Astronomy space time the νου̃ς — Kant Fichte Schelling — Carlyle the Sartor — Emerson — Plato — Aristotle — A beginning — The want of eye and ear again — Deafness and blindness together — Design restored — Thomson — Diogenes of Apollonia — Socrates — Meteorology and practical action — Morality and ethicality — The first teleological argument — Proofs of design — Bacon — Socrates finally.
Gifford Lecture the Fifth.
WE resume where we left off at our last meeting. The universal conclusions we may say of every writing on astronomical science which we may chance to take up now-a-days in regard to the eventual entombment of the whole present system of things as a single cold corpse in a perpetual grave of space under a perpetual pall of time—these conclusions brought us at the close of our last lecture to some consideration firstly of space and time themselves and then secondly of the heavens above us at once as to astronomical observation they presently are and historically always have been. We have still to bring home what was said then; and here it may be perhaps well indeed not to expand but just a little to open statements. The subject certainly has fairly come to us in connection with the assertion of the presence of νου̑ς intelligence in the general system around us—an assertion which such a science as this of Natural Theology with peril of its very life requires to make good; at the same time that obviously on the contrary supposition with such an eternity of night and the grave before us as astronomy predicts it would be just as well to say as little as possible whether of the νου̑ς of Anaxagoras or of the Natural Theology of anybody else. In regard to time and space we had strong evidence of their very peculiar nature on many hands even on the part of Reid at once the sworn foe of idealism and equally the sworn friend of common sense. After vacillation Kant's final opinion was such as we find expressed in these words of his own (Text-Book to K. p. 157): “Were our subject abstracted from or simply the subjective constitution of our senses all the qualities and all the relations of objects in space and time—nay space and time themselves—would disappear: for all these are as mere appearances to sense incapable of existing in themselves but only in us.” And if such was the doctrine of Kant it cannot be said on the whole that his immediate successors differed from it at least as regards the general ideal quality of space and time. Fichte for example laboriously deduces in his dialectical manner the construction and setting out of time and space in the imagination. Schelling again while simply taking his material from the hands of Fichte and as Fichte himself gave it him remained all through his life sufficiently an idealist to believe in the ideality of space and time. In a writing dated 1804 (vi. 223) he will be found saying “Space purely as such is even for the geometrician nothing real;” and again “independently of the particular things space is nothing.” In his Transcendental Idealism of 1800 which however is little more than a réchauffé of Fichte's Wissenschaftslehre he had already said (iii. 470): “Time is only inner sense becoming to its own self object; space is outer sense becoming object to inner sense.”
We referred then to the same belief on the part of Carlyle. In that magnificent chapter of the Sartor Resartus which bears the title of “Natural Supernaturalism” he will be found on a considerable canvass to speak both fully and grandly on this special topic. Carlyle himself calls this section of his work a “stupendous section;” and it is a stupendous section—I suppose the very first word of a higher philosophy that had been as yet spoken in Great Britain—I suppose the very first English word towards the restoration and rehabilitation of the dethroned upper powers which for all that I fear under our present profound views in religion and philosophy remain still dethroned. Here it is as the words are that the “professor first becomes a seer.” Hitherto he has been struggling with all manner of “phantasms” “superannuated symbols and what not;” but now he has “looked fixedly on existence till one after the other its earthly hulls and garnitures” time and space themselves “have all melted away” and to “his rapt vision the celestial Holy of Holies lies at last disclosed.” As intimated it is especially the stripping off of these two “world-enveloping phantasms”space and time that has enabled him to attain to such grand consummation and blissful fruition. The “deepest of all illusory appearances” he exclaims they are “for hiding wonder” the wonder of this universe. They hide what is past and they hide what is to come; but yet as he exclaims again “Yesterday and to-morrow both are:” “with God as it is a universal here so is it an everlasting now.” As Carlyle himself says it is in this chapter that he attains to “Transcendentalism” and to a sight at last of “the promised land where Palingenesia in all senses may be considered as beginning.” And certainly as I say Sartor Resartus itself was a first attempt to reconstruct and revindicate those substantial truths of existence which are the enduring firm fast fixed ineradicable foundations of humanity as humanity—humanity in the individual humanity in the kind.
