Can Change the World Again.
A SYSTEM OF MENTAL PHILOSOPHY. 1882.
REV. ASA MAHAN, D. D. LL.D.
The sphere of Mental Science, as indicated in the preceding chapter, includes in itself three fundamental departments of inquirythe Science of the Intellectthe Doctrine of the Willand an analysis of the Sensibilities of the Mind. Part I. of the present treatise will be occupied with the Science of the Intellect, or with a development of the Phenomena, Faculties, and Laws of the Human Intelligence. The present chapter will be occupied, in accordance with the principles of true science, with a classification of THE PHENOMENA OF THE INTELLIGENCE. As all that we know, or can know, of this, as well as of every other department of the mind, is revealed to us through the phenomena which lie under the eye of Consciousness, the first inquiries which now present themselves are: What are the phenomena of thought thus revealed? What are their fundamental characteristics? In conformity to what principles shall they be classified and arranged?
PRINCIPLE OF CLASSIFICATION.
There is one principle, in conformity to which all intellectual phenomena may be properly classified, and in the light of which, the fundamental characteristics of such phenomena may be very distinctly presented. We refer to the modes in which all objects of thought are conceived of by the intelligence. Of these modes, there are two entirely distinct and separate, the one from the other. Every object of thought is conceived of as existing either contingently or of necessity: that is, that object is conceived of as existing, with the possibility of conceiving of its nonexistence, or it is conceived of as existing with the impossibility of conceiving of its non-existence. If we have any conceptions of an object at all we must conceive of it as falling under one or the other of these relations. The principle of classification, therefore, is fundamental, and of universal application.
CONTINGENT AND NECESSARY PHENOMENA OF THOUGHT DEFINED.
Every thought, conception, cognition, or idea, then, by whatever term we may choose to designate it, all the phenomena of the Intelligence, may be classed as contingent or necessary. A conception is contingent, when its OBJECT may be conceived of as existing with the possibility of conceiving of its non-existence.
An idea is necessary when its OBJECT is conceived of as existing with the impossibility of conceiving of its nonexistence. All the phenomena of the intelligence must, as shown above, fall under one or the other of these relations. It remains now, to illustrate the principle of classification here adopted, by a reference to an adequate number of particular phenomena, as the basis of important distinctions pertaining to the different functions or powers of the intelligence. In the notice which we shall take of particular phenomena, other important characteristics, aside from those under consideration, will be developed, while these will be kept prominently in mind as the grounds of classification.
IDEA OF BODY CONTINGENT.
We will begin with the idea of body. Take any one body we please, the book, for an example, which lies before us. While we conceive of this body, as existing, we can also, with perfect readiness, conceive its non-existence. We believe that the time was, when it had no existence, and that the time may come, when it will cease to exist. The power which brought it into being, may also annihilate it. The same holds true of all bodies, of every kind. All objects around us, the world itself, and the entire universe, we contemplate as existing with the possibility of, at the same time, conceiving of their non-existence. They do exist. They may be conceived of as not existing. There is no difficulty of conceiving of these propositions as true. Nor is there any perceived contradiction between them. The idea of body then is contingent. We always conceive of the object of that idea as existing, with the possibility of, at the same time, conceiving of its non-existence.
IDEA OF SPACE NECESSARY.
We now turn to a consideration of the idea of space. We can, as shown above, readily conceive of the annihilation of all bodies, of the universe itself. But when we have conceived of this, can we conceive that space, in which the universe exists, may be annihilated? We cannot. We conceive of space as a reality, as really existing. Can we conceive of it as not being? We cannot. No intelligent being can form such a conception. Of this everyone is perfectly conscious. When we have conceived of the nonexistence of this world, and of all other bodies, of the entire universe itself, let any one attempt to conceive of the annihilation of space, in which we necessarily conceive of all these objects as existing, and he will find the formation of such a conception, an absolute impossibility. The idea of space then is necessary. We conceive of the object of that idea as existing, with the impossibility of conceiving of its non-existence.
IDEAS OF SUCCESSION, AND TIME, OR DURATION.
