Essay in Refutation of Atheism, Pt. II (Brownson's Quarterly Review, Jan. 1874)

Philosophers and theologians do not necessarily adduce the best possible arguments to prove their theses, and may sometimes use very weak and inconclusive arguments.  An argument for the existence of God may also seem to one mind conclusive, and the reverse to another. Men usually argue from their own point of view, and take as ultimate the principles which they have never doubted, or heard questioned, although far from being in reality ultimate, and thus take for granted what for others need to be proved. Men also may hold the truth, be as well assured of it as they are their own existence, even possess great good sense and sound judgment, and yet be very skillful in defending it.  They know they are right, but know not how to prove it. 

St. Thomas, the Doctor Angelicus, maintains that the existence of God is demonstrable, not from principles really a priori or universal – for nothing can be more universal or more ultimate than God from which his existence can be concluded, since he is the first principle alike in being and in knowing – but as the cause from the effect; and this he proves by five different arguments: The first is drawn from the empirical fact of motion and the necessity of a first mover, not itself moveable; the second is drawn from the empirical fact of particular efficient causes and the necessity of a first efficient cause, itself uncaused; the third is taken from the fact that some things are possible and some are not, and as all things cannot be merely possible, therefore there must be something which is per se, necessary, and in actu; the fourth proof is drawn from m the fact that there are different degrees in things, some being more and others less good, true, noble, perfect, and therefore demand the perfect alike in the order of the true and the good – a being in whom all diversities are identified and all degrees are included, and which is their source and complement.  The fifth is drawn from the fact of order and government, and the necessity of a supreme governor. These all conclude God, if I may so speak, from a fact of sensible experience, and are empirical proofs.

Dr. McCosh, president of Princeton College, New Jersey, a man of no mean philosophical repute, relies wholly on the principle of cause and effect, as does St. Thomas, and dismisses all arguments but Paley’s argument, or the argument from design.  Pere Gratry (now dead), of the New Oratory, relies, in his “Connaissance de Dieu,” on induction from intellectual and ethical facts; the late Dr. Potter, Episcopalian bishop of Pennsylvania, in his “Philosophy of Religion,” does virtually the same.  A writer for the British Quarterly Review for July, 1871, in a very able article on “Theism,” examines and rejects all the arguments usually adduced to prove that God is, except that drawn from intuition, or, as I understand him, that which asserts the direct and immediate empirical intuition of God, or the Divine Being.  Dr. Hodge, an eminent Presbyterian divine, in his “Systematic Theology,” accepts all the arguments usually adduced, some as proving one thing, and others as proving another pertaining to theism, and holds that no one argument alone suffices to prove the whole.  Dr. John Henry Newman, in his “Apologia pro Vita Sua,” says he has never been able to prove to his own satisfaction the existence of God by reason; he can only prove that it is probable that there is a God, and appears to have written his “Grammar of Assent” to prove that probability is enough for all practical purposes, since we are obliged in nearly all the ordinary affairs of life to act on probabilities alone.  His belief in God he seems to derive from conscience.  The Holy See has decided against the Traditionalists that the existence of God can be proved with certainty by reasoning prior to faith, and the Holy See has also improbated the doctrine of the Louvain professors, that we have immediate cognition of God – a doctrine improbated by reason itself; for if man had immediate cognition of God, no proofs of his existence would be necessary, since no man could doubt his existence any more than his own, or than that the sun shines at noonday in the heavens when his eyes behold it.

The general tendency in our day is to conclude the cause from the effect, and to conclude God as designer, from the marks of design, or the adaptation of means to ends discoverable, or assumed to be discoverable, in ourselves and the external world. The objection to all arguments of this sort, that is to say, to all psychological, cosmological, and teleological arguments, which depend on the principle of cause and effect, is, that they all beg the question, or take for granted what requires to be proved. They all assume that the soul and cosmos are effects.  Grant them to be effects, it follows necessarily that they have had a cause, and a cause adequate to the effect.  As to that there can be no doubt.  Cause an defect are correlatives, and correlatives connote one another, and neither is knowable alone.  When we know anything is an effect, we know it has a cause, whether we know what the cause is or not.  But how prove that the soul or the cosmos is an effect? This the atheist denies, and this is the point to be proved against him, and how is it to be proved from the facts of experience? 

St. Thomas assumes, in his second proof, that we have experience of particular efficient causes.  This is denied by Hume, Kant, Dr. Thomas Brown, Sir William Hamilton, Dr. Mansell, and by all the Comtists, Cosmists, and atheists of every species.  Even Dr. Reid, the founder of the Scottish school, denies that we know by experience any power in the so-called cause that produces the effect, but contends that we are obliged, by the very constitution of our nature or of the human mind, to believe it. Kant agrees with Reid, and makes the irresistible belief a form of the understanding. Huxley avowedly follows Hume, as do the great body of non-Christian scientists.  Dr. Brown, the successor of Dugald Stewart, says that we all know of cause and effect is invariable antecedence and consequence, and maintains that, so far as experience goes, the relation of cause and effect is a relation of invariable sequence – simply a relation in the order of time. The question does not stand where it did when St. Thomas wrote, and to meet the speculations of the day we are obliged to go behind him, and establish principles which he could take for granted, or dismiss as inserted in human nature itself, that is, as we say, intuitively given.

Even if experience could prove particular effects, and therefore particular and contingent causes, we could not conclude from them universal and necessary causes, or the one universal cause, for the universal cannot be logically concluded from the particular, and the God that could be concluded would be only a generalization or abstraction, and no real God at all. Or if this is denied, which it cannot well be, God could be concluded only under the relation of cause, as causa causarum, if you please, but still only as efficient cause, and therefore only as essentially cause, and substance or being only in that he is cause.  This supposes him necessarily a cause, and obliged to cause in order to be or to exist.  This would make creation necessary, and God obliged from the intrinsic necessity of his own nature to create – the error of Cousin, my old master, to whom I owe the best part of my philosophical discipline.  But this is only one of the many forms of pantheism, itself only a form of atheism. 

Dr. McCosh rests the whole question on the marks of design in man and the cosmos. Design and designer are correlatives, and connote each other; and consequently the one cannot be proved as the condition of proving the other: for the proof of the one is ipso facto the proof of both.  Prove design and you prove, of course, a designer.  But how prove design, if you know not as yet that the world has been made or created? The most you can do is to prove that there are in nature things analogous to what in the works of man are the product of art or design; but analogy is not identity, and how do you prove that what you call design is not nature, or natura naturans? Does the bee construct its cell, the beaver its dam, or the swallow her nest by intelligent design, as man builds his house?  Or by instinct, the simple force of nature? Paley’s illustration of the watch found by a traveler in a desert place is illusory: for the Indian who saw a watch for the first time took it to be a living thing, not a piece of mechanism or art.     

But even granting the marks of design are proved, all that can be concluded, is not a supercosmic God or creator, but simply that the world is ordered and governed by an intelligent mind; it does not necessarily carry us beyond the Anima mundi of Aristotle; or the supreme Artificer of Plato, operating with preexisting materials and doing the best he can do with them.  They do not authorize us to conclude the really supramundane God, by the sole energy of his word creating the heavens and the earth and all things therein from nothing, as asserted by Christian theism. They can be explained as well by supposing the causa immanens with Spinoza, as by supposing a causa efficiens.

The cosmologists undertake to conclude the existence of God from the facts or phenomena of the universe.  The universe is contingent, dependent, insufficient for itself, and therefore it must have had a creator and upholder, who is himself necessary, not contingent, and is independent, self-subsisting, self-sufficing. Nothing more true.  But whence learn we that the universe is contingent, dependent, and insufficient for itself?  We know not this fact from experience or empirical intuition.  Besides, necessary and contingent are correlatives, and there is no intuition of the one without intuition of the other.

The psychologists profess to conclude God by way of induction from the facts of the soul.  Thus Descartes says, Cogito, ergo sum, and professes to deduce, after the manner of the geometricians, God and the universe from his own undeniable personal existence. Certainly, if God were not, Descartes could not exist, but from the soul alone, only the soul can be deduced, and from purely psychological facts induction can give us only psychological generalizations or laws. Take the several facts, attributes, or perfections of the soul, and suppose them carried up to infinity, it would still be only a generalization, for their substance would still be the soul, distinct and different by nature from the divine substance or being.  God is not man completed; nor is man, as Gioberti says, “an incipient God, or God who begins.” Man is indeed made in the image and likeness of God, not God in the image and likeness of man.  He is not anthropomorphous; though his likeness in which we are created enables us to understand, by way of analogy, something of his infinite attributes, and to hold, when not prevented by sin and when elevated by grace, a more or less intimate communion with him.  Christianity, indeed, teaches that man is destined to union with God as his beatitude, but the human personality remains ever distinct from the divine.

