what this is. We must not say, as the advocates of free-agency usually do, that when we put forth this act or volition we are conscious of a power to do the contrary; for this position may be refuted, and the foundation on which we intend to raise our superstructure undermined. We are merely conscious of the existence of the act itself, and not even of the power by means of which we act; the existence of the power is necessarily inferred from its exercise. This is the only way in which we know it, and not from the direct testimony of consciousness. Much less if we had refused to act, should we have been conscious of the power to withhold it; much less again are we conscious of the power to withhold the act, as we do not in the case supposed exercise this power. But certainly we are conscious of the act itself; all men will concede this, and this is all our argument really demands.
Here then we are conscious of an act, of an effort, of the mind. Look at it closely. Is the mind passive in this act? No; we venture to answer for the universal intelligence of man. If this act had been produced in us by a necessitating cause, would not the mind have been passive in it? In other words, would it not have been a passive impression, and not an act, not an effort of the mind at all? Yes; we again venture to answer for the unbiassed reason of man. But it is not, we have seen, a passive impression; it is an act of the mind, and hence it is not necessitated. It is not necessitated, because it is not stamped with the characteristic of necessity. The universal reason of man declares that the will has not necessarily yielded like the intelligence and the sensibility, to motives over which it had no control. It does not bear upon its face the mark of any such subjection |to the power and action| of a cause. It is marked with the characteristic, not of necessity, but of liberty.
We would not say, with Dr. Samuel Clarke, that |action and liberty are identical ideas;| but we will say, that the idea of action necessarily implies that of liberty; for if we duly reflect on the nature of an act we cannot conceive it as being necessitated. This consideration furnishes an easy and satisfactory solution of a problem, by which necessitarians are sadly perplexed. They endeavour in various ways to account for the fact that we believe our volitions to be free, or not necessarily caused. Some resolve this belief and feeling of liberty into a deceitful sense; some imagine that we are deceived by the ambiguities of language; and some resort to other methods of explaining the phenomenon. |It is true,| says President Edwards, |I find myself possessed of my volitions before I can see the effectual power of any cause to produce them, for the power and efficacy of the cause is not seen but by the effect; and this, for aught I know, may make some imagine that volition has no cause, or that it produces itself.| But this is not a satisfactory account of the imagination, as he would term it. We also find ourselves possessed of our judgments and feelings before we perceive the effectual power of the cause which produces them. Why then do we refer these to the operation of a necessary cause, and not our volitions? If the power and efficacy of the cause is seen only by the effect in the one case, it is only seen in the same manner in the other. Why then do we differ in our conclusions with respect to them? Why do we refer the judgment and the feeling to necessary causes, and fail to do the same in relation to the volition? The reason is obvious. The mind is passive in judging and feeling, and hence these phenomena necessarily demand the operation of causes to account for them; but the mind is active in its volitions, and this necessarily excludes the idea of causes to produce them. The mind clearly perceives, by due reflection, and at all times sees dimly, at least, that an act or volition is different in its nature from a passive impression or a produced effect; and hence it knows and feels that it is exempt from the power and efficacy of a producing cause in its volitions. This fact of our consciousness it is not in the power of sophistry wholly to conceal, nor in the power of human nature to evade. Hence we carry about with us the irresistible conviction that we are free; that our wills are not absolutely subject to the dominion of causes over which we have no control. Hence we see and know that we are self-active.
-- -- -- -- -- -- -
Having completed our analysis, in as far as our present purpose demands, we may proceed to show that the system of necessity is founded on a false psychology, -- on a dark confusion of the facts of human nature. It is very remarkable that all the advocates of this system, from Hobbes down to Edwards, will allow the human mind to possess only two faculties, the understanding and the will. The will and the sensibility are expressly identified by them. Locke distinguished between will and desire, between the faculty of willing and the susceptibility to feeling; but Edwards has endeavoured to show that there is no such distinction as that for which Locke contends. We shall not arrest the progress of our remarks in order to point out the manner in which Edwards has deceived himself by an appeal to logic rather than to consciousness, because the threefold distinction for which we contend is now admitted by necessitarians themselves. Indeed, after the clear and beautiful analysis by M. Cousin, they could not well do otherwise than recognise this threefold distinction; but they have done so, we think it will be found, without perceiving all the consequences of such an admission to their system. It is an admission which, in our opinion, will show the scheme of necessity to be insecure in its foundation, and disjointed in all its parts.
With the light of this distinction in our minds, it will be easy to follow and expose the sophistries of the necessitarian. He often declaims against the idea of liberty for which we contend, on the ground that it would be, not a perfection, but a very great imperfection of our nature to possess such a freedom. But in every such instance he confounds the will with one of the passive susceptibilities of the mind. Thus, for example, Collins argues that liberty would be a great imperfection, because |nothing can be more irrational and absurd than to be able to refuse our assent to what is evidently true to us, and to assent to what we see to be false.| Now, all this is true, but it is not to the purpose; for no one contends that the intelligence is free in assenting to, or in dissenting from, the evidence in view of the mind. No rational being, we admit, could desire such a freedom; could desire to be free, for example, from the conviction that two and two make four. M. Lamartine, we are aware, expresses a very lively abhorrence of the mathematics, because they allow not a sufficient freedom of thought -- because they exercise so great a despotism over the intellect. But the circumstance which this flowery poet deems an imperfection in the mathematics, every enlightened friend of free-agency will regard as their chief excellency and glory.
The same error is committed by Spinoza: |We can consider the soul under two points of view,| says he, |as thought and as desire.| Here the will is made to disappear, and we behold only the two susceptibilities of the soul, which are stamped with the characteristic of necessity. Where, then, will Spinoza find the freedom of the soul? Certainly not in the will, for this has been blotted out from the map of his psychology. Accordingly he says: |The free will is a chimera of the species, flattered by our pride, and founded upon our ignorance.| He must find the freedom of the soul then, if he find it at all, in one of its passive susceptibilities. This, as we have already seen, is exactly what he does; he says the soul is free in the affirmation that two and two are four! Thus he finds the liberty of the soul, not in the exercises of its will, of its active power, but in the bosom of the intelligence, which is absolutely necessitated in all its determinations.
