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Chapter V: The Moral Argument to Theism

I have dealt in the opening chapter with the difference between morality and religion. The time has now come to consider their affinities. Two questions lie before us. We have to see how far moral experience opens out a way of approach to religion, in other words, to discuss the validity of the moral argument to theism. We shall then be able to show how far religion can reconcile the dualism of ethical principles that formed the theme of the last three chapters. In passing to the moral argument, there are three preliminary points which call for notice


(I) We have seen that moral experience already points the way towards religion, independently of the reasonings of moral philosophy. But the approach is most obvious in the life sub ratione boni. For here, as in religion, theoria is regulative of praxis; again, as in religion, the action expresses a spontaneous aspiration and its goal is fruition of the good. Indeed, the religious life might have been brought within this form of conduct, but for two reasons: (a) that the scope of religion is not confined to practice, and (b) that in religion the ideal is not the good, but God. The boundary-line is hard to draw; on its higher levels ethical experience is always tending—quite apart from philosophical reasoning—to pass into religion: “as the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God”. But this advance is not necessitated; aspiration after good is compatible, on the purely ethical plane, with devotion to finite ends, such as the welfare of a civic community; a fortiori it is compatible with the pursuit of those goods which we distinguished as in suo genere infinite, such as moral goodness or speculative truth. Metaphysical reflection, indeed, may suggest the thought of a unitary principle of value, as it did to Plato and Spinoza; but the validity of the thought can hardly be held to be established beyond question. Even if we admit that the demand or reason for intelligible unity in the world of our experience is more than a “regulative Idea”, postulated as a guide-post for scientific and philosophical inquiry, and increasingly, confirmed as inquiry proceeds under its direction; there remains the salto mortale from faith in the intelligibility of the universe to faith in its perfection.1 An all-embracing mathematical system, such as that contemplated by Descartes, or in out own day by Professor jeans, would give intelligible unity to the universe; it would not give assurance of its value. Yet, though faith in the good does not necessitate theism, it inclines towards it. Dissatisfaction with finite goods prompts, we saw, to the search for a res infinita et aeterna. The seeker has in this very moment touched the boundary-line between ethics and religion. Tu ne me chercheras pas, si tu ne m'avais pas trouvé. The desire for good, if we think out its implications, cannot be quieted save in the fruition of a summum bonum inclusive of all goods. Thus we find Buddhism, after a few generations, developing, from purely ethical origins, into both a metaphysic and a religion. Thus, again, we find that Plato's Form of Good, which in Plato's thought was clearly distinguished from the artificer-God, who was not a form but a soul and who fashioned the sensible world after the pattern of an eternal archetype, was identified by the Neo-Platonists with the primal source of being and of value. The way was thus prepared for Augustine's further identification of the Neo-Platonic One with the God of Christian theism.

I said that the life of duty—i.e., of morality in the strict sense—also points towards religion. As Kant showed, in his great chapter on The Motive of Pure Practical Reason, the consciousness of obligation effects a twofold change, a negative and a positive, in the temper of the experient. No man of acute moral sensibility can be blind to the abyss that parts the austere requirements of the moral law from his unavailing efforts to satisfy them. To realize his impotence is not only shattering to self-complacency, but fills him with despair. This condition of mind—St. Paul has described it, once for all, in the Epistle to the Romans—is truly a praeparatio evangelica, for it brings with it a longing for release from bondage to the law and a readiness to find a refuge in divine grace. Moral humiliation proves to be the gateway to religious humility. But, positively, the moral law inspires reverence, and reverence for the law leads to reverence for its author. Here, as Kant pointed out, the impulse is one of direct attraction, analogous to the desire prompted by the thought of good. Now few, if any, can rest satisfied in reverence for an abstract principle, even of moral obligation. Reverence is naturally reverence for a person. “It is true,” writes Cook Wilson, “that we speak of reverence for the Moral Law; but, again, I believe no such feeling possible for a mere formula, and that, so far as it exists, it is only possible because we think of the Moral Law as the manifestation of the nature of the Eternal Spirit.”2 Kant, too, acknowledged this; but he tends to fall back on the noumenal personality of the human agent, as the immanent source of the moral law.3 Man as a rational being is, he held, self-legislative. That Kant also ascribed the authorship of the law to God as transcendent moral governor, the sovereign in the kingdom of ends, is undeniable; but in so doing he passed the boundary-line between morality and religion. There is a further point to be noted in connexion. with the life of duty. Moral habituation not only extends the horizon of faith beyond the field of morality; it is also a conditio sine qua non for the perception of Speculative truth. Experience bears out what Plato constantly teaches in the Republic, that man's powers of intellect are doomed to sterility, unless exercised on a background of moral character. Rather, they prove destructive agencies, working for the ruin both of the individual soul and of society. This was the point of the discipline prescribed for the early training of the philosopher-king. Even in matters of pure philosophy the judgements of thinkers lacking in moral stability and self-control are open to suspicion.4 Bruno and Nietzsche, for all their flashes of speculative genius, are instances to the point. Who can question, again, that the ethical writings of Butler and of Kant owe much of their intellectual appeal to the fact that the speculative insight of these philosophers was clarified and strengthened by the high quality of their moral character? Let no one object that I am casting disparagement on the intellect, or measuring its function by a pragmatic standard. I am merely refusing to do violence to the solidarity of human personality. Intellect and will are ever found in co-operation, never in entire severance. This must needs be so both with man's ethical judgements and with his judgements on religion. That moral instability fosters credulity will hardly be disputed; and it may equally foster scepticism. Without goodness of character, the intuitions of religious experience will be infected by self-deception; given goodness of character, there is at least a prima facie presumption of the reasonableness of religious faith. Here, too, the presence of reason in morality heralds its presence in religion.

(2) My second point concerns religious experience and its rationalization. There are many in these latter days who hold that religious experience furnishes its own warrant and needs no support or confirmation from non-religious sources. flow can a supernatural revelation depend for justification on the arguments Of man's natural reason? I have written elsewhere about reason and revelation, and I have no wish to indulge in repetition. Far from decrying the value of religious experience in its most distinct and specific form as personal communion of the soul with God, I have rather laid stress on its inherent rationality, as self-critical and self-interpretative of its own intuitions, as manifesting, itself in reasonable behaviour towards the world, and as demanding the loyalty of man's entire personality, intellect as well as heart and will, in God's reasonable service. The response of man's whole nature, in religion as in æsthetic appreciation, is a witness that can never be ignored. To relegate the evidence of religious experience to the realm of subjectivity lands thought in the same impasse as the view, so often dinned into our ears, that private sensa are the ultimate data for our knowledge of an external world.5 Once imprisoned in subjectivity, how can you escape from it? The experiencing and the experienced are given together and what God has joined, let not man put asunder! Such unity of differents is the very hallmark of reason. It is a complementary error to imagine that God, the object of religious experience, can reveal himself otherwise than ad modum recipientis, through the medium, that is, of word or sign addressed to the understanding of the worshipper. If the revelation be thus intelligible, it is also capable of misinterpretation. Faith, from the first, is fides quaerens intellectum; and the search once started, only the utmost bounds of finite intellect can bar its progress. From the first, again, religious experience bears the mark of catholicity; as God, in knowing himself, knows also alia a se, so man, in knowing God, knows therewith, according to the measure of his capacity, himself and all else. It is a paradox of religion, perhaps, but no contradiction, that the experience should thus be at once specific and universal. The barrier that seems to sever personal intercourse—the response of “I” to “Thou”—from an impersonal apprehension of the universe, is broken down. The crudest revelation of God generates of necessity an outlook on men and things, a world-view, which as the mind develops, ripens into a theocentric philosophy. To rule humanism out of religion is to believe what is intrinsic to religious faith. If only those modern theologians who, in their zeal to vindicate the absolute otherness of the Creator from the creaturely, deny all analogy between his supra rational activity and that of human reason, would but learn a lesson from Aquinas! It was just because he realized man's creaturely limitations as the lowest member in the hierarchy of intellectual beings, that he insisted on our inability to know intelligible objects, and a fortiori to know God himself, save by processes of discursive reasoning grounded through sense. Aquinas was, I think, ruling religious experience out of court in his argument to theism, and too confident in his reliance on the cosmological argument as yielding a necessary proof.6 But he built upon a bed-rock of objectivity, which those whose sole appeal is to religious experience seek and seek in vain. A merely personal revelation must remain to the end personal and subjective. That is why the evidence of religious experience is strongest when the experience has passed through the crucible of the religious community. We need not endorse Butler's censure of Wesley's claim to personal inspiration, that “it is a horrid thing, a very horrid thing”, in order to recognize how the faith of the individual is purified and deepened in the corporate life of the Church.7 But the experience is not self-sufficient; it needs further confirmation drawn from non-religious knowledge of man and nature. It is not a question of rigorous demonstration; that is to be found, if anywhere, only in mathematics and pure logic. It is a question of cumulative probability, for which religious and non-religious experience alike supply the evidence. Of special significance is the witness of morality. The more clearly we distinguish between morality and religion, the more need is there to test religious beliefs by their coherence with moral beliefs and moral practice. The supernatural would not be the supernatural, nor the transcendent the transcendent, were they not imaged immanently in the order of nature. And where is the image discernible, if not in man's consciousness of moral obligation?

