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read before any judgment be passed on me, I think it proper to premise the following observations :
First, Though I deny liberty in a certain meaning of that word, yet I contend for liberty, as it signifies a power in man to do as he wills or pleuses.
“ Secondly, When I affirm necessity, I contend only for moral necessity; meaning thereby, that man, who is an intelligent and sensible being, is determined by his reason and his senses; and I deny man to be subject to such necessity, as is in clocks, watches, and such other beings, which, for want of sensation and intelligence, are subject to an absolute, physical, or mechanical necessity.
Thirdly, I have undertaken to show, that the notions I advance are so far from being inconsistent with, that they are the sole foundations of morality and laws, and of rewards and punishments in society; and that the notions I explode are subversive of them."*
In the prosecution of his argument on this question, Collins endeavours to show, that man is a necessary agent, 1. From our experience. (By experience he means our own consciousness that we are necessary agents.) 2. From the impossibility of liberty.t 3. From the consideration of the Divine prescience. 4. From the nature and use of rewards and punishments; and, 5. From the nature of morality. I
In this view of the subject, and, indeed, in the very selection of his premises, it is remarkable how completely Collins has anticipated Dr. Jonathan Edwards, the most celebrated, and indisputably the ablest champion of the scheme of Necessity who has since appeared. The coincidence is so perfect, that the outline given by the former, of the plan of his work, might have served with equal propriety as a preface to that of the latter.
From the above summary, and still more from the whole tenor of the Philosophical Inquiry, it is evident, that Collins (one of the most obnoxious writers of bis day to divines of all denominations) was not less solicitous than his successor Edwards to reconcile his meta
* A Philosophical Inquiry concerning Human Liberty. 31 Ed. Lond. 1735. † See Note (li.)
I See Note (Jj.)
physical notions with man's accountableness and moral agency. The remarks, accordingly, of Clarke upon Collins's work, are equally applicable to that of Edwards. It is to be regretted that they seem never to have fallen into the hands of this very acute and honest reasoner. As for Collins, it is a remarkable circumstance, that he attempted no reply to this tract of Clarke's, although he lived twelve years after its publication. The reasonings contained in it, together with those on the same subject in his correspondence with Leibnitz, and in his Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God, form, in my humble opinion, the most important as well as powerful of all his metaphysical arguments.*
The adversaries with whom he had to contend were, both of them, eminently distinguished by ingenuity and subtilty, and he seems to have put forth to the utmost his logical strength, in contending with such antagonists.
“ The liberty or moral agency of man,” says his friend, Bishop Hoadly, “ was a darling point to him. He excelled always, and showed a superiority to all, whenever it came into private discourse or public debate. But he never more excelled than when he was pressed with the strength Leibnitz was master of; which made him exert all his talents to set it once again in a clear light, to guard it against the evil of metaphysical obscurities, and to give the finishing stroke to a subject which must ever be the foundation of morality in man, and is the ground of the accountableness of intelligent creatures for all their actions.” +
It is needless to say, that neither Leibnitz nor Collins admitted the fairness of the inferences which Clarke conceived to follow from the scheme of necessity : But
• Voltaire, who, in all probability, never read either Clarke or Collins, has said that the former replied to the latter only by Theological reasonings : “ Clarke n'a répondu à Collins qu'en Théologien.” (Quest. sur l'Encyclopédie, Art. Liberté.) Nothing can be more remote from the truth. The argument of Clarke is wholly Metaphysical ; whereas, his antagonist, in various instances, has attempted to wrest to his own purposes the words of Scripture.
† Preface to the Folio Ed. of Clarke's Works.—The vital importance which Clarke attached to this question, has given to the concluding paragraphs of his remarks on Collins, an earnestness and a solercnity of which there are not many instances in his writings. These paragraphs cannot be too strongly recommended to the attention of those well-meaning persons, who, in our own times, have come forward as the apostles of Dr. Priestley's “ great and glorious Doctrine of Philosophical Necessity."
almost every page in the subsequent history of this controversy may be regarded as an additional illustration of the soundness of Clarke's reasonings, and of the sagacity with which he anticipated the fatal errors likely to issue from the system which he opposed.
“ Thus,” says a very learned disciple of Leibnitz, who made his first appearance as an author about thirty years after the death of his master,* _“ Thus the same chain embraces the physical and moral worlds, binds the past to the present, the present to the future, the future to eternity."
66. That wisdom which has ordained the existence of this chain, has doubtless willed that of every link of which it is composed. A Caligula is one of those links, and this link is of iron : A MARCUS AURELIUS is another link, and this link is of gold. Both are necessary parts of one whole, which could not but exist. Shall God then be angry at the sight of the iron link? What absurdity! God esteems this link at its proper value: He sees it in its cause, and he approves this cause, for it is good. God beholds moral monsters, as he beholds physical monsters. Happy is the link of gold ! Still more happy if he know that he is only fortunate.t He has attained the highest degree of moral perfection, and is nevertheless without pride, knowing that what he is, is the necessary result of the place which he must occupy in the chain."
