Page:Eureka; a prose poem (1848).djvu/29

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23
THE UNIVERSE.

"Infinity." This, like "God," "spirit," and some other expressions of which the equivalents exist in all languages, is by no means the expression of an idea—but of an effort at one. It stands for the possible attempt at an impossible conception. Man needed a term by which to point out the direction of this effort—the cloud behind which lay, forever invisible, the object of this attempt. A word, in fine, was demanded, by means of which one human being might put himself in relation at once with another human being and with a certain tendency of the human intellect. Out of this demand arose the word, "Infinity;" which is thus the representative but of the thought of a thought.

As regards that infinity now considered—the infinity of space—we often hear it said that "its idea is admitted by the mind—is acquiesced in—is entertained—on account of the greater difficulty which attends the conception of a limit." But this is merely one of those phrases by which even profound thinkers, time out of mind, have occasionally taken pleasure in deceiving themselves. The quibble lies concealed in the word "difficulty." "The mind," we are told, "entertains the idea of limitless, through the greater difficulty which it finds in entertaining that of limited, space." Now, were the proposition but fairly put, its absurdity would become transparent at once. Clearly, there is no mere difficulty in the case. The assertion intended, if presented according to its intention and without sophistry, would run thus:—"The mind admits the idea of limitless, through the greater impossibility of entertaining that of limited, space."

It must be immediately seen that this is not a question