I have used the term “image”, in accordance with Christian theological tradition, to avoid the suggestion that the direct vision of God is possible for. man in his present state. In this matter of religious experience, we have to steer our course between two quicksands, to ground on either of which means shipwreck. On the one side there is the danger of ignoring the specific character of religious experience as a divine revelation, which ex parte Dei is unerring, and derives its truth from a source wholly different from the sources of our knowledge in other fields. On the other side there is the danger of forgetting that the voice of God speaks ad modum recipientis, in sundry ways and in diverse manners, to the ignorant and the savage as well as to the wise and prudent, utilizing, the imperfect instruments of human sight and speech. When God became man, he spoke in words that his hearers could understand, in the Aramaic dialect, a medium most defective when measured by the Greek or the Latin current among his contemporaries in the Græco-Roman world. Ex parte hominis, the revelation is of necessity fallible, calling for criticism and interpretation by the God-given faculty of reason. Rationalization is thus integral to religious knowledge. And, as we have seen, the surest guarantee of a right judgement in religion, as elsewhere, is the moral integrity of the interpreter.

(3) Thirdly and lastly, analogous to the error of setting religious experience and rational inference over against one another, as mutually exclusive sources of evidence, is the error, within the field of rational inference, of laying exclusive stress on a single line of argument. I am not going to traverse the familiar ground of the historic proofs of theism; our concern is with the moral argument. All the more need to remind ourselves that that the evidence for theism are cumulative, and that none of the arguments carries its full weight without the others. It would be otherwise were one of them, as Aquinas held the cosmological argument to be, rigorously demonstrative. I regard it as unfortunate that Aquinas, with his Latin ardour for emphasizing distinctions, put asunder what Plato had conjoined in the tenth book of the Laws, and treated of the cosmological argument in separation from the teleological. Or, to take a modern instance, it is, I think, a grave defect in Dr. Tennant's Philosophical Theology that the author lays the whole burden on the teleological argument, holding the cosmological invalid on the grounds adduced in criticism by Kant. In fact, I believe Kant's criticism of this argument to be the very weakest section of his whole Kritik. Of the ontological argument I shall have something to say later; it is, of course, not an argument at all, but rather a postulate, or, if you will, an intuition; in fact, a vote of confidence in reason passed by the philosopher before he proceeds to the order of the day. In any case, it does not conclude to the God of religion. Professor Dawes Hicks seems to me to have rendered a great service to religious philosophy when he presents, in his recently published Hibbert Lectures, the cosmological, teleological and moral arguments as grades in a hierarchical order, the first providing the groundwork for the second, and the second for the third. The cosmological argument proceeds from the fact that nature is not a self-contained and self-explicable system, reducible without remainder to law, to infer a necessary being above and beyond nature as the ground of its contingency.8 Of the two alternatives, an accidental world or a world dependent on a transcendent author, reason must needs prefer the latter. The teleological argument, which, while it does not prove, yet possesses a much higher degree of probability than Hume and Kant would allow, helps to bridge the gulf between a necessary being and a purposive intelligence. How can there be such a thing as purposiveness without a purposing mind?9 But intelligence is one thing, goodness another; for all that these two lines of inference tell us, the transcendent mind might work for evil or for ethically neutral ends. To furnish an approach to the God of religion, there is required evidence of his goodness. The source of all being must also be the source of all value. In other words, rational theology finds its coping-stone in the moral argument.


The moral argument, like that from religious experience, is distinctive of modern thought. It could hardly have been formulated until the idea of moral obligation had come into its own and been subjected to philosophical analysis; in other words, until the time of Kant. Its data not, in the world without, but in man's inner consciousness; it implies, that is to say, the concentration on the activity of the thinking and willing subject inaugurated by the Cogito of Descartes. The one notable exception among the ancients is Augustine. Augustine not only heralded the Cogito—and much else that is characteristic in modern philosophy—but, as everyone knows, was largely responsible for the theology of Protestantism. The moral argument has been more fully discussed, especially in Britain, during the last hundred years than any of the other arguments to theism. But it is, as we shall see, beset with graver difficulties than either the cosmological or the teleological arguments. As I have no desire to re-traverse well-trodden ground, I shall concentrate on the chief problems that it raises for contemporary thought. But first, I must say a few words in reference to its original formulation by Kant.

Kant's presentment of the argument in the Dialectic of the Kritik of Practical Reason gives an easy handle to misinterpretation. The three Ideas of reason—God, immortality and freedom—are there affirmed to be postulates of practical reason—i.e., of moral experience—their reality, indemonstrable by speculative reasoning, being assured is objects of practical faith.10 Now we know that, for Kant's mature conviction, freedom is not a postulate at all, but, as he tells us in the Kritik, of Judgement, a knowable fact, given in experience in and through man's moral consciousness.11 With Immortality we are not here concerned. It looks at first sight as though God were brought in by Kant is a deus ex machina in order to secure a connexion between two things which cannot be analytically or synthetically conjoined, moral desert and happiness. Yet nothing is really farther from Kant's thought than this. Two reasons can be alleged in condonation of his highly artificial manner of presenting the argument. When Kant addressed his mind to questions of religion, he invariably conceived God as a transcendent Creator, moral Governor and judge; and this, not merely as a survival of his early Pietist upbringing, but from a reasoned appreciation of what is essential to religious, as distinct from ethical, experience.12 To question God's transcendence would have been to give the rein to schwärmerei, a form of religious aberration for which his youthful experience of Pietism had left in him a deep abhorrence. Indeed, in all his writings Kant shows a very imperfect appreciation of the truth of divine immanence. The command to love God means for man, in his present state, obedience to the moral law. The fear of God, with its implication of transcendence, is the be-all and end-all of the religious life. It would have been strange had the thinker, who insisted most strongly in his metaphysics on the gulf that parts the phenomenal world from its noumenal ground, allowed in his theology any tampering with the belief in God's transcendence. God's will is a holy will, man's will at the best can be but good. God is sovereign, man but a member, in the kingdom of ends. The thought of God as intuitive understanding, which came to replace Kant's earlier and more abstract reference to “things in themselves”, carries us far beyond the practical reason, which is immanent alike in God and man. And there is a second ground that influenced Kant to represent God as though he were an external arbiter of human destinies. Kant was zealous, in view of the trend of popular thought in his generation, to vindicate the autonomy of morality from dependence on the sanctions of religion. “Morality,” he wrote, “in no way needs religion for its support … but by means of pure practical reason is sufficient to itself.”13 The award of happiness is conditional on the recipient's desert. He must have obeyed the moral law for its own sake. Thus the theistic postulate is consequential, and is presented by Kant as though it were a corollary from moral experience rather than its condition. But in truth it is a condition rather than a corollary. The nerve of the argument lies in the concept which Kant rightly spoke of as “most fruitful”, of a kingdom of ends. Moral experience, if it be not illusory, implies a morally ordered world. Reason cannot acquiesce in an ultimate dualism, like that contemplated by Huxley in his Evolution and Ethics, or by Bertrand Russell in a A Free Man's Worship, of a moral process set in unreconciled antithesis to the process of nature. Kant's premise is the experience of the unconditionality of obligation, which is given as fact in the common moral consciousness. This experience carries with it a necessitation, which is not external—that would involve a contradiction—but entirely free. It implies a moral environment, an order of free causality that is also unconditional, pointing to the concept of a kingdom of ends, wherein finite rational beings are at once autonomous members and subject to the sovereignty of God. As the final step in the argument, Kant posits a transcendent Deity as the source alike of the moral order and of our obligation to act in accordance with its law.

