The teleological argument — Two moments — First the alleged necessity of thought — It has itself no end — So matter enough — Thought itself only a part limited imperfect and in want of explanation — Thought as thought common to us all Grote Hume Erigena Heraclitus — The sole necessity — Second the analogy — The supreme cause not situated as other causes — Other principles vegetation generation — The world an animal — The Empedoclean expedient — The effect only warrants great power not Almighty power — Evil — Free opinion — Hume's friends — Epicurus's dilemma — Superstition results — Four suggestions — No pain — Special volitions — Greater strength — Extremes banished from the world — Creation on general principles — Erasmus Darwin — Mr. Froude Carlyle — Finitude as such externality as such — Antithesis — Charles V. — Abdalrahman III. — Septimius Severus — Johnson — Per contra — Wordsworth Gibbon Hume — Work Carlyle — The trades — Comparison — Self-contradiction — Identity — Hegel — “As regards Protoplasm” — The Hindoos — Burton on cause — Sir John Herschel — Brown Dugald Stewart — Spinoza — Erdmann — Notions and things Erigena — Rabelais — Form and matter — Hume in conclusion.
Gifford Lecture the Fourteenth.
HUME'S discussion in his Dialogues of the teleological argument the argument from design random as it runs requires in the first place such arrangement as shall extend to us the ease of intelligence which is so necessary here—such arrangement as has been already referred to. The entire scattered discussion then we reduce to and consider in the following order an order suggested by the single argument itself which this discussion would overthrow. That single argument is this. The design which is admitted to exist in the world infers—by the necessity of thought according to the principle of analogy—the existence also or coexistence of a designer. Now here it is only the inference that is denied and not the design it founds on: the design itself is admitted to exist. But that inference can be opposed only in one or other of its two moments. Either its first moment (A) the alleged necessity of thought or its second moment (B) the alleged analogy is the subject of denial and dispute. On the first head (A) it is first (1) argued that granting the necessity of thought it is not completed or concluded by the inference but continues to be equally valid further. If a material world or universe of objects be such as to require a cause for the arrangement in it; not less will a mental world or universe of ideas to which as cause the arrangement has only been transferred require for itself a cause—a cause of its own. God Himself that is if offered as cause for the one world would constitute in Himself just such other mental world and would equally stand in need of just such another cause. The explanation is only shifted one step back thinks Hume; but why stop at the first remove? “If we stop and go no farther” he says “why go so far?” “Why not stop at the material world?” “If the material world rests upon a similar ideal world this ideal world must rest upon some other; and so on without end.” “That the parts of the material world fall into order of themselves” is “as intelligible as that the ideas of the Supreme Being fall into order of themselves.” And that being so “we really assert the material world to be God; and the sooner we arrive at that Divine Being so much the better.” These are Hume's own words; and it is really sufficient reply so far to say: There is no principle in matter itself to explain the design it exhibits; only a Designer can explain that. So far we believe our argument valid; and so far we challenge disproof. To ask a second question is not to dispose of the first. (2) A second objection to the necessity of thought is: That it does not apply: we are but a part—our thought is but the part of a part; and it is in vain to apply a part in explanation of the whole. Nay (3) in the third place our thought even as in us requires an explanation; at the same time that (4) in the fourth place it is so limited and imperfect that we can place no dependence upon it. I think however it will be plain that these are cavils so far rather than arguments. It is not true that thought can be characterized as only a part in reference to the whole; nor do we apply it or wish to apply it otherwise than as it justifies itself. It may in individuals and at times err indeed; but it is caricature to throw it out of count because as Hume says “we never find two persons who think exactly alike nor does the same person think exactly alike at any two different periods of time.” Mr. Grote borrows these words and relying upon them cannot help exclaiming in perfect astonishment “Can it really he necessary to repeat that the reason of one man differs most materially from that of another?” To which in the very intensity of its shallow conviction I reply “Can it really be necessary to repeat that the reason of one man does not differ most materially from that of another; but on the contrary the reason of one man is essentially identical with that of another?” Here in fact Grote has not only forgot Hume but Hume has forgot himself; asserting as he does elsewhere that “there is a great uniformity among men in all nations and ages and human nature remains still the same.” That is to the effect that there is but one reason which is the truth and the cosmical fact though we had to go further back for it than the intellectus of Scotus Erigena or even the λόγος ξυνός of Heraclitus. Thought is the one generality the one universality the one general solvent the one universal solvent which nothing may resist. “And what wonder!” says Scotus Erigena “what wonder if the notion of things which the human mind possesses concreated with itself is found to be the true substance of the things themselves of which it is the notion?” The universal as the universal is its own principle and its own basis of support. Thought even as thought accounts for its own self if not in the finitude of man then in the infinitude of God. There it is the one ἀνάγκη the sole necessity that that could not not-be!
