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2. In the capacity of the human mind for knowing God and certain of these relations.—But it has urged that such knowledge is impossible for the following reasons:

A. Because we can know only phenomena. We reply: (a) We know mental as well as physical phenomena. (b) In knowing phenomena, whether mental or physical, we know substance as underlying the phenomena, as manifested through them, and as constituting their ground of unity. (c) Our minds bring to the observation of phenomena not only this knowledge of substance, but also knowledge of time, space, cause, and right, realities which are in no sense phenomenal. Since these objects of knowledge are not phenomenal, the fact that God is not phenomenal cannot prevent us from knowing him.

What substance is, we need not here determine. Whether we are realists or idealists, we are compelled to grant that there cannot be phenomena without noumena, cannot be appearances without something that appears, cannot be qualities without something that is qualified. This something which underlies or stands under appearance or quality we call substance. We are Lotzeans rather than Kantians, in our philosophy. To say that we know, not the self, but only its manifestations in thought, is to confound self with its thinking and to teach psychology without a soul. To say that we know no external world, but only its manifestations in sensations, is to ignore the principle that binds these sensations together; for without a somewhat in which qualities inhere they can have no ground of unity. In like manner, to say that we know nothing of God but his manifestations, is to confound God with the world and practically to deny that there is a God.

Stählin, in his work on Kant, Lotze and Ritschl, 186–191, 218, 219, says well that “limitation of knowledge to phenomena involves the elimination from theology of all claim to know the objects of the Christian faith as they are in themselves.” This criticism justly classes Ritschl with Kant, rather than with Lotze who maintains that knowing phenomena we know also the noumena manifested in them. While Ritschl professes to follow Lotze, the whole drift of his theology is in the direction of the Kantian identification of the world with our sensations, mind with our thoughts, and God with such activities of his as we can perceive. A divine nature apart from its activities, a preexistent Christ, an immanent Trinity, are practically denied. Assertions that God is self-conscious love and fatherhood become judgments of merely subjective value. On Ritschl, see the works of Orr, of Garvie, and of Swing; also Minton, in Pres. and Ref. Rev., Jan. 1902:162–169, and C. W. Hodge, ibid., Apl. 1902:321–326; Flint, Agnosticism, 590–597; Everett, Essays Theol. and Lit., 92–99.

We grant that we can know God only so far as his activities reveal him, and so far as our minds and hearts are receptive of his revelation. The appropriate faculties must be exercised—not the mathematical, the logical, or the prudential, but the ethical and the religious. It is the merit of Ritschl that he recognizes the practical in distinction from the speculative reason; his error is in not recognizing that, when we do thus use the proper powers of knowing, we gain not merely subjective but also objective truth, and come in contact not simply with God’s activities but also with God himself. Normal religious judgments, though dependent upon subjective conditions, are not simply “judgments of worth” or “value-judgments,”—they give us the knowledge of “things in themselves.” Edward Caird says of his brother John Caird (Fund. Ideas of Christianity, Introd. CXXI)—“The conviction that God can be known and is known, and that, in the deepest sense, all our knowledge is knowledge of him, was the corner-stone of his theology.”

Ritschl’s phenomenalism is allied to the positivism of Comte, who regarded all so-called knowledge of other than phenomenal objects as purely negative. The phrase “Positive Philosophy” implies indeed that all knowledge of mind is negative; see Comte, Pos. Philosophy, Martineau’s translation, 26, 28, 33—“In order to observe, your intellect must pause from activity—yet it is this very activity you want to observe. If you cannot effect the pause, you cannot observe; it you do effect it, there is nothing to observe.” This view is refuted by the two facts: (1) consciousness, and (2) memory; for consciousness is the knowing of the self side by side with the knowing of its thoughts, and memory is the knowing of the self side by side with the knowing of its past; see Martineau, Essays Philos. and Theol., 1:24–40, 207–212. By phenomena we mean “facts, in distinction from their ground, principle, or law”; “neither phenomena nor qualities, as such, are perceived, but objects, percepts, or beings; and it is by an after-thought or reflex process that these are connected as qualities and are referred to as substances”; see Porter, Human Intellect, 51, 238, 520, 619–637, 640–645.

