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if pursued far enough ; it is finite only as it is partial. Tha distinction between finite and infinite is only an adjustment of truth to man. The part that we know we call finite; the whole, which none but God can comprehend, is the infinite. God sees the endless chain; man counts a few links that stretch along opposite him. Facts are discoverable, because truth exists under finite relations. Principles are deducible from facts, because all truth exists under infinite relations. Each generalization of science is a step towards the infinite. A comet from somewhere in God's keeping flames its unheralded splendors atliwart the evening sky. Astronomers measure and map a few degrees of its orbit. The determination of this part establishes the fact that the whole of the hyperbolic curve cannot be determined ; and yet the fact of the limitless and indeterminate orbit is established just as conclusively as that finite and definite portion which the astronomer measures in a single night. Indeed, the same observation which determines the one establishes the fact of the other. So the determination of any truth establishes not only the fact of its finite relations, but also the fact that it exists under infinite relations, which, because infinite, must forever remain undetermined; but the indeterminate truth is no less a truth because undetermined. Indeed, the finite can be conceived as finite only as the infinite is recognized as infinite.
This view of truth is rendered necessary by the nature of man. He must deal with truth as finite, and yet is forced to recognize the fact that what he is dealing with is but a part of a whole which he is compelled to acknowledge, although its final determination is beyond the scope of his powers. The skeptical method restricts all knowledge to the part which may be accurately measured; it ignores that greater part of the orbit which lies beyond the reach of the telescope. We may talk as much as we will about a positive philosophy--a philosophy of the finite, of fact—but such a philosophy depends for its very positiveness upon the assumption of the identical truth which it denies. The more clearly and definitely a fact is apprehended as a fact, the more evident will the truth become that it is more than a fact. Nor can the fact be rightly understood without this enlarged comprehension of the principle which determines it. The engineer runs a level; as a fact it is assumed to be a straight line: but this is true only as it is partial; a real level is in no part a straight line, but must be throughout a great circle. To restrict ourselves to the fact is to adopt a falsehood.
It is sometimes asserted, there can be no rational belief in what is incapable of demonstration. But if a man believes what has been demonstrated, because of the demonstration, he believes it because he admits some undemonstrated, if not undemonstrable, premise. The most rigid mathematician comes back at last to his axioms, which he does not pretend to prove; if proof be demanded of these, his reasoning falls powerless. The most skeptical logician can never reach a conclusion if incessantly required to prove his premises. A demonstrated fact thus rests upon an undemonstrated truth; and he who believes only what can be demonstrated, will never believe anything because of demonstration. This assertion leads to true skepticism,—that is to doubt; for he who will not believe what cannot be definitely proven, cannot consistently disbelieve what cannot be as definitely disproved.
There is a proper skepticism whose end is conviction, which carefully examines facts, that it may safely establish principles; which lays the foundation upon which faith may build; which seeks to anchor humanity to truth, which is above all finite comprehension, instead of cutting the soul loose from its moorings to the unchangeable, and setting it adrift a helpless wreck, rudderless, upon the restless sea of doubt, to go down at last in the brutal whirlpool of annihilation. But that skepticism which attempts to reduce doubts to a system, to form a science out of uncertainties, to replace the firm hold of conviction with the palsied grasp of interrogation, cannot but be fatal to that scholarship which is satisfied with nothing less than definite attainment. Man must believe something. Conviction is the soul's vitality. He will be the most consistent skeptic, who has the firmest conviction of his doubts, as he will be the most successful scholar, who has the firmest conviction of the correctness of the process by which his conclusions hare been reached. Want of conviction is generally an indication of lack of accurate knowledge. Men are not usually skeptical upon what they understand; it is only as knowledge is imperfect that they doubt. The naturalist doubts the conclusions of the theologian, while the theologian scouts the discoveries of the naturalist. Either is positive in his own field, and positive just in proportion to the thoroughness of his investigations. He reaches conviction in the field of his own labor, because he reaches accurate knowledge. He doubts in the field of another, and doubts just in proportion to his ignorance. Skepticism is thus an index of imperfect knowledge. But there is an idea somewhat prevalent that skepticism is superior to conviction; that doubt indicates a more powerful and nicely adjusted intellect than belief; that conviction is synonymous with bigotry; that true scholarship is not to be tested
by the firmness of the structure it rears, but by the desolation of the ruins it leaves; not by the fruitfulness of the garden of the soul, but by the barrenness of the desert it makes. It certainly is not more manly to doubt than to affirm. It does not exhibit a greater intellectual power to shiver in uncertain dread before the spectre which confronts us, than to boldly seize the Protean monster and force from his reluctant breast the secrets guarded by his forms of greatest dread. Doubt is the staggering of the soul under a burden too heavy for it; it is a confession of weakness, however it may be disguised by the pretence of superior strength.
