THE GODS AND TITANS OF METAPHYSICS.
THE war still rages high between physics and metaphysics, be- tween science and faith, between utilitarianism and the higher -ethics, between the philosophy of the phenomenal and the real, be- tween naturalism and theology. The only difference is, that where formerly metaphysics, faith, moral obligation, realism, theology, had it nearly all their own way, while physical science, and the philosophical naturalism which clung to it, had to creep on in the most modest retirement as best they could, the latter are now carrying the war into the enemy's country, and are represented by spokesmen so powerful that the greatest potentates on the spiritual bide are called upon to reply, if only to vindicate at all the independence of their own spheres of investigation. Dr. Hooker's attack on natural theology at the British Association, or rather the whole sphere of thought which it represented, has called up two more or less considerable thinkers in reply,—one a great dig- nitary of the Church, Dr. Thomson, the Archbishop of York, who has just delivered at Edinburgh, and published,* a lecture on " The Limits of Philosophical Inquiry,"—and one a man of far higher intellectual power, though much less dignified position, Professor • The Limits of Philosophical Inquiry. Address delivered to the Members a the Edinburgh Philosophical Institution, November 6, 1865, by William, Lord Arch- bishop of York. Edmonston and Douglas.
Martineau, of Manchester New College, who has just delivered and published a lecture* on the proper relation between Science and Theology, of great breadth and power. And now, again, a powerful voice has come from the other side. Within two days of Dr. Thomson's lecture at Edinburgh, Professor Huxley replied by a Sunday lecture in the llopetown Rooms, iu the same place, on " the Bases of Physical Life," in which he returns to the charge in a sense very like that of Dr. Hooker at Norwich. Let us glance a motneut at the questions really at issue between these various able and learned men, all of them men of more than average ability, most of them men of genius.
Dr. Thomson's lecture, though able and eloquent in its way, is the weakest in its intellectual position of any of these controversial
lectures. It has two weak points. On the one hand, he tries to compress the naturalists into religiousness by enforcing on them their ignorance of the ultimate antecedents of the present cycle of terres-
trial life ; on the other hand, ho makes light of scientific knowledge altogether. First he insists on the great philosophical doctrine of the indestructibilityof force, to which he assents, pointing out, however, that, according to the teaching of geology, that which we now call inorganic rock is only the remains of innumerable vital organisms, and that which we call coal is only the buried forests of ancient time, so that we must conceive the material world to be created by the condensation, as it were, of active forms of force, like the sun's heat, and the life of trees, and plants, and the myriads of animalculm which it supports, into potential forms of force like coal, and rock, and the substance of the earth generally. We trust, almost blindly, says the Archbishop, that this procsss will always continue to go on, that the sun will continue to supply stores of life and heat, and this in spite of our knowledge that so many races of organisms have died and been buried in the earth as mere imprisoned and potential forms of future force, of which very few are capable of being retrans- formed by us into living and active force. We can, it is true, burn the compressed carbon of former forests, and by its help steam from London to Edinburgh ; but this reconversion of poten- tial into actual force is possible to us only on the smallest possible scale ; and we cannot in like manner turn to living account the fossil remains of " the jurassic masses of limestone, rich once in life," or " the fused rocks that on the Jungfrau have pushed the limestone portal back with fiery hand ;" and if once the sun were burned out, we might expect the whole store of actual life and motive force to pass back again into the potential stage, from which we should have no power of recovering it, for we should cease to live ourselves. Hence, argues the Arch- bishop, we see before us and behind us an epoch which must be miraculous in the sense of having been governed by laws of which we have no sample and no knowledge. We see traces of a whole world of life that has passed away, and even what is left will in the natural course of events pass away after it, as the one great store of active force, the sun, is u.sed up ; and this necessarily com- pels us to ask how, if physical life be all, the next transition can be made from the potential to the active phase of force. If our world
was once all active force, how did it assume the active stage, how was the sun's heat lit up? All or nearly all we see now is transformation in the reverse direction from actual and living into potential or latent force. But if an age of rest and death is inevitably coming, how will it ever pass over again into the active or living phase ? And as the latter,—the active and living phase,
—is evidently not eternal, it must have begun ; and how did it begin, how did it get itself transformed from that phase to which we are now fast again tending, to the phase from which we are every century speeding away ? These questions the Archbishop thinks are unanswerable except by supposing physical conditions of which we have no knowledge at all ; and if such conditions are to be assumed, he thinks the spiritual or religious assumptions at
least not less scientific in the narrowest sense, and far more natural than others.
