Limits of Religious Thought, April, 1860 (Eight Lectures Delivered Before the University of Oxford in 1858 by M. Mansel)

The Limits of Religious Thought, April 1860


The American publishers tell us, that they hope the learned reader will pardon the liberty they have taken, of having the author’s notes translated.  We could pardon that liberty if they had published the originals along with the translation, so that the learned reader could judge for himself whether the translation is faithful or not.  Briefly, we will never pardon any liberty taken by publishers or editors with any work, without the permission and sanction of the author.  The reason that induced Mr. Mansel to leave the extracts from authors in various languages inserted in his notes untranslated, is a sufficient reason why his American editors should not translate them.  We want no publishers’ or editors’ “improvements;” republish the work as you receive it from the author, or not at all.  We say this without any reference to the fact whether Professor Lincoln’s translation is trustworthy or not.  We have no doubt that he has performed his self-imposed task conscientiously, and, in the few instances in which we have compared his translation with the original, it seems to have been well made.

With regard to Mr. Mansel’s book itself we must confess we find it a very difficult book on which to pass a judgment, favorable or unfavorable.  The author is evidently a man of honest intentions, of ability, and varied and solid learning.  He appears to be very well read in modern philosophical and theological literature, and, though not blessed with a true philosophical genius, he has much intellectual strength and logical acuteness.  Whether we agree or disagree with him, we are obliged to respect him as a superior man, and, as a scholar who devotes himself honestly to serious studies.  So much we willingly say of the author.  But his Lectures themselves are very far from satisfying us.  Though written by an Oxford scholar they are hardly English, at least are written with an English with which we are not, and hope we never shall be, familiar.  Words are used in an unusual, frequently, it strikes us, in an un-English sense, and are unintelligible to one not familiar with the German schools of philosophy, either at first hand, or through the Scotsman Sir William Hamilton.  His terminology is continually deceiving us, and we frequently find that we have understood his terms in a contrary sense from the one intended.  His style has its merits, but is not our good old fashioned English style; it wants the directness, clearness, and naturalness of the better class of English writers.  His thought is not English, but Scoto-German, and is nearly as muddy as that of Schelling or Hegel.  The reason of this is not in the original character of the author’s mind, nor in the abstruse and difficult nature of the subjects treated, but in the false or defective system of philosophy which he has had the misfortune to adopt.

It is not easy to say what is or is not Mr. Mansel’s thesis, or what he is really aiming at.  We are even puzzled at times to decide whether he is defending or refuting certain philosophical theories and speculations; whether he is advocating or opposing skepticism, vindicating religion, or showing its vindication is impossible; and an intelligent and careful reader may innocently commend him for defending what he is refuting, and condemn him for maintaining what he really intends to deny.  We are often at a loss to determine what are his premises or his conclusions, and still more to detect any relation between his conclusions and his premises.  Much of his book seems to us insignificant or irrelevant, and the rest to be at bottom either unsound or mere common-place.  We are not, therefore, surprised to find the book has been well received by the public, and has attained in a few months a popularity seldom reserved for works apparently of so grave a character.

The book we, suppose, must be classed with works devoted to the philosophy of religion, and its main design, most likely, is to remove the obstacles to belief in the Christian revelation, by showing that it may be true notwithstanding the grave difficulties we find in accepting it; for these difficulties are analogous to those which reason encounters in herself, and are not greater than those which are encountered in any possible system of rationalism.  If we understand him, the difficulties reason experiences in accepting revelation, are not in the revelation itself, but are inherent in our reason, and inseparable from the present constitution of our minds.  He attempts to prove this by an exhibition of what Kant calls “the antimonies of reason,” or showing that reason is in perpetual contradiction with herself.  He shows that we are forced, by the constitution of our minds, to construct a rational theology, or so-called natural theology, and yet the reason is inadequate to the task.  We are forced to believe there is an infinite, and yet obliged to confess that the infinite is inconceivable,- cannot be thought, and the word serves only to mark the limit of our ability to think.  We must conceive of God as personal, and to conceive him as personal is to limit him, and therefore virtually to deny him.

Now, to us reasoning of this sort, if it proves anything, proves that nothing is provable, and that nothing remains for us but doubt and uncertainty, in relation either to natural or revealed religion.  Indeed, the author himself says expressly, “certainty is not attainable, only probability.”  We have for ourselves a strong dislike to the method of removing objections to revelation by proving the unreasonableness of reason.  If reason is not true and infallible in her own sphere, revelation is not provable; for though it may itself transcend reason, it can be proved to be a revelation only by facts or evidence addressed to reason and within reason’s competence.  He who establishes skepticism demolishes with the same blow both science and faith.  Mr. Mansel certainly does not intend to be a skeptic, or to favor skepticism; but by maintaining that reason is in perpetual contradiction with herself, at once affirming and denying contradictory propositions, he undermines science, and throws doubt on everything, renders all so-called knowledge uncertain.  

The author, if he had followed his strong English common sense, without aiming at any philosophical subtilty or refinement, would have served his purpose far better.  We do not and cannot accept his philosophical system, if system it can be called.  We encountered it in Dr. Newman’s Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine.  We encounter it, latterly, in most Oxford scholars who pretend to any philosophy.  It is Kantism, as modified by Sir William Hamilton, and has been refuted again and again in the pages of our Review.  The gist of Sir William’s philosophy is, that the Infinite is unthinkable, inconceivable, and marks for us merely the negation of thought.  The essential principle of the Kantian philosophy is, that the categories are the forms of the human mind, and that we can know or think objects only under the forms or categories of our own understandings; that is, the form of the thought, whatever it be, is imposed by the subject on the object, not by the object on the subject; or we think things so and so because such is our mental constitution, not because things are so and so a parte rei,  independent of us or of our thought.  But Kant and Sir William Hamilton agree that we cannot think things as they are in themselves, and that we can have direct and immediate intuition only of phenomena.  The noumenon forever escapes us, although we are forced by the constitution of our nature to believe the noumenon really exists.  Now, we, our readers very well know, reverse this famous theory, and maintain that we see things so and so because they are really so and so, not because such and such is our intellectual constitution.  Mr. Mansel, following the renowned German and the illustrious Scotsman, maintains that the object of knowledge, of consciousness- a very equivocal term, which he nowhere defines- is never the thing or reality itself, but the thing under the forms of her understanding.  He thus makes the subject pro tanto object;   and, apprehending the object only under the forms of the subject, he can never say that the object is not, as Fichte maintains, simply the subject taking itself as its own object, or, what is the same thing, a product of the subject thinking- pure philosophical egoism, which resolves all into the ego, the Ich, or I, and its phenomena.  Fichte only deduced from the doctrine of Kant, his master, its legitimate consequences, as Schelling’s doctrine of Identity is, at bottom, only Fichteism, less boldly and scientifically stated.

Assuming that the understanding thinks its object only under the forms of the subject, Mr. Mansel denies that the Infinite or the Absolute can be thought, since these forms are finite and present only the finite.  He does not appear to be aware that the absolute, the unconditioned, the eternal, the Infinite of which he speaks after Kant, Fichte, Schelling and Hegel, is a pure abstraction, and therefore a sheer nullity.  Absolute being is pure being, and pure being, Hegel says truly, is identical with no being, because he understands by pure being abstract being.  Mr. Mansel proves clearly, without appearing to be aware of it, that abstractions are unintelligible, because simple nullities.  No philosopher worthy of the name asserts that we can think the absolute or the infinite- not, indeed, because thought conditions or limits the object, but because neither is, or exists, a parte rei.  Only the real can be thought.  We think real and necessary being, which is absolute, not the absolute abstracted from the real and necessary being.  We have no intuition of the infinite, but we have intuition of God, who is infinite, absolute, unconditioned, eternal.  We think not an abstract infinite, but we think the infinite in the sense that it really is, that is, an infinite being.  God is infinite, but we can never say the infinite is God, save by that figure of speech by which we put the abstract for the concrete.  We cannot of course, think the infinite infinitely, in its own infinite nature of essence, with an infinite thought on its subjective side.  But to think the infinite finitely, is still  to think the infinite Being, though inadequately, because the finiteness attaches to the subject thinking, not to the object thought.  The argument used by Mr. Mansel, after Sir William Hamilton, to prove that the infinite- understanding not an abstract, but a real infinite, that is, the infinite God- can be- thought by a finite being only under finite forms, is based on the false assumption, that the form of the thought depends on the subject, not on the object.  Certainly, we can represent, or re-present, the infinite Being to ourselves in reflection, only under finite forms, for, in the reflex reason, our own personality intervenes, and imposes on its thought its own limitations; but in intuition, which presents the object, the object is thought under its own forms, and is thought as it is, a parte rei.   The pretence that we cannot think the infinite, because our thought limits the object thought, the unconditioned, because thought itself conditions its object- the great argument relied on by Sir William Hamilton- we cannot accept; for the object is thought only as presented, and is itself the same, whether thought or unthought.  To think it implies a change or modification in us, but none in it: to say we cannot think the infinite, because we cannot think it without thinking the finite, and, if we think the finite, we must think it as distinguished from the infinite, then, as a limitation of the infinite will not answer; because the finite neither in fact not in thought limits the infinite.  The difficulty arises from dealing with abstractions instead of realities, and in assuming that finite existence stands opposed to infinite Being.  If you conceive the finite as standing on its own bottom, as so much real being, this, undoubtedly, must be conceded to be the case; but conceive the finite existence as the creature or product of the infinite Being, and then, instead of being thought as a limitation, it is thought as a manifestation of infinite power.  The error is in conceiving the finite as real being, and therefore as limiting the being called infinite, which, of course, would deny the infinite, for the quantity of being represented by the finite would need to be added to the other side to get infinite being, and the infinite can never be obtained by addition.

