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to which concealed element the reasoning is indebted for its apparent conclusiveness. It was the doctrine of Dr. West, that we are not merely the subjects, but the causes of our own volitions. He had admitted that, “no agent can bring any effects to pass, but what are consequent upon his acting." This admission contains the Dictum Necessitatis, in regard to which the reader is requested to recur to the observations of a former Article. Upon this admission Dr. Edwards seizes and recoils upon his antagonist with great power. He understands the term" acting" in the sense of volition, and reasons conclusively from the premises, when he supposes the acting" cannot be an effect of the agent, since the “ acting” is the indispensable condition of the agent, producing any effect. Agreeing with Dr. West in the admission, he turns it against him, and compels him to grasp the blade of his own sword. There is no escape, when once this canon of necessity is allowed; it is omnipotent in demonstration; it has power sufficient to make every cause in the universe the very grossest absurdity. If we say, that no cause or agent can bring any effect to pass, but what is consequent upon its acting ; if we then distinguish between the acting and the effect brought to pass ; if we make the acting prior to, and separate from, the effect—it then follows that the cause of the effect cannot be the cause of the acting ; the acting must have some other cause. If we generalize this mode of reasoning, we drive every cause out of the universe.
Now let it be observed, that this is the very species of reasoning repeated over and over again, in the works of both the Elder and Younger Edwards. Neither of them grants the possibility of an agent in the sense of a pure and simple originator of action or modification in its own bosom; the agent can bring effects to pass only in consequence of prior acting. Dr. Ed
“ If we cause our own volitions at all, we cause them, either by a previous volition, or withouť such volition." The first supposition involves an infinite series. In regard to the second supposition, he says, “ Now I wish it may be inquired, whether such a causation of volition as this, if it be possible or conceivable, as I contend it is not,” etc. Works, Vol. 1.
P 334. An originator of action is, then, impossible, according to Dr. Edwards ; every cause, if it cause at all, must cause by prior action. In the present connection I shall institute no controversy with these positions, my object having been to show that Dr. Edwards, without a formal announcement of such an
SECOND SERIES, VOL. IX. NO. II. 4
intention, undertakes to decide how an agent must cause, if it cause at all. He tells us how it cannot be, i. e. without a previous volition; he tells us how it must be, if at all, i. e. by a previous volition. But this last hypothesis is an absurdity; therefore the agent does not cause the volition at all. Now in every step of this process the knowledge of the how, the ultimate modus operandi of a cause is assumed; the reasoning derives all its validity from this assumption.
The question before us, then, is this : Is it possible for man in the last analysis to know the mode of a cause in causing? Suppose we take our stand in the physical world, what do we discover? Nothing but simple succession of events. By a necessary law of the mental constitution, valid within us and beyond us, we infer a cause of that succession.
For the purposes of physical science we call the antecedent, the cause; but whether it is in fact the cause, we can never know ; much less how it causes.
.-If we come to ourselves, we are in the same predicament. When we will or think, we are conscious of the phenomena at the moment of their existence. If we analyze this consciousness, we shall find, that it gives us the phenomena, the subject, and a relation of cause and effect between the two. It gives us no more. How the subject of the willing or thinking passes from the state of not willing or thinking, or from some other state of willing or thinking to the specific modification in question, does not appear. Whether there be a succession of modes or none at all, is what we do not know. If we be causes at all upon any hypothesis, the question of the mode passes entirely beyond the range of our cognitive powers. If we ascend to the First Cause, we shall be as unsuccessful in disposing of this question. The question ought to be ranked with the idle disputations and endless jargon of the school-men; there is no place for it in modern philosophy. The true course is at once to confess entire ignorance on the point. Had Dr. Edwards contemplated the question simply in itself, he doubtless would have adopted the same course.
In his mind it was mingled up with other points ;-he had a battle to fight, and hence, without perceiving it, he seizes a weapon too heavy for him to wield. He wished to demonstrate that mind cannot cause its own volitions; in carrying out this demonstration he involves himself in the whole question of the mode, decides how it cannot be, and how it must be, if at all. One single sentence precipitates this whole argument overboard, e. g. he makes the issue
dependent upon that about which he knows nothing. We must know the very essence of the soul, before we can safely travel along the line of the Edwardean logic. If we know not this, how can we know its mode as a cause, on the supposition that it is a cause ?-And if we know not the mode, how can we say that an originator of action without prior action, is an impossibility, or that no agent can bring effects to pass, but what are consequent upon his acting?
The inference from the above reasoning is a very plain one. Either we have no knowledge of cause at all, or such knowledge is perfectly consistent with ignorance of its mode. The first alternative not being admissible, the last necessarily follows.
III. Whether the Mind be the Cause of Volition ? In reference to the opinions of Dr. Edwards on this point, the following extracts will be amply sufficient to indicate his ground:
In allusion to the positions of President Edwards, he says: “He holds that we ourselves determine; but he does not hold, that we are the efficient causes of our own determinations.". “ President Edwards holds, that we ourselves will or choose ; that we ourselves act and are agents. But he does not hold, that we efficiently cause our own mental acts.”. “ President Edwards does not hold that we are mere passive beings, unless this expression mean, that our volitions are the effects of some cause extrinsic to our wills.”—“ Though we hold, that our volitions are the effects of some extrinsic cause, and that we are passive, as we are the subjects of the influence of that cause ; yet we hold, that we are not merely passive; but that volition is in its own nature an act or action, and in the exercise of it we are active, though in the causation of it we are passive, so far as to be the subjects of the influence of the efficient cause. This we concede ; and let our opponents make the most of it. We fear not the consequence," p. 318.-“ We deny, that causing our own volitions and acting by chance, are either realities or possibilities,” p. 325.–Again, in allusion to his opponents, he says: “Let them honestly confess, that all they mean by self-determination, is what we all allow, that they are the subjects of volition, and as Dr. West expresses it, that they themselves will and choose," p. 332.–Again : “ Yet from the supposition
that volition is not the effect of a cause extrinsic to the mind in which it takes place, it will follow, that there is no cause of it; because it is absolutely impossible that the mind itself should be the cause of it,” p. 339.—“The evasion of Dr. Clarke and others, that the mind itself is the cause of its own volitions, has been already considered ; beside other absurdities, it has been found to lead to an infinite series of volitions causing one another,” p. 372.-Again, in allusion to the position " that in determining the mind determines,” he says, “ Whether it convey any other idea, than that the mind does determine and has a volition, without touching the question concerning the cause, extrinsic or intrinsic; I submit to the reader," p. 333.
It would be a very easy task to multiply quotations of this character to an indefinite extent. They are not accidental slips of the writer's pen, mere lapsus verborum ; the expressions are accurate; they are often repeated; the positions ibey enunciate, penetrate his whole system. Dr. Edwards is no antagonist veiling himself in doubtful phraseology; he marches up to his positions with a boldness that bespeaks the honesty of the man; he cuts off his own retreat, and challenges bis combatant to a contest on a field, which he has not feared to indicate. Let us then pause a moment, and make ourselves certain of the ground on which he stands.
We have in the first place a distinct denial, that the mind is the efficient cause of its own volitions," that we efficiently cause our own mental acts.” Dr. Edwards does not allow this; and he tells us that the same is true of his father. His is not the system, that the mind is the efficient, and motive the occasional cause of volition, as some of the advocates of the Edwardean doctrine have supposed. It so happens that Dr. Edwards has nowhere defined the word efficient, in application to cause. As he was a philosopher, however, it may be presumed that he understood the term, and intended to use it in its correct sense. That sense is very well stated by Professor Upham : “ Effective causes have power in themselves; while preparative causes only furnish the appropriate and necessary occasions, on which the power that is lodged somewhere else, exercises itself. Both classes are invariably followed by their appropriate results, or effects; but the one class, having the whole efficiency in itself, is strictly operative, and actually makes or brings to pass the effect, whatever it may be.” Upham on the Will, Chap. II. Sect. LXX. I shall join no issue with the professor on the ques
tion whether every thing that is really a cause must not be included in the definition given of an efficient cause. If the distinction between occasional and efficient causes be admitted, then he has stated the common and universal idea of an efficient cause. Dr. Edwards's ground then is, that the mind is not such a cause of its own volitions. He does not hold that volitions take place without any efficient cause, but that the efficiency is not in the mind. This is equivalent to saying, that the mind is invested with no power to produce such phenomena upon its own theatre. If they exist there, it is by some foreign efficiency, of whose causative influence the mind is merely the subject.
In the next place Dr. Edwards as distinctly denies that mind is the cause of its own volitions in any sense whatever. It is not possible to have stronger evidence of this than the passages already quoted. What can be a more perfect denial than to say, “it is absolutely impossible that the mind itself should be the cause of it?" He abounds with such expressions; they are universal and without any qualification. If they be taken as an index of truth, the mind sustains no relation of cause what. ever to its own volitions; in this relation it has no more to do with them than the planet Jupiter.
Dr. Edwards allows, that the mind determines, wills, chooses, is the subject of volition; that volition is an act or action; that in the exercise of il we are active ; and had he not so carefully defined his ground, we might have supposed him to grant all his opponents claim. He distinguishes these admissions from the idea, that the mind is cause of volition. Let us not then be deceived on this point. What do these and kindred propositions mean? In the nature of things they are susceptible of but two constructions; one is, that they predicate a causal relation between a given phenomenon and the mind as its cause. The other is, that they predicate merely a subjective relation between a given phenomenon and the subject in which it occurs. The two relations are not identical, and the latter does not necessarily imply the former. Which of these constructions does Dr. Edwards adopt? Not the first, for this he is careful to deny. The second is the only one which is left, and this he
These propositions therefore must not pass for more than they are worth in this discussion. They simply affirm, that a change takes place in the mind, of which it is the theatre, but not the cause, the descriptive term of which change is willing, choosing, acting, etc. The mind wills in no other