In this particular, as well as in most others, Spinoza merely reproduces the error of the ancient Stoics. It was a principle with them, says Ritter, |that the will and the desire are one with thought, and may be resolved into it.|(102) Thus, by the ancient Stoics, as well as by Hobbes, and Spinoza, and Collins, and Edwards, the will is merged in one of the passive elements of the mind, and its real characteristic lost sight of. |By the freedom of the soul,| says Ritter, |the Stoics understood simply that assent which it gives to certain ideas.|(103) Thus the ancient Stoics endeavoured to find the freedom of the soul, where Spinoza and so many modern necessitarians have sought to find it, in the passive, necessitated states of the intelligence. This was indeed to impose upon themselves a mere shadow for a substance, -- a dream for a reality.
|By whatever name we call the act of the will,| says Edwards, |choosing, refusing, approving, disapproving, liking, disliking, embracing, rejecting, determining, directing, commanding, forbidding, inclining or being averse, being pleased or displeased with -- all may be reduced to this of choosing.|(104) Thus, in the vocabulary and according to the psychology of this great author, the phenomena of the sensibility and those of the will are identified, as well as the faculties themselves. Pleasing and willing, liking and acting, are all one with him. His psychology admits of no distinction, for example, between the pleasant impression made by an apple on the sensibility, and the act of the will by which the hand is put forth to take it. |The will and the affections of the soul,| says he, |are not two faculties; the affections are not essentially distinct from the will, nor do they differ from the mere actings of the will and inclination, but only in the liveliness and sensibility of exercise.|(105) And again, |I humbly conceive that the affections of the soul are not properly distinguished from the will, as though there were two faculties.|(106) And still more explicitly, |all acts of the will are truly acts of the affections.|(107) Is it not strange, that one who could exhibit such wonderful discrimination when the exigences of his system demanded the exercise of such a power, should have confounded things so clearly distinct in their natures as an act of the will and an agreeable impression made on the sensibility?
It is not possible for any mind, no matter how great its powers, to see the nature of things clearly when it comes to the contemplation of them with such a confusion of ideas. Even President Edwards is not exempt from the common lot of humanity. His doctrine is necessarily enveloped in obscurity. We can turn it in no light without being struck with its inconsistencies or its futility. He repeatedly says, the will is always determined by the strongest affection, or appetite, or passion; that is, by the most agreeable state of the sensibility. But if the will and the sensibility are identical, as his language expressly makes them; or if the states of the one are not distinguishable from the states of the other, then to say that the will is always determined by the sensibility, or an act of the will by the strongest affection of the sensibility, is to say that a thing is determined by itself. It is to say, in fact, that the will is always determined by itself; a doctrine against which he uniformly protests. Nay, more, that an act of the will causes itself; a position which he has repeatedly ascribed to his opponents, and held up to the derision of mankind.
It is very remarkable, that Edwards seems to have been conscious, at times, that he laid himself open to the charge of such an absurdity, when he said that the will is determined by the greatest apparent good, or by what seems most agreeable to the mind. For he says, |I have chosen rather to express myself thus, that the will always is as the greatest apparent good, or as what appears most agreeable, than to say the will is determined by the greatest apparent good, or by what seems most agreeable; because an appearing most agreeable to the mind, and the mind's preferring, seem scarcely distinct.| We have taken the liberty to emphasize his words. Now here he tells us that the |mind's preferring,| by which word he has explained himself to mean willing,(108) is scarcely distinct from |an appearing most agreeable to the mind.| Here he returns to his psychology, and identifies the most agreeable impression made on the sensibility with an act of the will. He does not like to say, that the act of the will is caused by the most agreeable sensation, because this seems to make a thing the cause of itself.
In this he does wisely; but having shaped his doctrine to suit himself more exactly, in what form is it presented to us? Let us look at it in its new shape, and see what it is. The will is not determined by the greatest apparent good, because a thing is not determined by itself; but the will is always as the greatest apparent good! Thus the absurdity of saying a thing is determined by itself is avoided; but surely, if an appearing most agreeable to the mind is not distinct from the mind's acting, then to say that the mind's acting is always as that which appears most agreeable to it is merely to say, that the mind's acting is always as the mind's acting! or, in other words, that a thing is always as itself! Thus, his great fundamental proposition is, in one form, a glaring absurdity; and in the other, it is an insignificant truism; and there is no escape from this dilemma except through a return to a better psychology, to a sounder analysis of the great facts of human nature.
When Edwards once reaches the truism that a thing is always as itself, he feels perfectly secure, and defies with unbounded confidence the utmost efforts of his opponents to dislodge him. |As we observed before,| says he, |nothing is more evident than that, when men act voluntarily, and do what they please, then they do what appears most agreeable to them; and to say otherwise, would be as much as to affirm, that men do not choose what appears to suit them best, or what seems most pleasing to them; or that they do not choose what they prefer -- which brings the matter to a contradiction.| True; this brings the matter to a contradiction, as he has repeatedly told us; for choosing, and preferring, or willing, are all one. But if any one denies that a man does what he pleases when he does what he pleases; or if he affirms that he pleases without pleasing, or chooses without choosing, or prefers without preferring, we shall leave him to the logic of the necessitarian and the physician. We have no idea that he will ever be able to refute the volumes that have been written to confound him. President Edwards clearly has the better of him; for he puts |the soul in a state of choice,| and yet affirms that it |has no choice.| He might as well say, indeed, that |a body may move while it is in a state of rest,| as to say that |the mind may choose without choosing,| or without having a choice. He is very clearly involved in an absurdity; and if he can read the three hundred pages of the Inquiry, without being convinced of his error, his case must indeed be truly hopeless.
Edwards is far from being the only necessitarian who has fallen into the error of identifying the sensibility with the will; thus reducing his doctrine to an unassailable truism. In his famous controversy with Clarke, Leibnitz has done the same thing. |Thus,| says he, |in truth, the motives comprehend all the dispositions which the mind can have to act voluntarily; for they include not only reasons, but also the inclinations and passions, or other preceding impressions. Wherefore if the mind should prefer a weak inclination to a strong one, it would act against itself, and otherwise than it is disposed to act.|
Now is it not wonderful, that so profound a thinker, and so acute a metaphysician, as Leibnitz, should have supposed that he was engaged in a controversy to show that the mind never acts otherwise than it acts; that it never acts against itself? Having reduced his doctrine to this truism, he says, this |shows that the author's notions, contrary to mine, are superficial, and appear to have no solidity in them, when they are well considered.| True, the notions of Clarke were superficial, and worse than superficial, if he supposed that the mind ever acts contrary to its act, or otherwise than it really acts. But Clarke distinguished between the disposition and the will.
In like manner Thummig, the disciple of Leibnitz, has the following language, as quoted by Sir William Hamilton: |It is to philosophize very crudely concerning mind, and to image everything in a corporeal manner, to conceive that actuating reasons are something external, which make an impression on the mind, and to distinguish motives from the active principle itself.| Now this language, it seems, is found in Thummig's defence of the last paper of Leibnitz (who died before the controversy was terminated) against the answer of Clarke. But, surely, if it is a great mistake, as the author insists it is, to distinguish motives from the active principle itself; then to say that the active principle is determined by motives, is to say that the active principle is determined by itself. And having reached this point, the disciple of Leibnitz finds himself planted precisely on the position he had undertaken to overthrow, namely, that the will is determined by itself. And again, if it be wrong to distinguish the motive from the active principle itself, then to say that the active principle never departs from the motive, is to affirm that a thing is always as itself.
The great service which a false psychology has rendered to the cause of necessity is easily seen. For having identified an act of the will with a state of the sensibility, which is universally conceived to be necessitated, the necessitarian is delivered from more than half his labours. By merging a phenomenon or manifestation of the will in a state of the sensibility, it seems to lose its own characteristic, which is incompatible with the scheme of necessity, and to assume the characteristic of feeling, which is perfectly reconcilable with it; nay, which demands the scheme of necessity to account for its existence. Thus, the system of necessity is based on a false psychology, on which it has too securely stood from the earliest times down to the present day. But the stream of knowledge, ever deepening and widening in its course, has been gradually undermining the foundations of this dark system.
The scheme of necessity is directed against a false issue.
As we have seen in the last section, the argument of the necessitarian is frequently directed against a false issue; but the point is worthy of a still more careful consideration.
We shall never cease to admire the logical dexterity with which the champions of necessity assail and worry their adversaries. They have said, in all ages, that |nothing taketh beginning from itself;| but who ever imagined or dreamed of so wild an absurdity? It is conceded by all rational beings. Motion taketh not beginning from itself, but from action; action taketh not beginning from itself, but from mind; and mind taketh not beginning from itself, but from God. It is false, however, to conclude that because nothing taketh beginning from itself, it is brought to pass |by the action of some immediate agent without itself.| The motion of body, as we have seen, is produced by the action of some immediate agent without itself; but the action of mind is produced, or brought to pass, by no action at all. It taketh beginning from an agent, and not from the action of an agent. This distinction, though so clearly founded in the nature of things, is always overlooked by the logic of the necessitarian. They might well adopt the language of Bacon, that the subtilty of nature far surpasseth that of our logic.
Hobbes was content to rest on a simple statement of the fact, that nothing can produce itself; but it is not every logician who is willing to rely on the inherent strength of such a position. Ask a child, Did you make yourself? and the child will answer, No. Propound the same question to the roving savage, or to the man of mere common sense, and he will also answer, No. Appeal to the universal reason of man, and the same emphatic No, will come up from its profoundest depths. But your redoubtable logicians are not satisfied to rely on such testimony alone: they dare not build on such a foundation unless it be first secured and rendered firm by the aid of the syllogistic process. I know |I did not make myself,| says Descartes, |for if I had made myself, I should have given myself every perfection.| Now this argument in true syllogistic form stands thus: If I had made myself, I should have endowed myself with every perfection; I am not endowed with every perfection; therefore I did not make myself. Surely, after so clear a process of reasoning, no one can possibly doubt the proposition that Descartes did not make himself! In the same way we might prove that he did not make his own logic: for if he had made his logic, he would have endowed it with every possible perfection; but it is not endowed with every possible perfection, and therefore he did not make it.
But President Edwards has excelled Descartes, and every other adept in the syllogistic art, except Aristotle in his physics, in his ability to render the light of perfect day clearer by a few masterly strokes of logic. He has furnished the reason why some persons imagine that volition has no cause of its existence, or |that it produces itself.| Now, by the way, would it not have been as well if he had first made sure of the fact, before he undertook to explain it? But to proceed: let us see how he has proved that volition does not produce itself; that it does not arise out of nothing and bring itself into existence.
He does this in true logical form, and according to the most approved methods of demonstration. He first establishes the general position, that no existence or event whatever can give rise to its own being,(109) and he then shows that this is true of volition in particular.(110) And having reached the position, that volition does not arise out of nothing, but must |have some antecedent| to introduce it into being; he next proceeds to prove that there is a necessary connexion between volition and the antecedents on which it depends for existence. This completes the chain of logic, and the process is held up by his followers to the admiration of the world as a perfect demonstration. Let us look at it a little more closely, and examine the nature and mechanism of its parts.
If the huge frame of the earth, with all its teeming population and productions, could rise up out of nothing, he argues, and bring itself into being without any cause of its existence, then we could not prove the being of a God. All this is very true. For, as he truly alleges, if one world could thus make itself, so also might another and another, even unto millions of millions. The universe might make itself, or come into existence without any cause thereof, and hence we could never know that there is a God. But surely, if any man imagined that even one world could create itself, it is scarcely worth while to reason with him. It is not at all likely that he would be frightened from his position by such a reductio ad absurdum. We should almost as soon suspect a sane man of denying the existence of God himself, as of doubting the proposition that |nothing taketh beginning from itself.|
Having settled it to his entire satisfaction, by this and other arguments, that no effect whatever can produce itself, he then proceeds to show that this proposition is true of volitions as well as of all other events or occurrences. |If any should imagine,| says he, |there is something in the sort of event that renders it possible to come into existence without a cause, and should say that the free acts of the will are existences of an exceeding different nature from other things, by reason of which they may come into existence without previous ground or reason of it, though other things cannot; if they make this objection in good earnest, it would be an evidence of their strangely forgetting themselves; for it would be giving some account of the existence of a thing, when, at the same time, they would maintain there is no ground of its existence.|(111) True, if any man should suppose that a volition rises up in the world |without any ground or reason of its existence,| and afterward endeavour to assign a ground or reason of it, he would certainly be strangely inconsistent with himself; but we should deem his last position, that there must be a ground or reason of its existence, to be some evidence of his coming to himself, rather than of his having forgotten himself. But to proceed with the argument. |Therefore I would observe,| says he, |that the particular nature of existence, be it never so diverse from others, can lay no foundation for that thing coming into existence without a cause; because, to suppose this, would be to suppose the particular nature of existence to be a thing prior to existence, without a cause or reason of existence. But that which in any respect makes way for a thing coming into being, or for any manner or circumstance of its first existence, must be prior to existence. The distinguished nature of the effect, which is something belonging to the effect, cannot have influence backward to act before it is. The peculiar nature of that thing called volition, can do nothing, can have no influence, while it is not. And afterward it is too late for its influence; for then the thing has made sure of its existence already without its help.|(112) After all this reasoning, and more to the same effect, we are perfectly satisfied that volition, no matter what its nature may be, cannot produce itself; and that it must have some ground or reason of its existence, some antecedent without which it could not come into being.
We shall not do justice to this branch of our subject, if we leave it without laying before the reader one or two more specimens of logic from the celebrated Inquiry of President Edwards. He is opposing |the hypothesis,| he tells us, |of acts of the will coming to pass without a cause.| Now, according to his definition of the term cause, as laid down at the beginning of the section under consideration, it signifies any antecedent on which a thing depends, in whole or in part, for its existence, or which constitutes the reason why it is, rather than not.(113) His doctrine is, then, that nothing ever comes to pass without some |ground or reason of its existence,| without some antecedent which is necessary to account for its coming into being. And those who deny it are bound to maintain the strange thesis, that something may come into existence without any antecedent to account for it; that it may rise from nothing and bring itself into existence. It is against this thesis that his logic is directed.
|If it were so,| says he, |that things only of one kind, viz., acts of the will, seemed to come to pass of themselves; and it were an event that was continual, and that happened in a course whenever were found subjects capable of such events; this very thing would demonstrate there was some cause of them, which made such a difference between this event and others. For contingency is blind, and does not pick and choose a particular sort of events. Nothing has no choice. This no-cause, which causes no existence, cannot cause the existence which comes to pass to be of one particular sort only, distinguished from all others. Thus, that only one sort of matter drops out of heaven, even water; and that this comes so often, so constantly and plentifully, all over the world, in all ages, shows that there is some cause or reason of the falling of water out of the heavens, and that something besides mere contingence had a hand in the matter.|(114) We do not intend to comment on this passage; we merely wish to advert to the fact, that it is a laboured and logical effort to demolish the hypothesis that acts of the will do not bring themselves into existence, and to show that there must be some antecedent to account for their coming into being. We shall only add, |it is true that nothing has no choice;| but who ever pretended to believe that nothing puts forth volitions? that there is no mind, no motive, no ground or reason of volition? Is it not wonderful that the great metaphysician of New-England should thus worry himself and exhaust his powers in grappling with shadows and combatting dreams, which no sane man ever seriously entertained for a moment?
|If we should suppose non-entity to be about to bring forth,| he continues, |and things were coming into existence without any cause or antecedent on which the existence, or kind or manner of existence depends, or which could at all determine whether the things should be stones or stems, or beasts or angels, or human bodies or souls, or only some new motion or figure in natural bodies, or some new sensation in animals, or new idea in the human understanding, or new volition in the will, or anything else of all the infinite number of possibles, -- then it certainly would not be expected, although many millions of millions of things were coming into existence in this manner all over the face of the earth, that they should all be only of one particular kind, and that it should be thus in all ages, and that this sort of existences should never fail to come to pass when there is room for them, or a subject capable of them, and that constantly whenever there is occasion.|(115) Now all these words are put together to prove that non-entity cannot bring forth effects, at least such effects as we see in the world; for if non-entity brought them forth, that is, to come to the point in dispute, if non-entity brought forth our volitions, they would not be always of one particular sort of effects. But they are of one particular sort, and hence there must be some antecedent to account for this uniformity in their nature, and they could not have been brought forth by nonentity! Surely if anything can equal the fatuity of the hypothesis that nonentity can bring forth, or that a thing can produce itself, it is a serious attempt to refute it. How often, while poring over the works of necessitarians, are we lost in amazement at the logical mania which seems to have seized them, and which, in its impetuous efforts to settle and determine everything by reasoning, leaves reason itself neither time nor opportunity to contemplate the nature of things themselves, or listen to its own most authoritative and irreversible mandates.
But lest we should be suspected of doing this great metaphysician injustice, we must point out the means by which he has so grossly deceived himself. According to his definition of motive, as the younger Edwards truly says, it includes every cause and condition of volition. If anything is merely a condition, without which a volition could not come to pass, though it exerts no influence, it is called a cause of that volition, and placed in the definition of motive. And if anything exerts a positive influence to produce volition, this is also a cause of it, and is included in the same definition. In short, this definition embraces every conceivable antecedent on which volition in any manner, either in whole or in part, either negatively or positively, depends. Thus the most heterogeneous materials are crowded together under one and the same term, -- the most different ideas under one and the same definition. Is it possible to conceive of a better method of obscuring a subject than such a course? When Edwards merely means a condition, why does he not say so? and when he means a producing cause, why does he not use the right word to express his meaning? If he had carried on the various processes of his reasoning with some one clear and distinct idea before his mind, we might have expected great things from him; but he has not chosen to do so. It is with the term cause that he operates, against the ambiguities of which he has not guarded himself or his reader.
|Having thus explained what I mean by cause,| says he, |I assert that nothing ever comes to pass without a cause.| We have seen his reasoning on this point. He labours through page after page to establish his very ambiguous proposition, in a sense in which nobody ever denied it; unless some one has affirmed that a thing may come into being without any ground or reason of its existence, -- may arise out of nothing and help itself into existence. Having sufficiently established his fundamental proposition in this sense, he proceeds to show that every effect and volition in particular, is necessarily connected with its cause. |It must be remembered,| says he, |that it has been already shown, that nothing can ever come to pass without a cause or a reason;|(116) and he then proceeds to show, that |the acts of the will must be connected with their cause.| In this part of his argument, he employs his ambiguous proposition in a different sense from that in which he established it. In the establishment of it he only insists that there must be some antecedent sufficient to account for every event; and in the application of it he contends, that the antecedent or cause must produce the event. These ideas are perfectly distinct. There could be no act of the mind unless there were a mind to act, and unless there were a motive in view of which it acts; but it does not follow that the mind is compelled to act by motive. But let us see how he comes to this conclusion.
|For an event,| says he, |to have a cause and ground of its existence, and yet not be connected with its cause, is an inconsistency. For if the event be not connected with its cause, it is not dependent on the cause: its existence is, as it were, loose from its influence, and may attend it or may not.|(117) |Dependence on the influence of a cause is the very notion of an effect.|(118) Again, |to suppose there are some events which have a cause and ground of their existence, that yet are not necessarily connected with their cause, is to suppose that they have a cause which is not their cause. Thus, if the effect be not necessarily connected with the cause, with its influence and influential circumstances, then, as I observed before, it is a thing possible and supposable that the cause may sometimes exert the same influence under the same circumstances, and yet the effect not follow.|(119) He has much other similar reasoning to show that it is absurd and contradictory to say that motive is the cause of volition, and yet admit that volition may be loose from the influence of motive, or that |the cause is not sufficient to produce the effect.|(120) In all this he uses the term in its most narrow and restricted sense. It is no longer a mere antecedent or antecedents, which are sufficient to account for the existence of the phenomena of volition; it is an efficient cause which produces volitions. Thus he establishes his ambiguous proposition in one sense, and builds on it in another. He explains the term cause to signify any antecedent, in order, he tells us, to prevent objection to his doctrine, when he alleges that nothing ever comes to pass without some cause of its existence; and yet, when he applies this fundamental proposition to the construction of his scheme, he returns to the restricted sense of the word, in which it signifies, |that which has a positive efficacy or influence to produce a thing.| It is thus that the great scheme of President Edwards is made up of mere words, having no intrinsic coherency of parts, and appearing consistent throughout, only because its disjointed fragments seem to be united, and its huge chasms concealed by means of the ambiguities of language.
The scheme of necessity is supported by false logic.
One reason why the advocates of necessity deceive themselves, as well as others, is, that there is great want of precision and distinctness in their views and definitions. We are told by them that the will is always determined by the strongest motive; that this is invariably the cause of volition. But what is meant by the term cause? We have final causes, instrumental causes, occasional causes, predisposing causes, efficient causes, and many others. Now, in which of these senses is the word used, when we are informed that motive is the cause of volition? On this point we are not enlightened. Neither Leibnitz nor Edwards is sufficiently explicit. The proposition, as left by them, is vague and obscure.
Leibnitz inclined to the use of the word reason, because he carried on a controversy with Bayle and Hobbes, who were atheists; though he frequently speaks of a chain of causes which embrace human volitions.(121) While Edwards, who opposed the Arminians, generally employs the more rigid term cause; though he, too, frequently represents motive as |the ground and reason| of volition. The one softens his language, in places, as he contends with those who had rendered themselves obnoxious to the Christian world by an advocacy of the doctrine of necessity in connexion with atheistical sentiments. The other appears to prefer the stronger expression, as he puts forth his power against antagonists whose views of liberty were deemed subversive of the tenets of Calvinism. But the law of causality, as stated by Edwards, and the principle of the sufficient reason, as defined and employed by Leibnitz, are perfectly identical.
When we are told that motive is the cause of volition, it is evident we cannot determine whether to deny or to assent to the proposition, unless we know in what sense the term cause is used. We might discuss this perplexed question forever, by the use of such vague and indefinite propositions, without progressing a single step toward the end of the controversy. We must bring a more searching analysis to the subject, if we hope to accomplish anything. We must take the word cause or reason, in each of its significations, in order to discover in what particulars the contending parties agree, and in what particulars they disagree, in order to see how far each party is right, and how far it is wrong. This is the only course that promises the least prospect of a satisfactory result.
If we mean by the cause of volition, that which wills or exerts the volition, there is no controversy; for in this sense the advocates of necessity admit that the mind is the cause of volition. Thus says Edwards: |The acts of my will are my own; i. e., they are acts of my will.|(122) It is universally conceded that it is the mind which wills, and nothing else in the place of it; and hence, in this sense of the word, there is no question but that the mind is the cause of volition. But the advocates of necessity cannot be understood in this sense; for they deny that the mind is the cause of volition, and insist that it is caused by motive.
The term cause is very often used to designate the condition of a thing, or that without which it could not happen or come to pass. Thus we are told by Edwards, that he sometimes uses |the word cause to signify any antecedent| of an event, |whether it has any influence or not,| in the production of such event.(123) If this be the meaning, when it is said that motive is the cause of volition, the truth of the proposition is conceded by the advocates of free-agency. In speaking of arguments and motives, Dr. Samuel Clarke says: |Occasions indeed there may be, and are, upon which that substance in man, wherever the self-moving principle resides, freely exerts its active power.|(124) Herein, then, there is a perfect agreement between the contending parties. The fact that the mind requires certain conditions or occasions, on which to exercise its active power, does not at all interfere with its freedom; and hence the advocates of free-agency have readily admitted that motives are the occasional causes of volition. We must look out for some other meaning of the term, then, if we would clearly and distinctly fix our minds on the point in controversy.
We say that an antecedent is the cause of its consequent, when the latter is produced by the action of the former. For example, a motion of the body is said to be caused by the mind; because it is produced by an act of the mind. This seems to be what is meant by an |efficient cause.| It is, no doubt, the most proper sense of the word; and around this it is that the controversy still rages, and has for centuries raged.
The advocates of necessity contend, not only that volition is the effect of motive, but also that |to be an effect implies passiveness, or the being subject to the power and action of its cause.|(125) Such precisely is the doctrine of Edwards, and Collins, and Hobbes. In this sense of the word it is denied that motive is the cause of volition, and it is affirmed that mind is the cause thereof. Thus, says Dr. Samuel Clarke, in his reply to Collins, |'Tis the self-moving principle, and not at all the reason or motive, which is the physical or efficient cause of action;| by which we understand him to mean volition, as that is the thing in dispute. Now, when the advocates of free-agency insist that motive is not the efficient cause of volition, and that mind is the efficient cause thereof, we suppose them to employ the expression, efficient cause, in one and the same sense in both branches of the proposition. This is the only fair way of viewing their language; and if they wished to be understood in any other manner, they should have taken the pains to explain themselves, and not permit us to be misled by an ambiguity. Here the precise point in dispute is clearly presented; and let us hear the contending parties, before we proceed to decide between them.
You are in error, says the necessitarian to his opponents, in denying that motive, and in affirming that mind, is the efficient cause of volition. For if an act of the mind, or a volition, is caused by the mind, it must be produced by a preceding act of the mind, and this act must be produced by another preceding act of the mind, and so on ad infinitum; which reduces the matter to a plain impossibility. Now, if the necessitarian has not been deceived by an unwarrantable ambiguity on the part of his adversary, he has clearly reduced his doctrine to the absurdity of an infinite series of acts: that is to say, if the advocate of free-agency does not depart from the ordinary meaning of words, when he affirms that mind is the efficient cause of volition; and if he does not use these terms |efficient cause,| in different senses in the same sentence, then we feel bound to say that he is fairly caught in the toils of his adversary. But we are not yet in condition to pass a final judgment between the parties.
The necessitarian contends that |volition, or an act of the mind, is the effect of motive, and that it is subject to the power and action of its cause.|(126) The advocate of free-will replies, If we must suppose an action of motive on the mind to account for its act, we must likewise suppose another action to account for the action of motive; and so on ad infinitum. Thus the necessitarian seems to be fairly caught in his own toils, and entrapped by his own definition and arguments.
Our decision (for the correctness of which we appeal to the calm and impartial judgment of the reader) is as follows: If the term cause be understood in the first or the second sense above mentioned, there is no disagreement between the contending parties; and if it be understood in the third sense, then both parties are in error. If, in order to account for an act of the mind, we suppose it is caused by an action of motive, we are involved in the absurdity of an infinite series of actions; and on the other hand, if we suppose it is caused by a preceding act of the mind itself, we are forced into the same absurdity. Hence, we conclude, that an act of the mind, or a volition, is not produced by the action of either mind or motive, but takes its rise in the world without any such efficient cause of its existence.
Each party has refuted his adversary, and in the enjoyment of his triumph he seems not to have duly reflected on the destruction of his own position. Both are in the right, and both are in the wrong; but, as we shall hereafter see, not equally so. If we adopt the argument of both sides, in so far as it is true, we shall come to the conclusion that action must take its rise somewhere in the universe without being caused by preceding action. And if so, where shall we look for its origin? in that which by nature is endowed with active power, or in that which is purely and altogether passive?
We lay it down, then, as an established and fundamental position, that the mind acts or puts forth its volitions without being efficiently caused to do so -- without being impelled by its own prior action, or by the prior action of anything else. The conditions or occasions of volition being supplied, the mind itself acts in view thereof, without being subject to the power or action of any cause whatever. All rational beings must, as we have seen, either admit this exemption of the mind in willing from the power and action of any cause, or else lose themselves in the labyrinth of an infinite series of causes. It is this exemption which constitutes the freedom of the human soul.
We are now prepared to see, in a clear light, the sophistical nature of the pretended demonstration of the scheme of necessity. |It is impossible to consider occurrences,| says Sir James Mackintosh, otherwise than as bound together in |the relation of cause and effect.| Now this relation, if we interpret it according to the nature of things, and not according to the sound of words, is not one, but two.
The motions of the body are caused by the mind, that is, they are produced by the action of the mind; this constitutes one relation: but acts of the mind are caused, that is, they are produced by the action of nothing; and this is a quite different relation. In other words, the motions of body are produced by preceding action, and the acts of the mind are not produced by preceding action. Hence, the first are necessitated, and the last are free: the first come under |the relation of cause and effect,| and the last come under a very different relation. The relation of cause and effect connects the most remote consequences of volition with volition itself; but when we reach volition there a new relation arises: it is the relation which subsists between an agent and its act. We may trace changes in the external world up to the volitions or acts of mind, and perceive no diversity in the chain of dependencies; but precisely at this point the chain of cause and effect ceases, and agency begins. The surrounding circumstances may be conditions, may be occasional causes, may be predisposing causes, but they are not, and cannot be, producing or efficient causes. Here, then, the iron chain terminates, and freedom commences. In the ambiguity which fails to distinguish between |the relation of cause and effect,| and the relation which volition bears to its antecedents, |consists the strength of the necessitarian system.| Let this distinction be clearly made and firmly borne in mind, and the great boasted adamantine scheme of necessity will resolve itself into an empty, ineffectual sound.
Hence, if we would place the doctrine of liberty upon solid grounds, it becomes necessary to modify the categories of M. Cousin. All things, says he, fall under the one or the other of the two following relations: the relation between subject and attribute, or the relation between cause and effect. This last category, we think, should be subdivided, so as to give two relations; one between cause and effect, properly so called, and the other between agent and action. Until this be done, it will be impossible to extricate the phenomena of the will from the mechanism of cause and effect.
We think we might here leave the stupendous sophism of the necessitarian; but as it has exerted so wonderful an influence over the human mind, and obscured, for ages, the glory of the moral government of God, we may well be permitted to pursue it further, and to continue the pursuit so long as a fragment or a shadow of it remains to be demolished.
The scheme of necessity is fortified by false conceptions.
One of the notions to which the cause of necessity owes much of its strength, is a false conception of liberty, as consisting in |a power over the determinations of the will.| Hence it is said that this power over the will can do nothing, can cause no determination except by acting to produce it. But according to this notion of liberty, this causative act cannot be free unless it be also caused by a preceding act; and so on ad infinitum. Such is one of the favourite arguments of the necessitarian. But in truth the freedom of the mind does not consist in its possessing a power over the determinations of its own will, for the true notion of freedom is a negative idea, and consists in the absence of every power over the determinations of the will. The mind is free because it possesses a power of acting, over which there is no controlling power, either within or without itself.
It must be admitted, it seems to us, that the advocates of free-agency have too often sanctioned this false conception of liberty, and thereby strengthened the cause of their opponents. Cudworth, Clark, Stuart, Coleridge, and Reid, all speak of this supposed power of the mind over the determinations of the will, as that which constitutes its freedom. Thus says Reid, for example: |By the liberty of a moral agent, I understand a power over the determinations of his own will.| Now, it is not at all strange that this language should be conceived by necessitarians in such a manner as to involve the doctrine of liberty in the absurd consequence of an infinite series of acts, since it is so understood by some of the most enlightened advocates of free-agency themselves. |A power over the determinations of our will,| says Sir William Hamilton, |supposes an act of the will that our will should determine so and so; for we can only exert power through a rational determination or volition. This definition of liberty is right. But the question upon question remains, (and this ad infinitum) -- have we a power (a will) over such anterior will? and until this question be definitively answered, which it never can, we must be unable to conceive the possibility of the fact of liberty. But, though inconceivable, this fact is not therefore false.| True, we are unable to conceive the possibility of the fact of liberty, if this must be conceived as consisting in a power over the determinations of the will; but, in our humble opinion, this definition of liberty is not right. It seems more correct to say, that the freedom of the will consists in the absence of a power over its determinations, than in the presence of such a power.
There is another false conception which has given great apparent force to the cause of necessity. It is supposed that the states of the will, the volitions, are often necessitated by the necessitated states of the sensibility. In other words, it is supposed that the appetites, passions, and desires, often act upon the will, and produce its volitions. But this seems to be a very great mistake, which has arisen from viewing the subtle operations of the mind through the medium of those mechanical forms of thought that have been derived from the contemplation of the phenomena of the material world. In truth, the feelings do not act at all, and consequently they cannot act upon the will. It is absurd, as Locke and Edwards well say, to ascribe power, which belongs to the agent himself, to the properties of an agent. Hence, it is absurd to suppose that our feelings, appetites, desires, and passions, are endowed with power, and can act. They are not agents -- they are merely the properties of an agent. It is the mind itself which acts, and not its passions. These are but passive impressions made upon the sensibility; and hence, |it is to philosophize very crudely concerning mind, and to image everything in a corporeal manner,| to conceive that they act upon the will and control its determinations, just as the motions of body are caused and controlled by the action of mind.(127)
This conception, however, is not peculiar to the necessitarian. It has been most unfortunately sanctioned by the greatest advocates of free-agency. Thus says Dr. Reid, in relation to the appetites and passions: |Such motives are not addressed to the rational powers. Their influence is immediately upon the will.| |When a man is acted upon by contrary motives of this kind, he finds it easy to yield to the strongest. They are like two forces pushing him in contrary directions. To yield to the strongest he needs only be passive.| If this be so, how can Dr. Reid maintain, as he does, that |the determination was made by the man, and not by the motive?| To this assertion Sir William Hamilton replies: |But was the man determined by no motive to that determination? Was his specific volition to this or to that without a cause? On the supposition that the sum of the influences (motives, dispositions, tendencies) to volition A is equal to 12, and the sum of counter volition B, equal to 8 -- can we conceive that the determination of volition A should not be necessary? We can only conceive the volition B to be determined by supposing that the man creates (calls from nonexistence into existence) a certain supplement of influences. But this creation as actual, or in itself, is inconceivable; and even to conceive the possibility of this inconceivable act, we must suppose some cause by which the man is determined to exert it. We thus in thought, never escape determination and necessity. It will be observed that I do not consider this inability to notion any disproof of the fact of free-will.|
It is true, that if we suppose, according to the doctrine of Sir William and Dr. Reid, that two counter influences act upon the will, the one being as 12 and the other as 8, then the first must necessarily prevail. But if this supposition be correct, we are not only unable to conceive the fact of liberty, we are also able to conceive that it cannot be a fact at all. There is a great difference, we have been accustomed to believe, between being unable to conceive how a thing is, and being able to conceive that it cannot be anyhow at all: the first would leave it a mere mystery, -- the last would show it to be an absurdity. In the one case, the thing would be above reason, and in the other, contrary to reason. Now, to which of these categories does the fact of liberty, as left by Sir William Hamilton, belong? Is it a mystery, or is it an absurdity? Is it an inconceivable fact, or is it a conceived impossibility? It seems to us that it is the latter; and that if we will only take the pains to view the phenomena of mind as they exist in consciousness, and not through the medium of material analogies, we shall be able to untie the knot which Sir William Hamilton has found it necessary to cut.
The doctrine of liberty, if properly viewed, is perfectly conceivable. We can certainly conceive that the omnipotence of God can put forth an act without being impelled thereto by a power back of his own; and to suppose otherwise, is to suppose a power greater than God's, and upon which the exercise of his omnipotence depends. By parity of reason, we should be compelled to suppose another power still back of that, and so on ad infinitum. This is not only absurd, but, as Calvin truly says, it is impious. Here, then, we have upon the throne of the universe a clear and unequivocal instance of a self-active power, -- a power whose goings forth are not impelled by any power without itself. It goes forth, it is true, in the light of the Eternal Reason, and in pursuit of the ends of the Eternal Goodness; but yet in itself it possesses an infinite fulness, being self-sustained, self-active, and wholly independent of all other powers and influences whatsoever.
Now, if such a Being should create at all, it is not difficult to conceive that he would create subordinate agents, bearing his own image in this, namely, the possession of a self-active power. It is not difficult to conceive that he should produce spiritual beings like himself, who can act without being necessitated to act, like the inanimate portions of creation, as well as those of an inferior nature. Nor is it more difficult to conceive that man, in point of fact, possesses such a limited self-active power, than it is to conceive that God possesses an infinite self-active power. Indeed we must and do conceive this, or else we should have no type or representative in this lower part of the world, by and through which to rise to a contemplation of its universal Lord and Sovereign. We should have a temple without a symbol, and a universe without a God. But God has not thus left himself without witness; for he has raised man above the dust of the earth in this, that he is endowed with a self-active power, from whence, as from an humble platform, he may rise to the sublime contemplation of the Universal Mover of the heavens and the earth. But for this ray of light, shed abroad in our hearts by the creative energy of God, the nature of the divine power itself would be unknown to us, and its eternal, immutable glories shrouded in impenetrable darkness. The idea of an omnipotent power, moving in and of itself in obedience to the dictates of infinite wisdom and goodness, would be forever merged and lost in the dark scheme of an implexed series and concatenation of causes, binding all things fast, God himself not excepted, in the iron bonds of fate.
If liberty be a fact, as Sir William Hamilton contends it is, then no such objections can be urged against it as those in which he supposes it to be involved. We are aware of what may be said in favour of such a mode of viewing subjects of this kind, as well as of the nature of the principles from which it takes its rise. But we cannot consider those principles altogether sound. They appear to be too sceptical, with respect to the powers of the human mind, and the destiny of human knowledge. The sentiment of Leibnitz seems to rest upon a more solid foundation. |It is necessary to come,| says he, |to the grand question which M. Bayle has recently brought upon the carpet, to wit, whether a truth, and especially a truth of faith, can be subject to unanswerable objections. That excellent author seems boldly to maintain the affirmative of this question: he cites grave theologians on his side, and even those of Rome, who appear to say what he pretends; and he adduces philosophers who have believed that there are even philosophical truths, the defenders of which cannot reply to objections made against them.| |For my part,| says Leibnitz, |I avow that I cannot be of the sentiment of those who maintain that a truth can be liable to invincible objections; for what is an objection but an argument of which the conclusion contradicts our thesis? and is not an invincible argument a demonstration?| |It is always necessary to yield to demonstrations, whether they are proposed for our adoption, or advanced in the form of objections. And it is unjust and useless to wish to weaken the proofs of adversaries, under the pretext that they are only objections; since the adversary has the same right, and can reverse the denominations, by honouring his arguments with the name of proofs, and lowering yours by the disparaging name of objections.|(128)
There is another false conception, by which the necessitarian fortifies himself in his opposition to the freedom of the will. As he identifies the sensibility and the will, so when the indifference of the latter is spoken of, the language is understood to mean that the mind is indifferent, and destitute of all feeling or emotion. But this is to view the doctrine of liberty, not as it is held by its advocates, but as it is seen through the medium of a false psychology. We might adduce a hundred examples of the truth of this remark, but one or two must suffice. Thus, Collins supposes that the doctrine of liberty implies, that the mind is |indifferent to good and evil;| |indifferent to what causes pleasure or pain;| |indifferent to all objects, and swayed by no motives.| Gross as this misrepresentation of the doctrine of free-agency is, it is frequently made by its opponents. It occurs repeatedly in the writings of President Edwards and President Day.(129) The freedom of the will, indeed, no more implies an indifference of the sensibility than the power of a bird to fly implies the existence of a vacuum.
The scheme of necessity is recommended by false analogies.
It is insisted that there is no difficulty in conceiving of a caused action or volition; but this position is illustrated by false and deceptive analogies. Thus says an advocate of necessity: |The term passive is sometimes employed to express the relation of an effect to its cause. In this sense, it is so far from being inconsistent with activity, that activity may be the very effect which is produced. A cannonshot is said to be passive, with respect to the charge of powder which impels it. But is there no activity given to the ball? Is not the whirlwind active when it tears up the forest?|(130) Not at all, in any sense pertaining to the present controversy. The tremendous power, whatever it may be, which sets the whirlwind in motion, is active; the wind itself is perfectly passive. The air is acted on, and it merely suffers a change of place. If it tears up the forest, this is not because it exercises an active power, but because it is body coming into contact with body, and both cannot occupy the same space at one and the same time. It tears up the forest, not as an agent, but as an instrument.
The same is true of the cannonball. This does not act; it merely moves. It does not put forth a volition, or an exercise of power; it merely suffers a change of place. In one word, there is no sort of resemblance between an act of mind and the motion of body. This has no active power, and cannot be made to act: it is passive, however, and may be made to move. If the question were, Can a body be made to move? these illustrations would be in point; but as it relates to the possibility of causing the mind to put forth a volition, they are clearly irrelevant. And if they were really apposite, they would only show that the mind may be caused to act like a cannonball, a whirlwind, a clock, or any other piece of machinery. This is the only kind of action they serve to prove may be caused; and such action, as it is called, has far more to do with machinery than with human agency.
President Edwards also has recourse to false analogies. To select only one instance: |It is no more a contradiction,| says he, |to suppose that action may be the effect of some other cause besides the agent, or being that acts, than to suppose that life may be the effect of some other cause besides the being that lives.|(131) Now, as we are wholly passive in the reception of life, so it may be wholly conferred upon us by the power and agency of God. The very reason why we suppose an act cannot be caused is, that it is a voluntary exercise of our own minds; whereas, if it were caused, it would be a necessitated passive impression. How can it show the fallacy of this position, to refer to the case of a caused life, in regard to which, by universal consent, we do not and cannot act at all?
The younger Edwards asserts, that |to say that an agent that is acted upon cannot act, is as groundless as to say that a body acted upon cannot move.| Again: |My actions are mine; but in what sense can they be properly called mine, if I be not the efficient cause of them? -- Answer: my thoughts and all my perceptions and feelings are mine; yet it will not be pretended that I am the efficient cause of them.|(132) But in regard to all our thoughts and feelings, we are, as we have seen, altogether passive; and these are ours, because they are necessarily produced in us. Is it only in this sense that our acts are ours? Are they ours only because they are necessarily caused to exist in our minds? If so, then indeed we understand these writers; but if they are not merely passive impressions, why resort to states of the intelligence and the sensibility, which are conceded to be passive, in order to illustrate the reasonableness of their scheme, and to expose the unreasonableness of the opposite doctrine? We admit that every passive impression is caused; but the question is, Can the mind be caused to act? As we lay all the stress on the nature of an act, as seen in the light of consciousness, what does it signify to tell us that another thing, which possesses no such nature, may be efficiently caused? All such illustrations overlook the essential difference between action and passion, between doing and suffering.
The scheme of necessity is rendered plausible by a false phraseology.
The false psychology, of which we have spoken, has been greatly strengthened and confirmed in its influences by the phraseology connected with it. As Mr. Locke distinguished between will and desire, partially at least, so he likewise distinguished a preference of the mind from a volition. But President Edwards is not satisfied with this distinction. |The instance he mentions,| says Edwards, |does not prove there is anything else in willing but merely preferring.|(133) This may be very true; but is there nothing in willing, in acting, but merely preferring? This last term, however it may be applied, seems better adapted to express a state of the intelligence, than an act of the will. Two objects are placed before the mind: one affects the sensibility in a more agreeable manner than the other, and therefore the intelligence pronounces that one is more to be desired than the other. This seems to be precisely what is meant by the use of the term preference. One prefers an orange to an apple, for instance, because the orange affects his sensibility more agreeably than the apple; and the intelligence perceiving this state of the sensibility, declares in favour of the orange. This decision of the judgment is what is usually meant by the use of the term preference, or choice. To prefer, is merely to judge, in view of desire, which of two objects is more agreeable. But judging and desiring are, as we have seen, both necessitated states of the mind. Why, then, apply the term preference, or choice, to acts of the will? Why apply a term, which seems to express merely a state of the intelligence, which all concede is necessitated, to an act of the will? Is it not evident, that by such a use of language the cause of necessity gains great apparent strength?
There is another way in which the language of the necessitarian deceives. The language he employs often represents the facts of nature, but not facts as they would be, if his system were true. Hence, when this system is attacked, its advocates repel the attack by the use of words which truly represent nature, but not their errors. This gives great plausibility to their apologies. Thus, when it is objected that the scheme of necessity |makes men no more than mere machines,| they are always ready to reply, |that notwithstanding this doctrine, man is entirely, perfectly, and unspeakably different from a machine.| But how? Is it because his volitions, as they are called, are not necessarily determined by causes? No. Is it because his will may be loose from the influence of motives? No. Is it because he may follow the strongest motive, or may not follow it? No. Nothing of the kind is hinted. How does the man, then, differ so entirely from a machine? Why, |in that he has reason and understanding, with a faculty of will, and so is capable of volition and choice.| True, a machine has no reason or understanding; but suppose it had, would it be a person? By no means. We have seen that the understanding, or the intelligence, is necessarily determined; all its states are necessitated as completely as the movements of a machine. This constitutes an essential likeness, and it is what is always meant, when it is said that necessity makes men mere machines. But it seems that man also has |a faculty of will, and so is capable of volition or choice.|(134) Yes, he can act. Now this language means something according to the system of nature; but what does it mean according to the system of necessity? It merely means that the human mind is susceptible of being necessitated to undergo a change by the |power and action of a cause,| which the advocates of that system are pleased to call an act. They never hint that we are not machines, because we have any power by which we are exempt from the most absolute dominion of causes. They never hint that we are not machines, because our volitions, or acts, are not as necessarily produced in us, as the motions of a clock are produced in it. Now, if this scheme were true, there would be no such things as acts or volitions in us: all the phenomena of our minds would be passive impressions, like our judgments and feelings. When they speak of the will, then, which is capable of volitions, or acts, they deceive by using the language of nature, and not of their false scheme.
The scheme of necessity originates in a false method, and terminates in a false religion.
This system, as we have seen, has been built up, not by an analysis of the phenomena of the human mind, but by means of universal abstractions and truisms. It takes its rise, not from the facts of nature, but from the conceptions of the intellect. In other words, instead of anatomizing the world which God has made so as to exhibit the actual plan according to which it has been constituted, it sets out from certain identical propositions, such as that every effect must have a cause, and proceeds to inform us how the world must have been constituted. This |usual method of discovery and proof,| as Bacon says, |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.| Nowhere, it is believed, can a more striking illustration of the truth of these pregnant words be found, than in the method adopted by necessitarians. They begin with the universal proposition, that every effect must have a cause, as a self-evident truth, and then proceed, not to examine and discover how the world is made, but to demonstrate how it must have been constructed. This is not to |interpret,| it is to |anticipate| nature.
By this high a priori method the freedom of the human mind is demonstrated, as we have seen, to be an impossibility, and the accountability of man a dream. Man is not responsible for sin, or rather, there is no such thing as moral good and evil in the lower world; since God, the only efficient fountain of all things and events, is the sole responsible author of all evil as well as of all good. Such, as we have seen, are the inevitable logical consequences of this boasted scheme of necessity.
But we have clearly shown, we trust, that the grand demonstration of the necessitarian is a sophism, whose apparent force is owing to a variety of causes: -- First, it seeks out, and lays its foundation in, a false psychology; identifying the feelings, or affections, and the will. Secondly, by viewing the opposite scheme through the medium of this false psychology, it reduces its main position to the pitiful absurdity that a thing may produce itself, or arise out of nothing, and bring itself into existence; and then demolishes this absurdity by logic! Thirdly, it reduces itself to the truism, that a thing is always as it is; and being entrenched in this stronghold, it gathers around itself all the common sense and all the reason of mankind, as well it may, and looks down with sovereign contempt on the feeble attacks of its adversaries. Fourthly, it fortifies itself by a multitude of false conceptions, arising from a hasty application of its universal truism, and not from a severe inspection and analysis of things. Fifthly, it decorates itself in false analogies, and thereby assumes the imposing appearance of truth. Sixthly, it clothes itself in deceptive and ambiguous phraseology, by which it speaks the language of truth to the ear, but not to the sense. And, seventhly, it takes its rise in a false method, and terminates in a false religion.
These are some of the hidden mysteries of the scheme of necessity; which having been detected and exposed, we do not hesitate to pronounce it a grand imposition on the reason of mankind. As such, we set aside this stupendous sophism, whose dark shadow has so long rested on the beauty of the world, obscuring the intrinsic majesty and glory of the infinite goodness therein displayed. We put away and repudiate this vast assemblage of errors, which has so sadly perplexed our mental vision, and so frightfully distorted the real proportions of the world, as to lead philosophers, such as Kant and others, to pronounce a Theodicy impossible. We put them aside utterly, in order that we may proceed to vindicate the glory of God, as manifested in the constitution and government of the moral world.