These ideas are in all intelligent minds. No individual, whose intelligence has been developed at all, will fail to understand you, when you speak of one event, as having happened; of another, as having succeeded it; and of the fact that that succession took place in some definite period of time. We will now mark the characteristic of these ideas.
IDEA OF SUCCESSION CONTINGENT.
You can conceive of some one event as having happened, and of another as having succeeded it. In other words, you have the idea of succession. Can you not conceive, that neither of these events occurred? Every individual can readily form such a conception. The same holds true of all events, of all succession of every kind, and in all time. The idea of succession, like that of body, is therefore contingent.
THE IDEA OF THE NECESSARY.
But when we have conceived of the total cessation of succession, we find it absolutely impossible to conceive that there is no time, or duration, in which succession may take place. We can no more conceive of the annihilation of time, than we can of that of space. The idea of time, then, like that of space, is necessary.
IDEAS OF THE FINITE AND OF THE INFINITE.
The ideas of Space and Duration, as they exist in all minds, not only bear the characteristics of necessity, but each, in common, pertains to its object as absolutely infinite. This is undeniable. The ideas of body and succession, each pertains to its object, as limitable or finite. Those of space and duration pertain to their objects, as being without limits, or as infinite. Each of these ideas, that of the finite on the one hand, and of the infinite on the other, may be detached from the objects to which they pertain, and be considered by itself. These ideas then whatever philosophers of certain schools, may say to the contrary, are, undeniably, in the mind. They are also distinct, the one from the other. Consequently the one cannot be derived from the other. The multiplication of the finite cannot give the infinite. Nor by dividing the infinite do we find the finite. Being correlative ideas, the one necessarily supposes and suggests the other. The one cannot possibly exist in the mind without the other. Yet, as above remarked, the one is perfectly distinct from the other.
Nor is one of these ideas less distinct than the other. When I speak of the infinite, every one as readily and distinctly apprehends my meaning, as when I speak of the finite. The following propositions, for examplebody is limitable; space is illimitableare equally intelligible to all minds.
There are other forms in which these ideas appear in the mind, in all of which they sustain, to each other, the same relations, and possess the same characteristics. When the mind conceives of power, wisdom or goodness, as imperfect or limited, or finite, it necessarily conceives of attributes of the same class as perfect, unlimited, or infinite: just as when it conceives of a reality which is and began to be, it necessarily conceives of a reality which, not only is, but always was.
If an individual still affirms that he has no idea of the infinite, we have only to ask him whether he understands the import of the words he employs, when he makes such an affirmation: whether he is not conscious of speaking of something, which, in thought, he himself clearly distinguishes from all that is limitable, or limited. These questions, he will readily answer in the affirmative. In this answer he clearly contradicts the affirmation under consideration. For, if he really, as he affirms, has no idea of the infinite, he would not know the meaning of the terms he uses, nor could he, in thought, clearly distinguish the infinite, from all that is limitable, or finite.
If also we have no real or positive idea of the infinite, we can have none of time and space, for they are positive ideas, and their objects are given in the intelligence, as positively, or absolutely, infinite.
IDEAS OF MENTAL PHENOMENA AND PERSONAL IDENTITY.
Every individual believes, and must believe, that he is now the same being that he was yesterday, and will be tomorrow. Numberless, and ever varying phenomena are constantly passing under the eye of consciousness. Many are recalled of which we were formerly conscious. Yet they are all referred to the same individual subject. All phenomena, of thought, feeling, and willing, of which we are now conscious, which we recall, as having in some former period, been conscious of, or which we expect to put forth in some future time, are given in the intelligence in this exclusive formI think, I feel, I will; I did think, I did feel, I did will so and so. The same holds equally true of all similar phenomena which we contemplate, as about to occur in future time. Whatever the phenomena may be, the same identical I is given as its subject. This is what is meant by personal identity. It is the unity of our being, of the I or self, as opposed to the plurality and ever changing phenomena of consciousness. Having shown that the idea of mental phenomena and of personal identity are in the mind, we will consider their characteristics.
IDEA OF MENTAL PHENOMENA contingent AND RELATIVE.
