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the Philosophy or the Conditioned

infinite, mind, human, absolute, conceive, knowledge, consciousness and limited

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CONDITIONED, THE PHILOSOPHY. or THE. This phrase has been brought into 'use by sir W. Hamilton, to express the inability of the human mind to conceive or reason respecting the absolute and the infinite. Our thought, according to him, can only be of the relative and the finite, of which these terms are but the negations; relativity and finitude are the conditions under which the human intelligence operates. In a disser tation on this subject (Discussions in Philosophy, p. 1), he criticises and endeavors to refute the opposite position as maintained by modification of the previous doctrine of Sehelling—that "the unconditioned, the absolute, the infinite, is immedi ately known in consciousness, and this by difference, plurality, and relation." As this doctrine of sir W. Hamilton has been raised into an especial importance by Mr. Manse! in his Brampton Leetures, some account of the reasonings adduced in its favor may here be given. We shall first quote the author's own statement: "In our opinion the mind can conceive, and consequently can know, only the limited, and the conditionally limited. The unconditionally unlimited, or the infinite, the unconditionally limited, or the absolute, cannot positively be construed to the mind; they can only by thinking away from, or abstraction of, those very con ditions unW. which thought itself is realized; consequently, the notion of the uncon ditioned is only negatire—negative of the conceivable itself. For example: On the one hand, we can positively conceive neither an absolute whole, that is, a whole so great that we cannot also conceive it as a relative part of a still greater whole; nor an absolute part, that is, a part so small that we cannot also conceive it as a relative whole, divisible into smaller parts. On the other hand, we cannot positively represent, or realize, or construe to the mind (as here understanding and imagination coincide) an infinite whole, for this could only be done by the infinite synthesis (union) in thought of finite wholes, which would of itself require an infinite time for its accomplishment; nor, for the same reason, can we follow out in thought an infinite divisibility of parts. The result is the same, whether we apply the process to litiination in space, in time, or in degree. The unconditional negation, and the unconditional affirmation of limitation; in other words, the infinite, and the absolute, properly so called, are thus equally incon ceivable to us."—Discussions, p. 13, 2d edition.

The fundamental ideas involved in this view are certain observed facts with reference to the human mind, or the human consciousness; which facts, although very much overlooked in former times, are now beginning to be pretty generally recognized. It is a 0-eneral law of our mental constitution, that change of impression is essential to con sciousness in every form. The remark was made by Hobbes. that it is "almost all one for a man to be always sensible of one and the same thing, and not to be sensi ble at all of anything." There are notable examples to show that an unvarying action on the senses fails to give any perception whatever. Take the pressure of the air on the surface of the body. Here we have an exceedingly powerful effect upon one of the special senses. The skin is under an influence exactly of that nature that wakens the feeling of touch, but no feeling. comes. Withdraw any portion of the pressure, as with a cupping-glass, and sensibility is developed. A constant impression is thus, to the mind, the same as a blank. Our partial unconsciousness of our clothing is connected with the constancy of the object. Remission or change is, therefore, absolutely requisite in order to sensibility.

The necessity of change in order to produce feeling or consciousness of any sort, must apply to the special kind of consciousness that we call knowledge. To know light, is to pass from its presence to its absence, or the opposite; everlasting, unvarying luminosity, in an eye always awake, would not be known to the human mind. It is transition that develops knowledge, whence flows the important consequence,..that knowledge never can be of one property alone; there must always be at least two prop erties in every act of knowing. We may say that we know light; but in so doing we also know darkness, and we could not know either by itself. When we touch clay and, marble, we know hard and soft; but if we had never touched a soft body, we should. have no conception of a hard one. Living in one constant temperature, like the fish in the tropical seas, we should know neither heat nor cold; passing from a high tempera ture to a low, or from a low to a high, we know both; and such is the alternative pre sented in every case to the human understanding. This great fundamental law. of the human mind is now commonly designated by the phrase, the relativity of knowledge or of cognition.

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