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Proposition VIII. That the self-existent being must be intelligent.

VIII. Proposition VIII. That the self-existent being must be intelligent. The self-existent and original cause of all things must be an intelligent being. In this proposition lies the main question between us and the atheists. For, that something must be self-existent, and that that which is self-existent must necessarily be eternal and infinite, and the original cause of all things, will not bear much dispute.—But all atheists, whether they hold the world to be of itself eternal both as to the matter and form, or whether they hold the matter only to be necessary and the form contingent, or whatever hypothesis they frame, have always asserted, and must maintain, either directly or indirectly, that the self-existent being is not an intelligent being, but either pure unactive matter, or (which in other words is the very same thing) a mere necessary agent. For a mere necessary agent must of necessity either be plainly and directly in the grossest sense unintelligent; which was the ancient atheist’s notion of the self-existent being: or else its intelligence (which is the assertion of Spinoza and some moderns,) must be wholly separate from any power of will and choice; which, in respect of any excellency and perfection, or indeed to any common sense, is the very same thing as no intelligence at all.

Now, that the self-existent being is not such a blind and unintelligent necessity, but in the most proper sense an understanding and really active being, does not indeed so obviously and directly appear to us by considerations a priori; because (through the imperfection of our faculties) we know not wherein intelligence consists, nor can see the immediate and necessary connexion of it with self-existence, 47as we can that of eternity, infinity, unity, &c. But, a posteriori, almost every thing in the world demonstrates to us this great truth, and affords undeniable arguments to prove that the world, and all things therein, are the effects of an intelligent and knowing cause.

And 1st. Proved from the degrees of perfection in things, and the order of causes and effects. Since in general there are manifestly in things various kinds of powers, and very different excellencies and degrees of perfection, it must needs be, that, in the order of causes and effects, the cause must always be more excellent than the effect: and consequently the self-existent being, whatever that be supposed to be, must of necessity (being the original of all things) contain in itself the sum and highest degree of all the perfections of all things: not because that which is self-existent must therefore have all possible perfections; (for this, though most certainly true in itself, yet cannot be so easily demonstrated a priori;) but because it is impossible that any effect should have any perfection, which was not in the cause. For, if it had, then that perfection would be caused by nothing; which is a plain contradiction. Now an unintelligent being, it is evident, cannot be indued with all the perfections of all things in the world; because intelligence is one of those perfections. All things, therefore, cannot arise from an unintelligent original; and consequently the self-existent being, must, of necessity, be intelligent.

There is no possibility for an atheist to avoid the force of this argument any other way than by asserting one of these two things: either that there is no intelligent being at all in the universe; or that intelligence is no distinct perfection, but merely a composition of figure and motion, as colour and sounds are vulgarly supposed to be. Of the former of these assertions, every man’s own consciousness is an abundant confutation. For they who contend that beasts are mere machines, have yet never presumed to conjecture that men are so too. And that 48the latter assertion (in which the main strength of atheism lies,) is most absurd and impossible, shall be shown presently; though if that assertion could be supposed to be true, yet even still it would unavoidably follow, that the self-existent being must needs be intelligent; as shall be proved in my fourth argument upon this present head. In the meantime, that the assertion itself, viz. that intelligence is not any distinct perfection, properly speaking, but merely a composition of unintelligent figure and motion; that this assertion, I say, is most absurd and impossible, will appear from what shall be said in the ensuing argument.

2dly. From the intelligence that is in created beings. Since in men in particular there is undeniably that power, which we call thought, intelligence, consciousness, perception or knowledge; there must of necessity either have been from eternity, without any original cause at all, an infinite succession of men, whereof no one has had a necessary, but every one a dependent and communicated being; or else these beings, indued with perception and consciousness, must at some time or other have arisen purely out of that which had no such quality as sense, perception, or consciousness; or else they must have been produced by some intelligent superior being. There never was nor can be any atheist whatsoever, that can deny but one of these three suppositions must be the truth. If, therefore, the two former can be proved to be false and impossible, the latter must be owned to be demonstrably true. Now, that the first is impossible, is evident from what has been already said in proof of the second general head of this discourse; and that the second is likewise impossible, may be thus demonstrated: If perception, or intelligence, be a distinct quality or perfection, and not a mere effect or composition of unintelligent figure and motion, then beings indued with perception or consciousness can never have arisen purely out of that which had no such quality as perception or consciousness; because nothing can ever give to another 49any perfection, which it hath not either actually in itself, or at least in a higher degree. But perception or intelligence is a distinct quality or perfection, and not a mere effect or composition of unintelligent figure and motion.

