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thing. If infallible foreknowledge of an event be a proof of its future occurrence, then, as soon as any one shall possess that foreknowledge, the proof must exist in full force, whether known to one or to many. But even if declared, says Dr Coplestone, it does not prove the event to be necessary. "This (he goes on to observe) is an example of the same error which pervades the stoical argument mentioned in the treatise De Fato,' i. e. confounding words with things. One proposition may be a necessary consequence of another proposition; but the thing denoted by it is not therefore necessary." If it be here meant that the truth of the second proposition is not necessary, this is an assertion at which logicians will a little startle. That the truth of a proposition flowing from a true premiss should not be necessary, is something new in logic. This paradox, however, is not needed to overturn the stoical sophism quoted in the treatise "De Fato."* The argument of the Stoics, which puzzled the disciples of Epicurus, was an affirmation "of the certainty of either the affirmative or the negative of every proposition that could be uttered concerning what was to pass hereafter." The sophism lies in this, that in the first assumption the question in dispute is begged. One of these two propositions-that, on a given day, it will rain, or will not rain, is now certainly true, says the fatalist; and this the epicurean did not, it seems, take upon him to deny. He might have done so, however, according to his own principles. If it be argued that there are such things as contingent events, the definition of such events must be, that they are future events, possible in themselves, but on the occurrence or non-occurrence of which, there is no ground in nature for de eiding beforehand. The chances for
their future occurrence or non-occurrence must be exactly equal, and there must be absolutely no ground for expecting or predicting one alternative in preference to the other. This, it is presumed, is the definition of what is meant by absolute contingency, as applied to a future event. If this be so, all propositions as to such events, whether affirmative or negative, must be equally uncertain. Supposing, then, that it is affirmed of an absolutely contingent event, (as it is asserted to be,) for instance, of a person's laughing on a given day," one of the two is certain, he will laugh, or he will not laugh;" then this must be denied. For what is the meaning of the assertion? not that one of the two propositions will ultimately become certain, but that one of them is, at the present time, certain; which is only an assertion opposed to the assertion of contingency. The definition of a contingent event is, an event in its own nature absolutely uncertain, and as to the occurrence or non-occurrence of which, all propositions must consequently be uncertain. He, therefore, who undertakes to prove the negative of the assertion which says that both propositions, the affirming or denying the occurrence of a future event, are equally uncertain together with the event, and who begins with_laying down as one of his premises, that one of the two is now certain, is guilty of a petitio principii. The only difficulty lies in distinguishing the falsehood of the position-"because one of the two will, ultimately, become absolutely certain;" therefore one of the two must now, at this moment, be absolutely certain-which does not follow. With respect to the possibility of such things as contingent events, the existence of which is, after all, a mere assumption, more hereafter.
Dr Coplestone's distinction between
It is evident that the philosophers of Cicero's time had no proper idea of the modern hypothesis of philosophical necessity, but were confused by the notion of a perso nified Fate, who exerted an extraneous influence upon the course of nature. This is evident in the following passage from the treatise "De Fato."" Ne Hercule Icadii, quidem, prædonis video Fatum ullum. Nihil enim scribit ei prædictum. Quid mirum igitur, ex speluncâ saxum in crura ejus incidisse? Puto enim, etiam si Icadius tum in spelunca non fuisset, saxum tamen illud casurum fuisse. Nam, aut nihil est omnino fortuitum aut hoc ipsum potuit evenire Fortuna. Quæro igitur, (atque hoc late patebit,) si Fati omninò nullum nomen,-nulla natura, nulla vis esset, et fortè temere casû aut pleraque fierent aut omnia; num aliter ac nunc eveniunt evenirent? Quid, ergo, attinet inculcare Fatum, cum, sine Fato, ratio omnium rerum ad Natu. ram, Fortunamve referatur ?"
absolute certainty and necessity is not
claration to that effect must be absolutely true; and that truth must be as necessary as any thing which now exists is necessary. It follows, then, that he may declare of the event, "that it certainly shall be," and also "that it has an equal chance not to be;" and that both these declarations are necessary, absolute, and existing truths.
The doctrine of contingency must not, however, be assumed, as it has generally been, without examination. Of the existence of such things as absolutely contingent events, there has never been the shadow of a proof.t Absolute contingency is a mere Ens Rationis," (a phrase sufficiently clou dy;) nay, it is hardly even that. What definition of contingency has ever been offered, from which any distinct ideas can be drawn? What is to become of the reasonings founded upon cause and effect, if events may take place without causes, or causes may be followed by no effects, or by contrary effects? Dr Coplestone, very properly no doubt, submits, (p. 40,) that " if we mean by the word contingent, that which cannot be known beforehand; we only say that what cannot be known beforehand, cannot be known beforehandwhich is saying nothing; therefore nothing is denied of the Deity." Granted: but what better meaning can the advocates of free-will put upon it? In fact, they are driven to assume, either this sort of absolute contingence, which, as they allow, excludes the divine foreknowledge; or else another sort, the definition of which includes a contradiction; that is to say, they de
Hobbes, who, by the way, was perhaps the first who had clear ideas of necessity, complains of the want of novelty in the objections to it. In fact, most of the arguments against the doctrine are to be found in the older writers, however science may have suggested improved methods of answering them. The following passage from Baronius embodies the distinction in question. He endeavours to make out future certainty to be only a sort of contingent necessity! It occurs in Sec. XII. "De Necessario et Contingenti."
"Hoc modo necesse est ‘Socratem ambulare,' factâ hac suppositione quod ambulet' hoc item modo, necesse fuit 'Adamum peccare,' suppositâ præscientiâ Divinâ, quia scil: Dei præscientia non potest falli. Interim, hujusmodi necessitas non accidit ratione alicujus principii motivi vel impulsivi; neque enim Deus per præscientiam suam effecit ut homo peccaret, sicut homo qui præscit aliquam Rem futuram, per suam præscientiam non efficit ut Res futura sit, sed, quia Res futura est, ideo præscit. Cum ergo, Necessarium variis modis dicatur, tenendum est, non omnes hos modos necessitatis comprehendi sub necessario proprie dicto, sed plerosque eorum nihil aliud esse quam modos quosdam contingentis, præ se ferentis speciem necessitatis." It is precisely South's distinction between the Church of Rome and that of England-one was infallible; the other never in the wrong!
+ See Edwards on Free-will, Chap. “On Cause and Effect." Berkeley "De Motu," &c. &c.
fine a contingent event to be something, the occurrence of which is certainly known to be uncertain, and yet, of which the certain occurrence is, or may be, certainly known. That the existence of absolutely contingent events is a gratuitous supposition, cannot be denied. No one has ever been able to point out any such event in nature. Experience, on the contrary, has constantly taught, that events happen in a continued chain of cause and effect. Nor has one single occurrence, either of motion, thought, or existence of any sort, been ascertained to have shewn itself independent of some prior connecting event, which acted necessarily as a cause or reason. But a contingent event is either without a cause, or else its cause co-exists with it, and is included in it. On the latter supposition, the event would not be contingent, since it was influenced by something else, and the contingency would be transferred to the co-existent cause. There is no end of this; and we must either at once boldly deny the doctrine of cause and effect, or be content to be lost (like the Niger in its sands) in the wilderness of infinite se
The next point to which the reverend author directs his attention, is best gleaned from his own words. "Whatever has been, is, or will be, could (not as some say) be otherwise. We, vain and insignificant creatures, full of our own importance, imagine, that we act from ourselves, that we can deliberate, choose, reject, command, obey, forbid, contrive, hasten, or hinder a thousand things-when, in fact, this is all delusion. We are but members of the machine, like the rest; and though we may please ourselves with thinking that we act an independent part, the real truth is, we have no voice, no power, no control, in what is going on; all would take its course just the same, whether for good or for ill, were we to give ourselves no concern whatever in the matter. Such, I believe, is a fair statement of the doctrine of philosophical necessity, or predestination, confined to this life." ‚The reverend author, no doubt, may
believe this to be a fair statement; but it is not so. Before going into the question, however, it is necessary to extend the quotation, in order that the scope and drift of the argument may be fully understood. The Discourse proceeds thus: "If we cast our eyes upon the world, we readily perceive, that the activity and energy of men is encreased by a persuasion, that they have it in their power to attain certain ends, and that they never think of attempting that which they know to be impossible, or beyond their reach, or not capable of being obtained or averted by any thing they can do. To be taking measures for procuring a fertile season, or for stopping the mouth of a volcano, would be certain proof of insanity. Men do indeed often engage in vain and chimerical undertakings, but it is under a belief of their practicability; as soon as they discover their error, they leave off. **** ****** Of the two grand motives which actuate reasonable beings, hope and fear, the influence is always diminished, in proportion to the opinion men have of the unalterable conditions under which ****The they are placed.
fact, it is presumed, will hardly be denied, that when men really believe, and the belief is present in their minds, that a decree has passed upon them, their own motives to action are weakened, if not wholly extinguished.”
