« AnteriorContinuar »
Will of God is subsequent in the order of nature to the sublime ground which is the spring of the activity of the human soul.”
This discovery, like most new discoveries in the fundamental principles of philosophy, is more specious than solid. The author has evidently thought long and hard to obtain his conclusion, but that conclusion rests on the supposition, that the soul which acts is identically the uncreated, eternal soul, - that is to say, the uncreated and eternal ability of God to create the soul, — which is not true in itself, and is, moreover, contrary to the author's own doctrine. The soul that acts is the soul as "active existence"; but the soul, which the author asserts as eternal, which could not have been created, and cannot be annihilated,” is the essential soul, the soul abstracted from its active existence,” as we have already seen; that is to say, no soul at all, for abstractions are nothing. There are no abstractions in nature, or the ontological order; that is, in the order of being, of reality. But the soul, as actual or active existence, the author concedes, depends on the will of God; and since, then, it is only in the sense in which we depend on the will of God that we do or can act, it does not follow that our actions are independent of that will, and uncontrollable by it. Nay, on the author's own principles, it follows that they are controllable by it.
The author seems not to have considered, that to assert that the possibility of an existence inheres in the being of God is to assert, in regard to the existence itself, that it cannot exist without the intervention of the Divine creative act. that a being depends upon its possibility so inhering, is only saying that it cannot exist without God, and can be only what he has the inherent ability to make it; which is to assert its limitation, not its ability, and God's ability, not his limitation. Grant that the human soul depends upon its possibility inhering in the very being of God, what follows? Therefore the soul is eternal ? Not at all; but therefore the soul is not eternal, is created, or else does not exist ; because the possible does not exist till rendered actual, and to render the possible actual, the author himself tells us, is equivalent to creation out of nothing. The author has fallen into a slight mistake ; he has made the soul's possibility God's inability, and the soul's want of existence its eternal and independent existence. The soul is possible in God, therefore God is unable to create it; therefore the soul is, and is eternal, capable of acting freely and independently of the Divine will. As much as to say, if the NEW SERIES. VOL. IV. NO. I.
creation of the soul is possible, it is impossible. We can hardly believe that this logic has been borrowed from Aristotle.
The author protests against pantheism, and, we doubt not, with sincerity. He wishes, we presume, to distinguish, and fully believes that he does distinguish, between the human will and the Divine. Yet his doctrine, if he excludes the Divine creative act, makes the human will, physically as well as morally, the Divine will. “The Will of Man,” he says expressly, depends, for its ability to operate, upon its possibility inhering in the very being of God." The possibility of a will inhering in the Divine Being must mean, either the ability of God to will, or his ability to create a will. If the author un derstands it in the latter sense, he loses his argument for the freedom of the will founded on the supposition that it is not created ; if in the former sense, he makes it identically the Divine will itself, for the inherent ability to will is the will, and all that is ever meant by the will, ontologically considered. But to make the human will identically the Divine will, and on that ground to assert its freedom, is to assert its freedom by making it physically the will of God, and annihilating it as human, - pure pantheism. Divest us of the substantive force that wills, and restore it to God, and what remains to be called we? It is not a little surprising that the author did not see this, for he is very careful to tell us that the Divine will and the human will are alike dependent, and in the same sense dependent, upon their respective possibilities inhering in the very being of God; and it is on the ground that they are so dependent, and that the activity of each is the inherent activity of the same Divine Essence, that he asserts one is independent of the other. But if so dependent, either both are the will of God, and then identical, or neither is. The author's mathematics should have taught him, that two things respectively equal to a third are equal to one another.