First: If perception or intelligence be any real distinct quality, or perfection, and not a mere effect or composition of unintelligent figure and motion, then beings indued with perception or consciousness can never possibly have arisen purely out of that which itself had no such quality as perception or consciousness; because nothing can ever give to another any perfection which it hath not either actually in itself, or at least in a higher degree. This is very evident; because, if any thing could give to another any perfection which it has not itself, that perfection would be caused absolutely by nothing; which is a plain contradiction. If any one here replies, (as Mr Gildon has done4848   Oracles of Reason, p. 186. See also my Letter to Mr Dodwell, with several answers and replies concerning the natural immortality of the soul. in a letter to Mr Blount,) that colours, sounds, tastes, and the like, arise from figure and motion, which have no such qualities in themselves; or that figure, divisibility, mobility, and other qualities of matter, are confessed to be given from God, who yet cannot, without extreme blasphemy, be said to have any such qualities himself; and that therefore, in like manner, perception4949   If, with one of Cicero’s dialogists, they would infer that the whole [of the world] must have understanding, because some portions of it are intelligent—we may retort with the other speaker in Cicero, that, by the same argument, the whole must be a courtier, a musician, a dancing-master, or a philosopher, because many of the parts are such. Mr Toland’s Letter; motion essential to matter. or intelligence may arise out of that which has no intelligence itself; the answer is very easy,—first, that colours, sounds, tastes, and the like, are by no means effects arising from mere figure and motion; there being nothing in the bodies themselves, the objects 50of the senses, that has any manner of similitude to any of these qualities; but they are plainly thoughts or modifications of the mind itself, which is an intelligent being; and are not properly caused, but only occasioned, by the impressions of figure and motion. Nor will it at all help an atheist, (as to the present question) though we should here make for him, (that we may allow him the greatest possible advantage,) even that most absurd supposition, that the mind itself is nothing but mere matter and not at all an immaterial substance. For, even supposing it to be mere matter, yet he must needs confess it to be such matter as is indued not only with figure and motion, but also with the quality of intelligence and perception; and consequently, as to the present question, it will still come to the same thing, that colours, sounds, and the like, which are not qualities of unintelligent bodies, but perceptions of mind, can no more be caused by, or arise from mere unintelligent figure and motion, than colour can be a triangle, or sound a square, or something be caused by nothing. Secondly, as to the other part of the objection; that figure, divisibility, mobility, and other qualities of matter, are (as we ourselves acknowledge) given it from God, who yet cannot, without extreme blasphemy, be said to have any such qualities himself; and that therefore, in like manner, perception or intelligence may arise out of that which has no intelligence itself; the answer is still easier: That figure, divisibility, mobility, and other such like qualities of matter, are not real, proper, distinct, and positive powers, but only negative qualities, deficiencies, or imperfections. And though no cause can communicate to its effect any real perfection which it has not itself, yet the effect may easily have many imperfections, deficiencies, or negative qualities, which are not in the cause. Though, therefore, figure, divisibility, mobility, and the like, (which are mere negations, as all limitations and all defects of powers are,) may be in the effect, and not in the cause; yet 51intelligence, (which I now suppose, and shall prove immediately, to be a distinct quality, and which no man can say is a mere negation,) cannot possibly be so.