“ The gospel is the allegorical exposition of this system; the simile of the potter is its summary.”I (Bonnet, T. VIII. pp. 237, 238.)
In what essential respect does this system differ from that of Spinoza ? Is it not even more dangerous in its practical tendency, in consequence of the high strain of mystical devotion by which it is exalted ? §
* Charles Bonnet, born 1720, died 1793. † The words in the original are, “ Heureux le chaînon d'or! plus heureux encore, s'il sait qu'il n'est qu'heureuc.” The double meaning of heureux, if it render the expression less logically precise, gives it at least an epigrammatic turn, which cannot be preserved in our language. | See Note (K k.)
Among the various forms which religious enthusiasm assumes, there is a certain prostration of the mind, which, under the specious disguise of a deep humility, aims at exalting the Divine perfections, by annihilating all the powers which belong to Human Nature. “Nothing is more usual for fervent devotion,” says Sir James
This objection, however, does not apply to the quotations which follow. They exhibit, without any colorings of imagination or of enthusiasm, the scheme of necessity pushed to the remotest and most alarming conclusions which it appeared to Clarke to involve; and as they express the serious and avowed creed of two of our contemporaries (both of them men of distinguished talents), may be regarded as a proof, that the zeal displayed by Clarke against the metaphysical principles which led ultimately to such results, was not so unfounded as some worthy and able inquirers have supposed.
May I be permitted to observe farther on this head, that, as one of these writers spent his life in the pay of a German prince, and as the other was the favorite philosopher of another sovereign, still more illustrious, the sentiments which they were so anxious to proclaim to the world, may be presumed to have been not very offensive (in their judgments) to the ears of their protectors.
“ All that is must be,” says the Baron de Grimm, addressing himself to the Duke of Saxe-Gotha, “ All that is must be, even because it is; this is the only sound philosophy; as long as we do not know this universe a priori (as they say in the schools), ALL IS NECESSITY. * Liberty is a word without meaning, as you shall see in the letter of M. Diderot."
Mackintosh, in speaking of some theories current among the Hindoos, “ than to dwell so long and so warmly on the meanness and worthlessness of created things, and on the all-sufficiency of the Supreme Being, that it slides insensibly from comparative to absoIute language, and in the eagerness of its zeal to magnify the Deity, seems to annihilate every thing else.” (See Philosophy of the Human Mind, Vol. II. p. 529, 2d Ed.)
This excellent observation may serve to account for the zeal displayed by Bonnet, and inany other devont men, in favor of the Scheme of Necessity. “ We have nothing," they frequently and justly remind us, but what we have received."--But the question here is simply a matter of fact, whether we have or have not received from God the gift of Free-Will; and the only argument, it must be remembered, which they have yet been able to advance for the negative proposition, is, that this gift was impossible, even for the power of God; nay, the saine argument which annibilates the power of Man, annibilates that of God also, and subjects him, as well as all his creatures, to the control of causes which he is unable to resist. So coinpletely does this scheme defeat the pious views in which it has sometimes originated.--I say sometimes; for the very same argument against the liberty of the Will is employed by Spinoza, according to whom the free-agency of man involves the absurd supposition of an imperium in imperio in the universe. (Tractat. Polit. Cap. II. § 6.)
* The logical inference ought undoubtedly to have been, “ As long as we know nothing of the universe a priori, we are not entitled to say of any thing, that it either is, or is not, necessary."
The following passage is extracted from Diderot's letter here referred to:
“I am now, my dear friend, going to quit the tone of a preacher to take, if I can, that of a philosopher. Examine it narrowly, and you will see that the word Liberty is a word devoid of meaning ; * that there are not, and that there cannot be free beings; that we are only wbat accords with the general order, with our organization, our education, and the chain of events. These dispose of us invincibly. We can no more conceive a being acting without a motive, than we can one of the arms of a balance acting without a weight. The motive is always exterior and foreign, fastened upon us by some cause distinct from ourselves. What deceives us, is the prodigious variety of our actions, joined to the habit which we catch at our birth, of confounding the voluntary and the free. We have been so often praised and blamed, and have so often praised and blamed others, that we contract an inveterate prejudice of believing that we and they will and act freely. But if there is no liberty, there is no action that merits either praise or blame; neither vice nor virtue, nothing that ought either to be rewarded or punished. What then is the distinction among men ? The doing of good and the doing of ill! The doer of ill is one who must be destroyed, not punished. The doer of good is lucky, not virtuous. But though neither the doer of good or of ill be free, man is nevertheless a being to be modified; it is for this reason the doer of ill should be destroyed upon the scaffold. From thence the good cffects of education, of pleasure, of grief, of grandeur, of poverty, &c.; from thence a philosophy full of pity, strongly attached to the good, nor more angry, with the wicked, than with the whirlwind which fills one's eyes with dust. Strictly speaking, there is but one sort of causes, that is, physical causes. There is but one sort of necessity, which is the same for all beings. This is what reconciles me to human kind: it is for this reason I exhorted you. to philanthropy. Adopt these principles if
* Docs not this remark of Diderot apply with infinitely greater force to the word necessity, as employed in this controversy?