18 SEPTEMBER 1880, Page 12


WE give a hearty welcome to the first of the series of Essays which the Duke of Argyll is to issue in the pages of the Contemporary .Review. It would be read with interest, we believe, were it the work of some obscure man of letters. We are glad that thoughts of so much permanent value should be given to the world with the additional prestige which attaches to the writing of a man of rank and station. The readers thus attracted will not be those best fitted to appre- ciate what they read, but it is well that the essay before us' should possess attractions for a more numerous class. It opens views of the world which Science makes known to us, touched by a light which is other than that of Science, and thus appears to us, as far as it goes, a step towards healing the great schism of our day. From some defects, very common in every treatise with which it would naturally be compared, we think it remarkably free. It deals with a subject presenting strong temptations to rhetoric, and no one would call it rhetorical ; nor is it marked by the vague- ness, the cloud of common-place, with which many mediators between Science and Faith endeavour to conceal the chasm they cannot bridge. The writer's meaning is definite, and the confusion from which his work is not quite free seems due rather to a certain haste in bringing together thoughts on a difficult and complicated subject, than to any real incoherence. Whether to this high negative praise we may add that which would outweigh much positive blame, must depend on the meaning which is attached to the word originality. Those who understand by it the power to produce an impression of novelty will not use it here. The ideas brought forward. are not unfamiliar to the student of a certain kind of literature, and the main argument might, and indeed, if it is to be put into a small space, must be stated in terms which may seem obvious enough. But originality, as we understand it, does not consist in saying what no one has said before. It is rather a quality than a form of thought. That contagion of interest which enables the reader not only to grasp the writer's meaning, but to share his apprehension of reality, that strength of conception which makes us feel him to be dealing with things and not words,—this is what we mean by originality, and find in the essay before us. Perhaps we shall hardly be able to justify this ascription in the abstract which we proceed -to put before the reader, for it is often lost in the most careful paraphrase, sometimes even in the turn of a sentence. Our aim, however, involves the hazardous attempt, and we will try -to give the Duke's argument in outline, not, however, entirely limiting ourselves to his version, but following out some -suggestions in a direction which he, possibly, may not intend -to open. Most of what we would set, forth, however, consists -of the thoughts expressed in the essay we are criticising, and often of its very words.

"What," the-Duke begins by asking, "do we mean by Unity ? In what sense can we say that a variety of things is, neverthe- less, one ?" We could wish that he had lingered over this answer, that he would have had patience, and forced his reader -to have patience, to dwell at some length on the ancient pro- blem of the Many and the One. We think that the argument -would have gained in strength, if its base had been somewhat -widened; its force, if we have rightly apprehended it, depends on the association of unity with life, on the exhibition of Unity -of Nature as a unity of plan, and therefore as implicitly a -spiritual unity. As long as we confine our attention to the in- organic world, we know nothing of unity. A pebble, indeed, is, in ordinary reckoning, its most convenient symbol, but a pebble broken in two has lost no real oneness ; the two halves are' -two things, in the very same sense in which they combined to form one thing. Let the waves rub and roll them, and no one an tell that they ever formed one thing. In Stoffmorter, as -the Germans call them, there is properly no plural. Without life, we have no unity, and therefore no multitude. Even in the lower forms of life, this unity is very incomplete. We do -not speak of" many mosses," except in the sense which moss -shares with the Stoffworter,—that of many kinds of moss. 'The zoophyte is severed almost as easily as the pebble. Not -till we reach the higher forms of animal life do we come in con- tact with any real oneness,—not till we look within, and trace -that adamantine thread which binds the memories of the varied -past into one experience, do we reach the very origin and fount of the conception. Holding fast that thread, and turning to -the world without, we discover another unity, a unity, indeed. -which is impressed on every one with a variety and reiteration of illustration that makes it almost, but not entirely, a counter- part to the unity he finds within. He is weary, and the 'earth draws her curtain of darkness ; the sensations of his bodily -frame, he finds, stand in some close and delicate adjustment with the forces that move this solid earth. He takes a glim- mering light for a candle in a cottage window, and discovers -it to be a rising planet, seen through the trees. Light that comes across a few yards of dewy air, he discovers, obeys the -same laws as light that comes across millions of miles of inter- -stellar ether. The thought seems to us more forcible than any illustration of the thought, and unquestionably it long preceded those illustrations which have so deeply impressed the imagina- tion of our day. It is, indeed, implied in the very name by -which the imaginative Greek designated that totality of pheno- mena which we may well suppose an unimaginative people would leave without any name at all; the very conception of Nature -as an Order, which we translate in the Greek word Cosmos,

-embodies that idea of the Unity of Nature which it is the triumph of modern science to have illustrated; a unity, more- -over, which was implied, and in a certain sense exaggerated, by

all the early guesses of philosophy. In the dawn of thought, when the search for an 'Apxii occupied the minds of all inves-

tigators of Nature, and before the world of phenomena was broken up into the domain of things and of thoughts, this

-idea was the starting-point of thought, and not its goal.

