« AnteriorContinuar »
• The great truths, that Natural and Divine operations are one, and that the laws of Nature are Divine thoughts'
• If the laws of our reason did not exist in Nature, we should vainly attempt to force them upon her; if the laws of Nature did not exist in our reason, we should not be able to comprehend them.'
OERSTED's Soul in Nature (The Spiritual in the Material).
AN ILLUSTRIOUS ASTRONOMER, who flourished about the time of the invention of the telescope 1_a period when inquisitive and reflecting minds were beginning to perceive the difficulty of reconciling the discoveries of Physical Science with the Theology of the Christian Fathers--has left on record these memorable expressions :—'In Theology we balance authorities; in However w Science we weigh reasons. A holy man was Lactantius, Laww we who denied that the earth could be round. A holy Combine autre man was Augustine, who, granting the earth's rotundity, denied the antipodes. A holy thing to me is the Inquisition, which, allowing the smallness of the earth, denies its motion. But more holy to me is Truth ; and hence I prove, by Science, that the earth is round, is inhabited on every side, is of small size, and in motion among the stars.'2
Tus wilto vlason
i Note A, p. 44.
2 'In Theologia quidem authoritatum, in Philosophia vero rationum, esse momenta ponderanda. Sanctus igitur Lactantius, qui terram negavit esse rotundam : Sanctus Augustinus, qui, rotunditaté concessa, negavit tamen antipodas; Sanctum Officium hodiernorum, qui, exilitate terræ concessa, negant tamen ejus motum; at. magis
We are living at a time, in the progress of human society, when these conclusions, with which the courageous Kepler startled the learned world of the seventeenth century, have come to be taught as common-places to children in our national elementary schools !-a time when it is generally acknowledged that man possesses no other means for the attainment of truth than his natural intelligence, acting normally, in accordance with its known constitution or observed functions; although it must be admitted the precise nature, number, and power of the intellectual faculties are still matters of controversy, so that, on the most serious subjects-What is Truth ?-how can it be known to be such, or become capable of being verified, or tested, as Truth ?-are enquiries upon which great difference of opinion prevails; wherefore, when we attempt a survey of the field of knowledge in its entirety, we find it distributable into three principal divisions, corresponding not only to apparent differences in knowledge itself, but to the several methods which the mind has pursued in its search after truth methods which, for our present purpose, are sufficiently denominated the Theological, the Metaphysical, and the Scientific.
mihi sancta Veritas, qui, terram et rotundam, et antipodibus circumhabitatam, et contemptissimæ parvitatis esse, et denique per sidera ferri, salvo Doctorum Ecclesiæ respectu, ex Philosophia demonstro.'— Kepler, De Motibus Stella Martis, ex Observationibus G. N. Tichonis Brahe, fol. Pragæ, 1609. Introductio. The entire scope and argument of this extraordinary treatise show that
Philosophia' is used to denote what we now more distinctly term • Science.'
Note B, p. 46.
Now a question here presents itself-Are these methods of equal authority, or are certain branches of knowledge duly authenticated by one method, whilst certain other branches of knowledge are duly authenticated by another method ?—a question which, even with our present enlightenment, it is perhaps not easy to answer, but towards the solution of which we shall, I think, make some approach whilst we are considering shortly what is the distinguishing, or characteristic, test or standard of truth upon which each of these methods more particularly relies. Considered separately, their several standards or tests may be stated generally as follows. The theological method considers that our most important knowledge is derived from sacred scriptures, or the traditions and writings of holy men of old, either as revealed by God therein, or as plainly deducible by logical inference therefrom; and it considers that life on earth is providentially governed by the will of God, acting in human affairs in the manner so frequently alluded to in such scriptures. That such will is indeed, as to much that takes place on earth, inscrutable, and especially so in reference to that vast amount of existing misery and evil, in the very midst of which we, in this metropolis, may truly say
we live and move and have our being;' yet that this Divine Will, however mysteriously manifested, is ever operative for wise and beneficent purposes ; and that man himself possesses the means of influencing it in his favour by holiness of life, and by prayer, directly addressed to Deity; and the test or standard of truth, as held by the theological school, is
therefore the will of God, principally made known to us, and influenced in the manner I have mentioned.
The metaphysical methodo considers that the test or standard of truth is to be sought for in the human faculties themselves. That real knowledge can only result from studying and analysing our ideas and sensations, and that the test of truth lies in the consciousness of man; so that, what the consciousness thoroughly believes to be true, and of which no further explanation seems possible, is an ultimate fact of consciousness, and therefore is, indeed, Truth itself.
The scientific method is remarkably distinct from the two other methods to which I have been briefly referring, and the distinction consists essentially in this : that the scientific method considers that real knowledge, such as the human mind can clearly comprehend, or feel positively certain about, or have indisputably proved, is only to be derived from observation and experience of nature, and the study of her invariable laws.2 Laws of nature being a term used by our finite intelligence to denote those constant co-existences and
1 Examination of the Method employed by Metaphysicians.' Buckle's History of Civilisation, vol. i. chap. iii., and the authorities there collected, especially Locke's Essay concerning Human Understanding, Stewart's Philosophy of the Human Mind, J. Mill's Analysis of the Phenomena of the Human Mind, Sir W. Hamilton's Discussions, &c.; and see Mansell's Metaphysics, Black, 1860,
2 " The basis of all our real knowledge is the reliance we place on the constancy and precision of Nature.'—Mackay's Progress of the Intellect, &c., “Intellectual Religion,' sec. 7; and see Cumberland's De Legibus Naturæ Disquisitio Philosophica (published in 1672). In this work the schoolmen and fathers, the canonists and casuists have vanished like ghosts at the first daylight; the continual appeal is to experience and never to authority.'-Hallam's Lit. of Europe, vol. iii. p. 400, ed. 1854.