The cosmological proof — Contingency — Ab alio esse and esse a se — The special contingency an actual fact in experience — This Kant would put out of sight — Jehovah — Two elements in the argument experience and ideas — The generality of the experience — Also of the idea — Contingency is a particular empirical fact — Ens realissimum — Only the ontological argument in disguise — Logical inference — But just generally the all-necessary being of such a world — Hume anticipated Kant — Why force analogy — Why transcend nature — No experience of such cause which must not exceed the effect — Hume's early memoranda — The “nest” — All Kant dependent on his own constant sense of school-distinctions — His entire world — The system being true what is true? — The ontological argument — No thinking a thing will bring it to be — What it all comes to the single threefold wave — Hegel — Middle Age view from Augustine to Tauler — Meister Eckhart — Misunderstanding of mere understanding — The wickedest then a possible divine reservoir — Adam Smith and the chest of drawers — Absurd for Kant to make reason proper the “transcendent shine” — The Twelfth Night cake but the ehrliche Kant.
Gifford Lecture the Sixteenth.
THE last lecture concerned the proof from design; we come now to the other two and first to that which is named Cosmological. As is known the fulcrum of this proof is the peculiarity of existence as existence. Existence that is as existence is contingent. But this word has so many meanings important meanings—even in philosophical application crucial meanings—that a little preliminary explanation in its regard may seem called for and may prove useful. In a former part of the course we had a contingency of things which almost meant chance. It is common knowledge that events happen which might have been foreseen and calculated; and it is equally common knowledge that other events happen which no faculty of vision or power of reason omniscience apart could either have foreseen or calculated. Now philosophically that to me is as proper quality and fundamental condition of things the main contingency. I may walk the streets with whatever care I may; but I may for all that slip on a bit of orange peel and fracture a limb or dislocate a joint. Such contingency as that is our very element; we pass our lives in it and are never safe. The powers of nature threaten us from all sides and we must wall them out. As I have already explained this is the necessary and unavoidable result of externality as externality. Then in passing from the one argument to the other design was spoken of as contingency. This however is a use of the word not quite common in English and was suggested for the moment to meet the language of Kant. Kant that is in order to reduce the teleological argument to the ontological through and by means of the cosmological characterized the design which we see in things as zufällig to them contingent to them. And by this he meant that this ordering of things which we call design is not inherent in the things themselves but something added to them as though from without. Contingency in this sense is inessentiality adventitiousness extrinsicality. It is easy to understand that the order of the things on a dinner table is such inessentiality adventitiousness extrinsicality contingency; it is not inherent in these things; it is something given to them—something zufällig. And we see so that at least the German word may naturally and legitimately enough be used in such sense and with such application. As for the English word contingent if similarly used the shade of meaning implied will not really be found unintelligible or unconformable and misplaced. A third sense of contingent is proper to the cosmological argument which we have now in hand. The very fulcrum of that argument in fact lies in the word. Because all the things of this world are capable of being characterized as effects we infer a cause for them. If no more than effects they are unsupported in themselves and seem bodily and miscellaneously to fall. That is they are contingent. So it is that in the very word there lies the call for the argument in question. The contingent as an ab alio esse necessarily refers to an esse that is a se; what depends only must depend on something else. The cosmological like the teleological argument proceeds therefore from a fact in experience. Design is such fact and so also is contingency—contingency in the sense of the unsupportedness the powerlessness of things in themselves. In the three arguments for the being of a God we proceed either from the fact to the idea or from the idea to the fact. In the ontological argument namely we reason from the idea of God to the fact of His existence while in the cosmological and the teleological arguments we reason from the facts of existence to the idea of God. What Kant misses in the ontological argument is the element of reality existence fact or the element that depends on experience. It is in vain to look for such element he avers in mere ideas. His action with the two other arguments again is so to speak reverse-wise—to put aside this element—the element of actual fact on which they both of them found. It is Kant's general object that is in regard to the reasoning for the existence of God to reduce the teleological to the cosmological argument and both to the ontological which as dependent on mere notions he thinks that he will be at little pains to destroy.
Kant himself states the cosmological argument thus:—“If something exists then an absolutely necessary being must also exist; but at least I myself exist: therefore there exists an absolutely necessary being.” My existence namely is contingent. It is no existence complete in itself and sufficient of itself; it is only a derivative existence and an existence in many ways dependent. Whether as derivative or dependent it has its support elsewhere. It is unsupported in itself powerless in itself a house on the fall a very terminable security. But I am no solitary case I am no exception; others are as I and there is not a single thing in this universe that is not as the others. All are contingent all are derivative all are dependent; they are all such that you postulate an originating and sustaining cause for them; but any such cause—any terminal final and ultimate cause it is impossible in the whole series of causes in the universe anywhere to find. Trace causes as you may you must end always with an effect. Now it is taking our stand on these facts that we involuntarily conclude to the existence of an absolutely necessary being that is the reason at once of the existence and support of all these things—of all these things which are so utterly unsupported and powerless in themselves. And so it is that the cosmological argument has been specially put in connection with the religion of power. Power indeed must have been one of the earliest feelings that in view of this great universe of effects surged up in the human breast. In the Hebrew Scriptures for example what an attribute is power! Hence that sublimity in which the earth the ball of the universe is but as the footstool of Him who says I Am that I Am. We have only to think of this to have it very vividly realized to us that the cosmological argument is founded in the depths of man's own soul. It is not an argument forced scholastic artificial—it is not a thing of words; it is religion to the peoples. That whole image of Jehovah and the footstool of the universe is but the cosmological argument itself in its sublimest and most natural form. The contingent universe is but the footstool to the absolute necessity of God.
We must turn now however and see how Kant would deprive us of this rationality that we have to say so almost in our very blood.
The cosmological argument we may take it stands at this moment before us thus:—Inasmuch as something exists and contingently exists there must exist also something that is absolutely necessary. Of this argument Kant admits: That “it is based on experience;” that “it is not led altogether à priori;” that it is called the cosmological proof for this reason that the world from which it takes its name and on which it founds “is the object of all possible experience.” Nevertheless it is precisely this ground of experience which Kant would remove from it; this in his desire to establish it as a mere matter of void ideas only. There are thus in the argument two interests against both of which Kant turns. First namely there is the question of the experience; and second there is that of the ideas. On the first question Kant as I have said would put out of sight the experience; and on the second he would have us regard the necessary being that is concluded to as a mere idea and as a mere idea further that is only illicitly converted into the other idea of the ens realissimum or God. Of these two operations Kant himself gives the description thus: “In this cosmological argument there come together so many sophistical propositions that speculative reason seems to have exerted here all its dialectical skill in order to effect the greatest possible transcendental false show;” but he (Kant) will “expose a trick on its part—the trick to set up in a masked form an old argument for a new one as though with appeal to the agreement of two witnesses one namely of reason and the other of experience while all the time it is only the former that is present having simply changed its clothes and its voice in order to pass for the latter as well.” That on the part of Kant plainly is to the effect that the cosmological argument is but the ontological argument in disguise. What is alone concerned in it is the inference from mere ideas while the reference to experience is but an idle trick and an unfounded show. With that I think we may assume as substantiated what has been said in the assignment to Kant of two relative operations. So now of these in their order.
Collecting connecting and reducing the various relative clauses we may take Kant's first objection to run somewhat in this manner:—The cosmological argument professes to take its ground on experience. This experience however is indefinitely general: it proceeds from no single definite existence whatever; and it attains to no single definite existence whatever. Kant's actuating motive in such propositions is probably again to be found only in his system. Nevertheless he begins with a certain show of general argumentation; and it is this we have first to see.
So far as the indefinite generality is concerned Kant's expressions are that the proof in question is only “referent to an existence given by empirical consciousness in general” and it “avails itself of this experience only to take a single step namely to the existence of a necessary being in general.” One of course cannot well understand how a step as a step should be objected to because it is single. A single step may be true enough; a step—any step—is not necessarily false because it is single. But the expression probably is merely incidental on the part of Kant who has in his eye at the moment only the immediate object of the step “the existence namely of a necessary being in general;” and has no thought perhaps but of the generality involved. It may be asked however Are we the least bit worse off because the experience is a general experience? The fact and basis of experience it at least allows in common with the other phrases which have been already quoted; and the generality of an experience is not seen at once to be tantamount to its extinction. Surely on the contrary it is on its side the advantage lies; surely it is a great thing to say that we shall reach the same conclusion if you give us anything at all. You are only asked to allow the fact that something exists; it is enough that you grant us any experience whatever; we are not particular what experience; just give us an experience of any kind—experience absolutely general if you like. The objection withdraws nothing from the argument; rather indeed it only adds to it. Nay what does Kant himself say? “It is something very remarkable” he naively admits “that if it is presupposed that something anything exists the conclusion cannot be escaped that something also necessarily exists.” After all then generality as a drawback does not seem to hold even in Kant's own eyes.
But there is another side to the generality—this namely that the necessary being inferred is also a generality. The alleged experience Kant says is only a step to “the existence of a necessary being in general” “but not demonstrating this necessity in regard of any particular thing”; “what sort of Eigenschaften what sort of properties or qualities the necessary being possesses the empirical ground of proof is incompetent to declare.” It must be some importation from his own system that Kant has in mind here when he objects to the argument as not leading to a one empirical object. Otherwise surely of all philosophers Kant is the only one who has complained that he cannot clap an actual hand or eye on God! How could God possibly be any particular experience? The infinite is not the finite. But to take Kant as he speaks he would seem to be unhappy and out of heart because in reasoning to God he fails to get in touch with some one empirical object or the actual properties of some one empirical object. Are we to give up or despair of God then because He is not the Pillars of Hercules or the Gates of Gaza?
But in the reference to generality if it is not to be objected that we do not come to some particular so neither is it to be objected that we do not start from some particular. Nay if the experience we start from is in a certain way general it is also after all in a certain way particular. That is it is not from mere indefiniteness from mere experience in name that we start but from an actual fact and actually definite in and of experience. We start from—the cosmological argument rests on—an actual particular empirical fact Contingency is a fact; contingency is particular; contingency is empirical; contingency is actual; and it is from contingency that all our reasoning starts and on contingency that all our reasoning rests. Kant has been no more able to quash or put out of sight contingency as a fact of experience in the cosmological argument than he was able to quash or put out of sight design as a fact of experience in the teleological argument. And so long as such facts remain the ontological argument which rests wholly on ideas cannot be used as a lever for the destruction of its cosmological and teleological fellows.
But now to turn to Kant's second objection to the cosmological argument—that namely it was still only a trick when in intromission with mere ideas it converted the necessary being of the first part of the supposed proof into the ens realissimum or supreme being of the second part. Arrived once for all at the notion of the necessary being Kant intimates we only look about us for what other desirable qualities we suppose such a being must have in order to arrive at its own complete and perfect substantiation. These qualities are supposed to be found in the idea of supreme reality alone; and so the necessary being at first hand is converted into the supremely real being at second hand. Kant goes on at great length in the discussion of this matter. The better to expose the fallacy he is even at pains to put the whole reasoning as he alleges in the technical syllogistic form. “All blind show is most readily detected” he says “if we set it down before us in a scholastically correct shape.” With all however sentence after sentence phrase upon phrase word upon word and all the technical processes of the dryest school logic it comes to this that the cosmological argument having only pretended to reason from a ground of experience has intromitted with ideas only and has simply converted fallaciously the mere idea of a necessary being into the further idea of the all-reallest being; in short as has been already said the cosmological argument is no more and no less than the ontological argument in disguise. In Kant's own words what the cosmological argument maintains is this: “The notion of the all-reallest being is the only notion whereby a necessary being can be thought; that is there necessarily exists a supreme being;” and that is to Kant an ignoratio elenchi. We commit no fallacy however no ignoratio elenchi if from one logically established proposition we only logically deduce another. Probably most people would be quite content with the one proposition and would give themselves little concern about the other. All-necessary they might say and allreallest come pretty well to the same thing; it is positively enough that it should be either. But there is no difficulty in even logically deducing the one from the other. What has its necessity within itself is sufficient for itself and is without dependence on another. That is it is without dependence for its reality on anything else; it is without any negation to its reality: it is the all-reallest! The one proposition is simply contained in the other; and we have no call to go to experience in search of it. Kant has simply forgot his own doctrine of analytic propositions. As certain as (Kant's own example) the proposition—all bodies are extended—is an analytic proposition the truth of which requires analysis only and no resort to actual experience so certain is it that the proposition—the all-necessary being is the all-reallest being—is no less an analytic proposition that as such and so far is independent of experience. The cosmological argument is sufficient within itself and neither requires nor takes support from any other. But in a general way we are situated here just as we were with the teleological argument. Let the teleological argument prove only a former of the world then we say the former of such a world must have been its Creator. And let the cosmologieal argument prove only the all-necessary being of the world then we say the all-necessary being of all that contingency of the world must be and can only be what is reallest in the world; and that namely is the Most High God.
It would be unjust to Hume not to remark here that though the German words and ways seem so very unlike Kant when he wrote must have had before him all the three relative writings of the good David: the essay namely Of a Particular Providence and of a Future State The Natural History of Religion and the Dialogues concerning Natural Religion. Much of what the German says had in his own way been already said by the Scot. Thus Hume talks also of houses and ships and conceives it only to force analogy to transfer it from things finite to such an unexampled infinite: it may be that for such powers and quality says Hume too we need not go beyond nature or even matter itself. We can only reason from experience and experience has no locus standi on such an elevation. Then Hume's objection of the universe being a singular effect that is that we can only credit the cause with no more than we find in the effect; and that we cannot return from the cause as with new data to extended inference—all that is precisely what Kant means by the translating of absolute necessity into absolute reality. The young Hume in the early memorandum book referred to by Burton (i. 135) has (as we partly know) some excellent expressions in regard to the three proofs of the existence of a God which Kant of course had no opportunity of seeing but which have their interest here. The first of these proofs runs “There is something necessarily existent and what is so is infinitely perfect;” and the third “The idea of infinite perfection implies that of actual existence.” It is really very strange but these two propositions suggest not too imperfectly on the whole Kant's entire relative action which is the complaint that the cosmological argument converts first necessary existence into infinite perfection and second infinite perfection into necessary existence thus placing itself at last only on the ontological argument.
Kant follows up his general argumentation by indicating and shortly refuting what he calls “an entire nest of dialectical assumptions that is concealed in the cosmological proof.” The entire “nest” however may be said to be a construction of his peculiar system. Kant says for example that causality and the other principles of reasoning employed in the argument concern only the world of the senses and have no meaning out of it; and in each of the four heads which he enumerates there appears nothing whatever else. That just amounts to the one averment peculiar to the system that whatever namely is incapable of being actually experienced is nothing but a Hirngespinnst a cobweb of the brain. As regards God it is valid reasoning to Kant that in this world as he (Kant) has constituted it there cannot be an actual object of the senses named God; and so God can only be an Idea an idea of our own and useful for us in giving a sort of convenient unity and arrangement to the house we live in. God is precisely that to Kant and He is nothing more.
All these wonderful constructions of Kant toys of his own gluing all spring from the constant sense of distinctions that is the single life within him. Every reader of Kant even the least familiar must have memory of this. There is probably not a page of Kant in which he does not split up something into two distinctions—distinctions to which he is apt to give contrasting Latin names as the quid facti and the quid juris and actually thousands of others. Kant in fact is a very schoolmaster. He is constantly laying down the law—a law that concerns verbalisms only. If Kant is ever real it is where as in his Practical Kritik he is occupied with Morals; and even there I honestly believe that it would be quite possible to show that his very best findings are but artificial results of his pedagogic distinctions. Distinctions and artificiality are certainly both the levers and the materials of his theoretic system. Time and space are both within us and in them there are our own sensations: these are the materials and the only materials of perceptive knowledge; and they become such by being in a twelvefold manner categorized into our self-consciousness. There are further three Ideas to be sure but they are only ideas—only ideas of order and arrangement for our own private use. Now that is really the entire world to Kant and he has made it wholly and solely out of distinctions in his own vitals. Does it give more reality to this soap-bubble of a universe that it hangs between two absolutely unknown x's mere algebraical x's that are only supposed only feigned though named things in themselves; the one on this side for sensation and the other on that side for belief? Never was the world so befooled by a system as it has been befooled by the system of Kant; and the world has no excuse for itself but that Kant had with such perfect conviction with such luminous and voluminous detail fooled himself into it. What according to this system are we to suppose truth to be? If it (the system) is what is there that is true? The sensations are not true. Their truth is only unknown points in an unknown dark. Time and space are not true: they are only figments of my imagination. The categories are not true: they come from a tree an Yggdrasil that has no roots but again in me. The Ideas have no truth: they are mere illusions. And this me itself: it is but a logical breathing a logical dot on a logical i. Where according to this system is there a single truth in the whole huge universe?
But we must come to an end with our consideration of Kant: we must turn at last to our final interest here: we must now see how Kant disposes of the ontological argument. The form given to that argument which we have seen from the early memorandum book of Hume is perhaps as simple and short and as good as any. “The idea of infinite perfection implies that of actual existence.” Really the young Hume has put what is concerned there in its very best form. If you say you have the idea of infinite perfection and yet that actual existence is not thought of in that idea then you only contradict yourself. It would be a very strange all-perfection that yet was not. Kant of course has a good deal to say in the reference; but I know not that all he has got to say amounts to more than the objection that comes to every one. We can think what we like but no thinking of ours will make a thing to be! It would be a fine thing if only by thinking of the “dollars” in Kant's well-known illustration we could have them;but—We can all readily understand as much as that and Anselm himself told us It was one thing for a painter to think his picture and another thing to make it. So always when we think these easy thoughts in regard to this argument we are thrown back to the question Is it then a self-contradiction to think God as non-existent; and for the reason that He is infinite and not like a perfect island or a perfect garden etc. which with whatever perfection are still things finite? Is God such and so different from all else that if we think Him that is truly think—Him—then we will see that He is? Perhaps to put the questions in that manner is to put them rightly. But if so then the conclusion is—that we are all referred to ourselves. What we are asked to do is to think God; but if it is only in the actual thinking that the truth emerges then each of us must do that for himself; not one of us can do that for another. Of course Anselm develops the matter in a formal syllogism and into a self-contradiction on the negative side. But so put we cannot help suspecting that we have to do with words only and we remain unmoved. We still ask how thinking—which will assure us of the existence of nothing else—will yet assure us of the existence of God? That is the question; and we see that Kant's objections—all summed up in the illustration of the dollars—are beside the point are out of place. The whole matter is for us to think God. But what is God?—what is this that we are to think? Now in attempting to answer that question we do think God—we just do what is required. And what do we find for result? We find that we have thought this universe into its source—we find that we have realized to thought as a necessity of thought the single necessity of a one eternal all-enduring principle which is the root and the basis and the original of all that is. In fact we may say that when this task of thought is put upon us we just think in a moment and at once and altogether the teleological argument and the cosmological argument and the ontological argument each and all summarily into God. And with that acknowledgment we have the reality and the substantiation of Natural Theology: our whole task is accomplished—the whole Gifford problem solved—in a turn of the hand! What in effect are the three arguments in proof of the existence of God? There is a triplet of perpetual appearance and reappearance in the ancient Fathers of the Church. It is esse vivere intelligere; and these are but three successive stages of the world itself. To live is to be above to be and to think is to be above to live. All three are at once in the world; and though they offer hands as it were each to the other each is for itself. So it is that the Three Proofs are but the single wave in the rise of the soul through the Trinity of the Universe up to the unity of God. And with such thoughts before us it will be found that the ontological proof will assume something of reality and will cease to be a mere matter of words. The very thought of God is of that which is and cannot not-be.
It is undoubtedly with such thoughts in his mind that Hegel declares the ontological proof to be alone the proof. To him manifestly it was not an affair of Barbara Celarent Baroko Bokardo and the rest in mere words: it was an actual mood of mind a veritable process of the soul a movement of spirit to spirit and a revelation of God to man. We might almost say that this alone is the meaning of the work of Hegel—that in this alone he is in earnest—that in philosophy and in religion as struggling to this he would present himself almost literally on every page. He complains that recent theology speaks rather of religion than of God; whereas in the Middle Ages the whole interest was to know God. What is now only a matter of subjective information was then objectively lived. The true relation is that of spirit to spirit. The finite spirit in separating itself from the mundane or in gathering up the whole mundane into its essential reality and truth rises into unity and community with the infinite spirit and knower and known are one. In that one intensity where difference is at once identity and identity at once difference man is conscious of himself in God God is conscious of Himself in man. That really is what the ontological proof is to Hegel. Spirit gives testimony of itself to spirit; and this testimony is the true inner nature of spirit. “God” says Hegel “is essentially self-consciousness;” and it is only when man has realized himself into union with God only then also has he realized his true free will. Readers of the history of philosophy know that Hegel is by no means singular in these views: they are common and current in the Middle Ages from Augustine to Tauler. Meister Eckhart alone has passage after passage which in intensity and ecstasy leaves nothing for Hegel. “The eye” he cries “with which God sees me is the eye with which I see Him; my eye and His eye are one; in righteousness I am cradled in God and He in me. If God were not I were not; if I were not He were not; but there is no need to know this; for these are things easy to be misunderstood and which are only to be comprehended in the spirit.” As to this of misunderstanding Hegel too says at least in effect: If you speak such things in the terms of the understanding you will look in vain to find them again: If you make an ordinary generalization of such doctrine and describe it in common words as the tenet of the knowing of Man in God and of God in Man you have shut yourself out from it; you are on the outside and have closed the door on yourself. These things are only in the inmost being of a man to be struggled and worked up to. Another ready objection is—pantheism. But if there is an assertion of God in the relation there is also no denial of man. My own objection is that it at least seems to trench on a degradation of God: the very wickedest and least considerable of human beings may represent himself as a sort of reservoir from which at any moment he can draw on God have God on tap. Of course it may be answered that in the relation take it as it is there is no room for any moment of compulsion—it is not a case of mere ancient theurgy black art magic; the divine approach will come at its own good time—free; and not any one human being that so tempers himself is then either wickedest or least considerable. Nay in humanity is it so certain that the least and the greatest the best and the worst have any such mighty difference between them? May not even the least and the worst cry And we then—are not we too made in the image of God?
With all this that concerns a living ontological proof these external manœuvres and contrivances of Kant are strangely in contrast. To him it is quite clear that as he can reasonably think a hundred dollars not to exist he can equally think God not to exist but to be a mere idea of our own respondent to our own human desire for order. Adam Smith in reply to the Doctrine of Utility was surprised if “we have no other reason for praising a man than that for which we commend a chest of drawers.” What then should be our surprise if in Kant's reclamation for order we have no other reason for the production of a God than that we have for the production of a chest of drawers—convenience namely! God is but an illusion or delusion caused by the false light of sense misleading our judgment. This light Kant calls the “transcendental shine” and he is very proud of it. He is wonderfully contented with what he thinks his discovery of these three false lights of the Ideas. But if any one will just look for himself his wonder will be—where they come from? When we reason from the contingency of all things as it were to the linch-pin of all things—when we reason from design to a designer—even when we reason from a certain notion to the existence of the object of that notion—in a word in reasoning towards God whether from existence to idea or from idea to existence we think we have been only reasoning; but no says Kant you have been only led by a natural ignis fatuus which you cannot turn your back upon even when you know it.
This system of Kant is but a Twelfth Night cake of his own manufacture wonderfully be-decked and be-dizzened be-queened and be-kinged be-flagged and be-turreted; but for all that it is no more than a thing of sugar and crumb of bread. Nay even for the quantity of the bread and the quality of the sugar that are in it we cannot but thank Kant naming him even therefor the ehrliche Kant the plain honest honourable Kant.
From the book: