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Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

First Principles                323

real than an illusion which is so strong, so persistent and
so universal; this contention, indeed, cannot be disputed
except at the cost of invalidating the reality of all even our
most assured convictions. They admit that there is an
apparent connection between their ego and non-ego, their
necessity and free-will, their luck and cunning ; they grant
that the difference is resolvable into a difference of degree
and not of kind; but, on the other hand, they say that in
each degree there still lurks a little kind, and that a differ-
ence of many degrees makes a difference of kind—there
being, in fact, no difference between differences of degree and
those of kind, except that the second are an accumulation of
the first. The all-powerfulness of the surroundings is declared
by them to be as completely an illusion, if examined closely,
as the power of the individual was declared to be by their
opponents, inasmuch as the antecedents of the non-ego,
when examined by them, prove to be not less due to the
personal individual element everywhere recognisable, than
the ego, when examined by their opponents, proved to be
mergeable in the universal. They claim, therefore, to be
able to resolve everything into spontaneity and free-will
with no less logical consistency than that with which free-
will can be resolved into an outcome of necessity.

Two Incomprehensibles

You may assume life of some kind omnipresent for ever
throughout matter. This is one way. Another way is to
assume an act of spontaneous generation, i.e. a transition
somewhere and somewhen from absolutely non-living to
absolutely living. You cannot have it both ways. But it
seems to me that you must have it both ways. You must
not begin with life (or potential life) everywhere alone, nor
must you begin with a single spontaneous generation alone,
but you must carry your spontaneous generation (or denial
of the continuity of life) down, ad infmitum, just as you
must carry your continuity of life (or denial of spontaneous
generation) down ad infinitum and, compatible or incom-
patible, you must write a scientific Athanasian Creed to
comprehend these two incomprehensibles.

If, then, it is only an escape from one incomprehensible