Porter's Human Intellect, Pt. I
[From the Catholic World]
This formidable volume is, unless we except Professor Hickok’s work on Rational Psychology, the most considerable attempt that has been made among us to construct a philosophy of the human understanding. Professor Porter is able, patient, industrious, and learned. He knows the literature of his subject, and has no little facility and fairness in seizing and setting forth the commanding points in the views and theories of others; but, while he shows great familiarity with the metaphysical and psychological questions, and some justness and delicacy as an analyzer of facts, he seems to us to lack the true philosophical instinct, and that synthetic grasp of thought which seizes facts in their principles and genetic relations, and reduces them to a dialectic whole, without which one cannot be a philosopher.
The professor’s book is a hard book for us to read, and still harder for us to understand. Its mechanical aspect, with three or four different sizes of type on the same page, is repulsive to us, and prejudices us against it. It is not absolutely dull, but it is rather heavy, and it requires resolution to read it. It has nothing attractive or enlivening, and it deals so much with particulars and details that it is difficult for the reader to carry what he reads along in his memory. Even when we have in our minds what the author actually says, it is not easy to understand it, or determine which of several possible meanings he adopts. Not that his language, though seldom exact or precise, and disfigured occasionally by needless barbarisms, and a terminology which we hope is not yet in good usage, is not clear enough for any one accustomed to philosophical studies, nor is it that his sentences are involved and hard to be construed or that his statements, taken as isolated statements, are not intelligible; but it is hard to determine their meaning and value from his point of view, and in relation to his system as a whole. His book is composed of particulars, of minute and not seldom commonplace observations, without any perceptible scientific reduction to the principle which generates, co-ordinates, and explains them.
It is but fair to the professor to say, in the outset, that his book belongs to a class of books which we seldom read and heartily detest. It is not a work of philosophy, or an attempt even to give us a science of things in their principles and causes, their progress and destiny, but merely a Wissenschaftslehre, or science of knowing. Its problem is not what is or what exists; but what is knowing, how do we know, and how do we know that we know? With all deference to the Fichteans, we venture to assert that there is and can be no science of knowing separate from the science of things, distinct from and independent of the subject knowing. We know, says all that, we know that we know, says. He who knows, knows that he knows; and if one were to doubt that knowing is knowing, we must let him doubt, for we have only knowing with which to prove that knowing is knowing.
We can by no possible anatomical dissection of the eye, or physiological description of its functions, explain the secret of external vision. We are told that we see not external objects themselves, but their pictures painted by the light on the retina, and it is only by them that we apprehend visible objects. But suppose it so, it brings us no nearer to the secret of vision. How do we see the picture? How by means of the picture apprehend the external object? Yet the man who sees knows he sees, and all that can be said is, that to elicit the visual act there must be the visive subject, the visible object, and the light which mediates between them and illuminates them both. So is it with intellectual vision. We may ascertain some of the conditions under which we know, but the knowing itself is to us an inexplicable mystery. No dissection or possible inspection of the soul can explain it, or throw the least light on it. All that can be said is, that to the fact of knowledge, whatever its degree or its region, there must be the intellective subject, the intelligible object, and the intellectual light which places them in mutual relation and illumines alike both subject and object. Having said this, we have said all that can be said. Hence works intended to construct the science of science, or knowledge, are not only useless, but worse than useless; for, dealing with abstractions which have no existence in nature, and treating them as if real, they mislead and perplex the student, and render obscure and doubtful what without them is clear and certain.
Professor Porter is a psychologist, and places all the activity in the fact of knowledge on the side of the soul, even in the intuition of principles, without which the soul can neither exist, nor think, nor feed. His purpose in his Introduction to establish the unity and immateriality-spirituality, he says, of the soul against the materialists-and to vindicate psychology not only as a science, but as an inductive science. With regard to the unity and immateriality of the soul, we hold with the professor, though they are not provable or demonstrable by his method; and we recognize great truth and force in his criticisms on materialism, of which we have to deplore in the scientific world, and even in popular literature, the recrudescence. That psychology is, in a secondary sense, a science we do not deny; but we do deny that it is either the prima philosophia, as the professor asserts, or an inductive science, as he endeavors to prove.
All the inductive sciences are secondary sciences, and presuppose a first science, which is strictly the science of the sciences. Induction, the professor himself maintains, has need of certain first principles, or a priori assumptions, which precede and validate it. How can psychology be the prima philosophia, or first philosophy, when it can be constructed only by borrowing its principles from a prior science? Or how can it be the first philosophy, when that would suppose that the principles which the inductive sciences demand to validate the inductive process are contained in and derived from the soul? Is the professor prepared to maintain that the soul is the first principle of all the sciences? That would imply that she is the first principle of things, of reality itself; for science is of the real, not the unreal. But this were pure Fichteism, and would put the soul in the place of God. The professor would shrink from this. He, then, must have made the assertion that psychology is the prima philosophia somewhat hastily, and without due reflection; unless indeed he distinguishes between the first principles of science and the first principles of things.
