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The best known of Kant's objections to this argument for a First Cause is that the idea of cause is only applicable to the phenomenal, and therefore that it cannot legitimately be used of a Being such as God. This objection, however, only holds if the Kantian theory of knowledge, and more particularly Kant's phenomenalism, be valid; and this is very disputable. If cause be, as he thought, merely a subjective category of the understanding, without any objective or concrete counterpart in the external world, Kant's criticism remains good. But the trend of psychology and the science of knowledge since Kant's time has been in opposition to Kant's artificial and purely intellectualistic treatment of the categories of the understanding, of which cause is one. Were Kant with us now he would in all probability correct this weakness in his system in the light of the fuller knowledge which we have since come to possess concerning the origin of concepts such as that of cause.
But if we have succeeded in thus removing one or two objections against the cosmological argument it does not follow that we have shewn the argument to be a positive demonstration. This, we fear, cannot be done. And even if it were possible the argument would still fall short of yielding us what theism requires. Kant at least made it plain that in order to identify the First Cause, supposing we had validly proved its necessity, with God, we should need to rely on the ontological argument, which, as we shall presently see, is fallacious. Hume made much the same criticism when he pointed out that we can never argue directly from a finite world to an infinite cause of it. An effect need only presuppose a cause just great or powerful enough to produce it, and no more. But since a more powerful cause than any finite one can always be imagined, which shall yet be only finite, there can obviously be no empirical proof of an infinite or almighty First Cause. This criticism can hardly be refuted. We shall presently seek for a form of cosmological argument that is not liable to Kant's objections. Meanwhile we may pass on to the teleological argument, which is the one that has chiefly been relied on to furnish the conclusion that the world is
the product of an Intelligence. We must, in the writer's opinion, at least, admit the force of much in the criticism of Hume and Kant concerning the argument for design, or rather for an intelligent Designer. The argument is not coercive ; and in order to furnish a basis for theism it must not only presuppose the ontological proof but the cosmological as well.
Nor, again, can we nowadays rely upon particular adaptations in living organisms as furnishing an argument for design. Such claims were more forcible when the belief obtained that species were directly created with all their specific differences. But if organisms have been more or less gradually evolved, as now seems certain, and especially if their evolution has been brought about by so mechanical a process as natural selection, the plausibility of this kind of teleology vanishes. At the same time the truth of the doctrine of evolution by means of indefinite variation and elimination of the unfit, or even the truth of the assertion that the phenomena and the origin of life may be accounted for in terms of purely mechanical theory, does not involve the impossibility of teleology. Mechanism in the means is perfectly compatible with the idea of a goal or end in Nature. Still, to prove teleology, or rather to shew that the ultimate explanation of the world involves a teleological postulate, requires the raising of broader questions than the biological problem of the cause of adaptations in the organic world. Kant and Darwin may have destroyed the force of the narrow teleology of the eighteenth century; but, as we shall presently endeavour to shew, there is a wider teleology which the very shortcomings of the Kantian philosophy have helped us to discover and to appreciate.
We may as well complete the task of negative criticism, however, before beginning that of positive reconstruction, The old ontological proof which, as we have seen, is presupposed by the cosmological and teleological arguments in their historical form, needs yet to be stated, and its inadequacy to be pointed out. Kant as good as admits that the teleological idea is necessary to our thought, indispensable for its coherency and essential for our
explanation of the world. But our thought is after all only our thought; and that our thought has correspondence with being, with real existence independent of our thought, requires proof. This is what the ontological argument was intended to supply. In each of the several forms it has taken the argument seeks to inser existence directly from thought or idea. Existence, it was said, is a necessary element in the idea of an all-perfect Being. The idea of
God, which we certainly have, involves that of His exist
But Kant shewed, once and for all, that existence is not one attribute of an idea along with, and on a par with, others : it denotes relation to our experience; it is a predicate we can only apply to objects of possible experience or perception. We can never inser from the possibility of an idea, or from the necessity of an attribute of an idea, to the real existence of an object corresponding to that idea. This has been very generally accepted as perfectly valid criticism, and the ontological argument is fairly unanimously rejected as a proof. But the correspondence of knowledge with reality, of thought with being, is none the less a problem for the solution of which the ontological conclusion appears to furnish the only possible key.