I am not certain in what sense Pere Gratry understands induction.  Probably my inability arises from my comparative ignorance of mathematics.  He says the soul by induction darts at once to God and seizes him, so to speak, by intelligence and love, whatever all that may mean.  I can understand the elan of the soul to God whom it knows and loves, but I cannot understand how a soul ignorant of God can, by an interior and sudden spring, jump to a knowledge of him. Pere Gratry says the soul arrives at the knowledge of God as the mathematician in the calculus arrives at infinitesimals, namely, by eliminating the finite.  Eliminate the finite, he says, and you have the infinite.  Not at all, mon Pere.  Eliminate the finite, and you have, as I have already said, simply zero.  The infinite is not the negation of the finite.  Infinitesimals again, are nothing, for there is and can be no infinitely little. The error comes right in the end, so far as mathematics is concerned, for it is equal on both sides, and the error on the one side neutralizes the error on the other side.

The late Dr. Potter, Protestant bishop of Pennsylvania, relies on induction, and chiefly on induction from the ethical facts of the soul. But the ethical argument to prove the existence of God does not avail, for, till his existence is proved, there is no basis for ethics. The soul has a capacity to receive and obey a moral law, but that law is not founded in its nature or imposed by it.  The moral law proceeds from God as final cause of creation, as the physical laws proceed from him as first cause, and is the law of our perfection, necessary to be obeyed in order to fulfil our destiny, or to obtain our supreme good or beatitude.  If there is no God, there is and can be no moral law, and then no morality.  Till you know God is, and final cause of the universe, you cannot call any facts of the soul ethical.

The argument of St. Anselm in his “Monologium” is the fourth of St. Thomas, and concludes God as the perfect from the imperfect, of which we are conscious, or know by experience in ourselves, or as the complement of man, an argument which contains a germ of truth, but errs by overlooking the fact that the perfect and imperfect are correlatives, and that the one cannot be inferred from the other because the one is not cognizable or cogitable without the other. St. Anselm himself seems not to have been satisfied with the argument of his “Monologium,” and gave subsequently in his “Proslogium” what he regarded as a briefer and more conclusive argument. We have in our minds the idea of the most perfect being, a greater than which cannot be thought.  But greater is a being in re, than a being in intellectu. If then there is not in re a most perfect being, than which a greater cannot be thought or conceived, then we can think a greater and more perfect being than we can, which is a contradiction. Therefore the most perfect being, a greater than which cannot be thought, does and must exist in re, as well as in intellectu, since we certainly have the idea in our minds.

This argument would be conclusive if it were shown that the idea is objective and an intuition, as I shall endeavor, further on, to prove that it is.  Leibnitz somewhere remarks that it would be conclusive, if it were first proved that God is possible, which shows that Leibnitz, with his universal genius and erudition, could be as weak as ordinary mortals.  It was his weakness, in which he anticipated Hegel, to place the possible prior to and independent of the real.  If we could suppose God not to exist in actu, we could not suppose him to be possible; for possibility cannot actualize itself and there would be no real to reduce it to act.  The error of Hegel is in supposing the possible, for his das reine Sein is merely possible being, precedes das Wesen, or the real, and has in itself the tendency or aptness to become real – das Wesen – the old Gnostic doctrine that makes all things originate in Byssus or Void.

There is no possible without the real, for possibility is the ability of the real.  The possible in relation to God is what God is able to do, and in relation to man is what man is able to do with the faculties God has given him.  There is nothing, I may add, on which philosophers have, it seems to me, been more puzzled, or more bewildered others, than on this very question of possibility.  If there were no actual, there would and could be no possible, for possibility, prescinded from the reality of the actual, is simply nothing.  The excellent Father Tongiorgi imagines that possibility is not nothing, but even something prescinded from the ability of the actual, and indeed something which, like the fatum of the Stoics, limits or binds the power of God himself. Some things he holds are possible, and others are impossible, even to God.  He forgets that nothing is impossible to God but to contradict, that is, annihilate his own eternal and necessary being.  He is his own possibility, and the measure of the possible.  It is his being that founds the nature of things, about which philosophers talk so much.

As to the argument of the “Proslogium,” its validity depends on the sense in which the word idea is taken.  If we take it in a psychological sense, as a mere mental conception, the argument may be a logical puzzle, but concludes nothing. 

If we suppose idea can exist in intellectu without existing in re, the argument concludes at best only a psychological abstraction; but if we suppose the mental idea to be the intuition of the real and objective, as I have just said, it is valid and conclusive.  St. Anselm seems to us to take idea in a subjective sense and to conclude the objective from the subjective; if so, his argument is psychological, and, like all psychological arguments, inconclusive.  Yet he seems to maintain that it is also objective, and that it could not exist in mente, if it did not exist in re, and therefore conclusive.

Descartes deduces the existence of God from the soul, in which the idea of God, he holds, is innate, that is, born in the soul and with it, is the soul, or at least psychical; consequently, the argument is psychological, and proves nothing.  Besides, Descartes, as is not seldom the case with him, falls into a paralogism, and reasons in a vicious circle; he takes the idea in intellectu to prove that God is, and the veracity of God to prove the objective truth of the idea. He also tells us, elsewhere, when hard pressed by his opponents, that he means by the innate idea of God only that the soul has the innate faculty of thinking God, and therefore concludes God is because man thinks him; but this is only asserting, in other words, that the soul has the faculty of knowing God by immediate cognition – recently improbated by the Holy See – and rests on the principle that thought can never be erroneous, which is not true, otherwise every man would be infallible, incapable of error.

The ontological arguments, so-called, founded on the alleged immediate cognition of being, are in nearly all cases, not ontological, but really psychological, as the das reine Sein of Hegel, which is simply an abstraction, therefore worthless; for the soul has no power in itself alone of immediately apprehending being.  The psychological arguments are all inconclusive, because they all assume the point to be proved.  Yet it is not denied that the argument from design, and others that rest on the principle of cause and effect, as well as those drawn from the ethical wants and aspirations of the soul, are all valuable, not indeed that proving that God is, but in proving what he is.  St. Paul tells us that “the invisible things of God, even his eternal power and divinity, are clearly seen from the beginning of the world, being understood by the things that are made,” Rom. 1. 20, but the Apostle does not tell us that the existence of God is a logical conclusion from cosmological or psychological facts or from “the things that are made.”  Indeed, St. Thomas cites this text to prove what God is, rather than to prove that he is, for he throughout is replying to the question Quid est Deus, rather than to the question, An sit Deus, as may be seen by referring to the first article of the question cited above, in which he answers the question, Utrum Deum esse sit per se notum.  

The great question the Apostles and the Fathers had to argue against the Gentiles was not precisely the existence of God, but that of the Divine Unity and the fact of creation and providence.  In fact, the distinguishing and essential feature of the Mosaic doctrine was less that God is one than that God is the one Almighty Creator of all things. The existence of one God, as has been seen, was not denied by the Gentiles, except by a few philosophers. The mother error of Gentilism was the loss of the tradition of creation, which paved the way for divinizing the forces of nature, and at length for the worship of demons, always held inferior to a Supreme Divinity, of which some dim reminiscence was always retained. 


Atheism is not natural to mankind, and is always, wherever found, the fruit of a false or defective philosophy and erroneous theories mistaken for science.  The philosophy which has been generally cultivated since Descartes made his attempt to divorce philosophy from theology, of which it is simply the rational element, and to erect it into a separate and independent science, complete in itself, and embracing the entire natural order, has hardly recognized and set forth with much clearness and distinctness the principles of a conclusive demonstration of theism, or a scientific refutation of atheism. If there is atheism pretending to found itself on science, we may charge it to the false philosophy which has generally obtained, except when connected with Catholic theology, and kept from going astray by tradition and common sense.  From the philosophers and false scientists atheism has descended to the people through popular literature, and diffused itself among the half-learned, chiefly by modern lectures and journalism, till literature, art, science, ethics, and especially politics, have become infected, and the very air we breathe saturated with it.

