Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
On the Incorporeality of the Deity
By Ralph Cudworth (16171688)
From the Intellectual System of the Universe
THE DEMOCRITICS and Epicureans, though consenting with all the other atheists, in this, that whatsoever was unextended, and devoid of magnitude, and therefore nothing (so that there could neither be any substance, nor accident, or mode of any substance, unextended), did notwithstanding distinguish concerning a double nature. First, that which is so extended as to be impenetrable and tangible, or resist the touch; which is body. And secondly, that which is extended also, but penetrably and intangibly; which is space or vacuum: a nature, according to them, really distinct from body, and the only incorporeal thing that is. Now since this space, which is the only incorporeal, can neither do nor suffer anything, but only give place or room to bodies to subsist in, or pass through; therefore can there not be any active, understanding, incorporeal Deity. This is the argumentation of the Democritic atheists.
To which we reply, that if space be indeed a nature distinct from body, and a thing really incorporeal, as they pretend, then will it undeniably follow from this very principle of theirs, that there must be an incorporeal substance; and (this space being supposed by them also to be infinite) an infinite, incorporeal Deity. Because, if space be not the extension of body, nor an affection thereof, then must it of necessity be, either an accident existing alone by itself without a substance, which is impossible; or else the extension, or affection, of some other incorporeal substance, that is infinite. But here will Gassendus step in, to help out his good friends the Democritics and Epicureans at a dead lift, and undertake to maintain, that though space be indeed an incorporeal thing, yet it would neither follow of necessity from thence, that it is an incorporeal substance or affection thereof; nor yet that it is an accident existing alone by itself, without a substance; because this space is really neither accident, nor substance, but a certain middle nature or essence betwixt both. To which subterfuge of his, that we may not quarrel about words, we shall make this reply; that unquestionably, whatsoever is, or hath any kind of entity, doth either subsist by itself, or else in an attribute, affection, or mode of something, that doth subsist by itself. For it is certain, that there can be no mode, accident, or affection of nothing; and consequently, that nothing cannot be extended, nor mensurable. But if space be neither the extension of body, nor yet of substance incorporeal, then must it of necessity be the extension of nothing, and the affection of nothing; and nothing must be mensurable by yards and poles. We conclude, therefore, that from this very hypothesis of the Democritic and Epicurean atheists, that space is a nature distinct from body, and positively infinite, it follows undeniably, that there must be some incorporeal substance, whose affection its extension is: and because there can be nothing infinite, but only the Deity, that it is the infinite extension of an incorporeal Deity; just as some learned theists and incorporealists have asserted. And thus is the argument of these Democritic and Epicurean atheists, against an incorporeal Deity, abundantly confuted; we having made it manifest, that from that very principle of their own, by which they would disprove the same, it is against themselves demonstrable.