-Science did not give rise to it, rather it gave rise to Science. Of late years Bacon's claim to an honourable position in the 'hierarchy of Science has been fiercely disputed; it is urged, and we think truly that no sentence from his pen has ever suggested, or tended to confirm, even when by a curious chance

-it happened to anticipate, any physical truth. Yet to this

attack his admirers may oppose, as a shield of adamant, his anquestioned influence, in suffusing with the light of a power- ful imagination what we would call the hyper-physical truth -of the Unity of Nature. It was known more than twenty -centuries before he was born ; it was not demonstrated to the logical intellect till a couple of centuries after he died. But

-to him it owes that glow of colour, that halo of brilliance, which

has more to do with the reception of truth than even its con- elusive proof has ; he has made it a truth for the imagination, and all the distinguished men who have made it a truth for the intellect, have done less to farther the progress of Science.

The fact that they have made it a truth for the intel- lect explains a large part of their influence. The philosophy of Science to which our generation has given rise may be briefly described, if we may borrow the favourite expression of Comte, as a statical and dynamical version of the belief that Nature is one. The dynamic statement of the Unity of Nature, is, our readers will not need to be told, the great doctrine which would, we suppose, be cited by most physicists as the most important idea of our day,—the doctrine of Evolution. Shall we be thought presumptuous if we avow that we would keep that description for that which we have named its statical version,--the Correlation of Force ? It seems to us more important, for the same reason that it would, we believe, have seemed more important to Bacon. If the idea of Evolution is to be applied to the spiritual world, it must either be stripped of much definite meaning, or it must assume much that seems to us very disputable, while the doctrine of the cor- relation of force is applicable to a large part of the spiritual world, without any loss of either definiteness or certainty. However, we need not encumber the argument we are trying to set forth with any questionable opinion. If the first of these great ideas occupies less attention than the last, its import- ance, its grandeur, and (in definiteness and accuracy of statement) its novelty are not questioned by any one. What does it imply ? State it in general terms,—say merely that force is transformed when it seems to vanish, and you utter a truth that is expressed as clearly by Lucretius as it could be by any scientific man of our day. But the definite illustration and accurate measurement which have brought it home to the imagination and the convictions of every student of our day, have made it practically a different truth. He only discovers who proves, and to prove is to enforce with the lessons of experience, and the impressive result of accurate pre- dictum. For our age, therefore, the correlation of force is a new truth,—it has all the power and all the danger of new truth. Not, we think, that the importance of this truth can be exaggerated It seems to us the widest which the study of Nature can furnish, applicable, indeed, to much more than is ordinarily under- stood by Nature, a key to many striking experiences in human life, and on the pages of history. Such a law cannot take too high a place in our apprehension of the Order of the Universe, we are most likely to give it a place not high enough. But our danger is—and this, we think, the Duke points out very forcibly—that we shall overrate that part of the truth which is new, and suppose it an explanation of problems which it merely curtains off by its own complex and various interest. For instance, it was known from the beginning of sentient existence that light and heat were united. What have our scientific contemporaries added to that knowledge in the dis- covery of what has been called their identity ? Light and heat, to speak of them as things known to the senses, are as different as two things can be. They are much more different than two opposites. Light and darkness suggest each other, and could not be known apart; but a blind man knows what heat is just as well as any of us, and it is quite conceivable that a person should have excellent eyes and be insensible to tempera- ture. In our own day, a close and intimate connection has been revealed between these two phenomena. What is the nature of this connection ? It consists simply in the discovery that the method of operation of their common cause is identical ; both consist in a mode of movement ; both, so far as they are united, consist in a mode of motion of the same medium. Men of science have discovered that light and heat, so far as they form objects of attention to them, may be regarded as one, and their exaggerating the im- portance of this aspect of the natural forces is a very im- portant and illustrative fact. The Duke well shows that the unity whim they have thus discovered in Nature is, in some respects, a fictitious unity, disguising the need of a directive agency behind the phenomena, but we think this part of his argument wants much expansion and some clearing, and it is possible that our version may a little differ from his.

The unity of the forces of Nature consists in the fact that they are all a kind of movement, and till they part company the same kind of movement. But a kind of movement is not a thing. It is an action, a method of working, an event. It points the mind beyond itself to something which is moved, and