The finite must be distinguished from the infinite, but to distinguish is to limit, and what is limited is not infinite, says our author.  What is limited is not infinite, we grant: but to distinguish the effect from the cause, is not, even in thought, to limit the cause.  The fallacy is, in assuming that the relation between infinite and finite is the relation of co-existence, whereas it is the relation of cause and effect, Creator and creation.   The creature does not limit the Creator, or the effect condition the cause; for the being of the creature is in the Creator, of the effect in the cause, as St. Paul teaches: “In him [God] we live and move and have our being.”  The distinction of the finite- from the infinite, limits the finite, but not the infinite, for the finite and infinite, in this case, do not stand in the same category.  The creature takes nothing from, and adds nothing to the Creator, and however you increase or diminish the number of creatures, however exalted or however low you suppose them, the sum of being, to use one of Mr. Mansel’s own expressions, remains the same.  If Mr. Mansel had paid more attention to the facts of intuition, or to the intuitive data, which include the ideal elements of all our knowledge, and not confined himself so exclusively to the order of reflection, he would have seen that his reasoning is very unsound, and that the apodictic element of all thought is the intuition of real and necessary, and therefore, infinite being.

Mr. Mansel adopts the teaching of Sir William Hamilton, that all our knowledge is simply knowledge of relations, is relative, and never absolute knowledge.  We understand not how so acute a philosopher as Sir William could fall into so great an error.  Relations in themselves are nullities, no object of knowledge, and, therefore, if we know only relations, we know nothing at all.  Relations are nothing without the related, and hence we must know the related or not know relations.  Finite existences, he tells us, are relative existences, and as we know only them, we have knowledge not of the absolute, but of the relative only.  He is the dupe of the word. If existences are only relative they have not their being, and, therefore, not intelligible in themselves; for only being is intelligible in itself, since what is not cannot be known. They are and can be intelligible only in the other term of the relation, and, therefore, are and can be known only in knowing the absolute, or being to which they are related, and on which they depend.  Finite existence, then, is unintelligible without the cognition of infinite Being.  Lay aside the abstract terms of reflection, take things as presented in intuition, and it will be seen that we know the relative only in knowing the absolute, or the unrelated,- the finite only in knowing the infinite, that is to say, only in knowing absolute and infinite Being, God, from whom finite and relative existences proceed, and in whom they have their being and their intelligibility. 

We cannot agree with Mr. Mansel that a knowledge of the infinite presupposes on the part of the subject infinite knowledge.  I may know that God is, and is infinite, without knowing all that he is.  Let us drop vague and abstract terms.  The infinite is God, real and necessary being.  Now, in saying that we know God is, we never pretend to know all that he is, or that we know him as he is in himself, in his interior essence.  Reason can answer fully and with absolute certainty the question, An sit Deus? But we certainly do not pretend that it can otherwise than very inadequately answer the question, Quid sit Deus?  If we can know God at all, and Mr. Mansel concedes we can, we can know the infinite, for he is infinite.  But that we can know God in himself, in his essence, in his interior nature, so to speak, in this life, and by our natural faculties, we are as far, as Mr. Mansel himself, from maintaining; and though we do not accept, perhaps we do not understand, the process by which he refutes them, we agree with him in condemning the doctrine put forth by the advocates in Germany of the Philosophy of the Absolute, that we may have and must have that full and intimate knowledge of the Divine Being and essence that we can conclude from it what must be the nature and character of his revelation.  But while we say this we are not prepared to go the full length of the author, and deny that we can by our natural faculties have the conceptions necessary to the construction of a rational theology in the natural order, or what is called Natural Theology.  If we understand him, he denies that we have or can have “such a knowledge of the Divine nature as can constitute the foundation of a natural Theology.”  But we must here let him speak for himself.

“There are three terms, familiar as household words, in the vocabulary of Philosophy, which must be taken into account in every system of Metaphysical Theology.  To conceive the Deity as He is, we must conceive Him as First Cause, as Absolute, and as Infinite.  By the First Cause, is meant that which produces all things, and is itself produced of none.  By the Absolute, is meant that which exists in and by itself, having no necessary relation to any other being.  By the Infinite, is meant that which is free from all possible limitation; that than which a greater is inconceivable; and which, consequently, can receive no additional attribute or mode of existence, which it had not from all eternity.

“The Infinite, as contemplated by this philosophy, cannot be regarded as consisting of a limited number of attributes, each unlimited in its kind.  It cannot be conceived, for example, after the analogy of a line, infinite in length, but not in breadth; or of a surface, infinite in two dimensions of space, but bounded in the third; or of an intelligent being, possessing some one or more modes of consciousness in an infinite degree, but devoid of others.  Even if it be granted, which is not the case, that such a partial infinite may without contradiction be conceived, still it will have a relative infinity only, and be altogether incompatible with the idea of the Absolute.  The line limited in breadth is thereby necessarily related to the space that limits it; the intelligence endowed with a limited number of attributes, coexists with others which are thereby related to it, as cognate or opposite modes of consciousness.  The metaphysical representation of the Deity, as absolute and infinite, must necessarily, as the profoundest metaphysicians have acknowledged, amount to nothing less than the sum of all reality.  ‘What kind of an Absolute Being is that,’ says Hegel, ‘which does not contain in itself all that is actual even evil included?’  we may repudiate the conclusion with indignation; but the reasoning is unassailable.  If the Absolute and Infinite is an object of human conception at all, this, and none other, is the conception required.  That which is conceived as absolute and infinite must be conceived as containing within itself the sum, not only of all actual, but of all possible, modes of being.  For if any actual mode can be denied of it, it is related to that mode, and limited by it; and if any possible mode can be denied of it, it is capable of becoming more than it now is, and such a capability is a limitation.  Indeed, it is obvious that the entire distinction between the possible  and the actual can have no existence as regards the absolutely infinite; for an unrealized possibility is necessarily a relation and a limit.  The scholastic saying, Deus est actus purus, ridiculed as it has been by modern critics, is in truth but the expression, in technical language, of the almost unanimous voice of philosophy, both in early and later times.

“But these three conceptions, the Cause, the Absolute, the Infinite, all equally indispensable, do they not imply contradiction to each other, when viewed in conjunction, as attributes of one and the same being?  A Cause cannot, as such, be absolute; the Absolute cannot, as such, be a cause.   The cause, as such, exists only in relation to its effect: the cause is a cause of the effect; the effect is an effect of the cause.  On the other hand, the conception of the Absolute implies a possible existence out of all relation.  We attempt to escape from this apparent contradiction, by introducing the idea of succession in time.  The Absolute exists first by itself, and afterwards becomes a Cause.  But here we are checked by the third conception, that of the Infinite.  How can the Infinite become that which it was not from the first?  If Causation is a possible mode of existence, that which exists without causing is not infinite; that which becomes a cause has passed beyond its former limits.  Creation at any particular moment of time being thus inconceivable, the philosopher is reduced to the alternative of Pantheism, which pronounces the effect to be the mere appearance, and merges all real existence in the cause.  The validity of this alternative will be examined presently.

“Meanwhile, to return for a moment to the supposition of a true causation.  Supposing the Absolute to become a cause, it will follow that it operates by means of free will and consciousness.  For a necessary cause cannot be conceived as absolute and infinite.  If necessitated by something beyond itself, it is thereby limited by a superior power; and if necessitated by itself, it has in its own nature a necessary relation to its effect.  The act of causation must, therefore, be voluntary; and volition is only possible in a conscious being.  But consciousness, again, is only conceivable as a relation.  There must be a conscious subject, and an object of which he is conscious.  The subject is a subject to the object; the object is an object to the subject; and neither can exist by itself as the absolute.  This difficulty, again, may be for the moment evaded, by distinguishing between the absolute as related to another, and the absolute as related to itself.  The Absolute, it may be said, may possibly be conscious, provided it is only conscious of itself.  But this alternative is, in ultimate analysis, no less self-destructive than the other.  For the object of consciousness, whether a mode of the subject's existence or not, is ether created in or by the act of consciousness, or has an existence independent of it.  In the former case, the object depends upon the subject, and the subject alone is the true absolute.  In the latter case, the subject depends upon the object, and the object alone is the true absolute.  Or, if we attempt a third hypothesis, and maintain that each exists independently of the other, we have no absolute at all, but only a pair of relatives; for coexistence, whether in consciousness or not, is itself a relation.