However much the general testimony of Emerson be in this vein of Carlyle it is not in my recollection that I can quote him specially in regard to time and space. He does say in that reference “Therefore is Space and therefore Time that man may know that things are not huddled and lumped but sundered and individual:” that is time and space are there for “the perception of differences;” but they must disappear as beams and joists of the mere outward into his general idealism. Emerson regards “nature as a phenomenon not a substance.” He attributes “necessary existence to spirit” but esteems nature only “as an accident and an effect.” He says once “Even the materialist Condillac perhaps the most logical expounder of materialism was constrained to say ‘Though we should soar into the heavens though we should sink into the abyss we never go out of ourselves; it is always our own thought that we perceive.’” The quotation in itself is excellent; but it is strange that Emerson should attribute to Condillac what is so prominent in David Hume; not but that Condillac may have paraphrased Hume whom Emerson like most students of his day under the influence of Coleridge possibly openly depreciated and disparaged. It is a later series of Kantian studies that has brought up Hume again. Emerson is probably happier when he attributes to a French philosopher the saying that “material objects are necessarily kinds of scoriae of the substantial thoughts of the Creator.” It is Emerson himself who says and it is one of the most beautiful things that ever has been said “Infancy is the perpetual Messiah which comes into the arms of fallen men and pleads with them to return to paradise.”
Before leaving the consideration that we have here it may be pointed out that there are views in Plato and Aristotle relatively which are not essentially different. Apart from the general philosophy of Plato there is a reference to Time in the Timaeus (37 E–38 A) which is manifestly of an ideal import. The parts of time there the was and the will be are called but phenomenal forms which we wrongly transfer to what is noumenally eternal; “for we say in a time reference namely it was it is it will be; whereas of what truly is we can only say it is.” As regards Aristotle again what he has to say in this connection would of itself constitute an excellent introduction to metaphysic proper for it is full of the subtlest turns possible and requires the intellect that would follow them to have sharpened itself at least for the nonce to the fineness of a razor. The mention of one or two of them however must here suffice. As regards space for example it is enough to point out that to Aristotle it cannot demand for itself a place so to speak whether in heaven or in hell. Of the two known elements that is it is without a claim upon either. It cannot pretend to mind or soul; for its extension excludes it: and just as little can it profess itself corporeal; for it has got no body. The prestidigitation or jugglery that time exacts is subtler and more irritating still. All other things for example consist of parts that are; and on that necessity time itself cannot be for in view of the past and the future it consists of parts that are not. But leaving all such finenesses aside we may limit ourselves to the distinct avowal on Aristotle's part in the last chapter of the fourth book of the Physics that as to how time is when viewed in reference to a mind “one might doubt whether if there were no mind time would be or would not be.”
Now the purpose of all this that concerns time and space is to suggest that the constitution of them may be somewhat in the way of the constitution of a universal beginning or a universal end as postulated by science. Till the world began there was conceivably neither time nor space; and when the world ends it is equally conceivable that neither will remain. In short ideal considerations must be allowed to interfere with all such materialistic conclusions as excluding νου̑ς intelligence from any rôle part place or share in the composition of the universe would summarily truncate all pretensions of a so-called Natural Theology and concisely close this lecturer's vocation.
