Trevor. Our subject to-night is a cabalistic one — we have to investigate the mysterious properties of the number two.
Miss Leycester. I never knew that two had any mysterious properties: I thought these were confined to the sacred numerals three and seven.
Trevor. For that matter every number has its own secret and profound mysteries. Consider a moment, and you will see the reason of it. Number itself in its final analysis is just as inscrutable as space and time, of both of which, in fact, it is the outward calculable expression. Pythagoras, you know, resolved the universe into numbers. Without going quite so far, you must acknowledge that the world around us has a strange affinity for numbers; for what is there existing or conceivable which cannot be brought under the noble science of computation? Are there not so many planets with so many satellites? so many kings of England and popes of Rome? Has not a quadruped the exact number of four legs, neither more nor less, strange as it may seem? And with regard to man, what would he be without number? Arithmetic is the very test of civilization. Savage races have no numbers, or at least only very few, and the increase in their numerical capacities gives the measure of their general intellectual progress. Imagine existence devoid of arithmetic! It would be only a kind of annihilation. What has a more potent influence over every unit of collective humanity than 'number one'? What care is lavished on it! What expense laid out on it! What virtue ascribed to it! How much is it exalted and extolled, so that every other existing thing, nay, every other human unit, is made subservient and secondary to its projects, its interests, and its wishes! As to number two, the subject of our discussion this evening, you will readily understand its importance to man. Is not man a biped? Has he not two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, two hands, right and left sides, besides other dual attributes too numerous to mention? If you would learn the wonderful qualities of number two, you must look into my friend Sextos Empeirikos,1 to whom the binary number, with its inherent properties, its infinite possibilities of subdivision; and the mutual opposition of the units of which it is composed, offers unlimited scope for Skepticism. Indeed, the uncertainty pertaining to number two weighed heavily upon the great mind of Sokrates himself, so much so that he infers from the antagonism of its component units the non-existence as demonstrable fact of all number2 — one unit annihilating the other, after the manner of the famous Kilkenny cats. In the 'Occult Philosophy' of Cornelius Agrippa3 also, as in most works of the same kind, you have a whole chapter on the properties of the dual number. E.g.: it is the first plural composed not of numbers but of units; it is the number of equality, of justice, of the balance, of charity, of love, of marriage. Per contra, it is the principle of division, discord, disintegration, and confusion, and so on for nearly two pages of dualisms, some of them obvious enough, while others are well worthy of a place in a philosophy that claims to be occult. Our concernment with it to-night is not as the type of union but of disunion, for we have to consider the possibility of the existence of double or twofold truth. We have to ask, in other words, whether what is demonstrably true in one subject or from one point of view can be false in another or from a different standpoint. Can, e.g. the truth which is true in philosophy be false in theology, or vice versa?
Mrs. Harrington. For myself, I should say, 'Certainly not;' but why should we have to decide such a profound question?
Trevor. For this reason. ' Twofold truth' is that particular phase of Skepticism which is called forth as at least a possible contingency by the fact of an external authoritative Revelation : and as we are about to consider the operation of Free-thought in relation to Christianity, it is important we should determine how far it is right or possible for Christian philosophers, if so minded, to divide their allegiance between, e.g. the claims of reason and the dictates of faith. Just to give you an instance of the practical operation of twofold truth, we shall among our Skeptics come across an Italian Free-thinker, Pomponazzi, who declared that he believed the doctrine of immortality as a Christian, but as a philosopher he did not believe it.
Miss Leycester.That is what they call in Germany 'double book-keeping,' or 'book-keeping by double entry,'4 not very happily though, where one entry is the precise opposite to the other, the figures, e.g. in the right-hand column being all erased in the left.
Arundel. The 'double entry' that should truly represent the duplicity of twofold truth would be the false balance sheets of some rotten concern, or the 'cooked' accounts of a defalcating secretary.
Trevor. I don't agree with you, Arundel. In the cases you mention there is a distinctly dishonest intention. I think we shall find, after an investigation of twofold truth, that whatever difficulties, intellectual and moral, it may imply to others, it has been maintained conscientiously by thinkers of no small power. Dimly traceable in Greek thought whenever the conclusions of the philosopher collided with dominant popular convictions especially of a religious kind, it is very distinctly marked in the more profound of the Christian Fathers and Schoolmen. The principle was involved in every impartial attempt to reconcile the wisdom of Christianity with that of Pagandom. It came to maturity in France and Italy during the Renaissance movements in those countries in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. But as a general rule it is a principle that has acquired prominency in every age of religious controversy, and may therefore be said to be incident as of right to every authoritative creed that has ever been controverted.
Arundel. With the exception, I suppose, of Protestantism. A creed that lays such stress on human reason ought not to want a point of convergence and of unity for varying truth, or rather for varying aspects of the same truth.
Trevor. But you forget the other element of Protestantism, the position which Scripture held in its original conception. The dualism originally existing between human reason and ecclesiasticism only took a new form. It became Reason v. Scripture. Luther himself was a decided upholder of ' twofold truth,' maintaining that what was true in theology was not always true in philosophy,5 though his object was not to assert the coequal authority of the two principles as much as to subordinate reason to faith by the process of 'Divide et impera.'
Harrington. Well, you need not go back so far as Luther to find Protestant defenders of 'twofold truth.' On the Continent you have Lessing and Kant as propounders of the doctrine, while in England, passing over other instances, 'twofold truth' was preached only a few years ago from the pulpit of our greatest university by a Bampton Lecturer. Astounding as it may seem, the preacher deliberately maintained that faith and reason were two different territories, each with its own boundary, laws, and government, and were of necessity engaged in internecine strife — a pretty prospect for poor speculating humanity!
Miss Leycester. Yes, but you forget, Charles, that 'double truth,' in relation to Christianity, is not a principle of hostility, but of conciliation. It is put forward as a kind of intellectual 'peace at any price.' Reason has her claims conceded, so also has Revelation, each is awarded its own particular territory, each is forbidden to cross or appropriate that of the other — no doubt an impossible condition when the territory to which both lay claim is to a great extent the same... It has always seemed to me that the distinction sometimes made between the oneness of the Greek and the essential duality of Christian philosophy might be represented by the difference between a circle and an ellipse. The first has a single focus, viz. reason. The second has double foci, i.e. Reason and Revelation. The further apart the foci, the more oblong and irregular the ellipse. The closer they approximate, the nearer does the figure attain the perfection of a circle.
Arundel. The main objection to your illustration is that it merges Revelation in Reason, and so far tends to make it unnecessary. A better illustration to my mind would be this: reason and faith starting from divergent directions are originally like two circles on the same plane, which only touch each other at one point of the two circumferences, but gradually, by mutually yielding each to the other, they are so brought together as to represent two distinct half- circles possessing a common centre, as Dr. Donne says6:
For reason, put to her best extension,
Almost meets faith and makes both centres one.
Harrington. I do not think your illustration as good as Florence's. It assumes that the respective limits of faith and reason are capable of distinct visible demarcation, which I humbly submit they are not. Reason has her functions in matters of faith, and Faith her office in matters of reason. Indeed, it is only because their limits are thus largely conterminous that you are at liberty to postulate the oneness of truth. Once grant that their powers and objects are distinct and separable, and you introduce a dichotomy into human faculties which would soon make twofoldness and antagonism prime characteristics of truth.
Mrs. Harrington. But does not the man of science escape the dilemma involved in 'double truth'? He has only to determine the facts and processes of nature a experiment reveals them to him, and he is not obliged to reconcile his discoveries with foregone conclusions or hypotheses of any kind.
Trevor. Not so, Mrs. Harrington. Science just as much as theology or philosophy is largely made up of hypotheses, any one of which may at any moment turn out questionable, if not demonstrably false, and so involve the inquirer in self-antagonism or ' twofold truth.' Besides which, men of science are not free from the emotional, sympathetic, and ideal wants of humanity. They are also placed in the midst of an objective environment of which they must needs take some account, especially in its religious aspect. For these reasons twofold truth is just as common among men of science as among philosophers and theologians. A striking instance of this you have in Michael Faraday, who persistently refused even to attempt the unification of his religious and scientific standpoints. Let me read you his remarkable words on this subject: 'I do not think it at all necessary to tie the study of the natural sciences and religion together; and in my intercourse with my fellow-creatures that which is religious and that which is philosophical have ever been two distinct things.'7 From a similar conviction of the incompatibility of the philosophical and popular religious standpoints Buffon defended esoteric and exoteric teaching — another form in this instance of twofold truth; while David Hume, ranking him among men of science, though he denied that the historical veracity of miracles could be demonstrated, thought that they might be believed as articles of faith.
Arundel. Do I understand you to say that esoteric and exoteric teaching involve an admission of double truth? If so, I think you are mistaken. 'Twofold truth' presupposes a condition of irreconcilable hostility. The contradictories are opposed in kind, whereas the differences between exo- and esoteric teaching are differences in degree. You would not say that the professor of high mathematics who also taught the elementary rules of arithmetic was a maintainer of 'twofold truths,' even though it might be true that the principles to which he appealed were divergent in the two cases.
Trevor. No, I should not, if the difference were of degree and not of kind. But it appears to me that the distinction is generally of the latter description. Esoteric teaching is put forward as not only higher than, but irreconcilable with, exoteric. It was so in the case of Pomponazzi and other defenders of twofold truth. It was so in the case of Buffon. It is so in the case of scientists among ourselves, who discern no middle point between science and religion, and yet hold both to one and to the other. It is so also in the casuistical ratiocination of the Jesuits. Indeed, I should not hesitate to state it as a general rule, that wherever the distinction between esoteric and exoteric doctrine is strongly emphasized, a leaning to 'twofold truth ' may be fairly suspected.
Miss Leycester. Among learned professions I suppose lawyers and judges have the strongest leaning to ' twofold truths.' Their calling is so entirely taken up with examining the opposing claims of rival parties that their minds must acquire a tendency to chronic equilibrium, i.e. holding every issue in suspense until they hear the opposite sides fully argued. In view of the curious decisions one sometimes hears, one wonders whether judges themselves re-try in the secret tribunal of their own minds the causes on which they have pronounced their decisions.
Harrington. I suspect judges have little time and less inclination for such extra-judicial and nugatory employment. Prima facie, no doubt, the judicial faculty has in it much that is suspicious and Skeptical, though the incertitude that comes from the perpetual balancing of conflicting evidence is corrected in a great measure by the necessity of a definite decision on its merits. Still I agree with Florence. I think lawyers and judges are as a class more Skeptical than others. Such, at least, is my own experience. At the same time, I never knew a case of professional indecision quite so helpless as the instance quoted by Hazlitt8 from Abraham Tucker. The latter writer used to relate of a friend of his, an old special pleader, that once coming out of his chambers in the Temple to take a walk with him he hesitated at the bottom of the stairs which way to go, proposed different directions — to Charing Cross, to St. Paul's — found some objection to them all, and at last turned back for want of a casting motive to incline the scale. Tucker gives this as an example of that temper of mind which, having been long used to weigh the reasons for things with scrupulous exactness, could not come to any conclusion at all on the spur of the moment. On the other hand, we must recollect that the incertitude of lawyers and judges is generally confined to the exercise of their profession, and that in matters outside of it they are often as confiding and dogmatic as the rest of the world. Lord Eldon's perpetual 'I doubt' grew to be a standing joke; but his lordship's constitutional wariness in professional matters did not prevent his being an extreme bigot and dogmatic in politics and religion.
Miss Leycester. We touched slightly a point in our Sokrates discussion which appears more appropriate to our present subject of ' twofold truth,' i.e. the relation of irony to intellectual dualism or Skepticism. Irony seems the fit and proper method of expressing cautiously and reservedly dual-truth. Itself a method of speech, of which the overt signification is not only separable from but opposed to its real intentional meaning, it is eminently adapted to suggest twofold truth, while it has a further cause of duality as representing the antagonism so often existing between the independent thinker and his surroundings, social, philosophical, and religious. That, I suppose, is the reason why irony has been so generally employed by Neologian teachers from Sokrates downwards. Indeed, I have sometimes thought it a characteristic of all teachers of new and unpopular truth.
Trevor. The question of the relation of literary style and method to intellectual idiosyncrasy and position is an interesting one, which has, so far as I know, never been discussed ; but I quite agree with you that irony is frequently a characteristic of new thought. Assailing old beliefs, the new teacher seems compelled to employ defensive armour while making his attack. ... By the way, here are some admirable remarks of Bishop Thirlwall on the relation of irony to the employment of judicial functions or discrimination between rival truths: 'There is always a slight cast of irony in the grave, calm, respectful attention impartially bestowed by an intelligent judge on two contending parties who are pleading their causes before him with all the earnestness of deep conviction and excited feeling. What makes the contrast interesting is that the right and the truth lie on neither side exclusively; that there is no fraudulent purpose, no gross imbecility of intellect on either, but both have plausible claims and specious reasons to allege, though each is too much blinded by prejudice or passion to do justice to the views of its adversary. For here the irony lies not in the demeanour of the judge, but is deeply seated in the case itself, which seems to favour each of the litigants, but really eludes them both. And this, too, it is that lends the highest degree of interest to the conflicts of religious and political parties.'9 Thus, according to this profound thinker—himself one of the greatest masters of irony of our time—the ironical mode of presentation belongs essentially to twofold truth.
Harrington. I should put the fact somewhat differently. Twofold truth is only an extreme, and to my mind not very inviting, form of the general method of thought which we call Skeptical. Now I quite think that there is a general affinity between the Skeptical method and the ironical expression of thought. I don't attempt to account for it psychologically, but an induction of Skeptics and their literary weapons tends to show a predilection to irony. Thus Sokrates was a Skeptic, at war with the convictions of his country, and one of the most noteworthy features of his intellect is his large employment of irony. Pomponazzi is a decided upholder of twofold truth, and his irony was of a peculiarly bitter and trenchant description. Erasmus was, as regards Romanism, a religious Skeptic, and his delicate and subtle irony is one of the most marked features of his style. So also, coming home to our own country, Hallam, George Cornewall Lewis, and Thirlwall were historical Skeptics, and they largely employed irony. Swift, Sterne, and Thackeray were social Skeptics, and irony is conspicuous in their writings.
Arundel. Well, I can suggest, as against Miss Leycester's notion, one case of a religious teacher — indeed the greatest — in whose sayings no irony is perceivable — I mean Jesus Christ.
Harrington. Do not be too sure of that, Arundel. I have always thought that there is a considerable amount of irony in the teaching of Christ. In the indirect method of the parables you have a kind of irony; while the defence of that mode of popular instruction, ' That seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand,' is emphatically ironical. So also, I take it, is the injunction to festive preparations for fastings, ' Anoint thine head and wash thy face.' His invective against the Pharisees is also occasionally marked by both irony and sarcasm. I forbear to notice other instances from a fear of trespassing on sacred ground.
Miss Leycester. You have not noticed the example which Robertson of Brighton was accustomed to adduce — I mean the passage, 'Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition'10 — where you have the ironic dualism distinctly marked, viz.: 1. Jewish infidelity considered as a reproach; 2. The same thing regarded as an object of mock congratulation on account of its complete success.
Harrington. Very true, that striking instance escaped me; ... but, as a general rule, I agree with Arundel so far that I think irony somewhat rare in Semiticism. It is a plant of robust habit, such as will only thrive in certain strong soils. The Semitic intellect was neither sufficiently vigourous, independent, and recalcitrant, nor comprehensive and many-sided enough to allow of much development in that direction.
Trevor. Well, our present object is not so much the verbal modes in which ' twofold truth' is accustomed to find expression, as the phenomenon itself. I think we shall find on fair examination that the antinomy which takes so extreme a form as the deliberate combination in a single intellect of contrary truths is really traceable to causes lying far down in the constitution of the human mind and its relation to nature and humanity. That at least is the moral of my paper on 'Twofold Truth,' which I will now proceed to read.
Although thinkers in the present day are taught to regard their minds as the products of that omnipotent evolution that has educed the whole of natural phenomena, metaphysical as well as physical, from primæval chaos, there seems still loft, perhaps as a 'survival,' an ineradicable instinct to assign it, so far back as we can trace it, an independence and autonomy of its own. Probably there never existed a race so rude as not to possess some power of discriminating between the subjective thought and objective being, between the 'ego' and the 'non-ego.' Thus in man's most rudimentary relation to the outer world there is postulated a dualism. No sooner does he begin to think than he recognises himself as an entity disparate from and even partially opposed to the environment in which he lives. At first this perception of duality is not a strong feeling; but as man advances in civilization, as he becomes able to discriminate clearly his position with regard to nature and humanity, the feeling increases. He begins to find that just as he himself forms an infinitesimally small part of the universe, so his personal knowledge is utterly incommensurate with the sum-total of existence, which nevertheless it would fain fathom. Thence results a feeling of incongruity between man as the knower and the universe as the thing known, which reaches its extreme stage when the philosopher refuses to make himself and his limited experience the sole measure of existence. This is the stage really reached in the maxim of Protagoras, 'Man is the measure of all things,' for the import of that dictum was not that man should make his individual experience the law of the universe, but that we should recognise the personal limitation and relativity of all his knowledge. Here then the dualism becomes well marked. The thinker rightly regards himself and his knowledge as a small islet in the immeasurable ocean of the unknown. Moreover, this conviction of disparity tends to advance with the progress of knowledge. Every extension of the bounds of the universe, whether in space or time, enlarges the limits of human Nescience, and the philosopher is fain to confess, "What I know is a small part of what might be known," indeed the aggregate sum of actual human knowledge is an inappreciably small fraction of conceivable knowledge, to say nothing of omniscience. Perhaps he advances a step further and says, "My infinitesimally small knowledge, nay, that which I share with all other human knowers, can form no just or adequate standard of universal knowledge. Truths that I regard as absolute may not really be so. Those certainties of which I cannot even conceive the non-existence or incertitude may be to others no certainties at all. In other worlds, perchance scattered through space, matter may exist without any law of gravity, and our vaunted principles of arithmetic and geometry may be so modified that 2 + 2 might possibly make five, and two straight lines might haply inclose a space."
Here, then, we have in man's elementary position in nature, regarding him as a rational being, a clear locus standi for some such principle as twofold truth. Gradually man acquires the conviction that the known can never be an adequate measure of the unknown. Indeed the assertion of an inevitable antinomy between man and the universe is no more than the involuntary homage we are compelled to render to the infinite possibilities by which we are surrounded, and so far 'twofold truth' might conceivably claim to be the erection of an altar to the unknown god.
Nor is this relation of man to the unknown materially modified by the fact that he has no means of determining the degree or kind of antagonism that may exist between himself and the universe outside of his cognition. "We have no difficulty in conceiving, indeed our usual mode of generalisation tends in this direction, that all other thinking beings in the universe may be constituted as we ourselves are; nor is it hard to imagine that distant portions of the universe may be formed after that model and with those laws "with which our terrestrial habitat has made us acquainted. For aught we know, the antinomy that justifies twofold truth may not exist, or it may exist only partially, not sufficiently to warrant a complete dichotomy of the human reason. Still this consideration only serves to remove the difficulty a stage further off. Truth, to be complete and infallible, must be demonstrably true for all space, all time, and all legitimate thinking. Once admit that this cannot be proved, once suggest if only as a possibility that the truth lying outside of our experience is not of the same kind as that within, that existence elsewhere may be governed by laws and conditions of which we know nothing, and immediately there is introduced a basis for double truth. Henceforth it is open to the Skeptic to deny the existence of truth as a demonstrable universality. Compelled to accept the doctrine of the relativity of human knowledge, he is cut off by his very acceptance from all connection with the absolute.
But there is another dichotomy incidental to man as a thinking being. Sooner or later he begins to discern that his own knowledge—the result of personal research and experience—has only a partial affinity with the general sum of knowledge professedly possessed by his fellow-men. Perhaps also he is led to doubt whether the faculties and methods by which he acquires knowledge operates in his own case and in the case of others in a precisely similar manner. He conceives himself to know and is dimly cognisant of the methods whereby he has attained knowledge, but how far either the method or result is shared in all its entirety by his fellow-men he cannot know. No doubt the discrimination here mentioned is a product of some advance in metaphysical inquiry. Among uncultured races there is no aptitude for the individualism which it implies. But it is inevitable to all higher thought, and wherever it takes place the result is a differentiation of the individual from the sum of humanity outside him, which implies, or may be held to imply, twofold truth. All higher philosophy teaches the thinker to admit the essential individuality of his thought. It forces from him the admission: 'The truth I conceive myself to know may not be in its precise form, nature, quality, and quantity, the truth that other men call by the same word, or embody in similar definitions. The means and processes that have enabled me to acquire it may not operate in the same manner and degree in the case of others.' This inevitable isolation of every thinker and every thought-process therefore carries with it an admission of double-truth, if not as an actuality, yet at least as a probability of a very high degree; and dough's aspiration for himself' —
"O let me love my love unto myself alone,
And know my knowledge to tie world unknown."11
— really expresses the destiny of every self-reliant and profound thinker. To him the outside world — man with his vaunted knowledge —is but the counterfeit presentment of an existence which he does not and cannot share, or at most the externality is like the images in Plato's cave simile, consisting of dim shadows of objects existing in an unknown elsewhere, and which he can never expect to apprehend as substantial here-present realities.
But besides these conditions of dualism inevitable to man as a reasoning and progressive being, there are in most conditions of social life certain limits and restrictions which tend to demarcate the individual thinker from the environment in which he dwells.
Even in rudimentary stages of civilization man comes into contact with a body more or less compact of traditions, usages, beliefs, and opinions of various kinds. Endowed with a reasoning power capable of apprehending and testing truth, he finds that together with his inborn capacity for employing it he has ample material ready prepared for such employment. Between the 'ego' and the social 'non-ego' there hence arises a divergency that may possibly attain the dimensions of twofold truth. Religious or other beliefs may, for example, be presented to the thinker as a body of infallible and divinely prescribed truth which he must accept without hesitation or criticism. Perhaps, notwithstanding all the divine and human sanctions attesting such traditional beliefs, his own reason freely applied is able to detect a weakness or incongruity in what he is asked to accept. This of itself suggests a dualism. The thinker in self-defence is compelled to assume a critical, if not negative, attitude to the general stock of beliefs which constitute his mental environment. I need hardly add that this is the starting point of all Skepticism, which begins if it does not end in antagonism and twofoldedness. No doubt the phenomenon here mentioned is common to all creeds resting on external and supernatural authority. So great is the native vigour, the spontaneity of the human reason, that a conflict with mere superimposed tenets and convictions may be regarded as a normal condition of its growth. Even in Greek philosophy, with all its speculative freedom, there are occasional signs of this dualism. Its mythological systems, its mysteries, philosophical schools, political parties, exercised a restraint greater or less upon its independent thought. The death of Sokrates is a salient and indisputable proof that Hellenic speculation was not absolutely free. Still it attained as great a degree of freedom as seems compatible with the ordinary prejudices and institutions of mankind. Its research extended itself into every department of human thought, and in each such direction it carried its maxim of theoretical liberty. Beyond Sokrates, Pyrrhfin, and Sextos, it was impossible to go. Freedom might be said to have transcended in those thinkers all reasonable limits, and to have attained a licence of self-contradiction which even became suicidal — so far as pure speculation with its intense vitality and endless capacity for transformations can be said to be capable of utter self-extinction. But in no creed has the dualism between its own authority and the mental freedom of its disciples assumed so vehement a form as in Christianity. This is to be accounted for not by anything in the teaching of its founder hostile to intellectual liberty, for it would bee difficult to conceive any religion freer in its most authoritative prescriptions and involved tendencies than that of Christ. But it is due almost entirely to the form and nature of its ecclesiastical development. The very idea of Revelation — especially in the trenchant and exclusive form in which it was eventually asserted by the Church — postulated a condition of the recipient human reason which must sooner or later have entailed revolt.It was presented as the sole absolute authoritative and definitive enunciation of the Divine Will. It was expounded as leaving no room for hesitation or criticism: indeed the faintest attempts to reconcile its claims with Nature or Reason were reprobated as gross instances of impiety and ingratitude. Its dogmas were propounded not only as infallible truths, but as covering the whole area of knowledge and speculation permissible to humanity. No doubt this autocratic conception of the claims and powers of Revelation was a doctrine of somewhat slow growth. It cannot be said to be distinctly marked in the history of Christianity until after the Council of Nice. But even in the more moderate stages of its evolution prior to that event, the antagonism between Faith and Reason may be detected. A cursory glance at the steps by which the antinomy grew until it attained the dimensions of double-truth will not be an unfitting episode in our history of Free-thought.
