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Unformatted text preview: r empirical knowledge with no thought of
boundaries, as though nothing but sheer world remained for us to know, and yet on the
other hand Ÿnot to overstep the bounds of experience and want to make judgments about
things beyond them, as things in themselves.
But we stop at this boundary if we limit our judgment merely to how Ÿthe world may
relate to Ÿa Being whose very concept lies beyond the reach of any knowledge we are
capable of within the world. For we don’t then attribute to the Supreme Being in itself any
of the properties through which we represent objects of experience, and so we avoid
dogmatic anthropomorphism; but we attribute those properties to the Supreme Being’s
relation to the world, thus allowing ourselves a symbolic anthropomorphism, which in fact
concerns only language and not the object itself.
When I say that we are compelled to view the world as if it were the work of a
supreme understanding and will, I actually say nothing more than that a watch, a ship, a
regiment, are related to the watchmaker, the shipbuilder, the commanding officer in the
same way that the sensible world (or everything that underlies this complex of
appearances) is related to the Unknown; and in saying this I don’t claim to know the
Unknown as it is Ÿin itself, but only as it is Ÿfor me or Ÿin relation to the world of which I
am a part.
Such knowledge is knowledge by analogy. This does not involve (as the word ‘analogy’ is
commonly thought to do) an imperfect similarity of two things, but a perfect similarity of 70
relations between the members of two quite dissimilar pairs of things.16 By means of this
analogy we are left with a concept of the Supreme Being that is detailed enough for us,
though we have omitted from it everything that could characterize it absolutely or in
itself; for we characterize only its relation to the world and thus to ourselves, and that is
all we need. Hume’s attacks on those who want to determine this concept absolutely,
taking the materials for doing so from themselves and the world, don’t affect my position;
he can’t object against me that if we give up the objective anthropomorphism of the
concept of the Supreme Being we have nothing left.
Hume in the person of Philo in his dialogues grants to Cleanthes as a necessary
hypothesis the deistic concept of the original being, in which this being is thought through
nothing but the ontological predicates of ‘substance’, of ‘cause’, etc. Two comments on
We must think the original being in this way; because ·there is no other way to think
it, and if we don’t have any t hought of the original being· reason can’t have any
satisfaction in the world of the senses, where it is driven by mere conditions that are in
their turn conditioned, ·thus driving us back along a never-starting sequence of causes·. If
the use of reason in relation to all possible experience is to be pushed to the highest point
while remaining in complete harmony with itself, the only possible way to do this is to
assume a highest reason as a cause of all the connections in the world. Such a principle
must be thoroughly advantageous to reason, and can’t hurt it anywhere in its natural use.
We can properly think the original being in this way, because those predicates ·‘substance’, ‘cause’ etc.· - are mere categories, which yield a concept of the original being
that isn’t determinate and for just that reason isn’t limited to any conditions of sensibility.
In thinking of the original being in this way we don’t fall into anthropomorphism, which
transfers predicates from the world of the senses to a being quite distinct from that world.
We are not transferring reason as a property to the original being in itself, but only to its
relation to the world of the senses; and so anthropomorphism is entirely avoided. For all
we are considering here is the cause of Ÿsomething that is perceived everywhere in the
world, namely Ÿthe world’s rational form; and insofar as the Supreme Being contains the
ground of this rational form of the world, reason is to be attributed to it. But in saying that
-----------------------------------16 Thus, there is an analogy between the legal relation of human acts and the mechanical relation of
motive powers. I can never do something to someone else without giving him a right to do the same to me
in the same circumstances; just as no body can act on another through its motive power without thereby
causing the other to react equally against it. Right and motive power are quite dissimilar things, yet in
their relation there is complete similarity. By means of such an analogy I can give a relational concept of
things that are absolutely unknown to me. For example, as
a = the promotion of the happiness of children
is related to
b = parental love,
c = the happiness of the human species
is related to
x = the unknown in God, which we call love.
Not because (x) God’s love has the least similarity to (b) any human inclination; but beca...
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