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within and beyond the testimony of the senses and the records of our memory.
STIRLING ON MATTERS OF FACT AND RELATIONS OF
Take the case of the transitory existence of a cabbage; it can be proved that it has no existence apart from ideas. So, as Stirling says, “ Mathematics, quite as much as physics, depends on an element double, matter of fact and Relations of ideas; if on the one hand we see intellectually, on the other we see only sensuously, lines, circles, triangles, squares, oblongs, angles, points, are quite as much in sense and of sense, at bottom, as any amount of bricks and mortar. Hume and Locke say, 'Were there never a circle or a square in existence, its truths would remain’; but I say, were there never an ordinary thing in existence, the whole estate of geometry would be, as it were, blank. Squares and circles are no more à priori and ideal than bricks and paving stones. All at last rest on experience.' Even space is an empirical perception. All facts imply experience and ideas, all of which have their root in the universal Absolute Ego, God. Again, all have their seat and manifestation in the finite spirit of man made in the image of God. First, we have the abstract notion of God. But the abstract notion of God in man is in essential unity and thought with this Concrete notion of God. External Nature is the sensible manifestation of the abstract notion of God, as the sphere of difference; but in reason, in ' eyesight intellectual,' in the identity of differents, we have the concrete notion of God in finite Consciousness. This is necessarily so, seeing that man in his thought is infinite.
No doubt Nature is a realm of sense-contingency,
but it is really a system of necessity quite as much as any triangle. The clove-hitch is, with Dr. Stirling, a favourite example of the unity of sense and reason, contingency and necessity. He says: “If a triangle is a necessity of the Relations of ideas, so is the clove-hitch. If a triangle is synthetic, so is the clove-hitch. Nay, even say this, If a triangle is à priori, so is the clove-hitch! For if the construction of the clove-hitch is a Matter of fact, and all the lines existences of sense, it is not one whit less so in either respect with the triangle.'
Stirling's exposition, in What is Thought ? of the essential unity of sense and reason, fact and idea, contingency and necessity, is one of his finest achievements. Therein he demonstrates that the Begriff (Notion or Thought) is not only logical, but at the same time existential ; the absolute concrete logical Idea is the body, soul and spirit of all sense Matters of Fact. Consequently he is justified in saying, 'That has been the one error all the time,' viz., 'what was intellectually seen was surely naturally a great deal higher than what was only sensuously seen : the last was contingent and probable only; but the first might be necessary and apodictic.''Buttons with button-holes and hooks with eyes are with truth
ions of necessity. Aristotle and Hegel have always believed that experience tells only how objects are, and not how they must be, nor yet how they should be.' Kant says, “It is just possible that experience is itself a compound.' In a sense, Hegel agrees with this statement of Kant concerning experience, but our point is, that with Dr. Stirling, in all matters of fact in human experience, Thought is the one universal principle of identity in sense and reason, without which existence in any form and content is absolutely impossible; and that this identity
is the principle of the categories in the Absolute Idea.
What is the good of any person saying, “Though there never were a true circle or triangle in nature, the truths demonstrated by Euclid would for ever retain their certainty and evidence,' for the same can be said with equal truth of all matters of fact, of all experience ? If there were never any true matters of fact, any true men, any true logic, any true syllogism, judgment, notion or idea in Nature, would not the truths demonstrated by logical science for ever retain their certainty and evidence ? No mathematical or logical science is more certainly synthetic and à priori than are the physical sciences. So, if thought were extinguished, all would be extinguished ; or conversely, if the physical universe were extinguished, this would involve the extinction of relations of ideas, mathematical or logical. But these are absurd suppositions, and are only on a par with the old saying, 'If “ifs” and “ands” were pots and pans,' etc.
Contingency is an essential category of thought and being, and this implies change and freedom. An inactive processless thought is impossible. An Ego that does not think is not an Ego. Thinking is activity, movement, process, change. This is not only a fact of conscious experience, but is manifest in every department of Nature. Contingency is an infinite crossing in every direction at the same time. It forms a basis for the theory of universal gravitation, since it is admitted, every particle of matter attracts every other particle. Photography makes evident the crossing of light without intermission, in all directions, at every moment. In contingency, then, we have necessity and accident, freedom and possibility.
As Dr. Stirling well observes, ‘But for contingency
there would be no freewill ; contingency is the possibility, and the condition, and battle-ground of freewill. When a man acts from motive, he is moved by reason : he is free when he is so moved. He is only bound when moved by sense and unreason.' So, “it is given to man to rise to reason, if he will.' Thus, whether viewed internally or externally, contingency has extraordinary importance. We thus see man is exposed to this infinite contingency, but it is absurd to talk only of a physical necessity, for man is ego, and can act from motive for his pleasure, whereas a stone only moves at the pleasure of another.
Kant made a great blunder in dividing the categories into two classes-one-mathematical, quantity and quality—the other, dynamical, causality and reciprocity : the latter regulative and referring to action. He holds all categories have their source in the Ego. That being so, it is obvious they are all inherently dynamical as well as constitutive of the substantial nature of the Ego, and partake of the Dialectical logical movement of the Absolute Ego. The result with Kant, however, was, that the three proofs for the existence of God lost all their logical theoretical value, and the proofs could only be regulative, not constitutive, elements of being. If this were so, thought has no real permanent being, or it is only a delusive phantasmagoria.
Yet the Kantian philosophy, in spite of its contradictions and illogical form and content matter, recognized consciousness as that which knows itself as totality within itself. This is, indeed, his absolute starting-point. It is true, his infinite was treated only as a subjective abstract universality. But it is not difficult to see that this implies an absolute concrete universality. He speaks of different understandings, especially of a divine understanding, an
intuitive understanding, a percipient understanding. With him these three are one-the divine understanding. How did he come to see the need of such? Because he saw the need of subsuming the particular under a general, and when only a particular is given, the necessity of finding a universal. The one he defines as judgment, the other as judgment of reflection. Here, then, we have at once an intuitive understanding and an infinite reflection. And it is Kant that thinks them. If he had been true to his own thought, he would have seen there is no other understanding than the one that is at once intuitive, reflective and logical, and that human thought in its reality is Divine. The result then, is, gravitation is spiritual.