The commencement of any great religious movement is so far like initiatory stages in the development of the human mind that there is no scope for dissidence or doubt. Whatever be the varied aspects under which it is presented to its adherents, they all have points of convergence and unity either in the creed or in the person of its founder. In the glow of religious enthusiasm, the passionate fervour of men animated by powerful feeling and united by common sympathies and opinions, there is little room for hesitation and criticism, still less for actual divergency. Different interests and standpoints coalesce for the time being like the interfusion of various chemical substances in a furnace; and it is only when this amalgamating point of temperature becomes lowered — when the first warm enthusiasm has subsided — when what was largely emotional manifests a tendency to become critical — that signs of disparity and segregation proclaim themselves.
We do not therefore find for some time after the birth and first propagation of Christianity any pronounced trace within the Church itself of a Skeptical dualism. No doubt there were conflicting standpoints to be reconciled. The position, e.g. of Christianity to Judaism was a question which might be determined by the hypothesis of dual and antagonistic revelations. In some cases it is evident this result was actually proclaimed as a solution of the incompatibility. At the same time this difficulty was only local, the relation of one Palestinian religion or stage of religious thought to another. But a far profounder dichotomy was that disclosed when Christianity began to take deliberate cognizance of its position as regards Pagandom. This dualism, or at least this standpoint containing the elements of dualism, came to maturity in the school of Alexandria. Here we find Christianity in direct contact with Hellenic thought, no doubt of a somewhat debased character, but still possessing the attributes of intellectual freedom and genuine love of enlightenment that distinguished its earlier stages, regarded from the standpoint of ecclesiasticism, the contact was strongly suggestive of antagonism. Broad thinkers like Clement and Origen were bound to take a liberal and comprehensive view of the mutual relation of Gentilism and Christianity, and actual dualism might accordingly be avoided by theories of prior revelations or the help of a mystical allegorism. But to fair and critical thinkers not largely endowed with imagination, the coequal veracity of Gentile thought and Christian revelation could only be reconciled by a dualism that accepted both without even trying to find a point of junction between them.
But the influence of Alexandrian Hellenism tended to create a permanent basis for 'Twofold Truth' in the Christian Church for another reason. Among all its legacies to after-ages Greek philosophy bequeathed none more important than its dialectical research, whether in the Skeptical form of the Dialogues of Plato or in the more positive one of the formal logic of Aristotle.
In the works of Porphyry and the other commentators on Aristotle lay the seed of that dialectic that was destined to bloom so many centuries afterwards in Scholasticism,12 and that gave birth to more than one form of intellectual antagonism. Though patronized by some of the Fathers, and afterwards introduced into Christian schools, the study of dialectic was always regarded with a suspicious eye by the leading dogmatists of the Church. Irrespectively of its pagan origin and associations, its implicit tendencies in the direction of intellectual freedom and independence were too strongly marked to allow its favourable reception at the hands of a dominant sacerdotalism. Such men as Jerome were just as keen-sighted in foreseeing the havoc which mental science must cause to ecclesiastical dogmas as the Athenians were when in the interests of their mythological beliefs they opposed the logical exercitations of the Sophists and Sokrates.13 It was a sufficing condemnation of dialectic that its principles and scope lay outside the domain of theology, and if the latter were held to be 'super logicam' — superior to logic — the inevitable result would be Twofold Truth.
Nor do the influences already mentioned exhaust the aspects of dualism presented to us in the early history of Christianity. The Gnostics, e.g. opposed their intuitional supernatural enlightenment to the teaching of the Church, and the so-called half-Gnostics took in the issue the position of 'double truth.' Gnosticism with its many ramifications is indeed only one form out of many in which Oriental dualism is traceable in sects, existing either within or on the confines of the Church. A kind of Twofold Truth is also discernible in the rival authorities deferred to by Augustine and other Fathers, under the titles the Light of Nature and that of Grace. The predilection of the Bishop of Hippo for such dualisms both in philosophy and theology is a distinctly marked feature of his thought, which he did not throw off with his renunciation of Manichseanism. Similar affinities also distinguish a few of the Greek Fathers. Nor have we any reason to feel surprise at these occasional manifestations of antagonism among the ablest teachers of the Christian Church. The very progress of Ecclesiasticism in relation to human thought was surcharged with antinomical conditions. Thus, when the formation of the canon raised the text of Scripture into a final and authoritative standard of faith, the possibility of Twofold Truth was implicitly affirmed. In many cases the theory of an infallible book, claiming to be the sole word of God, had the effect of ruling profane literature out of court. This was indeed the ordinary result of that prepossession in the Latin Church. But there were instances of men adopting the conclusion of double-truth whenever the divergency between Scripture and Reason assumed an irreconcilable form. Another duality akin to this, but of somewhat later origin, was that of Scripture and Nature regarded as the twofold revelation of the Divine Mind. This also had its defenders among the more profound and farsighted theologians of the Church, e.g. Albert the Great. We shall have to discuss the most remarkable of them in point of development when we arrive at Raymund of Sabieude. It need scarcely be added that what holds good of Scripture, considered as a basis for dogma, holds good of every successive accretion to the systematic beliefs of the Church. They were so many objective poles of supposed truth placed in juxtaposition with the subjective pole of the human reason, sometimes even assuming a relation of repellency with it; and yet, like the opposition of positive and negative poles in an electric battery, not unfrequently generating light by their contact.
I do not, however, wish to insist too strongly on these elements of dichotomy in the gradual growth of ecclesiastical Christianity, preparatives though they were to the full avowal of Twofold Truth. We must bear in mind, as partly explaining the absence of vehement antagonism between Faith and Reason in the early history of the Church, that its dogmatic system was as yet in a vague and unformed condition, and did not at first present that harsh and repellent aspect to all alien modes of thought which it subsequently did. Besides which, it is true of intellectual as of every species of insurrection, that it implies a certain growth of self-assertion and reactionary power. The Reason must attain to a consciousness of its strength and of its claims before it can be expected to assert either the one or the other. During the ages usually styled dark, what with ecclesiastical oppression, the prevalence of ignorance and superstition, and the political disorganization that reigned throughout Europe, there was little chance for any open and pronounced dissidence from the dogmatic teaching of the Church. Scotus Erigena might claim to be the dividing point between the substantial unison of the past eight centuries of Church history and the distinct dissonance of Faith and Reason which began with Scholasticism. His avowal that true philosophy was really identical with religion may be taken as the final form of that truce between authoritative dogma and mental freedom that had so long existed before the breaking out of the formidable struggle between the belligerents which has continued to the present day.
Twofold Truth may be said to have come to maturity in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. By this time the human reason was beginning to recover from the repression to which it had been so long subjected by the Church. Stimulated by various quickening agencies, which we shall have to notice more fully when we discuss the Italian Renaissance, and of which I will only mention one in this place — the Arab philosophy — it acquired no small share of that independence and self-reliance that belong to it of right. One of the first objects which the awakened Reason had to consider was its relation to dogma regarded as definitive and infallible truth. As we have seen, the authority of the Church had long proscribed all kinds of inquiry, which tended in their methods to mental freedom and in their results to conclusions outside her ordinary limits. All human knowledge was absorbed by Theology.14 This 'mistress science' had, perhaps by way of evincing her superiority, devoured all the rest. When Christian philosophy, therefore, came into being with the advent of Scholasticism, it was at first only regarded as a novel mode of theological inquiry.15 The truths so long maintained by the Church and set forth in her creeds were merely reiterated and confirmed by the special faculty of the Reason. The goal was the same; it was only the starting-points and directions that differed, and even these were to a great extent coincident. Reason was thus in the position of a minor state, having within it the elements of freedom and autonomy, but kept in subjection by a powerful and unscrupulous neighbour. Naturally, the first aim of philosophy, or its instrument the Reason, was to effect something like a new modus vivendi with its oppressor. There was no attempt as yet to proclaim the independence of philosophy. The 'handmaid of theology' was still compelled to keep to her subordinate place, however much she might endeavour to enlarge its duties or widen her own experience. Like the squire of a knight of chivalry, it was enough that she should be allowed to fight the battles of theology, to wield her self-forged weapons in her defence. For the moment Theology failed to perceive that the skill and prowess philosophy was thus able to attain might hereafter be applied to her own purposes, to secure, e.g. her own independence and the undisturbed exercise of her autocratic functions. Happily for human progress, this was precisely what took place. Reason, growing in strength and resolution as well as in the power of handling her native weapons, was not averse to employing both it and them in struggles outside the limits of theological dogma. This employment was justified in the eyes of the greatest mediæval thinkers by the inherently different methods which pertained to reason and faith. One was the region of belief and feeling, the other that of intellection and conviction. Gradually this original disparity took a more definite and pronounced form. Different methods might justifiably lay claim to diverse and even opposite results. If Faith ended in religious dogma, why might not Reason find her own outcome in philosophical convictions? In this case Reason might fairly assert within her province her own rightful autonomy, and proclaim her independence of the supremacy of Faith. Nor would it be necessary to go beyond this. Reason, both from fear and policy, had no desire to injure or supplant Faith. She did not even pretend to be the equal of Faith in every respect. All she pleaded for was a recognition of independence, deliverance from the heavy fetters and manacles that had so long bound her; freedom to pursue her own methods and avouch her conclusions without the perpetual supervision and the arrogant dictation of her acknowledged superior. At this precise stage Twofold Truth made its appearance. Reason and Faith were declared to imply two different territories, ruled by different laws and actuated largely by rival interests. This position seems to have been taken nearly contemporaneously both in France and Italy, especially in the universities of Padua and Paris. In the year 1240, e.g. we have a condemnation by William, Bishop of Paris, of certain 'Detestable errors against the Catholic faith,'16 among which we find the opinion that 'many truths are from eternity which are not God Himself,' against which the bishop affirms the counter-proposition, that 'only one truth is from eternity, which is God Himself, and that no truth exists from eternity which is not that truth.' But a more elaborate proof of the extent and ramifications of Twofold Truth in the University of Paris is supplied by the denunciation in 1276 by Stephen, Bishop of Paris, of certain errors attributed to the Averroists, and professed by certain members of the university.17 Among these errors were certain assertions founded on the writings of the heathen which were held to be 'true in philosophy, but not according to the Catholic faith, as if,' adds the bishop, 'there were two antagonistic truths, and as if in opposition to the truth of Holy Scripture there could be truth in the writings of these accursed Gentiles, of whom it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise," &c.' — words which express clearly the general principle as well as the probable issue of double-truth. I will add a few more of these incriminated propositions, in order to show the method and real purport of this and similar conceptions in the thirteenth century. The bishop condemns the tenets—
- "That the natural philosopher as such ought to deny the creation18 of the world, because his opinion is based upon natural causes and reasons. The Christian, on the other hand, may deny the eternity of the world because his opinion is founded on supernatural causes."
- "That creation is impossible, although the contrary may be held as a matter of faith (secundum fidem)."
- "That no question is reasonably disputable which a philosopher' ought not to dispute and determine : because reasons are received from things. To philosophy, however, pertains the consideration of all things according to their various parts."
- "That the wise of the world are the only philosophers."
- "That there is no state more excellent than the cultivation of philosophy."
- "That a man should possess a certain conclusion, it is necessary that it should be based upon principles known independently (per te). It is an error when a general proposition is made as to one certitude of apprehension and another of adhesion."
- "That a future resurrection should not be believed nor granted by a philosopher because it is impossible to ascertain its truth by reason—an error, because even the philosopher ought to surrender his intellect as a captive to the obedience of the faith of Christ."
- "That the individual soul is unchangeable according to philosophy, but changeable according to faith."
- "That man should not be satisfied with authority if he can attain any other kind of certitude."
It is clear that a scheme of thought of which such maxims reveal the general method and purport is one characterized by no ordinary freedom and audacity. The Reason that could have educed those conclusions and set them forward in a determined self-asserting manner was never, we might suppose, in great danger of being extinguished by the authoritative dogmas of Faith. We begin to perceive, too, what a powerful lever was afforded by the dualism of Faith and Reason for emancipating the human intellect from the thralldom of Ecclesiasticism; for, leaving out of consideration the legitimacy of the instrument, we cannot deny its unrivaled potency. Never was there a more conspicuous instance of the effectiveness of the 'Divide et impera' method. The dogmas of the Church, with their manifold accretions of ignorance and superstition, were found to have lost at least half of their authority and thereby half of the terrorism they had long exercised over humanity. We cannot, I think, feel surprised that the Church from her standpoint of exclusiveness and infallibility should have hurled her anathemas against the authors and propagators of these opinions. Keenness of insight far less prompt than that which has always characterized Romanism might have easily discerned the issue involved in Twofold Truth. It clearly undermined her own position as the divine and sole accredited source of all truth. The verities she chose to stamp with her own brand were to have no longer the exclusive monopoly hitherto assigned them. Philosophy as a rival trader and bidder for the patronage of humanity set up a store of her own, with her own special commodities, authenticated by her own mark, and trader-like did not scruple to boast the superiority of her goods in certain respects to those retailed by the Church. Whatever other effects might attend this rivalry, at least there was opposition — rudimentary free-trade in human dogmas and opinions. A new condition of human liberty was established, which if not destined to bear much fruit for the present was full of promise for the distant future. The Church could only fall back on her ancient claim of oneness and individuality. To her boasted unity of form she was astute enough to add the philosophic conception of the essential oneness of all truth, and laid claim to both alike. Truth was not biform as those dualists asserted — a kind of centaur, half divine, half human. On the contrary, truth was ex vi termini, whole, complete, and indiscerptible, fully embodied and revealed in her own doctrine, form, and polity. It was to no purpose that divines like Abelard and Aquinas, and philosophers like Giordano Bruno, pleaded for the separate existence of secular truth, and expatiated on the natural diversity in object and method between Religion and Philosophy. Both the reasoning and the conclusion were alike disclaimed. As the virtues of the heathen were to earlier ecclesiastics only 'splendid vices,' so the mediaeval Church was eager to pronounce all truths not originated by herself, and which had never received her sanction, mere plausible forms of falsehood. Nor is this prejudice confined to any one part of the history of Romanism. Up to the present day she has reserved her most implacable hostility, her choicest vocabulary of vituperation, for the daring propounders of truth, of whatever kind, outside the limits of her own dogma.19 What was true of philosophy in the time of the Schoolmen became true of astronomy in the time of Galileo, and of general physical science in all subsequent periods.
On the other hand, from the standpoint of intellectual progress Twofold Truth was not without its value. For whatever peril might attach to its extreme assertion, however much it might conflict with logical axioms and laws of thought, and however destructive it might seem to the oneness and solidarity of the individual consciousness, it was at least useful as a method of inquiry. The vindication of the rights of Reason which it implied was in point of fact a philosophical Protestantism. Outside the Church, philosophy had now erected a conventicle, just as Protestantism under Luther did two centuries subsequently. Room was thus afforded for conscientious dissidents, and a fatal blow was struck at the assumed unity and tyrannical aggrandizement of the Papacy. Nor was this all. The assertion of the coequal authority of the Reason with the Ecclesiasticism hitherto exclusively dominant had further implications. It imparted a breadth to intellectual research hitherto unknown to Christendom. The exclusiveness and dogmatism of the Church had necessarily curtailed the scope of human inquiry. When Theology claimed to be the only truth, and her methods the sole avenues to its possession, there could be no further question as to other verities or alien methods. The field of nature might be ever so great, its contents never so inviting, but of what avail was this in the face of a dogma that theoretically included nature and everything else in its conspectus of infallible certainty? Similarly the field of mind might invite investigation and be well calculated to repay it; but in its fullest sense this department of culture was equally prohibited, or, which came to the same thing, the cultivation was rendered nugatory by the all-inclusive claims of the Church. Twofold Truth was a natural protest against this condition of things. Declaring Reason to be autonomous, it demanded scope for its free exercise. Nor was the territory thus claimed a small one. With a true perception of the rights of Reason, it required a field for criticism and research in every direction. 'Philosophy,' said the maintainers of double-truth — perhaps in satirical imitation of the claims of theologians — 'should be conversant with all things.' When we come to the Renaissance we shall find how much this encyclopædic view of knowledge governed human research. In this commencement of science the human mind, on account of its long starvation, claimed to be omnivorous. All knowledge, real and supposed, was devoured with a passionate craving which men nurtured on regular and plentiful diet fail to understand. This tendency to universality reacted on the great intellects of the Church itself, and the Summists, as the writers of Summas were called, did what in them lay to make theology comprehend in its subdivisions and ramifications all knowledge, even when its component parts were largely self-contradictory. But it is evident that neither among early science-workers nor among Arab philosophers, nor yet among the doctors of the Church, could this broad idea of the functions and province of knowledge have arisen except the Reason had first been freed by some such process as Twofold Truth.
The importance of the theory at the time when it originated is fully attested by its immense popularity and rapid diffusion. Throughout the chief universities of France and Italy it became the authoritative lex credendi of professors and students, while it was by no means unknown to advanced thinkers in England20 and Germany. Nor again was it a mere transient episode in the history of mediaeval Free-thought, for there are manifold traces of its widespread influence during the thirteenth and two following centuries. Hence whatever might be the inherent difficulties of the doctrine, it was undoubtedly well adapted to subserve intellectual wants at a particular period. Popes and bishops might rail at it, might point out its incongruity both theologically and philosophically, might insist on the indissoluble oneness of truth, but the doctrine itself grew and prospered until it might be said to have become absorbed and intensified by the more unequivocal assertion of the rights of Reason involved in Protestantism and modern science.
An interesting illustration of the growth and importance of double-truth is found in the promptness with which it seized upon all similar antinomies already in existence, and the modified forms it assumed in consequence. The antagonism, e.g. between dialectic and theology as opposite methods of mental training each independent of the other21 — the recognized disparity between Aristotle and general Christianity, or between the doctrines of Averroes and certain dogmas of the Church, are all merely forms of the larger dualism between Faith and Reason or Religion and Philosophy.
The justification of this subsumption might be found in the fact that both Faith and Reason had their place in the economy of the human mind. For however much Ecclesiasticism might endeavour in its own selfish interests to obscure this truth and to pervert or render nugatory the functions of the Reason, it could not succeed in repressing it when once it had entered on a course of deliberate self-assertion. If only as a species of 'common sense' — a guidance in the secular concerns of life — the Church was compelled to allow some modicum of rationality as an attribute of humanity. Reason and Faith might be 'unequally yoked together,' a marriage, e.g. of angel and satyr, of the divine and human; still, that it was an actual marriage the Church — when challenged with the fact — durst not deny.
The modus vivendi of coequality, on which Reason insisted by the assertion of double-truth, came gradually to be allowed in terms, though in reality the recognition might be quite nullified by the exorbitant claims of Faith over Reason. Attempts were made to apportion quantitatively the respective amounts of Faith and Reason which could claim the sanction of the Church. These were founded on the theory that as representing different provinces and functions of the same human mind they were capable of being so blended in almost infinite variety. The theory was doubtless true, but it was capable of a different application than that which the Church thought fit to allow. For if the 'blend' in favour with ecclesiastics gave an immeasurable superiority to Faith, the combination most affected by philosophers gave a large precedence to Reason. Indeed, the Italian philosophers of the Renaissance seem to have given no small attention to ascertaining the minimum of faith which might be combined with a maximum of Reason so as to escape the imputation of confessed heresy. Not that their attempt was a whit more disingenuous than the conduct of theologians when they pretended a deference to the irresistible claims of philosophy far in excess of their real sentiments.
Further modifications of double-truth meet us in the writings of the Schoolmen. Thus in the different standpoints adopted by Anselm and Abelard, the former of whom asserted the relation of Faith to Reason in the formula 'Credo ut intelligam,' and the latter in the counter-proposition 'Intelligo ut credam,' the opposite poles of the dualism assumed a rivalry of priority rather than of downright antagonism. One was affirmed as the propædeutic of the other. The dualistic distinction of natural and revealed religion obscurely set forth by some of the earlier Fathers of the Church received a new impetus from the mediaeval conflict of Faith and Reason, while a more profound and altogether praiseworthy dichotomy was that avowed by Duns Scotus, who made Christianity consist entirely in ethical science and moral practice, and thus left the whole range of speculation absolutely free. Other varieties of 'double-truth' will again meet us when we glance at the Free-thought of Abelard and Aquinas.
There can be little doubt that 'Twofold Truth,' regarded as the deliberate utterance of propositions, or the simultaneous cultivation of mental functions more or less antagonistic, would never have had the effect we know it to have had were it not justified by certain dualistic phenomena manifest in the human consciousness. Indeed, the diverse provinces of Reason and Faith might with a little manipulation be made conterminous with the different ranges of intellection and emotion, or of experience and imagination. Let us glance for a moment at some of these dualisms, bearing in mind, however, that we are now entering upon 'double-truth' in its subjective aspects as implied in the psychological formation of the human intellect.
Regarded merely as mental states, there is an enormous difference in the attitude of a man who is engaged in demonstrating a problem of Euclid, and of the same man offering up prayer for the life of a beloved child. The contrast is not merely between the intellectual object gained and the emotional object sought for, but extends itself more particularly to the subjective mood involved in either case. On the one hand there is a consciousness of certitude, on the other hand a painful feeling of incertitude. Nor is this difference between intellection and emotion greatly modified even when both become equal states of certitude. The conviction, e.g. of a geometrical truth, is of a totally different kind from the emotional assurance which the father feels when he knows that the fever crisis is past, and that in all human probability his child will be spared to him. Now it is the characteristic of most religious beliefs that they professedly belong to the regions both of feeling and intellectual conviction. First imparted by authority parental or otherwise, they are confirmed by long association, and are protected and enhanced by the various sacred and subtle influences that invest all religious beliefs. With this peculiar prestige they take their places among the numberless unanalyzed concepts and opinions that form the general stock of human convictions. Ordinarily they never advance beyond this elementary stage, at least in reality, though in many cases the emotional basis of religious beliefs may be supplemented by a superficial intellection which is hardly more than a predetermination to support foregone conclusions. But in all cases of genuine mental growth there is a progress from the stage of unverified emotion to that of critical ratiocination. Religious beliefs, in common with other contents of the mind, are subjected to a rigid scrutiny. The thinker feels compelled as a matter of intellectual honesty to give a reason for the hope that is in him. If tenets so treated are capable of sustaining the criticism directed to them, they reach their culminating stage of conviction. Frequently, however the contrary takes place — beliefs received into the mind recklessly or on insufficient authority are found on investigation to be unworthy of that position; but nevertheless, possessing from long association a strong hold on the affections, they continue to maintain their place as tenets or persuasions of the emotions. We must not, however, suppose that such a transfer is made readily or easily. Every noteworthy record of mental progress proves how difficult it is to undermine, not to say eliminate, beliefs once fully accepted by the feelings. Probably no English writer has discussed with more subtlety or greater introspective penetration the various kinds and degrees of theological assent than Dr. Newman. His work on the subject, whatever might be thought of its conclusions, throws incidentally no small light on the complex nature of human beliefs from the point of view of their recipients. He often has occasion to dwell on the phenomenon we are now considering, and of which his own mental evolution supplied him with striking instances, of beliefs remaining in the feelings long after they have been discarded from the intellect.22 Every such case must needs present an aspect of dual truth, though the extent of the dichotomy will depend on the amount of discordance actually existing between the older beliefs that retain their place in the emotions and the newer tenets that have supplanted them in the intellect. In any case the affirmation of one province of the mind is met by a denial of another. That such an incongruity might exist without assuming a forcible or definite form I am quite willing to admit; indeed, I am inclined to think that a large proportion of the religious convictions of even the thoughtful portion of mankind are precisely of this mixed kind. Especially is this the case during periods of intense mental activity and consequent transition, when older beliefs continue to linger in the affections and memory long after their former position in the intellect has been occupied by new and divergent convictions.23 The Reformation, e.g. supplies us with numberless illustrations of this truth. The belief and usages of Romanism maintained their hold on the popular mind for some time after they were ejected as national creeds from the Protestant countries of Europe. So that double-truth as an antagonism of reason and sentiment holds good of societies as well as of individuals. In short, we may take it as a general rule that whenever old convictions are superseded by new, there will always be intervening standpoints, from whence both may seem to be equally true.
Nor is it only the religionist who is thus susceptible of a revulsion of opinion that may engender a species of double-truth. Recent English philosophy has supplied us with the instance of a Skeptical thinker who, having long held that all the reasons of the case militated against the doctrine of immortality, finally became persuaded of its probability by the loss of a beloved wife. Here we have the case of a doctrine deemed untrue by the intellect, yet held to be at least partially true by the feelings. We cannot suppose in this case that the intellectual reasons formerly held valid against the belief were of themselves really lessened by the event that suggested its acceptance. The death of the philosopher's wife could have contained nothing as bearing on the truth of immortality that might not have been found in numberless similar events. But the deep sentiment evoked by his personal loss sufficed to oppose an affirmative to the negative of his reason. As a philosophic thinker he disbelieved, as a bereaved husband he believed. We may in passing observe that this dualism of reason and sentiment is of a more moderate character than the twofold truth of Pomponazzi, who affirmed immortality as a Christian but denied it as a philosopher, for in that case both the conviction and non-conviction were equally based on grounds of intellection. The antagonism was made between the affirmative of a revelation, which to a thinker must be established on rational grounds, and the negative of a philosophy, which must be based to a great extent on the same grounds. Here therefore the dichotomy is extreme and suicidal. It introduces disparity into the selfsame functions and processes of the intellect, and for that reason must be held to be incompatible with truth.
The distinction now under consideration between intellect and feeling has been often pursued to an extent which I think exaggerated. In Schleiermacher's well-known scheme of theology, for instance, the emotions are made the sole province of religion, to the utter exclusion of the Reason. Such a theory, even granting its utility under certain contingencies for reasoning beings, seems to me mistaken. I am unable to conceive full assent without some proportion of rational demonstration. But though this is my own conviction, I am quite aware of the incalculable power of emotion as the basis of a religious creed, and this not only when it is allied with intellection as supplementing its deficiencies, or changing the venue of its ratiocination, but even when it forms the whole and sole ground of its reception. For it is noteworthy that emotional beliefs, even when they are really only the ghosts of former tenets — when criticism and verification have evacuated them of all solid content — not only contrive to exist, but even to assert their right to a place among the substantiated convictions of the mind. Though they are only disembodied spirits, they continue to fill a place on the stage of a religious mind with as great an appearance of reality as if they were living bodies. I have known instances in which a whole regiment of convictions, discarded from the intellect, and their places occupied by reasoned tenets of an opposite kind, have still continued to exist in the feelings, and to be even regarded with something of the affection they possessed when they were based on supposed intellectual grounds. In other cases, in which Reason preponderates over feeling, they are no doubt recognised as the ghosts of defunct bodies, and their inauspicious presence is resented; but even this does not prevent an occasional intrusion on their own part, or do away with the feeling of being haunted on the part of their former possessors.
Somewhat akin to this dualism is another requiring notice as a possible foundation for double-truth. It may be described as the subjective form of the antinomy between the known and the unknown in the universe — I mean that which may occur between experience and imagination. To minds of a strongly idealizing character the least part of their general stock of convictions is that which is given in actual experience. Perpetually projecting themselves beyond the limits of the seen and felt, they live in a world of shadows and phantasies of their own creation. So much is this the case that their real environment seems quite to disappear, and an antinomy of more or less severity is created between their actual and imagined states.24 The truth of the one becomes the falsehood of the other, or vice versâ. The history of idealism swarms with instances in which this dichotomy finds expression, but I need not waste our time in their enumeration. Examples will readily occur to us of the existence of influential and widespread schemes of philosophy which are pervaded by a persistent contradiction to human experience and history, in which actuality is engaged in an internecine war with ideality.
But in double-truth as in most other forms of mental eccentricity we must take some notice of 'the personal equation,' by which I mean the special differences and idiosyncrasies that exist between one man and another in respect of intellectual conformation. There are intellects, e.g. so intensely, I might say morbidly, synthetic, that they insist on acquiring demonstrated certitude at whatever cost. This type of mind must needs set itself to evolve unity from multiplicity, harmony from dissonance, light from a juxtaposition of shadows, without considering how far its self-imposed task is feasible or how far it is in agreement with the constitution of the universe. In the determination to acquire undoubted conviction, no labour is spared and no expense regarded. Subordinate convictions are ruthlessly thrust aside, objections are ignored, disingenuous methods resorted to, in order to obtain and definitively pronounce on certitude. Pascal is a striking example of this tendency.25 When we come to discuss him we shall find what great paradoxes and unharmonized contradictions he waded through to attain what seemed to him infallible certainty. Dr. Newman's mental development is another illustration of the same truth.26 His processes are irregular, inconsistent, self-contradictory, of impossible application to any other subject than that of mystical dogmatism. His conclusions, on the other hand, are brilliantly clear, vivid, unmistakable. His mental evolution stands forth like a mountain whose summit is lit up by a warm glow of sunshine, while the sides and base are enshrouded in darkness. Minds of this class appear to me dominated by a sort of religious or spiritual ambition which is just as selfish, audacious, unscrupulous, and unpitying as any other kind of ambition. A man who overturns all reasoning processes, who makes a chaos of human methods, who stultifies the lessons of history for the purpose of boasting a light which to his neighbours is only a deceptive ignis fatuus, is not unlike Napoleon, who forced his way through cruelty and bloodshed to attain a crown. Such men forget that the infallibility, the unity, and harmony they have achieved so recklessly suggest to the more cautious spectator division and dissonance. They forget that their shield has two sides, and if certainty is emblazoned on one, doubt is conspicuously legible on the other, and that the real Skepticism of their methods, the profound distrust of human reason which marks them, is only dimly veiled by the vaunted infallibility of their conclusions.
On the other hand, it must be granted that the 'double-truth ' which manifests itself by a disparity of method and conviction belongs essentially to intellectual growth. Different stages of mental development will sometimes present themselves as Twofold Truth, though the effect of this duality is necessarily neutralized for its possessors by the continuity of their consciousness. In all such cases we must distinguish between those in which the progress is normal, gradual, and natural, and those in which it is reckless, violent, and unnatural; between the spurious instances in which the chief impelling agency is a predetermined volition, and when it is the Reason acting freely and spontaneously — moving onwards of its own sweet will.
But leaving those cases in which double-truth has been pressed into the service of dogma, there is another class of mind which manifests a similar duplicity in the service of unavowed uncertainty. I allude to those vacillating intellects of which we have numberless examples in political science, and of which in theology Justus Lipsius presents us with a striking instance. Here different convictions, notwithstanding their mutual hostility, are, from intellectual feebleness, alternating and recurrent. There is almost a perpetual oscillation between opposite poles of conviction. Such instances always remind me of the well-known chorus in 'Sumson,' in which there is a remarkable antiphony of contradictions, 'Jehovah' and 'Great Dagon' being pronounced to 'reign' in regular and measured alternation. It is no unfair presumption in every such case that Skepticism is an operative agency in the mental changes. The contemporaries of Lipsius, for instance, were convinced of his Skepticism in spite of his protestations of final adhesion to Romanism, and even his friends the Jesuits showed by their continual distrust that they were inclined to share that opinion.
I come lastly to a third type of intellect, in which Twofold Truth presents itself in a moderate and altogether commendable shape; in which the disparity is not so much antagonistic as complementary, and the result of its functions is not disunion and hostility so much as a broad comprehensive solidarity. For our purpose we may call intellects of this class 'dual-sighted' or 'two- eyed.' You will perhaps remember the Greek term denoting the same quality which Timon applied to the Eleatic Zenon. This 'double-sighted man' is by no means the synonym of the nickname common in Puritan history, 'Mr. Facing-both-ways.' It rather implies the possession of faculties which enable the observer to see every object in the solid, substantial manner, in the full relief, and with the true perspective that pertain essentially to all double vision. It is the instinctive power and tendency to discern a specific object or a given truth not merely as it is in itself or in one of its prima facie aspects, but in its completeness as a whole and relatively to all its surroundings. We see this quality in the artist who simultaneously with the perception of an object also sees all its different phases as well as its relations to surrounding objects; or again in the general who apprehends by a single glance of his mental vision all the characteristics, bad as well as good, of a given position or military movement. So the philosophers I speak of catch every truth or doctrine, not in its simple and uniform, but in its complex biform or multiform aspect. They are men to whom every affirmation suggests, if only as a possibility, a negative; who intuitively meet every dogmatic pronouncement with an objection, just as a painter infers shadow from light. These are the men who in my judgment have rendered the best service to the progress of knowledge by their comprehensive vision, their cautious Skeptical attitude, their fearless criticism. Examples of these two-eyed thinkers we have already met in the course of our investigation, and we shall continue to meet with similar cases as we proceed, for twofold vision is a frequent if not inseparable concomitant of Skepticism. Nor can we say that this combination of thorough search with caution is needless in the domain of religious speculation. We must remember that there are questions so closely allied with man's highest interests that for that reason alone no assertion respecting them, no matter what its nature, is likely to be accepted as final by a thoughtful mind. The questions, e.g. of man's origin and destiny, the origin of the universe, &c. are continually recurring problems which like uneasy ghosts refuse to be laid. In such cases of inherent difficulty the assertion of a dogmatic judgment by means of a creed imparts but little definitive assurance. The assertion may be provisional and imperfect — possibly the outcome of an inferior state of knowledge — but the problems themselves are eternal. Assent may be yielded as a matter of faith, but the question as an object of demonstration may not be a whit nearer solution. No sooner are the words spoken, the dogma avouched, than the after-process of reflection sets in. Thinkers of this kind treat their creeds like a ruminating animal treats its food. It is again masticated and once more swallowed, perhaps both processes being more than once repeated, before final deglutition and assimilation take place, if indeed they ever do. So on the heels of creeds and dogmas pronouncing authoritatively on all the great matters of human concernment, treads, if not doubt, yet inquisitiveness and curiosity, an eagerness to scan what is beyond human vision.
Nor again does this Skeptical retrospection necessarily imply a disbelief of the dogmas to which it is directed; it may even coexist with an undoubting conviction of their truth. Just as we find men who evince the utmost resolution in all the practical matters of life, but whose determinations are followed by misgiving and a kind of theoretical uncertainty, so in speculation the assertion of an undoubted deliberately formed opinion may be accompanied or followed by after-criticism, which is no more than the spontaneous discharge of intellectual energy. Guicciardini, e.g. an essentially 'double-sighted' man, tells us that all his most important actions, even when performed with the utmost deliberation, were invariably followed by a sort of repentance and retrospective criticism.27 The attitude of such men to asserted truth seems to be of this kind. Knowing by experience the infinite possibilities that beset all declared truth, they are apt to say of certain convictions, 'I believe this and will continue to believe it,' and yet suppose the other should be the truth. The reason is that in all subjects in which pros and cons are nearly balanced the deliberate adoption of one alternative does not annihilate the grounds of the other. The uncertainty banished from the subject still continues to exist in the object. Perhaps the discarded alternative will present itself to the consciousness in a more winning guise than before. It may appeal ad misericordiam, as a rejected conclusion when the grounds of such rejection were admittedly not overpowering. Thus the native hue of conviction as well as 'resolution' may be 'sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,' and, if I may be allowed a further paraphrase, it may happen that
Determinations of great pith and moment,
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the outward semblance of belief.
A singular feature in some minds of this class is that their doubt is frequently caused not by a defect but by an excess of demonstration. They are repelled by what seems to them an abnormal and unnatural amount of proof. They are dazed and half blinded by the glare of sunshine. Men of this type are met in every department of thought where elaborate ratiocination and recondite speculation are as a rule necessary precursors to the formation of conviction. I have known, e.g. men in my own profession who invariably regard with suspicion a diagnosis in which all the conditions are unmistakably plain and obvious. They instinctively ask, May there not be some hidden cause, some obscure but most important symptom, that I have overlooked? The problem seems too easy, the conclusion too glaringly obvious, to be acceptable. We observe the same characteristic in lawyers, detectives, and others conversant with criminal procedure, and accustomed to disentangle long and intricate chains of evidence. Present to a man of this character a case of extreme simplicity, in which every part of the evidence is marked by undeniable cogency, and he is immediately offended. It is too clear and unmistakable to be natural. He does not perceive the obscure intimations, the indirect hints, on the elucidation of which he especially prides himself. With the cessation of perplexity ceases also his personal interest. Such men seem to value truth not by its plainness but by its obscurity, just as hieroglyphic and similar inscriptions are estimated by the difficulty of their decipherment.
The dramatic illustration of this type of character in the practical concerns of life, is, I need not say, Hamlet, who is frightened from the discharge of an acknowledged duty by the embarrassing excess of its obviousness. His feeling is well described in his admission —
Now, whether it be
Bestial oblivion, or some craven scruple
Of thinking too precisely on the event,
A thought which quarter'd, hath but one part wisdom
And ever three parts coward, I do not know
Why yet I live to say, 'This thing's to do;'
Still I have cause and will and strength and means
To do't. Examples gross as earth exhort me.
He might have added, had he been more conscious of the source of the infirmity he deplored, that it was precisely the 'grossness' of the 'examples' that deterred him. The energizing principle in such characters is in the inverse ratio of their reflective power. Profound meditation on what is simple, obvious, and direct has an obscuring and distrustful effect. No doubt the tendency is much more common in speculation than in action. The directness of a belief or conviction, while it equally deters him who thinks 'too precisely on the event,' has not that imperative, urgent character that an obvious duty presents. There is more scope for delay and reiterated consideration; in other words, for the indulgence of the thinker's favourite passion. For this reason the Skeptic in action such as Hamlet will always be a rare type of the genus to which he belongs.
The ludicrous excess to which this contempt for positive proof on account of its superabundant positiveness might conceivably be liable, is well illustrated in the story recorded by Plutarch and quoted with much relish by Montaigne. Demokritos eating figs found them taste of honey. He immediately began to speculate as to how the flavour was acquired, when his recondite investigation was peremptorily cut short by his servant, who admitted that she had placed them in a jar that had once contained honey. He indignantly rejected her too natural explanation, and avowed his intention of searching for the cause of the phenomenon as if it were quite independent of that which she had alleged. But the temper of mind of which this is an extravagant and probably imaginary illustration is capable of being defended by plausible reasons.
- The general conditions of the problems of nature and humanity are as a rule complex and involved. Even existence itself to a reflective mind is a source of infinite puzzlement and speculation. Hence a problem of which the conditions are clear, simple and obvious seems on the face of it unnatural.
- Intellects of the type now under consideration delight in the investigation of hidden and obscure causes for its own sake. Shunning the highways of truth and knowledge exploration, they prefer the byways, the unexplored tracks, and unknown shortcuts to their possible goal. Difficulty and perplexity have inexpressible charms for them; and if these do not already exist in the task they undertake, they instinctively put forth their best efforts to create them.
I do not contend that every example of this intellectual perversity is also an instance of double-truth. But it is so whenever the doubt cast by the excess of demonstration — the depth of shadow being in direct ratio to the vividness of the light that creates it — is so far equal to its cause as to produce a persistent indecision, whether in belief or in action.
Such seem to me to be the chief types, causes, and varieties of double-truth. A more extended survey of the provinces of the human intellect would serve to show that I have by no means exhausted the catalogue of dualisms to which it is liable. I have confined myself mainly to those we find in religious thought. But even with that limitation we have seen that Twofold Truth signifies much more than the customary antithesis of Faith and Reason — the imperative of Revelation opposed to that of intellectual coercion. The dichotomy which it asserts pertains to reasoning beings by virtue of their faculties and their place in the universe. Had no religion ever asserted on grounds of supernatural authority, power over humanity, there would still have been occasions of division and antagonism, still room for various forms and degrees of double-truth. Faith as 'the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,' would still have conflicted with Reason. The unknown would still have been ex vi termini divergent from the known. The antinomies of dual thinkers, from the Greek Skeptics to Kant, would in short have emerged in philosophy, if the Christian Revelation had never been heard of. No doubt the development of ecclesiastical Christianity, with its dogmatic extravagance and arbitrary temper, imparted an acerbity into the relations of faith and reason which they need not otherwise have had. Jealously excluding, ruthlessly condemning, even the most elementary exercise of reason as an autocratic faculty, the Church is mainly responsible for the implacable hostility that has on the whole marked her intercourse with human knowledge and progress. Had it not been for this there would have been no necessity for mediaeval thinkers to demarcate so rigidly between Reason and Faith, to divide their allegiance between religion and philosophy, to offer alternate worship first to one, then to the other. In its extreme form of irreconcilable antagonism, Twofold Truth is therefore a sacrifice at the shrine of excessive dogma.
We are now, I think, in a position to approach our main question — how far Twofold Truth in any of its forms is clearly Skeptical. That the general tendency of Twofold Truth is in the direction of suspense or intellectual hesitancy it would be impossible to deny. That it may be so manipulated and applied as to sanction insincere assent to unpalatable doctrines is equally true; but that it is in all its stages incompatible with a definite persuasion of truth is by no means so certain. Most of the dualisms we have considered are reconcilable with an ultimate conviction of truth. The human mind, even when most inclined to twofoldedness, yet acts like a pair of scales — no adjustment of rival balances can be established so accurately that one will not preponderate over the other. The chief question for our decision seems, therefore, to be this — we must determine that precise point where the dichotomy becomes irreconcilable, where Faith and Reason, the Known and the Unknown — individual man and collective humanity — Intellect and Emotion, are so placed in diametrical opposition that the antagonism is permanent and indestructible. No doubt it will be alleged that truth under all aspects must be one and indivisible. I grant it must be so theoretically; it would not otherwise harmonize with the conceptions we seem compelled to form concerning it. There are certain truths physical and ethical which we seem obliged to regard as absolute and unconditional. But this obligation is individual and subjective. It must agree with and be limited by the great fact of the relativity of all knowledge. Hence the form of double-truth which I should alone pronounce to be distinctly Skeptical is that which destroys the unity of the individual consciousness. Regarding consciousness as in ultimate scrutiny the abode of truth, and its processes as the ordinary methods of truth, it is clear that discrepancies in truth must be finally determined as to their nature and extent by their presentation in consciousness. It would be absurd to suppose that two contradictory deliverances of consciousness, both being recognised as equally true, could coexist in a sane and healthy mind at the same time. Twofold Truth is therefore not so destructive to objective truth per se as to the subjective consciousness of knowledge. It creates division and contrariety in the indissoluble oneness of the human mind. Objectively and apart from our cognition, aspects of truth may, for aught we know, be diverse and multiform; in the infinity of space and time we have no adequate reason for affirming that they are not; but we cannot without the most gratuitous mental suicide allow the subjective co-existence of antagonistic convictions both claiming to be true at the same time. We must maintain, I think, the indivisibility of consciousness not only as an ultimate postulate of truth, but as a sine qua non of all affirmation and ratiocination of whatever kind. I am aware that this position — the ultimate veracity of consciousness, has been questioned; indeed, in a dialectical mood I have frequently questioned it myself, and in my own opinion not unsuccessfully so far as formal ratiocination is concerned. For that matter, I have had too long an experience of the subtleties and multiform aspects of logic not to know that there is no principle which can be formulated as an axiom of truth which unscrupulous dialectic cannot undermine. Even the 'Cogito, ergo sum,' of Descartes may be shown to be open to innumerable objections both as to form and substance. But while I think those extreme exercitations not only harmless in themselves but useful as intellectual gymnastics — just as the paradoxes of the higher mathematics may be useful — I nevertheless regard them as mere brutem fulmen when employed seriously to destroy consciousness: at most they can only result in setting reason to destroy reason — a mere self-stultifying and utterly ineffective operation.
Reason and the direct deliverances of consciousness have a vitality much too inherent to succumb to attacks of formal logic, no matter how adroitly planned or how skilfully conducted. The dialectician who in earnest undertakes such a task is engaged in an enterprise much more fruitless than the ancient battle with the Hydra: the heads he amputates replace themselves with greater facility — the life he supposes himself to take is but the precursor of renewed vitality. From this standpoint of reason and consciousness we must, then, pronounce against all extreme forms of double-truth.
As an additional plea for this vindication of consciousness we may remember that its veracity has never been impugned even by extreme Skeptics. All attempts made in that direction, whether by ancient or modern thinkers, resolve themselves into the free spontaneous exercise on the part of the Reason of her own exuberant vitality and her superabundant energies. They no more impair or render questionable her ultimate self-assurance than the playful gambols of a young animal result in doing itself mischief. The most advanced of Greek Skeptics were always ready when challenged to defer to consciousness, notwithstanding their repeated attempts to dethrone her from her place and power considered as a source or attestation of Dogma or Universal Truth.
But though in principle we feel bound to maintain the oneness and veracity of consciousness, the application of that test to any given case of double-truth is attended with difficulty. We cannot too persistently remember that divergent beliefs assume a different form and operate in a different manner according to the intellectual conformations of their recipients. For my own part, and regarding the matter from my personal standpoint, I should be inclined to pronounce Pomponazzi's assent to the doctrine of immortality imperfect; but it is evident that it did not appear so to him. Similarly, I should prefer the identity which Erigena tried to establish between religion and philosophy to the extreme disparity between the two which the Paduan and Parisian professors in the fourteenth century were wont to assert; but I have no difficulty in believing that the conviction of the latter was just as serious and marked by bona fides as that of the former. So I should not myself regard assent to a given dogma on purely emotional grounds as altogether satisfactory; but I have no reason to doubt that doctrines thus based are fully credited by numbers of religious thinkers. Indeed, I think there is an increasing tendency in the religious world to make this the only foundation of all the more difficult dogmas of Christianity, those credenda which Boileau describes:
De la Foi des Chrétiens les mysteres terribles.
I do not know that I need add anything as to the present aspect of double-truth — I mean the antagonism existing between Christianity and modern science. There are undoubtedly men in the scientific world — of whom Faraday was an illustration — who combine advanced opinions on science with retrograde and superstitious ideas of Christianity. Probably they are more in number than is generally thought, for on the subject of such a dichotomy, though they feel no repugnance to it, men are apt to be reticent. On the other hand, there are religious men imbued with a full belief in Christianity and yet prepared to embrace all well-attested discoveries in science, possibly being even unconscious of any insuperable antagonism between their dual standpoints. These relations may exist in modes infinitely varied both in kind and in degree. But the general subject is so intimately allied with Free-thought that we shall have many future opportunities of discussing it. At present I will only avow my own persuasion that this latest form of the antinomy between Faith and Reason exists, not between the religion of Christ and genuine, i.e. modest and cautious, science; but between, the ecclesiastical development of the former and the excessive dogmatism of the latter.
Arundel. Although your admission that consciousness must not be sundered may be considered as something saved from the omnivorous maw of Skepticism, it nevertheless seems to me that your restricting this solidarity and sense of veracity to the individual consciousness really does away with objective truth almost as much as if you had allowed the consciousness to be broken up into discordant sections. For if truth exists for me only in my individual consciousness — if I cannot regard it in any sense as the common property of all beings similarly organized and instructed — it is really equivalent to saying there can be no truth at all. As to making such a position a protection against 'double-truth,' it is only by proving it to be multiple, in accordance with the maxim, ' Quot homines, tot sententia,' or ' veritates.'
Harrington. Your argument, Arundel, strikes at the root of every system of idealism, and urges a point which has again and again been discussed in philosophy. In maintaining that the consciousness cannot be dualized, Dr. Trevor has conceded all that an idealist could fairly claim. Grant that there can be no disruption of the thinking subject, at least normally and properly, and the undividedness of the object thought is, ipso facto, admitted. The indivisibility of all external truth to you is involved in your subjective conception, and in the solidarity which is its natural condition. You appear to think that, besides the view you possess of truth as related to your cognition, you can from a position external to your own consciousness, contemplate it as related to other intelligences and as unrelated to yourself. If you try the experiment, its failure will soon demonstrate the fallacy of your opinion. No doubt the definition of all truth as entirely individual seems at first sight to detract from its position as being the common possession of humanity, but the appearance is deceptive. The common unbroken consciousness of each is a guarantee of the objective truth of which they are all joint partakers. To illustrate my meaning, suppose, e.g. that twelve men, two of whom were suffering from defective vision, were scanning a distant object. The ten whose eyesight was healthy would probably all agree as to the form and nature of the object inspected — in other words, in the objective truth; and only the two whose sight was impaired — that is, whose consciousness was feeble or disturbed — would have reason to question the true discernment of the rest. Hence subjective unity and uniformity, in the case of all individuals organized alike, necessarily implies objective unity as well; and I agree with Trevor that Twofold Truth can only be truly Skeptical when it involves a disruption of the individual consciousness.
Arundel. I understand your standpoint, but am still of opinion that its tendency is to weaken objective truth. Your ratiocination makes all truth dependent on the individual recognition of it. Now, in my humble opinion, I have some power of apprehending truth as existing absolutely. I know, e.g. what unconditional morality means, and I think I possess some idea of intellectual truths with which I have never come into personal relation. Besides, if you limit the Skepticism of double-truth to the individual consciousness, you ought in consistency to go a step further and to affirm that all Skepticism consists not in the disruption of the general mass of verities acknowledged by mankind, nor in any disparity between the individual and the community of which he forms a part, so much as in a subjective dualism in his own consciousness.
Trevor. We are discussing the point at which double-truth becomes indubitably Skeptical. We maintain it is so when it dissolves the unity of the individual consciousness, and that it is only by effecting this that it can impair the common stock of human beliefs—what you term objective truth. You reply that you can conceive absolute objective truth. Well, so can I. I conceded so much in my paper. But in what way? Only through the medium of my intellect, and by means of its tendency to determine truths as absolutely necessary of which I cannot conceive the negation. What you are really contending against, and what Harrington and I are defending, is the relativity of all knowledge. Your absolute knowledge, if you analyze it, can be nothing else than the extension, amplification, intensification, and the absolu-faction (if I may coin a word) of your own personal knowledge, unless indeed you were to maintain—which I know you do not—that knowledge may be intuitive and supernatural. As to Twofold Truth in others, we can only judge of a man's belief by his overt profession of faith. If, on that profession being produced, we find it disparate, revealing clear incompatibilities, we may characterize the man as a Skeptic. Let us turn, e.g. once more to Pomponazzi and his biform belief in immortality. If we try to realize the state of mind implied by a scientific dissent, and a religious assent on the same subject and at the same time, we must admit—such at least is my own opinion—that it involves on that issue a disruption of consciousness, though I do not say that he must necessarily have recognised it as such.
Miss Leycester. It does not appear to me that the dualism of Pomponazzi must needs have been of that incompatible character you suppose. Why may not his standpoint have been this: what he could not yield to the demonstrations of philosophy he yielded to the ipse dixit of Revelation? Indeed, I wanted to suggest how far that kind of dualism may be called double-truth. Now, I happen to know not a few thoughtful people who certainly would be greatly scandalized to find themselves called Skeptics in the sense of dual-thinkers, and yet who distinctly acknowledge the irreconcilable antagonism between the dictates of reason and the claims of ecclesiastical Christianity, but who yield an assent to the latter as dicta of Revelation.
Trevor. An assent to a mere ipse dixit, especially when employed to override ordinary experience, the ethical instincts of humanity, or the general laws of the universe, is always a rash proceeding, totally unworthy of any man who calls himself a philosopher. Indeed, an adherence to a mere ipse dixit is an act of intellectual suicide impossible to a reasoning being, for he must needs reason on the claims of the dictum before he yields his assent.
Arundel. An argument which might be called the Roman Catholic pervert's cul-de-sac, admitting neither egress nor regress. Nevertheless, part of your paper, Doctor, reminded me unpleasantly of Dr. Newman's ' Grammar of Assent'—or, as I have heard it called, ' Grammar of Dissent.' There was something approaching to Jesuitical casuistry in your discrimination of intellectual and emotional beliefs. For my part, I do not think we can insist too strongly on ingenuousness, simplicity, and directness where our beliefs are concerned. Belief is assent to a truth as truth. It can be no more than that, and it should be no less. I don't say that religious beliefs ought not to have an element of emotion in them, but I demur to the possibility of belief in the sense of assured conviction being exclusively emotional.
Trevor. In the discrimination I made between intellectual and emotional conviction, I was treating of minds constituted somewhat differently from yours and mine. That conviction may exist based entirely on grounds of feeling, sentiment, devout intuition, general fitness, adaptation to personal needs whether real or imaginary, no student of mental phenomena could, I think, well deny. But I agree with you that an assent to a belief on pure grounds of feeling is imperfect.
Miss Leycester. Well, if you will allow me to say so, I think you are both wrong. I maintain that a man may possess knowledge or conviction, and that, too, of a most valuable kind, based entirely on the feelings, and even refusing the alliance or co-operation of the Reason as an incongruous and embarrassing intrusion. At least, I claim to know certain truths entirely by feeling and instinct, and in point of conscious certitude I can discern no difference between these and others which I have attained by ratiocination.
Harrington. In that case you should modify your terminology. 'To know' is one thing, ' to feel' another; and if your assurance is based on sentiment, it is, I contend, no more than a feeling, and should be so described. I agree with Trevor that Schleiermacher's relegation of all religious belief to the region of the sentiment and emotion is a mischievous exaggeration of an undoubted truth. Reason and Faith have often been termed the two supports of a wise man's creed; amputate either, and you make locomotion impossible.
Miss Leycester. I wish, Charles, that of the two supports you speak of, one were not so often a wooden leg. I mean Reason, whenever it proves itself to be arrogant, hard, insensate, and unbending, allowing little or no play to devotional needs, instincts, and feelings.
Arundel. But do I understand you to maintain, Miss Leycester, that there may exist purely emotional creeds, so that it should be open to a man to allege: I believe in such dogmas emotionally, but not intellectually? In that case, whenever a man was confronted by intellectual difficulties, instead of trying to solve them reasonably he might incontinently flee to emotion.
Miss Leycester. Supposing his intellect to be unequal to the solution, why should he not? Why might not the man who has vainly attempted by reason to find out God affirm His existence by simple intuition or feeling? Does not Christianity itself appeal to feeling in preference to intellect? What else is the meaning of the oft-quoted words, 'We walk by faith, and not by sight'?
Arundel. No doubt there is a religious conviction which is generated and sustained by spiritual apperception, to use Coleridge's terminology; but even that is inferior, in my opinion, to rational certitude. The faith which is destitute of all intellectual bases of assurance cannot be said to possess the attributes of solidarity and permanence, and my interpretation of the words you have quoted would incorporate among the constituents of Faith the ratiocination needed to give it body and substance. Moreover, Faith in its relation to sight includes, I take it, all metaphysical grounds of belief as opposed to physical sensations.
Harrington. We must not confound intuition with emotion. The former we may define as an unconditional postulate, made by the intellect to satisfy needs which are mainly intellectual, or to affirm a conclusion partly established by ratiocination. With feeling it has only in common the attribute of being a direct deliverance of consciousness. The scope of emotion in religion it would, of course, be absurd to deny; but it is clear to me that both its scope and influence may easily become exaggerated and mischievous, especially in certain conjunctures in the history of human thought. Most sections of Christians seem in theory to place all their dogmas upon that foundation. The contemptuous use of the word Rationalism by all classes of orthodox Christians, as indicating a mode of thought which they both fear and despise, is a sufficing proof of that. One division of the Christian world has erected subjective emotion into a personal infallibility as arbitrary and dictatorial as the ex cathedra pronouncements of the Papacy. Another has petrified it into ritual on Selden's principle of 'Rhetoric turned into Logic,' but in both cases there is a similar distrust of ratiocination. As a result, we witness the gradual sundering of religion and science — the dualism of the present day — which theologians affect to deplore, but for which they are primarily responsible. They seem as loth as ever to believe that reasoning beings must have a rational basis for their convictions, if the latter are expected to be stable and permanent.
Trevor. I remember once seeing the outlines of an essay on the effect which the Protestant doctrine of justification by faith has had in retarding the growth of modern science and philosophy in Europe, by the exaggerated impulse which it gave to emotional religion. That it had such a result is shown by the distrust of secular knowledge of every kind evinced by those sects of Christians that have laid especial stress upon that dogma, e.g. the Herrnhüter in Germany, the Jansenists in France, the Methodists and Evangelicals in England. Of course, the doctrine has also its beneficent aspects. The individualism which is its necessary outcome has powerfully co-operated in the cause of religious liberty.
Arundel. I observed, Doctor, what appeared to be a remarkable inconsistency in your paper. You inveighed vehemently against the unison and solidarity of the mind when it was determinedly dogmatic, as, e.g. in the case of Pascal; but yet you made the indivisibility of the consciousness the standpoint whence you condemned Twofold Truth. Are we to take this divergency as an involuntary homage to the subject of your paper?
Trevor. The divergency is only apparent. The solidarity of the intellect against which I protested is that which claims to be based on and to realize objective truth; which assumes, generally in some violent manner, that because a man has attained assured convictions he must needs be in harmony with all ultimate truth, that his position is a convergency of all dogmatic infallibilities. It is also mainly volitional — a predetermination to arrive at a foregone conclusion. The synthesis is thus vitiated by dogmatic prejudice, either extraneous or inherent. But the synthesis which suffices to condemn double-truth is the ordinary static harmonious condition of a well-balanced intellect, conscious of no antagonism which may not be wisely left to its own natural incertitude, and pledged to no dogmatic finality of any kind.
Arundel. But may we not have, as Miss Leycester once suggested, an 'instability of the homogeneous' in intellectual formations? And have you not often remarked that all mental movement begins with Skeptical distrust, which is clearly a disruption of the intellect?
Trevor. No doubt I have often said so; nor do I grant that there is any inconsistency between that standpoint and the truth I am now urging. The disruption of Skeptical minds may be only temporary, but in every case its logical sequence is suspense or at least non-affirmation, whereas double-truth affirms two contradictory propositions, and is ipso facto doubly dogmatic. The Skeptical character of such a position is indirectly derived from the fact that it is inconceivable, and that one of the poles of the antagonism may always be employed in controverting the other.
Miss Leycester. I came across the other day an interesting example of that peculiar intellectual mobility which delights in transition from one extreme of conviction to its opposite. I noted it down at the time as bearing directly on our subject. Here is the self-diagnosis of the thinker in question [reading from her pocket-book]: 'I don't quite know whether to esteem it a blessing or a curse, but whenever an opinion to which I am a recent convert, or which I do not hold with the entire force of my intellect, is forced too strongly upon me, or driven home to its logical conclusion, or over-praised or extended beyond its proper limits, I recoil instinctively and begin to gravitate towards the other extreme, sure to be in tune repelled by it also.'28 I suppose, Dr. Trevor, you would class such a thinker among minds constitutionally vacillating, as, e.g. Justus Lipsius.
Trevor. Without knowing more of the thinker in question I could hardly tell you. His intellect seems to have close affinities with the 'double-eyed' minds who, distrustful of finality, are perpetually occupied in revising their beliefs; but in any case the instance is one strictly belonging to our subject, and showing in what multiform variety dualism exists in the human mind.
Arundel. We may have 'double-truth,' I suppose, both in philosophy and in ethics, but I should be glad if you would tell me, Harrington, as an admirer of John Stuart Mill, why the same rule that applies to philosophical dualism is not also applicable to ethical. Mill, e.g. thought it possible that geometrical axioms might be different in other parts of the universe from what we know them to be here. Now, why should he have insisted on that, and yet been so angry with Mr. Mansel for saying that God's view of morality might be different from our own? If the known cannot be made the measure of the unknown, should not the rule be applied to subjects of thought and conduct alike?
Harrington. Not necessarily. Mill's object, I take it, in denying that our experience should be the ultimate standard of all knowledge, was to avoid finality in speculation and philosophy. But no man recognised more fully than he did, that finality in moral practice has long been attained by civilized humanity. He also recognised the fact that a determination of the limits of knowledge, however remote, was just as mischievous for genuine truth-search as indeterminate ethical practice was hurtful to the interests of social and political well-being. His reasoning is based upon and, in my judgment, amply justified by utilitarian principles, though I myself should have endeavoured to incorporate with them, perhaps inconsistently, the higher standpoint furnished by unconditional morality. Either is equally destructive of Mr. Mansel's immoral antinomy.
Trevor. I would go further, and say that Mr. Mansel's adoption of such a theory in ethics is an a fortiori proof that he was also a believer in speculative 'double-truth,' however much he might have sought to disguise it. Indeed, I would undertake to prove — due space and time being granted — that this represents his general philosophical standpoint. We may in passing note it as a remarkable fact that the keenest thinker among modern English theologians found himself obliged, in view of the rivalry of faith and reason, to take up an antinomical position, which, as we have seen, is only indirect Skepticism.
Harrington. Incidentally, Doctor, you have just touched upon a subject with which your paper did not sufficiently deal, but which I regard as one of its principal lessons — I mean the unconquerable aversion of all original minds to excessive dogma, especially in matters as to which human knowledge is impossible. It might tend to moderate the zeal of dogmatists of all kinds, religious, philosophical, and scientific, if they were to ponder the fact that rather than be compelled, physically or morally, to accept untenable theories, thinkers will take refuge in such transparent evasions and self-delusive hypotheses as are furnished by extreme forms of double-truth. Curiously, the position taken by Mill as to intellectual and moral double-truth has been exactly reversed by the Church of Rome, for she has as often affirmed the unity of intellectual as denied that of practical and ethical truth. The casuistry of Jesuits supplies us with the most outrageous applications of double-truth that we have in history.29 The mischiefs that have resulted from this ethical antinomy, for which the term Jesuitism has become a synonym, fully justify Mill's distinction. It is, however, a little curious to find intellectual vindicated against moral truth by the greatest Christian Church in Europe, while the assertion of the superior claims of morality is left to a Skeptical philosopher.
Mrs. Harrington. You have not noticed the mention of Hamlet that occurred in the paper as a morbidly constituted mind, who would feel repelled at an excess of demonstration. What an infinite vista of possibilities of dissidence is offered us by the reflection that men might reasonably take offence, not at a lack, but a superfluity of demonstration.
Miss Leycester. I don't know why Hamlet should be termed morbidly constituted on that account. To me the tendency appears quite normal and usual. I should be inclined to say that in half the cases in which dissent from dogma becomes established, the initiatory stage is repugnance to its assumed omniscience, its exuberant infallibility. Take any largely received account of matters inherently beyond human quest, e.g. the articles of the Westminster Confession, and what is most repellent in these dogmas is their portentous magnitude of knowledge. We are staggered by the too assertory character of the belief, as Hamlet was by the plain directness of the duty. I think the secret ground of such dissatisfaction, both of speculative and practical doubters, is a persuasion that these intrusive truths, these too simple explanations of profound mysteries, are anomalous. They are pictures made up of all light and no shadow, and we resent their intrusion and demand for recognition as imputations on our knowledge of a world in which shadows are necessary concomitants of light.
Arundel. In other words, Miss Leycester, a man may decline to receive as a truth the proposition 2 + 2 are 4, because of its excess of demonstration. Certainly, if we are to allow this as an operative cause of Skepticism, there will never be a dearth of Skeptics in the world.
Trevor. But the very point you mention has itself been denied by thinkers as illustrious as Sokrates. For that matter, it would be difficult to name any proposition or fact so obvious that it has never encountered either doubt or denial.
Harrington. I should account for the phenomena we are discussing, not by supposing that there is any real antipathy to demonstration in any sane mind, but by remembering that in certain men the volitional interest preponderates over the intellectual. What such persons dislike is the irresistible coercion of the will ab extra, without allowing due scope for ratiocination or discussion. Hamlet, e.g. would have liked to debate on his duty for ever, and he is angry with the peremptoriness that refuses to concede this right of interminable discussion.
Trevor. Your explanation will serve for practical Skeptics — the class to which Hamlet belongs. Intellectual doubters seem to me determined by other considerations — e.g. the infinity of speculation. Men of this type dislike finality above everything, and the moment you propound to them an indisputable truth, they seek either to evade it or to imagine a condition of things in which it would not be true; or, failing every other expedient, they ask why it should be true. To many persons existence itself is the profoundest and most inexplicable of riddles.
Arundel. You have just admitted a truth on which I have often insisted — that Skeptics are the irreconcilables of philosophy, and most unreasonably demand 'better bread than can be made of wheat.' ... But what is to be our final conclusion respecting the connection of double-truth with the Christian Revelation, and its permissibility in that connection as a mode of Skepticism?
Trevor. With the simple teaching of Jesus Christ human reason can have little or no quarrel. The dichotomy of Faith and Reason presents itself to us in the gradual development of Ecclesiasticism, and in its speculative departure from the original ethical and spiritual impulse given it by Christ. The outcome of this truth consists in the fact that for most of the double-truth emanating from the irreconcilable antagonism of Reason and Faith, for its excesses, its equivocations, its ambiguities, its contradictions, dogma is primarily responsible.
- Adv. Math. lib. iv. § 21; Op. Om. ed. Fabricius, vol. ii. p. 204.
- Plato, Phaidon, Steph. 97, Jowett's trans, vol. i. p. 446.
- Op. Om. vol. i. pp. 127, 128; comp. Giord. Bruno, Cenade le Ceneri, Op. Ital. i. p. 124.
- Doppelte Buchfuhrung. Cf. Lange, Getschichte des Materialismus, i. p. 181.
- Comp. Luther's Theologie, von Julius Kostlin, vol. ii. pp. 290, 291; Salnte's Hist. Crit. du Rationalisme, p. 29; Zeller, Getsch,. der Deutsch. Phil. p. 29. And on the general position of the Reformers on this point comp. Renan and Le Clerc, Hist. Litt. de la France an 14th Siecle, vol. i. pp. 375, 376.
- Lines on the Death of Prince Henry.
- Tyndall's Fragments of Science, p. 369.
- Table Talk, vol. i. p. 238.
- Thirlwall's Remains, vol. iii. p. 8.
- Mark vii. 9.
- Poems, p. 89.
- Comp. Prantl, Geschichte der Logik, vol. i. ch. xi.; Hauréau, Hist. de la Phil. Scol. vol. i. chap. ii.
- See the collection of passages in Prantl, vol. ii. p. 6.
- Among the propositions condemned by Stephen, Bishop of Paris, in 1276, occur the two following:
• Cap. xi. 4. 'Item quod nihil plus scitur, propter scire Theologiam.'
• Cap. xi. 6. 'Item quod lex Christiana impedit addiscere.'
It would be exceedingly difficult to disprove the truth contained in these opinions of the advanced thinkers of Paris in the thirteenth century. Comp. Max. Bib. Vet. Pat. vol. xxv. p. 335.
- Comp. Baur, Dogmengeschichte, ii. p. 208; and Hauréau, Hist, de la Phil. Scol. vol. i. p. 30.
- Maxima Bibliotheca Vet. Pair. vol. xxv. p. 329; D'Argentré, Coll. Jud. vol. i. p. 158. Compare on Mediaeval Double-Truth, Dr. M. Maywald's interesting monograph Die Lehre von der Zweifachen Wahrheit.
- Few documents on the Free-thought of the Middle Ages are more interesting than this. The inculpated articles number over 200. They may he found in Max. Bib. Vet Pair. vol. xxv. pp. 330-35, and in D'Argentre, Call. Jud. i. 177-84. But most of the articles bearing on Twofold Truth are collected in Maywald's monograph Lehre von der Zweifachen Wahrheit, pp. 9-11. Comp. also Crevier, Hist, de l'Univ. &c. vol. ii. pp. 76, 77.
- Novitas as distinct from aeternitas.
- For the more recent decrees and pronouncements of the Papacy on this point, comp. Cæsare Cantù; Gli Eretici d'ltalia, vol. i. p. 197.
- See the list of errors condemned by Robert Kilwardby, Archbishop of Canterbury, A.d. 1276, D'Argentre, Coll Jud. vol. i. 185. In this list the first in the division of errors in logic is the following distinct enunciation of Twofold Truth, 'Quod contraria possunt simul esse vera in aliquâmateria.'
- Comp. Hauréau, Hist, de la Phil. Scol. p. 31: 'II n'y a pas un logicien du XIII* siecle qui paraissant en chaire, ne commence par declarer que, cette chaire n'etant pas celle de Théologie, il laissera les mysteres, les sacraments en dehors de sa controverse, pour traiter seulement lea questions dont l'autoritfé n'interdit pas l'examen.'
- Comp. his Apologia pro Vita Sua and his Grammar of Assent, passim.
- See some interesting observations on the Decay of Dogmas in Theodore Jouffroy's Mélanges philosophlques — Comment les Dogmes finissent.
- Comp. on this point the words of J. H. Newman: 'We may speak of assent in our Lord's Divinity as strong or feeble according as it is given to the reality as impressed upon the imagination or to the notion of it as entertained by the intellect.' (Grammar of Assent, p. 178.)
- Comp. Essay on Pascal, in the latter portion of this work.
- 'From the age of fifteen dogma has been the fundamental principle of my religion; I know no other religion; I cannot enter into the idea of any other sort of religion. Religion as a mere sentiment is to me a dream and a mockery.' — Apologia pro Vita Sua, p. 120.
- 'Io sono stato di natura molto resoluto e fermo nelle azioni mie; e nondimeno come ho fatto una resoluzione importante, mi accade spesso una certa quasi penitenza del partito che ho preso; il che procede non perchè io creda che se io avessi di nuovo a deliberare, io deliberassi altrimenti, ma perchè innanzi alia deliberazione avevo più presente agli occhi le difficultà dell' una a 1'altra parte,' &c. — Op ere Inedite, i. 141; Ricordi, clvi. Comp. Newman, Grammar of Assent, pp. 210, 211.
- Stray Studies, by T.R. Breen, p. 8, à propos of Mr. Edward Denison.
- Comp. the fifth and sixth letters of Pascal's Provincials; and on Pascal's own standpoint in this matter see Reuchlin's Pascal's Leben, pp. 206-208, and the Pascal chapter in this work.