Causes And Reasons -- By: John Bascom

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 063:249 (Jan 1906)
Article: Causes And Reasons
Author: John Bascom


Causes And Reasons

Pres. John Bascom

A striking thing in human life is the increasing earnestness with which men pursue truth, and at the same time their increasing doubt concerning it. There is an ebb and flow in thought, like that of the ocean; and the prevalence of any one opinion frequently means that the forces which sustain it are well-nigh spent. There is an equilibrium to which convictions are constantly returning; yet an equilibrium framed each time somewhat differently, and sure to be shortly broken in some new direction. It thus becomes wisdom to map out the current opinions of our own period, and to escape thereby those extreme movements which leave one stranded in some shoal, and so ready to affirm that there is no depth in human knowledge, no solidity in human experience. It is our present purpose to aid sobriety of thought by tracing anew the familiar lines of demarcation between causes and reasons, which have been at so many points confused and effaced by current speculation.

The distinction between causes and reasons arises in connection with the two hemispheres of knowledge which forever lie over against each other, and neither of which, in its union with or in its opposition to the other, can be overlooked without losing the center of knowledge, and breaking into fragments our spiritual life. There have been few systems of thought so barren of comprehension as monism, a la-

borious putting together, in phraseology, of conceptions which forever lie apart in experience. It is an effort to add to our knowledge by revolving one hemisphere till it slides into the other. Much of this formal yet empty philosophy has arisen from confusing causes and reasons.

Causes are the connections between successive physical events: reasons are the connections between successive intellectual states. These definitions, while sufficient rightly to direct our thoughts, may at times leave the mind in doubt, because of the extended interplay of material and intellectual phenomena, due to our physical organization. Causes become reasons at a second remove, and reasons, when we enter on action, complete themselves through causes. The beauty and fertility of a country may give a reason for settling in it, and settlement may lead to labors in furtherance of this beauty and fertility. Yet conclusions may lie in the mind quite apart from surrounding objects, or those objects may expend their energies on each other and awaken no attention in the mind. The interlock, when it arises, may give blended phenomena, but does not alter the essential character of its two terms. Causes and reasons unite in a life which is neither exclusively physical nor spiritual. The two rails of a r...

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