Francis Macnab

photo neededIn hmolscience, Francis Maximus Macnab (c.1763-c.1833), or MacNab, was a Scottish barrister and moral philosopher noted for his 1818 A Theory of the Moral and Physical System of the Universe, an early religion and science reconciliation attempt, the logic of which, supposedly, being comparable (Ѻ) in some way to Jeremy Bentham, in which he outlines a seven-stage, i.e. seven floods (to explain fossil evidence), five phenomena (mechanical, chemical, vegetable, animal, intellectual) mind and morals from matter and light creationism-structured theory.

Mind-sense-matter | Loophole
The following is Macnab’s opening mind-sense-matter ontic opening like loophole argument platform: [1]

§:3-4. Matter is perceived by sense, mind is understood by reason; but mind cannot be perceived, neither can matter be understood. Our senses inform us only respecting the phenomena of matter; our reason informs us only respecting the phenomena of mind. In the universe, our senses perceive nothing but matter; while our understanding assures us, that everything must depend upon mind. We cannot perceive the efficiency of an intelligent cause, neither can we understand the efficiency of a physical one. Intelligent efficient causation is beyond our senses; physical efficient causation is beyond our understanding. Hence the opposite doctrines of Berkeley and Hume; the one denying the the existence of matter, the other denying the existence of mind; and each supporting his hypothesis by plausible arguments. Of the essence of matter, we are as ignorant as we are of the essence of mind. We know them only by their properties, i.e. their relations or analogies. Accordingly, our knowledge of matter and mind is only a knowledge of relations or analogies. But these analogies are parts of one great analogy, embracing all possible knowledge. Every subject of human thought is connected with an immense scheme, which comprehends the natural and moral universe. Every object, atom, thought, or idea, the least as well as the greatest, are all parts of that scheme.”

Macnab then interjects, in downgrade terms, that only “god is absolute”, that it is only “him who knows the whole”, etc.
Macnab title page illustration
To title page illustration of Macnab's universal mind and morals from matter and light emergence theory.

Deceptive senses | Relative rest
The following is Macnab’s Plato’s allegory of the cave like section on how one’s beliefs—specifically beliefs about relative motion, and in turn thought—can reoccurring be deceptive and false: [1]

§5. A man on board a ship, gliding in a calm sea, may imagine himself to be at rest, and think and act upon that supposition with the utmost propriety; because, though not absolutely at rest, he is relatively so. He afterwards, however, on going ashore, sits down, and, smiling at his mistake, says, ‘Now I See my error; I have not been at rest till now.’ But still he is mistaken; for the earth itself on which he sits or stands, is in motion round the sun. ‘Well, then,’ says he, ‘the sun at any rate is at rest.’ ‘Not so,’ says the well-informed astronomer; ‘the sun also, and the whole solar system, are in motion through absolute space.’ But here the person who was first deceived in the ship asks the astronomer, ‘What proof have you that the universe itself is fixed in absolute space? or what is it you call absolute? I have already been three times deceived by adopting that-term; and will henceforth ascribe the title of absolute to no created being.’ What has thus been said regarding motion, is true also regarding thought. In human knowledge, there is nothing absolute; no fixed principles; no standard to which we can appeal.”

This is relatively cogent, so-to-speak. With this said, however, he asserts, in downgrade form, in end footnote like style, that the only thing to which we can appeal is the word of god, citing Biblical passages; and that, therefore, we must search the Bible for the outlines of general knowledge, and a basis on which to build.

Fossil evidence
Macnab, in his §30, in order to recently-discovered fossil records, cites Georges Cuvier’s Theory of the Earth (1813), and concurs something to the effect that the fossils are organized in the layers of the earth as described in Genesis, with human bones found in the upper most layer, and the lowest layer “containing no petrifactions, nor traces of carbon”.

Moral period theory
Macnab, in his §38-44, interjects into the more hilarious aspects of his entire theory, which is that there were seven periods of creation, the last of which resulted in the moral universe, and that phenomena can be divided into five types: mechanical, chemical, vegetable, animal, and intellectual, the first two classified as "matter", the latter two classified as "spirit", the middle (vegetable) having a combination of both, but also neither alive nor dead. Macnab describes his theory as follows:

§38. From the beginning to the end of time, all that intervenes is comprehended in seven periods, whereof the first six were occupied in evolving the mystery of creation, and the seventh in evolving the mystery of providence. The first six unfold the history of the natural, the seventh that of the moral universe, the former being a type of the latter.

§39. Accordingly, the entire system of nature is to be viewed, in the first place, as a series of seven periods, the last of which is the moral world. This septenary scale being split into two halves, the one belongs to matter, the other to mind, agreeably to the general analogy (§1-2). But these two, matter and mind, are united by means of the central [Greek word]. To the left of this central step, are three belonging to matter; to the right, three belonging to mind. We shall bye and bye see how this corresponds with the sacred record; for I am, in the meantime, concerned only with the rough sketch, or first outline of the picture. It stands thus:

Mind from matter (Macnab, 1818)
Macnab on plants (1818)
One of MacNab’s arrived at absurdities, i.e. that growing plants are neither alive nor dead (§40), an intermediate view to the defunct theory of life, resulting from his 1818 attempt to reconcile religious theory (Biblical views) with modern science (fossil evidence, Copernican system, law of gravitation, atomic theory, chemistry, etc.). [1]

