Sunday, 24 July 2011

For the Understanding of Order in the World. — “The conviction is gradually forced in upon us by our experience of natural phenomena, that every agency in nature must have some fixed, intrinsic principle of activity, in virtue of which it acts uniformly, and concurs with other physical agencies, not capriciously or indifferently, but along certain prearranged and predetermined lines; so that ‘exceptions’ to this uniformity must be due in reality to the influence of some unknown natural causes, or, possibly, to the intervention of the First Cause. Here, at all events, is the great fact we gather from sense experience: that very complex combinations of numerous natural agents repeatedly concur to produce uniform series of effects. Of this great fact there can apparently be one, and only one, rational interpretation: that which conceives the proximate causes of such uniform series of phenomena as endowed each with a fixed natural inclination or tendency to act steadily and consistently along definite lines, as having each an internal law which dominates it, and in conformity with which it will act always and everywhere. This innate, stable tendency is what the mind grasps when it apprehends the law of the Uniformity of Nature. The great fact of experience revealed in the regular, constant, harmonious concurrence of numerous and varied forces and agencies to produce uniform series of results, finds its sufficient reason and explanation only in a fixed natural inclination or tendency of the agents which produce such results. The expression ‘natural inclination’ embodies a fundamental doctrine of Aristotelean philosophy; it implies that the agencies whose effects or manifestations we observe in the world around us are not, as the advocates of mechanical determinism would have them, mere efficient agents capable of producing any or every result indifferently, but that each of them is endowed with an internal tendency in virtue of which it manifests a manner of being and acting proper to itself; which manner is called a property of the substance, and reveals the specific nature of this latter.”

Peter Coffey, The Science of Logic, Vol.II (New York: Peter Smith, 1938), pp.67-8.

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