Necessity And Infinity -- By: Thomas Hill

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 039:154 (Apr 1882)
Article: Necessity And Infinity
Author: Thomas Hill


Necessity And Infinity

Rev. Thomas Hill

A brief, but admirable Article by William T. Harris defines three species to which all the varieties of necessity may be reduced. The first is causal necessity; by which something is determined to be, or compelled to appear, by something else external to it. This necessity is assumed by many modern evolutionists to be universal. The second species is logical necessity; the connection between the various aspects of a single truth, or between the various parts of a complex truth. This kind of necessity may be defined as that, the opposite of which is inconceivable. And thirdly, there is a moral necessity, the necessity of obligation. Each of these three species of necessity includes a great variety of distinctions, to each of which a special name has been given. The idea of necessity governs and controls all processes of reasoning. There is a unity in the universe making each thing dependent on all others. In the attempt to trace this unity we continually meet unavoidably with apparent or real contradictions; which it is the province of philosophy to solve. “By the evolution and solution of these contradictions,” says Dr. Harris, “the subsidiary character of physical necessity may be shown.”

In Comte’s famous division of the three stages of human thought, he declares that the human mind at first assumes the existence of free will in the changes of external nature; that it then passes to a belief in physical necessity, after which it arrives at an elimination of all consideration of cause, and even of logical connection; contenting itself with the simple grouping of observed facts. But a correct history of the growth of mind presents us with a very different spectacle. Upon first grasping fully the conception of physical cause, the intellect may generalize that conception into a universal physical necessity. Thus, for example, Strauss declares that the universe is infinite, its cause therefore infinite, and therefore of necessity incapable of acting at a special time, or in a particular place; it must act by universal and invariable law. But in this argument Strauss implicitly introduces a logical necessity superior to the physical. By this logical necessity his statement would forbid every change in the universe as clearly as he thinks it forbids miracle. Things do change, all is in perpetual flow. If causal necessity be universal, the new state of things at any moment is necessitated by the total condition of the universe, just as the old state was. Now if it were the same totality of condition in the universe which necessitated both states, it would follow that it was adapted to both, and hence indifferent to both; it could not b...

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