And then, secondly, he ridicules, in a tone characteristic of the
narrowest and most antiquated theology, the u: ish for scientific certainty in our modes of thought :— " Is it, after all, an evil, that in some directions we fail to attain cer- tainty by mere thinking? To me it appears that the philosopher, after he had shut out all that sensation did not record, and after ho had examined all the sensible world, and with all his sensations sorted and tied up and labelled to the utmost, might chance to find himself the most odious and ridiculous being in all the multiform creation. A creature so glib, so wise, so full of discourse, sitting in the midst of creation, with all its mystery and wonder, and persuading you that ho is the master of its secrets, and that there is nothing but what he • A lrord for Scientific Theology in Appeal from the Men of Science and the Theologians. Williams and Norgste; and Whitfield.
knows ! You can imagine the self-satisfaction that would beam out in
his smile Nay, amidst all that is so awful in our life and so great, we look upon our complete philosopher, sitting in his storehouse of sensations, and still discoursing glibly of his own greatness, with a touch of kindly pity ; as we think of the children playing in the nursery when death is in the house. We know in part. It is far bettor so."
We confess that we do not think the Archbishop fortunate even in his grave argument, skilful as it is, and still less in his ridicule of the scientific tldrst. As to the argument itself, the true answer of the naturalist would be to say that, as he is ignorant of the.mode
by which the potential forces were first kindled into the active forces we see, and of the mode by which those active forces may be revived again after that epoch of rest and death to which he looks as the natural issue of what is now going on, he sees no advantage in concealing his ignorance. And further, he would say that he does not mean by ' miracle' the operation of laws of which he has no knowledge, but the breach of laws of which he has knowledge. He would admit frankly that the religious
hypothesis is (scientifically) quite as good as any other for explaining that of which he knows nothing ; but he would say that "quite as good as any other" only means in this
case " quite as bad as any other." Finally, to the Arch- bishop's ridicule of the thirst for certain knowledge, he might reply curtly enough that real knowledge is never odious and ridiculous at all, and that the Archbishop is playing the unfair
trick of first describing half-knowledge ostentatiously acting the part of whole knowledge, and then condemning it, not for what it -lacks, but what it has. Real science, the naturalist would say, is far
more humble in recognizing the depth of its ignorance than nescience of any sort, and the theologian who laughs at the man of science for his " glib wisdom," has been juggler enough to exchange, first, the man of science for the man of pretentious ignorance, and then to laugh at him for the precise quality he most abhors. The true man of science admits his immense ignorance, would fill up the great void with God, gladly, if he dared, but not finding Him with any certainty, waits for the certainty without pretending to put anything else in Ills place.
Professor Martineau is far deeper and wiser that the Archbishop of York. Ile makes no attempt to base faith on the depth of human ignorance, or by discovering a point at which science wholly fails, to prevail on human weakness to admit religion there
as a provisional locum tenens. He points out, on the contrary, that religion enters, not where we know least, but where we know most, —namely, with the sort of knowledge which, though it is not matter of sensation, is assumed iu, and lies behind, all our sensa- tions, and is discredited not because it is so uncertain, but because it is so completely at the foundations of our minds that, like the pressure of the atmosphere and the beating of our hearts, from which we never escape, we- find it hard to discriminate it as
independent fact at all. As the necessary idea of infinite space, —which is at the basis of geometry, and lies behind all our im- pressions of the material universe,—is brought into doubt on that very account,—as the idea of true causal power which is assumed in every act and speech, but is never imparted to us by any sensa-
tion, is declared spurious and illegitimate exactly because it is a universal assumption of our nature, and not a particular experi-
ence, so the recognition of a righteous Will, and a divine Purpose, and an indwelling Beauty, in the universe, is assailed by the men
of science not because their existence is really doubtful, but because they are so close to us, so deep at the foundations of our lives, that we hardly know how to discriminate them from ourselves at all.
" The occupation of the moralist and theologian," says Professor Martineau, " is not yet gone ; and would not be in the smallest degree affected, though the paleontologist could actually show under the microsrope the very type of parent cell from which, through myriad links in natural history, the human race has slwung. The
facts of personal life, of moral obligation, of social ties, of ideal aims, of religious intuition are not altered, or made unworthy of intellectual treatment, by any previous development of the organism in which they appear."
