Absurdities of Immaterialismby Orson Pratt
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"What is truth?" This is a question which has been asked by many. It is a question supposed to be of difficult solution. Mr. Taylder in his tract against materialism, says, "It is a question which all the philosophers of the Grecian and Roman schools could not answer." He seems to think the question was unanswerable until the introduction of the gospel; since which time he considers that the veil is taken away, and that "we now enjoy the full blaze of truth." He further confidently asserts, that "with the materials afforded us in that sacred book, (meaning the New Testament,) we are enabled satisfactorily to answer the question, What is truth?"
What does this author mean by the foregoing assertions? Does he mean, that no truth was understood by the Grecian and Roman schools? That no truth was discerned by the nations, during the first four thousand years after the creation? Or, does he mean, that the gospel truths were not understood until they were revealed? He certainly must mean the latter and not the former. Both the Romans and Grecians could, without the least difficulty, answer the question. "What is truth?" Nothing is more simple than an answer to this question. It is a truth, that something exists in space, and this truth was just as well perceived by all nations before the book called the New Testament existed as afterwards. It is a truth that, "the three angles of a triangle are equal to two right angles." This was not learned from that sacred book—the Bible. We admit that the question, what is gospel truth, could not be answered by any one to whom the gospel had never been revealed. Dr. Good, in his "Book of Nature," says, "general truth may be defined, the connexion and agreement, or repugnancy and disagreement, of our ideas." This definition we consider erroneous; for it makes general truth depend on the existence of ideas. Now truth is independent of all ideas. It is a necessary truth that, space is boundless, and that duration is endless, abstract from all connexion and agreement of our ideas, or even of our existence, or the existence of any other being. If neither the universe nor its Creator existed, these eternal unchangeable, and necessary truths would exist, unperceived and unknown. Truth is the relation which things bear to each other. Knowledge is the perception of truth. Truth may exist without knowledge, but knowledge cannot exist without truth.
The New Testament unfolds, not all the truths which exist, but some few truths of infinite importance. The vast majority of truths of less importance were discovered independently of that book.
"The followers of Joseph Smith," says this author, "hold the doctrine of the materiality of all existence in common with the ancient academics." This, sir, we admit. Our belief, however, in this doctrine, is founded, not on any modern supernatural revelation, unfolding this doctrine, as this author insinuates, but on reason and common sense. The doctrine of immaterialism, in our estimation, is false, and in the highest degree absurd, and unworthy the belief of any true Christian philosopher.
The author of the treatise against materialism has stated his first proposition as follows:—
"The Philosophy of the Mormons is IRRATIONAL."
What the author means by this proposition is, that it is "irrational" to believe all substance material. To substantiate this proposition he sets out in quest of proof. An immaterial substance is the thing wanted. No other proof will answer. If he can prove the existence of an immaterial substance his point is gained,—his proposition established, and the irrationality of the material theory will be demonstrated.
As we are about to launch forth into the wide field of existence in search of an "immaterial substance," it may be well to have the term correctly defined, so as to be able to distinguish such a substance from matter. It is of the utmost importance that every reasoner should clearly define the terms he employs. Two contending parties may use the same word in altogether different meanings; and each draw correct conclusions from the meaning which he attaches to the same word; hence arise endless disputes. As we have no confidence in the immaterial theory, we shall let the immaterialist define his own terms. We shall give,
Taylder's Definition.—"What is meant by an immaterial substance is merely this, that something exists which is not matter and is evidently distinct from matter, which is not dependent on matter for its existence, and which possesses properties and qualities entirely different from those possessed by matter." (Taylder's Tract against Materialism. Page 14.)
This definition of an "immaterial substance" is ambiguous. It needs another definition to inform us what he means.
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