“The corollary from this reasoning is obvious.  Not only is the Absolute, as conceived, incapable of a necessary relation to anything else; but it is also incapable of containing, by the constitution of its own nature, an essential relation within itself; as a whole, for instance, composed of parts, or as a substance consisting of attributes, or as a conscious subject in antithesis to an object.  For if there is in the absolute any principle of unity, distinct from the mere accumulation of parts or attributes, this principle alone is the true absolute.  If, on the other hand, there is no such principle, then there is no absolute at all, but only a plurality of relatives.  The almost unanimous voice of philosophy, in pronouncing that the absolute is both one and simple, must be accepted as the voice of reason also, so far as reason has any voice in the matter.  But this absolute unity, as indifferent and containing no attributes, can neither be distinguished from the multiplicity of finite beings by any characteristic feature, nor be identified with them in their multiplicity. Thus we are landed in an inextricable dilemma.  The Absolute cannot be conceived as conscious, neither can it be conceived as unconscious: it cannot be conceived as complex, neither can it be conceived as simple: it cannot be conceived by difference, neither can it be conceived by the absence of difference: it cannot be identified with the universe, neither can it be distinguished from it.  The One and the Many, regarded as the beginning of existence, are thus alike incomprehensible.

“The fundamental conceptions of Rational Theology being this self-destructive, we may naturally expect to find the same antagonism manifested in their special applications.  These naturally inherit the infirmities of the principle from which they spring.  If an absolute and infinite consciousness is a conception which contradicts itself, we need not wonder if its several modifications mutually exclude each other.  A mental attribute, to be conceived as infinite, must be in actual exercise on every possible object: otherwise it is potential only with regard to those on which it is not exercised; and an unrealized potentiality is a limitation. Hence every infinite mode of consciousness must be regarded as extending over the field of every other; and their common action involves a perpetual antagonism.  How, for example, can Infinite Power be able to do all things, and yet Infinite Goodness be unable to do evil?  How can Infinite Justice exact the utmost penalty for every sin, and yet Infinite Mercy pardon the sinner?  How can Infinite Wisdom know all that is to come, and yet Infinite Freedom be at liberty to do or to forbear.  How is the existence of Evil compatible with that of an infinitely perfect Being; for if he wills it, he is not infinitely good; and if he wills it not, his will is thwarted and his sphere of action limited? Here, again, the Pantheist is ready with his solution.  There is in reality no such thing as evil: there is no such thing as  punishment: there is no real relation between God and man at all.  God is all that really exists: He does, by the necessity of His Nature, all that is done: all acts are equally necessary and equally divine: all diversity is but a distorted representation of unity: all evil is but a delusive appearance of good.  Unfortunately, the Pantheist does not tell us whence all this delusion derives its seeming existence.

“Let us, however, suppose for an instant that these difficulties are surmounted, and the existence of the Absolute securely established on the testimony of reason.  Still  we have not succeeded in reconciling this idea with that of Cause: we have done nothing towards explaining how the absolute can give rise to the relative, the infinite to the finite.  If the condition of causal activity is a higher state than that of quiescence, the absolute, whether acting voluntarily or involuntarily, has passed from a condition of comparative imperfection to one of comparative perfection; and therefore was not originally perfect.  If the state of activity is an inferior state of quiescence, the Absolute, in becoming a cause, has lost its original perfection.  There remains only the supposition that the two states are equal, and the act of creation one of complete indifference.  But this supposition annihilates the unity of the absolute, or it annihilates itself.  If the act of creation is real, and yet indifferent, we must admit the possibility of two conceptions of the absolute, the one as productive, the other as non-productive.  If the act is not real, the supposition itself vanishes, and we are thrown once more on the alternative of Pantheism. 

“Again, how can the Relative be conceived as coming into being?  If it a distinct reality from the absolute, it must be conceived as passing from non-existence into existence.  But to conceive an object as non-existent, is again a self-contradiction; for that which is conceived exists, as an object of thought, in and by that conception.  We may abstain from thinking of an object at all: but, if we think of it, we cannot but think of it as existing.  It is possible at one time not to think of an object at all, and at another to think of it as already in being; but to think of it in the act of becoming, in the progress from not being into being, is to think that which, in the very thought, annihilates itself.  Here again the Pantheistic hypothesis seems forced upon us.  We can think of creation only as a change in the condition of that which already exists; and this the creature is conceivable only as a phenomenal mode of the being of the Creator.

“The whole of this web of contradictions (and it might be extended if necessary, to a far greater length) is woven from one original warp and woof; namely, the impossibility of conceiving the coexistence of the infinite and the finite, and the cognate impossibility of conceiving a first commencement of phenomena, or the absolute giving birth to the relative.  The laws of thought appear to admit of no possible escape from the meshes in which thought is entangled, save by destroying one or the other of the cords of which they are composed.  Pantheism or Atheism are thus the alternatives offered to us, according as we prefer to save the infinite by the sacrifice of the finite, or to maintain the finite by denying the existence of the infinite.” -pp. 75-82 

Through all this extract the reader will perceive runs the vicious philosophy already indicated.  The author professes to be a Christian, and his purpose, as far as we can get at it, is to refute, on the one hand, what he calls rationalism, or the pretence that reason alone, without any revelation, suffices to construct an adequate theology, and to determine the proper worship of God; and, on the other, what he calls, as we think very improperly, dogmatism, of which Wolfius was the great advocate, and in some sense the founder, that reason, when once the revelation is made, is able to comprehend and demonstrate the truth of its dogmas.  We have not, therefore, to prove to him any portion of natural religion, or what St. Thomas calls the preamble to faith; consequently, he must be supposed himself to accept the three terms he mentions, and holds that, independently of revelation, that God is First Cause, Absolute, and Infinite.  If this cannot be done independently of revelation, no revelation can possibly be proved.  Faith rests on the fact, that God is infinitely verax or true, and is himself prima veritas in being, in knowing, and in speaking; unless this fact can be known from reason, faith cannot be an intelligent and reasonable faith.  To maintain, then, that God cannot be known, without revelation, to be real and necessary, that is, absolute and infinite Being, and the First Cause of all things, is to maintain that man cannot be the recipient of a revelation from his Maker.

“The metaphysical representation of the Deity [God]” says the author, “as absolute and infinite, must necessarily, as the profoundest metaphysicians have acknowledged,” amount to nothing less than the sum of all reality.  ‘What kind of an Absolute Being is that,’ says Hegel, ‘which does not contain in itself all that is actual, even evil included?’  We may repudiate the conclusion with indignation, but the reasoning is unassailable.”  Must contain in himself all real being and actual existence, tanquam causa, we concede, but not, therefore, evil, for evil is neither being nor existence; is not, to speak scholastically, an entity, but is simply a negative, the absence of good, as cold is the absence of heat.  “Indeed, it is obvious that the entire distinction between the possible and the actual can have no existence as regards the absolutely infinite.”  Certainly not.  The possible, when we speak of God, is his real ability to place such or such an existence, ad extra, or to clothe such or such an idea,- idea exemplaris, eternal in his own essence,- with existence.  There is no possibility in God; all in him is real, actual; and hence the Schoolmen say, he is actus purus, or actus purissimus.

“But these three conceptions, the Cause, the Absolute, the Infinite, all equally dispensable, do they not imply contradiction to each other, when viewed in conjunction as attributes of one and the same Being?  A cause, as such, cannot be absolute; the Absolute cannot be a cause.  A cause exists only in relation to its effect; the effect is an effect of the cause.”  That is to say, the cause is a cause only in causing, and till it causes it is not a cause, consequently is made a cause by what it causes!  “On the other hand the conception of the Absolute implies a possible existence out of all relation.”  The absolute is that which is free from all relation, but a cause is under a particular relation to the effect.  The two conceptions thus mutually exclude each other.  “We attempt to escape the apparent contradiction by introducing the idea of succession in time.  The Absolute exists first by itself, and afterwards becomes a Cause.  But here we are checked  by the third conception, that of the Infinite.  How can the Infinite become that which it was not from the first?”  There is and can be no becoming in God, for he is actus purissimus; all in him is actual, and nothing simply potential; so much is certain.  The difficulty suggested by the author is a well-known difficulty, and is amply met by all our theologians of any note.  It is simply how to reconcile the fact of creation in time with the infinite perfection and immutability of God?  The difficulty originates in precisely what Mr. Mansel supposes to be introduced as a means of escaping it, namely, the introduction of the idea of the succession of time into eternity.  Eternity is not, as Sir William Hamilton maintains, the negation or limit of human thought, but is the negation of time, and positive duration without succession, or an existence always present.  Eternity can be conceived neither as past nor as future, and is always expressed by the present tense of the verb to be.  It is, and is included in the conception of God, as, I am that I am, or as real and necessary Being.  Time is not an entity, but a relation, and simply the relation of created existences in the order of succession, as space is their relation in the order of coexistence.  Time then begins and ends with creation, and is conceivable only within the created order; out of that order there is no time or space; there is only the relation of the effect to its cause.  The old question, whether the world might have been created ab aeterno, in its old sense is an unaskable question, because that sense is founded on a false notion of time.  The world has truly been created ab aeterno, for, prior to its creation, there was no time, and the prior is only in the logical order.  God existed prior to the creation as the cause exists prior to the effect, but no time lapses between the existence of his causality and the creation.  There is no space between the power to create and the actual creation, and therefore no reduction in God of possibility to act, no becoming of a cause, for the cause is eternal, and exerts its force in eternity, and time attaches only to the effect.  The creative act is in eternity, not in time; with it time begins.  There is, then, no contradiction between the conception of God as Creator, and the conception of his absoluteness, infinity, or unchangeableness.  The contradiction arises from the fundamental error of the Hamiltonian and Kantian philosophy, that the understanding imposes its own forms and limitations on the object, and that time and space are necessary forms of all our conceptions.  This is not true, and if it were, we could have no conception of God at all, for he is not in space, and he inhabiteth eternity. 

The main difficulty in what follows in the extract arises from supposing the relation of the creature to God is a relation between the Relative and the Absolute.  The relation is not reciprocal, and God and creation are not correlatives, each connoting the other, for God is a free and not a necessary creator; creation creates no change in him, and places him under no relation whatever; for the creation, if we would speak accurately, is not a relative or finite being, or as the Schoolmen say, ens secundum quid. It is not an ens at all, but existens, and has its substans not in itself, but in the creative act of God, and therefore has being only in God, only as joined to God, mediante that act.  The act of God produces existences absolutely dependent on him, but does not place him in any dependence on them; it leaves him as independent as if no creation ad extra had taken place, therefore leaves him equally absolute in his own being.  He does not go out of his own being to create, any more than he evolves creation from his own being.  He does not impart his being or any being at all to creatures, but retains his whole being in himself, and they have and can have no being in themselves; otherwise they would be God, or Gods.  They exist, are substances only as untied to his being through the creative act.  Hence, if that act be withdrawn, interrupted, or suspended, they cease to exist, drop into nothing, are annihilated, which could not be the case if they contained either their own being or their own subtans in themselves.

The author maintains, very properly, that the absolute must be conceived as one and simple; but if so conceived, a new difficulty arises: “This absolute unity, as indifferent, and containing no attributes, can neither be distinguished from the multiplicity of finite beings by any characteristic feature, nor be identified with them in their multiplicity.   Thus we are landed in an inextricable dilemma.”  The dilemma is unreal.  If in God no distinction be admissible between his essentia and his esse, between his being and his attributes, or between one of his attributes and another, as is the case, then we must conceive of him as mere abstract and dead unity, the reine Seyn of Hegel!  Whence does this follow?  And what is the difficulty in conceiving God as one and simple, and at the same time real and necessary being, being in its fulness, and therefore actual living being?  The difficulty comes from the unreal character of the author’s philosophy, which deals with conceptions and abstractions, and passes over in unpardonable neglect intuitions and realities.  The Being of the Hegelian philosophy is, no doubt, a dead being, a dead unity, without attributes, and indistinguishable from not-being, because it is derived from psychological abstraction; but such is not the being presented us by its own act in intuition.  How often must we repeat that abstractions are nullities, and that a philosophy that starts from a nullity can end only in nihilism?

“The fundamental conceptions of Rational Theology being thus self-destructive.”  We have not found elements of Rational Theology self-destructive.  The abstract conceptions with which the author supposes it is necessary to construct it with those conceptions?  What need is there of starting with abstractions at all?  Suppose the author should abandon the Kantian and Hamiltonian Conceptualism, and come to the conclusion that the elements and basis of our knowledge are not conceptions formed or created by the human mind, but realities presented to the mind objectively in immediate intuition; he would then see that the order of knowledge follows not the order of conception, but the order of intuition, therefore of reality, of being, and can be no more self-destructive or composed of contradictory elements than being or reality itself.  Let him once for all dismiss his mundus logicus which he interposes, without being aware of it, between the mind and the mundus physicus, or real world.  “How can infinite power be able to do all things, and yet infinite goodness not be able to do evil?”  God can do everything but annihilate himself, and that is all that is ever understood by infinite power.  Power in God is not separable from infinite goodness, and is an infinitely good power; and an infinitely good power cannot do evil, without contradicting, that is, annihilating its own nature.  “How can infinite justice exact the utmost penalty for every sin, and yet infinite mercy pardon the sinner?”  Because justice and mercy in God are never separable; and because, as sin is an offence against God, a debt due to him, he is always free to pardon when he sees proper, without offending justice.  There is no repugnance in supposing God to pardon the sinner on simple repentance, if he chooses; and if he does not do so, it is not because he cannot do so justly, but because he chooses to make sin the occasion of an infinitely higher manifestation of his mercy, his love, and his goodness.  “How can infinite wisdom know all that is to come, and yet infinite freedom be at liberty to do or forbear?”  How it can be so we may not be able to tell, and yet not be obliged to conceive that the wisdom contradicts the freedom, or the freedom the wisdom.  In knowing that God is infinite in his being, it is not necessary to assume that our knowledge of him is infinite, or that there remain no mysteries in the divine nature or in the divine operations inscrutable to human reason.  We know that the Divine Wisdom does all things for a wise and good end, and that all a good being does is and must be good.  God does not make the evil; man whom he makes, as coming from his hands, is good, and the only evil there is comes from the abuse which man makes of his own faculties.  Infinite Wisdom may see that it is better to create man with free will, of which sin is an abuse, than not to create him.

Suppose these difficulties surmounted.  “Still,” says the author, “we have not succeeded in reconciling this idea [the Absolute] with that of a cause; we have done nothing towards explaining how the absolute can give rise to the relative, the infinite to the finite.”  Very true; but to a solid foundation for natural religion it suffices to know the fact that God does create, and that the universe is his creation.  If we know the fact, it is enough, without our being able to explain how it is done.

The author attempts to prove that while we are obliged to conceive of God as personal, we are equally obliged to admit that the conception of personality contradicts the conception of infinity.

“Subordinate to the general law of Time, to which all consciousness is subject, there are two inferior conditions, to which the two great divisions of consciousness are severally subject.  Our knowledge of the body is governed by the condition of space; our knowledge of the mind by that of personality.  I can conceive no qualities of body, save as having a definite local position; and I can conceive no qualities of mind, save as modes of a conscious self.  With the former of these limitations our present argument is not concerned; but the latter, as the necessary condition of the conception of spiritual existence, must be taken into account in estimating the philosophical value of man’s conception of an infinite mind.

“The various mental attributes with we ascribe to God- Benevolence, Holiness, Justice, Wisdom, for example- can be conceived by us only as existing in a benevolent and holy and just and wise Being, who is not identical with any one of his attributes, but the common subject of them all; in one word, in a Person.  But Personality, as we conceive it, is essentially a limitation and a relation.   Our own personality is presented to us as relative and limited; and it is from that presentation that all of our representative notions of personality are derived.  Personality is presented to us as a relation between the conscious self and the various modes of his consciousness.  There is no personality in abstract thought without a thinker: there is no thinker, unless he exercises some mode of thought.  Personality is also a limitation; for the thought and the thinker are distinguished from and limit each other; and the several modes of thought are distinguished each from each by limitation likewise.  If I am any one of my own thoughts, I live and die with each successive moment of my consciousness.  If I am not any one of my own thoughts, I am limited by that very difference, and each thought, as different from another, is limited also.  This, too, has been clearly seen by philosophical theologians; and, accordingly, they have maintained that in God there is no distinction between the subject of consciousness and its modes, nor between one mode and another.  ‘God,’ says St. Augustine, ‘is not a Spirit as regards substance, and good as regards quality; but both as regards substance.  The justice of God is one with his goodness and with his blessedness; and all are one with his spirituality.’   But this assertion, if it be literally true (and of this we have no means of judging), annihilates Personality itself, in the only form in which we can conceive it.  We cannot transcend our own personality, as we cannot transcend our own relation to time: and to speak of an Absolute and Infinite Person, is simply to use language to which, however true it may be in the superhuman sense, no mode of human thought can possibly attach itself.

