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IDEAS OF SUCCESSION, AND TIME, OR DURATION.
These ideas are in all intelligent minds. No individual, whose Intelligence has been developed at all, will fail to understand you, when you speak of one event, as having happened; of another, as having succeeded it, and of the fact that that succession took place in some definite period of time. We will now mark the characteristic of these ideas.
Idea of Succession contingent.
You can conceive of some one event as having happened, and of another as having succeeded it. In other words, you have the idea of succession. Can you not conceive, that neither of these events occurred? Every individual can readily form such a conception. The same holds true of all events, of all succession of every kind, and in all time. The idea of succession, like that of body, is contingent.
The Idea of Time necessary.
But when we have conceived of the total cessation of succession, we find it absolutely impossible to conceive that there is no time, or duration, in which succession may take place. We can no more conceive of the annihilation of time, than we can of that of space. The idea of time, then, like that of space, is necessary.
Other Characteristics of these Ideas.
When we conceive of succession, we necessarily affirm, as the condition of its existence, the reality of something else, that is, of time, in which succession takes place. The idea of succession, like that of body, is relative.
On the other hand, when we affirm the reality of time, we suppose, as the condition of its existence, the existence of nothing else. Time is, and must be, whether anything else exists or not. The idea of time, then, is unconditioned and absolute.
Once more; whenever we can conceive of succession, we necessarily conceive of time before, and after it. The idea of succession, therefore, implies of that limitation, or succession is limited, finite.
The idea of time, however, implies the absence of all limitation. Duration never began; nor will it ever cease to be.
In other words, time is infinite. The following are the most important and fundamental characteristics of these two ideas. 1. The idea of succession is contingent. That of time is necessary.
2. The idea of succession is conditioned, or relative. That of time is unconditioned and absolute.
3. The idea of succession always implies that of limitation. Or succession is finite. The idea of time, on the other hand, implies that of the absence of all limitation. In other words, duration is infinite.
IDEAS OF THE FINITE AND OF THE INFINITE.
Body and space, succession and duration, are given to us, as we have seen, with the following characteristics: Body and succession are limitable; time and space are illimitable. In other words, the former are finite, the latter infinite. "Now the ideas of the finite and the infinite," as remarked by Cousin, "may be detached from the ideas of body and succession, time and space, provided we keep in mind the subjects from which they are abstracted."
These ideas then are in the mind. They are also distinct, the one from the other. Consequently the one cannot be derived from the other. The multiplication of the finite cannot give the infinite. Nor by dividing the infinite do we find the finite. Being correlative terms, the one necessarily supposes and suggests the other. The one cannot possibly exist in the mind without the other. Yet as above remarked, the one is perfectly distinct from the other.
Nor is one of these ideas less distinct than the other. When I speak of the infinite, every one as readily and distinctly apprehends my meaning, as when I speak of the finite. The following propositions, for example-body is limitable; space is illimitable-are equally intelligible to all minds, the one as the other.
There are other forms in which these ideas appear in the Mind, in all of which they sustain, to each other, the same relations, and possess the same characteristics. When the Mind conceives of power, wisdom or goodness, as imperfect, or limitable, or finite, it necessarily conceives of something which is and always was.
If an individual still affirms that he has, in reality, no idea of the infinite, we have only to ask him, whether he under
stands the import of the words he employs, when he makes such an affirmation? whether he is not conscious of speaking of something, which, in thought, he himself clearly distinguishes from all that is limitable, or limited? These questions, he will readily answer in the affirmative. In this answer he clearly contradicts the affirmation under consideration. For, if he really, as he affirms, has no idea of the infinite, he would not know the meaning of the terms he uses, nor could he in thought clearly distinguish the infinite, from all that is limitable, or finite.
If also we have no real or positive idea of the infinite, we can have none of time and space, for they are positive ideas, and their objects are given in the Intelligence, as positively or absolutely infinite.
Remarks of Locke.
Four remarks of Lock, pertaining to the idea of the Infinite, demand a passing notice.
His first remark is, that it is an "endlessly growing idea." On the other hand, the idea of the Infinite is always fixed. Being a simple idea, it must, when once generated in the mind, remain there, at all times, one and identical. It may become more and more vivid. In the respect under consideration, however, this idea undergoes no modification whatever. Who ever found, since the ideas of infinite space and duration were developed in his Mind, that these have undergone the least modification, as far as growth is concerned?
Again Locke maintains that the idea of the Infinite is obscure. Still it exists, and as a phenomenon of Consciousness, falls, most legitimately, under the cognizance of the philosopher. But in what sense is this idea obscure? To those faculties of the Intelligence which pertain to the finite, it must for ever remain obscure. To that faculty, however, which apprehends truths necessary and absolute, it is as plain as any other idea whatever.
According to Locke, also, the idea of the infinite is merely a negative idea. "We have," he 66 says, no positive idea of Infinity." This is directly contradicted by the testimony of universal Consciousness. Who is not conscious that his ideas of God, of space, and time, all of which are given in the Intelligence as infinite, are just as positive as any of our conceptions whatever. We might also, with the same pro
priety, maintain that our conceptions of the finite are negative, as that our ideas of the infinite are. Being correlative ideas, if one is assumed as positive, the other will be relatively negative of course. In themselves, however,
both are alike positive and equally so. Once more: 66 Number, says Locke, "affords the clearest idea of the infinite." This is to reduce the infinite to the finite; for number, however large, is always limited--that is, finite. The multiplication of the finite may call into exercise the faculty which apprehends the infinite, and thus render our ideas of the latter more distinct and vivid (as all acts of attention do) than it otherwise would be. In no other sense, however, can such repetitions give us the Infinite.
Characteristics of these Ideas.
Having established the fact, that the idea of the infinite, as well as the finite, is in the mind, it now remains to mark their respective characteristics.
Idea of the Finite contingent and relative; that of the Infinite necessary and absolute.
Whatever substance we conceive of as finite, we cannot but regard as existing contingently. We cannot regard it, as in its own nature, a necessary existence. Hence, for all that we conceive of as finite, we naturally and necessarily inquire after a cause. We do not ask the question, had it a cause? but what caused it? An idea of the finite, therefore, is contingent, and consequently relative.
On the other hand, whatever we regard as infinite we necessarily apprehend as uncaused-that is, as existing by necessity. When we trace back any chain of causes and effects, for the purpose of finding a first cause, at each successive link we always inquire for its antecedent, till we arrive at the Infinite. Here we pause; here our inquiries cease; here we recognize ourselves at once, as in the presence of an existence which is not contingent, but necessary and absolute. The idea of the Infinite, therefore, is necessary and absolute.
IDEAS OF MENTAL PHENOMENA, AND OF PERSONAL IDENTITY.
Every individual believes, that he is now the same being
that he was yesterday, and will be to-morrow. Numberless and ever varying phenomena are constantly passing under the eye of Consciousness. Many are recalled of which we were formerly conscious; yet they are all referred to the same individual subject. Every phenomenon of thought, feeling, and willing, of which we are now conscious, which we recall as having, in some former period, been conscious of, or which we expect to put forth in some future time, is given in the Intelligence in this exclusive form-I think, I feel, I will; I did think, I did feel, I did will, so and so. The same holds equally true of all similar phenomena which we contemplate, as about to occur in future time. Whatever the phenomena may be, the same identical I is given as its subject. This is what is meant by personal identity. It is the unity of our being, of the I or self, as opposed to the plurality and ever changing phenomena of Consciousness. Having shown that the idea of mental phenomena and of personal identity are in the Mind, we will consider their characteristics.
Idea of Mental Phenomena contingent and relative.
You have a Consciousness of some thought, feeling, or act of Will. You remember similar phenomena of which you were formerly conscious. You conceive of them as now being, or as having been actual realities. Can you not conceive of them as not being, or as never having taken place? You can. Can you conceive of such phenomena as existing or having existed, without referring them to some subject? In other words, can you conceive of some thought, feeling, or volition as now existing, or as having existed in former times, without referring it to some subject, some being which thinks, feels, or wills? You cannot. All the phenomena of Consciousness are contingent and relative.
Idea of Personal Identity necessary.
How is it with the idea of personal identity? You are now conscious of some thought, or feeling, or act of Will. You recall others, of a similar nature, of which you have been formerly conscious. This you refer to one and the same subject, the I of Consciousness, as it is sometimes called. This reference you and all mankind alike, must make. This reference mankind universally make in all the transactions of life. Under its influence we hold ourselves