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The Review said:
Comte invariably insists that the three stages have actually co-existed in nearly all minds. He says that a man takes a theological view of one subject, a metaphysical of another, and a positive of a third ; nor did he ever pretend that one of these methods rigidly excludes the other. Most minds retain traces of all three, even in the same subject-matter. What an objector has really to show is this, that men use other methods of thought, or that they do not in the main use these successively in the order stated, and that in proportion to the complication of the subject matter.
In considering a law of the human mind, such as this is, we should bear in mind the golden rule of Aristotle “to demand that degree of precision that fits the matter in hand.' A law of our mental evolution, dealing with a subject so subtle and complex as the reasoning processes, does not admit of absolutely rigid mathematical exactness. Mathematical reasoning alone, partly because pure mathematics spring from laws of the mind itself, and are not inductions from imperfect observations, admits of absolute precision. In no physical science, perhaps, is the reasoner at all times strictly employing scientific methods without alloy. Few men of science, however competent, are incapable of error in their reasoning; and we know how liable they are to slide into dogmatism a good deal short of positive proof. But for all that, a trained physicist, or chemist, is properly said to be in the positive stage of thought, when reasoning about physics, or chemistry. A few minds trained in a variety of sciences, may remain at a uniformly positive level. If their scientific training embraces history, morals, philosophy, and the entire range of the social, moral, and intellectual laws, then they may be said to have completely attained to the positive stage of thought. Now the Creation of the Universe and the Moral Providence of all Creation, is an ultimate resultant of a man's reflections in the whole range of speculation-physical, social, intellectual, and moral. And to that great assize of human thought, few men in England come with a full positive training in the entire range. Hence the opinions about Creation of men like Herschel, or Faraday, are not the opinions of men in the positive stage of thought, but of men in the positive stage of astronomy and chemistry, and in the metaphysical or the theological stage in sociology and in morals. When Faraday was dealing with gases, he was rigidly working out physical and chemical problems on the basis of physical and chemical laws. If he discovered a new electrical phenomenon, he did not, as a savage or an alchemist might, attribute the flash to some latent god, or an explosion to some bottled-up devil. When Faraday was dealing with the special inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he deliberately put aside all reference to law, or to science; possibly when he was dealing with some big political problem, he grounded his opinion entirely on strong prejudices formed in youth, but certainly not tested as he tested his chemical compounds. The law of the three states' is, like all
other logical laws, a law of tendency in a subtle and complex organ ; and absolute exactness and rigid exclusiveness is out of place with our imperfect mental resources.
When Comte said that one state of mind excludes the other, he did not imply that a reasoner never makes a slip, or that a mind in the positive stage may not at times revert' back into a less scientific process. He meant that, in the main, a mind accustomed to true scientific processes in any class of speculation will adhere to that habit of mind, though it may occasionally lapse in its own subject, and may fail to apply the same scientific process in another class of speculation. The Bishop of Carlisle undoubtedly applies a truly positive process to the science of physics. Though perhaps he would hardly claim to be infallible there, even in method. But in dealing with a philosophy at once 'pernicious and dangerous' he collates the original authorities with far less patient scrutiny, than when he is tracing the growth of the Baconian induction.
Finally, the Bishop seems to me to err, in seeking to test the * law of the three stages' by applying it to exact and real science. He declares that there are no three stages in Mathematics, in the science of Political Economy, and many such branches of our knowledge. Certainly, there are no three stages in any kind of real knowledge. Nor, strictly speaking, are there in any science—much less in exact science. All real knowledge, all science, truly so named, and certainly an exact science, like pure Mathematics, is already positive. Comte never said that there were three stages in science. there are, 'three stages in each branch of speculation.' In many subjects, which are perfectly simple, a really positive state of thought is reached in the very infancy of the individual and the race. No doubt, there is a brief moment in the evolution of thought, when fictitious beings, or crude abstractions are supposed to determine the very simplest and commonest facts. When scarcity of food was thought to be a Divine warning to a King who defied the Pope, or when a strike was supposed to result from some physical law of Supply and Demand beyond human control, Political Economy was in the theological, or the metaphysical stage. That merchants, manufacturers, or workmen believe in Creation, or believe in Adam Smith, or in Mr. Ruskin, has nothing to do with Comte's law.
As to Mathematics something further may be said. Pure Mathematics, according to Comte, are really a branch of Logic, part of the furniture, an analysis of the processes, of the mind itself. There are of course not three stages in the law of the three states' itself, or in any other true logical process. Mathematics are wholly positive, i.e. proveable, and based on an exact view of the true facts.' Everything that we can call Mathematics, from the first idea of addition, is entirely positive. All our definite notions about number, form, and movement are strictly positive. But there was a time before the VOL. XX.-No. 117.
birth of Mathematics; and then men's ideas about number, form, and movement were in a metaphysical (that is, hypothetical) stage, or even in a theological stage (that is, they are referred to supposed wills). Infants and savages, as the history of language suggests, associate changes in number and form with imaginary vital agents. A child, learning that two and two make four, thinks of a person purposely giving two more things. The counting and measuring of savages is formed out of organic movements. In Mathematics, even in Arithmetic, there is properly none but a positive stage. The proper sphere of the law of the three stages’ is in the observation of phenomena ; and to that Comte carefully limits it. Directly any mind attains to real knowledge in such observations, there are no further stages to pass. The mind remains in the one stage, the positive, or final.
I shall not follow the Bishop into the analogies to Comte's law, with which his reading furnishes him, or his own substitute for it. I fail to see what the analogies or the substitute have to do with the matter. The law of the three states' professes to be a theory of mental evolution, an account of a set of successive processes of thought. The Bishop's analogies and his substitute profess to be a classification of ideas, a grouping of knowledge. What have these in common? The first is a serial record of movement; the second is a coordination of simultaneous conceptions. One might as well find analogies between history and logic; or suggest that Kepler's laws are a history of astronomy. It is quite true that all men's knowledge can be looked at from different points of view, and may possibly be arranged under three groups. But how does that help us to explain the genesis of thought in the past? So, I fail to see how the citations from Bacon, the Philosophick Cabbala, or Mr. Gladstone, advance the matter in hand. The matter in hand is the law of progress in the genesis of science. No one of the three passages cited touches on that subject. And is it likely that Bacon, Henry More, or anyone else who wrote before any true science existed and before any social or moral science was imagined, could tell us much about the law of progress in the genesis of science? So I leave Bacon, the Philosophicle Cabbala, and Mr. Gladstone, who seems to have written something profound on the latter topic.
With the Bishop's proposed substitute for Comte's law I have no wish to quarrel. He says that, instead of a law of the three successive stages, we may have a law of three simultaneous modes of thought. Certainly we may. And the Bishop proposes as his law this :-tliat many branches of knowledge may be contemplated from three points of view—the Theological, the Metaphysical (or Philosophical), and the Scientific. With a slight modification of the terms, to which the Bishop ought not to demur, I should most heartily assent to this. Our general knowledge is Religious, Philosophical, or Scientific. Religion, Philosophy, Science, is a threefold coordination of ideas, very much used by Comte: the distinctions between which three, and the harmonies of which he is constantly expounding. Positivism, as a system of thought, does not mean Science only. It means Religion-Philosophy-Science : each in their sphere completing and aiding the other. So far Comte is entirely at one with the Bishop. But this eminently Positivist idea is no sort of substitute for the Law of the three stages.'
As to that the Bishop must try again; and I cordially invite him to do so. But he must begin by understanding the law which he is to overthrow. The matter in hand has nothing to do with the belief in Providence, in the sense of a Great First Cause, least understood,' as modern men of science conceive Providence. The law is this: that in the infancy of thought, the mind attributes changes in phenomena to a will of some kind, which it supposes to be acting, but of which it has no real proof; secondly, that the mind gradually passes to attribute the changes to some abstract principle, which it formulates without true verification ; finally, that the mind comes to take an exact view of the true facts of the case. These three modes of thought pass gradually into each other, are applied to different matters in different degrees, and in the early stages are sometimes only traceable in transient pre-historic types. Now what an objector has to do is to show—that the sciences have been built up by some other definitely marked stages, or have passed through these stages in a reverse order, or do not pass through stages at all.
THE BUILDING UP OF A UNIVERSITY.
SOME years ago I found myself in a Northern capital, and committed myself to the guidance of a native coachman, whose business and pride it was to drive me from place to place, and indicate to me the important buildings of his majestic city. He was a patriotic showman, and I am bound to say he showed us a great deal ; but the most memorable moment of that instructive day was when he stopped before, what seemed to us, a respectable mansion in a respectable street, and announced to us that 'yon' was the Free Kirk Univairsity. It was the first time in my life that I had heard four stone walls with a roof over them called a University. It was not long, however, before I discovered that I myself had been living with my head in a sack and, in more senses than one, had been of those
who sweep the crossings, wet or dry,
And all the world go by them; only so could it have come to pass that this new meaning for an old word had struck me as strange, not to say ludicrous.
Licuit semperque licebit
Signatum præsente nota producere nomen. Allowable? Yes! and much more than merely allowable; it is inevitable that as the ages roll we should attach new meanings to old words. And if this is inevitable, not the less inevitable is it that, when we desire to trace the history of the thing signified, we should be compelled to recur to the original meaning of the name by which the thing is designated.
A word at starting upon the remarkable book' which has suggested the following article. To say of it that it is quite the most sumptuous work that has ever proceeded from the Cambridge Press, is to say little. It is hardly too much to say that it is one of the most important contributions to the social and intellectual history of England which has ever been made by a Cambridge man. The title of the work conveys but a very inadequate notion of its wide scope, of the encyclopædic learning and originality of treatment which it displays,
' The Architectural History of the Unirersity of Cambridge, and of the Colleges of Cambridge and Eton. By the late Robert Willis, M.A., F.R.S. Edited, with large additions, and brought up to the present time, by John Willis Clark, M.A., late Fellow of Trin. Coll. Camb. 4 vols. super-royal 8vo. Cambridge : The University Press.