Modern Thought -- By: Ransom Bethune Welch

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 033:129 (Jan 1876)
Article: Modern Thought
Author: Ransom Bethune Welch


Modern Thought

Rev. Ransom Bethune Welch

In the strife of theories, both science and faith should be saved from confusion. Carefully, at least, if not repeatedly, should we take our bearings, that we may the better detect the drift of modern thought, and distinguish the course of false thinking from that of the true.

At the outset, it is obvious to remark, but it is important to remember, that thought has its laws as fixed as those of material nature — perhaps comprehending the laws of nature and confirming the laws of faith.

The primary law of thought is the recognition of existence; the existence of the thinker, and then of the act of thinking as involving content. This is illustrated by the proposition cogito, expressing the simplest judgment. Whatever may be thought of Descartes’ familiar enthymeme, cogito ergo sum, to which we do not refer, the proposition cogito (I think), illustrates this primary law which thought implicitly follows in the simplest judgment, i am thinking. In the simplest and earliest thought, then, there is by inevitable law the consciousness of existence and action — of the thinker thinking.

But more than this, there cannot be thought without content, and the primary law involves this, that in every

thought there shall be the thinker, the thinking, and the theme; the agent and the content, the subject and the object, to both of which the thinking relates. This primary law is so comprehensive that if the mere phenomenon seem to furnish the content, the law is not satisfied. It claims more than this, viz. some substance underlying the phenomenon, as well as some person originating the act of thinking. So scrupulous is this fundamental law of thought, in each direction requiring reality, implying that there cannot be an appearing or manifesting without some thing which furnishes the appearance or manifestation. Even Herbert Spencer admits, asserts, this to the confusion of Comte and Mill and Lewes and all mere phenomenalists. There must be a seeing self or mind as well as an object seen. For example, a sensation or impression cannot be, unless there be something to produce the sensation or impression; and more, something to cognize the impression or sensation. Without a mind to receive, there could be no appearing in the universe, no manifestation. So that at the outset, we find a certain modern system, in both directions violating this primary law, and therefore doomed to self-renunciation or to self-destruction.

Let valiant knight-errants of science who would fiercely slay theologians and metaphysicians, on the right hand and on the left, sheathe their swords. Their own safety and ...

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