In order to refute atheism and check the atheistic tendency of modern society, it is necessary to revise the generally received philosophy, to correct its faulty principles and method, to supply its defects, to harmonize it with common sense and the traditions of the race, and to establish, what it is far from doing, the identity of the principles of science and the principles of things, or the identity of the knowable and the real, that is, to show that the order of science follows the order of being, and in their principles are identical.  To do this in a manner as intelligible as possible to the general reader, it is necessary to set forth the real principles on which philosophy is founded.  Philosophy itself is the science of principles, and the principles must be real, that is, the principles of things, not simply mental conceptions or concepts, or the science will want reality and be no real science at all. Real principles are the principles, not of science alone, without which nothing can be known, but principles of things, on which all things depend, and without which nothing is or exists.

Obviously then the principles of philosophy and of reality are a priori, and precede both the science and reality that depends on them, or of which they are the principles.  They must, then, be given, and neither created or obtained by the mind’s own activity, for without them the mind can neither operate nor even exist. The great error of the dominant philosophy of our times is in the assumption that the mind starts without principles, and finds them or obtains them by its own activity or its own painful exertions.  Hence it places method before principles, which is no less absurd than to suppose that the mind, the soul, generates or creates itself.  Principles are given, not found by the mind operating without principles.  They are given in the fact which we call thought, and we ascertain what they are only by a diligent and careful analysis of thought.

    In order to correct the errors of the prevailing philosophy, to ascertain the principles of a true philosophy, and of real science that refutes the atheist by demonstrating that God is, and is the creator of the heavens and the earth and all things visible and invisible, we must begin, as Descartes did, with thought (cogito), who was so far right, and ascertain what are the real and necessary elements of thought.  This is no light labor, and it is a labor rendered necessary only by prevailing errors in order to refute them, otherwise there would be no necessity for it, and little utility in it; for the human mind remains and operates the same with or without the knowledge the analysis affords.

We therefore adopt the method of the psychologists so far as to begin the analysis of thought.  This is imposed on us by the necessity of the case, as it is only in thought that we find ourselves or are placed in intellectual relation with anything not ourselves. It is only in thought that the principles of science or reality can be ascertained.  The atheist must assert thought as well as the theist, and so also must the skeptic; for he who denies or he who doubts, thinks, and can neither doubt nor deny without thinking.  Hence universal denial or universal doubt, or skepticism, is simply impossible; for he who denies, or he who doubts, knows that he denies or doubts, as he who thinks knows that he thinks. The error of Descartes, or the Psychologues, is not in beginning with thought, but in their assumption that all thought is the act of the soul or subject alone, or that thought is purely a psychological fact.

Cousin, though erring on many capital points, gives somewhere a very clear and just analysis of thought, which he defines to be a complex fact, composed of three inseparable elements, subject, object, and form.  He asserts that the subject is always the soul, or myself thinking; the object is always distinct from the soul, and standing over against it; and the form is always the relation of subject and object.  Every thought, therefore, is the synthesis of the three elements: subject, object, and their relation, as I maintained and proved in some chapters of an unfinished work on Synthetic Philosophy published in the Democratic Review for the years 1842-’43.  

Thought is either intuitive or reflective.  The careful analysis of intuitive thought, intuition, what Cousin calls spontaneity or spontaneous thought, though erroneously, and which he very properly distinguishes from reflection or thought returning on itself, and so to speak, actively rethinking itself, discloses these three elements: subject, object, and their relation, always distinct, always inseparable, given simultaneously in one and the same complex fact.  Deny one or another of these elements and there is and can be no thought. Remove the subject, and there is no thought, for there evidently can be no thought where there is no thinker; Remove the object, and there is equally no thought, for to think nothing is simply not to think; and finally, deny the relation of subject and object, and you also deny all thought, for certainly the soul cannot apprehend an object or an object be presented to the soul with no relation between them; hence the assertion by the Peripatetics of the necessity to the fact of intuition as well as of cognition of what they call phantasmata and species intelligibiles, which is simply their way of expressing the relation in thought of subject and object.

The three elements of thought being given simultaneously and synthetically in one and the same fact, they all three rest on the same authority and are equally certain both subjectively and objectively. Here we escape the interminable debates of philosophers as to the passage from the subjective to the objective, and, in military phrase, flank the question of the certainty of human knowledge, and thus render all arguments against either subjectivism or skepticism superfluous. There is no passage from the subjective to the objective, if the activity of the subject alone suffices for the production of thought, and no possible means of a logical refutation of skepticism.  If the soul alone could suffice for thought, nothing else would be necessary to its production, and thought would and could affirm no reality beyond the soul itself; no objective reality could ever be proved, and no real science would be possible.  All objective certainty would vanish, for we have and can have only thought with which to prove the objective validity of thought. Hence it is that those philosophers who regard thought as the product of the soul’s activity alone, have never been able to refute the skeptic or to get beyond the sphere of the subject.

The soul’s activity alone does not, and, unless it were God, who is the adequate object of his own intellect, could not, suffice for thought.  The object is as necessary to the production of thought as is the subject.  The soul cannot act without it, and therefore cannot seek and find its object. The presence and activity of the object is necessary to the activity of the subject.  The object must then present itself or be presented to the soul, or there is no thought actual or possible. This is the fact which Cousin undertakes to explain by what he calls spontaneity, and which he distinguishes from reflection.  Intuition, he says, is spontaneous, impersonal; but reflection is personal, in which the soul acts voluntarily. But unhappily he loses all the advantage of this distinction, for he makes the intuition the product of the spontaneous activity of the soul, or, as he says, the spontaneous or impersonal reason, therefore as much a psychical product as reflection itself; and therefore again, gets, even in intuition, no object, no reality, extra animam, and with all his endeavors he never really gets out of the subjectivism of Kant, or even the egoism of Fichte. The distinction he makes between the personal reason and the impersonal is by no means a distinction between subject and object, but simply a distinction in the soul itself, or a distinction between its spontaneous and reflective modes of acting, and is, as Pierre Leroux has well said, a contradiction of his own assertion that the subject is always the soul, and the object is always distinguishable from it, standing over against it, and acting from the opposite direction; for the impersonal and personal reason are in his view psychical, simply a faculty of the soul.

If the object were purely passive, or did not actively concur in the production of thought, it would be as if it were not, and the soul could no more think with it than without it.  It is the fact that the object actively concurs in the production of thought that establishes its reality, since what is not, or has no real existence, cannot act, cannot present or affirm itself.  So far Pierre Leroux, to whom we are much indebted for this analysis of thought, is right, and proves himself, let Gioberti speak as contemptuously of him as he will, a true philosophical observer; but he vitiates all that follows in his philosophy by maintaining that the soul creates or supplies the form of the thought, or the relation between subject and object, as I have shown in my “Convert.”  The soul cannot act without the object, nor unless the object is placed in relation with it; consequently the soul can no more create the relation than it can create the object or itself.  The object with the relation, or the correlation of subject and object, then, is presented to the soul or given it, not created or furnished by it. 

The soul, unable to think by itself alone, or in and of itself, can think even itself, find itself, or become aware of its own existence only in conjunction with the object intuitively presented; each of the three elements of thought rests on the same authority, but each is as certain as is the fact of consciousness or the fact that we think. The object is affirmed or affirms itself objectively, and is real with all the certainty we have or can have of our own existence. Farther than this, thought itself cannot go.  I cannot from principles more ultimate than thought, demonstrate thought; but it is not necessary, for he who thinks knows that he thinks, and cannot deny that he thinks without thinking, and therefore not without affirming what he denies.  This is all that can be asked, for a denial that denies itself is equivalent to an affirmation.