§40. Between matter and mind, there is, as I have said, a perfect antithesis or contrast (§2-3). The first is passive, the second is active; the first is acted upon by general laws, the second acts by its own particular volition; the first is dead, the second is alive. But, between the animal spirit, and the inanimate clod, there is a middle state partaking of both. It is neither a passive, inert substance, nor is it an active living principle. The growing plant is not dead, neither is it alive. It has no volition, like the animal spirit, neither is it under the dominion of those general laws which operate upon inanimate matter. It possesses a kind of life or vitality, depending upon the influence of the sun, which seems, in a special manner, to rule over the vegetable kingdom, and inspire and quicken it. Accordingly, the sun may be said to the soul of the vegetable world. In his presence they live; in his absence they sleep, or die.

This the "growing plant is not dead, neither is it alive" is some hilarious stuff; very germane in precursor absurdity logic to arrival of the defunct theory of life (2009). Likewise, his the "sun may be said to the soul of the vegetable world" assertion is rather telling, in respect to divide.

Macnab continues, in what seems to be even more hilarious than the former:

§41. But though we can thus discern, by our outward senses, not only the organic bodies of vegetables, but also the glorious luminary which quickens them, we cannot thus discern the principle which quickens the organic bodies of animals: for every animal is quickened by a principle which belongs to itself, and has a will of its own. Its body, indeed, may be called a moveable vegetable, because it is an organic machine, exactly analogous to that of the vegetable. The difference lies here: that the vegetable organic machine is set a-going and kept in order by the sun; but the animal organic machine is set a-going and kept in order by a particular agent which inhabits it. This agent is its soul, or animal spirit, and belongs to the predicament of mind, or the right side of the scale (§39).

In short, the "vegetable organic machine" (e.g. a flower), according to Macnab, is set a-going and kept in order by the agency of the sun, whereas the "animal organic machine" (e.g. a human) is set a-going and kept in order by the agency of the soul or animal spirit. This is hilarious to the last. Hardly anything, in modern literature argument, can be found stated so frankly and openly, yet it is the crux of the matter which continues to inflame the modern religion | science divide. The humor continues:

§42. Thus, in the central step of the scale, the most prominent object is the sun, considered as the soul of the vegetable kingdom, and ruler of the planetary system. To his left is the reign of matter, typical of death; to his right, the reign of mind, typical of life. I shall afterwards follow out that beautiful analogy by which the natural sun is shown to be a type of the ‘sun of righteousness?’ But in the mean time, I am occupied, as I have said, with the first general sketch, or outline of the scheme.

43. As to the passive substance of matter, which lies to the left of the scale, if we exercise our senses upon it, we acquire by by experience a knowledge of its chemical phenomena; and if we exercise our reason upon it, we understand by demonstration, its mechanical phenomena. In like manner, in the contrast (§:2-3), as to the active principle of mind, if we attend to our sensations, we acquire by experience a knowledge of its animal phenomena; and if we attend to our ratiocinations, we understand by intuition, its intellectual phenomena. Thus, by the exercise of sense and reason, we arrive at the knowledge of five different kinds of phenomena, viz:

1. Mechanical phenomena, inferred by reason.
2. Chemical phenomena, perceived by sense.
3. Vegetable phenomena, perceived by sense.
4. Animal phenomena, perceived by sense.
5. Intellectual phenomena, inferred by reason.

§44. Of these five kinds of phenomena, the two first belong to matter, the two last to spirit, the middle to both. The three middle kinds are perceived by sense, and acquired by experience; they cannot be reasoned out a priori, nor understood, nor deduced by argument from any premises; without actually perceiving them, we can never know them. But the first and last cannot be perceived by sense; for though in common language we talk of seeing or perceiving mechanical phenomena, such as the figure of a square, a circle, a triangle, etc., the things we look at are not truly such; they are rough, clumsy, shapeless figures, as will appear when the microscope is applied. For the animal senses cannot perceive mathematical truth; it is not perceived by sense, but understood by the intellect.

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Other noted sections include: “Analysis of the Rational Soul” (VI) and “The Mystery of the Moral and Physical Good and Evil” (VII).

Macnab, in 1818, entitles himself having the credentials of s.s.c. or “solicitor of the supreme courts of Scotland”, implying possibly that he was some type of barrister or something akin.

Macnab’s curious, and relatively unknown book, held by only 18 WorldCat libraries, was found, in Google Books, via the search keys “moral, etymology”, during an effort to track down citations or discussions of the Roman god Mor (equivalent to the Greek god Thanatos, e.g. as found in the term thanatochemistry), the personification of death (Ѻ), as the likely etymological origin of the term “moral”.

1. Macnab, Francis M. (1818). A Theory of the Moral and Physical System of the Universe, Demonstrated by Analogy: in which the Elements of General Science are Explained Upon a Principle Entirely New. London: Ogles, Duncan, and Cochrane.

Further reading
● Anon. (1819). “Macnab on the Universe”, Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, 5:337-40; in: Atheneum, Or, Spirit of the English Magazines (Ѻ), 6:37-40, 1820

External links
Macnab, Francis Maximus – WorldCat Identities.

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