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enthusiasm and exaggeration, might have been useful in counteracting the gloomy ideas then so generally prevalent about the order of the universe. The whole of their theory proceeds on the supposition that the arrangements of nature are wise and benevolent, and that it is the business of the legislator to study and co-operate with her plans in all his own regulations. With this principle, another was combined, that of the indefinite improvement of which the human mind and character are susceptible ; an improvement which was represented as a natural and necessary consequence of wise laws; and which was pointed out to legislators as the most important advantage to be gained from their institutions.
These speculations, whatever opinion may be formed of their solidity, are certainly as remote as possible from any tendency to atheism, and still less do they partake of the spirit of that philosophy which would level man with the brute creation. With their practical tendency in a political view we are not at present concerned; but it would be an unpardonable omission, after what has been just said of the metaphysical theories of the same period, not to mention the abstract principles involved in the economical system, as a remarkable exception to the general observation. It may be questioned, too, if the authors of this system, by incorporating their ethical views with their political disquisitions, did not take a more effectual step towards discountenancing the opinions to which they were opposed, than if they had attacked them in the
of direct argument. On the metaphysical theories which issued from the French press during the latter half of the last century, I do not think it necessary for me to enlarge, after what I have so fully stated in some of my former publications. To enter into details with respect to particular works would be superfluous, as the remarks made upon any one of them are nearly applicable to them all. The excellent writings of M. Prévost, and of M. Dégérando, will,
* For some other observations on the Ethical principles assumed in the Economical System, see Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Mind, Vol. II. Chap. iv. Section 6, § 1, towards the end.
it is to be hoped, gradually introduce into France a sounder taste in this branch of philosophy.* At present, so far as I am acquainted with the state of what is called Idéologie in that country, it does not appear to me to furnish much matter either for the instruction or amusement of my readers.
The works of Rousseau have, in general, too slight a connexion with metaphysical science, to come under review in this part of my discourse. But to his Emile, which has been regarded as a supplement to Locke's Treatise on Education, some attention is justly due, on account of various original and sound suggestions on the management of the infant mind, which, among many extravagancies savouring strongly both of intellectual and moral insanity, may be gathered by a sober and discriminating inquirer. The estimate of the merits of this work, formed by Mr. Gray, appears to me so just and impartial, that I shall adopt it here without a comment.
“I doubt,” says he, in a letter to a friend, " you have not yet read Rousseau's Emile. Every body that has children should read it more than once ; for though it abounds with his usual glorious absurdity, though his general scheme of education be an impracticable chimera, yet there are a thousand lights struck out, a thousand important truths better expressed than ever they were before, that may be of service to the wisest men. . Particularly, I think he has observed children with more attention, knows their meaning, and the working of their little passions, better than any other writer. As to his religious discussions, which have alarmed the world, and engaged their thoughts more than any other parts of his book, I set them all at nought, and wish they had been omitted.” (Gray's Works by Mason, Letter 49.)
* Some symptoms of such a reformation are admitted already to exist, by an author decidedly hostile to all philosophical systems. “ Bacon, Locke, Condillac, cherchoient dans nos sens l'origine de nos idées ; Helvetius y a trouvé nos idées elles-mêmes. Juger, selon ce philosophe, n'est autre chose que sentir.* Aujourd'hui les bons esprits, éclairés par les événemens sur la secrète tendance de toutes ces opinions, les ont soumises à un examen plus sévère. La transformation des sensations en idées ne paroit plus qu'un mot vide de sens. On trouve que l'homme statue ressemble un peu trop à l'homme machine, et Condillac est modifié ou même combattu sur quelques points, par tous ceux qui s'en servent encore dans l'enseignement philosophique.” (Recherches Philosophiques, &c., par M. de Bonald, Tome I. pp. 34, 35.)
* I was somewhat surprised, in looking over very lately the Principia of Descartes, to find (what had formerly escaped me) that the mode of speaking objected to in the above paragraph may plead in its favor the authority of that pbilosopher : “ Cogitationis nomine, intelligo illa omnia, quæ nobis consciis in nobis fiunt, quatenus eorum in nobis conscientia est : Atque ita non modo intelligere, velle, imaginari, sed etiam sentire, idem est hic quod cogitare.” (Princ. Phil. p. 2.) Dr. Reid, too, has said, that “ the sensation of color is a sort of thought.” (Inquiry, Chap. vi. § 4); but no names, how great soever, can sanction so gross an abuse of language.
After all, there is some difference between saying, that sensation is a sort of thought, and that thought is a sort of sensation.
The most valuable additions made by French writers to the philosophy of the Human Mind are to be found, not in their systematical treatises on metaphysics, but in those more popular compositions, which, professing to paint the prevailing manners of the times, touch occasionally on the varieties of intellectual character. In this most interesting and important study, which has been hitherto almost entirely neglected in 'Great Britain, * France must be allowed not only to have led the way, but to remain still unrivalled. It would be endless to enumerate names; but I must not pass over those of Vauvenarguest and Duclos. * Nor can I forbear to remark, in justice to an author whom I have already very freely censured, that a variety of acute and refined observations on the different modifications of genius may be collected from the writings of Helvetius. The soundness of some of his distinctions may perhaps be questioned ; but even his attempts at classification may serve as useful guides to future observers, and may supply them with a convenient nomenclature, to which it is not always easy to find corresponding terms in other languages. As examples of this it is sufficient to mention the following phrases: Esprit juste, Esprit borné, Esprit étendu, Esprit fin, Esprit délié, Esprit de lumière. The peculiar richness of the French tongue in such appropriate expressions (a circumstance, by the way, which not unfrequently leads foreigners to overrate the depth of a talkative Frenchman) is itself a proof of the degree of attention which the ideas they are meant to convey have attracted in that country among the higher and more cultivated classes.
* Many precious hints connected with it may, however, be collected from the writings of Lord Bacon, and a few from those of Mr. Locke. It does not seem to have engaged the curiosity of Mr. Hume in so great a degree as might have been expected from his habits of observation, and extensive intercourse with the world. The objects of Dr. Reid's inquiries led him into a totally different track.
Among German writers, Leibnitz has occasionally glanced with a penetrating eye at the varieties of genius; and it were to be wished that he had done so more frequently. How far his example has been followed by his countrymen in later times, I am unable to judge, from my ignorance of their language.
A work expressly on this subject was published by a Spanish physician (Huarte) in the seventeenth century. A French translation of it, printed at Amsterdam in 1672, is now lying before me. It is entitled, Examen des Esprits pour les Sci
Où se montrent les différences des Esprits, qui se trouvent parmy les hommes, et à quel genre de Science un chacun est propre en particulier. The execution of this work certainly falls far short of the expectations raised by the title; but (allowances being made for the period when it was written) it is by no means destitute of merit, nor unworthy of the attention of those who may speculate on the subject of Education. For some particulars about its contents, and also about. the author, see Bayle's Dictionary, Art. Huarte ; and The Spectator, No. 30.
| The Marquis de Vauvenargues, author of a small volume, entitled, Introduction à la Connoissance de l’Esprit Humain. He entered into the army at the age of eighteen, and continued to serve for nine years; when, having lost his health irrecoverably, in consequence of the fatigues he underwent in the memorable retreat from Prague, in December 1742, he resolved to quit his profession, in the hope of obtaining some diplomatic employment better suited to his broken constitution. Soon after, he was attacked by the small-pox, which unfortunately turned out of so malignant a kind, as to disfigure his countenance, and deprive him almost totally of sight. He died in 1747, at the age of thirty-two. The small volume above mentioned was published the year before his death. It bears every where the marks of a powerful, original, and elevated mind; and the imperfect education which the author appears to have received gives it an additional charm, as the genuine result of his own unsophisticated reflections.
Marmontel has given a most interesting picture of his social character: “En le lisant, je crois encore l'entendre, et je ne sais si sa conversation n'avait pas même quelque chose de plus animé, de plus délicat que ses divins écrits," And, on a different occasion, he speaks of him thus : “ Doux, sensible, compatissant, il tenait nos âmes dans ses mains. Une sérénité inaltérable dérobait ses douleurs aux yeux de l'amitié. Pour soutenir l'adversité, on n'avoit besoin que de son exemple; et témoin de l'égalité de son âme, on n'osait être malheureux avec lui.”
The influence, however, of the philosophical spirit on the general habits of thinking among men of letters in France, was in no instance displayed to greater advantage, than in the numerous examples of theoretical or conjectural history, which appeared about the middle of the last century. I have already mentioned the attempts of
If the space allotted to him in this note should be thought to exceed what is due to his literary eminence, the singular circumstances of his short and unfortunate life, and the deep impression which his virtues, as well as his talents, appear to have left on the minds of all who knew him, will, I trust, be a sufficient apology for my wish to add something to the celebrity of a name, hitherto, I believe, very little known in this country.
* The work of Duclos, here referred to, has for its title, Considérations sur les Maurs de ce Siècle. Gibbon's opinion of this book is, I think, not beyond its merits : “ L'ouvrage en général est bon. Quelques chapitres (le rapport de l'esprit et du caractère) me paroissent excellens.” (Extrait du Journal.)
I have said nothing of La Rochefoucauld and La Bruyère, as their attention was chiefly confined to manners, and to moral qualities. Yet many of their remarks show, that they had not wholly overlooked the diversities among men in point of intellect. An observer of sagacity equal to theirs might, I should think, find a rich field of study in this part of human nature, as well as in the other.
Condillac and others, to trace upon this plan the first steps of the human mind in the invention of language. The same sort of speculation has been applied with greater success to the mechanical and other necessary arts of civilized life ; and still more ingeniously and happily to the
different branches of pure and mixed mathematics. To a philosophical mind, no study certainly can be more delightful than this species of history; but as an organ of instruction, I am not disposed to estimate its practical utility so highly as D'Alembert. It does not seem to me at all adapted to interest the curiosity of novices; nor is it so well calculated to engage the attention of those who wish to enlarge their scientific knowledge, as of persons accustomed to reflect on the phenomena and laws of the intellectual world.
Of the application of theoretical bistory, to account for the diversities of laws and modes of government among men, I shall have occasion afterwards to speak. At present I shall only remark the common relation in which all such researches stand to the Philosophy of the Human Mind, and their common tendency to expand and to liberalize the views of those who are occupied in the more confined pursuits of the subordinate sciences.
After what has been already said of the general tone of French philosophy, it will not appear suprising, that a system so mystical and spiritual as that of Leibnitz never struck its roots deeply in that country. A masterly outline of its principles was published by Madame du Chatelet, at a period of her life when she was an enthusiastic admirer of the author ; and a work on such a subject, composed by a lady of her rank and genius, could not fail to produce at first a very strong sensation at Paris; but not long after she herself abandoned the German philosophy, and became a zealous partisan of the Newtonian school. She even translated into French, and enriched with a commentary, the Principia of Newton; and by thus renouncing her first faith, contributed more to discredit it, than she had previously done to bring it into fashion. Since that time, Leibnitz has had few, any, disciples in France, although some of his peculiar tenets have occasionally found advocates there, among those