And with this we may suppose sufficiently met and discussed all that Hume has objected to the necessity of thought. Matter cannot account for its own arrangement; a part may apply to the whole if that part is thought; which again as in the race is not incomplete and partial but as primal entity as sole and primal ἀνάγκη is with God the reason for itself. In fact in the whole of the relative reasoning there is not one reasonable word why man may not think the design which is as undeniable in his own self as everywhere around him.
The second object of the attack of Hume is (B) the analogy. Man as a thinking being recognises in nature such adjustment of means to ends as is in perfect analogy with what he knows to be the product and result of design in the experiences and proceedings of his natural life in common with his fellows upon earth. Now Hume's objections here may be arranged according as they seem to concern more especially the cause or more especially the effect.
In the first place on the first head he intimates that the cause is not placed as it is placed in the other cases to which we are accustomed. In these we have usually experience of both terms. If we infer the step of a man from a footprint in the sand say the cause is already known to us from a great number of other effects and the inference consequently does not really depend on the single experience. And then in point of fact what we see in matter may depend on principles of its own. We cannot say that motion or other arrangement is not native to it: we have never assisted at the origination of worlds; we have not as elsewhere any custom any to and fro of effect to cause or of cause to effect; we have no experience of the divine. Nay in the second place if the design be not original to matter it may be due to other principles than to the principle of thought as to vegetation for example or to generation. We really do see such principles operative in matter. There is motion in it; not one particle of matter probably ever is at rest. Then we do see vegetation and generation both spontaneously operative. The world may be as a tree that sheds its seed; or as an animal that lays its eggs. A comet may be a seed—a germ which ripened from system to system may itself become further in the inane a system of its own. And so it may have been with this our world which in point of fact exhibits the traces of innumerable changes before it settled down into the orderly arrangement of the present. Indeed in the third place the whole world may be just one animal—an animal with a body and an animal with a soul. This was an idea familiar to the ancients who could not conceive as we do of souls purely as such—of souls without a body. The world has really much more analogy with an organized body than with a mechanical contrivance. “A continual circulation of matter in it produces no disorder; a continual waste in every part is incessantly repaired; the closest sympathy is perceived throughout the entire system; and each part or member in performing its proper offices operates both to its own preservation and to that of the whole.” Or in the fourth place returning to the idea of innate material arrangement Hume has recourse to what I may call the Empedoclean expedient. We may remember Empedocles to have feigned the present orderly organic world to be due to the survival of the fittest in this way that the earth gave birth at first to all possible organisms so to speak pêle mêle. There were bull-headed men and olive-leaved vines; but in that heterogeneous form they could not survive. What could alone survive was the homogeneous: there were no stable or persistent forms till only at long and last when what was homogeneous took its turn. It is absolutely the like suggestion that Hume now makes for matter. The particles of matter are all in motion; and they have been in motion in the infinitude of time. But so they must have undergone an infinitude of revolution—an infinitude of vicissitude and change; or the complexions they formed must have passed through infinite successions until I suppose as mathematically demonstrable the present complexion emerged which being orderly is more or less permanent. And hence the appearance of design.