The inductive sciences are constructed by inductions from the observation and analysis of facts which the soul has the appropriate organs for observing. But psychology is the science of the soul, its nature, powers or faculties, and operations; and if an inductive science, it must be constructed by induction from physical facts observed and analyzed in the soul by the soul herself. The theory is very simple. The soul, by the external senses, observes and analyzes the facts of the external world, and constructs by induction the physical sciences; by her internal sense, called consciousness, she observes and analyzes the world within herself, and by way of induction from the facts or phenomena she observes, constructs psychology, or the science of herself. Unhappily for the psychologue, things do not go so simply. To this theory there are two grave objections: First, the soul has no internal sense by which she can observe herself, her acts or states in herself; and second, there are no purely psychical facts to be observed.
The professor finds the soul’s faculty of observing the facts of the internal world in consciousness, which he defines to be “the power by which the soul knows its own acts and states.” But consciousness is not a power or faculty, but an act of knowing, and is simply the recognition of the soul by the soul herself as the subject acting. We perceive always, and all that is before us within the range of our percipient powers; but we do not always distinguish and note each object perceived, or recognize the fact that it is we who are the subject perceiving. The fact of consciousness is precisely in the simple perception being so intensified and prolonged that the soul not only apprehends the object, but recognizes itself as the subject apprehending it. It is not, as the professor maintains at great length in Part I., a presentative power; for it is always a reflex act, and demands something of memory. But the recognition by the soul in her acts as the subject acting is something very different from the soul observing and analyzing in herself her own powers and faculties.
The soul never knows herself in herself; she only recognizes herself under the relation of subject in her acts. Recognizing herself only as subject, she can never cognize herself as object, and stand, as it were, face to face with herself. She is never her own object in the act of knowing; for she is all on the side of the subject. She cannot be on one side subject, and on the other object. Only God can be his own object; and his contemplating of himself as object, theologians show us, is the Eternal Generation of the Son, or the Word. Man, St. Thomas tells us, is not intelligible in himself; for he is not intelligens in himself. If the soul could know herself in herself, she could be her own object; if her own object, she would suffice for herself; then she would be real, necessary, self-existent, independent being; that is to say, the soul would be God. We deny not that the soul can know herself as manifested in her acts, but that she can know herself in herself, and be the object of her own thought. We cannot look into our own eyes, yet we can see our face as reflected in the glass. So the soul knows herself, and her powers and faculties; but only as reflected from, or mirrored in the objects with which she acts. Hence the powers and faculties are not learned by any observation of the soul herself, but from the object. The soul is a unit, and acts always as a unit; but, though acting always in her unity, she can act in different directions, and in relation to different objects, and it is in this fact that originates the distinction of powers and faculties. The distinction is not in the soul herself, for she is a unit, but in the object, and hence the schoolmen teach us that it is the object that determines the faculty.
It is not the soul in herself that we must study in order to ascertain the faculties, but the soul in her operations, or the objects in relation with which she acts. We know the soul has the power to know, by knowing, to will, by willing, to feel, by feeling. While, then, the soul has power to know herself so far as mirrored by the objects, she has no power to observe and analyze herself in herself, and therefore no power of direct observation and analysis of the facts from which psychology, as an inductive science, must be constructed.
there are no such facts as is assumed to be observed and analyzed. The author
speaks of objects which are purely psychical, which have no existence out of
the soul herself; but there are and can be no facts, or acts, produced by the
soul’s energy alone. The soul, for the best of all possible reasons, never acts
alone, for she does not exist alone. “Thought,” says Cousin, “is a fact that is
composed of three simultaneous and indissoluble elements, the subject, the
object, and the form. The subject is always the soul [le Moi,] the object is something not the soul, [le non-Moi,] and the form is always the
relation of the two.” The object is inseparable from the subject as an element
of the thought, but it exists distinct from and independent of the soul, and
when it is not thought as well as when it is; otherwise it could not be object,
since the soul is all on the side of the subject. The soul acts only in
conjunction with the object, because she is not sufficient for herself, and
therefore, cannot suffice for her own activity. The object, if passive, is as
if it were not, and can afford no aid to the fact of thought. It must,
therefore, be active, and then the thought will be the joint product of the two
activities. It is a grave mistake, then to suppose that the activity in thought
is all on the side of the soul. The soul cannot think without the concurrent
activity of that which is not the soul. There is no product possible in any
order without two factors placed in relation with each other. God, from the
plentitude of his being, contains both factors in his own essence; but in
creatures they are distinct from and independent of each other. We do not
forget the intellectus agens of St.
Thomas, but it is not quite certain what he meant by it. The holy doctor does
not assert it as a faculty of the soul and represent its activity as purely
physical. Or if it be insisted that he does, he at least nowhere asserts,
implies, or intimates that it is active without the concurrence of the object;
for he even goes so far as to maintain that the lower acts only as put in
motion by the higher, and terrestrial by the celestial. Hence the praemotio physica of the Thomists, and
the necessity in conversion of prevenient grace – gratia praeveniens
But even granting that there is the class of facts alleged, and that we have the power to observe and analyze them as, in the language of Cousin, “they pass over the field of consciousness,” we cannot by induction attain to their principle and causes; for induction itself, without the first principles of all science, not supplied by it, can give us only a classification, generalization an hypothesis, or an abstract theory, void of all reality. The universal cannot be concluded, by way of deduction, from particulars, any more than particulars can be concluded, by way of deduction, from the universal. Till validated in the prima philosophia, or referred to the first principles, without which the soul can neither act nor exist, the classifications and generalizations attained to by induction are only facts, only particulars, from which no general conclusion can be drawn. Science is knowledge indeed; but the term is generally used in English to express the reduction of facts and particulars to their principles and causes. But in all the secondary sciences the principles and causes are themselves only facts, till carried up to the first principles and causes of all the real and all the knowable. Now without reason, then, has theology been called the queen of the sciences, nor without warrant do men, who do not hold that all change is progress, maintain that the displacement, in modern times, of this queen from her throne has had a deleterious effect on science, and tended to dissipate and enfeeble the human mind itself. We have no philosophers now-a-days of the nerve of Plato and Aristotle, the great Christian fathers, or the medieval doctors, none of whom ever dreamed of separating theology and philosophy. Even the men of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries had a grasp of thought, a robust vigor of mind, and a philosophic insight into the truth of things and their higher relations that you look in vain for in the philosophers of the eighteenth century and of our own. But this by the way. When this are at the worst, they sometimes mend.
Psychology, not psychologism, is a science, though not an inductive science, nor a science that can be attained by the study of the soul and her phenomena in the bosom of consciousness. The psychologists – those, we mean who adopt the psychological method, a method seldom adopted before the famous cogito, ergo sum of Descartes – seem incapable of comprehending that only the real is cognizable, and that abstractions are not real but unreal; and therefore that the first principles of science must be real, not abstract, and the first principle of things. Thus Professor Porter appears to see no real connection between them. True, he says, (p.64) “Knowledge and being are correlatives. There must be being in order that there may be knowledge. There can be no knowledge which is not the knowledge of being. Subjectively viewed, to know implies certainty; objectively, it requires reality. An act of knowing in which there is no certainty in the agent, and no reality in the object, is impossible in conception and in fact.” This would seem to assert that only being can be known, or that whatever is known is real being, which is going too far and falling into ontologism. Only being is intelligible per se; but existences which are from being and participate of being, though not intelligible in or by themselves, since they do not exist in and by themselves, may yet be really known by the light of being which creates them. We know by being, as well as being itself.
But be not alarmed. The professor’s being, the only object of knowledge, his reality without which there is no cognizable object, is nothing very formidable; for he tells us, in smaller type, on the same page, that “we must distinguish different kinds of objects and different kinds of reality. They may be formed by the mind, and exist [only] for the mind that forms them, or they may exist in fact and space for all minds, and yet in each case they are equally objects. Their reality may be mental and internal, or material and external, but in each case it is equally a reality. The thought that darts into the fancy and is gone as soon, the illusion that crosses the brain of the lunatic, the vision that frightens the ghost-seer, the spectrum which the camera paints on the screen, the reddened landscape seen through a colored lens, the yellow objects which the jaundiced eye cannot avoid beholding, each as really exists as does the matter of the solid earth, or the eternal forces of the cosmical system.” The “eternal forces” of the cosmical systems can by only God, who only is eternal. So the illusions of fancy, the hallucinations of the lunatic, and the eternal, self-existent, necessary being whom we call God, and who names himself I AM THAT AM, SUM QUI SUM, are alike being, and equally real!
The learned author tells us elsewhere that we call by the name being beings of very different kinds and sorts, owing to the poverty of our language, which supplies but one name for them. He will permit us to say that we suspect the poverty is not in the language. We have in the language two words which serve us to mark the precise difference between that which is in, from, and by itself alone, and that which exists in, from, and by being. The first is being, the other is existence. Being is properly applied only to God, who is, not Supreme Being, as is often said, but the one only being, the only one that can say, I AM THAT AM, or QUI EST; and it shows how strictly language represents the real order that in no tongue can we make an assertion without the verb TO BE, that is, only by being, that is, again, only by God himself. Existence explains itself. Existences are not being, but, as the ex implies, are from being, that is, from him in whom is their being, as St. Paul says, “For in him we live, and move, and are,” vivimus et movemur, et sumus. Reality includes being and all that is from and by being, or simply being and existences. Nothing else is real or conceivable; for, apart from God and what he creates, or besides God and his creatures, there is nothing, and nothing is nothing, and nothing is not intelligible or cognizable.
Dr. Porter understands by reality or being only what is an object of knowledge, or of the mind in knowing, though it may have no existence out of the mind, or as say the schoolmen, a parie rei. Hence, though the soul is certain that the object exists relatively to her act of knowing, she is not certain that it is something existing in nature. How, then, prove that there is any thing to correspond to the mental object, idea, or conception? In his Second Part, which treats of the representative power, he tells us that the objects represented and cognized in the representation are purely psychical, and exist only in the soul and for the soul alone. These, then, do not exist in nature; they are, in the ordinary use of the term, unreal, illusory, or with no existence except in and for the soul itself, why may it not be so in every instance, and all our knowledge be an illusion? How prove that in any fact of knowledge there is cognition of an object that exists distinct from an independent of the subject? Here is the pons asinorum of exclusive psychologists. There is no crossing the bridge from the subjective to the objective, for there is no bridge there, and subject and object must both be given simultaneously in one and the same act, or neither is given.
Dr. Porter, indeed, gives the subjective and what he calls the objective, together, in one and the same thought; but he leaves the way open for the question, whether the object does or does not exist distinct from and independent of the subject. This is the difficulty one has with Locke’s Essay on the Human Understanding. Locke makes ideas the immediate object of the cognitive act; for he defines them to be “that which the mind is immediately conversant.” If the soul can elicit the cognitive act with these ideas, which it is not pretended are things, how prove that there is any real world beyond them? It has never been done, and can never be done; for we have only the soul, for whose activity the idea or concept suffices, with which to do it, and hence the importance to psychologists of the question, How do we know that we know? and which they can answer only by a paralogism, or assuming the reality of knowledge with which to prove knowledge real.
For the philosopher, there is no such question, and nothing detracts so much from the philosophical genius of the illustrious Balmes as his assertion that all philosophy turns on the question of certainty. The philosopher, holding that to know is to know, has, after knowing, or having thought the object, no question of certainty to ask or to answer. The certainty that the object exists in nature is in the fact that the soul thinks it. The object is always a force or activity distinct from and independent of the subject, and since it is an activity it must either real being or real existence.
The error of the author, as of all psychologers, is not in assuming that the soul cannot think without the concurrence of the object, or that the object is not really object in relation to the soul’s cognitive power, but in supposing that the soul can find the object in that which has no real existence. He assumes that abstractions or mental conceptions, which have no real existence aside from the concrete or reality, from which the mind forms them, may be real objects of the soul in the fact of knowledge. But no abstractions or conceptions exist a parte rei. There are white things and round things, but no such existence as whiteness or roundness. These and other abstractions are formed by the mind operating on the concretes, and taking them under one aspect, or generalizing a quality they have in common with all concretes of their class, and paying no heed to any thing else in the concrete object. But these abstractions or general conceptions are cognizable and apprehended by the mind only in the apprehension of their concretes, white or round things. They are, as abstracted from white things or round things, no more objects of thought or of thought-knowledge than of sensible perception. We speak of abstractions which are simply nullities, not of genera and species, or universals proper, which are not abstractions but real; yet even these do not exist apart from the individual. They and their individuals subsist always together in a synthetic relation, and though distinguishable are never separable. The species is not a mere name, a mere mental conception or generalization; it is real, but exists and is known only as individualized.
The unreal is unintelligible, and, like all negation, is intelligible only in the reality denied. The soul, then, can think or know only the real, only real being, or real existences by the light of real being. If the soul can know only the real, she can only know things only in their real order, and consequently the order of the real and of the knowable is the same, and the principles of the real are the principles of science. The soul is an intelligent existence, and the principles, causes, and conditions of her existence are the principles, causes, and conditions of her intelligence, and therefore of her actual knowledge. We have, then, only to ascertain the principles of the real to determine the principles of science. The principles of the real are given to us in the first verse of Genesis: “In the beginning God created heaven and earth,” and in the first article of the Creed, “I believe in one God, maker of heaven and earth, and all things visible and invisible.” Or, as stated in strictly scientific terms, as affirmed in intuition. Being creates existences. The real and necessary being given in the scientific formula or intuition is indeed God; but this is not intuitively known, and can be known only discursively or by contemplation and reflection. We must not, then, in stating the first principles of the real, and of knowledge as given in intuition, use the term God, but being. We know by intuition being, but do not by intuition know that being is God. Hence the mistake of those who say we have intuition of God, or know by intuition that God is. We have intuition of that which is God, but not that what is given is God. Ontology is a most essential part of philosophy; but exclusive ontologists are as much sophists as are exclusive psychologists.
The first principles of reality are being, existence, and the creative act of being, whence the ideal formula or judgment, Being creates existences. This is the primum in the real order. All that is real and not necessary and self-sufficing being must be from being; for without real uncreated being there can be nothing, and existences are something only in so far as they participate of being. Things can exist from being, or hold from it, only by virtue of its creative act, which produces them by its own energy from nothing, and sustains them as existent. There is only the creative act by which existences can proceed from being. Emanation, generation, evolution, which have been asserted as the mode of procession of existences, give nothing really or substantially distinguishable from being. Existences, then, can really proceed from being only by the creative act, and, indeed, only by the free creative act of being; for necessary creation is no creation at all, and can be only a development or evolution of being itself. In theological language, then, God and creation include all the real; what is not God is creature or existence, and what is not creature or existence is God. There is no reality which is neither God nor creature, no tertium quid between being and existence, or between existence and nothing. The primum of the real is, then, the ideal formula or divine judgment, Ens creat existentias, for it affirms in their principle and their real relation all that is and all that exists. This formula is a proper judgment for it has all the terms and relations of a judgment, subject, predicate, and copula. Being is the subject, existences is the predicate, and the creative act the copula, which at once unites the predicate to the subject and distinguishes it from it. It is divine, because it is a priori, the primum of the real; and as only the real is intelligible or knowable, it must precede as its principle, type, and condition, every judgment that can be formed by an existence or creature, and therefore can be only the judgment of God affirming his own being and creating the universe and all things, visible and invisible, therein.
Now, as the soul can only know the real, this divine judgment must be not only the primum of the real, but of the knowable; and since the soul can know only as she exists, in the real relations in which she stands, and knows only by the aid of the object on which she depends for her existence and activity, it follows that this judgment is the primum scientificum, or the principle of all real or possible science.
Is it asked, How is this known or proved, if not by psychological observation and analysis? The answer is, by the analysis of thought, which discloses the divine judgment as its idea, or necessary and apodictic element. This is not psychologism nor the adoption of the psychological method. Psychologism starts from the assumption that thought, as to the activity that produces it, whatever may or may not be its object, is purely psychical, and that the ontological, if obtainable at all, is so by an induction from psychological facts. The first assumption is disproved by the fact just shown, that thought is not produced or producible by the psychical activity alone, but by the joint action of the two factors subject and object, in which both are affirmed. The other assumption is disposed of by the fact that what is found in the analysis of thought is not particular facts of phenomena from which the first principles are concluded by way of induction, which could give us only a generalization or abstraction, but the first principles themselves intuitively given.
Philosophers generally assert that certain conditions precedent, or certain ideas a priori, are necessary to every fact of experience or actual cognition. Kant, in his masterly Critik der reinen Vernuft, calls them sometimes cognitions, sometimes synthetic judgments a priori, but fails to identify them with the divine judgment, and holds them to be necessary forms of the subject. Cousin asserts them and calls them necessary and absolute ideas, but fails to identify them with the real, and even denies that they can be so identified. Reid recognized them, and called them the first principles of human belief, sometimes the principles of common sense, after Father Buffier, which all our actual knowledge presupposes and must take for granted. Professor Porter also recognizes them, holds them to intuitively given, calls them certain necessary assumptions, first truths or principles without which no science is possible, but fails to identify them with the divine judgment, and seems to regard them as abstract principles and ideas, as if abstractions could subsist without their concretes, or principles ever be abstract. We deny that they are abstract ideas, necessary assumptions, or necessary forms of the understanding or cognitive faculty, and hold them to be the principles of things, alike of the real and the knowable, without which no fact exists and no act of knowledge is possible. They cannot be created by the mind, nor formed by the mind operating on the concrete objects of existence, nor in any manner obtained by our own mental activity; for without them there is no mind, no mental activity, no experience. Dr. Porter, after Reid, Kant, Cousin, and others, has clearly seen this, and conclusively proved it – no philosopher more conclusively – and it is one of the merits of his book. He therefore justly calls them intuitions or principles intuitively given; yet either we do not understand him, or he regards them as abstract truths or abstract principles. But truths and principles are never abstract, and only the concrete or real can be intuitively given. Those intuitions, then, must be either real being or contingent existences; not the latter, for they all bear the marks of necessity and universality; then they must be the real and necessary being, and therefore the principles of things, and not simply principles of science. Dr. Porter makes them real principles in relation to the mental act; but we do not find that he identifies them with the principles of the real. He doubtless holds that they represent independent truths, and truths which are the principles of things; but that he holds them, as present to the mind, to be the principles themselves, we do not find.
Dr. Porter’s error in his Part IV., in which he discusses and defines intuitions, and which must be interpreted by the foregoing parts of his work, appears to us to be precisely in his taking principle to mean the starting-point of the soul in the fact of knowledge, and distinguishing it from the principle of the real order. He distinguishes between the object in mente and the object in re, and holds that the former is by no means identical with the latter. He thus supposes a difference between the scientific order and the real, and therefore that the principle of the one is not necessarily the principle of the other. This is to leave the question open, whether there is any real order to respond to the scientific order, and to cast a doubt on the objective validity of all our knowledge. The divine judgment, or ideal formula, we have shown, is alike the primum reale and the primum scientificum, and therefore asserts that the principles of the two orders are identical, and that the scientific must follow the real, for only the real is knowable. Hence science is and must be objectively certain.
The intuitive affirmation of the formula, Being creates existences, creates, places the soul, and constitutes her intelligent existence. The author rightly says every thought is a judgment. There is no judgment without the copula, and the only real copula is the copula of the divine judgment or intuition, that is, the creative act of being. Being creative the soul is the principle of her acts, and therefore of her knowing, or the fact of knowledge. There is, then, no thought or judgment without the creative act for its copula. The two orders, then, are united and made identical in principle by the creative act of being. The creative act unites the acts of the soul, as the soul itself, to being.
The difficulty some minds feel in accepting this conclusion grows out of a misapprehension of the creative act, which they look upon as a past instead of a present act. The author holds that what is past has ceased to exist, and that the objects we recall in memory are, “created a second time.” He evidently misapprehends the real character of space and time. These are not existences, entities, as say the scholastics, but simple relations, with no existence, no reality, apart from the relata, or the related. Things do not exist in space and time; for space and time simply mark their relation to one another of coexistence and succession. Past and future are relations that subsist in or among creatures, and have their origin in the fact that creatures as second causes and in relation to their own acts are progressive. On the other side of God, there is no past, no future; for his act has no progression, and is never in potentia ad actum. It is a complete act, and in it all creatures are completed, consummated, in their beginning, and hence the past and the future are as really existent as what we call the present. The Creator is not a causa transicus, that creates the effect and leaves it standing alone, but a causa manens, ever present in the effect and creating it.
Creation is not in space and time, but originates the relations so-called. The creative act, therefore, can never be a past or a future act, an act that produces it always here and now. The act of conservation, as theologians teach, is identically the act of creation. God preserves or upholds us in existence by creating us at each instant of our lives. The universe, with all it contains, is a present creation. In relation to our acts as our acts or our progressiveness toward our final cause or last end, the universe was created and will remain as long as the creator wills; but in relation to God it is created here and now, and as newly created at this moment as when the sons of the morning sang together over its production, by the divine energy alone, from nothing; and the song ceases not; they are now singing it. There is nothing but this present creative act that stands between existences and nothing. The continuity of our existence is in the fact that God creates and does not cease to create us.
We have only to eliminate from our minds the conceptions that transport the relations of space and time to the Creator, or represent them as relations between Creator and creature, where the only relation is that of cause and effect, and to regard the creative act as having no relations of space and time, to be able to understand how the divine judgment, intuitively affirmed, is at once the principle of the real and of the scientific, and the creative act, the copula of being and existence, is the copula or every judgment or thought, as is proved by the fact already noted, that in no language can assertion be made without the verb to be, that is, without God.
Dr. Porter, engaged in constructing not the science of things, but a science of knowing – a Wissenschaftslehre – has apparently been content with the intuitions as principles or laws of science, without seeking to identify them with the real. He is a doctor of divinity, and cannot intend to deny, with Sir William Hamilton and the Positivists, that ontology can be any part of human science. The Positivists, with whom, in this respect, Sir William Hamilton, who has finished the Scottish school, fully agrees, assert that the whole field of science is restricted to positive facts and the induction of their laws, and that their principles and causes, the ontological truths, if such there be, belong to the unknowable, thus reducing, with Sir William Hamilton, science to nescience. But though Dr. Porter probably holds that there is an ontological reality, and knows perfectly well that it cannot be concluded from psychical phenomena, either by way of induction or of deduction, he yet seems unable or unwilling to say that the mind has in intuition direct and immediate apprehension of it. The first and necessary truths, or the necessary assumptions, as he calls them, which the mind is compelled to make in knowing particulars, such as “what is, is,” “the same thing cannot both be and not be at the same time,” “whatever begins to exist must have a cause,” &c., are, in his doctrine, abstract ideas, which, though they may represent a reality beyond themselves – and he tries to prove that they do – are yet not that reality itself. These ideas he states, indeed, in an abstract form, in which they are not real; but they are all identified in the ideal formula, or divine judgment, which is not an abstract but a real, concrete judgment. He holds them to be intuitions, indeed; but intuition, in his view, simply stands opposed to discursion, and he makes it an act of the soul immediately affirming itself by its own creative act. Till being, in its creative act, affirms itself, the soul does not exist; and the intuitive act is that which creates it, and creates it intelligent. The intuition cannot, then, be the act of the soul, unless you suppose the soul can act without existing, or know without intelligence. If we make intuition the act of the soul, and suppose the necessary truths intuitively given are abstractions or representative ideas, how can we know that there is any reality represented by them? The old question again: How pass from the subjective to the objective? – from the scientific to the real?
The doctrine of representative ideas comes from the scholastics, and most probably from the misapprehension of their philosophy. Plato maintained that we know by similitude, which similitude he called idea. No doubt, Plato often means by idea something else; but this is one of the senses in which he uses the term. This idea, with the peripatetics, becomes in sensibles the phantasm, in intelligibles the intelligible species. The intelligible species was assumed as something mediating between the soul and the intelligible object. But though they asserted it as a medium, they never made it the object cognized. In their language, it was the objectum quo, not the objectum quod; and St. Thomas teaches expressly that the mind does not terminate in the species, but attains the intelligible object itself. In the article entitled An Old Quarrel, we showed that what the scholastics probably had in mind when they spoke of the intelligible species, is adequately expressed by what we, after the analogy of external vision, call the light, which illuminates at once the subject and object, and renders the one cognitive and the other cognizable. This light is not furnished by the mind, but by being itself light, and the source of all light, present in every fact of knowledge in the creative act.
The Scottish school has made away with the phantasms, and proved that, in what our author calls sense-perception, we perceive not a phantasm, but the real external object itself; but in the intelligible or supersensible world, this direct apprehension of the object Dr. Porter appears not to admit. He consciously or unconsciously interposes a mundus logicus between the mind and the mundus physicus. The categories are with him abstract relations, and logic is a mere formal science. This is evident from Part III., in which he treats of what he calls “thought-knowledge.” But the categories are not abstract forms of thought but real relations of things; logic founded in the principle and constitution of things, not simply in the constitution and laws of the human mind. Its type and origins are in being itself, in the Most Holy Trinity. The creative act is the copula of every strictly logical judgment. The Creator is logic, or, as Plato would say, logic in itself, and therefore all the works of God are strictly logical, and form, mediante his creative act, a dialectic whole with himself.
Whatever does not conform to the truth and order of things is illogical, a sophism: and every sophism sins against the essence of God, as well as against the constitution of the human mind. Psychologism is a huge sophism; for it assumes that the soul is being, and can exist and act independently when it is only a created dependent existence; that it is God, when it is only man. Satan was the first psychologist we read of. Ontologism is also a sophism of very much the same sort. Psychologism asserts that man is God; ontologism asserts that God is man. This is all the difference between them, and they terminate at the same point. Existences cannot be logically deduced from being, because being, sufficing for itself, cannot be constrained to create either by extrinsic or by intrinsic necessity. Existences are not necessarily involved in the very conception of being, but are contingent, and dependent on the free-will of the Creator. God cannot be concluded by induction from psychological facts; for the universal cannot be concluded by induction from the particular, nor the necessary from the contingent.
Both the ontological primum and the psychological must be given intuitively and in their real synthesis, or no science of either is possible. The mind must take its starting – point and principle of science from neither separately, but from the real synthesis of the two, as in the ideal formula. The attempt to construct an exclusively ontological or an exclusively psychological science is as absurd and as sophistical as the attempt to express a judgment without the copula, or to construct a syllogism without the middle term. The real copula of the judgment, the real medius terminus that unites the two extremes of the syllogism, is the creative act of being.
All Gentile philosophy failed, because it failed to recognize the creative act. Outside of Judaism, the tradition of creation was lost in the ancient world. In vain will you seek a recognition of it in Plato or Aristotle, or in any of the old Gentile philosophers. In its place you find only emanation, generation, or formation. The error of the Gentiles reappears in our modern philosophers, who – since Descartes detached philosophy from theology, of which it is simply the rational element – are endeavoring to construct science and the sciences without the creative act, and if they escape pantheism or atheism, it is by the strength of their faith in revelation, not by the force of their logic. Dr. Porter really attempts to construct the philosophy of the human intellect, unconsciously certainly, on purely atheistic or nihilistic principles; that is, without any principles at all. He, of course, believes in God, believes that God made the world; but most likely he believes he made it as the watchmaker makes a watch, so that when wound up and started it will go of itself – till it runs down. This is a very widespread error, and an error that originates with so-called philosophers, not with the people. Hence we find the scientific men in large numbers who look upon the world God has made as a huge machine; and now that it is made, as independent of him, capable of going ahead on its own hook, and even able to bind him by its laws, and deprive him of his freedom of action, as if it were or could be any thing but what he at each moment makes it. He ought, as a doctor of divinity, to understand that there can be no science without the efficacious presence of God, who created the soul, and none without his presence creating it now, and by his light rendering it intelligent. To construct science without God in his creative act as the principle, is to begin in sophism and end in nihilism.