This analysis of thought not only refutes skepticism and subjectivism, or what is called in English philosophy, idealism, and shows the objective validity of intuition to be as indisputable as our consciousness of our own existence, but it refutes at the same time and by the same blow both the ontologists and psychologists; not indeed by denying the ontological or the psychological principle, but by showing that both are given in one and the same thought, and therefore that neither is obtained by any process of reasoning from the other.  The psychologist assumes that the soul is given, and that it is by its own psychical action obtains the non-psychical or ontological; the ontologist assumes that being is given, and from the notion of being alone the soul deduces both the psychical and the cosmic.  Neither is the fact.  Being must be intuitively presented or we cannot have the notion of being, and the intuitive presentation of being to the subject gives the subject simultaneously the consciousness of itself as the subject of the intuition.  Being can be presented in thought, only under the relation of object, and in every thought is given simultaneously with the other two inseparable elements, subject and relation.  The psychologist fails in his analysis of thought to detect as an original and indestructible element of thought a non-psychical element, the object which stands over against it, distinct from it, and except in conjunction with which there is and can be no psychical activity or action.  What the psychologist overlooks is the fact that the psychical and the non-psychical, as the condition of the soul’s activity and consciousness of itself, are both given together in one and the same intuitive fact, and therefore that neither is obtained as an element of thought or science from the other.  The objective validity of our knowledge rests on the non-psychical element of thought, not on the psychical.  The ontologist fails to detect the psychical element as a primitive element of thought; the psychologist fails to detect the ontological element as equally primitive and underived; and neither notes the fact that both are given in one and the same original intuition. Cousin asserts it indeed, but as we have seen, forgets it or destroys its value, by resolving the distinction of subject and object into a distinction between the personal and impersonal reason, or between the spontaneous and reflective modes of the soul’s activity, which makes both really psychical, and allows nothing extra animam to be affirmed in thought or presented in intuition.


The analysis of thought, as we have just seen, discloses a non-psychical or an ontological element, and shows that in every thought there is an object distinct from and independent of the subject, and that in every intuitive thought the object affirms or presents itself by its own activity.  This at one stroke establishes the reality of the object and the validity of our science or knowledge.  Having done this, we may proceed to analyze, not the subject, as do the psychologists, but the object, in order to determine, not how we know, but what we know.

Modern philosophers, for the most part, especially since Descartes, proceed to analyze the subject before having either ascertained or analyzed the object, and are engrossed with the method and instrument of philosophy before having determined its principles.  All philosophers do and must begin with a more or less perfect analysis of thought.  Even Gioberti, who insists on the ontological method, concedes that in learning or teaching philosophy, we must begin with psychology, the analysis of thought, or as Cousin says, with the analysis of “the fact of consciousness.”  But the psychologists proceed immediately from the analysis of thought to the analysis of the subject, that is, of the soul, and give us simply the philosophy, as it may be called, of the Human Understanding, as do Locke and Hume; of the Active powers of the soul, as do Reid and Stewart; or of the Human Intellect as does Dr. Potter, president of Yale College. This at best can give us, except by an inconsequence, only a science of abstractions, or the subjective forms of thought without any objective reality, or barely the Wissenschaftslehre, or the science of knowing, of Fichte, the science of the instrument and method of science, not science itself, the science of empty forms, not the science of things.

It is no wonder, therefore, that p[philosophy is very generally regarded as dealing only with abstractions and empty formulas, or that it is very generally despised and rejected by men of clear insight and strong practical sense, as an abstract science, and therefore worthless.  Mere psychology, which can only be the science of abstractions or empty forms, is even worse than worthless, and the popular estimate of it is only too favorable.  There is no class of men more contemptible or mischievous than psychologers endeavoring to pass themselves off for philosophers, and very few others are to be met with in the heterodox world, or even in the orthodox world, when not guided and restrained by the principles and dogmas of Christian theology.

This comes from proceeding to the analysis of the subject before having analyzed the object.  The object, if given simultaneously with the subject in the fact of thought, precedes it in the order of being or real order; for it presents or affirms itself as the necessary condition of the soul’s activity, and of her apprehension of her own existence even.  It is first in order, and its analysis should precede that of the soul; for as the subject is given only in conjunction with the object, or as reflected or mirrored in the object that it can know or recognize its own powers or faculties.  The object determines the faculty, not the faculty the object.  Man, St. Thomas says somewhere, as cited by Balmes, “is not intelligible in himself, because he is not intelligence in himself.”  If he could know himself in himself, or be the direct object of his own intellect, he would be God, at least independent of God.  The soul knows itself only under the relation of subject, as it knows what is not itself only under the relation of object, and is conscious of its own existence only in the intuition of the object. We ascertain the powers of the soul from the object she apprehends, not the reality of the object from the powers or faculties of the soul.  The analysis of the object is, then, the necessary condition of the analysis of the subject.

The analysis of the object, like that of thought, if we mistake not, gives us, or discloses as essential in it, three elements, the ideal, the empirical, and the relation between them.  The ideal is the a priori and apodictic element, without which there is and can be no intelligible object, and consequently no thought; the empirical is the fact of experience, or the object, whether appertaining to the sensible order or to the intelligible, as intellectually apprehended by the soul; the relation is the nexus of the ideal and the empirical, and is given by the ideal itself.

Kant has proved in his “Critik der reinen Vernunft,” or Analysis of Pure Reason, that the empirical is not possible without the ideal, or as he says, without cognitions a priori, which are necessary to every synthetic judgment, or cognition a posteriori.  The cognitions a priori Kant calls categories after the Peripatetics, or certain forms under which we necessarily apprehend all things. He makes these forms or categories forms of the human understanding, and therefore makes them subjective, not objective, or places them on the side of the subject, not on the side of the object. Aristotle makes them, apparently, forms neither of the subject nor of the object, but of the mundus logicus, or a world intermediary between the subject and the object, or the soul and the mundus physicus or the real world. Kant’s doctrine, that the categories are forms of the subject, is refuted in our analysis of thought. It implies that the subject can exist and operate without the object, and that we see the object as we do, not because it is such as we see it, but because such is the constitution or law of the human mind, which denies the objective validity of our knowledge already established.

The Peripatetic categories are admissible or not, as the intermediary world is or is not taken as the representation of the real world. If we take the phantasms and intelligible species as the representations of the object to the mind, not by the mind, and this make the categories real, not simply formal, the Peripatetic doctrine, as will be seen further on, is not admissible.  But if we distinguish the categories from the mundus physicus or real world, and make them forms of an intermediary world, or something which is nether subject nor object, we deny them all reality, for no such world does or can exist. What is neither subject nor object is nothing.  St. Thomas, as I understand him, makes, as I shall by and by show, the phantasms and species proceed from the object, and holds them to be in the reflective order, in which the soul is active, representative of the object; which permits us to hold that in the intuitive order they are simply presentative or the object presenting or affirming itself to the passive intellect.  He holds them to be, in scholastic language, objectum quo, not objectum quod, or that in which the intellect terminates, but that by which it attains to the idea, or the intelligible, as will be more fully explained farther on.  The modern Peripatetics, for the most part, make the categories purely formal, and gravely tell us that a proposition may be logically true and yet really false!

Cousin identifies the categories of Aristotle and Kant with what he calls necessary and absolute ideas, and reduces their number to being and phenomenon, or substance and cause, but loses their objective reality by making them constituent elements of the impersonal reason, which is subjective, as purely so, as is the reflective reason itself.  The impersonal reason differs, in his philosophy, from the personal reason only as to the mode of its activity, and is, as the personal, a faculty of the soul, by which the soul knows all that it does or can know, whatever the degree or region of its knowledge.

 Dr. Ward, of the Dublin Review, places or intends to place the categories or, as he says, necessary and eternal ideas, on the side of the object, and holds that they are intuitive or self-evident; yet he makes intuition the act of the soul, therefore, empirical, and really places the ideal on the side of the subject.  He fails to integrate them in real and necessary being, and says, after Father Kleutgen, that though founded on God, they are not God. But what is founded on God, and yet is not God, is creature, and creatures Dr. Ward cannot hold them to be, for he holds them to be necessary and eternal, and necessary and eternal creature is a contradiction in terms.  What is neither God nor creature is nothing, and Dr. Ward cannot say ideas are nothing, for he holds them to be intuitive or self-evident, and nothing cannot evidence itself, or be an object of intuition.  There is, also, a farther difficulty.  Dr. Ward, as do Drs. McCosh, Porter, Hopkins, and others of the same school, by making intuition an act of the soul makes it a fact of experience, and the point to be met is, that without intuition of the ideal, there is and can be no fact of experience, or empirical intuition.  It must be borne in mind that Kant has proved that without the cognitions a priori, or what we call the ideal, no cognition a posteriori is possible.