“But are we therefore justified, even on philosophical grounds, in denying the Personality of God?  Or do we gain a higher or a truer representation of Him, by asserting, with the ancient or the modern Pantheist, that God, as absolute and infinite, can have neither intelligence nor will?  Far from it.  We dishonor God far more by identifying Him with the feeble and negative impotence of thought, which we are pleased to style the Infinite, than by remaining content within those limits which He for his own good purposes has imposed upon us, and confining ourselves to a manifestation, imperfect indeed and inadequate, and acknowledged to be so, but still the highest idea that we can form, the noblest tribute that we can offer.  Personality, with all its limitations, though far from exhibiting the absolute nature of God as He is, is yet truer, grander, more elevating, more religious, than those barren, vague, meaningless abstractions in which men babble about nothing under the name of the Infinite.  Personal, conscious existence, limited though it be, is yet the noblest of all existences of which man can dream; for it is that by which all existence is revealed to him: it is grander than the grandest object which man can know; for it is that which knows, not that which is known.  ‘Man,’ says Paschal, ‘is but a reed, the frailest in nature; but he is a reed that thinks.  It needs not that the whole universe should arm itself to crush him;- a vapor, a drop of water, will suffice to destroy him.  But should the universe crush him, man would yet be nobler than that which destroys him; for he knows that he dies; while of the advantage which the universe has over him, the universe knows nothing.’  It is by consciousness alone that we know that God exists, or that we are able to offer him any service.  It is only by conceiving Him as a Conscious Being, that we can stand in any religious relation to Him at all; that we can form such a representation of Him as is demanded by our spiritual wants, insufficient though it be to satisfy our intellectual curiosity.

“It is from the intense consciousness of our own real existence as Persons, that the conception of reality takes its rise in our minds: it is through that consciousness alone that we can raise ourselves to the faintest image of the supreme reality of God.  What is reality, and what is appearance, is the riddle which Philosophy has put forth from the birthday of human thought; and the only approach to an answer has been  a voice from the depths of the personal consciousness: ‘I think; therefore I am.’  In the antithesis between the thinker and the object of his thought,- between myself and that which is related to me,- we find the type and the source of the universal contrast between the one and the many, the permanent and the changeable, the real and the apparent.  That which I see, that which I hear, that which I think, that which I feel, changes and passes away with each moment of my varied existence.  I, who see, and hear, and think, and feel, am the one continuous self, whose existence gives unity and connection to the whole.  Personality comprises all that we know of that which exists: relation to personality comprises all that we know of that which seems to exist.  And when, from the little world of man’s consciousness and its objects, we would lift up our eyes to the inexhaustible universe beyond, and ask to whom all this is related, the highest existence is still the highest personality; and the Source of all Being reveals Himself by His name, I am.” – pp. 102-105.

We have heard all this before, but we have never yet been able to understand why personality should be said to be a limitation.  By personality, we understand the last complement of a rational nature, and to say of any rational nature that it is a person, is to say that it has its last complement, is full or complete.   Now, how the fulness or completion of a nature can be its limitation, is more than we are able to comprehend.  If the nature is infinite, it will, if it has personality, be an infinite person.  We see, therefore, no contradiction between personality and infinity.  “Our own personality is presented to us as relative and limited, not absolute and infinite.  “It is from that presentation that all our representative notions or personality are derived.”  We are nor sure of that, for we are not psychologists, making God in our own image and likeness; we are disposed rather to regard man as made in the image and likeness of God.  Human personality copies the divine; not the divine the human.  “There is no personality in abstract thought, without a thinker.”  It would be more pertinent to say, there is no thought without a thinker.  “There is no thinker, unless he exercises some mode of thought.”  Why not say plainly, no one is a thinker unless he thinks?  “Personality is also a limitation; for the thought and the thinker are distinguished from and limit each other.”  The thinker limits thought, if you will; but we should be very much obliged if you would inform us how the thought limits the thinker.  Thought is distinguished from the thinker, not as his limitation, but as his act or product.  It is the same error we met before, that the finite limits the infinite, as if the effect could be a limitation of the cause

We make one extract more, for the sake of doing full justice to the author:

“The results, to which an examination of the facts of consciousness has conducted us, may be briefly summed up as follows.  Our whole consciousness manifests itself as subject to certain limits, which we are unable, in any act of thought, to transgress.  That which falls within these limits, as an object of thought, is known to us as relative and finite.   The existence of a limit to our powers of thought is manifested by the consciousness of contradiction,  which implies at the same time an attempt to think, and an ability to accomplish that attempt.  But a limit is necessarily conceived as a relation between something within and something without itself; and thus the consciousness of a limit of thought implies, though it does not directly present to us, the existence of something of which we do not and cannot think.  When we lift up our eyes to that blue vault of heaven, which is itself but the limit of our own power of sight, we are compelled to suppose, though we cannot perceive, the existence of space beyond, as well as within, it; we regard the boundary of vision as parting the visible from the invisible.  And when, in mental contemplation, we are conscious of relation and difference, as the limits of our power of thought, we regard them, in like manner, as the boundary between the conceivable and the inconceivable; though we are unable to penetrate , in thought, beyond the nether sphere, to the unrelated and unlimited which it hides from us.  The Absolute and the Infinite are thus, like the Inconceivable and the Imperceptible, names indicating, not an object of thought or of consciousness at all, but the mere absence of the conditions under which consciousness is possible.  The attempt to construct in thought on object answering to such names, necessarily results in contradiction,- a contradiction, however, which we have ourselves produced by the attempt to think,- which exists in the act of thought, but not beyond it,- which destroys the conception as such, but indicates nothing concerning the existence or non-existence of that which we try to conceive.  It proves our own impotence, and it proves nothing more.  Or rather, it indirectly leads us to believe in the existence of that Infinite which we cannot conceive; for the denial of its existence involves a contradiction, no less that the assertion of its conceivability.  We thus learn that the provinces of Reason and Faith are not coextensive; that it is a duty, enjoined by Reason itself, to believe in that which we are unable to comprehend.” -pp. 109,110

The author has excellent intentions, but we are sorry to see him so completely a slave of Kant and Sir William Hamilton.  We have already refuted this whole doctrine, and we had pretty effectively done it in our Review for October, 1855, in an article on the Philosophical Works of David Hume, discussing the principal doctrines of modern philosophers on causality, an extract from which we must beg permission to recall to our readers.  We extract the whole passage which relates to the doctrine of Sir William Hamilton, and we do it with the less scruples because Sir William Hamilton’s Philosophy is just now exerting a very great, and, as we believe, a very unhappy influence on the English and American mind.

“In the Scottish school has followed Sir William Hamilton, a psychological observer of rare sagacity, and, after old Ralph Cudworth, perhaps the most erudite philosophical writer in our language.  He has that acuteness and that knowledge of systems which Reid lacked.  He attempts a new explanation of the judgment of causality, which he derives not from intuition, experience, ratiocination, custom, or a special psychological power or faculty, but from the impotence of our nature to think the unconditioned.  He makes it ‘ a derivation of the condition of relativity in time.’  ‘The mind,’ he says, ‘is restricted to think in certain forms; and under these thought is possible only in the conditioned interval between two unconditioned contradictory extremes or poles, each of which is altogether inconceivable, but of which, on the principle of Excluded, Middle, the one or the other is necessarily true.’  ‘We must think under the condition of existence,- existence relative, and existence relative in time.’  Existence relative implies,- 1. That we are unable to realize in thought, on the pole of the irrelative, either an absolute commencement or an absolute termination of time; 2. That we can think neither on the one pole an absolute minimum, nor on the other the infinite divisibility of time.  Yet these constitute two pairs of contradictory propositions; which, if our intelligence be not a lie, cannot both be true, while at the same time one or the other must.  But as not relatives they are not cogitables.  Now, the phenomenon of causality seems nothing more than a corollary of the law of the conditioned in its application to a thing thought under the form of mental category of existence relative in time.’