But now again what was all that about black wolves' throats and palls and graves and Erebus' and what not? How is that to be brought home to us and what is the lesson that is to be pointed? Well in a word all that is just this:—kill us all off and the likes of us wherever to be found—kill us all off in the universe I say and from that moment all is dark and all is silent as the grave. The in and out and round about of all the stars in the firmament of Arcturus and Aldebaran of Vega Spica and Capella of Alamak Alpharat and Scheat of Ophiuchus and Fomalhaut and every myriad spark and sparkle in the Milky Way may go on ceaselessly still by day by night but henceforth in a silence absolute—in a darkness dense impenetrable. That let move what move may; that indeed will be all—a solid soundlessness a substantial black! What you will say will there not be Charles's Wain still circling in the north and Cassiopeia's Chair like a swarm of busy bees and the glorious constellation of Orion with his grand belt of three and in his surpassing brightness Sirius and the Pleiades in their pallor? Or simply as regards this earth of ours do you mean to say that the thunder will no longer roll nor the lightning flash—or just to reduce and confine it to a single point do you mean to say that though there were not a single life in the whole solar system the sun would not continue to shine? Well now that is just what I do mean to say. But for a living eye but for a living ear there would be no light in the sun no voice in the thunder. Vibration in the air caused by whatever it may is sound in the ear; but the vibration itself is soundless it is but a mechanical tremble a mechanical quiver; alone and by itself it is in silence only there is not the very suggestion of a tone or a note in it. So it is with light. Similar to the vibrations of the air there are the undulations of the aether. These undulations are light in the eye but in themselves—alone and by themselves—they are darkness itself. Without an eye and without an ear all those globes in the heaven around us career among themselves in a single unbroken black that has not a sound in it. The darkness is still in its size monstrous it is still equal to the infinitude of space. But all dark does it not seem to lose its proportions and to contract somehow? What are all these enormous differences in that one dark? Let them be as they may they are all as it were within the hollow of a single den. But if these great globes are only to wheel and wheel and circle and circle in a single silent den why should they be so huge—why should they be at such vast distances? Let them draw nearer each other let them shrink in themselves: still to all intents and purposes there is scarce a change all everywhere to our minds remains pretty much the same. Quantity is but relative; there is no absolute large there is no absolute small. The earth possibly is but as a pea to Sirius; Sirius possibly but as a pin's point to the Magellan clouds. After all the mighty black of space is no more than an indefinite cave—a den—no more than as a black hole of Calcutta. It is as though it were in a black hole of Calcutta that without an eye all the operations of the firmament proceed. Quantity has pruned itself quantity has retrenched its idle useless dimensions—very idle very useless if in a single soundless dark; quantity has retired into a black hole of Calcutta but if into a black hole of Calcutta why not into the butt of a mantua-maker's thimble? There! that is the result! Without an eye to see and without an ear to hear the world whether for magnitude or for use were no worse or better did it compress the operation of its dimensions from the infinitude of space into the butt of a mantua-maker's thimble! I have actually seen the world almost so compressed. Years ago at a Welsh ironwork I found a man a fireman who from some injury in the course of his occupation had incurred an inflammation that cost him not only the sight of both his eyes but even by its extension the hearing of both his ears. He was still in the vigour of life. He might have been yoked like a beast of burden to some mechanical appliance; but otherwise he was useless. He was left (with a small pension I fancy) to some poor people who took care of him. Henceforth for the poor fellow there was only a life of dream. Night and day day and night he lay warm in his bed shut up like a cat before the fire into the bliss of subjectivity bare subjectivity—so to speak brute subjectivity physical corporeal subjectivity. He rose only when his smell told him that his meals were ready. The senses of smell and taste he enjoyed evidently with the intensest avidity; but still there was one pleasure which during his meals he seemed to enjoy more than the pleasures of either of these. It was a pleasure of touch; but it was a human pleasure. His poor face wore a smile a sweet smile a smile of our common reason as he fed the cat that rubbed on his legs only knowing the uselessness of a mew! Now to that man the world was contracted into a silent dark where his meals were and the cat that rubbed on his legs. What then would the world be were all mankind as he? What would the world be were there no such things as an eye and an ear within the immeasurable vast of its entire infinitude? So far as any use or purpose is concerned would it be any bigger or better than a black hole of Calcutta—would it be any bigger or better than the butt of a mantua-maker's thimble? To any one who will approach to look an eye an ear is as much a necessity in the realization is as much involved in the very plan of the universe as matter and molecules and the immensity of space itself. But the moment we see that we see design also. We see that intelligence has gone to the composition of the universe. We have come to be sober like Anaxagoras in the midst of inebriates and like him we proclaim the νου̑ς. There is then a reality in our science of Natural Theology and we can still exclaim with the poet of the Seasons:—
“These as they change Almighty Father these
Are but the varied God. The rolling year
Is full of Thee. Forth in the pleasing spring
Thy beauty walks.…
Then comes the glory in the summer months.…
Thy bounty shines in autumn unconfined.…
In winter awful Thou! with clouds and storms
Mysterious round! what skill what force divine
Deep-felt in all appear!”
For our purpose of Natural Theology it is Diogenes of Apollonia that offers himself next to our consideration; but I leave what I have on him aside and pass at once to Socrates.
The position of Socrates on the historical roll as well of civilisation as of philosophy is like that of Anaxagoras a sole and singular one. If Anaxagoras introduced the consideration of purpose in an intellectual regard it was Socrates that turned the attention of mankind to the same principle in practical application. It was with him as though he had said Anaxagoras cannot apply his principle meteorologically—in the heavens that is; he has only announced it meteorologically; neither can I apply it meteorologically but let us see whether it has an application or not to human life. I do not know that there is anything to be got from the trees and the fields but there is a good deal to be got from the market-place and the gymnasia and the people in them. Accordingly what new principle Socrates introduced was that of morality. By this word however there is something else and more to be understood than it usually suggests. As far as that goes it is to be hoped indeed that there was morality upon the earth that there was morality in mankind that there was morality among the Greeks before even Socrates appeared among them. The old Die-hards of the Medic wars to say nothing of those of times yet earlier old Trojans say were surely not without morality. The distinction is this. The old morality the old virtue was an unconscious morality an unconscious virtue. These men of old only did what they did. They did what they did without a thought of themselves. They thought indeed and they thought well; but their thoughts were not properly conscious or self-conscious thoughts. Their thoughts were instinctive natural as the blood in their veins as the breath they drew as the food they ate. They made in a way no merit to themselves of what they did. What they did and why was but as the institutions of their country was but part and parcel of their streets and houses was but as the common voice the common sound the common hum of the agora. They and the State were not different individuals they and the State were one. Their life was as it were foetal as yet foetal in the State their mother and there was the common circulation still between them: the medium of that circulation was the laws familiar to them the beliefs they all believed the patrimonial use and wont and established manners so to speak natured in them. If we can so name the distinction morality was then ethicality. Both are right doing but ethicality is the right doing according to the conscience of the State of the community while morality is right doing according to the conscience of the individual. Or both are virtue: the one the virtue of the public the other the virtue of the private conscience. As it is in the Bible with the words and the thoughts which still seem as it were vitally connected; so it is here with the State and the individual the universal and the particular: both are still one. Existence is as yet objective; subjectivity has still to appear. Now thus it was in Greece upon the whole up almost to the time of Pericles and the Peloponnesian war. But during say some two-hundred years before that the philosophical consciousness had been gradually growing and no doubt during the same time the common mind correspondently altering. After Anaxagoras the rate of progress or as it may be thought regress regress especially in a public respect it unquestionably was—after Anaxagoras the rate of change became greatly accelerated. Publicly such men as Alcibiades and Lysander were but poor substitutes for such others as Leonidas and Miltiades. Then there were the Sophists occupying a position not quite public nor yet again quite private. In these respects there was regress; but what we have in Socrates Plato Aristotle who came next is progress and compared with what result preceded it progress nameable pretty well infinite. Almost it would seem as though Anaxagoras by his reference to the νου̑ς had concentrated all attention on intelligence as intelligence; which was raised as it were well-nigh to the position of an Absolute then when the Sophists said or seem to have said to themselves That absolute shall be ours ours in our individual consciousness—if thought is to be the principle and the authority and the deciding consideration then that thought is ours even as we are: it is we alone; it is men alone who think. Socrates now was a reflective considerate personality who turned over everything in his mind to see what it came to what was the worth of it. But turning from the fields and the trees to the homes and haunts of men the interests that were offered for that reflection and consideration of his could only be of a practical nature. That is what immediately presented itself to him was as we may term it the ethicality of the past which shaken in the present promised but poorly for the future. So it was in his hands that ethicality became morality—in this way that ethicality being taken into his consciousness and there looked at questioned and examined had to make good its claim to its authority of heretofore. Virtue that is what was right and good was now before the bar of the single consciousness but in a