Primitive Elements of Thought
PRIMITIVE ELEMENTS OF THOUGHT.
[From Brownson’s Quarte: ly Review for January, 1859.]
The Abbe Hugonin is a professor of philosophy in l'Ecole des Carmes, Paris, and in these two volumes has given us the first division of his course. He defines philosophy, the science of thought, its laws and principal objects, considered as such, and divides it into four parts : 1. Ontology, which treats of the laws of thought, or that which makes thought such as it is and not otherwise ; 2. Theodicea, which has for its immediate object God, and studies thought in its first and principal object ; 3. Cosmology, which studies the world, or the secondary and mediate object of thought ; and 4. Anthropology, or Psychology, which studies the soul considered as at once the subject and object of thought. In these two volumes, the only ones yet published, we believe, we have a very full, a very elaborate, and a really learned treatise on Ontology, in the author's classification, the first part of philosophy. In it and the General Introduction which precedes it, the author, no doubt, shadows forth his whole system, but we can offer no final judgment on it, till we receive the treatises on the other parts, as he postpones to them the consideration of several important problems that we are in the habit of discussing in the prolegomena, before proceeding to the discussion of philosophy in its several divisions or subdivisions.
The Abbe Hugonin, whose name has hardly been heard in the philosophical world, possesses a philosophical genius of a high order, and various and profound philosophical learning. He deserves to rank among the very first living philosophers of his country. He is far superior to M. Cousin and his most eminent living disciple, M. Saisset, as a theologian, and his superiority as a theologian enables him to surpass them both by many degrees as a philosopher; for his theology gives him the true ontology and serves as a touchstone to his ontological speculations. Though less remarkable than M. Cousin for the eloquence and brilliancy of his style, or the exquisite charm and grace of his diction, he thinks with depth and force, and expresses himself adequately. He writes with modesty, calmness, and candor, as a conscientious man and a sincere and earnest lover of truth and wisdom. His ultimate conclusions are in general sound and indisputable, whatever the judgment we may form of the process by which he obtains them. We own, however, that we should sympathize more fully with him, if we found him a little bolder, and less under the influence of the schools. He follows the method and adopts the language of the schools wherever he is able, and in deference to scholasticism raises and discusses a great variety of questions which by a little care bestowed in correcting or amending its principium he might easily avoid or show to be simply no questions at all. No small portion of scholastic philosophy is an idle waste of thought, the consequence of adopting a false or erroneous point of departure, and serves only to perplex and mislead the student,—to conceal or obscure instead of disclosing and illustrating the truth. The learned and estimable author would, if he will permit us to say so, have greatly abridged his own labors and those of his readers, if he had meditated more attentively the importance of settling the question of principles before proceeding to that of method. It is not the method that finds and settles the principles, but the principles that disclose and determine the method. It was M. Cousin's mistake,—a mistake which modern philosophy owes in great measure to Rene Descartes,—of making the question of method in the study of philosophy precede the question of principles, that has prevented him from taking rank with the greatest philosophers of ancient or modern times. But for that mistake, instead of an unscientific Eclecticism, sure to run into a more unscientific Syncretism, he would have given us a sound and living synthetic philosophy. Yet M. Cousin has great merits, and we should have taken it kindly in our author, if, while pointing out the errors of his illustrious countryman, he had shown himself more ready to recognize those merits, and to award him the honor he deserves for the services he has unquestionably rendered to philosophy in France.
In the classification of schools, the Abbe Hugonin is a decided ontologist, and like all the ontologists of his country we are acquainted with, too much under the influence of Pere Malebranche to suit either our taste or our judgment. Malebranche was, we admit, a great philosophical genius, and in his theory of Vision in God revived a great truth, which the prevalence of Peripateticism had caused to be well-nigh forgotten. He was a great improvement upon Descartes, but he left philosophy one-sided as he found it. He did not, and could not with his theory, legitimately assert any thing but a simply possible universe. He asserted essences but not existences, and left the vital question of the relation between essence and existence, esse and existere, unsolved. As an ontologist, the learned Abbe has in these volumes established that thought is not a purely subjective fact, that it is governed by laws independent of the subject, and that it depends for its production on the object. By a profound analysis of thought he has proved that it contains invariably and necessarily, as the very condition of its existence, an ontological element which is its law, and identically real and necessary being. In this he establishes the reality and objectivity of ideas or the ideal element of thought, and refutes at once both those who make the object or the ideal the product of the subject, and those who maintain that being is no object of thought, and only phenomena are actually perceived. This, though it had been done before him, and is nothing new, original, or peculiar, is much, and we know of no one who has done it with greater depth of science, more thoroughly, or more conclusively. They who make philosophy purely subjective, or reduce it to mere phenomenology, denying all perception of the noumenon, are, in these volumes, so far as sound logic can go, reduced to silence forever.
In the discussion of ideas, essences, universals, genera, and species, and the different theories respecting them, the author is learned, profound and exhaustive. It may, perhaps, be a question whether he is quite just to Plato in reviving Aristotle's charge against him of regarding ideas as subsisting independently and outside of the Divine Being. From the little study we have been able to give to Plato's works, we think Aristotle either misunderstood or from rivalry wilfully misrepresented his theory of ideas. As we understand that theory, Plato held that ideas are the essences or realities of things, what in the variable and perishing things of sense we must know in order to have real science; that they are invariable, universal, and eternal, subsisting in the _, the divine reason or wisdom, and independent of God only in the sense in which his essence, reason, or wisdom is independent of his power, or incapable of being changed by his will. They subsist necessarily and eternally in the divine intelligence, are that intelligence itself, and the law according to which the divine will or power operates. God may produce any existence he pleases, but no existence contrary to the eternal conception of his own mind, which is only saying he cannot, from the very perfection of his nature, contradict his own wisdom or annihilate himself. On this point St. Augustine, St. Thomas, and our author, in making ideas the uncreated forms or essences of things subsisting in the Divine mind, immutable, stable, universal, and eternal, are, we think, only strict Platonists. Plato's error was not, as we understand him, in making ideas which are necessary, invariable, universal, and eternal, distinguishable from God and independent of him, but in asserting the preexistence of matter, and totally misconceiving the creative act of being. In producing existences, God, according to Plato, simply impresses the idea, subsisting in his own mind, on the preexisting matter, as the seal upon wax, and this too whether we speak of the production of the soul or of the body, which on the one hand asserts the Pythagorean dualism, and on the other denies the substantiality of existence, since the impression made by the seal has .no existence in the seal, and no substantive existence in the wax, distinct from the wax itself, which involves a double pantheism, the one spiritual, the other material. If we trace Platonism in its historical developments, we shall find that, when unrestrained by Christian theology, it has invariably tended to dualism, pantheism, or both at the same time. But, however this may be, the author holds ideas to be objective, and the essences—essenti rertim metaphysicce of the schoolmen, subsisting in God himself as the concepts of his own eternal reason, identical, since God is aclus simplicissimus, with his own real, eternal, and necessary being.
The author distinguishes very properly between idea or essence and existence. The essence is being. It does not exist, it is, and is the Divine concept or conception of an existence, which may, but does not exist ; or, in other words, of his own perfections or the plenitude of his own being. From our point of view the essence or idea is simply possibility ; from the point of view of being, it is the power or ability of being to produce existence. What the author means by existence, as distinguished from the idea or essence, is not very easy to collect, but he seems to regard it as the actuation of essence, or the concretion of the idea, and terms it limited being. Ideas or essences are possible existences, the eternal concepts of the Divine intelligence, and really the Divine being itself. We think them in the ontological element of thought, and really perceive them in perceiving being, as we perceive being in perceiving them. But essences are not existences, and the perception of them, which is the perception of being, is not the perception of existences. What we perceive in the Divine Being is not existence, but the Divine being itself, and in perceiving the essence in God we make not the slightest advance towards the perception of existences. How, then, do we perceive existences or the physical essence ? The author, if we do not mistake his meaning, holds that we perceive them in or by their ideal or metaphysical essences ; that is, the actual in or by the possible. But essences are not existences, for existences are not being. How, then, can we perceive existences even in or by their essence ? Here is the difficulty.
The author takes his point of departure in thought, not in thought as a purely subjective fact, but thought in its contents, or the reality presented in it. Reducing thought to its simplest form, or simple perception, he finds that it simultaneously and invariably contains two elements, subject and object, subject thinking, and object thought. The object is distinct from, and independent of, the subject thinking. In perceiving the subject is passive, receives, but does not produce the perception. The object, in the act of thinking, is not produced, sought, or found, but presents itself as the necessary objective element of thought. It is precisely because it so presents itself that it is perceived, or rather its presentation of itself is the perception. Without the object there is nothing to be perceived, and therefore no perception ; for to perceive nothing, and not to perceive, are one and the same thing. Then the law of thought, that which governs it, determines it, makes it what it is, and forbids it to be otherwise, is the object. "We think the object such, because it is such, not because we are such. Hence what we will call the first law of thought,—the author calls it a fact of thought,—is that every thought must and does present the object, as well as the subject, and present it distinct from, and independent of, the subject.
The object, the author tells us, is idea, or the idea of being ; and the idea of being, is being perceived or thought. Only ideas are immediately perceived, for only being is intelligible per se, and they are always perceived as universal, invariable, eternal, and necessary, and therefore are and must be the one real, universal, necessary, immutable, and eternal being ; that is, if we consider it the Divine being itself. Hence the law of thought is ontological, is being; and therefore the second law of thought is, the direct and immediate object perceived in every perception, must be and is real and necessary being, or the Divine being itself, who is the truth perceived, and the light by which we perceive it and whatever else we perceive or know.
But here is the precise difficulty. The law of thought, as asserted by the author, is purely ontological, and he restricts the object of perception to being alone. Hence he says, positively, existences except the soul perceiving or receiving the perception, are not perceived,—are not perceptions. We perceive or have intuitive perception of being, the Divine Being, and our percipient soul. How, then, do we arrive at the knowledge of existences ? We cannot know them in their metaphysical essences, for that would be saying that we know them in God ; but we cannot know them where they are not, and, though essences are in God, existences are not. We cannot know them in the percipient soul, for the soul contains no existence but its own. We know existences, the author says, by their essence ; not by perceptions, but by a judgment, which, as he defines it, is not their act, but ours. But how explain a subjective judgment, which, with the perception only of essence or being, and our own soul, enables us to affirm scientifically existences distinguishable, on the one hand, from the essence, and on the other, from the soul ? A judgment, to be a judgment, must have three distinct terms—subject, predicate, and copula. The copula at once unites and distinguishes the other two terms, and forms them into a synthesis, an organic whole. To be a valid judgment, the three terms must be perceived, and therefore be objective and real. We cannot understand, then, a real judgment, when one of its terms is unperceived and therefore unnoted. The author says the copula in every judgment, expressed by the verb is or to be, is being. We perceive, then, the copula in perceiving being, but what and where are the subject and predicate when it concerns affirming existences, of which we have no perception ? He also makes being in every judgment the attribute or predicate. Thus the judgment would be, existences are being, which is as false as the judgment, being is existence, even if we had the notion of existence, which we are supposed not to have. In either case the judgment has but two terms ; in the former the copula and predicate, in the latter the subject and copula are identical; the judgment, therefore, is no judgment at all. No judgment that affirms what is false, is or can be a real judgment, for the false cannot be affirmed, any more than it can be perceived,—a fact, which the author seems not to have duly considered. In every real or synthetic judgment, there must be three distinct terms, and every false judgment is really no judgment, because in it one of the terms is wanting. Hence if we make simple, quiescent being the copula, the only possible judgment will be, Being is being. With simple being for the copula, the judgment can affirm only being, because in that case we must make either the subject and copula, or the copula and predicate, identical. This fact may possibly require a slight revision of the peripatetic logic, still taught in the schools. In maintaining, after Bossuet, that the copula simply identifies the subject and predicate, the author can hardly escape pantheism. The copula unites, but does not identify them, for while it unites it distinguishes them.
The author deserves great credit for asserting thought or perception as a synthesis of subject and object, but he seems to forget that for a proper synthesis, there is necessary a term which he does not include in the primitive perception, a term too without which, we venture to say, neither of the others is perceptible, namely, the relation between subject and object, the real nexus or copula that distinguishes and unites the subject and predicate in a real judgment. He adjourns, as we understand him, the discussion of this nexus or copula to his treatise on Cosmology, not yet forthcoming. How he will treat it there, we cannot say. He may, and we trust he will, accept it in its real character, and give it in its real place in his principium. Yet he must pardon us, if we say we see not how he can do it, without essentially modifying much he has said in the volumes before us. He has, so far as we can see, made no provision for it, for he restricts, or appears to restrict, thought to two terms, not only by naming and describing only two terms, but by denying the immediate perception of existences, and identifying the copula and predicate with being. He is bound by his own principles to take thought in its integrity, in all its real elements for his point of departure ; and the third term, the relation between object and subject, between being and existence, is as real, as necessary, and as certain an element of thought as either of the other two. This relation, the real nexus of things, and therefore of the elements of perception, we all know from our theology at least, is the creative act of being producing existences from nothing. We never perceive object and subject, being and existence, without perceiving them in their real relation, because in perception, as the author maintains, we are passive, and only the real is perceived. He denies, indeed, the perception of all existences, except the soul, but if he concedes the perception of the soul, he must concede the perception of existence distinguishable from being. Existence cannot be perceived in itself, for it has no being in itself, and it is agreed that only being is intelligible either in se or per. Existences cannot be perceived in being, for what is in being, is being, and existence is not being, but distinguishable from it. It is perceived by being, we grant ; but it can be perceived, for only the real is perceived, by being, only in the sense that it exists by being, therefore only in its real relation to being. Existence is by being because it is from being, and it is from being only mediante actu entis creativo, and therefore can be perceived only mediante that act, and consequently by the perception of that act itself, the real relation or copula between it and being.