We need hardly say that, in asserting the divine judgment or ideal formula as the principle of all science, and as the necessary and apodictic element of every fact of knowledge, we do not pretend that the mind is able in the first moment of intellectual life to say to itself, or to others, God creates existences. This is the real formula which expresses in principle the entire real order, but it is the formula to which the principles given in intuition are reduced by reflection. There are a large number of minds, and among them our illustrious Yale Professor of Moral Philosophy and Metaphysics, who do not recognize the identity of being with God, or are aware that the intuition is of that which is God. A still larger number do not distinguish the so-called necessary ideas from the contingent objects of experience cognizable only by them, and very few, even among professors of philosophy, ever identify these ideas – the necessary, the universal, the eternal, and the immutable – with real being, or reflect that they cannot subsist as abstractions, and that the universal, the eternal, the immutable, the necessary, of which we have intuition in all our mental acts, is and must be real, necessary, universal, eternal, and immutable, being, that is to say, God himself. Few reflect far enough to perceive that in intuition the object is real being; and the number of men who distinctly recognize all the terms of the formula in their real relation is a very small minority, and every day growing smaller.
But the intuition is not, as Dr. Porter supposes, of ideas which lie latent or dormant in the mind till occasion wakes them up and calls them into action; but they are the first principles, or rather the principles from which the mind proceeds in all its intellectual acts. They are intuitively affirmed to the mind in the creative act, and are ever present and operative; but we become aware of them, distinguish them, and what they imply or connote, only by reflection, by contemplating them as they are held up before the mind, or sensibly represented to it, in language. Though the formula is really the primum philosophicum, we attain to it, or are masters of what is really presented in intuition, and are able to say, being is God, and God creates existences, only at the end of philosophy, or as its last and highest achievement.
The principles are given in the very constitution of the mind, and are present to it from its birth, or, if you will, from the first instant of its conception; but they are by no means what Descartes and others have called innate ideas. Descartes never understood by idea the intelligible object itself, but a certain mental representation of it. The idea was held to be rather the image of the thing than the thing itself. It was a tertium quid somewhere between real and unreal, and was regarded as the medium through which the mind attained to the object. In this sense we recognize no ideas. In the fact of knowledge, what we know is the object itself, not its mental representation. We take idea or the ideal of the objective sense, and understand by it the immediate and the necessary, permanent, immutable object of intuition, and it is identical with what we have called the primum philosophicum, or divine judgment, which precedes the mind’s own activity. Hence we call the judgment the “ideal formula.” With this view of idea or the ideal, analogons, at least, to one of the senses of Plato, from whom we have the word, it is evident that the Cartesian doctrine of innate ideas, which was afterward changed to that of innate faculties, cannot find in us an advocate.
The formula is ideal and apodictic, but it is not the entire object of cognitive act. It is that which precedes and renders possible experience, or what Kant calls synthetic judgments a posterioir. We have said the soul can know only as she exists, and that whatever objects she depends on for her existence must she depend on for her acts, and it enters into all her thoughts or facts of knowledge. The soul depends for existence on God, on humanity and nature. In the formula, we have only the ideal principle of man and nature, and therefore the ideal formula, while it furnishes the principle and light which render knowledge possible, does not supersede experience, or actual knowledge acquired by the exercise of the soul and her faculties. Here the soul proceeds by analysis and synthesis, by observation and induction or deduction, according to the nature of the subject. We do not quarrel with the inductive sciences, nor question their utility; we only maintain that they are not sciences till carried up to principles of all real science presented to the mind in intuition. Induction is proper in constructing the physical sciences, though frequently improperly applies; but it is inapplicable, as Lord Bacon held, in the construction of philosophy; for in that we must start from the ideal formula, and study things in their principles and in their synthesis.
We have got through only the author’s Introduction, yet that has brought up nearly all the salient points of his entire volume. Here we might stop, and assuredly should stop, if we had no higher object in view than to criticise its author, or simply to refute his psychological method. We believe one of the first steps toward arresting the atheistical or pantheistical tendency of the age, and of bringing the mind back to truth and the logic of things, is to set forth and vindicate sound philosophy, the philosophy which in substance has always been preserved in the Christian church. To use up an author or to denounce a false system is a small affair. The only solid refutation of error is in presenting the truth it impugns. As there are several questions of importance raised by the author on which we have hardly touched, we propose to return to the book and consider them at our earliest convenience.