Page:Psychology and preaching.djvu/217

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VOLUNTARY ACTION 199

world be best accounted for by the limitations of the observ ing mind and the imperfection of the observation? Maybe it is because we observe these from the outside and cannot observe them from within that we read mechanical neces sity into them. Certainly so far as we know, every phe nomenon of the world which we call material may be in reality a determination of a free will. Perhaps what ap pears to us, looking on from without, to be a necessary event resulting from a mechanical cause would, if we could interpret the process from the inside, appear in its true character as a psychical determination motived by a " be cause," At bottom it is a question not of regularity or order, on the one hand, and of irregularity and chaos, on the other; but of the nature of the nexus between two succes sive phenomena. Why does this situation follow that which regularly precedes it? Mechanical necessity, says the materialistic determinist. And yet he can hardly make quite clear what he means by the phrase. An intelligible universe is not necessarily a universe of necessity. The affirmation of a universe of mechanical necessity is a form of pure metaphysical dogmatism which has its origin in devotion to physical science, coupled with shallow think ing. All that is necessary to render a science of life pos sible is that we should be able to correlate its phenomena according to some definite principle ; but that principle need not be mechanical necessity ; it may be free rationality. It is a fact of the utmost significance that in the only case in which it is possible for us to study the process of change from within, freedom is given as a primary datum of expe rience ; while in the case in which we study phenomena wholly from without, we have an almost irresistible tendency to read mechanism and necessity into them. At one extreme of experience lie our self-conscious activities ; at the other, the observed processes of the material world. Midway between are our observations of the actions of other persons. In the first we can hardly convince our selves, except in theory, that we are not free ; in the second.

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