universal regard. And it was that regard the universality of that regard that for the first time realized in history and the life of man morality as morality. Actions if they had been ethical before were now to be moral. On the question of right or wrong the tribunal of sentence was now within and no longer without. The individual was now referred to his own self to his own responsibility to his own conscience and judgment. But the conscience or judgment must not be as with the Sophists a private one in this sense that the individual was to consider only what was good for himself as this particular individual that he was Callicles Cebes Chaerephon or another. No; it was not one of these as one of these Callicles as Callicles Cebes as Cebes Chaerephon as Chaerephon that was to be considered—not each as he was in his immediate individuality but each as he was in his universality each as he was in his manhood each as he was in his humanity. The conscience that was to decide the judgment that was to pass sentence must be a universal conscience must be a universal judgment. Now that universality could as was plain to Socrates only come by knowing. And so it was that to Socrates virtue was knowledge or a knowledge. So far too Socrates was perfectly right. The individual will universalize his nature only by knowledge. It is by knowledge that the individual must excavate himself; it is by knowledge that he must dredge and deepen himself; by knowledge that he must widen his walls and raise his roof letting in light and fresher air upon himself. It is by knowledge that man—man as man—is made of men. Every true growth in a man's garden must singly be gone round about and tended with as much peculiarity of care as under the impost makes a perfect exemplar of every individual tobacco plant in France. Or we may say in the camera of a man's soul there falls many a blur on the so sensitive crystal there; and it takes the cunning pouring on of chemicals to transmute the haze into transparency and shape. And all that is principally an affair of knowledge; but still we are not to forget that knowledge alone is not enough. Socrates was wrong there; and Aristotle added the training and discipline the custom and practice that with all knowledge were still necessary to make man good—good not only in his knowledge not only in his thoughts and wishes but good also in his will good in the acts and actions of his daily life.
This then is what is meant by saying that Socrates was the first to introduce into the State morality as against ethicality. The ethicality of the State was still morality; but it was the material morality of the organized objectivity without as against the ideal morality of the conscious subjectivity within. This is Socrates in his historical position; but though averse to what is called meteorology and even expressing himself against it we know from what he confessed himself to have hoped to learn from Anaxagoras concerning the sun and the moon and the other stars and the causes of all things—we know from as much as this I say that Socrates still entertained a lively curiosity in respect to the constitution of this universe. That indeed could not fail the inquirer into the universal will into the universal good and right. And it was from that side in fact that he had his interest in the universe. As an observer who saw marked and inwardly digested what he saw and marked he could not be blind to the innumerable proofs as he said of the goodness of the gods in care of animal life in the world around him. Man's body for example what a contrivance it was—what an organism of contrivances it was for the support protection and enjoyment of the soul that dwelt in it! And in this way it is that we have from Socrates his various discourses on the evidences of design which he saw in man and in the life of man. In consequence of these discourses on design indeed and of the turn he gave them it has been so to speak officially entered into the historical record that of the three theoretical arguments for the existence of God the argument from design was originated and first used by Socrates of Athens the son of Sophroniscus the statuary and Phaenarete the midwife. Plato and Xenophon have pretty well deified this Socrates for many virtues and for many excellences; and we have just seen how a very peculiar speciality of well-merited fame is justly his as originator and first in regard to a most important stage—in regard to a main epoch in the progress and development of morals and the moral principle in mankind; but what lustre attaches to his name in consequence of the argument from design is only second to that in regard to morality. “This proof” says Kant (WW. ii. 485) “deserves to be named always with reverence. It is the oldest the clearest and the most suited to our common understanding. It animates the study of nature which gives existence to it and acquires thereby ever new power. It shows ends and intentions where our own observation would never of itself have discovered them and extends our knowledge of nature through guidance of a peculiar unity the principle of which is above nature. The new knowledge acts back again towards its cause its originating idea namely and exalts our belief in a Supreme Originator into an irresistible conviction.”
