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generally, it must, as we have said, occupy a totally different place to what it does in Descartes' philosophy. For it must be recollected, that Descartes, at this stage of his self-constructed universe, knows nothing of an external world-nothing, therefore, as to whether there be any other minds or not - and nothing, therefore, as to whether the uniformity which supports the above argument exist or not. He believes in an external world, and that its phenomena are not illusions only because he has demonstrated previously the existence of God from the idea of him. The idea itself, therefore, must be supposed irresistibly distinct and powerful to each individual mind.
The Apostle John (it may be humbly presumed, as sound a divine as Descartes, and certainly in this case a sounder philosopher) makes the love of our brother easier than the love of God, our brother being more familiarly known than God: 'He who loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how shall he love God whom he hath not seen?' Descartes goes another way to work, and asks, how shall man believe even the existence of his brother whom he hath seen, if he first of all believe not in the existence of God whom he hath not seen?
Whatever force has been supposed to attach to these mentally deduced proofs of the Deity,- from the idea of God in the human mind, we see not anything in them, even when exhibited in the best form, and still less in relation to the unhappy position they occupy in Descartes' philosophy, which the atheist with his premises cannot evade. In looking even at the more reasonable form of the argument, it certainly appears to be just as easy for one who finds no difficulty in affirming that all the proofs of a designing and superintending wisdom which the universe presents, are
mere chance, to urge exactly the same of the apparent voice of intuition, the uniform, or all but uniform tendencies of the constitution of the human mind; they are, he would say, quite as plausibly, (and we must say not more impudently,) simply one more of the infinite freaks of chance!
On that theory of innate ideas,' which has been generally, though falsely, attributed to Descartes, the answers are easy enough. Men in general will say, that if we have an innate idea' of God in this sense, if an idea thus powerful be impressed on each individual mind, it seems strange that it should need any inference or argument to make it plainer, or that it should admit of any dispute. Far from finding that all men have a 'clear and distinct idea of an infinite and eternal being,' they will say, that the ideas formed of God in the vast majority of instances have been most grossly inadequate and limited; that it is a common remark, borne out by all history, that so far from man's ideas of God being Godlike, his gods have usually been human, or even below that. It will seem strange indeed, they will argue, that if there be an 'innate idea' in all men, coeval with the soul itself and congenital with its faculties, it should have been so uniformly debased and mutilated.
While we do not see the often vaunted superiority of the argument derived from the constitution of the human mind alone, even when it is put, as we conceive, in the most cautious terms and most favourable form, we are far from denying, when so put, its cogency. Powerful it undoubtedly is; and would to all but an atheist be very convincing. But in truth, if there be such a thing as a bonâ fide atheist I who is not also mad, argument with him, in any shape, is a very hopeless sort of an affair. If, however, with such a
man any argument be less inefficacious than another, it is, we firmly believe, what is called that à posteriori argument, which it has been the fashion of late years so absurdly to decry. At all events, it is that to which human nature, savage and civilised, appeals in one shape or other, when asked why it thinks there is a God at all. It points its finger at the sublime trophies of wisdom and power with which the universe is filled, and says, if not in so many words, in words of kindred meaning, the 'invisible things of the Creator are known by the visible things he hath made; even his eternal power and Godhead.' 'He that planted the eye, shall he not see? He that made the ear, shall he not hear?' But it is infinitely far from our purpose to exalt any one proof of this primal truth at the expense of the rest; and happily, as in other cases, some may be more forcible to one class of minds, and some to another.
In exhibiting the principal points of Descartes' argument on this great theme, we have passed by many of the metaphysical refinements by which he attempts to sustain or illustrate his views. In one of his illustrations there is a curious subtlety; more curious indeed than convincing. He endeavours to show in his 'Method,' or rather he confidently asserts without showing, that the clear and distinct idea of a triangle' does not involve the necessary existence of any triangle, but that the clear and distinct notion of God does involve his necessary existence. Yet both there* and in his 'Meditations,' he affirms that our idea of God involves his existence, just as our idea of a triangle involves the idea of the equality of its three angles to two right angles. One would
La Méthode, Partie Quatrième.
imagine that a real parity of reasoning would imply that as our clear and distinct idea of a Perfect Being involves his real existence, so our clear and distinct idea of a triangle involves its existence. Yet this he denies.
Similarly inconsistent appear to us his statements respecting our notions of the infinite. In his 'Principia,' he contents himself with briefly stating that infinity as attached to God is a positive and unique idea, and differs from the notion as applied to the infinite in magnitude and number. To the latter, he proposes applying the term indefinite. Gassendi endeavours to show the extreme precariousness of any conclusion based on such distinction, by affirming that the idea of the infinite in both cases is negative, founded on the absence of limit; that infinite space is space indefinitely vast; that infinite wisdom, in the same manner, is wisdom indefinitely great; and that both the one and the other result from successive augmentations of limited magnitudes and limited wisdom. Descartes, in his reply, says, 'It is not true that we conceive the infinite by the negation of the finite; seeing that, on the contrary, all limitation contains in itself the negation of the infinite' (p. 360. edition by M. Simon). Think not that the idea we have of God, is formed by perpetual augmentation of the perfection of the creatures; it is formed entire and at once,'-tout entière et tout à la fois,-'from the conception by our mind of infinite being, incapable of any sort of augmentation.' (Ibid. p. 365.)
Now it is at all events curious, that in one of his letters Descartes distinctly concedes that our idea of the infinite perfections of God is deduced from the consciousness of similar, though very minute attributes in us-which are indefinitely enlarged and applied to
him. The passage is hard to reconcile with the preceding, and with many others. As it has not, so far as we are aware, been noticed by modern critics, we translate it. The letter containing it (Epist. pars I. p. 279.) is in reply to certain objections. You say, that inasmuch as there is somewhat of wisdom, power, goodness, magnitude, and so on, in ourselves, we form the idea of infinite or at least indefinite wisdom, power, goodness, and the other perfections which are attributed to God, just as we form the idea of infinite magnitude; all which I freely concede; and I am clearly persuaded that we have no other idea of God than what is formed in this manner. But the force of my argument' (the celebrated argument) 'consists in this, that I contend that it would be impossible for me, by my thinking faculty, to expand those perfections which are minute in me to the notion of the infinite, except we derived our existence from a being in whom these perfections are in fact found infinite; as neither from the inspection of a minute quantity or a limited body, could I conceive indefinite quantity, unless the magnitude of the universe were, or at least might be, indefinite.' By the way, it is wonderful that the last clause should not have convinced Descartes of the precariousness of his logic in his celebrated paralogism: for a parity of conclusion would have led him to say, that similarly he could not conceive the infinite, unless the Infinite Being did exist—or at least might exist. But as he could prove that God did exist from the very idea of him, so he would perhaps have been prepared to prove that he must exist, if he might have existed! However this may be, the statements in reference to the formation of the notion of the infinite remain to us somewhat inconsistent. It is certainly sufficiently perplexing, when not only dif