The author has failed to see this, by failing to note that every perception,—intuition is the word we prefer,—is a real judgment, with the three necessary terms of a judgment, subject, predicate, and copula. He denies this, and maintains that in perception we are passive; in judgment we act. Every judgment affirms ; perception simply apprehends without affirming. Without our affirming, we grant; but not without an affirmation on the part of the object, otherwise there would be no perception, since the affirmation of the object to us by itself is precisely what is meant by the perception, and it is this simple fact that gives objective validity to the perception and saves it from being a purely subjective mode or affection. In perception the object presents itself, and to present itself to the subject perceiving is precisely to affirm that it is or exists. The judgment which is our act must be a reflective judgment, and as reflection supplies no element or term not included in the perception, however you distinguish between perception and judgment, you must concede that perception embraces all the terms essential to the judgment, and as there is no judgment without the three terms, subject, predicate, and copula, you must concede that these three terms are immediately perceived as the three terms of an ideal or objective judgment. Without this objective or ideal judgment, we can form no subjective or reflective judgment, because without it we have not and cannot have the three terms essential to every judgment whether subjective or objective, since it will not do, as the author very well knows, to assume that the subject creates or supplies from itself the terms or any one of the terms of its judgment. To do that would plunge us into humanitarian pantheism. It was the error of Leroux.
The law of thought as defined by the author makes being the copula and the predicate of the judgment, and therefore, as being, not existence, must be the subject, he can affirm only being is, ens est, and there, as it seems to us, his philosophy begins and ends. Being contains all the terms of a judgment in itself, for who says being, says being is, and therefore being is the adequate object of its own intelligence. Hence God who is being contains the perfection of his own attributes in himself, and is, as the schoolmen say, after Aristotle, actus purissimus, most pure act, and has no need to go out of himself for his perfection or his beatitude. The law of thought is rightly defined to be ontological, in the sense that being supplies the copula, but not in the sense that being is it, for that would imply that the subject and predicate are identical, and the judgment would be either that existence is being, or being is existence, the soul perceiving is God, or God is the soul perceiving. The copula, since it cannot be being in itself, must as supplied by being, be being in its act, and therefore the copula must be the creative act of being, and the ideal or objective judgment, the law of every human judgment, will not be ens est nor existtns or existentia est ens, but ens creat existentias, or being creates existences, a judgment that expresses the real order or the real relation of things,—or do rerum. The mistake is precisely in supposing that we perceive existence as ens, and in making ens simply, and not ens creans, or being in its creative act, the copula of the judgment. The judgment, as we state it, confounds none of the terms, but preserves them united indeed, yet distinct.
Certainly it does not enter into our head for one moment to accuse the learned and estimable author of denying the creative act ; all we mean is that he does not regard it as a primitive perception, or intuition, and fails to include it as one of the original and essential elements of thought. He omits it from his primum philosophicum, and thus fails to include in it all our primitive notions, without which philosophy is not and cannot be a science. Thought, as he presents it, is inadequate, and does not give us all our primitive notions in its synthesis. He is right in holding that only being is intelligible per se, and that existences are intelligible only by being, and by a real judgment; but we think he is wrong in supposing that the judgment by which they are affirmed is a judgment made by us in the light of being, and not a judgment made by being itself and simply perceived by us, or in supposing that it is being in itself and not being in its act that renders existences intelligible. Being creates existences, and in creating illumines them ; so the medium of our apprehension of them is not our reflective judgment, as we understand him to hold, but the creative act itself, affirmed to us in simple perception as really and as truly as being or as our own soul as the thinking subject. Thought is then not a perception of one or even two terms only, but is, as M. Cousin, among others, has fully proved in his analysis of what he calls the fact of consciousness, " simultaneously and indissolubly composed of three indestructible elements, subject, object, and their relation." The relation he calls the form of the thought.
M. Cousin's principal merit as a philosopher, and by no means a small merit, lies in his assertion of thought as a synthesis, embracing at once, and indissolubly, subject, object, and their relation. He rightly called the relation the form of the thought, or the copula of the judgment, as we say, although he appears never to have suspected its real character. He made the synthesis, as he understood it, the basis of his Eclecticism, but misconceiving the form or copula, and failing to identify it with the creative act of being, or at least with that act in its real character, he failed to give us a true synthetic philosophy, and left his eclecticism to run now into pantheism, now into pure subjectivism, or to expire in an unscientific syncretism, which embraces truth and error without discrimination. Leroux, who deserves, as a profound philosophical thinker, more credit than he usually receives from his countrymen, appreciated far better than M. Cousin the importance of the formula, and rightly conceived that the relation or the form of the thought, is the act of the force producing the thought; but, by a mistake, not unlike the one we have pointed out in our author, he confounded this force or being with the subject; regarded the individual man as merely phenomenal, as, in his language, sensation-sentiment-connaissance, and placed all productive power in humanity or the race, thus falling into a peculiar sort of humanitarian pantheism. The merit of Leroux consists in having identified the form with the act of being ; his error consists in mistaking the character of the act, and placing the being, or the productive force, on the side of the subject, instead of the side of the object, which, logically, forced him to assert humanity as God. The Italian, Abbate Gioberti, a theologian, and a man of rare philosophical genius, followed, saw, and avoided the vagueness and uncertainty of Cousin and the fatal error of Leroux, detected and described the real character of the relation, the copula, or form of the thought—derived it, not as did Leroux, from the subject, but from the object, and showed it to be the creative act of being, by which being produces all things or existences from nothing, or sine causa materiali, by its own omnipotent energy, thus identifying the synthesis of thought with the real synthesis of things, being and existence. He thus identified the ordo sciendi with the ordo rerum. Henceforth, philosophy was, what it had never hitherto been, a possible science—the science of reality, not the science of mere abstractions, which, since abstractions are nullities, is no science at all.
It may seem a bold assertion, but we do not hesitate to say, that prior to the perfection of the Giobertian formula, philosophy was not, and could not be, a science. Science is the reproduction in reflection of the real in its real synthesis, and before the recognition in its place of the real copula of being and existence, that was not possible. Science is science of the true, and not of the false, and the truth could not be scientifically asserted while its elements could not be asserted with their real nexus. In theology, we have and know the truth, truth itself; but we need only a glance at the history of philosophy, to be aware, that philosophy, as a separate science, has never accorded with the ontology asserted by Christian theology. We find it always dualistic and pantheistic as with Pythagoras and Plato, or dualistic, sensistic, nihilistic, as with Aristotle and the peripatetics ;—pantheistic with the mediaeval realists and the modern ontologists ;—seusistic, atheistic, nihilistic, with the mediaeval nominalists and modern psychologists. Always do we find it when left to itself, when free to develop its own principles according to the natural logic of the human mind, running from one direction or another athwart the only ontology that accords with our faith as Christians ; always has the great struggle in thinking minds been to accord philosophy and theology, and the great problem of our age, as all the world bears witness, is the reconciliation of reason and faith, so as to bring into mutual harmony all the elements of man's intellectual life. Out of the Church, men attempt this, by modifying their faith, so as to make it accord with what they call their reason ; inside of the Church, there may be individuals who wish it were lawful for them to do the same ; but they, who are of as well as in the Church, pocket their philosophical formulas when it comes to matters of faith ; and believe what the Church teaches, because they know she is infallible through the assistance of the Holy Ghost, and cannot deceive them.