It is not difficult to seize the truth the author has in his mind, and which, interpreted by his doctrine that abstractions are real, may well seem to support his conclusion. “God,” he says, “ brings forth, according to bis Will, from potentiality into actuality, just what he pleases ; but when any human soul is brought into actual relations, it acts from itself, independently of God's Will, for it acts from an origin transcending God's Will. — God may drive any human soul back into potentiality, that is, may destroy its life, but while he suffers it to live, he cannot alter its will by any direct [how any more by indirect ?] exertion of power.” It is easy to see what the author is driving at, though he does not appear to have very distinctly apprehended it, and he is far from expressing it correctly. What he wishes to say appears to us very briefly and very accurately expressed by Vasquez :* - Essentia rerum ordine rationis sunt ante omnem Dei scientiam et voluntatem : quare licet possit cuilibet rei tribuere, aut non tribuere existentiam, non potest illius naturam intrinsicus immutare. sences of things, in the order of reason, are before all science and will of God; and hence, though God may or may not give existence to any thing he pleases, he cannot intrinsically change its nature.” Here is evidently what the author has in view. The essences of things are what are also called the possibilities, forms, or ideas of things, and being prior, in the order of reason, not, by the way, in the order of nature, — to the science and the will of God, are uncreated, theresore necessary and eternal. God may or may not endow them with existence, bring them forth into actuality, actualize them, as he pleases, but if he wills to actualize or render actually existent any one of them, he must conform to its intrinsic nature. Thus, if he choose to actualize the manidea, to clothe it with actual existence, he must do so without altering, or in any respect impairing, the intrinsic nature of that idea, — what our author calls the possibility of a human soul. Hence, by virtue of this necessary and eternal man-idea, - our possibility inbering in the very being of God, — we are rendered, as actual existences, free agents, and our actions are independent of the will of God. This is really the process, we suppose, by which the author obtains his startling conclusion. But his conclusion is invalid, because it is obtained only by reasoning a posse ad esse, which the logicians tell us is not allowable. We act not as possible, but as actual existences, and we cannot conclude what we actually are from what it was possible for God to make us.' Before we can assert what we are, we must know, not only that God has actualized an idea, but what idea he has actualized in creating us. If the idea is that of free agents, or existences capable of free will, then we may say, God must, necessitate a suppositione, as it is called, treat us as such, because he cannot both do and not do the same thing at the same time; but not otherwise. The God, man,
error of the author is not in asserting that we are free agents, and that God cannot, while he suffers us to live, make us any thing else, for that is a fact; but in concluding our free agency, not from the idea of the existence which we are, but from the fact that our existence is the actualization of an idea. This cannot be done, for, since every existence is the actualization of some idea, it would imply that all existences have free will, and that minerals, plants, and animals have free will as well as men; which would destroy the author's notion of Destiny, compel him to abate one of the three great powers he supposes to concur in the movement and government of things, thus razing the ontological basis of his three grand epochs, and oblige him to a very essential modification of the mysterious figure poised on three forces coalescing in their action, which adorns his title-page, and is, we presume, emblematical of his theory of
and nature. Besides, it would limit the Divine omnipotence, deny to God the power to create different orders of existence, resolve all genera and species into one, and bring us back by another route the ordinary route of American Transcendentalists once more to pantheism.
The author obtains bis conclusion from the assumption, that ideas, genera, and species, regarded in themselves, abstracted from the existences in which they are concreted, are active, causative, not merely causa essentiales, but causæ efficientes. This is a most grave error, and yet it is not peculiar to the author. It is the common error of all who assert the reality of abstractions. We ourselves fell into it in the essays we have referred to, and which we wish to be considered as retracting. Leroux avowedly asserts it, and it is fundamental in nearly all the humanistic theories of the day, — theories which glorify humanity at the expense of individuals, and absorb the individual in the race. Even Cousin, who should have escaped it, expressly teaches it, and makes it the principle of the solution of the problem proposed by Porphyry, and so furiously debated by the Scholastics.* But the idea is the mere possibility of existence, and it is a contradiction in terms to assert that the possible is active. Only the actual is active. All reality is, no doubt, in a certain manner, active ; and this fact, since ideas are real, is what misled us, and, we presume, is that which has misled others. Ideas are certainly real, and in some sense active; but their activity is not the activity of the
Fragments Philosophiques : Philosophie Scholastique, edit. 2e. Paris. 1840.
things of which they are the ideas or the necessary and eternal forms, but of the Divine Intelligence or Reason, in which they are real. If the ideas are considered as concreted in existences, the activity is the activity of the existences themselves; if they are considered as not so concreted, yet as real, the activity is the activity of the Divine mind which contains them, and is the power to concrete or actualize them.
The author's errors seem to us to result solely from his attempt, consciously or unconsciously made, to combine Cartesianism and Platonism in a single doctrine, and will vanish of themselves, if he will just bear in mind that ideas, the forms, essences, or possibilities of things, are before the science and will of God only in the order of reflection, not in the order of being, and that they are God himself, infinite in number, indeed, if regarded in relation to the effects which God is able to produce, but regarded in relation to his ability one only, and identically his own real, necessary, and eternal being. It is in regard to these two points that modern philosophy is principally at fault. Let it once be set right as to these, and its Other errors, so far as of grave magnitude, will fall of themselves.
The author confounds the order of reflection with the order of being. If he had not been betrayed by the prevailing psychologism of the age, he would hardly have done this, for his own genius is philosophical rather than psychological. His mistake arises from not distinguishing between relection and intuition. The Scholastics are aware of the distinction, and presuppose it, but we rarely find them treating it ex professo. Cousin and the modern Germans have, indeed, distinguished between reflection and spontaneity, which would virtually be the true distinction, if they did not contrive to identify the intellect and its object, the vis intellectiva, with the intelligibile, sometimes making both human, sometimes both Divine. Cousin comes nearer than most others to the truth, but misses it, in consequence of supposing that method must take precedence of principles; that it is by method we obtain the principles of philosophy, and not that it is the principles that precede and determine the method. He has been misled by Descartes, who makes the consideration of method precede that of principles, whereas method is nothing but the application of principles, and necessarily presupposes them. It does not obtain or discover principles, it merely applies them to the solution of special problems. The principles must precede, and be given