The above sentences are probably sufficient to shew, that the argument here intended is the favourite point in the pamphlet of Mr Dawson, quoted in the preface. It is of old standing, and is neither more nor less than that celebrated cavil with which the Epicureans puzzled and twitted the Stoics, and which is known by the name of Ignava Ratio. It is plausible, and is so from its including more than one fallacy. The first fallacious supposition is that of the kind of necessity which the mind of the person subjected to this principle of inaction, must imagine to itself. The principle rests upon the mind assuming some insulated event or events, as being arbitrarily fixed and decreed; without the necessity, also, of the means which are
This branch of the controversy is considered at length in vol. VIII. p. 172 of this Magazine, article "Ignava Ratio;" and I take the opportunity of correcting a sentence in the first page, in which, from an inadvertence, the term "fatalists" is applied to the followers of Epicurus, instead of the Stoics.
to lead to the occurrence of such events, being adverted to. Now, this is notoriously at variance with the necessitarian hypothesis, which supposes, that causes are decreed as well as effects, and means as well as ends. And unless this arbitrary and partial sort of necessity be supposed, the accusation of inaction being consequent on a belief in necessity, includes in itself this glaring and direct absurdity. It sup poses a Necessitarian to reason with himself thus: that all events being unalterable, and he being unable, by any action or exertion, either to ameliorate or deteriorate his condition and lot; therefore, he will ameliorate it by the enjoyment of ease, and the omission of labour:-a direct contradiction in terms; as it is saying, I cannot alter any thing, and therefore I shall alter something.
The motives, however, under which the Necessitarian acts, and rationally and unavoidably acts, are capable of being pointed out. Let a given event of importance, say death, be taken as an example. If this, the objector says, be absolutely fixed to take place at some certain period, and then only, why do you trouble yourself about an event which can neither be hastened nor retarded? in short, why do you eat or drink, or distrust fire or water, or shun personal danger, from a fear of its tendency to produce the catas trophe in question? The answer is shortly thus: Whether my death is to take place now, or at some distant time, is, I know, already fixed and determined; but, not knowing how it is determined, my death, as to time, is to me a contingent event; for aught I know, it may be now, or it may be then. It will be allowed, however, that I very naturally would prefer the latter decree to the former; and am glad of all evidence which goes to prove that the last supposed decree is, in fact, the real decree. Now, I know that means are necessary to an end; and when I see means and the power of using them afforded, I consider that as the best evidence of the end being intended. Therefore, I use every means in my power to retard the time of my death; using food, caution, &c. as means directly tending to, and intimating the probability of a desired end.
As an objection to the foregoing reasoning, it may be asked, perhaps, why, if this be the process which takes place
in the mind of the necessitarian agent, it is not better known, and more frequently pointed out? Why, because men easily analyse their mental processes; and because men in general follow up the means to an end, merely because they evidently seem to lead to it. They do not stop to inquire whether they are making a path, or following a path already made for them. This is the plain proximate cause of men's actions. They are taught, by perpetual experience, that means are necessary to an end; and, under this persuasion, they eagerly take every preparatory step; each step, as far as it strengthens the evidence of the certainty of the desired event, and brings the agent nearer that event, being more and more devoutly welcomed. Nor is it of any consequence, whether or not a man is told, that in tracing this chain, he is only fulfilling a prior decree. It is happiness he wants, not liberty. Suppose, by way of illustration, that a messenger knocks at a man's door, and informs him that government intends him a pension; and further, that he is to go immediately to some certain place, where he should receive the first payment, if he arrived in time; and that if he did not go, he should be hanged. Suppose further, that at every step of his progress, the delighted pensioner was reminded that he was only fulfilling a decree, would that alter his satisfaction? on the contrary, every step which proved to him the certainty of the whole series, would be eagerly taken, as bringing nearer, and ratifying, the certainty of the wished-for conclusion. To say, that a man, the events, good and bad, of whose future life, were decreed, and to whom the particulars of that decree were known, would be subjected to inaction, is to put an unnatural and useless case. If the decree were independent of the will of him concerning whom it was made, then the supposition does not apply; because philosophical necessity is laid down to be in the will itself. If the will be included in the decree, then there is no room for any supposeable alteration, either in conduct or dispo sition.
Against the Ignava Ratio the appeal to experience is decisive; and perhaps the hastiest assertion in Dr Coplestone's book is, that." the universal and actual tendency of such belief as
the Necessitarian inculcates, is to relax our exertions, in proportion as that = belief predominates.' Let the name of one enlightened Necessitarian be quoted in corroboration. Dr Coplestone allows, that "fatalists are ready to quote instances of illustrious men, and even of whole sects, under the profession of fatalists, who lived exactly as other people do." Here is the testimony of thousands; and how does the reverend author get rid of these inconvenient quotations? he merely says, that "these illustrious individuals and their sects do not really believe what they profess," and " affect to talk like philosophers," while they act as the
vulgar!" Now, really, if the reverend doctor had proved his own side of the question with the certainty of mathematical demonstration, this would have made a very pretty syllogism. All who really believe necessity, relax in their exertions, but these men did not relax; therefore, they did not really believe necessity. At present, it only reminds one of the physician in one of Voltaire's tales, who, when somebody recovered under treatment which was in opposition to his opinion, wrote a pamphlet to prove that he ought to have died. I am, &c.
MARTIN, THE CARDER, A WEST-MEATHIAN TALE. MR EDITOR. In the summer of eighteen hundred and sixteen, when a lawless feeling was very general throughout Ireland, the counties of Westmeath and Longford were particularly disturbed. Secret associa tions were formed, hostile at first, more to the landlords and gentry than to the government, though, in a little time, from factious spirits, it no doubt grew into an organized plan of rebellion. The members gave themselves the name of carders, from the instrument with which they inflicted punishment on their enemies, among which were numbered chiefly inform ers, and those who took or let land above what they considered the fair valuation. Harassed by the unavoidable distress of the country, and inflamed by spokesmen, who had travelled in England in search of harvest work, and had seen, and invidiously compared, the comforts of the English husbandman with their own privations, they attributed their ills to partial government and oppression. "Worse nor I am I can't be," was the reasoning by which they prepared themselves for what they called a stir. Besides, various prophecies and mysterious bodings floated about the country, that the reign of protestantism was to terminate in the year seventeen; and an interpretation of the Apocalypse, written by one Walmsey, entitled, Pastorini's Christian Church, was spread not only by oral accounts, but by the volume itself, through the country. All their purposes, however, were happily frustrated by the vigilance of the magistrates of the county, Lord C, Captain D—, Captain C, to
whom the government and the coun try owe much. But I will not enter further into political discussion, it be→ ing merely my purpose to record a noble trait of Irish character, and a specimen of Irish eloquence, somewhat dif ferent from that vulgarly so called.
Martin was one of the chief of these desperadoes, and had signalized himself in taking vengeance on the marked men, and in levying far and near vast contributions of arms, money being a booty which the fraternity disdained to take. One of their attacks was on the house of a man named Timms, who, retreating up stairs, made a gallant defence in the garret, killed some of them, and wounded Martin. The wound, and the loss of blood in conse quence, caused him to faint, unnoticed by Timms, as his companions retreated. When he came to his senses, still undiscovered, as the house was left altogether without light, he bethought himself of the best means of escaping, left alone as he was, though unperceived, in the room with his enemy; he concluded by making a rush at the window, and leaping through it, very probably not recollecting the height it was from the ground. His back was broken, it seems, by the fall, yet he contrived to roll himself over the garden, till he was taken by some of his friends, and conveyed to a place of secrecy, in one of the Islands of Lough Ree.
He was traced by his blood from the place where he fell to where he rolled, and every exertion was used to discover the lurking place of the wounded man. The search was vain for some time, till an account was brought to Cap