Dr. Newman, of whom we would always speak with profound reverence, in his Essay in aid of Grammar of Assent, apparently at least, not only denies ideal intuition, but the objective reality of the ideal itself, and resolves the categories or ideas into pure mental abstractions created by the mind itself. “All things of the exterior [objective?] world,” he says, section second of his opening chapter, “are unit and individual, and nothing else; but the mind not only contemplates these unit realities as they exist, but has the gift, by an act of creation, to bring before it abstractions and generalizations which have no existence, no counterpart out of it.”  It would be difficult to express more distinctly the Nominalism of Rosceline, or at least the Conceptualism of Abelard, censured by the theologians of the twelfth century as incompatible with the assertion of the ineffable mystery of the Ever-Blessed Trinity.  It need not surprise us, therefore, that Dr. Newman confesses in his “Apologia pro Vita Sua,” that he has never been able by reasoning to prove satisfactorily to his own mind the existence of God, for on his philosophy, if we do not misapprehend it, he can adduce no argument against the atheists.  IF we are to take the passage cited as a key to his philosophy, there can be for no object in thought but these unit realities; for the abstractions and generalizations, being mental creations, are all on the side of the subject, and no place is left for God in the knowable.

But, unhappily, these “unit realities” are not cognizable by themselves alone.  To suffice of themselves as objects of thought they must suffice for their own existence.  What cannot exist alone, cannot be known alone. Then every one of these unit realities, to be cognizable alone, must be an independent, self-existent, and self-sufficing being, that is to say, God, and there must be as many Gods as they are unit realities or distinct objects of thought or intuition, which we need not say is inadmissible.  These unit realities can be objects of thought or intuition only on condition of presenting or affirming themselves to the mind, and they can present or affirm themselves in intuition only as they are in re, not as they are not, as is sufficiently proved on our analysis of thought.  If they are not real and necessary being they cannot affirm themselves as such; if they are not  such they can affirm themselves only as contingent and dependent existences that have their being in another, not in themselves, and then only under the relation of contingency or dependence, or in relation to that on which they depend; consequently they are not cognizable without intuition of real and necessary or independent being which creates them.  Contingency or dependence expresses a relation, but relations are cogitable only in the related, and only when both terms of the relation are given.  Neither term can be inferred from the other, for neither can be thought without the other.  Hence there is no intuition of the contingent without intuition of the necessary, or empirical intuition without ideal intuition.

The categories are all correlatives, and are presented in two lines, as one and many, the same and the diverse, the universal and the particular, the infinite and the finite, the immutable and the mutable, the permanent and the transitory, the perfect and the imperfect, the necessary and the contingent substance and phenomena, being and existences, cause and effect, etc. These severally connote each other, and we cannot think the one line without thinking or having intuition of the other.  When I think a thing as particular, I distinguish it from the universal, or think it as not universal; I cannot do this unless the universal is intuitively present to my mind.  The same is equally true of every one of the other categories.  The contingent is not cogitable without intuition of the necessary; nor is it possible to think the contingent without intuition of its contingency, for, as we have shown in the foregoing analysis, the object presents itself by its own activity, and therefore must present itself as it is, not as it is not.  Nothing is more certain than the relation of the categories is not fact of experience, nor than that neither correlative is inferred from the other.  Yet it is no less certain that men, all men, even very young children, regard Dr. Newman’s “Unit realities” as contingent, as dependent, or as not having the cause of their existence in themselves.  Hence the question of the child to its mother: “Who made the flowers? Who made the trees? Who made the stars? Who made father? Who made God?”  Hence, too, those anxious questionings of the soul that we mark in the ancient heathen and in the modern Protestant world: Whence came we? Why are we here? Whither do we go? It is only scientists, Comtists, or Comtists, who are satisfied with Topsy’s theory, “I didn’t come, I grow’d.” But if the soul had no intuition of the relation of contingent and necessary, or of cause and effect, it would and could ask no such questions.

It is certain, as a matter of fact, that the soul has present to it both the contingent and necessary, as the condition a priori of all experience or empirical intuition. The object of thought always presents itself wither as contingent or as necessary.  The categories of necessity and contingency, not being empirical, since they are the forms under which we necessarily apprehend every object we do apprehend, we call them ideas, or the ideal.  The question to be settled is, Is the ideal, without which no fact of experience is possible, on the side of the object, or on the side of the subject?  Kant places it on the side of the subject, and subjects the object to the laws of the soul; we place it on the side of the object, and hold that it is that without which the object is not intelligible, and therefore no object at all.  Hence we maintain that the object of thought is not a simple unit, but consists of three inseparable elements, the ideal, the empirical, and their relation.  The proof that we are right is furnished in our analysis of thought, and rests on the principle that what is not is not intelligible, and that no object is intelligible save as it really exists.  This follows necessarily from the fact we have established that the object presents or affirms itself only by its own activity.  Contingent existences are active only in their relation to the necessary; consequently are intelligible or cognizable only in their relation of contingency.  Then, as certain as it is that we think, so certain it is that the ideal is on the side of the object, not on the side of the subject.  This will appear still more evident when we recollect that the contingent is not apprehensible without the intuition of the necessary on which it depends, and the necessary is and can be no predicate of the subject, which is contingent existence, not necessary being, since it depends on the object for its own power to act.

It follows from this that the ideal is given intuitively in every thought, as an essential element of the object, and therefore that it is objective and real.  But while this agrees with Plato in asserting the objective reality of the ideal, in opposition to Kant, it agrees also with Aristotle and St. Thomas in denying that it is given separately.  We assert the ideal as a necessary element of the object, but we deny that, separated from the empirical element, it is or can be an object of thought; for man in this life is not pure spirit or soul, but spirit or soul united to body, and cannot directly perceive, as maintained by Plato, the old Gnostics or Pneumatici, the modern Transcendentalists, Pierre Leroux, and the disciples of the English School founded by the opium-eater Coleridge, such as Drs. McCosh and Ward, Presidents Marsh, Porter, and Hopkins, to mention no others.  Hence we deny the proposition of the Louvain professors, improbated by the Holy See, that the mind “has immediate cognition, at least habitual, of God.”  Cognition or perception is an act of the soul in concurrence with the object, and the soul, though the forma corporis, or informing principle of the body, never in this life acts without the body, can consequently can perceive the ideal only as sensibly represented.  The ideal is given in intuition, but not by itself alone; it is given in the empirical fact as its a priori condition; and is distinctly held only as separated from it, by reflection, the intellectus agens, or active intellect, as maintained by St. Thomas and the whole Peripatetic school, as well as by the official teaching in our Catholic schools and colleges generally.

Ideal intuition is not perception or cognition.  Perception is empirical, whether mediate or immediate, and whatever its object or its sphere, and in it the soul is always the percipient agent.  Intuition of the ideal is solely the act of the object, and in relation to it the intellect is passive.  It corresponds to the intelligible species of the Peripatetics, or rather to what they call species impressa. Dr. Reid, founder of the Scottish school, finished by Sir William Hamilton, thought he did a great thing when he vehemently attacked, and as he flattered himself made away with, the phantasms and intelligible species of the Peripatetics, which he supposed were held to be certain ideas or immaterial images interposed between the mind and the real object, and when he asserted that we perceive things themselves, not their ideas or images.  But Dr. Reid mistook a windmill for a giant. The Peripatetics never held, as he supposed, the phantasmata and the species intelligibiles, to be either ideas or images, nor denied the doctrine of the Scottish school, that we perceive things themselves; and one is a little surprised to find one so able and so learned a philosopher as Gioberti virtually conceding that they did, and giving Reid and Sir William Hamilton credit for establishing the fact that we perceive directly and immediately external things themselves. We ourselves have studied the Peripatetic school chiefly in the writings of St. Thomas, the greatest of the Schoolmen, and we accept the doctrine of sensible and intelligible species as he represents them, that is, supposing we ourselves understand him.  Both the sensible and the intelligible species proceed from the object, and in relation to them the intellect is passive, that is, simply in potentia ad actum. Now, as we have shown, that the intellect cannot act prior to the presentation of the object or till the object is placed in relation with it, it cannot then, either in the sensible or the intelligible order, place itself in relation with the object, but the object, by an objective act independent of the intellect, must place itself in relation with the subject.  This is the fact that underlies the doctrine of the Peripatetic phantasms and intelligible species, and translated into modern thought means all simply what we call ideal intuition, or the presentation or affirmation of the object by itself or its placing itself by its own act in relation to the intellect as the a priori condition of perception.

But as the soul cannot act without the body, the intelligible cannot be presented save as sensibly represented, and therefore only in the phantasmata or sensible species, from which the active intellect abstracts, divides, disengages, or separates – not infers – them.  Yet the intelligible, the ideal, as we say, is really presented, and is the object in which the intellect terminates or which it attains, the very doctrine we are endeavoring by our analysis of the object to bring out.  Reid never understood it, and psychologists either do not distinguish the ideal from the empirical, or profess to infer it by way of deduction or induction from the sensible.  St. Thomas does neither, for he holds that the intelligible enters the mind with or in the sensible, and is simply disengaged, not concluded, from it.

It is necessary to be on our guard against confounding the question of the reality of the ideal or universal and necessary ideas, which correspond to the cognitions a priori of Kant, with the scholastic question as to the reality of universals, as do the Louvain professors, in the proposition improbated by the Holy See, that universals, a parte rei considerata, are distinguishable from God, which confounds universals with idea exemplaris, or the type in the divine mind after which God creates, and which St. Thomas says is nothing else than the essence of God.  “Idea in Deo nihil est aliud quam essentia Dei.” The universals of the Schoolmen are divisible into classes: 1, Whiteness, roundness, and the like, to which some think Plato gave reality, as he did to justice, the beautiful, etc., and which are manifestly abstractions, with no reality save in their concretes from which the mind abstracts them; 2, Genera and species, as humanita.  The Scholastics, as far as our study of them goes, do not sharply distinguish between these two classes, but treat them both under the general head of universals. 

Rosceline and the Nominalists, who fell under ecclesiastical censure, held universals to be simply general terms, or empty words; Abelard and the Conceptualists held them to be not empty words, but mental conceptions existing in the mind but with no existence a parte rei; Guillaume de Champeaux of St. Victor, and afterwards bishop of Paris, and the medieval realists, are said to have held them to be real or to exist a parte rei, or as they said then, as separate entities; St. Thomas and the Thomists, as is well known, held them to exist in mente or in conceptu cum fundamento in re.  But Cousin, in his “Philosophie Scholastique,” originally published as a report to the French Academy on the unpublished works of Abelard, thinks, not without reason, that he finds in a passage cited by Abelard from William de Champeaux, that the medieval realists did not assert the separate entity of all universals, but only the reality of genera and species, though of course, not either as ideas in the divine mind, or as existing apart from their individualization.      

The reality of genera and species is very plainly taught in Genesis, for it is there asserted that God created all living creatures each after its kind; and if we were to deny it, generation as the production of like by like could not be asserted; the dogma of Original Sin, or that all men or the race sinned in Adam, would be something more than an inexplicable mystery, and we have observed that those theologians who deny the reality of the species, have a strong tendency to deny original sin, or to explain it away so as to make it not sin, but the punishment of sin.  Certainly, if the race were not real and one in Adam, it would be somewhat difficult to explain how original sin could be propagated by natural generation.  It would be equally difficult to explain the mystery of the Redemption through the assumption of human nature by the Word, unless we suppose, what is not admissible, that the Word assumed each individual man, for to suppose a real human nature common to all men, is to assert the reality of the genus or species.  The denial of the reality of genera and species not only denies the unity of the race and thus denies Original Sin, the Incarnation, Redemption, and Regeneration, but also impugns, it seems to us, the Mystery of the Blessed Trinity, by denying the unity of the nature or essence of the three persons of the Godhead, and certain it is that both Rosceline and Abelard were accused of denying or misrepresenting that ineffable Mystery.  

I am not aware of the views of St. Thomas on this precise question, or that he has treated specially of the question of genera and species.  As to the other class of universals, he is unquestionably right.  They are conceptions, existing in mente cum fundamento in re, that is, mental abstractions, formed by the mind operating on the concretes given in intuition.  They have their foundation in reality.  There is a basis of reality in all our mental conceptions, even in our wildest imaginations and our most whimsical fancies, for we can neither think nor imagine what is absolutely unreal.

But however this may be, St. Thomas does not class what we call the ideal intuitively given, with the universals or conceptions, with simply a basis in reality.  He asserts self-evident principles, the first principles of science or of demonstration, which are neither formed by the mind, nor obtained from experience, but precede experience and all reasoning, and which must be given by ideal intuition. In its substance, its principles and method, the real philosopher will find that the philosophy of St. Thomas cannot be safely rejected, although, as I have already intimated, he may find it necessary, in order to meet errors which have arisen since his time, to explain some questions more fully than St. Thomas has done and to prove some points which he could take for granted. 


The analysis of thought gives us three inseparable elements, all equally real: subject, object, and their relation; the analysis of the Object gives us also three inseparable elements, all objectively real, namely, the ideal, the empirical, and their relation. The analysis of the Ideal, we shall see, gives us again three inseparable elements, all also objectively real, namely, the necessary, the contingent, and their relation, or being, existences, and the relation between them. 

We have found what logicians call the categories and what we call the ideal or objective ideas, and without which no thought or fact of experience, as Kant has proved, is possible, are identical.  Aristotle makes the categories ten and two predicaments; Kant makes them fifteen, two of the sensibility, twelve of the understanding (Verstand), and one of the reason (Vernunft): but whatever their number, they are, contrary to Kant, intuitive, and therefore objectively real.  They are intuitive because they are the necessary conditions a priori of experience or the soul’s intellectual action; and they are objective, since otherwise they could not be intuitive, for intuition is the act of the object, not of the subject.

All philosophers agree that whatever exists is arranged under some one or all of these categories, and is either necessary or contingent, independent or dependent, one or many, the same of diverse, universal or particular, invariable or variable, immutable or mutable, permanent or transitory, infinite or finite, eternal or temporary, being or existences, cause or effect, creator or creature.  They are, as we have seen, in two lines, and go, so to speak, in pairs, and are correlatives, and each connotes the other.

But these categories may be reduced to a smaller number.  Cousin contends that all the categories of the upper line may be reduced to the single category of being, and those of the lower line to the single category of phenomenon, or the two lines to substance and cause.  Rosmini reduces the categories of the upper line to being in general; Father Rothenflue reduces them all to the single category of ens reale, or real being, in contradistinction from the ens in genere of Rosmini; the Louvain professors, as all exclusive ontologists, do the same.  The exclusive psychologists reduce them all the category of the soul or our personal existence; Gioberti reduces the categories of the upper line to that of real and necessary being, ens necessarium et reale, and all the categories of the lower line to that of contingent existences, or briefly, both lines to Being and Existences.

Cousin’s reduction is inadmissible, for it omits the second line, or denies its reality.  Phenomenon, in so far as real or anything, is identical with being, and does not constitute a distinct category.  Cousin makes being and substance identical, a pantheistic error; for though all being is substance, all substances are not real and necessary being.  He also places cause in the lower line, which is a mistake.  The effect is in the second line, but not the cause.  It is true, cause is not in the upper line, for it is not eternal and necessary.  The causative power is in being, and therefore in the upper line, but actual cause is the nexus between the two lines, and is included in the relation between them, or between the necessary and the contingent.  This shows that the ideal or the categories cannot be reduced to two, for that would deny all relation between them, and make them subject and predicate without the copula.  Gioberti is more philosophical in reducing them to three, in his terminology, Being, existences, and their relation.

Cousin, Father Rothenflue, Professor Ubaghs, and all the ontologists, as we shall soon show, are right in their reduction of the categories of the upper line to the single category of real and necessary being, though Cousin and Spinoza, as do all pantheists, err in making being and substance identical, and in asserting one only substance, as do the Comtists, for this restricts the ideal to the upper line, and excludes entirely the lower line.  Hence they resolve all reality into being, or substance and phenomenon, the last real only in being or substance.