“This, we suppose, must be regarded as perfectly intelligible, and yet some people think it might have been more clearly, as well as more elegantly expressed.  But what first strikes us in this barbarous statement is, that it resolves the judgment of causality into the judgment of the non-commencement of existence, which, if it means anything, is a denial of the relation of cause and effect.  The phenomenon to be explained, we are told, is this: ‘When aware of any new appearance, we are unable to conceive that therein has originated any new existence, and are constrained to think that what now appears to us under a new form had previously an existence under others.  These others are called its cause.’  ‘Our judgment of causality simply is: We necessarily deny in thought that the object we apprehend as beginning to be, really so begins, but, on the contrary, affirm, as we must, the identity of its present sum of being with the sum of its past existence.’   That is, no new existence is ever caused, but new phenomena only.  Effects are only changes in the forms of the cause, that is, are only the cause under new forms.  This, we think, is not the judgment of causality as a psychological fact, for it eviscerates the judgment of the conception of power, whereby the cause places an effect distinct from itself, which is, if we mistake not, the essence of the judgment.  Sir William then explains the judgment by identifying cause effect, that is, by denying both.  A cause which places no effect distinct from itself, or only exhibits itself under new forms, is in reality no cause at all.

“That we do not misrepresent the illustrious Baronet, is evident from his express statements.  ‘The mind is compelled to recognize an absolute identity of existence in the effect and in the complement of its cause,- between the causatum and the causa.’  ‘Each is the sum of the other.’  An absolute identity is a perfect identity, complete in all its parts, and then no real distinction is conceivable between the causa and the causatum.  Then there is really neither causa nor causatum, neither cause nor effect.  ‘That the phenomenon presented to us did, as a phenomenon, begin to be,- this we know by experience; but that its elements only began when the phenomenon which they constitute came into manifested being,- this we are wholly unable to think.’  ‘We are compelled to believe that the object, (that is, the certain quale and quantum of being,) whose phenomenal rise into existence we have witnessed, did really exist prior to the rise, under other forms.  But to say that a thing previously existed under other forms, is only saying, in other words, that it has had causes.’  Then to say a thing has had causes, is only saying in other words, that it previously existed under different forms!  It is clear from this that the only distinction of cause and effect recognized by Sir William, is the distinction of being and phenomenon.  But we need not tell him that phenomena are indistinguishable from their subject, and therefore the phenomenon is, so far as it is anything, being itself, not something produced by it.  The phenomenon distinguished from the subject in which it subsists is nothing at all.  The resolution of cause and effect into being and phenomenon is the radical error of the Pantheists, for then we can assert only being and its phenomena, and to assert only being and phenomena is precisely to assert Pantheism, which excludes the judgment of causality.

“It is true, Sir William says he speaks only of second causes, for, as he alleges, ‘of the Divine causation we have no conception;’ but this cannot avail him, for he is treating of the judgment of causality in general, and having resolved the relation of cause and effect into the relation of being and phenomenon, he can assert no second causes.  Phenomena cannot be causes either first or second, for they have no substance, are unsubstantial, and therefore cannot act or operate.  To assert second causes is to abandon his whole theory.  Moreover, he illustrates his own definition of causality by express reference to the Divine causation, and makes the relation of God and the universe identically that which he asserts between cause and effect.  ‘When God is said to create the universe out of nothing, we think this by supposing that he evolves the universe out of himself, in like manner as we conceive annihilation by conceiving him to withdraw his creation from actuality into power.’  He says this in order to show that we can conceive neither the real beginning nor the real cessation, and neither the increase nor the diminution, of the sum or quantum of existence.  We have the right then to assume that he does apply his conception of cause in the order of the first cause as well as in that of the second causes.  Second causes only copy or imitate in their sphere and degree the first cause, and the conception of cause, in so far as cause it is, must be the same in whatever order we conceive it.  If, then, Sir William resolves, as he does, the relation of cause and effect into the relation of being and phenomenon, or existence and its forms, he can assert as existing only being and its phenomena,- therefore the universe only as substantially identical with God; which is to deny all causative force that places an effect distinct from itself, asserted in every judgment of causality, and to fall into sheer Pantheism.

“Sir William Hamilton’s theory is as inadmissible as Hume’s, because it denies the judgment of causality itself, and conducts to Pantheism, and all Pantheism undeniably conducts to skepticism and nihilism.   But his doctrine that the judgment is derived from ‘the condition of relativity in time,’ is to us equally inadmissible.  He says: ‘The phenomenon of causality’- that is, our judgment of causality, we suppose- ‘seems to be nothing more than a corollary from the law of the conditioned in its application to a thing thought under the form or mental category  of existence in relation to time.’  Does he mean to say that existence is a form or category of the mind?  If so, he falls into pure Kantism.  We had supposed that he regarded existence as objective, and existing a parte rei, and that we apprehend things themselves as really existing independent of the mind, and that, without an object so existing, thought is impossible.  But let that pass.  ‘We cannot know,’ he continues, ‘we cannot think a thing, except under the attribute of existence; we cannot know or think a thing to exist, except as in time; and we cannot know or think a thing to exist in time, and think it absolutely to commence.  Now, this at once imposes upon us the judgment of causality.’  We see not that.  That we cannot think it absolutely to commence in time is very true; but this does not prevent us from thinking it to commence out of time, namely, in its cause.  Sir William says we can think only existence, and existence only in time; but we cannot think existence as absolutely commencing.  This is a singular statement, for to think existence, and to think it not commencing, is not to think it in time, but out of time.  We think existence, he says, and we are unable to think it either any increase or diminution of its sum.  Now, to think existence without thinking its beginning or end, its increase or diminution; which, if we know the force of words, is to think real, eternal, and necessary existence or being, unconditioned by time or anything else,- precisely what the illustrious Scottish Professor maintains, as the basis of his whole theory, we cannot do.  His real difficulty, according to his own statements, is, not in thinking existence without the relation of time, but in thinking it under that relation; and he in fact denies it under that relation, by recognizing no effects but phenomena, which are not existences in time, since phenomena, aside from their subjects, are not existences at all. 

“It is, no doubt, true, that we are unable to think existence as absolutely beginning, for if we could we could think absolute non-existence, which is impossible, since to think absolute non-existence is simply not to think at all.  But this is true only when we take existence in the sense of real and necessary being, in contradistinction from contingent existences, as the ontos on, or being of beings.  In this sense we cannot think it either to begin or end, to be augmented or diminished.  But it is not true of contingent existences, for we cannot think them at all, save as we think them as beginning to exist,- not in time, indeed, for time is only a relation of contingents to one another, beginning and ending with them,- but in the cause, or creative act of God, in which the relation of time itself commences.  In this sense we can think both the beginning and end of existence, and both its augmentation and diminution; for God was not obliged to create, and he may, if he chooses, withdraw his creative act; and nothing hinders him, so far as we know, if he chooses, from creating new worlds, since creation has not exhausted his creative power.  The reasoning of Sir William rests on the ambiguity of the word existence, and therefore on an undistributed middle, a sad vice in so admirable a logician.

“Sir William, we fear, uses the word existence as the excellent Abbate Rosmini uses the term being, in an abstract sense, as existence in genere, without reflecting that existence is always concrete, and can be predicated only of something really existing.  He says, we can think only under the condition of existence, and only existence relative.  Now, as we cannot think existence without thinking something existing, this means, if anything, that we think only relative, that is, contingent existences.  But to think relative existences, is to think relation, and no relation is thinkable, or cogitable with a single term.  We cannot, then, think relative existence without at the same time thinking that to which it is related, that is, the irrelative,- the contingent without thinking the non-contingent, that is to say, real and necessary being, the ens simpliciter of the Schoolmen.  Relative or contingent existence, ens secundum quid, must be thought, if at all, either as ens secundum quid, or as ens simpliciter.  But not the latter, for that it is not, and what is not cannot be thought; not the former, unless there be at the same time thought that which is not contingent, but absolute or necessary being, because without that it is not.  In thinking contingent existence as contingent, there is a comparison made of the contingent with the necessary, and no comparison can be thought without intuition of both terms.  Then we cannot think contingent or relative existence without thinking necessary, absolute, or unconditioned existence.  Either, then, we must be able to think the unconditioned, or we cannot think the unconditioned.  To say that we can think existence, without thinking it either as conditioned or as unconditioned, will not answer, for existence so thought is simply ens in genere, existence in general, in which nothing is thought as being or existing , and is the reine Seyn of Hegel,- merely possible existence, or a mental abstraction, which cannot be thought without the real and concrete.  All existence is the existence of something, is being, either real and necessary, or relative and contingent, and therefore must, if thought at all, be thought either as one or the other.  When, then, Sir William says we think only under the condition of existence, he must either mean that we think something really existing, or existence where nothing exists.  If the latter, he falls into pure Kantism, or skepticism; if the former, then he must concede that we do actually think, that is, intuitively apprehended, real and necessary being, without which there is and can be no relative or contingent existence.

“We do not forget Sir William’s reply: Only relatives are cogitable.  Relation is cogitable only between correlatives, and the relation between correlatives is reciprocal; each is relative to the other.  All thought is dual, and embraces at once subject and object in their mutual opposition and limitation.  The subject thinking conditions the object thought, and the object thought conditions the subject thinking.  Therefore the unconditioned cannot be thought.  But this is to confound the condition of the thought with the condition of the object, that is, to confound, in the very act of distinguishing them, subject and object.  The cause conditions the effect, but not the effect the cause, for the very conception of cause presupposes it to be independent of the effect.  If, then, I think the object as my cause, and myself as its effect, I do not think myself as limiting or conditioning it.  If I think myself as the effect or creature of the infinite, I do not think myself as its limitation, and therefore may, although thought is dual, think the infinite, though of course not in an infinite mode.  But to think the infinite, though of course not in an infinite mode.  But to think the infinite in a finite mode is still to think the infinite, otherwise we must say, whenever we do not think the object adequately, we do not think it at all.  This will not do, unless you deny us all thought, for only God can think, that is, know, adequately any object whatsoever.  My thought is limited, but the limitation is of the subject, not of the object, comes from myself, not from the object thought, and is negative, not positive.  I cannot think God infinitely, but I can think God who is infinite, and though in thinking him I distinguish myself from him, I do not think myself as limiting him, for I think myself as dependent on him, as his product, effect, or creature, and him as my cause or creator.  The mistake of Sir William arises from his not considering that the only conceivable relation between the finite and infinite, the conditioned and the unconditioned, or, as we prefer to say, between existence (from ex-stare) and being (ens secundum quid and ens simpliciter), is the relation of the effect to the cause, or of creature to creator, and therefore cannot be thought as a relation of reciprocity, but as a relation in which the former term is related to the latter, though the latter is not related in se to the former.  Consequently we never can think ourselves as limiting or conditioning the infinite object, but must always think it as conditioning or placing us.  If Sir William had considered the thought not solely as a fact of consciousness, that is, on its subjective side, as a conception, but in the real existence thought, he never could have denied our ability to think the unconditioned, that is, real, necessary, and infinite being, for he would have seen that we have intuition of it in every thought, and could not think a single thought if we had not.

“The illustrious Scotsman tells us that our conception of the infinite, the unconditioned, is negative.  Negative of what?  Of the conditioned?  But the conditioned can be denied only by proposing its contradictory, that is, the unconditioned.  But the conditioned affirms, not denies, the unconditioned, since without the unconditioned the conditioned is not cogitable.  We confess, then, that we are totally unable to understand the process by which the learned and acute professor derives the judgment of causality from our inability to think the unconditional, or from the negative conception of real and necessary being.  We should, therefore, reverse his doctrine, and say that the judgment of causality originates in our ability, not in our inability; in the fact that we can and do think both the unconditioned and the conditioned, and always think the latter as the effect or creation of the former, that is, from our ability to think things as they really exist; and the only inability to be noted in the case is our ability to think things, and not to think them in their real relations.

But denying that we have any intuition of the unconditioned, or, as we prefer to say, of the Ideal or the Intelligible, and yet maintaining that we do and must believe it, Sir William is obliged to represent the judgment of causality as simply a belief, though a primitive and necessary belief, in which he coincides with Reid, and does not differ essentially from Kant.  He denies it to be a fact of science, and boldly takes the ground that the first principles of our knowledge can in no instance be themselves objects of cognition, mediate or immediate.  He admits a nous or noetic faculty in man,  the intellectus of the Latins, and the Vernunft of the recent German philosophers, but he makes it the locus or place of first principles, rather than the power of apprehending them objectively in immediate intuition.  They are then beliefs, not cognitions, and beliefs which not only cannot be demonstrated, but of which we have and can have no objective evidence.  They are therefore purely subjective; and as all science must repose on them, and follow their law, all our science is purely subjective, as Hume maintained.  Hence Sir William Hamilton, decidedly the most leaned man of the Scottish school, and the first metaphysician in Great Britain, coinciding with Reid and Kant, leaves us in the same speculative doubt in which Hume himself had left us.  The Scottish school, which originated in the laudable attempt to refute that doubt, and to reconcile philosophy and common sense, has then undeniably failed.” – Brownson’s Quarterly Review, 1855, pp. 455-463.

Sir William Hamilton has, perhaps, served philosophy; but if so, it has been by showing the abyss into which it leads us, when we start with the assumption  that the whole productive force of thought is on the side of the subject, and that the form of the thought depends on the subject, not on the object; which it really only another form of expressing the doctrine of Fichte, in his Wissenschaftlehre

We find with Mr. Mansel’s work very much the same fault that we find with the Traditionalists.  He builds science on faith; or, rather, demolishes reason in order to prove the necessity of revelation. We assert as strenuously as any man ever did, or ever can, the necessity of revelation,- but necessary to what, and for what reason?  Necessary to supply the defects of reason in the natural order?  No; for the existence of God, and what are called his natural attributes, the immateriality and immortality of the soul, free will, and moral obligation, the fundamental truths of natural religion, or Natural Theology, can be proved with certainty by natural reason, and are presupposed by revelation, and constitute the preamble to faith.  Indeed, throw doubt on these, and no revelation is, or can be, provable.  We can never say with certainty it is God who speaks, if it is uncertain that there is a God, or if there is, that he can neither deceive nor be deceived; nor, indeed, if it be doubtful whether we are to obey God when he commands, can we prove that we are obliged to believe and observe his revelation when made.  Why, then, is revelation necessary?  It is necessary simply because God has seen proper to appoint man to a supernatural destiny, or has created for him, and requires him to enter, a supernatural order of life, the end of which is to see and enjoy him in the beatific vision.  Prescind the natural order of life founded by the God-Man, and no necessity for a supernatural revelation can be alleged; for, in that case, no other guide than natural reason would be needed.  It is the neglect to make this distinction that causes all the real or apparent contradiction between faith and reason.  Reason is our natural light and guide, and it would be a contradiction in terms to deny its sufficiency in relation to a purely natural destiny, and it is only on the supposition of a supernatural destiny, that another and higher guide becomes necessary. 

The difficulty felt by most Rationalists is, that the advocates of faith, as they suppose, deny the sufficiency of natural reason for a natural destiny, and make it in its own order give place to supernatural revelation.  This is, seems to us, precisely what our author does, and it doing it he outrages reason.  In showing the insufficiency of reason, he makes no distinction between the natural and the supernatural orders, and gives no intimation, as far as we have seen, that the insufficiency he asserts is only in relation to the supernatural.  He denies the power of reason to attain to the first truths of natural, or what he in his terminology calls metaphysical, theology, and therefore denies the reality of such theology.  Here he is wrong.  Reason is really insufficient only in relation to the supernatural, that is, the supernatural order.  But grant such order, and no man of common sense will deny that, in relation to it, reason must be insufficient.  If it pleases God to found a supernatural order of life for man, it is clear that, if he intends man to live it, he must furnish him supernatural light and supernatural strength.

Reason alone is not able to demonstrate her own deficiency or the necessity of a revelation.  We learn the necessity of a revelation from the revelation itself, and we learn the deficiency of reason from the same revelation, which teaches us that God has, in his infinite goodness, prepared for us a supernatural destiny, far above that which is attainable by our natural faculties alone.  We should, then, never begin by denying reason to be sufficient, in case man had only a natural destiny, but by establishing the fact that he has a supernatural destiny, and that therefore, in relation to that, reason must necessarily be insufficient.  Let us not be met with the remark, that though this might have been so in the origin, it is not so since the Fall.  Man is now born under original sin, from which all his faculties have suffered, and they no longer suffice, without reparation, for even the natural end.  Man by the Fall, suffered severely in being violently divested of his supernatural gifts and graces, but he did not lose reason and free will.  He retained after the Fall his natural moral powers – all that would have been necessary to gain natural beatitude, in case he had been created and left in a state of pure nature, otherwise he would be incapable of sinning till regenerated.  Men, prior to regeneration, are under the natural law, and with gratia Dei, as distinguished from gratia Christi, must be phsyically and morally able to keep it, or else they could not be amenable to it or be judged by it.  By the Fall, man lost his super-added power of gaining a supernatural end, but not his faculty of keeping the natural law.  Any contrary doctrine smacks more or less of the error of Luther and Calvin, or of Baius and Jansenius.  The understanding became darkened by the Fall, we grant, but negatively, in relation to the supernatural, not positively, or intrinsically as purely natural reason; the will became attenuated or weakened, but only in the same sense.  The flesh escaped from its original subjection, but reason and will were still strong enough to control it, if put forth in all their strength; and although virtue was henceforth a combat, it nevertheless continued to be possible.

There is no doubt but revelation, even in relation to the natural law, is highly useful – more especially to the mass of mankind, as St. Thomas teaches.  The revelation of the supernatural throws a flood of light on the natural, and we can, under grace, more easily understand and fulfill the requirements of the natural law, than we could if left to nature alone.  But this utility is something very different from necessity.  Pelagius, prescinding the supernatural order of life, in saying that grace simply enables us to do more easily what, however, is possible to do without it.  His error was the virtue denial of the supernatural order of life and immortality brought to life through the Gospel, and in recognizing for man only a natural destiny.  Our author inclines to the error of Jansenius, which, after all, coincides with the Pelagian as to our final destiny.  It really places our destiny in the natural order, but considers man's natural powers so corrupted and imapired by original sin that we can now do nothing of ourselves to attain it.  Men of ordinary good sense find such teaching contradictory, and even absurd.  The natural strikes them as unduly depressed, and the supernatural as a small and vexatious affair.  God was free to create man or not, as seemed to him good; but he could not, consistently with his own wisdom and goodness, create any being for a natural destiny, and not endow him with the necessary faculties to gain it.  Moreover, to tell a man that, though he originally had them, he has lost them through original sin, is not to help that matter, because, in the commission of that sin, he had no actual part.  It is no fault of mine that Adam sinned, for I was not then born; and to punish me for a sin of which I am not guilty is unjust, and God cannot be unjust.  That I should be deprived, through Adam's fault, of a gratuitous gift to him, which would have passed to all his posterity if he had been faithful, I can understand, because, in that case, I am deprived of nothing that was ever due to my nature as a man; but to deprive me, through Adam's fault, of my essential faculties as a man, and still to exact of me a man's work, is an outrage upon my natural sense of justice, and is what no reasoning in the world can satisfy me a just God will or can do.  Bring in the supernatural, then, merely with a view of repairing nature, or to supply the deficiencies of nature in relation to a natural end, and you bring in what seems to me to be really superfluous, what is an indignity to my nature, and what I feel bound to reject, - especially if you add, that my refusal to accept it and thank God for it will be the greatest sin I can commit.

But to maintain that religious reason is inadequate to a supernatural end, is perfectly in accordance with reason, and is offensive to no natural sense of justice: nor can natural reason be offended by the assertion, that God, in his infinite love and mercy – in his superabundant goodness, has seen fit to confer on us, as our final reward, if faithful to the end, a good infinitely surpassing any to which we could have attained by our natural faculties, even in their integrity and normal exercise.  No despite is done to nature by the proffer of a good above nature, if accompanied by the proffer of the supernatural assistance necessary to secure it.  Does he wrong me, who, instead of leaving me to earn by hard toil my dollar a day, proffers me a million a day, and shows me how I man obtain it with even less toil?  God, in the supernatural, does more than this.  The supernatural is not a revelation of his wrath, but a revelation of his love, even for the sinner, and the revelation of a far higher love than is manifested by our creation.  He who attains to even a faint conception of the glory to which he calls us, has, at first, only the feeling, “this is too good to be true; it is not possible that the infinite God should have so great a love for me, all unworthy as I am.”  But, if there be any truth in the Gospel, it is true.  This unbounded love is real; and eye hath not seen, and ear hath not heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive what God hath reserved for them that love him.  When the supernatural is presented in this light, as a higher order of life and a higher destiny than a purely natural life and natural destiny, reason herself, at once, concedes her own inadequacy, and affirms, alike, the necessity of supernatural light and strength.   Then the conflict between reason and faith ceases, and our whole higher nature aspires to the supernatural.  Then, too, the sin of unbelief – the deliberate rejection of the good provided for us, and offered to us on the easiest terms, becomes quite intelligible.  It is not only an act of disobedience to God, who has a right to command us, but an act of the basest ingratitude, and even contempt, which reason herself declares should not go unpunished. 

We think Mr. Mansel would have better attained his end, if, instead of laboring to create a distrust of reason in this age of skepticism and indifference, he had labored to establish the truth of Christianity, as a supernatural order of life and immortality.  No little of the unbelief that afflicts the Christian’s heart arises from the confusion, in most Catholic minds, of the natural and supernatural, and the false notions of each, presented in the works of the ablest of non-Catholic theologians.  Many of them understand, by the Gospel, little more than a republication of the law of nature,- among whom we find the vastly overrated Bishop Butler,- or a solemn sanction of future rewards and punishments given to natural morality.  Nearly all of them regard the supernatural merely as a means of perfecting or completing the natural, as if God had sadly bungled in his original creation of man. 

They do not seem ever to rise to the conception of Christianity as a supernatural order of life, with a principle, means, and end of its own, not included in nature, or even indicated by it.  It does not contradict nature, but presuppose it, and, though superior to it, harmonizes with it.  What we want brought out and placed in a clear and strong light, is the fact that Christianity, though presupposing the natural, is itself really and truly a supernatural order of life, and by no means included in or developed from the natural.  Christianity is this, or it is nothing, and the sooner we cease talking about it the better.  Of this order there are and can be no natural indications.  Natural reason has and can have no prolepsis, or natural anticipation of it, and, till revealed, no aspiration to it.  Reason can know of herself, that there is more than she knows – mysteries she cannot solve, depths in the divine nature she cannot fathom; but she cannot know, of herself alone, that such an order exists, for there is nothing which she knows, either of God or of nature, from which she can infer either its existence or its necessity.

The first indication of this order must, necessarily, come from revelation; and, if it had not been revealed, we should never have had the slightest conception of it, or felt the slightest need of it.  But, though the existence is supernatural, the fact of its revelation can be established to natural reason with as much certainty as any other fact; and it is by the establishment of this fact to reason, that faith is joined to reason, and rendered itself reasonable.  We know by reason, that God is; that he is most perfect being; that he is infinitely true – the truth itself, and can neither deceive nor be deceived.  Knowing this, we know that whatever he says is true, and may be reasonably believed on his word.  If, then, he has revealed this supernatural order of life, we know that it exists, and have ample reason – the best of all possible reasons, for believing it.  We would, then, establish the fact of revelation, before spending our time in useless efforts to prove its necessity, or even its antecedent probability.

With regard to the supernatural order of life, it is undoubtedly mysterious, but, as Mr. Mansel probably wishes to maintain, it is hardly, when once revealed, more so than even our natural life.  It is not the mysteries of the supernatural order that causes men to hesitate to believe it, but the false notion that its mysteries contradict reason.  Reason never rejects because it cannot comprehend; it rejects, only, because it finds itself contradicted.  There are depths in this supernatural order reason cannot sound – mysteries, the truth of which she cannot intrinsically demonstrate, and which she must take on external evidence, the same as the majority of things of our natural life; but she can, nevertheless, comprehend the relation of these mysteries with herself and with each other, place them in a true scientific order, and give them a true scientific exposition, as we see in the science of Catholic theology.  Taking our data from revelation, instead of reason, we can proceed to the construction of supernatural theology, with the same ease, the same firmness, and the same certainty, at each successive step, than we can natural theology itself. We do not demonstrate its principles, nor do we in any science, for the first principles of all science are given, not demonstrated.  In the natural order, no more than in the supernatural, does reason seek and establish its own principles, because it cannot operate – nay, cannot exist, without principles.  In regard to the natural life, the principles are given in immediate intuition; in the supernatural, they are given mediately, through divine revelation.  This is all the difference, and it is a difference that does not affect the , science or certainty of our conclusions.

In controverting the Kantian philosophy embraced by the author, that the form of thought is imposed by the subject, and the Hamiltonian doctrine, which he also adopts, that the infinite is inconceivable, we by no means wish to be understood as maintaining that religious thought has no limits, or that its limits are not determined by the subject.  We know, as well as anyone, that the human understanding is limited, and that its knowledge, when the most full and complete, is inadequate, and never exhausts the subject.  But what we do contend is, that our knowledge, as far as it goes, is not false, is knowledge, as it presents itself, not as we form it, and that the object is known, so far as known at all, as it is.  What we wish to deny is, that the subject limits the object, or imposes its forms on the object.  The subject is never on the side of the object, and it knows the object is so and so, because so and so the object presents itself, not because such and such is the constitution of the cognitive subject.  When I perceive a tree, it is the tree itself I see, not a projection of my own mind, and the tree is the same as I see it, whether I see it or not, as all the world believes.

Correct these errors of philosophy; bring out more clearly than the author does the distinction between the natural and the supernatural, and insist that the supernatural does not depress the natural, but presupposes and elevates it, and the work before us will have very considerable merit, and deserve to be generally read.  But as it is, with profound respect for the excellent intentions of its author, and a very high esteem of his learning and talents, we cannot award it any high praise.  It will hardly serve as an antidote to the errors it appears to have been written to refute, and it will be far more likely to confirm others of a hardly less dangerous character.  As for the rest, the work is commendable for its calm philosophic spirit, its uniformly courteous tone, and freedom from all asperity or bitterness.  It is the work of a scholar, of a gentleman, and one who, if he were not misled by a vicious philosophy, would be a sound Christian believer.