In the ancient and religious foundation of Peterhouse
there is observed this rule, that whoso makes a pun shall be counted the
author of it, but that whoso pretends to find it out shall be counted the
publisher of it, and that both shall be fined. Now, as in a pun two
truths lie hid under one expression, so in an analogy one truth is discovered
under two expressions. Every question concerning analogies is therefore
the reciprocal of a question concerning puns, and the solutions can be
transposed by reciprocation. But since we are still in doubt as to the
legitimacy of reasoning by analogy, and as reasoning even by paradox has
been pronounced less heinous than reasoning by puns, we must adopt the
direct method with respect to analogy, and then, if necessary, deduce by
reciprocation the theory of puns.
That analogies appear to exist is plain in the face of
things, for all parables, fables, similes, metaphors, tropes, and figures
of speech are analogies, natural or revealed, artificial or concealed.
The question is entirely of their reality. Now, no question exists as
to the possibility of an analogy without a mind to recognize it—that is
rank nonsense. You might as well talk of a demonstration or refutation
existing unconditionally. Neither is there any question as to the occurrence
of analogies to our minds. They are as plenty as reasons, not to say
blackberries. For, not to mention all the things in external nature
which men have seen as the projections of things in their own minds, the
whole framework of science, up to the very pinnacle of philosophy, seems
sometimes a dissected model of nature, and sometimes a natural growth of
the inner surface of the mind. Now, if in examining the admitted truths
in science and philosophy, we find certain general principles appearing
throughout a vast range of subjects, and sometimes reappearing in some
quite distinct part of human knowledge; and if, on turning to the constitution
of the intellect itself, we think we can discern there the reason for this
uniformity in the form of a fundamental law of the right action of the
intellect, are we to conclude that these various departments of nature
in which analogous laws exist have a real interdependence; or that their
relation is only apparent and owing to the necessary conditions of human
There is nothing more essential to the right understanding
of things than a perception of the relations of number. Now the
very first notion of number implies a previous act of intelligence.
Before we can count any number of things we must pick them out of the universe
and give each of them a fictitious unity by definition. Until we have
done this, the universe of sense is neither one nor many, but indefinite.
But yet, do what we will, nature seems to have a certain horror of partition.
Perhaps the most natural thing to count ‘‘one’’ for is a man or human being,
but yet it is very difficult to do so. Some count by heads, others by
souls, others by noses; still there is a tendency either to run together
into masses or to split up into limbs. The dimmed outlines of phenomenal
things all merge into one another unless we put on the focusing glass of
theory, and screw it up sometimes to one pitch of definition and sometimes
to another, so as to see down into different depths through the great millstone
of the world.
As for space and time, any man will tell you that ‘‘it
is now known and ascertained that they are merely modifications of our
own minds.’’ And yet if we conceive of the mind as absolutely indivisible
and capable of only one state at a time, we must admit that these states
may be arranged in chronological order, and that this is the only real
order of these states. For we have no reason to believe, on the ground
of a given succession of simple sensations, that differences in position,
as well as in order of occurrence, exist among the causes of these sensations.
But yet we are convinced of the coexistence of different objects at the
same time, and of the identity of the same object at different times.
Now if we admit that we can think of difference independent of sequence,
and of sequence without difference, we have admitted enough on which to
found the possibility of the ideas of space and time.
But if we come to look more closely into these ideas,
as developed in human beings, we find that their space has triple
extension but is the same in all directions, without behind or before,
whereas time extends only back and forward and always goes forward.
To inquire why these peculiarities of these fundamental
ideas are so would require a most painful if not impossible act of self-exenteration;
but to determine whether there is anything in nature corresponding to them,
or whether they are mere projections of our own mental machinery on the
surface of external things, is absolutely necessary to appease the cravings
of intelligence. Now it appears to me that when we say that space has
three dimensions, we not only express the impossibility of conceiving a
fourth dimension, coordinate with the three known ones, but assert the
objective truth that points may differ in position by the independent variation
of three variable. Here, therefore, we have a real analogy between
the constitution of the intellect and that of the external world.
With respect to time, it is sometimes assumed that the
consecution of ideas is a fact precisely the same kind as the sequence
of events in time. But it does not appear that there is any closer connection
between these than between mental difference and difference of position.
No doubt it is possible to assign the accurate date of every act of thought,
but I doubt whether a chronological table drawn up in this way would coincide
with the sequence of ideas of which we are conscious. There is an analogy,
but I think not an identity, between these two orders of thoughts and things.
Again, if we know what is at any assigned point of space at any assigned
instant of time, we may be said to know all the events of nature. We
cannot conceive any other thing which it would be necessary to know; and,
in fact, if any other necessary element does exist, it never enters into
any phenomenon so as to make it differ from what it would be on the supposition
of space and time being the only necessary elements.
