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is the basis of the certainty of the connection. To reverse the order of statement;-the prior term is a cause ; its nature as a cause is the ground of the certainty of its connection with a sequent; that certainty of connection is the ground of the certainty of the existence of that sequent. What other conceptions can be found in any consequential necessity? They exhaust the whole idea : they are either admitted, or proved to belong to moral necessity. How, then, do the two necessities differ, in respect to the prior terms of the two connections? As necessities, I am unable to see any distinction between them.
In the second place, we may institute an examination of the posterior terms of the two connections, e. g., the sequents ;What are they? A “ volition or voluntary action,” and something which " is not a volition or voluntary action.” In the order of sequence, they are consequents-resulting phenomena. They are more; they are effects, and as such, alike; for no effect can differ from another in that property which is coinmon to all effects. Suppose, then, that they differ in other respects, which are consistent with their common character as consequents and effects; will this make a distinction in the two necessities from which they arise ? Obviously not; for here, as in the former case, the distinction would be laid beyond the range of the subject. If a man were describing phenomena, such a distinction would be proper ; but if he be reasoning on the subject of necessity, it is not pertinent.
Before leaving this subject, it may be well to advert to another ground of distinction, e. g., that natural necessity always “has reference to some supposable voluntary opposition or endeavor, which is insufficient;" whereas “no such opposition or contrary will and endeavor is supposable in the case of moral necessity, which is a certainty of the inclination and will itself,” p. 299. It is a sufficient reply to this, to say that natural necessity, as already shown, does not always have reference to such supposable opposition, and that moral necessity is here used in the sense which is not a subject of debate. This distinction, therefore, would amount to nothing.
From the preceding criticism, the reader will of course draw his own conclusions. I have aimed to do full justice to the arguments of Dr. Edwards, both in stating them and in replying to them. Has he made out a satisfactory distinction between the two necessities? I am compelled to reply in the nega
III. The Dictum Necessitatis.
The above title is shown to characterize a certain species of argument, on which much stress is laid by the advocates of moral necessity. It is the great element of one of their most formidable deinonstrations against their opponents. Its efficacy seems to have been ever regarded as equal to the famous Dictum Logicum of Aristotle. It is much relied upon, both by President and Dr Edwards, in their arguments on the Will.
What is this Dictum ? The following extracts will answer. · Liberty in the sense of our opponents is not possible or conceivable. By liberty they mean a power to cause all our own volitions, and to cause them freely. But that we should thus cause them, is neither possible nor conceivable. If we should thus cause a volition, we should doubtless cause it by a causal act. It is impossible that we cause any thing without a causal act. And, as it is supposed that we cause it freely, the causal act must be a free act, e. g., an act of the will, or volition. And as the supposition is, that all our volitions are caused by ourselves, the causal act must be caused by another, and so on infinitely, which is both impossible and inconceivable,” p. 323, 324. President Edwards before him had reasoned in the same manner. He says, “ An active being can bring no effects to pass by his activity, but what are consequent upon his acting.” The inference was, that if the mind causes action, it must do it by a causative act, which being an act, requires another causative act, and so on ad infinitum ; and thus we become involved in an endless series of actions or volitions. This argument is one of the strong-holds of necessity ;-the fate of much that has been written by President and Dr. Edwards turns upon its validity. It assumes a certain principle in regard to cause, e. 8.2 that a cause cannot act but by first acting to produce that act ;
- this is the Dictum Necessitatis. When applied to the mind, it was agreed, that the mind cannot cause its own volitions, but by first acting to cause them, which supposition leads to an endless series of acts; if the mind be the cause, the reasoning is unanswerable, if the dictum be allowed.— I propose, therefore, to make it the subject of the following remarks.
I. It is an assumption in regard to all causes. Dr. Edwards has not stated it in the general form adopted above: his sentiment was made in view of a specific cause, e. g., the mind as
caure of volition; but as he has said nothing to show why it should be true of the mind any more than of other causes, it is legitimate to test its validity as a universal category of cause. The conclusiveness of the reasoning based upon it, depends upon its universal truth.
II. The reasoning offered in its support proceeds upon a doubtful, if not a false analogy. It is true that bodily sequents are caused by the mind (if caused by it at all) by a volition prior to those sequents. If I will to walk, I cause the motion of my limbs by a previous volition. Dr. Edwards reasons correctly in regard to a ship-carpenter being the efficient cause or builder of a ship, when he supposes that it would be absurd to say, that the carpenter builds the ship without the intervention of exertions or volitions for this purpose. The bodily sequents connected with the building are caused by the mind through the medium of volitions prior to the sequents. But does it hence follow that the volitions are caused by the mind in the same way, if caused by it all? Can you reason conclusively from one case to the other ? Not unless they are entirely parallel. Dr. Edwards does not know, that the mind in fact causes the bodily sequents at all. It may be cause of the volitions, which volitions are known only as the stated antecedents of the sequents. It will not do to assume, that the sequents and volitions have a parallel relation to the mind, and then reason from the causation of the one to that of the other.
If the sequents are caused by the mind through the medium of volitions, it does not follow that these volitions must equally be sequents of other volitions, and so on ad infinitum. Indeed neither Dr. Edwards, nor any body else, knows that a finite cause ever causes by a causative act. What is known is simply this, that acts of causes have stated sequenis,—but the efficiency which connects the sequents and the acts is not known to be in the acts or in the causes of those acts. I may will a motion and be the cause of the will, when something else may be the cause that connects the willing and the motion in the order of a stated sequence.
Ill. The plausibility of the assumption and of the reasoning to which it leads, rests mainly on an ambiguity in the use of the word cause. It is sometimes used for that which by acting produces effects consequent upon the acting. In this sense, it is always used by those, who seek to press their opponents with the absurdity of an infinite series of acts. It is also used for that SECOND SERIES, VOL. IX.
which acts, which is itself the originator of phenomena. In that sense it causes action without prior action. Now if we use cause in the first sense, it is absurd to say, that mind is cause, or indeed any thing else, for it is impossible to escape the charge of infinite succession. If we use it in the second sense, no such consequence will follow. If proof of any cause in the last sense be demanded, it will be presented in the course of this article ; for the present I reply, by demanding proof of cause in the first sense, and promise to make that cause an absurdity by bringing against it the charge of an infinite series, the very charge which Dr. Edwards has brought against the mind as
This ambiguity in using the word cause served a valuable purpose in the hands of Dr. Edwards. His opponents asserted that the mind determines the volition. Dr. Edwards responds, that if by “determines,” they mean simply that the mind is a subject of volition, then he agrees with them; but if they mean that it causes volition, then he does not agree with them, for it then must cause by a previous causative act. Now it is obvious, that by the word “determines” Dr. Edwards does not mean a volition, but the fact merely of being a subject of volition. When he speaks of motive as determining, then also he does pot mean a volition, but that motive causes volition. On the other hand, his opponents by the same word do not mean volition, nor simply that the mind is a subject of volition; but that it also causes volition. But this is neither “possible nor conceivable,” replies Dr. Edwards, using the word cause in the first of the above senses. His opponents reply, it is both possible and conceivable, using the word cause in the other sense. They do not contradict each other, for they use cause in two
Dr. Edwards assuming, that by “determines” his opponents meant a volition, and taking advantage of an ambiguity in using the word cause, found no difficulty in convicting them of an infinite series.
IV. This assumption undertakes to decide how a cause acts. No man is competent to answer the question ;-How does a cause act ? Who can tell how a physical cause produces effects? If motive be a cause, will Dr. Edwards pretend to tell how it causes? If mind be a cause, we can never tell any thing about its mode of causing. We may say that it causes, as any cause causes; but how does any cause cause effects? Here we are profoundly ignorant. Among our intellections we
find disclosed the nature of a cause, and the principle of causality ;-by experience, including observation and consciousness, we ascertain the phenomena of causes ; by reasoning we refer those phenoinena to their causes. Beyond this we can never pass to the mode of causation by any cause. Yet Dr. Edwards by the assumption undertakes to decide this very question. If the mind causes volition it must do it by a previous volition, is bis proposition. How does he know this when he knows nothing of the mode of causation? The mind is a thinker. Will any man pretend to say that it cannot think without a prior act of thinking, by which it thinks? It is also a lenower. But who will say that it cannot know without some prior phenomenon of knowing ? Suppose we say that it is also a willer. Can Dr. Edwards be certain that it cannot will in the sense of causing, without some antecedent act of willing? In this point of view, this famous dictum degenerates into a mere assumption.
V. It is an assumption which necessarily leads to the doctrine of an infinite series. If we apply it to the human mind, it works very well for the cause of necessity. But it proves that volitions are not caused at all, which is an absurdity; or an infinite series if caused by the mind, which is an equal absurdity; or an infinite series if caused by the mind, which is an equal absurdity; or that they are caused by something else. Very well. Let us take that something else; we will suppose it to be motive. If it causes volition, it must be by a previous act of causation, and here again as in the former case you have an infinite series, or no cause, or some cause more ulterior. You may take this ulterior cause and go through the same round; there is no end to the process; you have an eternal succession, 'or no cause in the universe, or you must come back to some cause, which does not cause by prior causative acts. If all these suppositions be absurd, then we may as well bid farewell to all philosophy. The two first are admitted to be absurdities. Is the idea of a cause, causing without prior causative acts, an equal absurdity? It is not knoun as such, for the very reason, that we do not know how any cause acts. That it is not, is manifest from the fact, that it is the only mode of escaping one of two atsurdities-viz., infinite succession or nu causatsy. Some cause therefore there must be, competent to cause without preceding acts of causation. What that cause is, is not the question; but the logical necessity of supposing