An idea is said to be relative, when its object can be conceived as existing, but upon the condition, that some other object is conceived of as, also, existing. Thus, for example, we cannot conceive body to exist, without conceiving of space as existing. The reality of succession, also, implies that of time. The ideas of body and succession, therefore, are not only contingent, but also relative ideas. The same, as we shall perceive hereafter, holds true of the ideas of phenomena and events, and we might add of all other contingent ideas.
You have a consciousness of some thought, feeling, or act of will. You remember similar phenomena of which you were formerly conscious. You conceive of them as now being, or as having been, actual realities. Can you not conceive of them as not being or as never having taken place? You can. Can you conceive of such phenomena as existing or having existed, without referring them to some subject? In other words, can you conceive of some thought, feeling, or volition as now existing, or as having existed in former times, without referring it to some subject, some being which thinks, feels, or wills? You cannot. All the phenomena of consciousness are, contingent and relative.
IDEA OF PERSONAL IDENTITY NECESSARY.
How is it with the idea of personal identity? You are now conscious of some thought or feeling, or act of will. You recall others, of a similar nature, of which you have been formerly conscious. This you refer to one and the same subject, the I of consciousness, as it is sometimes called. This reference you and all mankind alike must make. This reference mankind universally make in all the transactions of life. Under its influence we hold ourselves and others bound to fulfill contracts made years ago. Under its influence, the virtuous are commended and rewarded, and the vicious are blamed and punished for actions long since performed. Under its influence we anticipate the retributions of eternal justice in a future state for the deeds done in the body. Is it possible to avoid making this reference? It is not. You cannot possibly conceive of a thought, for example, without referring it to some subject which thinks. You cannot be conscious of any mental phenomenon, or recall any others of which you were formerly conscious, without referring them to one and the same subject, yourself. The idea of personal identity, then, is necessary.
NECESSARY IDEAS DISTINGUISHED AS CONDITIONAL AND UNCONDITIONAL.
Here an important distinction between necessary ideas demands special attention. When we contemplate the ideas of space and duration, for example, we find that the objects of these ideas must exist, whether anything else exists or not. Those ideas, therefore, are not only necessary, but unconditioned and absolute. On the other hand, the ideas of personal identity, and of substance and cause which we shall hereafter consider, are not, in this sense, necessary. They are only conditionally necessary. Phenomena being given, substance must be. An event being given, the supposition of a cause is necessary. Phenomena and events not being given, we do not affirm the existence of substances or causes. The phenomena of consciousness not being given, we do not affirm the reality or identity of the self, the subject of these phenomena. Such ideas are conditionally necessary, and not like those of space and time, not only necessary, but unconditioned and absolute.
IDEAS OF PHENOMENA AND SUBSTANCE. IDEA OF SUBSTANCE EXPLAINED.
If the observations which have been made upon the idea of personal identity, have been distinctly understood, the characteristics of the idea of substance will be readily apprehended. All the phenomena of consciousness and memory are, as we have seen, by a necessary law of our being, referred to one and the same subject. The phenomena are accidents, perpetually changing. The subject, however, remains the same. Now, in the language of Cousin, "Being, one and identical, opposed to variable accidents, to transitory phenomena, is Substance." But thus far we have only personal substance. The same principle however, applies equally to all external substances. Through the medium of our senses, such objects are given to us as being possessed of a great variety of qualities, and as existing in a great variety of states. The qualities and states, which are perpetually varying, we necessarily refer to one and the same subject; a subject which remains one and identical, and the endlessly diversified phenomena which it exhibits. This is substance.
IDEA OF PHENOMENA CONTINGENT AND RELATIVE.THAT OF SUBSTANCE NECESSARY.
Now as it is with our ideas of the phenomena of consciousness and personal identity, so it is with our ideas of external phenomena and external substance. The former is contingent and relative; the latter is necessary. When any phenomenon appears, we can readily conceive that it had not appeared. Its appearance also we can admit, only on the supposition of something else, to wit, substance, to which this appearance is necessarily referred. Our ideas of phenomena, therefore, are contingent and relative.
On the other hand, the idea of substance, relatively to phenomena, is necessary. Phenomena being given, substance must be. It is impossible for us to conceive of the former without the latter.
IDEAS OF SUBSTANCE NOT OBSCURE, BUT CLEAR AND DISTINCT.
According to Locke, "We have no clear idea of substance in general." This idea, also, he represents, as "of little use in philosophy." In reply, it may be said, that our idea of substance is just as clear and important, as those of time, space, and personal identity. Of this every one is conscious. The same function of the intelligence which apprehends one of these ideas, apprehends them all. Take away the power to apprehend one, and the power to apprehend every other of these ideas is annihilated. Philosophy itself also becomes an impossibility. How could we reason philosophically about ourselves, in the absence of the idea of personal identity? Equally impossible would it be, to reason about objects external to us, in the absence of the idea of substance. This and kindred ideas, instead of being "of little use in philosophy," are, in reality, the foundation of all our explanations of phenomena, external and internal.
We often hear individuals, in expatiating upon the great ignorance of man, affirming, that all we "know of realities in and around us, is their phenomena. Of the substances themselves, we know nothing." In reply to such rhapsodies, it may be said, that our knowledge of every substance of every kind, is just as clear, distinct, and extensive, as our knowledge of its phenomena. In phenomena, substances stand revealed, the substance being as its phenomena. In the phenomena of thought, for example, we know ourselves, as thinking beings, or substances, our powers being as the thoughts which they generate. Our knowledge of the powers of thought, is just as distinct as that of thought itself. The same holds true in respect to all substances, material and mental.
IDEAS OF EVENTS AND CAUSE.
The universe within and around us, presents the constant spectacle of endlessly diversified and ever changing phenomena. Some of these are constantly conjoined, in the relation of "immediate and invariable antecedence and consequence." The connection between others is only occasional. In reference to events of the former class, the mind judges, that the relation between them is, not only that of antecedent and consequence, but of cause and effect. In reference to every event, however, whether its antecedent is perceived or not, we judge that it had a cause. This judgment is universal, extending to all events, actual and conceivable. It is absolutely impossible for us to conceive of an event without a cause. Let any one make the effort to form such a conception, and he will find that he has attempted an impossibility. Here it should be noticed, that we do not affirm that every effect has a cause. That would be mere tautology. It would be equivalent to the affirmation, that whatever is produced by a cause, is produced by a cause. All this might be true, and the proposition, every event has a cause, be false, notwithstanding.
THE IDEA OF EVENTS CONTINGENT AND RELATIVE. THAT OF CAUSE NECESSARY.
The relation between the idea of an event, and that of a cause, may be readily pointed out. Whenever the mind witnesses, or is conscious of, the occurrence of an event, it apprehends that event as contingent and relative. It might or might not have happened. There is no impossibility in making these different suppositions. The occurrence of an event also necessarily supposes something else, to wit, a cause. On the other hand, no event uncaused can possibly be conceived to have taken place. The idea of an event, then, is contingent and relative. The idea of cause is necessary, conditionally so, as shown above.
IDEA OF POWER.
The idea of Power, is that of causation in its quiescent state, or as the permanent attribute of a subject irrespective of its action, at any particular moment. When particular effects are attributed to particular causes, while the nature of the substances containing such causes remains unchanged, the mind considers the power to repeat such effects under the same circumstances, as the permanent attribute of those substances. This is the idea of power, as it exists in all minds. All substances, in their active state, are Causesin their quiescent state, are Powers. Powers are of two kinds, active and passive. The latter are commonly called susceptibilities. As the existence of powers and causes is indicated by their respective phenomena, so the nature of such powers and causes is indicated by the characteristics of their respective phenomena.
The idea of power, sustaining as it does, the same relation to phenomena, that that of cause and substance do, is, of course, like those ideas, universal and necessary.
CONCLUSION OF THE PRESENT ANALYSIS.
Here our analysis of intellectual phenomena will close, for the present. It might have been extended to almost any length. Enough has been said, however, to indicate the principle of classification adopted, and to show its universal applicability, as well as to lay the foundation for the important distinctions, etc., in respect to the intellectual powers, an elucidation of which will be begun in the next chapter.