I would add One more remark in regard to this argument. If it be valid, it provides valuable confirmation of the rationality of religious faith. Those who would account for religious experience as the effect of subconscious and infra-rational powers within the self find responsive hearers, and their contention is by no means easy to refute. With moral experience it is otherwise; if anything in man's nature bears witness to rationality, it is the consciousness of moral obligation. It is as manifestly a product of reason as his thinking in mathematics and the sciences. There is nothing either infra-rational or supra-rational about it. It is simply reason regulating conduct. If, then, religious beliefs be of a piece with his moral experience, they too beat the mark of reason. Religion can ill afford to dispense with the confirmatory evidence of its truth thus provided by morality.

By the moral argument, then, We mean the argument which, taking man's moral experience as its datum, and finding therein the consciousness of an unconditional obligation, concludes to the being of God as the only possible ground of explanation. The consciousness of obligation, if it be not illusory, implies the reality of a moral order, and the reality of a moral order implies the existence of God as its author and sustainer. Only thus, it is argued, can moral experience be established on objective ground. We have now, leaving Kant on one side, to consider the problems to which this argument gives rise. The most serious of these connect with the final stage, the inference from the reality of moral values to their source in God. That the moral imperative is absolute, and that our awareness of it implies a moral environment other than that of nature, are convictions hardly to be imperiled by the only possible line of criticism—that of Naturalism. For the answer to such criticism, I need only refer to the writings of Sorley and Taylor. They have shown, I think conclusively, that if morality be not a delusion, the moral ideal must have a status in reality. But does the recognition of that status necessitate, or even render probable, the being of God? Another and, I think, a graver difficulty is whether, in ascribing moral attributes or even goodness to God, we are not guilty of anthropomorphism. I propose to devote the remainder of this lecture to these two problems.


(A) We have seen that the essence of the moral life lies in willing the actualization of an ideal duty; that of the life sub ratione boni in willing the actualization of an ideal good—i.e., in both cases, in the translation by our will of an ideal into fact. Both types of life imply a distinction of two factors, which seem to belong to different worlds. If the ideal his reality, other than that of “a false creation proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain”, it must be in a different mode of being from that of fact. Not that the severance of fact and value is absolute. For we find (a) that the ideal is actualized as the thought of living persons, such as the Moral agent who sets himself to do his duty, the scientist whose knowledge is won by effort of research, the artist who creates and contemplates what is beautiful, the lover whose passion is stirred by the vision of desired good. We find, again, (b) that the actual course of events is such that ideals have been in varying measure realized within it, not by a mere thought-interpretation superimposed by the mind upon given facts—for the mind does not superimpose and barely given fact is never forthcoming—but as a character of what has, actually taken place. But the actualization is always effective; what we call the “actual” is a process of becoming, which, as Plato taught, lacks the stability of true being, and is therefore never fully real. In ethics this tension of the two moments, the absolute and the relative, the abiding and the temporal, ideal value and existent fact, shows itself in many forms: in the inward struggle between what a man calls his “higher” or “true” self and the past and present bad self, which thwarts his moral endeavour; in the pressure of outward circumstance, say of poverty or disease, disabling him in the pursuit of good; and in the paralyzing consciousness that the ideal, even when conceived in thought as the moral law or the ιδεα του αγαθου, fades into a formal perfection, which defies embodiment, for purposes of practical application, in any concrete scheme of goods or duties. The tension cannot be resolved under the conditions of actual existence; were it past and over, the moral life would cease. For some of these difficulties a solution is provided, quite apart from religion, by metaphysics. The process of nature is found on analysis to call for the recognition of universal essences, none the less real in that their mode of being—their “subsistence”, to use the accustomed term—is other than that of actual events, into which they enter as ingredient factors. The vindication by philosophy of the real being of these timeless forms goes some way towards justifying the absoluteness which the moral consciousness discovers in the ideal source of obligation. It rules Naturalism out of the picture. It offers also a prima facie explanation of the apparently contradictory command to realize what is already real. Man's duty is to realize in a world of temporal existence what is real indeed eternally in the realm of essence, but is as yet unreal and non-existent in the realm of fact. Yet, though at a further remove, the difficulties remain. Why, we persist in asking, should man strive to realize in one world what is already real in another? What is the rational ground of the obligation so to strive, of which he is conscious in moral experience? To this question the doctrine of subsistence can give no answer. It can only assure us that the ideal is a reality beyond the scope of our achievement, and bid us do the best we can, in our own strength and that of our fellows, in the Sisyphus-labour of approximation to a goal that must for ever elude attainment. How again—and here is the central problem—are the two worlds, of essence and existence, related within the whole of being? We are impaled on the horns of a dilemma. Either the former is the reality, and the latter mere appearance; and, if so, is the game of the moral life, played in a shadow-land of unreality, worth the candle? Or we are left with an ultimate dualism of reals, that dooms the effort of reason after unity to disaster.

It is here that the moral argument proffers an alternative. It claims that the reality of values and their relation to the reality of the temporal process is tendered more intelligible than on any other hypothesis if we conceive of values as possessed of reality, not per se, but in the mind of an actually existing God. I believe that, quite apart from the evidence of religion, a sober metaphysics is bound to give negative verdict on two questions—viz., (i) on the ontological priority of the possible to the actual, and (ii) on the severance of essence and existence, thought and reality along the line. I beg leave to take as read the detailed discussions of the problem of fact and value in the writings of men far more competent than myself, notably those of Professors Sorley and Taylor. They have shown that, while fact and value are distinguishable, value is always affirmed of existents, never of abstract concepts, and that “what confronts us in actual life is neither facts without value nor values attached to no facts, but fact revealing value … and values which are realities and not arbitrary fancies, precisely because they are embedded in fact and give it its meaning”.14 A realm of merely possible being can have no value. hither there is no value at all, or, in Dr. Whitehead's phrase, it lies in actuality.15 In other words, the so-called ontological argument, if it be rightly understood, remains the corner-stone of metaphysics. If it be rightly understood. For the ontological argument is strictly not an argument at all; but rather a vote of confidence in the validity of thought. The ideal of thought is of an Absolute embracing all the variety of being in intelligible unity. Can this ideal of thought be merely a thought, merely a mental construction that has no grasp on reality? That thought must, at long last, guarantee its own truth, at the point where thought and being meet as one, is the import of the ontological assumption.16 It was challenged by Kant, on the ground that there is nowhere a direct passage from thought to things. The two realms, he held, are parted all along the line.17 If the gulf can be bridged anywhere, it will be in the case of the perfect being, God. Of course, the so-called argument does not prove the existence of God, not even of the Dieu des philosophes et des savants, far less of the God of religious worship; in modern thought it has rather served as the basis for a precarious inference to a purely immanent Absolute. Its interest for our present purpose is that, if God be posited on other grounds, in his perfect being essence and existence are one. I have often wondered how Aquinas, who rejected Anselm's version of the “argument” for the reason that the human mind in this life is denied direct knowledge of God's essence, found himself able to assert with confidence this identity of God's essence and existence.18 I am not disputing his assertion; I merely note that it implies the ontological assumption. It follows that ideal values, like other abstract essences, have their status in reality, not as possible objects of intellection, but as actualized in the mind of God. His “intuitive understanding”, to use Kant's expression, is constitutive of the being of eternal objects. Ethical ideals, when thus integrated with actuality, are redeemed from abstraction. God is not merely bonus; he is bonitas. How can reason rest satisfied, either intellectually or in the interest of morality, with a realm of abstract essences as the source of an unconditional obligation? It is not merely that such abstract ideas can never be the objects of religious worship, They fall short also of the requirements of morality. The reverence inspired by the thought of duty, and the spiritual passion that draws man upwards towards the Good, alike bear witness to the inadequacy of the doctrine of subsistence. They point beyond morality, and beyond metaphysics, to where these lose themselves to find themselves in religion.

I do not wish to labour this point unduly, but, before passing on, I must briefly refer to Professor Dawes Hicks’ recent attempt to combine the doctrine of subsistence with theism.19 He holds, on the one hand, that ideal values, like essences, and true judgements—not, however, falsehoods, which imply “minds that make mistakes”—subsist timelessly, and, moreover, have value, independently of any existing mind or person. Value, therefore, is anything but confined to actuality. On the other hand, he tells us that, apart from any mind whatsoever, this subsistence of truths and values would be bereft of intelligible meaning. “I do not say,” he writes, “as some have said, that the moral ideal must exist in the mind of God, because as an ideal it does not seem to me to be an existent, either in a mind or elsewhere. I would, however, submit that only on the assumption of the existence of a Mind by whom it is known in its entirety and on whom its reality is dependent can we rationally think of this ideal as subsisting at all.”20 Now, if the ideal is thus dependent on God's mind for its reality, I fail to see what place is left for its independent reality as subsistent. “Dependent on Him, they” (i.e., truth, and beauty and ideal good) “must be, if Ile he the sustainer of all that is”;21 but, apparently, dependent on him neither for their timeless being, nor as products of his creative intellect. Dependent, then, for what? and how? Either the divine mind or the realm of subsistence seems otiose. Professor Hicks’ argument is, I think, defective, owing, to his assumption that nothing can exist or exercise activity that is not in time. Existence is an indefinable term, but temporal activity is a “criterion by means of which it can be recognized.” A timeless activity, we read, is a contradiction in terms. So also is the “timeless present”, for “present” implies “correlation with a past and future”.22 Is not this to rule out the distinction between the timeless and the temporal present? I cannot discuss here the case for and against a temporal Deity. It is enough to say that Professor Hicks’ theology is hardly reconcilable with the intuitions of the religious consciousness. A God in whom there is variability and shadow of turning is surely not a God who can be worshipped. And how could a temporal God have complete and exhaustive knowledge of all truth? Professor Hicks finds many contradictions in religious experience. The claim of the mystic to be aware of his oneness with God is a “palpable inconsistency”, for if he be one with the object of his awareness, he is ex hypothesi “other” than the object, and therefore cannot be one with it.23 This may well be true of Eastern mysticism, but the unity claimed by Christian mystics never implies absorption. So also in regard to the ontological intuition, that essence and existence are identical in God. “If God be identical with His goodness, I presume we must also say that God is identical with His love, with His knowledge, with His insight, and on. And that would mean that God's love and knowledge and insight are one and the same.”24 Professor Hicks seems to think that to hold this is to regard God as a “timeless whole of thought-contents”, after the manner of the Hegelian Absolute. In his otherwise admirable argument against Pantheism, he suggests that the only alternative is to construe God's relation to man as analogous to that of man to men. But how could God, so construed, be “a consciousness that knows all that we cannot know, that loves beyond our power of loving”, that “realizes the good where our faltering efforts fail”?25 Has not Professor Hicks fallen a victim to what Hegel called “the logic of the abstract understanding”? The contradictions he finds in religious experience are for that experience no contradictions but two facets of a single truth; nor are they remedied by positing a dualism of timeless subsistent values and a temporal God.


I pass now to consider a problem that threatens the very foundation of any religious philosophy. Kant, in common with most of his contemporaries, saw no difficulty in conceiving God as a moral being endowed with moral attributes. But is the matter so simple? Does not the assertion that God is good involve an unwarrantable anthropomorphism?26

Of course no serious thinker, least of all Kant, would hold that God is subject to moral obligation. To think of him as doing his duty, however faultlessly, is a contradiction in terms; for duty has no meaning where there is no possibility of transgression. To credit him with moral virtue is, as Aristotle observed in the Ethics, an absurdity. So Kant distinguished God's “holy” will from the “good” will, which implies a sensuous nature beside the rational. But he held that the moral law, being the pure expression of reason, is a principle of volition for all rational beings, including God.

I cannot follow Kant here. Holiness is not a moral but a religious attribute. Morality is something all-too-human to be ascribed to God. To hold that he is the ground of the moral law is one thing, to predicate “moral” of him, even by way of analogy, is quite another. That God's goodness is of a higher order than moral goodness need cause no difficulty, provided that we can relate moral goodness to him as its ground. But—here is the grave problem—with what right do we ascribe goodness to God at all? The question is not whether God may not be evil—that, while evil is relative to good, good is not relative to evil, can, I believe, be shown by metaphysics—but whether God is not above both good and evil, above all measures of valuation?27 I shall argue that we have no right to affirm God's goodness, apart from the evidence of religious experience. Neither the moral argument, nor any other based upon non-religious sources, suffices to justify the assurance. Nay, more: none of these arguments avails, of itself, to give any positive knowledge of God's nature. The issue is of tremendous importance; it concerns the possibility of any rational knowledge of God by man. In discussing it, I shall draw on the resources of Christian theology; for Christianity is the only religion with which I am acquainted at first hand. But in doing this, I shall not be arguing apologetically for the truth of the Christian revelation—that would be beyond the purpose of these lectures; I shall simply illustrate from Christian religious thought the nature of the difficulty and its solution.