The fact cannot be denied, and hence we find men of strong, practical good sense in every age, from St. Irenaeus down to our own times, looking with distrust on all metaphysical speculations, and discountenancing them as far more likely to perplex the mind, and to generate doubts and difficulties which philosophy cannot solve, than to aid any one either in comprehending or in adhering to the truth. It is all very well to tell these men that what they set their faces against is a false philosophy, that there is no discrepancy between reason and faith, and can be none between true philosophy and Christian theology ; but where is that true philosophy, or that exposition of natural reason between which and Christian faith there is no discrepancy ? It is as unwise to reason against facts as to kick against the pricks. You may talk to me in grandiloquent terms of your pretended Christian philosophy, but though studying the question for no mean portion of my life, 1 confess, I have never yet been able to find your boasted Christian philosophy. There is no such thing recognized in any of your schools, orthodox or heterodox, as a philosophy that accords with Christianity. Separate from theology, disjoined from the dogma, and taken as an independent science of natural reason, philosophy is Gentilistic, and remains to this day, unless the ideal formula he accepted, substantially, where it was left hy Plato and Aristotle. Certainly, the great theologians of the Church, in setting forth, elucidating, and vindicating the Catholic dogma, reason justly, and use sound philosophy, but not one of these same theologians gives us, outside of theology, unconnected with the dogma, a philosophy, or science of reason, that is complete, self-coherent, and accordant with the Catechism. St. Augustine avoids the chief errors of Plato, and gives us much, more perhaps than any other Father of the Church, that must enter into every sound system of philosophy; but a complete and adequate system of philosophy, a full and complete science of natural reason, he certainly has not given us. St. Thomas, when he uses natural reason as a theologian in face of the dogma, seldom, if ever, errs, but when he leaves theology, and speaks ex professo, as an independent philosopher, he is a peripatetic, and can by no means be always followed with perfect security. No man, however ingenious, can free his philosophy from the charge of conceptualism, another name for nominalism, or reconcile his peripatetic maxim, Nihil est in intellectu, quod non prius fuerit in sensu, with the ontology presupposed by faith. That maxim logically involves the sensism of Locke and Condillac, which, as all the world knows, leads to materialism, atheism, scepticism, nihilism. No doubt, St. Thomas holds, as did Aristotle himself, that we have, through the intelligible species, extracted by the intellectus agens from the sensible species or phantasms, a real cognition of the intelligible or non-sensible, as Locke pretended to have in reflection another source of ideas than sensation ; but this, in a systematic point of view, is no relief, because we have, in the way pretended, no real cognition of the non-sensible, and because if we had, it would only be in contradiction of the maxim assumed. St. Thomas was a great theologian, a man of rare gifts; he knew and loved the truth, and he would adhere to the truth, whether he adhered to his system or not, and much preferred contradicting himself to contradicting that. If so much may be said of these two greatest theologians of the Church, we need name no others.
We know the ideal formula, asserted by Gioberti, is not in good repute in certain quarters, and we have read much, very little to the purpose however, that has been written against it. Men who follow the traditions of the schools, and who never suffer themselves to think beyond the cahiers of the master, or to look at things themselves, save through the blurred pages of their text-books, must find it really difficult to recognize the truth of a formula, which no hydraulic pressure can force within their own narrow and inexpansive systems, and which necessarily shivers them to atoms. Men of this sort deserve our sympathy, not our reproaches. If the formula be accepted, though strictly in accord with theology and the truth of things, their old formulas are useless lumber, and the greater part of their labor on abstractions, and to overcome difficulties created by their own speculative systems, must be confessed to have been so much labor expended for nothing. Yet, it seems to us that a moderate acquaintance with the history of philosophy would suffice to satisfy men who think for themselves—where free thought is not only permissible, but a duty—that unless that formula be accepted, and the real relation between being and existence be asserted in our primum philosophicum, it is idle to strive for a philosophical science that shall accord either with Christian faith, or with common sense. Without it, your philosophy will always either lose the object in asserting the subject, or the subject in asserting the object, and by losing either lose both, or, with Hegel, end by declaring the absolute identity of being and not-being. We undertake no defence of Gioberti as a man, a politician, or an Italian patriot, but we will never suffer our dislike of the person to prejudice us against the truth he asserts. We have no sympathy with his war on the illustrious Society of Jesus—a society we love and honor; we have never been able to read, without indignation, his Gesuita Moderno, or his Del Rinnovamento civile d’Italia ; we find much in his Del Bello, his Del Buono, and in his Del Primato, that we cannot accept; we are far from clear in our own mind as to the faculty he calls sovrintelligenza, and which he seems to make a sort of natural bridge between the natural and the supernatural, over which the supernatural may pass and unite itself with the natural; we regret, for his sake, that he did not bear with Christian meekness and patience, the opposition he encountered, when, in his own judgment, he did not deserve to be opposed, instead of yielding, as he would seem to have done, to the dictates of offended pride and wounded vanity. But, we have nothing to do with any thing of this sort. The whole contribution he has made to philosophy is in asserting the creative act of being as a fact of primitive intuition, as the copula of the divine judgment, which must be taken as our primum philosophicum, and which is the law, type, and model of every human judgment, in so far as the human judgment is a real judgment. This contribution he has made, and it were cowardly and ungrateful not to give him credit for it. Yet what Gioberti may have said or not said, may have done or not done, except so far as it bears on this point, does not concern us as a philosopher. It is true, he has asserted the ontological element of thought, and proved that the intelligible is real and necessary being, but this had been done before him, by Plato, St. Augustine, St. Bonaventura, Malebranche, Thomassin, Leibnitz, Fenelon, Gerdil, indeed by all the so-called ontologists. On this point, we needed little more than we had received from Plato through St. Augustine. Others had identified the ideal with the intelligible, and the intelligible with real and necessary being ; but no philosopher before him had, so far as our knowledge extends, shown, or even asserted, that the being with which the ideal or intelligible is identical, is not being in itself, not simply quiescent being, being perceived or contemplated in itself, but being creating existence, thus presenting the ideal, not as a unity, but as a synthesis, embracing at once being in its act ad extra, and the act in its effect or product—being not as the essence of existence, but as creating existence. This may well be included under the head of being because existence, that is, the creature, is being mediante actu entis creativo. Gioberti supplied the nexus between being and existence—not by supplying independently of the other two terms conceived to be known without it, the copula needed to unite them, but by showing that the copula is perceived with the other two terms in its proper relation, and that neither of these two terms is ever perceived without it. All Gentile philosophy had overlooked or denied the creative act of being, at least had failed to include it in its principium. This was the grand defect of Gentile philosophy, that which ruined it. The Fathers asserted creation, but they borrowed the notion from theology, never included it in their principium, and, at best, made it only an addendum to philosophy, or a late deduction from principles subsequently taken up. The scholastics, no doubt, have long reasonings to prove creation, or the creative act of being asserted by faith, but they, one and all, omit it from their principium; and while, as theologians, they speak in due terms of creator and creature, as philosophers they speak of ens simpliciter and ens secundum quid, ens infinitum and ens finitum, unlimited being and limited being, as do all our modern ontologists, even our author, Professor Ubaghs of Louvain, and M. l’ Abbe Branchereau, the estimable author of Praelectiones Philosophicae, really, in its second edition, one of the very best manuals of philosophy we are acquainted with, thus making the difference between being and existence, or God and man, a simple limitation or negation. Defined per genus, as they say in the schools, God and man are the same : defined per differentiam, God is unlimited, and man is limited being. The differentia is in the limitation. It is not difficult to understand this in an Aristotle, who denied creation and asserted the eternity of the world, but I do not understand it in a Christian who asserts in his very credo, that God is the maker of all things, visible and invisible. It is to no manner of purpose to admonish us that ens when applied to man is not used in the same sense— univoce—as when applied to God, and therefore, that God and man are not included in the same genus, for the scholastic term ens has really but one meaning, and is always used, whatever may be said to the contrary, univoce. Ens finitum, in that it is ens, does, in no sense, differ from ens infinitum, and ens secundum quid, if ens at all, is ens simpliciter. Being, if being, is always one and identical; and limited being, unless we use the term loosely for existence or existentia, is a contradiction in terms. All being is and must be unlimited, infinite, and therefore, to define existence, as so many do, to be the delimitation, or determination of essence or being, is to fall into the vice of pantheism, or rather, is simply absurd. The Abbe Hugonin says truly, idea, essence, or being, is always thought as one, universal, real, and necessary. Then, how can we speak of limited being ? Existence is the production or creation, not the limitation of being. Whether we speak of being in itself, or being as the essence or archetype of existence, it is the one real, infinite, and necessary being, and is as unlimited as the being of man, as the being of God himself, and therefore it is the Apostle tells us we have our being in God.
It is true, we may speak of essences, possibilities, &c., in the plural, but these terms express conceptions, not intuitions, and they are plural only in the respect that being, in which they subsist, and which they are, may create many existences. The plurality is in the existence, not in the essence, for there is no distinction in re between essentia and esse. The ideas, essences, essential forms of things, which, according to Plato, are the original types, models, or paradigms of things subsisting in the Divine Reason or Intelligence, are not in reality, or in simple perception, distinguishable from the Divine being itself. In intuition they are not distinguished at all. Conceived as types, or models of existences, they are the Divine intelligence ; conceived as the possibilities of existences, they are the Divine power, omnipotence, or ability to create existences according to the eternal concepts of Divine wisdom. But as there is no real distinction, and in the perceptive order no distinction at all, between essentia and esse, neither distinctio rationis, nor distinctio rationis ratiocinatce, between the Divine being and the Divine attributes, or between one attribute*and another. Since God is actus simplicissimus, they are on the side of being one in the unity of being. The plurality, the diversity, the limitation, are then in the existence, and not in the essence.
The Abbe Hugonin distinguishes, though not with perfect accuracy, between perception and reflection, which is highly important, but we fear he falls into the common error of confounding them in the actual construction of his philosophy. All perception is synthetic ; all reflection is analytic ; perception presents the real and the concrete ; reflection analyzes and represents the abstract and the possible. Reflection is, of course, the instrument of philosophy, but it is necessary that it take its principles from perception or intuition, and that it take all the principles intuitively presented in their real relation. It is also necessary that it take care not to transport into the principium, or include among our primitive notions, any conceptions of its own. It is the neglect of this rule that has led philosophers to suppose that they could perceive being apart from the creative act, or existence apart from its relation to being, from which it proceeds and on which it depends. We can do this in the reflective order ; we may abstract the notion of being, consider it by itself, and construct the science of ontology ; we may abstract the notion of the creative act, and construct the science of cosmology ; we may abstract the notion of existence and construct psychology and the natural sciences, or we may take the three terms in their synthesis and construct philosophy or natural theology. But because we can conceive the terms separately, we must not suppose that we perceive them separately, or that we derive by reflection the notions of creation and existence from the notion of being. Notions are always from perception, never from reflection ; for reflection can add nothing to perception, or enable us to note any thing beyond the matter intuitively presented or affirmed ; a fact the philosopher must never lose sight of.
Yet it is precisely by losing sight of this fact and confounding the two orders, that the author is led to suppose that we perceive essences, and existences in or by their essences ; meaning, as we presume he does, not the physical or created essence, which is the nature of the thing itself, as distinguished from its modes or accidents, but the metaphysical essence, that is, mere possibility. We do not perceive the essence, and then proceed to the existence ; first, because the existence is not in the essence, and in perceiving essences we perceive only being ; second, because the actual is not inferable from the possible ; since argumentum a posse ad esse, non valet ; third, because we do not perceive the essence, or the possible as essence, or as possible at all, for we only perceive being in which is the essence or the power to create existences. Essence or possibility, formally such, is not a perception, but a conception formed by reflection from the notions of being and existence, as the author proves in a masterly manner in proving that the perception is real, or that the being perceived is always real and necessary being, and in refuting Rosmini, who asserts ens in genere, or mere possible being, as the primitive notion. It is the same neglect to keep the two orders distinct, that leads to the supposition that we perceive being and existence without perceiving the relation between them. The relation between essence and existences, that is, between real necessary being and contingent existences, in plain words, between God and man, our author says, is a mystery. Between them there is a gulf natural reason can neither fill up nor bridge over. We see the two terms, but the nexus that unites them is shrouded in thick and impenetrable darkness. Why, then, talk of philosophy, and puzzle our brains and bewilder our understanding with subtile abstractions and wire-spun speculation, that do and can amount to nothing ? It is impossible to perceive existence out of the creative act that produces it, for out of that it is nothing, and nothing cannot be perceived. Hence the author tells us in another place that existences are not perceived, that we perceive only being and our soul perceiving. Then we have only two notions, the notion of being and the notion of soul perceiving. These two notions then constitute our principium, and nothing can be admitted to be or to exist not contained in these two notions. The notion of existence cannot be derived from the notion of being, unless it is contained in the notion of being, and if contained in the notion of being God must be necessarily a creator, and can be only inasmuch as he is a cause, and a cause ad extra,—the error of Cousin, which makes the universe a necessary, unfolding, development, or manifestation of God,—decided pantheism. Take, then, the notion of the soul perceiving. The soul perceiving conceived not as united to God and distinguished from him by the creative act, can be conceived only as ens, and then it is put in the place of God, and nothing can be asserted not contained in the radical notion of being. We are here forced to the same conclusion we were before, only in this case we identify the soul with being, and call ourselves God, —the doctrine of the Transcendentalists. The universe is then simply a progressive development of the Ego, le moi, the me, and we must claim the Incommunicable Name for our Ego, and each of us say of himself, I Am Who Am. Take the two notions without the notion of the nexus or relation, and you have simply the conception of two real, necessary, independent, self-existing beings, each infinite, which we need not say is simply absurd.
It would surprise us, if we did not know the force of routine, after all our experience in every age and on every side, of the fatal consequences of attempting to operate with the ontological notion alone, or with the psychological notion alone, or with both without their real nexus, to find men who are deficient neither in acuteness nor in comprehensiveness failing to perceive that unless the two notions are united by a third in the principium or ideal judgment, so as to form a real synthesis, a living organism, philosophy is an impossible science, a vain, indeed a mischievous illusion, and that the conflict between it and theology must be interminable. Even making all allowance for routine, it strikes us as remarkable that philosophy, as taught in all our schools, orthodox as well as heterodox, should, as a separate and independent science of reason we mean, not in its connection with dogma, present, after two thousand years of Christian faith and instruction, the very gap it presented under Gentilism. If that gap in its principium be inevitable, if natural reason be unable to fill it up by including the creative act in the ideal judgment, why do we still look upon philosophy as a legitimate study, and why has it not long since been banished from our schools, and relegated to the dark regions of the occult sciences and the black art ? Why perpetuate a miserable sham ? Why not have the courage to look the truth in the face ?
Certainly we are far enough from pretending that we can comprehend the mystery of creation. Natural reason cannot comprehend that mystery any more than it can the mysteries of grace. In creation, as well as in redemption, God works in a way incomprehensible to us ; but that is not saying that we cannot by natural reason both apprehend and comprehend the fact that he does work. Certainly we cannot comprehend the creative act, but it does not therefore follow, that we have not an intuitive apprehension of it as the nexus that unites and distinguishes being and existence. There is no more mystery in ens creans than in simply ens, and it is only in or through ens creans or being creating our intelligence and presenting ens as its immediate object and light, that ens or being itself is perceived by us, for otherwise there would be no us. We should neither exist as intelligent existence nor as existence at all.
We must beware of exaggerating our perception of being. We perceive being by itself indeed, but not in itself. Ens is intelligible per se, not intelligible to us in our present state, in se. To be intelligible to us in se, we must be able by our own act to see God in himself, which is not possible without that elevation of our nature, or that assimilation to the divine nature, which theologians call the ens supernaturale, and which is the reward of the Blest in heaven. In this state of existence, we cannot behold being face to face and see as we are seen. We perceive being per se, but to perceive being per se is to perceive it only by its affirmation of itself. Its affirmation of itself is an act, the creative act itself, creating and illuminating our intelligence, or the very percipient subject that receives the affirmation. It is being, as the learned Abbe admirably proves, that presents and affirms itself, and hence we know being only by the act of being. It is thus we understand the words of the great Apostle of the Gentiles : " Invisibilia . . . ipsius, acreatura mundi, per ea quae facta sunt, intellecta, conspiciuntur : sempiterna quoque ejus virtus, et divinitas." Romans I 20. Not that either being or the invisible things of being are deduced, concluded, or obtained by reasoning from the things which are made, but conspiciuntur, are clearly seen by the creative act of being, since by that act they are intellecta, voouueva, or affirmed to our intellect or noetic faculty.
The learned author sees this and in reality asserts it, though he apparently does not appreciate the full force of his language, when he asserts that being which is the object perceived is truth, not a quiescent or sterile truth, but living truth, truth in its activity and fecundity. Where to us he seems to err is in restricting the object or the ideal to the purely ontological, which really gives him as his principium only the notion of pure being. From the notion of pure being he seems to us to derive the notion of essence or possibility ; indeed at times he seems to confound the notion of being with the notion, or rather, conception of essences, the mere possibilities of things, which involves the radical error of Rosmini. But though being contains the essences of things, yet the notion of being is not itself the notion of essences. The conception of being as essence, whether we take the essence in the sense of archetype or possibility, is an abstract conception posterior to the notion of being and that of existence. The ideal must embrace more than the notion of pure being, and if restricted to the ontological, the ontological must be understood to include all that is affirmed ontologically, or by being in the primitive intuition. The notion of pure being does not contain either the notion of creation or that of existence, actual or possible. We therefore cannot accept the theory of Pere Malebranche, that we see all things in God. We see things per Deum, not in Deo. We see in Deo only Deum. From the notion of pure being, we can obtain only the notion of pure being, and the notion, or conception rather, of essence, is obtained by reflection operating on the joint notions given us in the ideal judgment, and in a fact of experience, as is maintained by Aristotle against Plato. We cannot assume that the notion of being contains the notion either of creation or existence, actual or possible, without assuming that God is necessarily a creator, therefore that being is in doing or causing, and thus falling into the nihilism of Hegel, that creation is Infinite Possibility realizing itself, or progressively filling up the infinite void in its own being. Then to escape this ontological nihilism, if we may use the terms which exactly express the Hegelian contradiction, and also psychological nihilism, which would equally follow, if we were to take the notion of our personal existence with Rene Descartes for our principium, we must extend the object so that it embraces not only the primum ontologicum but also the primum psychologicum in their real synthesis, expressed in the ideal judgment, or judgment made not by us, but by being itself to us, that is, Being creating existences, which gives us the primitive notions of being, creation, existence, and therefore of all the knowable, since they are the notions of all the real. Nothing is knowable but the real, and all the real is being, being itself, its act, and the product of its act. What is not being is existence, and what is not existence is being. God and creature are the only two possible categories ; what is not God is creature, and what is not creature is God. In these two categories then, and their nexus, is necessarily included all the real, and therefore .all the knowable.
This formula we call ideal, because it is the object of thought, or what is affirmed in thought; we call it ontological, although it includes the primum psychologicum as well as the primum ontologicum, because the affirmation is made by being and not by the soul, or subject thinking. The truth of the formula no Christian does or can dispute. The dispute is as to whether it is really given in the primitive intuition, or only arrived at by reasoning as the last word of philosophy. Some admit the notion of being to be primitive ; some held that the notion of existence or the soul is primitive ; none, prior to Gioberti, so far as we are informed, have admitted the notion of creation to be primitive, that is, directly and immediately perceived. The only objection that we have to meet is that the three terms of the formula, at least one or more of them, are not perceived or affirmed to us in direct and immediate intuition, and if entertained at all, are obtained from reflection. This object we have already met and refuted in showing, as we think we have done, that unless the three terms are given in immediate intuition, no judgment, no thought even, is possible. If you ask me to go farther and prove that we really do think, I must beg to be excused ; for I have nothing but thought with which to prove thought, as happily you have nothing but thought with which to question, doubt, or deny thought. Thought thinks itself, and in thinking affirms itself. I cannot go behind thought, and from principles more ultimate than those given in thought demonstrate that I think. I can show that what I think is not myself projected, is distinct from and independent of me ; I can show that I cannot think without thinking the object, and that the object is the very law of the thought, as the Abbe Hugonin admirably and amply proves ; but I cannot prove that those notions I assert enter into every thought or are immediately perceived, except by proving that they are the necessary principles of thought, and that there can be no thought without them. Farther than this I concede I cannot go, but farther than this proof in no case ever does or can go, or is ever demanded by any who understands himself.