On the second head as concerns the effect Hume maintains in the first place that the world as an effect only warrants the inference to great but not to perfect power; while in the second place the existence of evil in the world puts us in no very hopeful situation as regards the moral attributes of the Deity. It was here perhaps that Hume's friends one and all of them took fright at these Dialogues and positively fled from any connection with the publication of them. Here indeed Hume is so very free in his objections and suggestions to the Almighty that almost in these more audacious days they may shock even us. Hume himself possibly had a consciousness of something of this; for these words of his at the end of the work read to us at once as an apology and a defence quite as though it was to these very friends he spoke. “It is contrary to common sense” he says “to entertain apprehensions or terrors upon account of any opinion whatsoever or to imagine that we run any risk hereafter by the freest use of our reason.” And surely it will appear to every one that as we are sent here to think as to think is our vocation we shall hardly be held responsible for the expression of our thought provided only that both thought and expression are serious and in earnest Hume doubtless must have considered himself sufficiently within these bounds and must have been both vexed and surprised at the scruples of Smith and the rest especially in view of his having by express name mentioned and met the very apprehension under which it could not but seem they laboured. Nevertheless it is quite certain that Hume in all conscience is not at any loss for boldness here. It is scarcely credible that the evils of this life were ever more glaringly painted or the emendations of them ever more unmisgivingly proposed. But after all it comes on the one head to the usual tirades about misery and pain and on the other to the customary remonstrances with the Deity for failure on His part either in will or in power. “Epicurus's old questions are yet unanswered” says Hume “Is God willing to prevent evil but not able? then is He impotent. Is He able but not willing? then is He malevolent. Is He both able and willing? whence then is evil?” “Why is there any misery at all in the world?” And human life is human misery within and without. It is in the sense of his own imbecility to meet these evils which come upon him from a power above him that man grovels to that power and would fain conciliate to himself its good-will by flatteries and gifts. Hume has four suggestions of remedy in these respects. Like Alfonzo of Castile had he been present in the beginning of creation at the counsels of the Almighty some few things he thinks would have been better and more orderly arranged. He would in the first place have made all living creatures incapable of pain: they should have been impelled to the necessary action only by the diminution of pleasure. In the second place he would have remedied all impending inconveniences by particular volitions: he would have given the dram to his brain that would have made Caligula a Trajan and he would have taken care to save the Roman republic by swelling a foot or two the sea that threatened Caesar. Thirdly he would have endowed all animals with a much more satisfactory stock of strength. And fourthly he would have given an amended constitution to the universe at large: the wind should never be allowed to become a storm the heat a drought or the rain a deluge. “So many ills in the universe” says Hume “and these ills so far as human understanding can be permitted to judge might so easily have been remedied.” Why all is owing simply to “excess or defect” in consequence of “inaccurate workmanship!” These are but a word or two from the pages of the original; but they may serve to suggest the never-doubting openness of Hume in the story he tells and the propositions he makes. Perhaps of all these propositions the most surprising as on the part of Hume is that of a particular providence that would be on its guard always and take all necessary precautions against accidental inconveniences such as a Caligula or a Caesar. It is certain that in another work (Enquiry vii. 1) after long consideration and careful revision too Hume holds it to argue “more wisdom in the Deity” to contrive a creation on general principles from the first and “more power” to delegate authority to these principles “than to operate everything by His own immediate volition.” Erasmus Darwin too will be found to express himself strongly to the same effect. But it would seem that others later incline to Hume's later view and would like a God that prevents rain at harvest and would cut in pieces beforehand the murderers of a Princesse de Lamballe. Mr. Froude in his Life of Carlyle (ii. 260) writes: “I once said to him (Carlyle) not long before his death that I could only believe in a God who did something. With a cry of pain which I shall never forget he (Carlyle) said ‘He does nothing!’” One may be permitted to express one's surprise here at such crude doctrine under whatever or whichever name. It is altogether to mistake the very possibility of a universe to hang a God over it like a big man in the air to overlook and interfere and see that our children do not burn themselves. There is the fang of the serpent and the claw of the tiger—I suppose these gentlemen would have God draw both; and we must not be incommoded in summer with midges on the Clyde. A creation is by the very terms of it the finite as the finite externality as externality. Now finitude as finitude externality as externality brings with it its own conditions just as surely as the triangle involves its own necessity of two right angles or parallel lines theirs never to meet. To have light you must put up with shade and to have warmth you must submit to cold; you cannot have a right hand unless you have a left. All in the phenomenon is contradiction and it cannot be otherwise if there is to be a phenomenon at all. The same stress that would take us to the sun baulks for ever our approach to it. If you draw close to me I embrace you as my friend; but if you draw closer still I repel you as my enemy. Were attraction alone in this universe things would be reduced to a mathematical point; and were repulsion all there would he nothing but a blank. There cannot be union without disunion nor this without that. These and other suchlike contrarieties infinitely are the terms on which you have a finite universe and alone the terms on which you possibly can have it. If you will be then you must he in the stress of adversatives. The single necessity of the necessity to be is its own opposite—contingency. And what does that amount to? It amounts to this: Destroy evil and you are straightway felo de se you have committed suicide; or what is the same thing abolish contingency which is at once the sole source of evil and the secret of the universe—abolish contingency and you abolish existence you destroy what it is to exist. When all is considered I fancy we have but little business to set so much store by all these “racking pains” which Hume enumerates of “gouts gravels megrims toothaches rheumatisms.” The toothache alone is certainly bad enough; but I do not see that we have any right to make such a noise about toothache were it only for our friends the dentists! I suppose Hume here would say as he literally does say “If you feel not human misery yourself I congratulate you on so happy a singularity. Others seemingly the most prosperous have not been ashamed to vent their complaints in the most melancholy strains. Let us attend to the great the fortunate Emperor Charles V. when tired with human grandeur he resigned all his extensive dominions into the hands of his son. In the last harangue which he made on that memorable occasion he publicly avowed that the greatest prosperities which he had ever enjoyed had been mixed with so many adversities that he might truly say he had never enjoyed any satisfaction or contentment. But did the retired life in which he sought for shelter afford him any greater happiness? If we may credit his son's account his repentance commenced the very day of his resignation.” Gibbon too would seem to join his master here and only repeat the story. He transcribes “an authentic memorial which was found in the closet of the deceased caliph” the great and glorious Abdalrahman III.: “I have now reigned above fifty years in victory or peace; beloved by my subjects dreaded by my enemies and respected by my allies. Riches and honours power and pleasure have waited on my call; nor does any earthly blessing appear to have been wanting to my felicity. In this situation I have diligently numbered the days of pure and genuine happiness which have fallen to my lot: they amount to fourteen. O man place not thy confidence in this present world!” Nor are these all. Septimius Severus was certainly one of the most successful Roman emperors and even he sighs out “Omnia fui et nihil expedit!”
These are what are called the lessons of history; and Samuel Johnson in his Seghed Emperor of Ethiopia and his Rasselas Prince of Abyssinia drives them well home. But it seems to me that if these mighty sovereigns had been content with health and not perpetually longed for honey “the mere sweetness in the mouth”—if they had counted the days in which they were absorbed in human action which is alone The Good they might have found their “fourteen days” sufficient to eke out the full sum of their miseries. I for my part when tired of all these tears and groans and this litany of woes am apt to cry Let me get out of this eternal whine which the brave Wordsworth tells us—
Calm pleasures there abide—majestic pains!”
Gibbon is honest enough in the end to speak in this same sense. “If I may speak of myself” he owns “my happy hours have far exceeded and far exceed the scanty numbers of the caliph of Spain.” And even Hume in the person of Cleanthes who certainly speaks then as Hume the man is obliged to say “I can observe something like what you mention of misery in some others; but I confess I feel little or nothing of it in myself and hope that it is not so common as you represent it” And it is not so common! The misery that is is largely on the part of people who have nothing to do. He who has work mostly never whines; though I admit that sometimes Thomas Carlyle unduly whines over his. Consider the population as a whole! Surely the bulk of it cannot be called unhappy! The carpenter the joiner or other such under his paper cap his feet in dry shavings a roof overhead and his body warm spends the day to the whistle of his plane and the jokes of his comrades. The shoemakers how they prattle in a semicircle to the tap-tap of their hammers as the tailors on their shop boards to the snore of their needles! If you walk out some country road say at four o'clock of the dawn you will find the weaver in his village pipe in cheek pacing cheerfully before his door and snuffing up the morning air with uncommon satisfaction. Just so and so early in a street at Paris I have seen the chiffonier chief of the proletariate him too with his pipe in the morning air quite gaily whip up with his hook over his shoulder into the basket on his back some rag from the dust-heap before him. At their work they are all quite cheerful—workman of the proletariate or workman of the trade. What a strong healthy fellow is the navigator on the line picking with pick or shovelling with shovel always effectively but always too with a stroke so tempered and temperate that it never moves a pulse! There are spells of danger and difficulty to some; but if a man in a state of nature is a hunter or fisher and so as it were at play most of the employments of the population have still the interest of nature in them and many of them its romance. It does not belong to riches nor to honours nor to titles to give happiness. Happiness is in the mind; and it will come more readily into the mind of a rag-picker than into the mind of a lord at a horse race. Happiness at least the possibility of happiness so far as it depends on the mind is there may be reason to think not so unequally meted to the most part of mankind and for the most part of their lives. People are apt to mistake what in regard to happiness another can do for us. “She's gi'en me meat she's gi'en me claes” says the “young thing” in the song; and that is about the total or the staple the main and marrow of what can be done for us from the outside by anybody. If any of us will look to the substance of our lives we shall find that that staple contains all the realities and strict matters of fact either possible or necessary for our existence here. Whatever drawback may appear we shall find that it comes from our own trick of comparison. If we would only look to ourselves and our own means of enjoyment we would be contented enough; but unfortunately we must look to others; and that is the shadow that falls for us with a blight on all we have let it be in itself what bounty soever. I have been accustomed to think that a capable handicraftman who comes home of an evening pleased with his day's work to a tidy wife and tidy children and a cosy meal by a cosy fire in his room and kitchen or two rooms and kitchen with a chest of drawers and an eight-day clock and a book to read need not envy any prince in the land and still less any lord at a racecourse—were it not for comparison. Nature is there ready at any moment to spread all her beauty before his eyes all her wealth of hill and dale and champaign. There is music in the air; there is glory in the heavens; and every tiniest shell upon the shore has its own charm of a loveliness of form that was never due to sexual selection. Of course I do not deny that sex enters in some way there too; but I am quite sure that never mollusc female loved mollusc male or mollusc male mollusc female for the beauty of his or her shell in the same way as a woman may fall in love with a man for the beauty of his coat or he with her for the beauty of her habit. I suppose it never occurred to Mr. Darwin that the tailor might have something to do with sexual selection at least so far as some anthropoids are concerned!
So it is on the whole then with the question of evil in the world. In short let Hume harangue as he may in his Parts X. and XI. of these Dialogues piling pain upon pain and black upon black human life remains for all that even to the individual a possession that pleases. Human life of course is but another name for work; but that is not a fault; that is rather a laud; for the subject has the right of satisfaction in his work and according to philosophy it is the quality of the universe to realize no less.
Then as regards the complaints or objections about design itself several of which it has been enough only to exhibit it really does not appear in the end that Hume in his ninety pages of the Dialogues has added any strength to the argument of his nine pages of the Essays. That argument generally rested on the single idea that in ascending from the world to God we have no right to descend from God to the world with more than we took up. The inference to the cause lies in the effect alone; or the argument from design gives the cause as equal to the effect and we have no warrant to make it more. Of course the reply is just look to the effect. Can such effect as that the universe namely not warrant every supremacy that we name God? But what dominates Hume are his own peculiar ideas—the very peculiar ideas which he has himself come to in regard to cause and effect. In the first place Hume as he says himself (Burton i. 97) “never asserted so absurd a proposition as that anything might arise without a cause;” still he did assert that as regards any insight of reason we have no warrant for connecting the effect with its cause but our habitual experience of their customary conjunction; and that consequently so far as we see anything may be the cause of anything (“the falling of a pebble may for aught we know extinguish the sun or the wish of a man control the planets in their orbits”). That no doubt is Hume's contention so far; for these are his own words. In the second place however Hume in his reasoning against design simply contradicts himself and unconsciously implies what principle of connection really exists between the cause and its effect. That is he will allow in the cause which we infer only such qualities as are contained in the effect. Say it is x we find in the effect then says Hume it is just that x and no more than that x that you are to find in the cause.
It is really very odd; but Hume is never for a brief instant aware that in that he has answered his own cardinal crucial and climacteric question. The immediate nexus the express bond the very tie which he challenged you and me and the whole world to produce he actually at that very moment produces himself holds up in his hand even openly shows expressly names and emphatically insists upon! That tie is identity. When Hume will allow no qualities in the cause but those that are found in the effect that amounts to saying the x that virtually is the cause is the same x that virtually is the effect. And what is that but the assertion of a relation of identity between the cause and the effect? Now indeed that as much as that is manifest explicit and express you will be astonished how often it has been said—almost in terms if unconsciously—positively by every philosophical writer you can possibly take up. Nevertheless so far as I know it was only first consciously said in Europe by George William Frederick Hegel and first consciously repeated in English and for the first time of all as consciously directed to the problem of Hume in the little essay named As Regards Protoplasm. And I suppose we owe it all only to the Hindoos. Hegel was well acquainted with the writings of Colebrooke and in his pages he found the Hindoos to say: “The nature of cause and effect is the same:” “a piece of cloth does not essentially differ from the yarn of which it is wove; barley not rice or peas grows out of barley-corns; rice is in the husk before it is peeled; milk is in the udder before it is drawn; and milk not water is taken to make curds” etc. etc. For I might quote much more from the same author to the same effect. And in reality is it not precisely the same import when Hume says and when it is commonly said like effects prove like causes? The wonder is that Hume in spite of this natural conviction existent in all of us of “a more real and intimate connection between the cause and its effect than habitual sequence” to use the words of Sir John Herschel—the wonder is that Hume brought over so many to his way of thinking that to him was sport only. Burton in his Life of Hume (i. 82) as late as 1846 has these astounding words in a note: “This refers to the notion which now may be termed obsolete at least in philosophy of an inherent power in the cause to produce the effect!” There is no power in the cause to produce the effect—there was no power in God to create the world! Hume could be consistent in his theories whatever his conviction. Burton himself points out that it was only consistency led Hume to “the annihilation of the notion of power.” as well in the immaterial as in the material world (i. 275). “As we cannot find in physical causes any power to produce their effect so when a man moves his arm to strike we have no notion of any power being exercised!” There is such a thing as compression surely; and it is a force a power: if we compress a full sponge we drive the water out; and this compression involves in the body compressing here the hand a certain strain or stress which we feel and which consequently we indentify with power. Prick a blown bladder and the fluent air under pressure of the elastic membrane (as of a hand) escapes. There is a rationale in the whole process. Surely there is a reason why a garter supports a stocking or a button fastens a coat! To say that the hammer that knocks a nail in to the head can be reasonably regarded not as a force but only as an antecedent! It is really wonderful how Brown and so many others could accommodate themselves to such extravagant ideas. Why even Dugald Stewart despite his master Reid must go over to Hume and very glaringly stultify himself. Burton quotes (89) him to the effect that Hume's theory “lays the axe to the very root from which Spinozism springs” and this because “physical causes and effects are known to us merely as antecedents and consequents” and “the word necessity is altogether unmeaning.” Stewart thus intimates that Spinoza's system is as he says further “nothing better than a rope of sand” and for the single reason that it is founded on the necessity of cause and effect. Now-a-days in the words of Erdmann (ii. 49) the opinion of philosophy is that Spinoza “knows not any actual causal connection but only conditionedness in consequence of a Vorbegriff” a pre-notion; and surely that is absolutely Hume on both of his sides at once as negative of causal power and as affirmative instead of the relation only of antecedent and consequent. Dugald Stewart has not been quite happy here. And in general it was sufficiently simple on his part after all that Reid had said seriously to adopt almost as a philosophical truism what Hume himself who proposed it had really only sceptically played with certainly at last and for little else than the sceptical conclusion that viewing our limited faculties in that and other respects it is in vain to expect “ever to satisfy ourselves concerning any determinations which we may form with regard to the origin of worlds and the situation of nature from and to eternity” (Enquiry xii. iii.). It was on the eve of his death and in allusion to his own health that Hume himself said “A wind though it extinguishes a candle blows up a fire;” and that contains the whole case. So much power has this effect: so much more that. It is decidedly in contradiction of his own propos that “anything may be the cause or the effect of anything” that Hume against design asserts it as a fact that thought follows matter but not matter thought: “we see every day” he says “the latter arise from the former never the former from the latter;” “ideas are copied from real objects and are ectypal not archetypal.” That is a vast matter that is involved a question of questions and goes far beyond the ideas of Hume. In the meantime we may be reminded of Erigena's ruling that it is the notion that is the original of things and not things of the notion. Of course that is not the doctrine we are accustomed to of late. What we hear now rather is much rotund oratory about the physical basis that there is an original matter. Well perhaps there is though I cannot say it has ever been held up to me or anybody else. But this I can say that hold up an original matter when you may you will never hold it up without an original form; which original form too is the original first and furrow of the whole business. I get it from Rabelais even that forma mutata mutatur substantia the substance itself is dependent on its form. It is the form namely and not the matter that is the valuable element. Why we know that even land which surely is material enough has its value in its form the form which the hand of labour has impressed upon it. At all events we are evidently under no necessity to conclude with Hume or his belated followers that matter is in any respect earlier than form. But in fact as is customary with Hume it would seem in the end that he has been only at play. The very Philo in the Dialogues who makes all the sceptical objections comes out at last with such an acknowledgment as this: “The beauty and fitness of final causes strike us with such irresistible force that all objections appear (what I believe they really are) mere cavils and sophisms ¼ the Atheist I assert is only nominally so and can never possibly be in earnest.” And Cleanthes had already said before him: “The order and arrangement of nature the curious adjustment of final causes the plain use and intention of every part and organ—all these bespeak in the clearest language an intelligent cause or author. The heavens and the earth join in the same testimony: the whole chorus of nature raises one hymn to the praises of its Creator.” Would you not say here that David had suddenly grown poetic? Even speaking in his own name and character he is quite as explicit and not much less eloquent. “The whole frame of nature” he says in his Nat. Hist. of Religion “bespeaks an intelligent author—one single being who bestowed existence and order on this vast machine and adjusted all its parts according to one regular plan or connected system.” “Look out for a people entirely void of religion” he concludes and “if you find them at all be assured that they are but few degrees removed from brutes!”
In fact there can be no doubt that it was only superstition Hurne hated and not religion: “You Cleanthes are sensible that notwithstanding the freedom of my conversation and my love of singular arguments no one has a deeper sense of religion impressed on his mind.” And when this is said for Philo it is said for Hume himself. His reverence of true religion indeed he has not been slow again and again in his own person to express. There was nothing covert in the man: much obloquy he might easily have escaped by simple silence or by speech more guarded; but he was a big man and he spoke free: he scorned to be seen of men otherwise than with face to the front. He was loyal in his nature generous. Almost as much as in his own he rejoiced in the fame that competed with it. Letters were his only weakness. When he ought to have been “poring over Voet and Vinnius Cicero and Virgil were the authors he was secretly devouring.” He was still a boy when he wrote “I could not quit my pretensions in learning but with my last breath.” It is a satisfaction to know that naturally such zeal and devotion cannot be without their reward. Hume is a peer only to the highest of his people to Scott and Burns and Carlyle. His best works will endure. For perspicuity and ease of flow his history is as yet unsurpassed in the language. Its “careless inimitable beauties of style” made Gibbon when he read lay down the book in despair. One cannot but hope that its author wherever he is has the satisfaction of reflecting that not a single Scoticism more remains for the weeding. Though so eager to be an Englishman in his writing what a Scot of the Scots he was in his speech looks person and the pride of his heart! He was simply so common Scotch indeed that when the servant girl breathlessly broke in upon him to say Somebody had chalked St. David Street upon his house he could only ejaculate “Never mind lassie many a better man has been made a saint of before!” And if we cannot discover much point in the phrase we can all recognise how like it is to the great stout simple sort of Dandy Dinmont Scotchman that he was! And I hope now you will go and look at that house the old-fashioned one at the corner of St. Andrew Square that in St. David Street stood alone at first. Hume himself had it built and he lived in it the last five or six years of his life. Go and look at it and as you look believe that whatever his shortcomings and deficiencies it is still with love and respect and gratitude that we ought to think always and at any time of the “good David.”
From the book: