Page images
PDF
EPUB

inst hishen he had mind; otheeliberately chportant cables

in a mind like his, the most important reasons finally prevailed. So also there were, doubtless, reasons for and against his giving his name to the public. But the special reasons which he had against it, were unquestionably the most weighty in his mind; otherwise I should not know how to account for it, that he deliberately chose concealment. And who can doubt, that in all important cases which shall occur hereafter, he will thus deliberate, thus weigh the reasons for different determinations, and decide according to that which is, in his view, the strongest. And I am greatly mistaken, if he ever finds, that choosing and acting invariably according to this principle, interferes at all with his free agency, though his theory, as set forth in some parts of the Essay, might lead him to think that it would. The same is true of all other men. Rational beings will choose and act according to the laws of their intelligent and moral nature, whatever speculative theories they may form in their waking or sleeping hours. The laws of the mind are too firmly established to be shaken by our notions.

I am gratified that the author of this Essay, and some other late writers, make a distinction between desire and volition. It is a source of no small confusion in Edward's Treatise on the Will, that he uses the word in so wide a sense, and considers all the affections and desires as acts of the will. It is, however, manifest that Edwards himself departs from this large sense of the word, and brings out the destinction which is now contended for, whenever he speaks of the desires or affections of the mind as among the motives to volition. Surely the motive to volition, and volition itself, cannot be the same thing.

I am gratified also, that the writer says distinctly, what Locke and others have been careful to say before, that “the Will is not a separate existence, to which qualities and actions can be ascribed. It is the mind itself which is excited and which is moved by desire or motive, and the Will is the power which the mind has to choose which of several co-existing desires shall be gratified.”

I proceed now to the main point. The writer says (p. 386), “ The point at issue is simply this : Is volition con. nected with a previous desire or motive as a producing con. stitutional cause?” The affirmative he thinks is Fatalism ; the negative, the doctrine of Free Agency.

The writer takes commendable care to inform us very definitely, what he means by a “producing cause," and how we are to discover its existence. He maintains, (p. 388) that according to the doctrine of free agency, “there is no invariable rule of volition,"_"no fized connection between any class of desires and volition, that “ desires or motives are only the occasional causes, which enable the mind to exercise its inherent power of action, itself being the producing cause of its own volitions." He says too, (p. 388), “ The only method of proving any thing to be a producing cause is to show, that, in given circumstances, there is an invariable rule of change, so that when a cause is put in these circumstances, a certain change invariably follows. It is the unfailing constancy of the result, that enables us to detect the real producing cause. The philosopher, in experimenting to detect causes, is continually seeking to learn which one of the various circumstances cannot have a substitute, which must be invariably an antecedent." He says the same, p. 389. “ The only method of proving a thing to be a producing cause, is to establish the fact that it is an invariable antecedent.”

Our author makes his meaning still more evident by his quotations from Priestly, and the use he makes of them. (p. 389, 390). Priestly says in common with Edwards, and a multitude of distinguished writers; “ There is some fixed law respecting the Will ;—it is never determined without some motive of choice ; and motives influence us in some definite and invariable manner, so that volition or choice is constantly regulated by what precedes it. And this constant determination of the mind, according to the motive presented to it, is all I mean by necessary determination." He holds that, through all nature, the same consequences inva. riably result from the same circumstances.” Now our author says, “ no intelligent defender of free agency will admit this." And his object in quoting it is to show what he means by Fatalism, If we assert, that volition is invariably preceded by the strongest motive or by that which, at the moment of choice,“ seems most agreeable,” he says we are Fatalists.

To this allegation of the author I now invite the reader's particular attention.

I cannot but notice, that the author seems here and there to give an incorrect statement of the question at issue. He

SECOND SERIES, VOL. III. NO. 1.

23

represents the doctrine of moral or philosophical necessity as implying, that “there is a particular kind of motive which is the invariable antecedent of volition.” He says: “ every one allows that motives of some sort are invariably antecedents to volition. This is taken for granted; and then the admission is used as if it were conceded that a particular kind of motive were the invariable antecedent. As if a man should claim, that sowing of some sort is always an antecedent to all kinds of harvest, and when this is allowed, should assume that the sowing of wheat is the invariable antecedent of all kinds of harvest." If the author can show, that Edwards or any other respectable writer has ever maintained such an opinion, or reasoned in such a manner, it will be truly surprising to me. For it would seem that no one could believe what is so obviously contrary to experience, as this, that volition uniformly follows a par. ticular kind of motives. One particular kind of motives consists of those which are derived from the appetite of hunger and thirst; another kind, of those derived from the sense of hearing; another, from the sense of seeing; another from a regard to property; another, from the love of promotion or praise; another, from love to God. The particular kinds of motives are past numbering. Now who ever entertained the idea, that our volitions are all influenced by a particular kind of motives? It is really as unnecessary for the author to disprove this, as to disprove the other thing he mentions, namely, that sowing wheat will produce all kinds of harvest.

The author speaks as though a particular kind of motive and the strongest motive were one and the same thing. He says, (p. 396) “ as if it were conceded that a particular kind of motive (i. e. the strongest,) were the invariable antecedent.” But the strongest motive is sometimes of one kind, and sometimes of another. To one man the love of honor is the strongest motive; to another man, the love of wealth, to another the love of Christ. In many cases, various kinds of motives are combined to make the strongest. Now it is matter of wonder to me, that the author should think that he is opposing a position which any one has maintained, when he affirms again and again, “ that there is no particular class of motives which are invariable antecedents to volition,” and that we have power to choose and do choose

sometimes in one way, and sometimes in another way; that is, sometimes according to one class of motives, sometimes according to another. Nothing is more certain, than that we do choose in these different ways. And why? Is it not because sometimes one particular class of motives is the strongest, and sometimes another class ?

The author says, (p. 386), “ The point at issue is simply this: Is volition connected with a previous desire (or motive) as a producing cause ?”—which seems to imply that desire and motive are words of equal import, or that all motive consists of desire. The point at issue I think might more properly be stated thus : whether volition is connected with a previous desire, or any thing else which has the nature of a motive, as its invariable antecedent or cause. . Again, The author seems to suppose that the asserters of moral necessity hold, that all the changes in the mind are caused by something ab extra ; and, in opposition to this notion, refers to the eternal mind, which before creation acted without any ab extra cause (p. 385). But the doctrine of Edwards and others agreeing with him, is not that the changes or acts of the mind result wholly from causes extraneous to the mind. By motive Edwards means “the whole of that which moves, excites, or invites the mind to volition;" including not only “the views of the mind, but the state, frame, temper, or habit of the mind." These do indeed, generally at least, refer to things without the mind. But mental acts are prompted mainly and ultimately by what is within the mind. An apostle teaches that a man is tempted and drawn into sin by his own unholy desire, (James 1: 14, 15). And is not affection to Christ and a desire to please him the great motive to obedience with every believer? And how can we form any other conception of God, than that he chooses and acts from his own perfections ; that, before any thing else existed, he had a reason or motive for his determinations and actions in the unbounded wisdom, righteousness, and goodness of his own nature. No one can doubt that the mind itself is, in the strictest sense, an agent ; that it has inherent powers of action ; and that it really exerts its powers in a great variety of volitions and other exercises; and that the grand ultimate motive, by which it is influenced to all these is within itself; that is, its own dispositions, desires, habits, etc. It will be worth the while to remember that we all hold to this, so that it is unnecessary to spend time to prove it.

I might notice other passages in which our author seems to misapprehend the opinions which he undertakes to controvert. But it is time to proceed to the consideration of the prominent principle of the Essay.

Here I propose particularly to inquire how far the author contributes to overturn his own system. For whatever he does towards this result will prevent the necessity of labor on my part.

The author expressly admits “ that mind never will choose, except to gain some good ;" “ that motives of some kind are indispensable antecedents of volition;" that “every one allows that motives of some sort are invariably antecedents to volition.” Here then is one of the laws of our intelligent nature. Motives of some sort are invariable and indispensable antecedents to volition. This is a point in which we are all agreed. Volition cannot take place without a motive. How great soever the inherent power of the mind, and how various soever the acts of which it is capable ; here is a manifest limitation of its power. A man has no power to put forth a volition without a motive. To choose in this way would be contrary to the constitution and nature of the mind. Though our author says in some parts of his Essay that “there is no invariable rule of volition;" he could not but see, that there is, at least, this one invariable rule ; and seeing it, he frankly acknowledged it. Now does he, or any other candid person, complain of this invariable rule of volition? Does he complain that the mind is tied up to this constitutional principle, -that it must, in all its choices be influenced by motives? He does not com. plain. But what follows from the admission of this principle? It follows that motive, motive of some sort, is what he calls “the producing cause of volition." For he says again and again, that “ the only method of proving a thing to be a producing cause, is to establish the fact, that it is an invariable antecedent.Here we have an invariable antecedent, that is, motive ; not one particular class of motives, but motive of some kind. And motive of some kind, being the invariable antecedent, is, according to the author's own showing," the producing cause of volition.” And such a cause he considers incompatible with free agency. Is it

« PreviousContinue »