We shall not deny as against this that power probably was what first in the perception or feeling of men led them to the thought and the worship of the supernatural; but we shall incline very much to agree with the opinion as to Greece having been the birthplace of the first teleological argument for the being of a God. Only to men who had reached their majority—only to men who looked about them in reason and in full freedom were led in all their doings by reason—only to such men was it at all probable that the “order” of this universe should as in the case of Anaxagoras for the first time have shown itself. Only of reason could reason have been seen. But Kant is still right in regard to the value and importance of the argument itself. We may say on the whole it is the key to the position and only with special satisfaction is it that we take it from the hand of Socrates. The precise source of our information in this respect is the Memorabilia of Xenophon. There we find Socrates conversing again and again on the evidence of design in nature and in the objects of nature. Since Kant as we know there are two ways of looking at design. There is a design that is to be named external and a design as well that is to be named internal or immanent indwelling. Of these it is only the latter that is worthy of the name. In truth there is no design that is not internal and immanent. What is meant by external design is a purpose not intrinsic but quite extrinsic to the relation concerned. The common joke of Goethe or Schiller in the Xenien about the cork-tree having manifestly its purpose the reason of its being in the manufacture of bottle-corks perfectly illustrates the idea or that a clerk's ear was made that he might carry a pen in it! And certainly in regard to some things adduced by Socrates the designfulness is but contingent or external inasmuch as the relation between the terms or factors in the connections alleged are not always seen to depend on qualities of agreement inherent in them. But when Socrates proceeds to refer to thought in man and its necessary exercise as in discrimination and selection of the beautiful and useful in the inventing of language the enacting of laws the establishing of government etc. it is possible to demur to as much as that being a matter of mere externality. Nay when with Aristodemus the little he goes more into details in this department as regards the constitution of the human body say it seems impossible to maintain that the design he signalizes is only external and extrinsic.
The eyes ears nostrils tongue the various organs and their uses by no means evidently concern relations of accident. The eyelids that close when necessary the eyelashes that are as a screen even the eyebrows that are as eaves or copings to ward off the perspiration—I have never been able to persuade myself as I find some others do that these too involve correlations that are contingent only. In this reference Bacon for example has the following in The Advancement of Learning (ii. 7. 7): “The cause rendered that the hairs about the eyelids are for the safeguard of the sight doth not impugn the cause rendered that pilosity is incident to the orifices of moisture: muscosi fontes” etc. One is happy to see here that Bacon does still not deny but admit final causes: “both causes” he expressly says in the immediate reference are “true and compatible the one declaring an intention the other a consequence only.” But one does not find it merely self-evident for all that that eyelids must be pilous even as fountains are mossy. The fountain makes a soil for low germs even out of its stony lip; but the tears can hardly be conceived to do as much by the covered cartilage that borders the eye; while the eyebrow and perspiration bring no analogy. I hold that an eye is immanent in nature that an eye is a necessity of nature and that consequently all is at first hand complete in that idea—I hold this and I am not ignorant of the vast varieties of the vast gradation of eyes which nature shows—I hold this and it is to me nothing against it that a lion's eyebrow or a horse's eyebrow is not exactly as is a man's eyebrow or that such and such a tiny insect microscopic insect if you will has a score or twice a score of eyes. Nature is externality nature is boundless external contingency and the idea can only appear in nature as in externality as in boundless external contingency.
One hears of “the open secret of the universe:” now the open secret of the universe is just that idea—an idea and a secret the bearing of which on design at least was not hid from Socrates more than two thousand years ago. He tells Aristodemus that whatever manifests design is a product of thought and not of chance. He tells him all these things about the eyebrows and the eyelids and the eyelashes; and I daresay he could have told Bacon that it is not absolutely necessary for all moist animal orifices to be pilous. Among others there are the lips for example; the beard does not exactly grow on the lips; neither is it the moisture of the lips that has anything to do with the pilosity of the beard. Besides what concerns the eye etc. Socrates refers to the teeth—the front ones to cut and the back ones to grind. I mention this as it is insisted on also by Aristotle. Then it is really matter for congratulation to find Socrates dwelling on the thought that is present in the general structure of the world. Is it to be supposed he asks that it is only we have reason and that there is none in the whole? It is really wonderful how this man must reflect on everything and give himself account of everything—the bare-footed poorly-clad street wanderer pot-bellied and Silenus-faced that was perhaps the wisest best and bravest man that was then alive. His God—and he was sincerely pious he worshipped devoutly—His God was the God of the γνώμη the understanding the reason which in admonishing Aristodemus he opposed to the τύχη the chance the accident and chance which at least as science rules alone seem worshipped now-a-days. Nor had the pupil Plato missed the lesson; but of this again in our next.
From the book: