Scepticism, Recent Phase of
Scepticism, Recent Phase OF
Scepticism is primarily nothing more than an inquiring state of mind, with provisional suspension of positive conclusions. It soon comes to mean denial, or repudiation of what transcends human observation and inference therefrom, in matters necessarily of faith. SEE SCEPTICISM in volume 9. It is in the latter signification that it will now be noticed, and only in its chief recent forms.
Every age has its own philosophical tendencies, recurring under modified fashions, with the change of antecedents and surroundings. Thus, old scepticism reappears with altered face, moving always in a vicious circle. Every philosophy is the imperfect expression of the faintly perceived and feebly understood manifestations of the universe, and of their supposed significance. Each has its own scheme for the interpretation As the mysteries with which "we are girt about," either recognising or excluding the supernatural. Scepticism, therefore varies with the ages, in degree, in method, and ill form. In no period of history has unbelief in revealed or natural religion, which is unbelief in all the foundations of knowledge, assumed so many varying forms and shadows of form as in the present day. Much, very much, of recent thought and speculation is corroded by the burrowing virus of this diseased and morbific tendency. It is difficult to employ familiar phrases and current modes of argument without being involved and entangled, unawares, in some of the ramifications of the pervading infection. All men are creatures of their age and of the intellectual atmosphere encompassing them. The mind is moulded, and its developments and products are shaped or colored, by the influences which it habitually endures. Hence it becomes a difficult task, but urgent in proportion to its difficulty, to examine the modes of aberration, and to detect the fallacies in widely accepted systems of error. Of course it would be impracticable, within any moderate limits, to distinguish the manifold varieties of recent scepticism, to trace the melting hues by which they blend almost insensibly into each other, and to discriminate the multitudinous variations and degrees of diseased perception in the diversities of philosophical sects. No more can be safely or profitably attempted than to note the most accepted types of skeptical speculation in this declining century. All might be included under the single head of RATIONALISM SEE RATIONALISM (q.v.), but this term has a more restricted meaning in theological terminology. All proceed from the negation or exclusion of everything in the intelligible universe beyond the grasp of the observing and reasoning faculties.
The species of scepticism which will be estimated here are those which assail, extrude, or undermine religious truth — which reject knowledge or authority, superior to such as may be compressed into the narrow domain of scientific or demonstrative processes. Of these there appear to be six leading classes, the appreciation of which will afford guidance for the criticism of the intermediate or affiliated varieties of incredulity. They are, 1. Materialism; 2. Naturalism; 3. Agnosticism; 4. Phenomenalism;. 5. Pessimism 6. Nihilism, which last approximates to Neo-Buddhism. These several schemes have been exhibited in more or less developed proportions since human inquiry gained strength and audacity to propose a systematic answer to the torturing questions, Whence come man and the universe? How are they sustained? What are their meaning, their purpose, and their destiny? What are their relations to the source of their being, of their maintenance, and of their order? The manner in which these enigmas have been answered has continually suffered change with the extension of human knowledge and the consciousness of previous failure. The latest transmutations now attract our regard. Of the six classes, into which the chief recent theories of a sceptical character have been divided, two have been sufficiently considered in the, articles specially devoted to them. These are, Materialisn and Pessimism (q.v. severally). They require no further notice than may be incident to their relations to other theories.
Before proceeding to the examination, of the remaining forms, it may be judicious to indicate the fundamental delusion which underlies and vitiates all schemes of scepticism, using the designation in the restricted sense of unbelief in the transnatural. All knowledge of things included within the observation of physical perception is obviously and necessarily limited by the range of the several senses. The calorific, the actinic, and the chemical rays of light are invisible; yet they are probably more important and more operative in the economy of nature than the color-rays, with their endless service and infinite variety of beauty. There are sounds too loud for the human ear to distinguish, too slight for human hearing; notes that are discord to some races and musical to others; odors too faint or evanescent for man's olfactories to detect; tastes too delicate or too oppressive for the tongue of man to discriminate; things too distant or too small for human discernment. Assuredly there are stars beyond the reach of the telescope, organisms too minute for microscopic vision. These facts are recognised by observation and reflection, aided by artificial contrivances. They prove that the senses cannot attain to the apprehension of a vast variety of unquestionable facts. Intellectual comprehension is limited by its constitution, in like manner, in regard to things intelligible. This is in consonance with the physical or material creation. The conclusion is the same in the one case as in the other. It is only transferred from the senses to the mind, and adapted to a new sphere. It is identical, also, with the irrefragable axiom or postulate that the finite can neither intellectually grasp nor logically deny what lies beyond its comprehension. But it may and must recognise it, or else renounce all validity of thought. Every form of dogmatic scepticism starts out, therefore, with a fatal and utterly irrational assumption.
On any scheme of philosophy the office of the human race on earth is to improve its habitation, its conditions, and itself, through the instrumentalities acquired by the enlargement of its knowledge and the expansion of its capacities. The fulfilment of this destiny or the achievement of this result would be impossible, and, indeed, inconceivable, if the limits of the unknown did not always spread around, and if humanity were not always led on and guided by an imperfect apprehension, a confident intuition, a persistent assurance of further enlargement of its acquisitions. It is the very law of its existence, of the possible sustenance of its increasing numbers, that, as Roger Bacon said, the recognition of the unknown and still unknowable advances more rapidly than the increase of the known. "Quae scit, pauca sunt et vilia respectu eorum quae non intelligit sed credit, et longe pauciora respectu eoruom quae ignorat." This is only an illustration of the law which renders fallacious all knowledge dwarfed to the compass of the reasoning faculties of man.
There is another line of procedure — a purely logical argument — which arrives at the same result. Every conclusion must rest on accepted premises. These premises, whether as previous conclusions, or as interpretations of facts, which are also conclusions, must, in their turn, depend upon more remote premises. Ultimately a point must be reached beyond which it is impossible for analysis to go. Yet the first principles repose on surer conviction than any inferences that may be deduced from them. The sphere beyond the utmost range of systematic ratiocination is not the darkness of the unapprehensible, but the realm of the partially unknown, yet inevitably believed. Throughout, the invisible, the incomprehensible, the unattainable, must be received as existent and operative, or all knowledge and all fact must rest upon nothing but pure imagination. This is only the development of the profound and sagacious observation of Aristotle, that whoever demands a reason for ultimate principles takes away all possibility of reasoning. The necessary inference from these truths, which are only diverse aspects of the same truth, is that the whole order of existence, physical and intellectual — the whole procedure of valid reasoning on any subject — requires the constant admission of influences, causes, powers, purposes, and governance beyond the possible limits of formal and systematized knowledge, beyond the grasp of finite intelligence. Hence, any scheme of philosophy which pretends to include all being, and all appreciation of being, within the brief tentacles of human apprehension, is not merely incomplete and fallacious, but absurd.
With this preliminary exposition of the fundamental conditions of thought, the artful sophistry involved in all forms of dogmatic scepticism, and cunningly disguised or ignored in the recent phases of philosophical unbelief, becomes manifest. The countless forms of scepticism lie between the antagonistic extremes of materialism and idealism. These extremes are not necessarily sceptical, but in their development they tend to sceptical issues. Milton and Berkeley were fervent in their religious convictions. Of course, as materialism and idealism are the opposing poles of speculation, every scheme for the exposition of being and its interpretation must approximate more closely to the one or to the other. All may be included in the two. But such absorption of divergent currents of thought tends only to confusion. It will explain, however, the impossibility of separating discordant systems by sharp lines of discrimination. They are variously compounded, and coalesce with each other in various modes and in varying proportions. The failure, then, to maintain sharp distinctions will be due to the nature of the subject divided, not to the error of the division.
I. Naturalism. — Materialism, as has been remarked, has already been amply discussed. Naturalism is an extensive species of it, which requires special notice. There is, indeed, one subdivision of naturalism which is the purest idealism, when all nature, concrete and operative, is resolved into the divinity, and this again is dissolved into nature. This occurs in Spinozism, and in all varieties of pantheism. In its current philosophical acceptation, however, naturalism signifies the interpretation of the facts, functions, and developments of existence by the forces and changes of physical realities. It sees nothing beyond. It denies higher causation. It imprisons itself within the domain of the sensible, and affirms that this is the sole and adequate exposition of all things. The voluntary captive, in his self-constructed dungeon, affirms that there is neither sun nor sunlight without. The unreasonableness of the conclusions and of the philosophy erected upon them is shown by the preliminary considerations which have been presented.
It should be remarked that, in these fashions of scepticism, the supposed conclusion is always the startingpoint of the doctrine. That which is to be proved is assumed. The philosophy is invented and manipulated for the support of the thesis. Great acuteness and ingenuity, greater self-delusion, and the confidence of wilfull ignorance, are shown in the elaborate artifices of the frail but often imposing structure. Every fact of nature, if analyzed- every part of such fact, if further analyzed, and if the analysis be conducted to its utmost limit inevitably leads "from nature up to nature's God." The same thing is true of every intellectual or emotional experience, which gives facts of another order.
Unquestionably the spontaneous revelation of the transnatural through the forms of the natural does not rest upon the same kind of evidence, or generate the same, species of conviction as are characteristic of scientific conclusions. But they come clothed with a firmer and more impressive certainty. This is no novel doctrine, for it is a reply to antiquated error. Thomas Aquinas said, "The dubitation which occurs in regard to articles of faith arises from no uncertainty of the thing, but from the weakness of the human mind. Nevertheless, a minimum of knowledge of the highest things is more to be desired than the most certain knowledge of things little in comparison." Such testimony may be rejected with scorn, as the utterance of a schoolman, a metaphysician, and a theologian. But the Angelic Doctor makes his avowal on the authority of Aristotle, who should be safe from the petty censure of current science. His remark is (De Part. Animal. 1:5), "If it be but little of these things that we apprehend, that little, on account of the preciousness of such knowledge, is more acceptable than all within our grasp." Old error should not, on account of its attempted rehabilitation, object to cogent refutation because it, too, is ancient,
II. Evolutionism is the most prominent and the most controlling type of naturalism in our age, the credit and the parentage of which are usually assigned to Darwin, though its most elaborate and systematic development is to be sought in the unfinished and interminable treatises of Spencer. The foundations and the main walls of the building are distinctively Darwin's.
To him is due the patient, persistent industry by which the materials have been quarried, chiselled into shape, and adapted to their places in the bewildering edifice. But the plan and the purpose of the philosophy may be found in the notes to the prosaic poems and in the prose romances of his grandfather. Nor is the elder Darwin to be considered as the original inventor of the system. Many critics have shown that the whole essence of the speculation and its line of argument were the teachings of, Lucretius. The Roman poet proved, in his own case, his maxim, "Ex nihilo nihil fit," and borrowed his dogmas, but not their radiant setting, from Epicurus. In this recurrence to the resuscitated phantasms of longburied delusion, Darwinism corresponds with all current schemes of sceptical speculation. They return with the revolving cycle. But never before, not even under the Roman republic or the empire, did Epicureanism display so bold a front or arrogate so absolute dominion as Darwinism has presented and received. It claims to be accepted by all scientific and intelligent minds. It has been extensively admitted into nearly all departments of knowledge. These have been remoulded in consonance with it. Now it looks forward to an early sovereignty over the whole realm of thought and action. The eminent naturalist maintained, during his life, that his doctrine was not inconsistent with the Christian faith. His letter to a German student, published after his death, revealed his suppressed conviction that it was so, and that it had proved so in: his own case. His declaration may, nevertheless, be so interpreted as to be true. There is no inevitable inconsistency between the creed of Christendom and the hypothesis of a progressive development. Everything depends upon the exposition and the application of the cardinal dogma. To human apprehension there is a more marvellous exhibition of creative intelligence and power in so ordering the world from the beginning, that every force and every creature in the universe should, like the fruit tree, have "its seed within itself," and exert its characteristic peculiarities in the perpetuation and progressive modification of all developments through endless generations. In this there is a more wondrous exhibition of intelligence and power than in the supposition of constant divine action in maintaining, regulating, combining, and modifying all the successive agencies and results of existence. The immanent operation of divine energy, which Thomas Aquinas considers the most cogent demonstration of the being of God, is imperative in the one case as in the other. The former explanation will not, indeed, satisfy the requirements of either true religious belief or genuine religious appetency;
but it is the more difficult of conception. It is not, however, under either aspect that evolution has been promulgated, applauded, and accepted.
One reason of the wide diffusion of evolutionism has, unquestionably, been the plausibility of the doctrine, and the ambiguity of the term. Evolution is true — "sub modo et terminis suis" — as the statement of a fact. Evolutionism is erroneous as a theory. That things change is a commonplace, that organic beings grow is another; that the chicken comes from the egg is undisputed; that plants and animals, including man, will, under suitable circumstances, be modified, improving or retrograding, has never been controverted. But that these mutations can take place only within wider or narrower limits — still, within restricted limits — has never been disproved. It is the baldest assumption and the wildest reverie, to presume that the possible changes are illimitable and uncontrolled, and that one genus can be transmuted into another, even in, the imaginary aeons of time. This is worse hallucination than alchemy. Evolution is an unfortunate and misleading term. It is wholly arbitrary to employ it as the designation of a philosophical system. Evolution cannot appropriately signify a force, a process, a mode, or a determining rule. It is merely descriptive of a phenomenon — unexplained. Smoke is evolved out of a gun-barrel. Something more than smoke is required to reveal the force, the nature, and the action of the gunpowder. This criticism may appear trivial, but it indicates the frailty and delusiveness of the theory of evolutionism. Certain modes succeed each other, and are noted. This affords no evidence of the fact or character of any philosophical relation between the forms. Nor is there much more to be ascertained from the cabalistic symbols of the school — the differentiation of the homogeneous, and the integration of. the heterogeneous. These phrases have meanings, but what their precise meaning may be depends upon the presumptions of the interpreter. Of themselves they are as obscure as "Greek invocations to call fools into a circle." Abandoning, however, this skirmishing about the outposts, evolutionism, as a heresy, is sufficiently distinct and well understood. It signifies the progressive growth of all existence by successive stages, and through the influence of the surroundings, from primitive and unintelligent germs. There is a recent exposition, elaborated with great skill and acumen, which builds up society in its actual and prospective excellence, from protoplasm; and protoplasm from the diffused, undistinguished, and undistinguishable antecedents of cosmical dust. Where did the dust come from? The elephant may stand on the tortoise, but on what does the tortoise stand?
Into the details and assumptions of evolutionism it is impossible to enter here. A hasty notice of a few salient characteristics is all that should be attempted, notwithstanding the hazard of such brevity. It may be said, however, that there is not a single principle relied upon by the evolutionists that is proved, or that admits of proof, in the latitude required for the theory; that the ingenious multiplication of assimilated details is not argument, and does not authorize the inductions drawn; that the accuracy and propriety of the details is questionable, and has been questioned; and that "the survival of the fittest" is contrary to all known fact, except through such casuistry and quibbling, such limitation and explanation, as constrain the evidence to fit the hypothesis. Throughout the theory there is a latent and unperceived "petitio principii," which conducts, by long, bewtildering achannels, the original assumption to the conclusion into which it is converted. It is scarcely necessary to repeat the preliminary proposition — that the world of observation reveals and necessitates, at all times, the admission of a higher force, guidance, and wisdom; initititing, sustaining, and directing all that is or can be observed.
The aim of evolutionism is to exclude from the theory of being and of truth everything transcending the manifestations of physical existence. Of course, the virtual effect on the spirit of speculation is the same, whether the supernatural is denied or rigidly ignored. The practical outcome of epicureanism, which relegated the gods to uninterrupted repose, was identical with that of the most absolute atheism. There is a logical and a metaphysical distinction, but little diversity of consequences. Hence Darwinism and evolutionism are on the same plane with positive unbelief, and merge into, even when they are not embodied in, the general procedure of agnosticism. SEE EVOLUTION.
III. Agnosticisism is the current designation of the most prevailing type of sceptical philosophism. It rejects all outside of the material and phenomenal. It deems it unnecessary to deny the divine, which it banishes. Indeed, Tyndall, Huxley, Spencer, and other hierophants of the fashionable delusion, have admitted the reality of what they exclude from consideration and from rational inquiry. They do not deny divinity; they do not reject creative energy as a possibility. They are content to say that they. know nothing, and can know nothing, about it and that no one does or can know anything on the subject. They, therefore, refuse to admit it into their contemplation, or to accord it any rational authority over the thoughts and conduct of men. They pass it by with the flippant sneer, "Nihil ad nos." Agnosticism is simply shameless profession of ignorance — know- nothingism in all that is essential to philosophy. It is the substitution of human science, or nescience, for human knowledge. It may, accordingly, be extended to all forms of negation, or rejection of what lies beyond the domain of matter, or of physical science. But can physical science, or human reason, in its finite systematizations, fill the whole globe of human thought, feeling, and conduct? of human aspiration and of human duty?
As has already been pointed out, science, observation, experience, reasoning, imperatively require the constant recognition and support of what the agnostics reject as being unknowable. What they repudiate, but what, nevertheless, remains indispensable, is unknowable, in the sense of being irreducible to the forms and precision of scientific knowledge. But there is much knowledge of the highest practical value which is unreduced to such demonstrable form, much which is incapable of being reduced to that form. Scientific knowledge would be vain, a mere phantasm in the clouds, a castle in the air, if it had nothing but propositions reached by induction or deduction to rest upon. In the brilliant developments of modern science the necessary philosophic basis of science is forgotten, and in the pretensions of scientific system-builders it is ignored. The sun shines calmly on, if invisible to the blind, or denied by them. True wisdom is distrustful of itself. It eschews pretension, and avoids the confidence which would restrict the world to the limits of human comprehension. What cannot be scientifically arranged, coordinated, and syllogistically or inductively proved, is not absolutely unknown. Were it so, a child could possess no knowledge, and could never learn. In things transcending " the beggarly elements of man," we are and must "be as little children." Here humility is the condition and means of knowledge. The assurance thus gained is accepted in a different form from scientific conclusions; but it is confirmed by a more potent authority, and exercises a more constant and controlling influence over human life. The peaks of the Himalayas are not less lofty or less firmly rooted because they are inaccessible to the foot of man. It is their elevation that renders them inaccessible. Their snow-clad summits, disguised by their white robe, shine in a clearer, purer, more translucent atmosphere than the low hills on which men dwell, which may be measured and traversed amid fogs and exhalations. The extension of precise knowledge widens, or should widen, the vision of an infinitely larger knowledge, which is unprecise. It is equally foolish and unphilosophical to deny the reality of all that cannot be impounded in our own petty preserves. To exclude such knowledge from consideration is the same, in effect, as to deny it, and is even more irrational. But this is what is done by the recent school of agnosticism, which refuses to acknowledge everything which science does not include or hope to embrace.
The attempt of Buckle to affirm, and of Arnold, his Dutch compeers, and many other schemers, in France, Germany, and England, to construct, a system of unspiritual. morality, or of immoral morals, is only the adaptation of current agnosticism to ethical doctrine. As in the physical, as in the intellectual, so in the ethical sphere, the characteristic defect is that the building demands a firm foundation, but is deprived of anything to rest upon. Historical and ethical agnosticism are more pernicious than evolutionism. It is possible to investigate physical phenomena apart from their origin or cause, but the essence of morals consists in the acceptance of right, as a rule, extraneously presented, and obligatory in obedience to an authority above mind beyond those bound to obey, though they have the power of disobeying. These traditions transcend the reach of rationalistic science.
A more dogmatic, but not more satisfactory, attitude is assumed by that growing sect of physiological psychologists who discern in mind only an exudation from matter, and resolve thought into a cerebral process, stimulated or stimulating, through the telegraphic lines of the nervous cords. Thought is thus, according to Spencer, a complex series of nervous "shocks," like those of an electric battery. If the nature and action of the human intellect are degraded to the level of the electric fluid, or of the currents of sap in vegetative growth, there is neither room nor occupation for any agency higher than organic motions. But how did these motions originate? Whence were their capabilities primarily derived? In all the play of nervous excitation, direct or reflex, where is the intelligence that notes and employs the communications transmitted? In ordinary telegraphing, an operator at each end of the line, or at the completion of the circuit, is indispensable. The apparatus is useless without something diverse from the apparatus, to interpret the messages. The gray matter of the brain, however wonderful its constitution and action, cannot discharge this function. At best, it is only a central office. The mind must be something entirely different from its complicated network of agencies. The spider's web is not the spider. But mind, intangible in its essence and modes, is inconceivable and unmeaning, without a creative mind to form and to inform it, after a fashion far different from any physical changes. Physiology has rendered, and may continue to render, most important services in the interpretation of the physical accompaniments and instrumentalities of mental processes. But Maudsley, and Bain, and Spencer, and the other advocates of human automatism, cannot detect mind or thought under the scalpel, with the aid of any microscope. Their theories are wholly superficial. They deal only with the manifestations on the surface, produced by the underlying forces. They exclude the idea of forces, except as the sequence of changes, and as a substitute for cause. They would exclude the term if they could dispense with it. They fail, however, to see that its indispensability attests the reality of what they would expel. As these speculations confine their attention to the show of things, they might be embraced under the head of phenomenalism.
IV. Phenomenalism, however, in its technical signification, is sufficiently distinct to claim separate consideration. It assumes two very divergent positions. It may restrict itself to material semblances. This form has been noticed under Positivism (q.v.). It may make matter merely a mental conception. In this case transcendental idealism is the result. The universe is one incessant flux of modifications and convolutions of a single entity, which is all in all, in each, and in everything. This idealistic phenomenalism inevitably runs into pantheism. It has been examined in the article on SPINOZA SEE SPINOZA (q.v.). Notwithstanding the bitter, enduring, and often ill-considered censure bestowed upon Spinozism, it is returning in the speculation of the age, with such alterations of garb as the fashions of the times require. It is a recoil from the innutritious diet proffered by the materialists arid naturalists of current science. A noteworthy example of this violent reaction is furnished by the philosophy of Lotze, now rising into favor. Lotze endeavors to unite the results of science with those of transcendental metaphysics, combining, reconciling, and harmonizing them in a more comprehensive scheme. He sees in all things the continuous interaction and reciprocal determination of their mutual relations. These relations constitute all existence and all change — they bear to reality the same analogy that Boscovich's points of force bear to the gravitation and cohiesion of matter. These shifting, reciprocally moulding relations constitute at once the circulation and the substance of all being. The universe is one and single; its whole life, and the life of all its parts, are contained in the constant throb and vital activity of these relations. The wheels move incessantly, because there is life in the wheels; but the vitality of each part is the appropriate play in that part of the common, undivided energy which is concentrated in the totality of all the parts combined into one whole. The universe is a web of one piece, weaving itself into changing patterns by interchange of relations through all the phantasmagoria of existence in time and in eternity. This is not Spinozism, but patient discrimination is needed to discriminate them. Lotze would regard his scheme as the negation of pantheism; and the last words of his metaphysics imply his recognition of God as a distinct essence. But the desire to distinguish is not always attended by the ability to do so. If Lotze's philosophy is conceived in opposition to pantheism, its tendency is towards it. The adoption, development, and application of his principles and conclusions could scarcely be prevented from reaching that goal. Pantheism destroys the conception of divine intelligence and government by identifying them with all the phenomena of being, as naturalism repudiates the conception altogether by substituting for the creative energy the blind and unintelligent forces exhibited by matter, and ascribed to matter as their origin.
To this brief notice of the vapory idealism of Lotze may be appended the commemoration of the equally impalpable metaphysics of sir William Hamilton and his acolytes. The inadequacy and baselessness of the Philosophy of the Conditioned have been indicated already. SEE HAMILTON, SIR WILLIAM. The legitimate deduction from it Was drawn by Dean Mansel (q.v.), in his Limits of Religious Thought, which may be considered as a prelude to Arnold's Religion without Faith, and Morality without Morals. The tendency of the metaphysical system of Hamilton is decidedly in the direction of pantheistic idealism, and antagonistic to the safe, but narrow, "common-sense" speculation of the Scotch school. If the admission of a constantly operating first cause must be excluded from the sphere of philosophy, because a first cause cannot be conceived; if the relativity of human knowledge is so interpreted as to render all knowledge a dream or a delusion; if nothing can be accepted as known, except what is precisely known, and known only so far as it is "conditioned," then all the powers, aspirations, and emotions of mall are paralyzed, or rendered unsubstantial shadows. All things, so far as man is concerned, would be resolved into the spectral shapes cast on the clouds of the human mind. Even these phantasms must be cast by something, or evoked by something.
This primary something is a cause, and a first cause, but its essence is beyond human grasp. There are, therefore, but two existences in the universe, conjoined to each other the mirror of the mind, and the entity which starts the images from the reflecting surface. Obviously; this reduces the actual, the intelligible, and the active to a single essence, some of whose pulsations manifest themselves as the phantasms of the human mind. This, too, is pantheism.
The fatal defect of the Hamiltonian philosophy, and of its developments, is, apparently, not in the assertion of the relativity and conditionalism of human knowledge, but in the exclusion of all knowledge of the "unconditioned." Knowledge is a very elastic term: "conditioned " is a very ambiguous one. It may be doubted whether incomprehensible technicalities — "absolute," "unconditioned," "infinite," etc. — afford such definite ideas as permit strict reasoning, logical or philosophical, in regard to them. They are shifting phantoms of the mist. Controversies in regard to them are as effective as would be battles of children, fighting with iridescent soap- bubbles. Waiving the discussion of the question, which would be endless, and presumably inconclusive, it must be felt that many paralogisms in philosophy are due to the unperceived diversity of latitude in the meaning of the terms conjured with. Knowledge is of various degrees, kinds, and characters. Some is scientific, some philosophical, some intuitive, some revealed in mode and form apt for human acceptance. If all knowledge be denied, or excluded, but that which is established by logical or scientific reasoning, the human mind must wander "in endless mazes lost." It will stagger helplessly along, led only by the marsh-fires of the night, through forest and bog; mistaking every ignis fatuus for eternal sunlight. Science should confine itself to scientific knowledge. The range is wide enough for any ambition. But science must beg its first principles. It must rest on postulates which have a metaphysical basis. Logic observes the processes and sequences of thought, but the mind is, in itself, beyond human observation. All that it receives or produces is derived from impulses within and impulses without, whose existence must be accepted without other testimony than themselves. Thus, in all the grades and species of knowledge, the fundamental and indispensable assurance which renders anly knowledge possible is the immutable conviction and the unwavering reception of knowledge, outside of systems of philosophy and provinces of science. Reason demands this. Conscious experience confirms it. Common- sense proceeds at all times from its influence, without a thought of its requirement. The relativity of human knowledge, and its character as "conditioned," should be admitted, but accompanied with the further admission that such knowledge is built upon the "absolute" and the "unconditioned." Such limited idealism as has shown itself in late years may easily have been provoked by the insufficiency of scientific systems to furnish support or satisfaction to yearning and inquiring spirits. Perplexity, induced by the enigmas presented to the intellect, and despair of their solution, may have suggested another recent phase of scepticism, which differs widely from the forms commented upon. It is the least excusable of all forms, because it runs away from the battle-field, and seeks selfish relief in wilful misrepresentation and morose discontent. This scheme, if it is entitled to be called a scheme, is
V. Pessimism. — It might be supposed to be a natural resilience from the optimism of Leibnitz; but the schemes are separated by too wide an interval of time, and exhibit no links of actual connection. It rather grew out of the despair of the disappointed age which witnessed the dissipation of the dreams of the French revolution, and found utterance in the gloomy strains of Byron. Every age presents the results of the preceding philosophy, and moulds the philosophy of the age succeeding. That strange, poetic genius, Leopardi, sang the prelude of pessimism; Schopenhauer gave it form, expansion, and coherence; and Hartmann has endeavored to give it systematic exposition. Pessimism is not so much a negation of creative power and authority as a denigration of creative wisdom and benevolence. It maintains that the order of the universe is so constituted and regulated as to produce only wretchedness and increasing distress. In a period of brilliant industrial and intellectual achievement, but of augmenting disquietude, discontent, and misery, it presents a doctrine disparaging an order of things so often embittering life, and multiplying the myriads of the suffering, the sorrowing, and of those who find no rest. In one respect, pessimism is to be reprobated more severely than agnosticism. It does not merely hide the supernatural behind an impenetrable veil; it calumniates the creator and the creation. It degrades man, and unfits him for the discharge of the duties of humanity. Man's function on earth is not enjoyment; that may be an incident of his life, a result, or a recompense of his conduct. It is not to exult in the possession of pleasures and ease and vanities and gratifications. His office is, through constant trials, recurring sorrows, and "much tribulation," to strengthen and fit himself for the work set before him, and to do it — to make his contemporaries, and posterity, and the world, better and better provided, in consequence of his action — and to serve earnestly and loyally, as private or captain, in promoting the unseen purpose of Providence, and the destinies of humanity. What may be the fortunes or the fate of an individual is of passing moment. Countless bubbles burst every second on the ocean of life; but the movement of the ocean is uninterrupted. Each individual is but one in the army of laborers. When he falls, his place will be taken, usually by one better fitted for the growing task. There would be an impropriety in dwelling on this type of scepticism, as it has been already noticed in this work. SEE PESSIMISM.
It must suffice to add that the blackening of the unseen, and of its cause, the substitution of a malignant author, or order of creation, for the wise and the beneficent, are as distinctly sceptical procedures as any other mode of repudiating a transcendent authority. These remarks on pessimism have been introduced chiefly for the purpose of noticing an outgrowth, conscious or unconscious. This excrescence has not yet coagulated into a distinct theory, but has an immediate practical effect, and tends to diffuse itself, like a spreading ulcer, through intelligent classes of existing society. Its evangel was Malloch's inquiry: "Is life worth living?" The obvious reply is, "Certainly not, if life is 'propter vitam vivendi perdere causas.'"
VI. Nihilism is a convenient designation for the incipient doctrine. Its purpose is to escape from the perplexity of conflicting arguments and the bewilderment of insoluble problems: to make the best, for selfish comfort, of what is presumed to be inevitably bad, as well as uncertain; to seek tranquillity, as far as practicable, in the renunciation of all annoying duties, and of all unselfish aims.
"How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable Seem to me all the uses of this world!" Nihilism, and the pessimism from which it descends, display analogies to the rehabilitated Buddhism, which has been recently compared to Christianity, and which is preached as a substitute for it in the midst of the chief centres of modern civilization. There is no folly or delusion, says Cicero, which has not been advocated by some of the schools of the philosophers. If such extravagant reveries meet with acceptance in a cultivated and thoughtful generation, it is a consolation to know that like errors have been welcomed and applauded before and have been forgotten. They are dreams which vanish with the morning, and belong to "those fashions of the world which soon pass away." If man be regarded — and the individual perhaps may properly be so regarded — as one ant in the busy ant-hill of humanity, the problem of life and of the universe in respect to him becomes as simple and clear as it is grand. What is needed for earthly necessities he learns by transmission, by observation, by experience, by the advance of science, and the growth of his faculties. Of all that is above him, and that is so strongly felt as to regulate his conduct and his understanding, he knows nothing, of his own knowledge, except imperfectly, for it is "wisdom unsearchable, and past finding out." Can he reject the knowledge, and the author of all his knowledge, because both remain incomprehensible? Whether affirming or denying, he is compelled to accept both. Shall the ant deny the existence of superior beings, which he can neither measure nor comprehend? Shall the clay ignore the hand of the potter? Shall man, walking in obscurity, and seeing only "as through a glass, darkly," reject or exclude all that he cannot fathom with his short plummet line? He has his office upon earth. What that office demands he knows, or may know, so far as is required for its discharge. He works for his family, that others may take his place when his time of labor is over. He works for his countrymen, and for his age; he scarcely knows why, or how. He knows imperfectly what has gone before, made him what he is, and elevated and facilitated his tasks. He thinks he knows the present, in which he lives. He knows nothing certainly of what may come after him. He "struts his hour upon the stage," unconsciously ministering to purposes of which he can hardly dream. When generations have succeeded generations, the retrospect may show a grand result flowing from the purblind activity of himself and his contemporaries. The prospect may reveal a still more glorious advancement to be accomplished. A new earth, if not a new heaven, will proceed from the successive swarms of mankind.
Can it be rationally questioned that there are controlling influences and purposes from the beginning, pressing forward to a determinate end? They necessitate the admission and the governance of a wisdom which man cannot conceive, of a beneficence which man cannot understand, of a plan which man cannot penetrate, and a guidance which man- cannot rationally or logically, ignore or deny.
Inferences. — It is a natural result of the self-confidence of men — an inevitable exorbitancy of that daring thought and speculation which are the handmaids of progress, that, in the hour of intellectual triumph and of material splendor, the bold leaders should undertake the erection, on earthly foundations, of "towers reaching to heaven." In their exultation, they are unmindful that these edifices must totter over, like other Babels, and note their existence by their ruins. The shattered monuments will furnish the quarries for humbler but securer dwellings. The churches and fortalices of mediaeval Rome were mainly built with the broken capitals and architraves, columns, statues, and other carvings, of fallen palaces and pagan temples. The strong places of later progress are similarly constructed. We mount on ruins, and on the corpses of those that have preceded us. It would be weak fanaticism to disparage the services to human knowledge and performance rendered by the theories of scepticism which have been surveyed. It would be imbecile ingratitude to refuse admiration to the learning, ingenuity, and perseverance of the high priests of recent aberrations. Their devices may produce a dreary impression —
"We start, for soul is wanting there" —
but there is no reason for consternation or despondency. They have opened new paths through the haunted forest of life. They have made clearings for the daylight, and for cultivation. They have extended our journeyings, noted the dangerous routes, and proved by their failures the limits of human capacity in many directions. They have wrought for ends unseen by themselves. They have erected magnificent abodes for other occupants.
Literature. — The materials for the full appreciation of the recent phases of scepticism must necessarily be sought in the writings of the founders and leaders of the several sects and divisions of sects, and in the criticisms which those writings have provoked. The literature of the subject, accordingly, embraces the works of the prominent philosophers of the last and current generations who have propounded theories of sceptical design or tendency. It equally includes the multitudinous controversies which they have excited, embodied in volumes, pamphlets, and periodicals. The biographies of the authors, as illustrative of their doctrines, constitute a desirable appendage. This literature would form a goodly library, and is too extensive for specification. So vast and so various have been the several schemes, their expositions, their refutations, and their rejoinders, that, instead of multiplying the titles of the embattled hosts of books, it might be appropriate to empioy the epitaph of Sir Christopher Wren, in St. Paul's: "Circumspice." Some valuable and accessible treatises may, however, be designated, for the purpose of fuller, but still summary elucidation of the prevalent forms of philosophical incredulity. Such are, Temple, Bampton Lectures; Tulloch, Theism; Modern Theoriesin Philosophy and Religion; Flint, Anti-Theistic Theories; Martineau, Types of Ethical Theory. (G.F.H.)