Having therefore thus demonstrated, that if perception or intelligence be supposed to be a distinct quality or perfection, (though even but of matter only, if the atheist pleases,) and not a mere effect or composition of unintelligent figure and motion; then beings indued with perception or consciousness can never have arisen purely out of that which had no such quality as perception or consciousness; because nothing can ever give to another any perfection which it has not itself. It will easily appear, secondly, that perception or intelligence is really such a distinct quality or perfection, and not possibly a mere effect or composition of unintelligent figure and motion; and that for this plain reason, because intelligence is not figure, and consciousness is not motion: For whatever can arise from, or be compounded of any things, is still only those very things of which it was compounded. And if infinite compositions or divisions be made eternally, the things will still be but eternally the same; and all their possible effects can never be any thing but repetitions of the same. For instance, all possible changes, compositions, or divisions of figure, are still nothing but figure; and all possible compositions or effects of motion can eternally be nothing but mere motion. If, therefore, there ever was a time when there was nothing in the universe but matter and motion, there never could have been any thing else therein but matter and motion. And it would have been as impossible there should ever have existed any such thing as intelligence or consciousness, or even any such thing as light, or heat, or sound, or colour, or any of those we call secondary qualities of matter, as it is now impossible for motion to be blue or red, or for a triangle to be transformed into a sound. That which has been apt to deceive men in this matter is this; that they imagine compounds 52to be somewhat really different from that of which they are compounded: which is a very great mistake. For all the things of which men so judge, either, if they be really different, are not compounds nor effects of what men judge them to be, but are something totally distinct; as, when the vulgar think colours and sounds to be properties inherent in bodies, when indeed they are purely thoughts of the mind: or else, if they be really compounds and effects, then they are not different, but exactly the same that ever they were; as, when two triangles put together make a square, that square is still nothing but two triangles; or when a square cut in halves makes two triangles, those two triangles are still only the two halves of a square; or when the mixture of a blue and yellow powder makes a green, that green is still nothing but blue and yellow intermixed, as is plainly visible by the help of microscopes. See my letter to Mr. Dodwell, with the four defences of it. And in short, every thing, by composition, division, or motion, is nothing else but the very same it was before, taken either in whole or in parts, or in different place or order. He therefore that will affirm intelligence to be the effect of a system of unintelligent matter in motion, must either affirm intelligence to be a mere name or external denomination of certain figures and motions, and that it differs from unintelligent figures and motions, no otherwise than as a circle or triangle differs from a square; which is evidently absurd: or else he must suppose it to be a real distinct quality, arising from certain motions of a system of matter not in itself intelligent; and then this no less evidently absurd consequence would follow, that one quality inherred in another; for, in that case, not the substance itself, the particles of which the system consists, but the mere mode, the particular mode of motion and figure, would be intelligent. Mr. Hobbes seems to have been aware of this: and therefore, though he is very sparing, and as it were ashamed to speak out, yet finding himself pressed, in his own mind, with the difficulty arising from the impossibility 53 of sense or consciousness being merely the effect of figure and motion, and it not serving his purpose at all, (were the thing never so possible,) to suppose that God, by an immediate and voluntary act of his almighty power indues certain systems of matter with consciousness and thought, (of which opinion I shall have occasion to speak something more hereafter,) he is forced5050   Scio fuisse philosophos quosdam, eosdemque viros doctos, qui corpora omnia sensu prædita esse sustinuerunt; nec video, si natura sensionis in reactione sola collocaretur, quomodo refutari possint. Sed etsi ex reactione etiam corporum aliorum, phantasma aliquod nasceretur, illud tamen, remoto objecto, statim cessaret. Nam, nisi ad retinendum motum impressum, etiam remoto objecto, apta habeant organa, ut habent animalia; ita tantum sentient, ut nunquam sensisse se recordentur.—Sensioni ergo, quæ vulgo ita appellatur necessario adhæret memoria aliqua, &c.Hobbes Physic. cap. 25. sect. 5. See also Nos. 2 and 11 of the Appendix to a Collection of papers which passed between Mr. Leibnitz and Dr. Clarke. to have recourse to that prodigiously absurd supposition that all matter, as matter, is indued not only with figure and a capacity of motion, but also with an actual sense of perception; and wants only the organs and memory of animals to express its sensation.

3dly. From the beauty, order, and final causes of things. See Mr. Boyle, of Final Causes; & Mr Ray, of the Wisdom of God in the Creation; and Mr. Derham’s Physico-Theology. That the self-existent and original cause of all things is an intelligent being, appears abundantly from the excellent variety, order, beauty, and wonderful contrivance and fitness of all things in the world to their proper and respective ends. This argument has been so learnedly and fully handled both by ancient and modern writers, that I do but just mention it, without enlarging at all upon it. I shall only at this time make this one observation; That, whereas Des Cartes and others have endeavoured to give a possible account, (possible, did I say? nay, indeed, a most impossible and ridiculous account,) how the world might be formed by the necessary laws of motion alone;5151   See Mr Boyle, of Final causes; and Mr Ray, of the Wisdom of God in the creation; and Mr Derham’s Physico-Theology. they have, by so 54seemingly vast an undertaking, really meant no more than to explain philosophically how the inanimate part, that is, infinitely the least considerable part of the world, might possibly have been framed. For as to plants and animals, in which the wisdom of the Creator principally appears, they have never, in any tolerable manner, or with any the least appearance of success, pretended to give an account how they were originally formed. In these things, matter and the laws of motion are able to do nothing at all. And how ridiculous the Epicurean hypothesis is, of the earth producing them all at first by chance, (besides that, I think, it is now given up even by all atheists;) appears from the late discovery made in philosophy, that there is no such thing as equivocal generation of any the meanest animal or plant; the sun, and earth and water, and all the powers of nature in conjunction, being able to do nothing at all towards the producing any thing indued with so much as even a vegetable life. (From which most excellent discovery we may, by the way, observe the usefulness of natural and experimental philosophy, sometimes even in matters of religion.) Since therefore things are thus, it must unavoidably be granted (even by the most obstinate atheist,) either that all plants and animals are originally the work of an intelligent being, and created by him in time; or that, having been from eternity in the same order and method they are now in, they are an eternal effect of an eternal intelligent cause, continually exerting his infinite power and wisdom; or else, that, without any self-existent original at all, they have been derived one from another in an eternal succession, by an infinite progress of dependent causes. The first of these three ways is the conclusion we assert: the second, (so far as the cause of atheism is concerned,) comes to the very same thing: and the third I have already shown, (in my proof of the second general head of this discourse,) to be absolutely impossible, and a contradiction.

55

4thly. From the original of motion. Supposing it was possible that the form of the world, and all the visible things contained therein, with the order, beauty, and exquisite fitness of their parts; nay, supposing that even intelligence itself, with consciousness and thought, in all the beings we know, could possibly be the result or effect of mere unintelligent matter, figure, and motion; (which is the most unreasonable and impossible supposition in the world;) yet even still there would remain an undeniable demonstration, that the self-existent being, (whatever it be supposed to be,) must be intelligent. For even these principles themselves [unintelligent figure and motion] could never have possibly existed without there had been before them an intelligent cause. I instance in motion:—It is evident there is now such a thing as motion in the world; which either began at some time or other, or was eternal. If it began at any time, then the question is granted, that the first cause is an intelligent being; for mere unintelligent matter, and that at rest, it is manifest could never of itself begin to move. On the contrary, if motion was eternal, it was either eternally caused by some eternal intelligent being, or it must of itself be necessary and self-existent; or else, without any necessity in its own nature, and without any external necessary cause, it must have existed from eternity by an endless successive communication. If motion was eternally caused by some eternal intelligent being, this also is granting the question, as to the present dispute. If it was of itself necessary and self-existent, then it follows, that it must be a contradiction in terms to suppose any matter to be at rest: and yet at the same time, because the determination of this self-existent motion must be every way at once, the effect of it could be nothing else but a perpetual rest. Besides, (as there is no end of absurdities, when they once begin,) it must also imply a contradiction, to suppose that there might possibly have been originally more or less motion in the universe than there 56actually was: which is so very absurd a consequence, that Spinoza himself, though he expressly asserts all things to be necessary, yet seems ashamed here5252   Spinozæ Ethic. Par. I, prop. 33, compared with part II, prop. 13, lemma 3. to speak out his opinion, or rather plainly contradicts himself in the question about the original of motion. But if it be said, lastly, that motion, without any necessity in its own nature, and without any external necessary cause, has existed from eternity, merely by an endless successive communication, as5353   Corpus motum, vel quiescens, ad motum vel quietem determinari debuit ab alio corpore, quod etiam ad motum vel quietem determinatum fuit ab alio, et illud iterum ab alio, et sic in infinitum.Ethic. par. II, prop. 13, lemma 3. Spinoza, inconsistently enough, seems to assert: This I have before shown, (in my proof of the second general proposition of this discourse,) to be a plain contradiction. It remains, therefore, that motion must of necessity be originally caused by something that is intelligent, or else there never could have been any such thing as motion in the world; and consequently the self-existent being, the original cause of all things, (whatever it be supposed to be,) must of necessity be an intelligent being.

From hence it follows again, that the material world cannot possibly be the original self-existent being: For, since the self-existent being is demonstrated to be intelligent, and the material world plainly is not so, it follows that the material world cannot possibly be self-existent. What some have fondly imagined concerning a soul of the world, if thereby they mean a created, dependent being, signifies nothing in the present argument: But if they understand thereby something necessary and self-existent, then it is nothing else but a false, corrupt, and imperfect notion of God.


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