to something which moves. The physicists of our day have found the answer to one of these questions so interesting, that they have forgotten that it is not an answer to both. What is the thing which is moved? No conception in metaphysics seems to us more mysterious, more abstract, than that wonder- Id medium of light and heat which, in the poetic description which the Duke quotes from Dr. Young, "finds its way through all matter, as easily as the wind through a grove of trees ;" and yet which Sir John Herschel compares with equal propriety to a crystal matrix in which the stars are inserted like gems, and by means of which the earth is in actual rigid contact with the most distant orb of space ; that medium which, the Duke re- minds us, can neither be seen, nor touched, nor weighed, "which has neither weight, taste, smell, nor aspect," the existence of which we arrive at by pure reasoning, and can demonstrate only byita effects. When we have to do with a reality which has to be thus described, a reality so remote from all sensible notions, and in many respects so nearly approaching our conception of a Spirit, what wonder that the mere description should seem to answer both the questions involved in every assertion of movement, and that men should forget that movement among particles of ether is not any more an ultimate fact than movement in a heap of peb- bles is? When the causes of phenomena so multiform and universal as light and heat are, by students of the world they regulate,' pronounced to be one, ordinary men easily forget that all which an be here meant is that the causes of these very different effects have a common bond,—that something holds together the causes of the warmth that refreshes the paralytic in his sunny nook, and the light which falls on the canvas of the artist ; but what that something is, the man of science knows no more than the child. To say it is a mode of movement, is to say nothing, —nothing, we mean, beyond restating the fact that the two things are united. If we know anything, we know that dif- ferent effects must have different causes, and that warmth and light are as unlike as two phenomena can be. But the mind rests on the idea of unity ; when many effects are tracedito one cause, the seeker has found a secure station, and is in no hurry to pass on. The abstruse and arduous question—in what sense is the cause OM ?—does not immediately suggest itself. The only ultimate unity is that of which each of us is con- scious when he says "I." There is no getting beyond this oneness ; it is indeed the measure of every other. Scientific men are occupied with the endeavour to find unity in that world which is properly the sphere of diver- sity, and, fascinated by the marvellous result which the shadow of mind produces in this world, they forget that the unity which they discover is but the unity which they bring. They bring it to a material, indeed, plastic to receive it ; the marvellous order which they thus discover is a real order. But it is real only so far as the phenomena of matter are interpreted by the laws of mind, so far as we "recognise the Unity of Nature as the result of operations which the mind recognises as similar to its own."

If Ave have been successful in explaining our meaning, we shall have conveyed to the reader's mind some hints for an answer to the question,—Why the generation whose discoveries have most largely illustrated the idea of the Unity of Nature, is also the generation which has most decisively rejected that apprehension of Nature which should ascribe to it that unity which we believe to be the only perfect and literal unity,—that of relation to a central Will ? The indications of this central Will have been made a substitute for it. The idea of the Cor- lotion of 'Force—that is, of some unknown directive agency which varies the rhythm and key of the harmonies of Nature—knits up the interest in an outward world with the belief in God. But it does not create that belief, and easily becomes a substitute for it. All those indica- tions in Nature which point to a personal centre may easily be mistaken for indications of its own completeness. The more entirely the mechanism of the universe speaks of will, the more easily does it become a substitute for will. He who finds his own experience inexplicable, unless on the theory that it involves a Will not his own, and yet in more intimate con- nection with his own than any human volition, is ready to find this Will the motive-power when physical research has done its part, and the material conditions of movement admit of no further analysis. But in this analysis there is absolutely nothing to suggest such a will. Perhaps there is even something which tends to draw those minds not already inclined towards this belief a little farther away from it. For it brings the

mind in contact with a world where every fact has to be set by the side of every other fact, as possessing not necessarily an equal claim to attention (for proportion has to be considered here, as everywhere else), but just the same kind of claim. And the con- stant contemplation of such a world unfits beings of limited energy to appreciate, and even to believe in, a world where dif- ference of degree is altogether a secondary matter,—where we have to recognise the mysterious and, from the physical point of view, incredible reality of Evil. It needs, we believe, a very large nwral experience to counteract the influence of a constant and exclusive occupation with the laws of Nature. And it is obvious that not very many persons can have both.

"It will be a good result of our endeavour to see and understand the Unity of Nature," says the Duke, "should it lead us to understand that which constitutes the great exception." We take these words to refer to that un- seen world where from the same circumstance may issue the loftiest virtue and the blackest crime. Of course, the existence of such a world is denied by the physicists of our day. The virtue and the crime, they would say, are both preceded by their own antecedents. Clay goes into the fire and comes out solid, wax goes into the fire and comes out liquid, but you do not say that the same cause has different effects. Nor should you, when, from the same temptation, one man issues a hero and one a criminal. Wax was wax, and clay was clay before you brought them near the furnace, and the two men were hero and criminal in soul, while circumstance hid virtue and crime alike. If this is a true account of man's moral position, he is a part of Nature. It is on this point that the Duke seems to us confused. The sentence we have quoted implies what we consider the truth,—that the study of Nature is interesting chiefly as a background against which we may discern "the great exception." "What is natural ?" is a question that we should call important chiefly as an introduction to the further question,—" What is supernatural ?" But we should gather from the concluding sentence of the article that the latter question was superfluous, at all events as far as man was concerned. "Of this system," the Duke concludes, "we are a part, in body and mind." We readily admit that the true answer to all such problems takes most naturally the form of a statement of opposite truths, but the two se4ences we have quoted seem to us to involve a contradiction. However, an in- complete statement of a difficult problem often appears to be a contradiction, and it may be that a fuller development of this view may do much to supply stepping-stones across the chasm which we find between our two quotations. Something we had to say on this point ourselves, and something also on the Duke's references to the prevalent ideas of the doctrine of Evolution. But our space is exhausted, and we mast take some future opportunity of referring to these two divisions of our subject, which we have left for the present untouched.