Real and necessary being is independent, and can stand alone, but we found in our analysis of the object, another line of categories, the contingent, the particular, the dependent, etc., equally necessary as the a priori condition of experience or empirical intuition, and therefore included in the ideal element of the object, and therefore given or presented in ideal intuition. The relation between the two lines of categories, and which is really the relation, not yet considered, between the ideal and the empirical, and also given by ideal intuition, will be treated further on.  Here we are considering only the two lines of categories, given together in ideal intuition.  For the present we will consider them simply as reduced to two categories, namely, the necessary and the contingent, which will soon appear to be necessary being and contingent existences. These categories are, as included either in the ideal or in the object of thought, correlatives, and neither can be inferred or concluded from the other. They do not imply one the other, but each connotes [connotat] the other, that is to say, neither is cognizable without the other. They who take the necessary as their principium can conclude from it only the necessary, not the contingent, and hence the pure ontologists, who attempt by logical deduction from real and necessary being alone to obtain the contingent, inevitably fall into pantheism.  It is equally impossible to conclude, by logical induction, real and necessary being from the contingent.  Deduction from the contingent can give only the contingent, and induction can give only a generalization, which remains always in the order of the particulars generalized. Hence those who make the contingent their principium, if consequent, inevitably fall into atheism.  The error from each class arises from their incomplete analysis of the object and of its ideal element.  The complete analysis of the object shows, as we have seen, that the ideal element is given intuitively, as the a priori condition of the empirical.  The analysis of the ideal shows that the necessary and the contingent are both given in the ideal intuition and there is no need of attempting to conclude either from the other.  They are both primitive, and being intuitively given, both are and must be objectively real.

But the necessary and the contingent are abstract terms, and are real only in their concretes.  There is and can be no intuition of necessary and contingent as abstractions; for as abstractions they have no objective existence, and therefore are incapable of presenting or affirming themselves in intuition, which, as we have shown, is the act of the object, not of the subject.  The necessary must therefore, since we have proved it real, be real and necessary being, and intuition of it is intuition of real and necessary being.  In like manner, intuition of the contingent is not intuition of contingent nothing, but of contingent being, that is, existences, the ens secundum quid of the Schoolmen. This is what we have proved in proving the reality of the Ideal.  Ideas without which no fact of knowledge is possible, and which through objective intuition enter into all our mental operations, are not, as they are too often called, abstract ideas, but real.

We have reduced, provisorily, the ideas or categories to two, necessary and contingent, which we find, in the fact that they are intuitively given, are real, and if real, then the necessary is real and necessary being, and the contingent is contingent, though real, existence.  Then the analysis of the ideal or a priori element of human knowledge gives us being, existences, and their relation.  These three terms are really given intuitively, but, as we have seen, in the fact of thought or experience, they are given as an inseparable element of the object, not as distinct or separate objects of thought, or of empirical apprehension, noetic or sensible.  They are given in the empirical fact, through its a priori element, and the mind by its own intuitive action does not distinguish them from the empirical element of the object, or perceive them as distinct and separate objects of thought. We distinguish them only by reflection, or by the analysis of the object, which is complex, distinguishing what in the object is ideal and a priori from what is empirical and a posteriori. When we assert the necessary and contingent as ideas, the mind, again, does not perceive that the one is being and the other existence or dependent on being; the mind perceives this only in reflecting that if given they must be objective and real, and if real, being and existence, for what is not being, or by or from being, is not real.  The identity of the ideal and the real, and of the real with being and what is from being, is arrived at by reflection, and is, if you insist on it, a conclusion, but, as the logicians say, an explicative, not an illative conclusion.

But we have reduced the categories to the necessary and contingent, and found the necessary identical with real and necessary being, ens necessarium et reale, and the contingent identical with contingent existence, ens secundum quid.  Being is independent, and can stand alone, and can be asserted without asserting anything beside itself; for who says being says being is – a fact misconceived by Sir William Hamilton, when he denies that the unconditioned can be thought, because thought itself conditions it.  But a contingent existence cannot be thought by itself alone, for contingency asserts a relation, and can be thought or asserted only under that relation.  It would be a contradiction in terms to assert ideal intuition of the contingent as independent, self-existent, for it would not then be contingent.  The contingent, as the term itself implies, has not the cause or source of existence in itself, but is dependent on being.  The relation between the two categories is the relation of dependence of the contingent on the necessary, or of contingent existences on real and necessary being.  This relation we express by the word existences.  The ex in the word existence implies relation, and that the existence is derived from being, and, though distinguished from it, depends on it, or has its being in it, and not in itself.

The Scholastics apply the word ens, being, alike to real and necessary being and to contingent existences, to whatever is real, and also to whatever is unreal, or a mere figment of the imagination, as when they say ens rationis. This comes partly from the fact that the Latin language, as we find it in the Latin classics, is not rich in philosophic terms, but more still from the fact that they treat philosophy chiefly from the point of view of reflection, which is secondary, and is the action of the mind on its intuitions. Whatever can be the object of reflective thought, though the merest abstraction of the purest fiction, they call by the common name of ens: it may be ens reale or ens possibile, ens necessarium or ens contingens, ens simpliciter or ens secundum quid.  From the Schoolmen the practice has passed into all modern languages. We think it would be more simple and convenient, and tend to avoid confusion, to restrict, as Gioberti does, being to the ens simpliciter of the Schoolmen, and to use the word existence, or rather existences, to avoid all ambiguity, to express whatever is from being and depends on it, and yet is distinguishable from it.       

Making this change in the received terminology of philosophy, the analysis of the ideal gives us Being, Existences, and the relation between them.  The second term, as the lower line in the categories, must be given in the ideal intuition, for we cannot perceive existences, or empirically apprehend contingents, unless we have present to our mind the idea of contingency as the correlative of the necessary, as shown in our analysis of the object.

There remains now to be considered the third term, or the relation of the contingent to the necessary, or of existences to Being.  Being and existences comprise all that is or exists.  What is not real and necessary, self-existent, and independent being, is either nothing or it is from being and dependent on being.  Existences are, as we have seen, distinguished from being, and yet are real, for the idea of contingency is given in the objective intuition, or in the ideal element of the object.  Existences are then real, not nothing, and yet are not being. Nevertheless they are, as we have seen, related to being and dependent on it.  But they cannot be distinct from being, and yet dependent on being, unless produced from nothing by the creative act of being. Being alone is eternal, self-existent, and beside being there is and can be only existences created by being.  Being must either create them from nothing by the sole energy of its will, or it must evolve them from itself. Not the last, for that would deny that they are distinct from being; then the first must be accepted as the only alternative.  Hence the analysis of the ideal gives us being, existences, and the creative act of being as the nexus or copula that unites existences to being, or the predicate to the subject.

The ideal then has, as Gioberti truly remarks, the three terms of a complete judgment, subject, predicate, and copula, and as it is formed by the ideal, it is real, objective, formed and presented to us by being itself, presented not separately, but as the ideal element of the object.  It contains a formula that excludes alike ontologism and psychologism, and gives the principium of each in its real synthesis.  The intelligent reader will see, also, we trust, that it excludes alike the exaggerations of both spiritualists and sensists, and that nothing is more ridiculous than to charge it, as we have set forth, with atheism or pantheism, as many excellent persons have done, as they find it stated in the pages of Gioberti. It refutes, as I trust we shall soon see, both atheism and pantheism, and establishes Christian theism.  Truth, if truth, let who will tell it, and it is lawful to accept it when told by Gioberti as when told by Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Cousin, Pierre Leroux, or Sir William Hamilton.

In the analysis of thought, the analysis of the object, and the analysis of the ideal we have found in each, three elements given simultaneously and inseparably.  In thought: subject, object, and their relation; in the object: the ideal, the empirical, and their relation; in the ideal: the necessary or being, the contingent or existences, and their relation.  But though in the last analysis I have stated the relation is the creative act, the reader will not fail to perceive that I have given only a meagre account of the relation in the analysis of thought, and still less in the analysis of the object.  This has been partly because I am not setting forth a complete system of philosophy embracing all the questions of rational science, and partly because till I had reached the analysis of the ideal, the analysis, or a proper account of the relation in the other two cases, could not be given, since the relation, as I hope to show, is substantially one and the same in each of the three cases. 

The analysis of the relation is not practicable in the sense of the other analyses we have made; for, as relation, it has only a single term, and prescinded from the related is simple nullity.  We can analyze it only in the related, in which alone it is real.  In the fact of thought we have found that the object is active, not passive as most philosophies teach; and therefore that it is the object that renders the subject active, reduces it to act, and therefore creates it.  St. Thomas and, we believe, all the Scholastics, teach that in the reception of the phantasms and the intelligible species the mind is passive. That which is purely passive is as if it were not, for whatever really is or exists, is or exists in actu, and therefore is necessarily active. Since, then, the phantasms and species proceed from the object,* it follows that the object actualizes the subject, and renders it active or intellectus agens. Hence the relation of object and subject in the fact of thought is the relation of cause and effect.  The object actualizes or creates the subject, not the subject the object.

