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necessity. This idea is confirmed, when he quotes President Edwards, as saying, that it always " has reference to some supposable voluntary opposition or endeavor, which is insufficient,” p. 299. He endorses this sentiment on the next page,“ Natural necessity admits of voluntary, but ineffectual opposition from him, who is subject to the necessity.” It is certain that no such opposition is possible, unless to agents invested with the power of will : hence, if this be the universal reference of natural necessity, it will follow that voluntary beings are its only possible subjects. The illustrations which he adopts, as the case of a man being dragged to prison“ in direct opposition to every act of his will," insolve and imply the same view. We have then gained Dr. Edwards's conception of natural necessity; it is this,-it is a necessity created by the force of natural causes ; it always has voluntary beings for its subjects, and refers to some supposable voluntary, but ineffectual opposition in those beings to the result. No element is omitted, none added to his statement. We have it precisely as it came from his pen. I propose now to pause a moment at this point, and with some care examine this interpretation of natural or physical necessity.
1. In the first place, although intended to be such by its author, it is not an exact representation of President Edwards on this point. An important qualification of the Elder Edwards is overlooked in this statement. His language is the following,—“By natural necessity, as applied to men, I mean such necessity as men are under through force of natural causes,” etc. Again, " That necessity, which has been explained, consisting in an infallible connection of the things signified by the subject and predicate of a proposition, as intelligent beings are the subjects of it, is distingnished into moral and natural necessity.” Upon a comparison of these passages with the language of Dr. Edwards, no man can fail to see that the latter does not do entire justice to the former. In both passages President Edwards speaks of natural necessity “as applied to men,"__"as intelligent beings are the subjects of it.” “ This carries his remarks into a limited and specific sphere, and leaves the question undecided, whether natural necessity has any other applications. Dr. Edwards in quoting the President, omits to notice this attitude of the question; he defines natural necessity in a generic sense; his terms are universal and include a definition, not in one, but in all the applications of natural necessity. His
language clearly implies, that it always has voluntary beings for its subjects, and refers to some supposable, but insufficient opposition in those beings; whereas President Edwards stated the case so far, and so far only as it is “ applied to men,”
as intelligent beings are the subjects of it.” It is true, that this is the form of natural necessity, which prevailed in the mind of President Edwards; he seeins scarcely to have thought of any other ; but it is not true, as it is of Dr. Edwards, that his formal definition commits him to this view, as the only kind of natural necessity that is possible.
2. I observe again that this interpretation of natural necessity is incorrect, by being defective and partial.
It will be granted, that Dr. Edwards has succeeded in presenting a case of natural necessity ;-necessity in relation to voluntary beings, where the event is made certain, notwithstanding any supposable or actual opposition of will to it; it is certain, while the mind chooses a different event, which choice is insufficient to prevent the real event and secure the one chosen. The event is clearly by a natural necessity in relation to its subject. The mind chooses a certain consequent, while something else, not only prevents it, but makes another consequent both certain and physically necessary in relation to the mind. This decides not, whether that something else is also subjected to a physical necessity; it settles the question only so far as the mind is involved.
Is this then the only province of physical necessity? We are shut up to it by the definition. Is the definition true ? What shall be said of those cases, which have no reference whatever to the will of an agent, where the subject of the necessity is not a voluntary agent, where indeed it is doubtful, whether the subject be an agent in any sense ? When a stone falls to the ground, is not the phenomenon by a natural necessity in relation to the stone ? Is not every physical phenomenon an instance of such necessity in relation to its subject ? This necessity embraces not only the certainty of the phenomenon, but a total want of power not to fall or to any other phenomenon, as resident in the stone. It has not a voluntary being for its subject, neither has it any reference to any supposable, but insufficient opposition to the consequent event; The case by its terms is one of total want of power to the contrary, and therefore of all supposable opposition. In the light of this illustration the defect in the above exposition must be,
apparent. In the language of logicians, we should say, that it employs the term, natural necessity, in an undistributed sense ; states what it is in reference to a single class of objects, and omits to notice it in other applications, where it holds equally true. In the two references it is not precisely the same. In the one it is modified by relation to the will of an agent ; there is a certainty of the event with supposable, but inefficient power
of resistance. In the other it has no relation to the will of an agent; there is an equal certainty with a total want of all power of supposable resistance or opposition to the event. These cases are not in all respects identical ; yet both are clear and decisive instances of this kind of necessity. Physical necessity is a genus of which the two illustrations constitute distinct species. The point of generic resemblance is the certainty of the event with the impossibility that it should not be. The specific differences are these : in one the necessity has reference to the will of an agent, where ineffectual opposition is supposable ; in the other it has reference to a physical subject, where no such supposed opposition is allowable. Now Dr. Edwards has the merit of defining one of the species of this genus ; his mistake is, that he treats it as the genus, a very important mistake in this discussion, as will be shown in the progress of these observations. His definition is true in a single application, but entirely false in another, which is as legitimate as the one he contemplates.
3. I observe in the third place, that this defective and partial construction has an important bearing upon the question, whether the two necessities moral and natural, are distinct.
Dr. Edwards contended, that in moral necessity any opposition of will to the event was insupposable--that it implied an absurdity. Whereas, natural necessity always had reference 10 such supposable, but insufficient opposition, and hence it was clearly distinguished from that which is called moral. This reasoning works very well, so long as we allow him to mean by moral necessity, simple certainty of the existence of volition, and to construe natural necessity in the manner already defined. But suppose we take natural necessity in its application to physical subjects; here we shall find, that it does not in its nature differ materially from moral necessity in application to causes and effects of “a moral nature.” In the one case you have certainty of the moral sequent with opposition as insupposable ; in the other you have an equal certainty of the physical sequent
and an equal insupposableness of opposition to the existence of that sequent. If it be absurd to suppose the power of willing opposed to itself, in the very act of willing, is it any the less absurd to suppose opposition where there is no power of opposition? In both sequents, therefore, there is no supposable opposition; in both there is an equal certainty of existence. What then becomes of the pretended distinction between the two necessities from which the sequents arise ?. Does it not seem at best to vanish into emptiness? But the distinction is a point too momentous to be given up. Here is a difficulty. What is the mode of obviating it ? This is done by contracting the field of philosophical vision, and fixing the eye upon a partial and defective view of natural necessity. Having taken this view he leaves the field of argument, bearing in his hand the laurel of a successful contest; it however withers in his
grasp the moment the sphere of vision is so enlarged as to include natural necessity in all its applications. This is the very thing which Dr. Edwards did not do. Had he turned his attention to physical necessity in relation to objects purely physical, as well as to voluntary agents, he would have found it difficult, if not impossible to escape the charge of confounding the two necessities. His mistake was exceedingly opportune; it served the interests of his cause admirably well; it enabled him to distinguish natural necessity as applied to voluntary agents, from that which is moral. It made no provision, however, for any such distinction, when natural necessity is taken in application to physical subjects. It is to be regretted that Dr. Edwards should have confined his attention to a single reference of physical necessity : how he would have disposed of the difficulty attending its application to physical subjects, it is impossible to imagine.
4. Finally, I observe that Dr. Edwards seems to me to have somewhat entangled himself, even upon his own construction of natural necessity.
Recollect that it always" has reference to some supposable voluntary opposition or endeavor, which is insufficient.” If then the will be supposed in any case to oppose the will, there is an insufficient opposition of the volition not prevalent to the prevailing one, and consequently the volition that prevails will take place by natural necessity, since there is voluntary, but ineffectual opposition to its existence. Has Dr. Edwards anywhere admitted the reality of such a case? He says" He
may from prevailing motives and from moral necessity choose virtue. He may at the same time from weaker motives and ineffectual temptations choose vice, and so far feel reluctant or indisposed to virtue.”
“ Yet there is a mutual opposition between the forementioned different acts of choice, the choice of virtue and the choice of vice," p. 302. “ They may in particular cases be equal, or so nearly equal, that neither of them, at the instant, appears to prevail, and the man is in a strait betwixt two.' In other instances they may, for a time at least, alternately prevail, and exhibit a man of very inconsistent conduct. In other cases one may generally prevail,” p. 302, 303. It is important to notice these concessions of Dr. Edwards ; they are these : that the choice of virtue and the choice of vice may exist in the mind " at the same time;" that between these two volitions there is “ mutual opposition;" that sometimes they are equal or nearly so ; that sometimes they alternately prevail; that at other times one generally prevails. What then is the characteristic which he assigns to natural necessity ? It is, that there should be voluntary, but insufficient opposition to the consequent event. In every such case the event is one of natural necessity. Do not the above concessions bring at least one of the volitions in question within the range of this category? Two volitions are admitted to be in the mind" at the same time," and to be opposed to each other. Hence the prevailing volition would seem to be by a natural necessity, since there is the voluntary, but ineffectual opposition" of the volition that does not prevail.
But lest we should do injustice to the views of Dr. Edwards, let us hear him fully on this subject; let us see how he solves this difficulty. He says—" But though a man who is determined by moral necessity to choose a virtuous course, cannot in the act oppose that choice or the cause of it; yet he may other acts of his will oppose both the choice and the cause, and thus in different acts choose and act differently.” “ And this weaker choice is no more opposed to the moral necessity, which causes it, than the stronger choice of virtue is to the moral necessity which causes that,” p. 303. This is one solution. Recollect the concession, that there may be “ at the same time" the choice of virtue and the choice of vice-that between the two there may be “mutual opposition,” and that one may be prevalent. By the prevalence of one he cannot mean the nonexistence of the other ;" both exist“ at the same time,"? but one
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