To doubt when conviction may be reached, is worse than weakness which may compel inaction; it is laziness which courts it. The skeptic doubts ; not because anything has been disproved, for with him all definite proof is impossible; but simply because doubt is the natural attitude of his mind. The true scholar does not doubt when assailed by difficulties, because steadied by a firm faith that, in the conflict of contending facts, principle is winning a certain victory. The doubt of the skeptic soon passes into the denial of the bigot. Difficulties become the ultimate criterion by which he determines his action and belief. He does not believe because this is true, but he doubts because that is difficult. The doubt of the scholar leads to an enlightened conviction. Difficulties only challenge him to their mastery; they do not frighten him from the field. The doubt of the skeptic, never reaching conviction, renders all progress impossible. The doubt of the scholar, leading to conviction, opens the way to heroic activity. Better, by far, is the firm conviction of the fanatic, whom some great truth has overmastered, but who, in his mistaken zeal, accomplishes something, than this gelatinous skepticism, which is always quivering in the unstable equilibrium of doubt. Better, by far, is that energetic activity, born of a holy zeal and a noble purpose, that leads all Europe on a wild crusade, and marks the route of a world's misdirected energy by the graves of mistaken heroes—from whose bitter disappointment there sprang a sweeter hope, from whose ardent though blind love there sprang a purer religion, from whose bigotry, enlightened by sacrifice almost sublimely heroic, there sprang nobler charity—than that calmer indecision which, though it commit no excesses, never plucks the ripened fruit of achievement, through fear of some stinging thorn of error.
An active mind cannot tolerate perpetual doubt. The thorough skeptic soon passes from doubt to denial, and in appearance avoids the implication of weakness by the bold and not unfrequently careless assertion of positive disbelief. But, the denial of the bigot is as hostile to true scholarship as the doubt of the skeptic. It is no longer skepticism; it is arnesism. It no longer questions, it only denies ; and sweeping denial indicates a denser ignorance than doubt. Arnesism is more positive than skepticism, more active, more self-asserting; but it is the activity of the coward who flees from the battle he dares not fight, the self-assertion of the braggart whose sole achievements are the words in which he boasts of them. Skepticism shivers with affright, but faces its doubts; arnesism turns and flees, and from some place of fancied refuge sends out its defiant challenge. Positive denial, however, stands upon higher ground than mere doubt, in that it assumes the form of certainty, and presents a definite statement which may be squarely met. The energy which the coward displays in running, if only expended in fighting, might make him a hero.
Disbelief, however, is no less at war with the true spirit of scholarship than skepticism. The aim of study is to add to the sum of our beliefs, to strengthen the fortifications of conviction against the assaults of ignorance, and not to surround the little we already know with an impassable barrier of denial, which imprisons those within as surely as it repels those without. The spirit of scholarship prompts to exertion; skepticism, whether doubt or denial, is a mental vis inertiae which prevents progress, or renders it all the more laborious. Scholarship aims at affirmation, not denial. To be able to deny something is not the great end of intellectual action, but to increase the sum of what we believe.
Denial, without a compensating assertion, is the end of argument. Disbelief, which stops at disbelief, presents an insuperable barrier to intellectual progress. A plea in abatement must do more than simply seek to abate the faulty plea of an opponent; it must correct that it condemns. If objections could be urged without being removed, no case could ever come to trial—the final issue could never be joined. But disbelief, which not only asserts its disbelief, but also positively states what it does believe, aims at conviction. It amends the defective plea that the real issue in the case may the sooner be reached. The mind is centred upon what is to be believed, and through doubt and difficulty steadily seeks conviction. But the final aim of skepticism is disbelief; it seeks doubt and difficulty, not that it may overcome them, but that it may surrender to them. Its object is not to dis
. cover what may be accepted as true, but what may be denied as false; and if the thorough skeptic believe anything, he believes it only as incidental, and subsidiary to his disbelief.
The habit of fixing the mind upon what is to be rejected, will lead to the settled belief that no statement is entitled to unqualified acceptance. Every truth will be dogged by a score of falsehoods. If we confine our attention to the falsity of the false, and content ourselves with denial, we neither silence the falsehood nor establish the truth. Error can be vanquished only by the victory of the truth it opposes; it can never be overthrown by direct assault; its hydraheads may be cut off, one by one, but they will reappear more hideous than before, and fiercer in the vigor of their youth, than were those who fell in the decreptitude of their age. A lie has too many hidingplaces; it is wasting time and strength to hunt it. So long as error and falsehood can lead the world on a wild chase after them, and by thus holding the attention of men prevent it from becoming fixed upon the truth, they will comparatively have the field to themselves. And he who, of his own accord, fixes his whole attention upon what is false, and, satisfied with mere denial, neglects the affirmative statement of what is true, soon loses the power of discriminating between the true and the false; and supporting truth and assaulting falsehood alike with denial, he becomes, however unwittingly, an ally of the falsehood he would overthrow.
Disbelief, denial, doubt, are all negatives; and their chief strength, and consequently their chief danger, lies in this fact. Many a widelyheld falsehood would appear too shallow to gain a moment's credence, if stated in a positive form. Negatives are always indefinite, and behind this indefiniteness lurks the undetected error. Telling what a thing is not, will never tell what it is, until we have completed the entire circle of possibilities. We have a right to demand an affirmative statement of what one believes, instead of the dogmatic assertion of his disbelief. A denial simply takes the statement out of all relations, and he who does nothing but deny, does not even deny with reason.
That habit of mind that deals wholly with negatives, with denials and doubts, which meets argument with assertion, and conviction with a question, which never passes through inquiry to certainty, cannot be a scholarly habit of mind. There can be no science of nescience. The world does not care to know what a thinker rejects, but what he accepts as true. Even the most positive of the positive philosophers demands an affirmative enunciation of the postulates of science, and rejects a method of investigation which deals wholly with negatives.
There seems to be a sort of fascination in this habit of looking at the negative side of everything, which is always seeking some point of attack, some opportunity for denial, which studies religious