*We think it a capital mistake of some moderns to suppose, as does the very able and learned Father Dalgairns in his admirable treatise on Holy Communion, that the Scholastics held that the phantasms and species by which the mind seizes the object are furnished by the mind itself.  This would make the Scholastic philosophy a pure psychologism, which it certainly is not, though it becomes so in the hands of many who profess to follow it.  St. Thomas expressly makes the mind passive in their reception, and therefore must hold that they are furnished by the object, and consequently that in them or by means of them the object presents itself to the mind and actualizes it, or constitutes it intellectus agens. There are more who swear by St. Thomas than understand him, and not a few call themselves Thomists who are really Cartesians. 

The relation we have found of the ideal and empirical is also the relation of cause and effect.  The empirical we have found is impossible without the ideal, for it depends on it, and does not and cannot exist without it.  That without which a thing does not and cannot exist, and on which it depends, is its cause.  The ideal then causes, produces, or creates the empirical, and therefore the relation between them is the relation of cause and effect.  Ideal space produces empirical space, and ideal time produces empirical time.  As the ideal is real and necessary being, ens necessarium et reale, as we have seen, ideal space is and can be only the power of being to externize its own acts, in the order of coexistences, and ideal time can only be the power of being to externize his own acts successively, or progressively.  Empirical space is the effect of the exercise of this power producing the relation of coexistence; empirical time is its effect in producing the relation of succession, or progressive actualization. The relations of space and time are therefore resolvable into the relation of cause and effect, the reverse of what is maintained by Hume and our modern scientists.

As all the categories of the upper line are integrated in real and necessary being, and as all the categories of the lower line are integrated in existences, so all relations must be integrated in the relation of being and existences, which is the act of being, producing, or actualizing existences, and therefore the relation of cause and effect.  Hence there are and can be no passive relations, or relations of passivity.  Whatever is or exists is active, and God, who is being in its plentitude and infinity, is, as say the theologians, actus purissimus, most pure act. Only the active is or exists; the passive is non-existent, is nothing, and can be the subject of no predicate or relation.  So virtually reasons St. Thomas in refuting the Gentile doctrine of a materia prima or first matter. Aristotle held that matter eternally exists, and that all things consist of this eternally existing matter and form given it by the equally eternally existing Mind or Intelligence.  St. Thomas modifies this doctrine, and teaches that the reality of things, or the real thing itself, is in the form, or idea as Plato says, and consequently is not a form impressed on a preexisting matter, but a creation from nothing; for matter without form, he maintains, is merely in potentia ad formam, therefore passive, therefore mere possibility, and therefore, prescinded from the creative act, simply non-existent, a pure nullity, or nothing.  Even Hegel asserts as much when he makes das reine Seyn the equivalent of das Nicht-Seyn. To give activity to the passive, to give form to the possible, or to create from nothing, says one and the same thing.

St. Thomas teaches, as we have seen, that the mind in the reception of the phantasms and species is passive, and therefore must hold, if consistent with himself, that prior to the affirmation of the object through them the mind does not actually exist; consequently that the affirmation or presentation of the object creates the mind, or the intellectual or intelligent subject, which, again, proves that the relation of subject and object is the relation of cause and effect.  If then we accept the doctrine of St. Thomas, otherwise undeniable, that the passive and the possible are identical, we must deny – since the possible is non-existent, a pure abstraction, and therefore, simply nothing – that there are or can be any passive relations, and hold that in all relations, ideal or empirical, the one term of the relation is the cause of the other. This is why one term of the relation cannot be known without intuition of the other, or why, as we say, correlatives connote one another.

Here, too, we may see more clearly than we have already seen, the error of Sir William Hamilton in asserting that correlatives are reciprocal, and the still more glaring error of Cousin in asserting the same thing of cause and effect.  Correlatives connote each other, it is true; but not as reciprocal, for in the intuition they are affirmed, and in cognition connoted, the one as creating or producing the other, and it would be absurd to assert that the effect creates the cause, or that cause and effect produce reciprocally each the other.  Sir William Hamilton is misled by his failure to comprehend that all relations are integrated in the relation of being and existences, and are therefore relations of cause and effect, or of the productive or creative power of being producing existences.  He, as does Hume, excludes the notion or conception of power, and therefore not only the creative act of being, but of all activity, and conceives all relations as passive. They are all resolvable into relations of coexistence and succession, or relations of space and time, and therefore relations of the passive; for excluding ontology from the region of science, or the cogitable, Sir W. Hamilton can assert no creative or productive power, and recognize no relation of real cause and effect.

Neither Cousin nor Sir William Hamilton ever understood that the object affirmed in thought, and without which there is and can be no thought, actualizes, that is, places or creates the subject, and renders it thinking or cognitive subject.  The object does not simply furnish the occasion or necessary condition to the subject for the exercise of a power or faculty it already possesses, but creates the mind itself, and gives it its faculty, as we have already proved in proving that in ideal intuition the soul is passive, that is – as St. Thomas implies in resolving the passive into the possible – non-existent, and therefore the subject of no relation or predicate.  The ideal or intuitive object must then be real and necessary being, for the contingent is not creative, and hence the intuition of being, which Sir William Hamilton denies, is not only necessary to the eliciting of this or that particular thought, but to the very existence of the soul as intelligent subject, and therefore must be a persistent fact, as will be more fully explained in the section on EXISTENCES.

It follows from this that the relation of subject and object or rather of object and subject, in every thought, is the relation, as we have said, of cause and effect.  It is the third term or copula in the ideal judgment, and is in every judgment, whether ideal or empirical, that which makes it a judgment or affirmation.  Being, Gioberti says, contains a complete judgment in itself, for it is equivalent to being is; but this is nothing to our present purpose.  Being and existences as subject and predicate constitute no judgment without the copula that joins the predicate to the subject.  As the copula can proceed only from being, or the subject of the predicate, as its act, the ideal judgment is necessarily Ens creat existentias; and, as the object creates or produces the predicate, the judgment in its three terms is Divine and apodictic, the necessary and apodictic ground of every human or empirical judgment, without intuition of which the human mind can neither judge nor exist.

It is not pretended of course that all judgments are ideal, any more than it is that every cause is first cause.  There are second causes, and consequently second or secondary, that is, empirical judgments.  The second cause depends on the first cause which is the cause of all causes; so the empirical judgment depends on the ideal or Divine judgment which it copies or imitates, as the second cause always copies or imitates in its own manner and degree the first cause.  There is no judgment – and every thought is a judgment – without the creative act of being creating the mind and furnishing it the light by which it sees and knows; yet, the immediate relation in empirical judgments, that is, judgments which the soul herself forms, though a relation of cause and effect, is not the relation between being and existences, as I once thought, though perhaps erroneously, that Gioberti maintained, and which were sheer pantheism, inasmuch as it would deny the existence of second causes, and make God the sole and universal actor.  The relation in the ideal judgment is only eminently the cause in the empirical judgment, in the sense in which being is the eminent cause of all actions, in that it is the cause of all causes.

The copula or relation in the ideal judgment is the creative act of being, or subject creating the predicate, as I shall soon prove, and uniting it to itself.  This is true of all relations.  The first term of the relation of subject and predicate, is the cause of the second term, and by its own causative act unites the predicate to itself as its subject.  Second causes have, in relation to the first cause, the relation of dependence, are produced by it, are its effects or predicates; but in relation to their own effects, they are efficient causes, and represent creative being.  I am an existence and wholly dependent on real and necessary being, for my existence and my powers are simply the effect of the divine creative act or activity; but in relation to my own act I am a cause; I am the subject, they are the predicate, and my act producing them is the copula.  In this sense the second cause copies the first cause, and the empirical judgment copies the ideal or, as we have called it, the Divine judgment.

I say this not by way of proof that the relation between being and existences is the creative act of being, which follows necessarily from the reduction of the categories to being, existences, and their relation, or subject, predicate, and copula, for the copula can be nothing else than the creative act of being; but to prevent the mistake of supposing that being is the agent that acts in our acts, and that our acts are predicates of the Divine activity; which is the mistake into which the Duke of Argyll falls in his “Reign of Law,” and of all who impugn Free Will, and deny the reality of second causes. Having done this, and having resolved the relation of being and existences, and all relations into the relation of cause and effect, we may now proceed to consider the Fact of Creation.