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science of metaphysics has too often licentiously allied itself to imagination, and brought forth a monstrous and chimerical progeny.
The term, though a Greek compound, is not to be found among the Greek writers. The first traces of it occur to us in the Physics of Aristotle, the last fourteen books of which are entitled in the printed editions, TÔ METà Tà Quoixà ; “ Of Things relating to Physics ;" but even this title is generally supposed to have been applied, not by Aristotle himself, but by one of his commentators, probably Andronicus, on the transfer of the manuscripts of Aristotle to Rome, upon the subjugation of Asia by Sylla, in which city this invaluable treasure, as we had occasion to observe not long ago, had been deposited as part of the plunder of the library of Apellicon of Teia.*
In taking a general survey of the subject immediately before us, there are three questions that have chiefly occupied the attention of the world ; the essence of the mind or soul; its durability; and the means by which it maintains a relation with the sensible or external world. Let us devote the present lecture to a consideration of the first of these.
Is the essence of the human soul material or immaterial ? The question, at first sight, appears to be highly important, and to involve nothing less than a belief or disbelief, not indeed in its divine origin, but in its divine similitude and immortality, Yet I may venture to affirm that there is no question which has been productive of so little satisfaction, or has laid a foundation for wider and wilder errors, within the whole range of metaphysics. And for this plain and obvious reason, that we have no distinct idea of the terms, and no settled premises to build upon.* Corruptibility and incorruptibility, intelligent and unintelligent, organized and inorganic, are terms that
* Vol. II. Ser. 11. Lect. II.
distinct meanings to the mind, and import modes of being that are within the scope of our comprehension : but materiality and immateriality seem beyond our reach. Of the essence of matter we know nothing; and altogether as little of
many of its more active qualities; insomuch that, amidst all the discoveries of the age, it still remains a controvertible position whether light, heat, magnetism, and electricity, are material substances, material properties, or things superadded to matter and of a higher rank. If they be matter, gravity and ponderability are not essential properties of matter, though commonly so regarded. And if they be things superadded to matter, they are necessarily immaterial; and we cannot open our eyes without beholding innumerable instances of material and immaterial bodies co-existing and acting in harmonious unison through the entire frame of nature. But if we know nothing of the essence, and but little of the qualities, of matter,of that common substrate which is diffused around us in every direction, and constitutes the whole of the visible world, - what can we know of what is immaterial ? of the full meaning of a term that, in its strictest sense, comprehends all the rest of the immense fabric of actual and possible being, and includes in its vast circumference every essence and mode of essence of every other being, as well below as above the order of matter, and even that of the Deity himself?
* See Locke on Hum. Underst. ch. xxiii. book ii.
Shall we take the quality of extension as the line of separation between what is material and what is immaterial ? This, indeed, is the general and favourite distinction brought forward in the present day, but it is a distinction founded on mere conjecture, and which will by no means stand the test of enquiry. Is space
every one admits it to be so. But is space material ? is it body of any kind ? Des Cartes, indeed, contended that it is body, and a material body, for he denied a vacuum, and asserted space to be a part of matter itself: but it is probable that there is not a single espouser of this opinion in the present day. If, then, extension belong equally to matter and to space, it cannot be contemplated as the peculiar and exclusive property of the former; and if we allow it to immaterial space, there is no reason why we should not allow it to immaterial spirit. If extension appertain not to the mind, or thinking principle, the latter can have NO PLACE of existence, it can exist No WHERE, - for WHERE, or PLACE, is an idea that cannot be separated from the idea of extension : and hence most of the metaphysical immaterialists of modern times admit that the mind has NO PLACE of existence, that it does exist No WHERE; while at the same time they are compelled to allow that the immaterial Creator or universal spirit exists EVERY WHERE, substantially as well as virtually.
Let me not, however, be misunderstood upon this abstruse and difficult subject. That the mind has DISTINCT NATURE, and is a DISTINCT REALITY from
the body; that it is gifted with immortality, endowed with reasoning faculties, and capacified for a state of separate existence after the death of the. corporeal frame to which it is attached, are, in my opinion, propositions most clearly deducible from Revelation, and, in one or two points, adumbrated by a few shadowy glimpses of nature. And that it may be a substance strictly IMMATERIAL and ESSENTIALLY DIFFERENT from matter, is both possible and probable; and will hereafter, perhaps, when faith is turned into vision, and conjecture into fact, be found to be the true and genuine doctrine upon the subject; but till this glorious era arrives, or till, antecedently to it, it be proved, which it does not hitherto seem to have been, that matter, itself of divine origin, gifted even at present, under certain modifications, with instinct and sensation, and destined to become immortal hereafter, is physically incapable, under some still more refined and exalted and spiritualized modification, of exhibiting the attributes of the soul; of being, under such a constitution, endowed with immortality from the first, and capacified for existing separately from the external and grosser forms of the body,- and that it is beyond the power of its own Creator to render it intelligent, or to give it even brutal perception, — the argument must be loose and inconclusive; it may plunge us, as it has plunged thousands before us, into errors, but can never conduct us to demonstration : it may lead us, on the one hand, to the proud Brahminical, or Platonic belief, that the essence of the soul is the very essence of the Deity, hereby rendered capable of division, and consequently a part of the Deity himself; or, on
the other, to the gloomy regions of modern materialism, and to the cheerless doctrine that it dies and dissolves in one common grave with the body.*
There seems a strange propensity among mankind, and it may be traced from a very early period of the world, to look upon matter with contempt. The source of this has never, that I know of, been pointed out; but it will, probably, be found to have originated in the old philosophical doctrine we had formerly occasion to advert to, that “ nothing can spring from or be decomposed into nothingt:" and, consequently, that matter must have had a necessary and independent existence from all eternity; and have been an immutable PRINCIPLE OF EVIL running coëval with the immutable PRINCIPLE OF GOOD; who, in working upon it, had to contend with all its essential defects, and has made the best of it in his power. But the moment we admit that matter is a creature of the Deity himself; that he has produced it, in his essential benevolence, out of nothing, as an express medium of life and happiness; that, in its origin, he pronounced it, under every modification, to be very GOOD; that the human body, though composed of it, was at that time perfect and incorruprible, and will hereafter recover the same attributes of perfection and incorruptibility when it shall again rise up fresh from the grave, contempt and despisal must give way to reverence and gratitude. Nor less so when, with an eye of
* See Locke, Hum. Underst. book iv. ch. iii. $ 6. as also the author's Stud. of Med. vol. iv. p. 37. 2d edit. 1825.
+ In the words of Democritus, Μηδέν εκ του μη όντος γίνεσθαι, μηδε εις το μη όν φθείρεσθαι. Dion. Laert. lib. ix.