And this leads us, as if by exact scientific anticipation, to the drift of Professor Huxley's recent lecture at Edinburgh,—by the
evidently very imperfect report of which in the Scotsman we are
alone, however, able to judge it. The main point of that lecture appears to us to be this : that Professor Huxley did profess to show, if not precisely, " the very type of parent cell from which, through myriad links in natural history, the human race has sprung," something closely resembling it, which he called a "protoplasm," an active, lively, contractile, cellular substance which he discovered alike in the poisonous fur of the nettle and in the corpuscles of the Inman blood ;—and, again, that, he maintained in conclusion, that
"to investigate in the province of what was commonly called matter was true science, while investigation into the province of what was commonly called spirit did not help men, but left them where they were." Between these two widely removed terms of his disserta- tion Professor Huxley appears to have interposed statements which seem to us so obviously absurd that we conclude they are incorrectly reported,—first, a statement directed against the Archbishop of York that any one who believes in a law of necessary causality at all, must be a materialist, i.e., must believe that the physical ante- cedents of mental phenomena are their complete causes; and, next, a statement directed, as we should suppose, more against Professor Tyudal than any other of living philosophers, — (for he is the great modern apostle, as one may say, of physical cause and force), —that Iluine's philosophy of causation, or rather of no-causa- tion, which analyzes away the ideas of force and cause altogether, and leaves us nothing but a continuous succession of events not bound together by any true tie at all, is the only escape from materialism. As of these statements, especially the first, we can make nothing, from the report of Professor Huxley's lecture, we will confine ourselves to his assertion that physical science is the true organ of human progress, and all spiritual science (so called) worthless. And our answer is practically that of Professor Mar- tineau, that though admitting Professor Huxley's "protoplasm " as the basis of all physical life on the earth, and any structural laws he and his brother naturalists may be able to deduce from it, the facts of " personal life, of moral obligation, of social ties, of ideal aims, of religious intuition are not altered or made unworthy of intellectual treatment," since they still remain " phenomena sal generis, which no physiological record of corporeal antecedents, however refined and perfect it might be, would enable you to predict." Suppose a nettle's poison cell has just the same contrac- tile structure as the corpuscle that "creeps along the blood,' does either the one or the other help to define the essence of a moral obligation or a spiritual motive for a self-denying action ? Professor Huxley lays it down iu the strongest terms that the duty- of every man is " to diminish, so far as in him lies, that ignorance and that misery in the midst of which he is placed, so as to leave the little spot of earth which he had occupied a little bit better than he found it ;" and that being so, he does not see how it matters whether we call material phenomena spiritual, or spiritual phe- nomena material, or otherwise confuse them. No, it certainly does- not matter as to the name, if we keep our thoughts clear and right. But which of the two helps most to diminish the ignorance and misery of any little spot of earth, high life or physical truth ? Both are im- mensely powerful levers in the work, but if one of the two is to be lost, by all means let it be physical truth. And whence comes ► all the nourishment of high life ? From the laws of nature from the science of chemical affinities, or of cellular tissues, or of anthropological research ? or from the life "hidden with Christ in God," from the record of crucifixions, and faith, and the high philosophy of duty and belief ? Professor Huxley seems to us to be joining the herd of one-sided, narrow-minded fanatics, when he closes his eyes to those great springs of all the world's highest enterprises, the fields of ethical and theological truth, and tells us to neglect any great region of scientific investigation as simply fruitless. We assert that so far from being fruitless, it is because the region of ethical and theological investigation has been so fruitful that he is blind to its great results. It is because he himself assumes, without acknowledging, the results of the highest and most personal of all human investigations in that little phrase of his as to what it is a man's " duty" to do, because he now finds these results so close to him that he cannot even separate them from himself at all, that he thinks it safe to neglect them, as if they were beyond the possibility of loss As he would not warn a man against the danger of walking into a vacuum, because air penetrates everywhere, so he thinks there is no danger of walking into moral infidelity because the air of moral obligation and worship clings to us like an atmosphere-. Unfortunately, history shows that vacuums of the moral kind do exist, and that nothing produces them so easily as that uuphilo- sophical exaggeration of the importance of the physical phenomena of life to which Professor Huxley is unfortunately lending the authority of his great and justly respected name.