The problem was met and answered by Aquinas, with a thoroughness and sobriety hardly to be found elsewhere, in his theory of analogical predication. He saw that the via remotionis, while it justified the exclusion from God of all characters that involved defect or limitation, yielded no positive knowledge of what he is. Moreover, the direct vision of God's essence is denied to man in his present state. How, then, can we make any positive assertion as to God's nature? Aquinas’ object, we must remember, is to establish a knowledge of God by way of reason, independently of revelation. His answer rests on the principle, which he regards as self-evident, of the similitude of the effect to its cause.28 In the case of God's creative causality, the effects—the created universe—are necessarily inferior to their cause; they will therefore be marked both by similitude and dissimilarity. The likeness, is so to speak, unilateral rather than reciprocal; it is truer to say that the creature bears the likeness of the Creator than to say that the Creator bears a the likeness of the creature. Now, while God is prior to created things in the order of being (secundum rem), created things are prior to God in the order of our knowledge; for we can only rise to the knowledge of God indirectly from our sense-experience of created things.29 Further, in our judgements as to the relative value of created things there is implied an ideal of perfection, free from the defects that attach to its imperfect embodiments in the world of our experience. Hence, St. Thomas argues, we are justified in ascribing to God, who is the perfect unity of all perfections, such predicates, drawn from our experience, as express “absolute perfection without defect … such as goodness, wisdom, being, and the like”.30 But they must be ascribed to him modo supereminentiori; or, as he explains in the language of Aristotelian logic, not univocally, nor equivocally, but analogically.31 Now, the difficulty in this argument lies in the difference in the terms of the analogy, when compared with all other analogies in our experience. Everywhere else the analogy is from one finite thing or quality of things to another—e.g., A and B resemble one another in x they will therefore resemble one another in y. But in the case of analogical inference to God, one of the terms, God, is the Creator, the other, man, is the creature; what ground for comparison can there be between the infinite and the finite, the Creator and the created? Aquinas, of course, is fully aware of the difficulty, and discusses it with great subtlety and penetration; but I cannot see that he succeeds in solving it.32 The distinction that he drew between “conformity of proportion” and “conformity of proportionality”, of which the latter only is applicable to the relationship between man and God, seems to me but to shift the difficulty to a further remove. We may legitimately assert, he tells us, that as the goodness or wisdom of man is to man, so is the goodness or wisdom of God to God. There is here no confusion of incommensurable terms, such as man's finite and God's infinite goodness; we merely say that as finite is to finite, so is infinite to infinite. “The infinite distance between man and God does Dot therefore annul the likeness.” But does this help? Is not the real issue whether we are warranted in any application of the term “goodness” to God? We are thrust back on the assumption that the finite effect must bear a resemblance to the infinite cause. And this is precisely what needs justification. Everyone, whether versed in theology or no, habitually uses analogy in thinking about God; and those who are wise couple their use of it, as did Aquinas, with reservations; but I question whether the reservations are really consistent with the analogy. The via analogica seems to fade out, if we press the reservations, into the via remotionis; if we press the analogy, into anthropomorphism.

“Of God and other things nothing can be stated univocally.”33 I So Aquinas; and, if we construe the words rebus aliis strictly, to mean what is wholly other than God, there can be no questioning the truth of the proposition. Even if we make full allowance for the sacramental view of man and nature, as the outward and visible signs of God's spiritual operation—a view recognized by St. Thomas himself and developed to high purpose by his friend and university colleague St. Bonaventura—the created world remains to the end aliud, different in its kind of being from the Creator. It is alia a se that God knows and wills. The menace of Pantheism was rife in thirteenth-century Christendom, masked not infrequently in the borrowed garb of Platonism, and Aquinas was zealous to guard religion against the enemy. His zeal led him at times, I think, to stress unduly the truth of divine transcendence over against that of divine immanence. His statements need, I think, in certain respects to be balanced by those of other Christian thinkers, who have kept more closely to the Platonist tradition. The special point I have in mind is the indwelling in man of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the love of God. Is the relation between God's love for man, as manifested by the presence of the Spirit of God within the soul, really different in kind, and not merely in degree, from the response evoked by that presence in man's love of God? Is not the term “love” in each case univocal? I am not thinking of the love which is God Himself, the Spirit as uniting Father and Son, in the perfect simplicity of the divine unity; nor of the imperfect judgements by which we grope, darkly for all the aid of grace and revelation, to express the truth of the divine essence. Still less am I thinking of the relation between God's love of man and man's love of his fellow human beings. I am thinking—in terms, be it understood, of Christian religious teaching—of God's love as communicated by grace to man, and of man's response, inspired also by grace, in love to God. In this relationship, God's grace informs both terms of the relation. It is not a simple antithesis of infinite and finite, the Creator and the creature. On the one side we have the infinite assuming finitude, in the perpetual re-enactment of the Incarnation in the souls of men; on the other side we have the finite, in process of regeneration and transformation by grace into a veritable participation in infinitude. “God became man”—we may add, and ever becomes man—“in order that man may be made divine.” This is historic Catholic teaching, orthodox with the orthodoxy of the “immortal” Athanasius.34 There is nothing in it to warrant inference to a Pantheistic theory of the absorption of the finite individual in God.

The point is an important one, and I am anxious to state it clearly, since my earlier presentation of it has given rise to some criticism, especially in Neo-Thomist quarters.35 The suggestion came to me from a passage in St. Bernard's Sermons on the Canticles, and has strengthened in my mind by the subsequent reading of M. Gilson's work, La Théologie Mystique de Saint Bernard. M. Gilson has shown that in the twelfth century the love of God was the object of deep and constant study among the contemplative orders, and that others besides St. Bernard were led by various paths to similar convictions.36 Whether St. Bernard had he lived a century later, after the discovery of the Aristotelian Corpus, would or would not have endorsed Aquinas’ position is irrelevant; he would probably have regarded the application of the distinction between univocal and analogous predication with mistrust, as a precarious intrusion of philosophy into matters lying beyond its scope.37 His way to the Vision of God was the inward way of introspection—nosce teipsum—rather than the outward way favoured by St. Thomas, that amounts upwards from things of sense.

It is not relevant to object that the evidence appealed to is that of exceptional mystical experience. The issue is that of truth; if the vision be true, its truth, whether revealed to one or many, is henceforth available for all the world. If any validity is to be allowed to mystical experience, to whom should we look if not to the saint, whom Dante, for all his devotion to St. Thomas, chose as his guide to the crowning vision of the Paradiso, seeing in his “the living love of one, who in this world by contemplation tasted of the heavenly peace”?38 No one, I think, can read St. Bernard's words on the voluntas communis of the soul and God, on the mystic amplexus, and on the unity of the Spirit that is the goal of the contemplative life, without feeling that to interpret them in terms of the via analogica robs them of more than half their meaning. “It is more than a contract,” he writes of the spiritual marriage, “it is embracement (complexus). Embracement surely in which perfect correspondence of wills makes of two one spirit. Nor is it to be feared that the inequality of the two should tender imperfect or halting in any respect this concurrence of wills; for love knows not reverence.”39 This is a bold utterance; and William of Thierry, Bernard's contemporary, makes bolder still in declaring that in the mystic union the soul is joined to God in the very bond of unity that unites the Father and the Son. Quod totum est Spiritus sanctus, Deus, caritas, idem donans, idem. (“The same the giver and the same gifts.”) Man's love for God, being inspired by the Holy Spirit, is in a sense divine—amor humanus divinus quodam modo effritur. (“Human love is in a certain manner made divine.”)40 Tu te amas in nobis, said St. Bernard. (“Thou dost love Thyself in us.”) The unitas similitudinis, lost by sin and thus restored by grace, is surely, if the logical distinction be applied at all, to be called a univocal, not merely an analogous, resemblance.

