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Either because the Infinite exists, and then it is quite natural that I should have the idea; or because, the Infinite not existing, I created the idea for myself.
But how is it possible that I should create that which is in myself? I can only form an idea of that which does not exist, by way of attenuation, by suppressing the qualities of the objects I know to exist, or by way of amplification, by uniting together the qualities of many objects in one idea. But the infinite cannot be an attenuation of the finite, nor can it be a collection of finalities; for a great many finite things do not make one infinite.
Therefore I can only have the idea of the Infinite, because the Infinite really exists.
This demonstration is satisfactory to those alone who allow his first hypothesis,- viz., that we have in us the idea of the infinite, and this is precisely the point assailed by the Sensualists.
If reason has never been able to found a religion which will bear criticism, it is because of this, that it begins with an undemonstrable hypothesis and ends in an hypothesis. Consequently, all attempts to prove the existence of God are convincing only to those already convinced.
The story is told of Diderot, that he heard one day an argument on the existence of God which satisfied and delighted him, and he rushed off to a sceptical friend to retail to him his new faith. He found him in a printer's, told him the argument, proved to him the existence of God, and found his friend unconvinced. The latter at once put his finger on the gratuitous assumption on which the whole structure leaned, withdrew the prop, and it crumbled into dust. Diderot saw his error, and fell again into doubt. His apostolate bad lasted just one hour.
Arguments of this sort are all well enough to fortify a
conviction already formed, but they will never serve as the mainstay of a religion. And the reason is simple enough: God cannot be concluded, He can be perceived. Reason cannot act without faith; believe in God, and religion can be deduced from it; believe in a multitude of axioms irrational and without raison d'étre, and religion and philosophy rest on a foundation of sand. The question must always prove sterile, Why am I to believe in the reality of myself, of the world, and of my thought ? unless I admit a God as the cause of the truth of these primitive axioms. But till philosophy recognizes this, the inductive and the deductive methods will maintain internecine war.
There are but two methods, which resume all others. In the one, reason starts from itself to return to itself. All that does not admit of being rationalized, it rejects. It is sovereign ;-its own judge and authority. Scepticism is the inevitable result, if those who trust to this method stand true to their principle. They are bound to dispute every hypothesis and axiom, or to admit that only to be certain which is so demonstrably. And as it is impossible for reason to prove the primary axioms, they are condemned to blank Pyrrhonism. This result may be evaded, but such an evasion is untrue to the principle.
The other method starts from authority divine or human. Human authority may furnish conviction, but never certainty. Divine authority is immutable and infallible. The method of authority is not vicious in itself, as those who overthrew scholasticism protested, but it is incomplete. As the simplest method for giving elementary instruction, it is unsurpassed, but it is wrong to regard it as the exclusive method, as the sole one admissible.
Philosophy can only be a positive science when it possesses a method truly demonstrative, that is to say, one
which conducts rigorously and incontestibly to certainty. Now this is what has been wanting to all philosophic schools. Scholasticism is the least incomplete, when, starting from revelation, it rests unshaken on its divine foundation, and never deserts the formulæ of absolute verity. But in its exposition, in the deductions it makes from immutable principles, it often enters the domain of opinion, because, starting from revelation, it does not admit the inductive counter-process as its corrective. Hence the astonishing diversity of opinions which divide the schools of deductive theology.
To resume in few words the subject, as far as we have gone
Man is double, having an animal and a spiritual nature, at war with one another.
His spiritual nature is also double, being made up of reason and sentiment, the one a finite, the other an indefinite faculty, and this antinomy is productive of antagonism.
In morals and politics there is no certainty, but a conflict between man's individual wants and the wants of society.
Authority, which holds society together, and liberty, that which determines the individuality of man, are constantly opposed.
Religion and philosophy are in opposition, for religion assumes the supernatural, and cannot exist without the supernatural, and philosophy denies what is not demonstrable, and only exists on condition of holding for true that alone which is demonstrable.
Reason cannot act without faith, and faith is impotent without reason, nevertheless they are opposed, and tend to invade each other's territory, and to destroy one another.
Admitting the necessity of faith of some sort, there are two methods of reasoning, the inductive and the deductive, and these are opposed to one another and have been held to exclude one another.
Therefore man, in all his relations, is in a state of antinomy; and this antinomy must change into antagonism, unless he admit the existence of a God as a fundamental, indemonstrable axiom, the basis of all certainty, the conciliator of all antinomies.
All things tend to unity. It is the universal law of life. This is no theory, it is a fact. At the same time, all beings tend to individualize themselves. This also is no theory, it is a fact. Here are two opposed facts, and yet practically there is no opposition.
Philosophy and science endeavour, by isolating one object or class of objects, by specializing every branch of human knowledge, to attain certainty. To know anything perfectly, the attention must be concentrated on that alone. Thus science is necessarily, and exclusively, analytical.
We have only a finite knowledge of things; the conditions of our nature do not permit us to embrace with one glance of the mind the entirety of any thing in all its relations, much less the totality of all things in all their aspects. We are obliged to examine them successively, one by one, so as to distinguish them. To the peasant all flowers are flowers, there is no distinction; but if he concentrate his attention on them, he separates the dandelion from the daisy, the hawthorn from the rose. A more attentive student will discover distinctions between roses, hawthorns and daisies. He will separate rose from brier, and hawthorn from blackthorn, and daisy from oxeye.
A more exclusive botanist devotes himself to roses alone, or to daisies alone. We have eminent botanists whose specialities are mosses, willows or algids.
So too in the study of man. Some attach themselves to mankind as a race, others take man in particular, others dissect man with the scalpel, weigh him, dissolve him in acids, test him with the blow-pipe, and tabulate him as so much phosphorus, so much lime and so much carbon. Others again study him as a psychological phenomenon, and dissect his ideas and arrange them artificially.
But this constant analysis and specialization can only give one aspect of the truth, and the natural philosopher and psychologist forget that synthesis is as necessary as analysis.
To separate is to destroy unity, to kill life. Analysis is the disintegration of life, synthesis is its reintegration.
This is precisely what science has forgotten, and it is that which religion,—the Christian religion, at least, undertakes to supply.
Christianity claims to synthesize what science analyzes. Synthesis without analysis is nothing but uniformity. Analysis without synthesis is nothing but diversity.
Therefore science and religion are each necessary, the one to distinguish individualities, the other to bring individualities into unity.
This proposition will appear more evident from the sequel.