First Principles by Herbert Spencer

By Herbert Spencer

In 1862, the British thinker Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) released this preamble to a deliberate sequence of courses on biology, psychology, sociology and morality. In it, he states that faith and technological know-how will be reconciled through their shared trust in an Absolute, and that final ideas will be discerned in all manifestations of absolutely the, really the overall legislation of nature being chanced on via technology. Spencer divides his textual content into components. half I, 'The Unknowable', discusses early philosophical rules that human wisdom is proscribed and can't meaningfully conceive of God; religion has to be the bridge among human event and supreme fact. Spencer refutes this as he examines faith and technology intimately. partly II, 'Laws of the Knowable', Spencer argues that faith and technological know-how may be reconciled within the underlying team spirit from which the obvious complexity of the universe has developed.

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We habitually mistake our symbolic conceptions for real ones; and so are betrayed into countless false infer- 28 ULTIMATE RELIGIOUS IDEAS. ences. Not only is it that in proportion as the concept we form of any thing or class of things, misrepresents the reality, we are apt to be wrong in any assertion we make respecting the reality; but it is that we are led to suppose we have truly conceived a great variety of things which we have conceived only in this fictitious way; and further to confound with Ihese certain things which cannot be conceived in any way.

For whence the potential existence ? This would just as much require accounting for as actual existence; and just the same difficulties would meet us. Respecting the origin of such a latent power, no other suppositions could be made than those above named — self-existence, self-creation, creation by external agency. The self-existence of a potential universe is no more conceivable than we have found the self-existence of the actual universe to be. The self-creation of such a potential universe would involve over again the difficulties here stated—would imply behind this potential universe a more remote potentiality; and so on in an infinite series, leaving us at last no forwarder than at first.

The Absolute, it may be said, may possibly be conscious, provided it is only conscious of itself. But this alternative is, in ultimate analysis, no less selfdestructive than the other. For the object of consciousness, whether a mode of the subject's existence or not, is either created in and by the act of consciousness, or has an existence independent of it. In the former case, the object depends upon the subject, and the subject alone is the true absolute. In the latter case, the subject depends upon the object, and the object alone is the true absolute.

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