Page images
PDF
EPUB

us.

ed. Every idea which he attempts to express lies out with perfect distinctness upon the pages of the volume before us. The author does not even blink at a single feature of the doctrine he announces, nor at any of its consequences, and he every where presumes that his readers possess the same powers of deglutition in swallowing and digesting absurdities that he himself possesses.

THE AUTHOR'S DEFINITION OF LIBERTY AND NECESSITY. We will now advance into the interior of the work before

The first thing that here demands our attention is the author's definition of Liberty and Necessity, or more properly of a free and necessary agent. We can hardly conceive of terms as defined with greater distinctness and perspicuity than these are by this author:

“Man is a necessary agent, if all his actions are so determined by the causes preceding each action, that no one past action could possibly not have come to pass, or have been otherwise than it bath been; nor one future action can possibly not come to pass, or be otherwise than it sball be. He is a free agent, if he is able, at any time, under the circumstances and causes he then is, to do different things: or, in other words, if he is not unavoidably determined in every point of time by the circumstances he is in, and causes he is under, to do that one thing he does, and not possibly to do any other.”

A single illustration will present the principle involved in the above definition with perfect distinctness before the mind of the reader. We will contemplate the condition of Adam at the moment when he put forth the choice or act which sbrought death into the world, and all our wo." If in the circumstances, and under the influences, external and internal, under which he then was, but that one act, or determination was possible to him, and that he could not possibly but put forth, he was a necessary agent. If, on the other hand, in these identical circumstances, and under these same influences, while, in fact, he did put forth that one particular act, or determination, he might have put forth another and a dif ferent one, he was a free agent. So of all other acts or determinations,

REMARKS UPON THE ABOVE DEFINITION.

The special attention of the reader is now invited to some remarks upon

the above definition. 1. The first that we notice is the perfect coincidence between the above definition and that given by the writer of his article in a work recently published entitled the Doctrine of the Will. To us the coincidence is interesting, because we had never seen nor heard of the work of Collins, till after that last named had nearly gone through the press. For the satisfaction of the reader, and also to impress upon his mind the real meaning of the terms Liberty and Necessity, we cite the definition of the terms given in the latter work.

"The meaning of the terms Liberty and Necessity, as distinguished the one from the other, may be designated by a reference to two relations perfectly distinct and opposite, which may be supposed to exist between an AnTECEDENT and its CONSEQUENT.

1. The antecedent being given, one, and only one, consequent can possibly arise, and that consequent must arise. This relation we designate by the term necessity. I place my finger, for example, constituted as my physical system now is, in the flame of a burning candle, and hold it there for a given time. The two substances in contact is the antecedent. The feeling of intense pain which succeeds is the consequent. Now such is universally believed to be the correlation between the nature of these substances, that under the circumstances supposed, but one consequent can possibly arise, and that consequent must arise; 10 wit—the feeling of pain referred to. The relation belween such an antecedent and its consequent, therefore, we, in all instances, designate by the term Nescessity. When the relation of Necessity is pre-supposed, in the presence of a new consequent, we affirın absolutely that of a new antecedent.

2. The second relation is this. The antecedent being given, either of two or more consequents is equally possible, and therefore, when one consequent does arise, we affirm that either of the others might have arisen in its stead. When this relation is supposed, from the appearance of a new consequent, we do not necessarily affirm the presence of a new aptecedent. This relation we designate by the term Liberty.

In this quotation, the terms liberty and necessity are directly defined, while in the work of Collins we have the definition of a free and necessary agent. In other respects, the coincidence is perfect.

2. Our second remark is, that while the definition of Collins is perfectly identical with that of Edwards, that of the former has an incomparable advantage over that of the latter in respect to clearness and conciseness. A few extracts from Edwards will fully confirm and elucidate the above remark.

“MetaPHYSICAL or PhiLOSOPHICAL necessity is nothing different from certainty, not the certainty of knowledge, but the certainty of things in themselves, which is the foundation of the certainty of knowledge, or that wherein lies the ground of infallibility of the proposition which affirms them. Philosophical necessity is really nothing else than the full and fixed connexion between the things signified by the subject and predicate of a proposition which affirms something to be true; and in THIS SENSE I use the word necessity, in the following discourse, when I endeavor to prove THAT NECESSITY IS NOT INCONSISTENT WITH LIBERTY." “Things which are PERFECTLY CONNECTED with the things that are

necessary, are necessary themselves, by a necessity of consequence. This is logical necessity."

" And here it may be observed that all things which are future, or which will hereafter begin to be, which can be said to be necessary, are necessary only in this last way,"—that is, “ by a connexion with something that is necessary in its own nature, or something that already is or has been. This is the necessity which especially belongs to controversies about acts of the will."

We might cite many other passages going to show the perfect identity of the meaning which Edwards attached to the term necessity, with that of Collins, as well as those given above. What Edwards has occupied some eight or ten pages in defining, Collins has defined with much greater clearness in two sentences of no considerable length. For ourselves, we fully believe that the chief source of the celebrity of the work of the former is the obscurity of its definitions. The reader does not distinctly perceive the real point to which the argument is directed, and therefore admits its validity from its apparent consecutiveness; while he would abandon his guide in a moment, if he should distinctly perceive the true position to which he is being conducted.

3. "Our third remark is, that the real and only question at issue, in respect to the doctrines of Liberty and Necessity is stated with perfect distinctness in the above definitions. Every man must believe the doctrine of Liberty or Necessity as above defined, inasmuch as no third position, differing from both, is either possible, or conceivable. Suppose we should say to an individual, that none of A is in B. He denies the proposition. We then assert that all or soine of A is in B. He denies this proposition also, professing to hold some third position differing from both. We should not hesitate to pronounce the man, quo ad hoc, at least, in a state of intellectual dementation. But this would be no more absurd than to deny the doctrine of Liberty and Necessity both, which is perfectly equivalent to the affirmation that A is neither in whole nor in part, without or within B.

4. The above definitions also set in a very clear and distinct light the common definitions of Liberty given by Necessitarians, to wit, that it consists, not in the power to put forth either of two or more acts of will in the same circumstances, but in the ability and opportunity to do as we choose. This error Collins saw, and has placed in its proper light:

“Cicero," he says, "defines liberty to be, a power to do as we will. And therein several moderns follow him. One defines liberty to be, a power to act or not to act, as we will. Another defines it in more words,

[ocr errors]

thús: a power to do what we will, and because we will; so that if we did not will it, we should not do it; we should even do the contrary if we willed it. And another, a power to do or forbear an action, according to the determination or thought of the mind, whereby either is preferred to the other. On all which definitions, if the reader will be pleased to reflect, he will see them to be only definitions of liberty or freedom from outward impediments of action, and not a freedom or liberty from necessity; as I also will show them to be in the sequel of this discourse, wherein I shall

conteod equally with them for such a power as they de scribe, though I affirm that there is no liberty from necessity."

5. We are also prepared to contemplate the difficulties in which the doctrines of Liberty and Necessity are respectively involved. Each doctrine has difficulties real or apparent peculiar to itself.

In respect to the latter doctrine, one great difficulty in which it is involved consists in reconciling its fundamental element with our ideas of right and wrong, of obligation, merit, demerit, virtue, vice, reward and punishment, in other words of moral government. A creature is placed in circumstances in which but one course is possible to him, and that he must pursue. Is it possible for us to conceive him to be under obligation, under those circumstances, to pursue a different and opposite course, or to deserve reward or punishment for having or not having done so? God has placed a creature in circumstances in which he can not but pursue one given course, the course which he is required not to pursue. For having pursued this course God dooms the creature to eternal misery. Is it in the power of the human Intelligence to pronounce such a procedure just? Is not the doctrine of Necessity fundamentally subversive of all our ideas of moral government administered upon principles of justice. These are the difficulties which meet the Necessitarian at every turn, and which he must remove, or they will prove fatal to his theory.

The doctrine of Liberty, on the other hand, is encumbered with no such difficulties. When we conceive of either of two courses as equally possible to a creature, we at once affirm his obligation to take the one and avoid the other, and that he deserves praise or blame, reward or punishment, according to the course pursued. The only important difficulty in which this doctrine is involved is found in the admission of its truth in connection with that of the divine prescience. How can an act be free and foreknown to God! This difficulty, we believe, has been satisfactorily met in the work entitled “ The Doctrine of the Will” above referred to. To that the reader is referred for light on this important question. The funda

mental difference between the difficulties in which these two doctrines are respectively involved, is, as the reader will readily perceive, that of a mystery and absurdity. How the divine prescience can be reconciled with the liberty of the will, we may not be able to perceive. Yet as we are totally ignorant of the mode of the divine prescience, we can not tell whether it does, or does not consist with the doctrine of Liberty. The supposition of their agreement involves a mystery, but not an absurdity. On the other hand, the supposition that a creature when in circumstances in which but one course is possible, and that he cannot but pursue, is under obligation to pursue a different and opposite one, and deserves praise or blame for not having done so, is no mystery. It is an abso lute absurdity.

Such are the doctrines of Liberty and Necessity. Having defined his position, Collins proceeds to argue the truth of the latter doctrine as opposed to that of the former, from six considerations.

FIRST ARGUMENT. “From experience.” In respect to the argument under this head, one thing is remarkable. No reference whatever is had to consciousness, the only authoritative tribunalin respect to questions of experience. How careful necessitarians every where are in respect to carrying this question to that tribunal. We intend to refer to this fact again in the progress of our present remarks.

There is one position which the author assumes in this argument, upon which, we will make a remark or two, since it constitutes the fundamental element of the whole.

“Having thus paved the way," he says, “by showing that liberty is not a plain matter of experience, by arguments drawn from the asserters of liberty themselves, and by consequence subverted the argument from experience for liberty; we will now run over the various actions of men which can be conceived to concern this subject, and examine, whether we can koow from experience, that man is a free or a necessary agent. I think those actions may be reduced to these four:

1. Perception of ideas.
2. Judging of propositions.
3. Willing
4. Doing as we will."

The author then proceeds, with all the force of demonstration, to show that the idea of Liberty is not realized either in the first two or the fourth relation specified.

Under the third, he first shows, with equal clearness and force, that when a motive for action is present to the mind,

[ocr errors]
« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »