صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

of taste are the same,—if, in fact, men of genius, in all the departments of taste, have been the pupils of nature, is it presumptuous to affirm that we can comprehend the principles of taste which must have been in the mind of the great Artist when he created the world?

We are able to tell why a work of genius affects us as it does. We can analyze the work. We can point out its various excellences or defects, and show how they all unite in the impression. This is the office of criticism. It requires high qualifications; but it can be done. The world excites in us similar emotions. It utiers similar ideas. We can bring the ideas which the world speaks to us into distinct consciousness. We can answer the question, why we are moved by the beautiful and the grand in nature. We can discover those principles in nature which constitute it such a work of taste as it is. But when we have found the principles of taste in nature, we have found them not as the principles of nature, but of the God of nature. We can, therefore, rise above the symbol, to the essence of the symbol. We can discover the principles of taste both in the works of man, and the works of God.

It is impossible for us not to believe, that the principles of morals which we hold are the principles of God. When we find them in ourselves, we find them not as our own, dependent on our will; but as the principles of God. But if God holds the same principles of morals with man, is it unreasonable to suppose that he holds the same principles of taste ? What are principles in any thing? Not the creatures of man ; 'man discovers, he does not create them. Man may create a work with his own free-will that shall be governed by certain principles. But principles themselves are eternal ;—they belong to God. Man can have no more power to create or annihilate them, than to pull down the throne of the Eternal. They are all given to man to be perceived as his own, in the same manner as the principles of morals are his, and yet belong to the Holy One.

The world may also be considered a work of science.

Natural philosophy, so far as it is scientific, is but a transcript of the laws of God published in his own work. We do not entertain the same views with Abercrombie on this subject. By the laws of God we do not mean those uniform effects which our eyes behold, and from which we infer a cause. According to him, the laws of nature are only state

ments of “general facts," or, in other words, of uniform effects. For example, we have observed that certain insects uniformly place their eggs on those vegetables, which' are suited to the constitution and taste of their young. This uniform fact is a law of nature, which we denominate instinct. But we would ask, in the first place, whether this be a correct use of language? Do we not mean by a law that which governs; and would it not be more consonant with usage to say that an effect takes place according to a law, rather than that an effect, or any number of effects, constitutes the law ? If there be no idea in natural philosophy that is analogous to the idea which we commonly designate by the word law, would it not be better to expel it altogether from the vocabulary of natural science as a deceiver ?

But the perversion of language, with which those are chargeable, who call uniform effects the laws of nature, is not the only objection to such a use of words. They deny the existence of any idea in the science of nature, which may be denoted by the word in question. Perhaps our author would not deny that there are laws which govern phenomena ;-he hints at a “mysterious connection” between cause and effect ;—but he contends that they are undiscoverable by us in our present state of being. This opinion of his is inconsistent, as we have before remarked, with another sentiment which he holds, that we can discover the existence of God by reasoning from effect to cause. Let us recur to the example already mentioned. The butterfly always deposites its eggs in situations where its young may find the food that is adapted to their constitution and palate. Here we witness a uniform effect and infer a cause. But if this be the whole of our knowledge of the phenomena, can we, with any propriety, call the cause the wise Jehovah? Do we discover an intelligent Person in the cause? It is the attribute of personality to act according to a principle; but if our author is correct, all knowledge of principle is entirely excluded. Immutability alone is no mark of wisdom. Mohamınedan fate is immutable. Immutable adherence to principle, and change of operations, for the sake of such immutability, marks a wise and personal cause. In nature the connection between successive events which are connected as antecedent and consequent is fixed; the very definition of power which empiricism gives makes immutable

antecedence necessary to the existence of a cause. A cause in nature must be fate; the antecedent of all things must be immutable destiny, if empiricism is the true philosophy. It may be said, however, that the existence of God is proved not from the effects themselves which we witness in nature, but from the useful and benevolent purpose evinced in these effects. But how can empiricism discover an ultimate end in nature? She is concerned only with the uniform relation of cause and effect; and this relation she discovers only by observing numerous instances in which they are connected. The ultimate purpose of a rational mind, which may be seen in a single instance as well as in a thousand, is not one of the general facts of empiricism. And suppose it were, which do we find abandoned, wlien either the uniform effect must be given up, or else the benevolent purpose intended by the effect? The fall of bodies is in general a beneficent effect. Has this effect ever been suspended in cases where it would be destructive in the highest degree? Is that wise and benevolent action, so far as we can discover, which is immutably the same in circumstances which would seem to us to require a change?

The butterfly deposites its eggs by instinct, that is, by doing it uniformly.--A stone falls by gravitation, i. e. by falling. Can it be that our language on this subject is so utterly devoid of meaning ? Do we deceive ourselves so grossly when we think that we are talking intelligibly? Is the phraseology of the whole world wrong, and have a few philosophers of modern times discovered our error? Then let thern reform the world,-if they can. For our own part we believe that the world is incorrigible on this point, and that it will continue to talk as if laws were something more than facts. And here we would call the attention of our readers to that phraseology by which the law that governs most of the tribes of animals is contrasted with the law that governs the human race. Brutes, it is said, are directed in their movements by instinct, but the actions of man are guided by reason. If reason is not to be confounded with rational action, no more is instinct to be considered as one with instinctive develop

[ocr errors]

ment.

There must be a beginning of the series of antecedents and consequents, as all will admit, who are not so consistent in their empiricism as to deny the existence of a God. To test the notion that all our knowledge of law and power is that of uniform sequence in time, let us consider, for a moment, the connection between an ultimate fact and its cause. We will take a very common illustration from Dr. Brown. “A stone tends to the ground—that it should have this tendency, in consequence of the mere presence of the earth, appears to us most wonderful; and we think, that it would be less wonderful, if we could discover the presence, though it were the mere presence, of something else. We, therefore, in our mind, run over every circumstance analogous, to discover something which we may consider as present that may represent to our imagination the cause which we seek.” It is evident, from this quotation, that Brown considers that there is no other cause for the tendency of the stone to the earth than the earth itself; and from the quotations which have before been made from him, it appears that he considers a cause as nothing more than an antecedent in time. The illustration which he has chosen is therefore exceedingly unhappy ; for the earth is no more an antecedent of the falling stone, than the stone is of the earth. The tendency of each towards the other is reciprocal; and the same is true of all the bodies that compose the universe,-no one is the antecedent of any or all the rest ; the idea of time cannot be introduced to account for the phenomena of attraction. We must, then, look for an antecedent to the phenomena of attraction out of the world, or else we must admit that there is something in the world besides the material things which our eyes behold, and their position as antecedents and consequents. Suppose we embrace the former alternative. The antecedent of all the phenomena of gravitation must then be conceived to be the will of God. The falling of a stone, and the drawing of a planet towards the centre of its orbit, must be consequents of the volition of God as their immediate antecedent. What appears to us to be a relation between the parts of the universe—the mutual action of the bodies which compose it—the harmony of their movements arising from a principle pervading them and constituting them one organized mass—all this is an illusion. There is no bond of connection among them. There is not even that dead succession in time existing between the phenomena of attraction which Brown and our author regard as the whole subject of philosophic inquiry. Every phenomenon of attraction is entirely isolated from every other phenomenon, and connected only with the divine will, and

is only in

than that it this, as it is the influ

this only in time; it follows but is not produced by it in any other sense than that of being subsequent to it. Brown himself would not admit this, as it seems to us, legitimate conclusion from his doctrines. « It is the influence of the analogy of our own muscular motions, as obedient to our volition," he remarks, "together with the mistaken belief of adding greater honor to the divine Omnipotent, which has led a very large class of philosophers to ascribe every change in the universe, material or intellectual, not to the original foresight and arrangement merely, (the irresistible evidence of which even the impiety, that prosesses to question it, must secretly admit,) but to the direct operation of the Creator and Sovereign of the world.” We make this quotation not as approving the sentiment which it expresses, but merely to show that Brown saw the inconsistency of the results to which, we are persuaded, his view of the object of metaphysical inquiry leads. It is impossible, for a rational, thinking man, not to seek after some other relation between the parts of a system besides the relation of before and after. In a system there are mutual relations, and relations of parts to a whole. These relations would not exist objectively; they would be purely ideal, without some positive efficiency to govern and maintain them. This is the efficiency of law.

The foregoing remarks will make the meaning of the proposition, that nature is a book of science, to be understood, although the doctrines, maintained should be thought, as doubtless they will be by many, to be erroneous. As we have already said in regard to poetry, it is the business of philosophy to trace the connection of the visible operations of nature with the life and spirit by which she is actuated. The ideas with which both are conversant are not, indeed, precisely the same. The one seeks for ideas of the beautiful and the grand. The other seeks for the laws and constitutive principles of the world. Their object is not precisely the same. Philosophy aims to discover and separate from their connection with the diagrams in nature the principles therein set forth. Poetry would embody principles in symbols. Discovery is the province of philosophy ; invention, of poetry. Still philosophical and poetical genius are more nearly akin to each other than is generally supposed. Both agree in this that they employ imagination in the study of nature. Phenomena are the glass through which they look at principles. A poet who is not philosophical, is but a versifier;

« السابقةمتابعة »