From this point we will proceed to construct a positive argument for the Being of God which moves in complete independence of the historic proofs which Hume and Kant conclusively shewed to lack logical coerciveness, and which, though it does not admit of being regarded as a demonstration, does nevertheless, if it be valid, furnish as reasonable a basis for theistic belief as we can possibly claim for the whole structure of human science.
The correspondence of our thought with reality, the fact that our science enables us to predict the course of Nature and, in a measure, to control it, is a puzzle and a problem ; and when we seek out the implications of this correspondence, great possibilities, we believe, present themselves to the theologian.
Let us look for a moment at the nature of our so-called knowledge of the world. Its primary data are, of course, the deliverances of sense, the sense-impressions which take their place inevitably and unbidden in our individual streams of consciousness. Over these elements in our experience we have no control; they are thrust upon us willy-nilly. They are not deducible in their particularity and individuality, as even the consistent Hegelian rationalist will admit; they just happen. And they cannot be explained away. There is a sense in which they are our ultimate reality. At the same time they alone do not constitute knowledge; they do not of themselves yield what we commonly call objects, such as trees or chairs. Objective knowledge is quite different from subjective sensation. Knowledge of an object, perception, involves a synthesis of this crude matter of sensation by the active percipient or knowing subject-a synthesis, moreover, which he cannot perform by himself but only in co-operation with fellow-subjects. So is empirical knowledge of objects derived. But science consists of much more than empirical knowledge of particular objects and phenomena. Such knowledge, indeed, is barely accounted as science. Science, or rather the active and constructive mind of man, completely rearranges the elements presented to us in immediate sensation. In the formation of concepts it selects from the given, dropping this element, emphasizing that; and this selection is guided by a practical interest or end-economy of thought and control of things. In our thought we associate together things presented far apart in time and space we manipulate, rearrange, transform, to an extraordinary extent, the immediately given. The concepts of science, moreover, as science advances from the particular object to the universal law, become more and more abstract ; they leave out more and more of given reality; they part company more and more with concrete experience. In the highest regions of science we have no concrete content left : we have hypothetical ethers, atoms, electrons, and we have purely mathematical formulae and equations; we have thought-relations, no longer concrete things. And yet, VOL. LXVIII. —NO. CXXXV.
and here is the marvel—this abstract thought, much of it the creature of invention, is valid of things. Inductions, though they all rest on the indemonstrable principle of uniformity, prove true so far as our experience goes ; formulae predict the times of transits and eclipses, the discovery of elements and planets and forms and properties of matter hitherto unobserved. Nature honours our thought; the willy-nilly stream of brute sense-given fact corresponds to our laws arrived at by apparently arbitrary selection, suppression, manipulation and invention. How does this marvel come about? What does this correspondence of apparently disparate things imply? Why should human thought, with all the mark of anthropomorphism about it to the very last of its refinements, be valid of sense-impressions, over the origin and order of which humanity has no control ? There is only one answer, so far as we can see, which it is possible to make, and that is that the sense-given out of which we construct the external world, and the human mind which constructs it, are made for one another. This teleological postulate is implied in the fact that there is such a thing as human knowledge ; and unless that postulate be true, we possess no objective knowledge. In any case we literally live by faith, therefore, in science as well as in theology. There is no rounded off sphere in which, as Kant believed, we can know and know that we know, and from which he excluded the existence of God. The concept of God as the ultimate and unconditional ground does not appear for the first time, as that philosopher would teach, only upon the horizon of our finite knowledge, supposed to be complete and selfcontained; it is rather the presupposition without which no desire for knowledge in the strict sense is conceivable at all. It is true we still fall short here of an ontological proof; the existence of God can never be strictly proved. But the writer for one is satisfied if the ground of religious belief be identical with the ground of so-called scientific knowledge ; and if the reasoning we have just presented be trustworthy, it would appear that the speculative justification for the objective validity of our finite knowledge and for the Being of God is one and the same.