We cannot, however, think any set of thoughts without
conceiving of them as depending on reasons. These reasons, when spoken
of with relation to objects, get the name of causes, which are reasons,
analogically referred to objects instead of thoughts. When the objects
are mechanical, or are considered in a mechanical point of view, the causes
are still more strictly defined and are called forces.
Now if we are acquainted not only with the events but
also with the forces, in nature, we acquire the power of predicting events
not previously known.
This conception of cause, we are informed, has been ascertained
to be a notion of invariable sequence. No doubt invariable sequence,
if observed, would suggest the notion of cause, just as the end of a poker
painted red suggests the notion of heat, but although a cause without its
invariable effect is absurd, a cause by its apparent frustration only suggests
the notion of an equal and opposite cause.
Now the analogy between reasons, causes, forces, principles,
and moral rules is glaring, but dazzling.
A reason or argument is a conductor by which the mind
is led from a proposition to a necessary consequence of that proposition.
In pure logic reasons must all tend in the same direction. There can
be no conflict of reasons. We may lose sight of them or abandon them
but cannot pit them against one another. If our faculties were indefinitely
intensified, so that we could see all the consequences of any admission,
then all reasons would resolve themselves into one reason, and all demonstrative
truth would be one proposition. There would be no room for plurality
of reasons, still less for conflict. But when we come to causes of phenomena
and not reasons of truths, the conflict of causes, or rather the mutual
annihilation of effects, is manifest. Not but what there is a tendency
in the human mind to lump up all causes and give them an aggregate name,
or to trace chains of causes up to their knots and asymptotes. Still
we see, or seem to see, a plurality of causes at work, and there are some
who are content with plurality.
Those who are thus content with plurality delight in
the use of the word force as applied to cause. Cause is
a metaphysical word implying something unchangeable and always producing
its effect. Force, on the other hand, is scientific word, signifying
something which always meets with opposition, and often with successful
opposition, but yet never fails to do what it can in its own favour.
Such are the physical forces with which science deals, and their maxim
is that might is right, and they call themselves laws of nature. But
there are other laws of nature which determine the form and action of organic
structure. These are founded on the forces of nature, but they seem
to do no work except that of direction. Ought they to be called forces?
A force does work in proportion to its strength. These direct
forces to work after a model. They are molds, not forces.
Now since we have here a standard from which deviation may take place,
we have besides the notion of strength, which belongs to force,
that of health, which belongs to organic law. Organic beings
are not conscious of organic laws, and it is not the conscious being that
takes part in them, but another set of laws now appear in very close connection
with the conscious being. I mean the laws of thought. These may be
interfered with by organic laws, or by physical disturbances, and no doubt
every such interference is regulated by the laws of the brain and of the
connection between the medulla and the process of thought. But the thing
to be observed is, that the laws which regulate the right process
of the intellect are identical with the most abstract of all laws, those
which are found among the relations of necessary truths, and that though
these are mixed up with, and modified by, the most complex systems of phenomena
in physiology and physics, they must be recognized as supreme among the
other laws of thought. And this supremacy does not consist in superior
strength, as in physical laws, nor yet, I think, in reproducing a type
as in organic laws, but in being right and true; even when other causes
have been for a season masters of the brain.
When we consider voluntary actions in general, we think
we see causes acting like forces on the willing being. Some of our motions
arise from physical necessity, some from irritability or organic excitement,
some are performed by our machinery without our knowledge, and some evidently
are due to us and our volitions. Of these, again, some are merely a
repetition of a customary act, some are due to the attractions of pleasure
or the pressure of constrained activity, and a few show some indications
of being results of distinct acts of the will. Here again we have a
continuation of the analogy of cause. Some had supposed that in will
they had found the only true cause, and that all physical causes are only
apparent. I need not say that this doctrine is exploded.
What we have to observe is that new elements enter into
the nature of these higher causes, for mere abstract reasons are simply
absolute; forces are related by their strength; organic laws act toward
resemblances to types; animal emotions tend to that which promotes the
enjoyment of life; and will is in great measure actually subject to all
these, although certain other laws of right, which are abstract
and demonstrable, like those of reason, are supreme among the laws
Now the question of the reality of analogies in nature
derives most of its interest from its application to the opinion that the
phenomena of nature, being varieties of motion, can only differ in complexity,
and therefore the only way of studying nature is to master the fundamental
laws of motion first and then examine what kinds of complication of these
laws must be studied in order to obtain true views of the universe.
If this theory be true, we must look for indications of these fundamental
laws throughout the whole range of science, and not least among those remarkable
products of organic life, the results of cerebration (commonly called ‘‘thinking’’).
In this case, of course, the resemblances between the laws of different
classes of phenomena should hardly be called analogies, as they are only
If, on the other hand, we start from the study of the
laws of thought (the abstract logical laws, not the physio-logical),
then these apparent analogies become merely repetitions by reflection of
certain necessary modes of action to which our minds are subject. I
do not see how, upon either hypothesis, we can account for the existence
of one set of laws of which the supremacy is necessary, but to the operation
contingent. But we find another set of laws, the operation of which
is inflexible when once in action but depends in its beginning on some
act of volition. The theory of the consequence of actions is greatly
perplexed by the fact that each act sets in motion many trains of machinery,
which react on other agents and come into regions of physical and metaphysical
chaos from which it is difficult to disentangle them. But if we could
place the telescope of theory in proper adjustment, to see not the physical
events which form the subordinate foci of the disturbance propagated through
the universe but the moral foci where the true image of the original act
is reproduced, then we shall recognize the fact that when we clearly see
any moral act, then there appears a moral necessity for the trains of consequences
of that act, which are spreading through the world to be concentrated on
some focus, so as to give a true and complete image of the act in its moral
point of view. All that bystanders see is the physical act, and some
of its immediate physical consequences, but as a partial pencil of light,
even when not adapted for distinct vision, may enable us to see an
and not merely light, so the partial view we have of any act, though far
from perfect, may enable us to see it morally as an act, and not merely
physically as an event.
If we think we see in the diverging trains of physical
consequences not only a capability of forming a true image of the act but
also of reacting upon the agent, either directly or after a long circuit,
then perhaps we have caught the idea of necessary retribution as
the legitimate consequence of all moral action.
But as this idea of necessary reaction of the
consequence of action is derived only from a few instances, in which we
have guessed at such a law among the necessary laws of the universe, and
we have a much more distinct idea of justice, derived from those
laws which we necessarily recognize as supreme, we connect the idea of
retribution much more with that of justice than with that of cause
and effect. We therefore regard retribution as the result of interference
with the mechanical order of things, and intended to vindicate the supremacy
of the right order of things, but still we suspect that the two orders
of things will eventually dissolve into one.
I have been somewhat diffuse and confused on the subject
of moral law, in order to show to what length analogy will carry the speculations
of men. Whenever they see a relation between two things they know well,
and think they see there must be a similar relation between things less
known, they reason from the one to the other. This supposes that although
pairs of things may differ widely from each other, the
in the one pair may be the same as in the other. Now, as in a scientific
point of view the relation is the most important thing to know,
a knowledge of the one thing leads us a long way toward a knowledge of
the other. If all that we know is relation, and if all the relations
of one pair of things correspond to those of another pair, it will be difficult
to distinguish the one pair from the other, although not presenting a single
point of resemblance, unless we have some difference of relation to something
else whereby to distinguish them. Such mistakes can hardly occur except
in mathematical and physical analogies, but if we are going to study the
constitution of the individual mental man, and draw all our arguments from
the laws of society on the one hand, or those of the nervous tissue on
the other, we may chance to convert useful helps into wills-of-the-wisp.
Perhaps the ‘‘book,’’ as it has been called, of nature is regularly paged;
if so, no doubt the introductory parts will explain those that follow,
and the methods taught in the first chapters will be taken for granted
and used as illustrations in the more advanced parts of the course; but
if it is not a ‘‘book’’ at all, but a magazine, nothing is more
foolish to suppose that one part can throw light on another.
Perhaps the next most remarkable analogy is between the
principle, law, or plan according to which all things are made suitably
to what they have to do, and the intention which a man has of making things
which will work. The doctrine of final causes, although productive of
barrenness in its exclusive form, has certainly been a great help to inquirers
into nature; and if we only maintain the existence of the analogy, and
allow observation to determine its form, we cannot be led far from the
There is another analogy which seems to be supplanting
the other on its own ground, which lies between the principle, law, or
plan, according to which the forms of things are made to have a certain
community of type, and that which induces human artists to make a set of
different things according to varieties of the same model. Here apparently
the final cause is analogy or homogeneity, to the exclusion of usefulness.
And last of all we have the secondary forms of crystals
bursting in upon us, and sparkling in the rigidity of mathematical necessity,
and telling us neither of harmony of design, usefulness, or moral significance—nothing
but spherical trigonometry and Napier’s analogies. It is because we
have blindly excluded the lesson of these angular bodies from the domain
of human knowledge that we are still in doubt about the great doctrine
that the only laws of matter are those which our minds must fabricate,
and the only laws of mind are fabricated for it by matter.