Principles are given, not found, not demonstrated. Demonstration does not affirm its principles, for it always proceeds from them as already known, or assumed to be known. The mind cannot act or even exist without principles. It does not without principles go forth weeping and wailing, like the poor Isis, in search of principles, for till it has principles, it cannot act, cannot even exist, for the principles are the very elements of its life. All the principles essential to its existence as intelligent existence must be given it in the very instant of its creation, for without them there is not only no thought, no intelligent act, but no intelligence, no mind to think or perceive. These essential principles, the elements of all intellectual power and vitality in the soul, we have proved, are the three terms of the ideal formula, and the affirmation of these three terms by being creates and illumines the thinking substance itself, which is at once the product and recipient of the affirmation. Being creates the thinking subject in and by the very act by which it affirms itself its immediate object and light. The principles are not principles presented or supplied to a mind conceived as existing prior to the presentation and without them. Precisely what we mean is that without them the thinking substance is not created, does not exist. The affirmation is the creation of the soul itself, and the three terms in their living union are the elements of its intellectual existence and vitality. Unless, therefore, the three terms are given intuitively, no immediate perception, no perception, no thought, no intellectual operation, no human act of any kind is possible, for there is no intellectual subject, no via activa. Having proved that these three terms are the essential elements of our intellectual life, and that there can be no thought without their immediate perception, we have proved that they are immediately perceived, if thought be a fact. The only point we have not proved i8 that there is thought, and that needs no proof, for it thinks or affirms itself, both apodictically and empirically.
Here we might stop, for our argument requires not another word ; but we will add a few considerations by way of explanation and confirmation. We hardly need advertise the philosophical reader that in representing the three terms of the ideal judgment as immediately perceived, we are not speaking of an empirical perception, which is the act of the subject, what the author calls a judgment, and which we form by means of a contingent fact taken from experience, and the apodictic element supplied by the ideal judgment; but we are speaking of a perception d priori, a perception which precedes our perceptive act, perception which is the judgment of being, the principle of the ideal formula, and of which the subject is the simple spectator or recipient. It is the origin, the law, the necessary condition d priori of every empirical judgment, or perception, in the same sense and for the same reason, that the creative act is the origin, the law, and the condition of existences themselves. What renders so many unwilling or unable to admit this a priori perception, is that they confound it with empirical perception, and recognize no perception which is not primarily the act of the percipient subject. Certain that they have no empirical perception in the case, they feel perfectly authorized to deny that there is any perception at all. There is no perception in their sense of the word, and which, we believe, is its ordinary and natural sense. To perceive is an active verb, and by its own force implies that we seize the object, rather than that the object affirms itself to us. We do not approve its use in the author's sense, and we rarely use it ourselves, except to express an empirical fact, for we admit no distinction between judgment and perception, and hold that every perception is a judgment. We use it in this article simply because it is the official term of the author we are reviewing ; but the term we prefer is intuition, a looking on, which presents us not as actors, but as spectators, or the whole judgment as the act of being, and therefore apodictic, and nothing as empirical or subjective but the mere reception of the judgment. Understanding by the intuition the judgment of being which places the subject and renders it percipient, and carefully distinguishing it from the empirical judgment or perception, which is our act in union with the apodictic judgment, the difficulty will vanish, and every one who understands the problem will see that the three terms of the ideal formula must be given a priori or intuitively by the act of being itself, and therefore are so given since here the must and the is are identical.
When we say the creative act is immediately perceived or given in immediate intuition, we by no means pretend that we perceive it in an empirical judgment. The difficulty felt by men not unacquainted with philosophical studies, in admitting our assertion, arises, we apprehend, precisely from their not making this distinction between the empirical judgment and the judgment a priori. Certainly the creative act is not empirically perceived, for it has been well proved by Hume, and more especially by Kant, that the nexus between cause and effect is and can be no object of experience or empirical perception, and yet we cannot make a single proposition, or utter a single sentence, without assuming it. How could this be, if there did not enter into every empirical thought the non-empirical perception or intuition of that nexus ? To say with Kant that it is a subjective form, is nonsense, for that would deny alike all empirical and all non-empirical perceptions. Our philosophers, though they exclude the notion of cause from their principium, yet undertake, before ending their course, to prove that the universe is created, and that God is creator, creating all things from nothing, by the omnipotent energy of his word alone. How is it that they do not perceive that they have, prior to commencing their demonstration, the notion of creation in their minds, and have everywhere been using it as the principle of their demonstration ? Given the notion of being, the notion of creation does not follow, for the notion of being suffices for itself. Being is its own adequate object, and has its perfection in itself; nothing in the notion of it implies that it must or does create or produce ad extra. It cannot be deduced from the notion of existence, because it is not in existence, and because the notion of existence itself is not possible without the notion of creation.
The attempt to derive the notion of creation by way of logical deduction from the notion of being, presupposes that being is necessarily a creator, and ends, as we have seen, in pantheism. The attempt to derive it from the notion of existences, the more common attempt in our days, ends in modern deism, as gross an error as pantheism, and even more offensive to the religious sentiment. Pantheism is the error of a religiously-disposed, deism of an irreligiously-disposed mind ; the one absorbs the act in the actor, the other the actor in the act ; the one makes the creation a mode or affection of the Creator, the other withdraws the creation from God, and assumes that the creation, when once created, stands alone, and suffices for itself. In order to suppose it possible to have the intuition of existences without the notion of creation, we must suppose them to be substances containing their own substans, or that which stands under and makes them substantieae in relation to their own acts, affections, or phenomena. Well accredited philosophers do suppose this, and few suppose otherwise, except pantheists. They call existences substances, and define substance to be that which can be thought per se, not tamquam in subjecto. Tamquam in subjecto is, we suspect, an after-thought, and merely says the substance is not mode, affection, property, or attribute. If the existence is perceptible per se, it exists per se; and if it exists per se, although it may have been created, it contains in itself its own substans, and is substans as well as substantia. This is what we call deism, the error directly opposed to pantheism, and is the doctrine of those who profess to believe in God and creation, and yet deny Providence and supernatural revelation. The doctrine is well known. It calls God an artificer, a mechanic, and likens him to a watchmaker, and the universe to a watch, which, when once made, its springs and wheels properly adjusted, wound up, and set a-going, will go of itself—till run down. It forgets that the force or power that propels the machinery is independent both of the watch and its maker. The watchmaker creates nothing ; he only uses materials and forces applied to his hand, only arranges his machinery, and adapts it to a force, which is neither in him nor in his mechanism. It makes actus creativus actus transiens, producing its effect and passing from it or ceasing, leaving the effect, as it assumes, to stand alone on its own two feet, or the universe, as the amusing Dr. Evariste Gypendole would say, to go ahead on its own hook. It disjoins Providence from creation, and authorizes pure Epicureanism. Existences depended on God to be created, it concedes, but now that they are created they exist in themselves, and suffice for themselves, and scarcely a cultivator of natural science ever looks beyond them. The laws of nature are sufficient. Perhaps he who created existences may annihilate them, or rather, change their forms ; but as long as he suffers them to remain, they are independent of him in their operations, need not his concurrence, want nothing of him, but to be let alone. They have no occasion to think of him, and they have no wish for him to trouble himself about them. He may go to sleep up above, find delight or amusement in contemplating his own handiwork, and observing how we carry on down here below, or busy himself in creating new worlds in the boundless regions of space. This horribly blasphemous doctrine, as unphilosophical as blasphemous, and which is pushed not unfrequently so far as to assert the inviolability of the laws of nature, and to deny the right and the possibility of supernatural intervention, is involved in the assumption that existences are perceptible by themselves without the perception of the creative act, or that the notion of creation may be derived, with our physico-theologists, from the notion of existence. We cannot derive the notion of creation from the notion of being ; we cannot derive it from the notion of existence, and the only reason why people suppose that we can derive from the notion of existence is, that they adopt, consciously or unconsciously, the deistical view of existences. That view is false. Existence is not being or ens, but it is in its essential notion from being—ex-stare, the ex always denoting from, or out of. It then is not perceptible without the perception of its relation to being. The very notion of it is the notion of that which is dependent, contingent, which cannot stand alone, which is not its own substans. To say that it is its own substans, is deism ; to say that being is immediately its substans, is to make it a mode, affection, or attribute of being, and therefore pantheism. The substans, while it is from being, must be distinguished, on the one baud, from being, and from substantia or existence, on the other. But as the notion of existence includes the existence in its dependency, its contingency, or its relation to the substans, since the real not the unreal is perceived, as we have shown, it follows that the notion of existence is not possible without the notion of the substans, which must be the creative act of being. Do not say this makes the creative act an inference, not an intuition. The inference is not that there must be a creative act, although that would suffice for our purpose, but that the creative act, which we call the substans, not the substantia, must be perceived as the condition of perceiving existence, and therefore the notion cannot be derived from the notion of existence, and really is perceived, if existence is perceived, which last cannot be denied, because in every thought our own existence is affirmed, at least, as subject thinking.
The difficulty we experience on this point arises from the fact that we confound substans and substantia, just as we do ens and existens, being and existence. We call God substance, we call existence substance, and through nearly all our philosophical language runs the error that the differentia between being and existence, God and creation, is limitation, and that defined per genus, both are the same —an error not eliminated by the protest that is sometimes added. Hence we are perpetually vibrating between pantheism and deism, or between deism and atheism. May God forgive the philosophers ! There is no calculating the amount of mischief they have done, and we fear that no little of the unbelief and shocking impiety we have everywhere to deplore must be finally laid to their charge. The substans is not being, for that would imply pantheism ; it is not substantia or existence, for that would be deism. It is distinguishable from both, being and existence, and yet is not without being, nor is existence without it. It is the act of being creating existences. The error lies in regarding, on the one hand, the actus creativus as actus transient, and on the other, in regarding it as actus immanens in the sense of producing only in the interior of the actor. The creative act does not simply produce its effect and pass over or from it, or cease with its simple production ; for the cessation or passing over of the act would not leave the effect independent, or a quasi-independent existence, but would be the cessation or annihilation of the effect. Between being and existence there is only the creative act, and only the creative act between existence and nothing. Prescind the act, and existence is gone, is annihilated. Thus the creative act is not actus transiens, but is substans, substantial, that which stands under and supports the substantia or existence, that is to say, actus creativus is identically actus conservative. Hence we say not only that God created existences, but that he creates existences, for his creative act is an ever-present act. The universe is created to-day as well as six thousand years ago, and is, in one sense, as new, as young, as fresh as “on creation's morn." Hence we call the creative act actus immanens,— not immanent in the sense that it produces only within the actor, for the creative act is essentially actus ad extra, but immanent in the effect, as that which produces and sustains it,—simply what theologians mean when they say God is present, efficaciously present, in all his works. God is eminenter, as say the theologians, all existence, and the only cause, and concurs in all our acts. This is what and all we mean when we say the actus creativus is actus immanens, not actus transiens. We do not mean that it is actus immanens in the sense in which the generation of the Word or the procession of the Holy Ghost is actus immanens; but that it is an act that remains in its effect as long as the effect remains, as its substans, that which makes it from nothing what it is, and holds it from dropping into nothing again. The error of Spinoza was not in his terming God causa immanens, but in making him immanent as the substance, or, as we say, immanent in his being, not simply immanent by his act. By assuming the immanence to be that of God in his being, or substance, in his language, Spinoza placed existences in God, and made them merely modes, affections, or attributes of the Divine being. But to say that he is causa immanens, in the sense of causa causarum, or first cause, creating existences as second causes, involves no pantheistic conception. The word, however, has to some extent been appropriated by the theologians, and its use even in our sense is not to be commended. We have used it partly to avoid the error of the deists, and partly for the purpose of pointing out the abuse of it by Spinoza. All we wish to express is that the creative act is the substans of the existence, and that the act of creation is itself the act of conservation. Hence Providence is joined to creation, and proved in proving the Creator.
The creative act, taken as the substans, as every instant creating us, presents us in a most intimate and affecting relation to our Creator. Through his act we are brought from nothing and vitally joined to himself, and in him we live, and move, and have our being. We are not placed at a distance from God ; nothing but his own act, vitally joined to him, as is the act to the actor, intervenes between us and him, and that instead of separating us from him, joins us in the closest union with him. He made us yesterday, he makes us to-day, for our existence is a continuous creation. We cannot live, think, hope, love, or perform any operation without his act, his concurrence. He is not only beyond and above the world, but he is in the world, producing and interpenetrating all things with his life-giving and love-inspiring presence. We live from, we live in, we live by his presence, and it is with him our souls converse, whenever turning from the outward things of sense, they converse with the True, the Good, and the Fair.
Indeed, so intimate, so vital is the relation asserted between God and his creatures, that able men, men whose study is philosophy, and whom we cannot but respect for their devotion to principle, although mistaken, have even labored with earnestness and zeal to fasten the charge of pantheism on the formula, which is, after all, only the translation into philosophy of the first verse of Genesis. We impugn not their faith or their motives, but we find it difficult to understand how any one with a moderate acquaintance with theology, or possessing a moderate share of common sense, can dream of preferring such a charge ; and they who prefer it, we must be permitted to believe either condemn what they have not taken the pains to understand, or embrace philosophical views of a decided deistical tendency. However this may be, we hold ourselves ready to defend the formula from the charge, or to reject it, whenever we find it preferred by one whose own formula we cannot fairly and logically convict of pantheism or of deism.
Several other questions, connected more or less intimately with the main subject of this article, such as the question of universals, genera, and species, the question of individuation, the pons asinorum of the schoolmen, and the question of empirical perception, on which we have but slightly touched, which we should like to take up and discuss at length, and perhaps we may do so hereafter, but we have for the present exhausted our space. Our main object thus far has been to reinstate the creative act in the principium, and to show that if we mean to have a philosophy that will accord with Christianity, we must include the notion of that act among our primitive notions. That, we think, we have done. In conclusion we must beg our readers not to suffer the occasional criticisms we have offered on the Abbe Hugonin to prejudice them against him, for we are by no means sure that his views when he shall have fully developed them will not be found coincident with our own. He deserves honor and gratitude for his valuable philosophical labors, and we assure him that if we have misapprehended his doctrine on any point, it will give us sincere pleasure to make him the amplest reparation in our power.