Phenomena may be internal, e. g., thoughts; in this case the noumenon is the mind, of which these thoughts are the manifestations. Or, phenomena may be external, e. g., color, hardness, shape, size; in this case the noumenon is matter, of which these qualities are the manifestations. But qualities, whether mental or material, imply the existence of a substance to which they belong: they can no more be conceived of as existing apart from substance, than the upper side of a plank can be conceived of as existing without an under side; see Bowne, Review of Herbert Spencer, 47, 207–217; Martineau, Types of Ethical Theory, 1; 455, 456—“Comte’s assumption that mind cannot know itself or its states is exactly balanced by Kant’s assumption that mind cannot know anything outside of itself.… It is precisely because all knowledge is of relations that it is not and cannot be of phenomena alone. The absolute cannot per se be known, because in being known it would ipso facto enter into relations and be absolute no more. But neither can the phenomenal per se be known, i. e., be known as phenomenal, without simultaneous cognition of what is non-phenomenal.” McCosh, Intuitions, 138–154, states the characteristics of substance as (1) being, (2) power, (3) permanence. Diman, Theistic Argument, 337, 363—“The theory that disproves God, disproves an external world and the existence of the soul.” We know something beyond phenomena, viz.: law, cause, force,—or we can have no science; see Tulloch, on Comte, in Modern Theories, 53–73; see also Bib. Sac., 1874:211; Alden, Philosophy, 44; Hopkins, Outline Study of Man, 87; Fleming, Vocab. of Philosophy, art.: Phenomena; New Englander, July, 1875:537–539.

B. Because we can know only that which bears analogy to our own nature or experience. We reply: (a) It is not essential to knowledge that there be similarity of nature between the knower and the known. We know by difference as well as by likeness. (b) Our past experience, though greatly facilitating new acquisitions, is not the measure of our possible knowledge. Else the first act of knowledge would be inexplicable, and all revelation of higher characters to lower would be precluded, as well as all progress to knowledge which surpasses our present attainments. (c) Even if knowledge depended upon similarity of nature and experience, we might still know God, since we are made in God’s image, and there are important analogies between the divine nature and our own.

(a) The dictum of Empedocles, “Similia similibus percipiuntur,” must be supplemented by a second dictum, “Similia dissimilibus percipiuntur.” All things are alike, in being objects. But knowing is distinguishing, and there must be contrast between objects to awaken our attention. God knows sin, though it is the antithesis to his holy being. The ego knows the non-ego. We cannot know even self, without objectifying it, distinguishing it from its thoughts, and regarding it as another.

(b) Versus Herbert Spencer, First Principles, 79–82—“Knowledge is recognition and classification.” But we reply that a thing must first be perceived in order to be recognized or compared with something else; and this is as true of the first sensation as of the later and more definite forms of knowledge,—indeed there is no sensation which does not involve, as its complement, an at least incipient perception; see Sir William Hamilton, Metaphysics, 351, 352; Porter, Human Intellect, 206.

(c) Porter, Human Intellect, 486—“Induction is possible only upon the assumption that the intellect of man is a reflex of the divine intellect, or that man is made in the image of God.” Note, however, that man is made in God’s image, not God in man’s. The painting is the image of the landscape, not, vice versa, the landscape the image of the painting; for there is much in the landscape that has nothing corresponding to it in the painting. Idolatry perversely makes God in the image of man, and so deifies man’s weakness and impurity. Trinity in God may have no exact counterpart in man’s present constitution, though it may disclose to us the goal of man’s future development and the meaning of the increasing differentiation of man’s powers. Gore, Incarnation, 116—“If anthropomorphism as applied to God is false, yet theomorphism as applied to man is true; man is made in God’s image, and his qualities are, not the measure of the divine, but their counterpart and real expression.” See Murphy, Scientific Bases, 122; McCosh, in Internat. Rev., 1875:105; Bib. Sac, 1867:624; Martineau, Types of Ethical Theory, 2:4–8, and Study of Religion, 1:94.

C. Because we know only that of which we can conceive, in the sense of forming an adequate mental image. We reply: (a) It is true that we know only that of which we can conceive, if by the term “conceive” we mean our distinguishing in thought the object known from all other objects. But, (b) The objection confounds conception with that which is merely its occasional accompaniment and help, namely, the picturing of the object by the imagination. In this sense, conceivability is not a final test of truth. (c) That the formation of a mental image is not essential to conception or knowledge, is plain when we remember that, as a matter of fact, we both conceive and know many things of which we cannot form a mental image of any sort that in the least corresponds to the reality; for example, force, cause, law, space, our own minds. So we may know God, though we cannot form an adequate mental image of him.

The objection here refuted is expressed most clearly in the words of Herbert Spencer, First Principles, 25–36, 98—“The reality underlying appearances is totally and forever inconceivable by us.” Mansel, Prolegomena Logica, 77, 78 (cf. 26) suggests the source of this error in a wrong view of the nature of the concept: “The first distinguishing feature of a concept, viz.: that it cannot in itself be depicted to sense or imagination.” Porter, Human Intellect, 392 (see also 429, 656)—“The concept is not a mental image”—only the percept is. Lotze: “Color in general is not representable by any image; it looks neither green nor red, but has no look whatever.” The generic horse has no particular color, though the individual horse may be black, white, or bay. So Sir William Hamilton speaks of “the unpicturable notions of the intelligence.”

Martineau, Religion and Materialism, 39, 40—“This doctrine of Nescience stands in exactly the same relation to causal power, whether you construe it as Material Force or as Divine Agency. Neither can be observed; one or the other must be assumed. If you admit to the category of knowledge only what we learn from observation, particular or generalized, then is Force unknown; if you extend the word to what is imported by the intellect itself into our cognitive acts, to make them such, then is God known.” Matter, ether, energy, protoplasm, organism, life,—no one or these can be portrayed to the imagination; yet Mr. Spencer deals with them as objects of Science. If these are not inscrutable, why should he regard the Power that gives unity to all things as inscrutable?

Herbert Spencer is not in fact consistent with himself, for in divers parts of his writings he calls the inscrutable Reality back of phenomena the one, eternal, ubiquitous, infinite, ultimate, absolute Existence, Power and Cause. “It seems,” says Father Dalgairns, “that a great deal is known about the Unknowable.” Chadwick, Unitarianism, 75—“The beggar phrase ‘Unknowable’ becomes, after Spencer’s repeated designations of it, as rich as Croesus with all saving knowledge.” Matheson: “To know that we know nothing is already to have reached a fact of knowledge.” If Mr. Spencer intended to exclude God from the realm of Knowledge, he should first have excluded him from the realm of Existence; for to grant that he is, is already to grant that we not only may know him, but that we actually to some extent do know him; see D. J. Hill, Genetic Philosophy, 22; McCosh, Intuitions, 186–189 (Eng. ed., 214); Murphy, Scientific Bases, 133; Bowne, Review of Spencer, 30–34; New Englander, July, 1875:543, 544; Oscar Craig, in Presb. Rev., July, 1883:594–602.

D. Because we can know truly only that which we know in whole and not in part. We reply: (a) The objection confounds partial knowledge with the knowledge of a part. We know the mind in part, but we do not know a part of the mind. (b) If the objection were valid, no real knowledge of anything would be possible, since we know no single thing in all its relations. We conclude that, although God is a being not composed of parts, we may yet have a partial knowledge of him, and this knowledge, though not exhaustive, may yet be real, and adequate to the purposes of science.

(a) The objection mentioned in the text is urged by Mansel, Limits of Religious Thought, 97, 98, and is answered by Martineau, Essays, 1:291. The mind does not exist in space, and it has no parts: we cannot speak of its south-west corner, nor can we divide it into halves. Yet we find the material for mental science in partial knowledge of the mind. So, while we are not “geographers of the divine nature” (Bowne, Review of Spencer, 72), we may say with Paul, not “now know we a part of God,” but “now I know [God] in part” (1 Cor. 13:12). We may know truly what we do not know exhaustively; see Eph. 3:19—“to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge.” I do not perfectly understand myself, yet I know myself in part; so I may know God, though I do not perfectly understand him.

(b) The same argument that proves God unknowable proves the universe unknowable also. Since every particle of matter in the universe attracts every other, no one particle can be exhaustively explained without taking account of all the rest. Thomas Carlyle: “It is a mathematical fact that the casting of this pebble from my hand alters the centre of gravity of the universe.” Tennyson, Higher Pantheism: “Flower in the crannied wall, I pluck you out of the crannies; Hold you here, root and all, in my hand, Little flower; but if I could understand What you are, root and all, and all in all, I should know what God and man is.” Schurman, Agnosticism, 119—“Partial as it is, this vision of the divine transfigures the life of man on earth.” Pfleiderer, Philos. Religion, 1:107—“A faint-hearted agnosticism is worse than the arrogant and titanic gnosticism against which it protests.”

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