The doctrine here professed has, of course, its ground in Scripture, in St. Paul's words to the Corinthians, “He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit”,41 and especially in the fourth chapter of the First Epistle of St. John, “God is love, and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect … because as he is so are we in this world”.42 Its orthodoxy is unimpeachable. None of these writers ever dreams of questioning the gulf that sunders the being of the Creator from that of the creature. In the language of metaphysics, the spiritual union is one of quality, not of substance.43 God, the giver of love, and the gift indwelling in man are “substantially” distinct. The latter is not Deus but ex Deo. The thought of pantheistic absorption is anathema to St. Bernard as it is to St. Thomas. Love implies duality of love and loved; and where God is the loved, the duality is that of creature and Creator. Our contention is that the imparted quality, the gift of caritas received by man, is univocal with his response, and that thereby man can veritably know God. For the human soul, we are told, contributes nothing of its own to the work of divine grace.44 Nor, again, is there any ground offered for confusion between the rapture of the contemplative in via and the beatific vision reserved for the reduced in Paradise. The mystics hold firmly to this distinction; man's love for God can never reach the perfection of purity in this life.45 Further, the mystics insist with one accord that the love of God, thus participated in through grace, gives knowledge. It is impossible St. Bernard tells us, to know the truth in the mystic union without loving it, or to love it without knowing it.46 Here again the reference is to St. John's Epistle: “Every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God”, “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love”.47

These references to the New Testament suggest a further remark, of a more general character, though still within the bounds of the Christian revelation. For the Christian believer there can be nothing “analogous” about the assumption of human nature by the Incarnate Christ. He became, not “like man”, but “verus homo”. Nor can it be otherwise with the perpetual re-enactment of the Incarnation by the gift of the Holy Spirit, at Pentecost, in the life of the Church, and in the lives of the individual members of Christ's body. Is not the presence a real presence, not merely a “similitude”? To question this is surely as perilous to the foundations of Christianity as is the confusion between the modes of being of the Creator and the creature. And is not the real presence of the divine Spirit exhibited, veritably, and not simply by analogy, not even by resemblance, in the experience within the individual soul of the mutual love of God and man?

Of the fruits of this imparted love on human conduct—i.e., of virtus infusa, I shall speak at some length in the seventh chapter. Our present interest lies in the theoretical issues, in the bridging of the acknowledged chasm left unspanned by the via analogica, and the enabling of man, for all his creaturely dependence, to win positive knowledge of his Creator. With this assurance he can move forward—within the bounds, be it understood, of what is granted to human reason—to further affirmations. The experience of love for God, being univocal with God's love manifested in us, provides a firm basis for analogical inference. It justifies our assignment to God of those attributes, such as wisdom, righteousness and mercy, which are consistent with his nature as love, We cannot, for instance, relying solely on the via analogica, draw any conclusion from our discursive knowledge to God's timeless and intuitive understanding. It is only the experience of reciprocal love that assures us that God's love for us is his knowledge of us and our love for him the knowledge of him. So long as we continue our attention to the propositional form, we must admit, not only that our knowledge differs in kind from God's, but that God is wise, good, merciful, etc.—even that he is love—in a mode of being radically distinct from that in which we are any of these things. We have them, not of ourselves; God is them in his essential nature. The gulf between his self-being and our created-being remains unbridged. But the experience of love carries us behind the limitations of propositional statement. It is of the essence of divine love to be self-diffusive. It would be defective in this regard, were not the signs of God's perfection traceable in his handiwork. Aquinas’ axiom, which is far from being self evident to modern thought, that the effect mirrors the nature of the cause, wins validity as an inference from this self-diffusiveness. The inference is confirmed by our experience of the love of man for man, which, in its pervasive influence and creaturely-creative power, bears the likeness of the veritably creative love of God, enabling us partially to understand the mystery of the divine act of self-limitation, how the Creator could go forth from himself in love without derogation to the impassibility and perfection of his being. The faith in humanity, in man's infinite possibilities and perfectibility, which, in a purely secular context, has proved so impotent to stem the tide of inward sin and outward circumstance, is redeemed from unreality and grounded on a sure foundation, when it is seen as the corollary of God's immanent love for man.

There is, of course, even here a risk of anthropomorphism. That, in speaking of the love of God we are treading on dangerous ground, is abundantly, manifest in the wild flood of ill-regulated language that is daily poured forth from press and pulpit on this subject. To any indulgence in religious sentimentality Butler's great sermons on the love of God furnish a stern corrective. The love of God on which the mystics dwelt is the goal rather than the starting-point of the pilgrim's progress in religion. There is a familiar jest that the marriage service in the Anglican Liturgy opens with the words “Dearly beloved”, and closes with “amazement”. Of the religious life it is rather the converse that is true. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Experience of God as love and as the object of love is assuredly not restricted to mystics or quietists; it is the birthright of all God's children. But it is only at long last, if ever in this life, that “perfect love casteth out fear”.

The solution here offered to the problem, how can man know God? clearly falls beyond the scope of the moral argument. For it rests on a specifically religious experience, that of God's love infused and responded to by grace. It is not a question of our conceiving God in our own image, but of discovering the image of God in us. Granted that the moral argument affords strong ground for inference to a God in whom moral values have their source, the knowledge that this is so is robbed of meaning unless we know also that God is good. The moral argument by itself cannot give this knowledge; rather it assumes it as though it needed no vindication. But human goodness, despite Mill's emphatic protest, is different in kind from God's; apart from the evidence of religion, goodness, like wisdom, can only be asserted of God by a precarious analogy. The gulf between them is as deep as that between man's discursive apprehension of objects, that are other than the apprehending intellect, and God's intuitive understanding, whose knowing is the very being of what is known (νοηοσις νοησεος). The knowledge that God is love alone avails to bridge the chasm. Thus out consideration of the moral argument bears out the truth of the principle set forth at the outset, that it is only by the conjunction of the witness of religious experience with that drawn from non-religious sources, that the foundation can be secured for a reasonable faith in God.



I have followed current usage in speaking of “goodness”, “beauty“, ’holiness“, etc. (and even of ’truth“) as “values”, but with much searching of heart. I prefer to follow Platonic terminology rather than that of modern writers on axiology, and to call them Ideal forms. In he light of such Ideal forms we judge things, persons, etc., to be good, beautiful, or holy and these judgements, owing to the nature of their predicates, can be distinguished as judgements of value from judgements of fact. But the distinction is relative; as Professors Sorley and Taylor have made clear, a thorough-going severance “falsifies the facts of real life, where existence and value appear always as distinguishable, but always as conjoined”.48 I am not, however, here concerned to show that actuality, when thought out, is found to comprise value, but with the converse position, that value, when thought out, implies actuality. Many besides the German Phenomenologists hold that values, as timelessly subsisting in a realm of essences apart from actuality, are themselves valuable and are the ultimate sources of what is valuable in the actual World. I contend that “values” thus subsisting per se are valueless and have no right to be called “values”, and that the term “value” has no meaning save in reference to actuality.

The mind, in its effort to understand the actual process of events, is led to posit ideal forms, which ate exemplified as characters of actual things in varying grades of approximation to the ideal, but never in their ideal perfection. Nothing actual in the process of nature is perfectly good or beautiful; what is judged to be good or beautiful “participates” in the pure form, which is thus both transcendent of and immanent (Whitehead's “ingredient”) in nature.

Now, what is the status of these forms in the universe? Three alternatives (at least) present themselves.

(1) We may hold that the forms are mere constructs of human thought, without reality save as products of actual human minds. They are devices framed by our imagination in order to measure the grade of approximate and relative value discovered in the spatio-temporal process, and have no objective being, whether as essences or as existents. Such a naturalistic doctrine is ruinous to any serious interpretation of moral, æsthetic, and religious experience. It is also, as I have remarked in the text, in the long run inconsistent with its own claim to truth.

(2) The second alternative admits of two variations.

(i) We may hold that ideal forms “subsist” timelessly in a realm of essences or “eternal objects”, in a mode of being other than that of actual existence. Their objectivity, as real in their own right, is here secured. But this position is open to objection on two grounds: (a) It leads to an ontological dualism, the realm of essence standing over against the realm of actuality in an ultimate “togetherness”, which no effort of metaphysics can render intelligible; (b) It is well-nigh as fatal as is Naturalism to moral and religious experience; since mere essences devoid of actuality cannot command an obligation or inspire reverence or love. Only that can be loved which is capable of loving; and essences cannot love.

How can such essences have value? The essence of goodness is no more good than the essence of greenness is itself green. Cruelty is not cruel, and does not differ from compassion as an act of cruelty differs front an act of pity. Viewed in abstraction from any reference to existence, possible or actual, temporal or timeless, the essence of cruelty is neither good nor bad. Ethical predicates can only be asserted, as Butler said, of actions; and an action is something actual. When we condemn cruelty, we always mean cruelty as exhibited, or capable of being exhibited, in actual disposition or act. To assert potential value of ideal essences, in the sense that they would be valuable if actualized, is to admit the very position for which I am contending. It means that whenever they are ingredient in what exists they possess value, and not otherwise. I may add, in amplification of what has been said in chapter TV, that to say that value-essences “ought to be” is to beg the question; for it assumes that the value of “oughtness” (I apologize for this monstrosity, but I am speaking in the language of my opponents) can be ascribed to them as mere essences, apart from actuality, which is precisely the point at issue.

(ii) The alternative we have just considered may be re-stated in a more plausible form, if the essences in question be regarded, not as transcendent universals, but as individual substances subsisting in an ideal world. The question now is not, whether “goodness” has value in the abstract, but whether the concrete entity, “the good,” has value. As ingredient into actuality, it is a universal, i.e., a common character of a plurality of existents, each of which imperfectly manifests the individual archetype. Such were the Platonic forms, in their hierarchical order under the sovereign Form of Good; with the important reservation that Plato would surely have rejected the modern distinction of subsistence from existence, and would have held that the substantial forms alone possessed full actuality. They subsist, in short, in the historic sense of the term subsistentia, not in that intended by the modern Phenomenologists. Now, the ιδεα του αγαθου—to confine ourselves to this form—was certainly not, for Plato, a personal God. Not even in the Neo-Platonic synthesis could the One=the Good be so regarded. But—this is the Point—the ιδεα του αγαθου has value, or, rather, is value; it is not merely the essence of good, but is itself The Good. My reasons for refusing to rest in this position are given in chapter VII. The advance from the substantial Form of Good to God seems inevitable, if we are to escape an ultimate dualism of worlds, and if we are to answer the question, why did the good go forth from itself in productive activity of what is inferior in being and value? Even for Plato the forms, though other than the divine soul, were not without activity or mind. They were no static essences, but actualities, and as such could properly be judged to be of worth and good.

(3) I am led therefore by elimination of these alternatives to accept the position that ideal values, together with all “eternal objects”, exist as timeless actuality in God, whose existence is one with his essence, and in whom perfect goodness is actualized as the perfect good.

  • 1.

    Kant never doubted that “the speculative interest of reason makes it necessary to regard all order in the world as if it had originated in the purpose of a supreme reason” (Kr.d.r.V., A. 686, B. 714); but he insisted that this gives us no warrant for affirming the existence of an object conforming to this idea. I know that there are passages in the Dialectic where Kant expresses a less sceptical view of the functions of the Ideas of Reason; but on any interpretation the distinction between regulative and constitutive is fundamental to his philosophy.

  • 2.

    Statement and Inference, II, p. 862, § 580.

  • 3.

    On Kant's recognition of transcendence see below, p. 156.

  • 4.

    See Prof. L A. Reid, Creative Morality, pp. 210 f., 250 f.

  • 5.

    See Prof. Dawes Hicks’ criticism of the view, associated historically with Schleiermacher, that religious experience is to be construed in terms of feeling, to the exclusion of any cognitive factor (Philosophical Bases of Theism, ch. III, § 3). The late Prof. Mackintosh (Types of Modern Theology, ch. II and III) contend, that Schleiermacher's maturer view—e.g., in his Dogmatic (1821)—was that in the religious feeling the soul apprehends God as a trans-subjective reality (p. 65), and that this view is already intended in the earlier Addresses (1799), though inconsistent with much of his argument in that work (p. 48).

  • 6.

    But it must be remembered—and Protestant theologians are too prone to forget—that Aquinas, while ignoring the experiential factor in his account of faith and of the rational praeambula fidei, allow for it in full measure in his exposition of “infused charity”. This will be made evident in the present chapter. Those critics who look for inspiration to Luther and Calvin would, I believe, be on firmer ground if they argued that the experience, which Aquinas seems to regard as peculiar to proficients on the higher (contemplative) levels of spiritual attainment, is in some measure a pre-requisite for entry into the Christian life. The Reformers were at once more democratic and more severe in their demands upon the beginner. I put this point with hesitation, realizing how imperfect is my acquaintance with Aquinas’ theology.

  • 7.

    See Butler (as reported by Wesey), Gladstone's edition, 11, 366.

  • 8.

    On Prof. Hicks’ criticism (in ch. V) of the use of the category of causality and of the concept of creation in the argument I forbear to comment here; but I agree with him that the argument is most properly stated as from contingent to necessary being.

  • 9.

    In Towards a Religious Philosophy I seriously underrated the strength of the argument from design. Dr. A. C. Ewing, in a generous review in the Church Quarterly, points out that even though I should be right in holding that “the cases of purposiveness stand out like islands of civilisation in a sea of barbarism”, yet “the odds against the interest fraction of this amount of purposiveness having occurred through the mere accidental interplay of unintelligent, and therefore purposeless, causes are by the laws of probability of the order of one in millions, and this in itself seems to provide pretty strong evidence for a mind behind nature, though not necessarily an omnipotent mind”. I entirely agree with Dr. Ewing in this matter.

  • 10. Dialectic, ch. 11, §V (E.T., Abbott, pp, 220 ff.).

  • 11.

    Kr.d. Urth, § 81.

  • 12.

    E.g., in Religion within the bounds of mere Reason. The isolated fragment in the Opus Postumum, above referred to, where he identifies God with the moral law, cannot weight the scale against the other evidence. Kant seems at that time to have been temporarily influenced by Spinoza. Nor does the statement imply denial of transcendence, any more than does Aquinas’ assertion that Deus est bonitas.

  • 13.

    Kant, Werke (Berlin Edition) VI, p. 3 (quoted by Lindsay, Kant. p. 205).

  • 14.

    Taylor, Faith of a Moralist, 1, 61, 62; cf. Sorley, Moral Values, pp. 139 ff.

  • 15.

    On this matter of actuality and value, see the Additional Note at the close of this chapter.

  • 16.

    The ontological argument (sic) is mishandled when taken, as by Descartes and by Kant in his refutation, as an argument from idea to existence. It is rather the intuitive recognition that my awareness of finitude in my thinking implies the awareness of an all-perfect mind. Either I am God—and I know that I am not—or a transcendent God exists. The passage is from my thought, which is not a se, to the thought which is a se as its Condition.

  • 17.

    Prof. Collingwood (Philosophical Method, p. 126) observes, apropos of Kant's attempted refutation, that it was “perhaps the only occasion on which any one has rejected it, who really understood what it meant”. But did Kant really understand? Think of the crude analogy of the hundred thalers! What Kant did see was that, even in the case of God, existence is no true predicate.

  • 18.

    S.c.G., I, 22. The range allowed to the an sit is here stretched beyond the bounds of credibility. See below, note 2 to p. 167.

  • 19.

    Op. cit., ch. VII, from which, save where specially noted, the following citations are taken.

  • 20.

    P. 238.

  • 21.

    P. 143.

  • 22.

    Pp. 254, 256.

  • 23.

    P. 118.

  • 24.

    P. 258.

  • 25.

    P. 152. Pantheism is discussed by Prof. Hicks in ch. IX.

  • 26.

    Of course there is a sense in which all human thinking is anthropomorphic, in philosophy and science as well as in religion: in that it is conditioned by the limitations of human experience. To judge “from the standpoint of the Absolute” is, pace Mr. Oakeshott (op. cit.) and the Italian neo-Hegelians, impossible for finite minds. The serious problem, discussed in the rest of this chapter, is to draw the line between legitimate and an illegitimate anthropomorphism in our thinking about God. Christian theologians have ever been solicitous to guard against the danger that besets popular religious thought of concerning God in the likeness of man. At times they have shown themselves over-cautious; as is evidenced by certain neo-Thomists to-day and, among Protestants, by the Barthian teaching that our knowledge of God is supra-rational. Dr. Bevan has some good remarks on the subject in his recent Gifford Lectures on Symbolism and Belief (esp. ch. XIII). He quotes (pp. 316–317) Père Sertillanges’ almost agnostic interpretation of the way of analogy: “You learn nothing at all about God, considered in himself.… We know not what God is: we know only what He is not, and what relation everything else bears to Him. In regard to God, the question ‘Does He exist?’ marks the ultimate point beyond which one cannot go.” We must, however, remember that the limitation of knowledge of God to the an sit or quia est does not mean that we merely know that God exists and are entirely ignorant of what he is. It means, as M. Maritain explains (Les degrés de savoir, p. 455), that our knowledge is limited to certitude of fact, and that no explanation of the fact is within its compass. “Toute connaissance qui n'atteint pas l'essence en ellemême relève du scire quia est.” I add the remark that much baneful prejudice against religion would have been avoided if its critics from the side of science had been careful in the past to observe these two precautions: (1) to direct their weapons against the authoritative exponents of Christianity instead of against its popular travesty, and (2) to cast the beam of anthropomorphism (e.g., in certain interpretations of natural law) out of their own eyes before cavilling at the motes in the eyes of their theological opponents.

  • 27.

    On the metaphysical argument, see Collingwood, Philosophical Method (ch. III, on the Scale of Forms) and my chapter (V) on Gentil's Philosophy of the Spirit in Towards a Religious Philosophy, pp. 93–97. The neo-Platonists, while identifying The One with the Good, were careful to guard against predicating “good” univocally of the One and of existing things, and even hesitated to speak of the One as “the source” of values. (See Plotinus, Enn, VI, 2. 17; VI, 8. 8, quoted by Bevan, op. cit., pp. 19, 19.)

  • 28.

    De natura enim agentis est ut agens sibi simile agat, cum unumquodque agat secundam qoud actu est. S.c.G., 1, 29.

  • 29.

    S.c.G., 1, 34.

  • 30.

    S.c.G., 1, 30.

  • 31.

    S.c.G., 1, 31–34.

  • 32.

    See the excellent and fully documented discussion of this question in R. L. Patterson, The Conception of God in the Philosophy of Aquinas, ch. VII, pp. 227–257, and especially his reference to Descoqs.

  • 33.

    Do Deo et rebus aliis nihil dici potest. S.c.G., 1. 32.

  • 34.

    Ath, de Incarn. Verbi Dei, § 54 and elsewhere. The same language is found earlier in Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria.

  • 35.
    See Towards a Religious Philosophy, ch. VII, pp. 123–117. I have in mind the review by Father Ivor Thomas, O.P., in Blackfriars (July 1937, vol. XVIII, pp. 546 ff.), which offers, amongst others, two specially relevant criticisms. (1) He points out “that St. Thomas explicitly distinguishes between that kind of analogy in which a determinate proportion is required and that where it is not, and duty maintains that the former is not applicable to creatures and God”. I was of course aware of this distinction but, as I have explained in the text of the present chapter, cannot regard it as a solution of the difficulty. That is why I omitted to refer to it in my earlier and briefer statement.

    (2) In reference to the passage quoted from St. Bernard's Sermons on the Canticles, he says that “there is no reason why the words quoted should not have been used with the orthodox view of charity as a created participation of the divine subsistent charity in mind”. None at all; I do not question for a moment St. Bernard's orthodoxy in the matter of the distinction between the Creator and the creature. As is pointed out below, the union is one of quality, not of substance (see p. 177). What I question is the applicability of the Aristotelian term “analogy” to such “participation”. The cadres of logic are transcended, and the creature is brought by infused charity into a direct contactus with God. See M. Maritain's Les Degrés de Savoir, pp. 502 ff., 635 ff., 733 ff. Father Thomas adds that “short of an unusual mystical state it is hard to see how what the author asserts could be an experimental datum”. The rarity of the experience is surely no prejudice against the truth thereby disclosed., and, as I have suggested in an earlier note to this chapter (p. 151), Aquinas and his followers appear to restrict unduly this direct experience (of participation to the higher stages of spiritual proficiency.

  • 36.

    Esp. William of Thierry, see Gilson, op. cit., App. V, pp. 216 ff.; cf. p. 45, n. I.

  • 37.

    See n. 37, above. M. Maritain, in the book referred to, seems to me to strain conceptual forms in his interpretation of experiences which they are admittedly inadequate to express.

  • 38.

    Par. canto XXXI, 109–111. “Mirando la vivace carita di colui, che in questo mondo, contemplando, gusto di quella pace.”

  • 39.

    In Cant., LXXXIII—quoted by Dom Cuthbert Butler, Western Mysticism, pp. 162–163.

  • 40.

    Cited by Gilson, op. cit., p. 229 notes 1 and 2. He quotes St. Bernard, De diligendo Deo, XII, 35: Dicitur ergo recte et caritas, et Deus, et Dei donum. Itaque caritas dat caritatem, substantiva accidentalem. Ubi dantem significat, nomen substantiae est: ubi donum, qualitatis. My point is that the quality is predicable univocally.

  • 41.

    1 Cor. vi. 17.

  • 42.

    1 John iv. 16, 17.

  • 43.

    See Gilson, op. cit., pp. 142 ff, and (esp.) n. I to p. 142.

  • 44.

    Ibid., p. 130.

  • 45.

    The experience of the contemplative life on earth is continuous with, though but an anticipation of, the heavenly consummation.

  • 46.

    Ibid., p. 138; cf. p. 36.

  • 47.

    1 John iv. 7, 8. The love implies the wisdom (sapientia). The point is made also by Schleiermacher (The Christian Faith, p. 73 2): “Love would not be implied in so absolute a degree if we thought God as wisdom, as wisdom would be if we thought Him as love. For where almighty love is, there must also absolute wisdom be” (quoted by Mackintosh, op. cit., pp. 77–78). True sapientia is clearly distinguished from scientia; but both are knowledge. Here again a conceptual distinction seems to be unduly strained. The point is that the knowledge that springs from infused charity is experiential, not by way of predication. In scholastic language, charity becomes the objectum quo (as does the concept in ordinary knowledge), by which God is directly known. See Maritain, op. cit., pp. 516 ff.; e.g., his quotations from John of St. Thomas: et sic affectus transit in coaditionem objecti, and from Aquinas (in Ep. ad Rom., VIII, 16); spiritus testimonium reddit spiritui nostro per effectum amoris filialis. But there is, I admit, scope for diverse interpretations.

  • 48.

    Taylor, Faith of a Morralist, 1, 55 (see the whole of ch. 11).