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who have rejected the great and leading doctrines, by which his system is more peculiarly characterized. His opinions and reasonings in particular, on the necessary concatenation of all events, both physical and moral, (which accorded but too well with the philosophy professed by Grimm and Diderot,) have been long incorporated with the doctrines of the French materialists, and they have been lately adopted and sanctioned, in all their extent, by a living author, the unrivalled splendor of whose mathematical genius may be justly suspected, in the case of some of his admirers, to throw a false lustre on the dark shades of his philosophical creed. *
* « Les événemens actuels ont avec les précédens une liaison fondée sur le principe évident, qu'une chose ne peut pas commencer d'être, sans une cause qui la produise. Cet axiome, connu sous le nom de principe de la raison suffisante, s'étend aux actions même que l'on juge indifférentes. La volonté la plus libre ne peut, sans un motif déterminant, leur donner naissance; car si, toutes les circonstances de deux positions étant exactement semblables, elle agissoit dans l'une et s'abstenoit d'agir dans l'autre, son choix seroit un effet sans cause ;* elle seroit alors, dit Leibnitz, le hazard aveugle des Epicuriens. L'opinion contraire est une illusion de l'esprit qui perdant de vue les raisons fugitives du choix de la volonté dans les choses indifférentes, se persuade qu'elle s'est déterminée d'elle même et sans motifs.
“ Nous devons donc envisager l'état présent de l'univers comme l'effet de son état antérieure et comme la cause de celui qui va suivre. Une intelligence qui pour un instant donné connoîtroit toutes les forces dont la nature est animée, et la situation respective des êtres qui la composent, si d'ailleurs elle étoit assez vaste pour soumettre ces données à l'analyse, embrasseroit dans la même formule, les mouvemens des plus grands corps de l'univers et ceux du plus léger atôme. Rien ne seroit incertain pour elle, et l'avenir comme le passé, seroit présent à ses yeux.” (Essai Philosophique sur les Probabilités, par Laplace.)
Is not this the very spirit of the Theodicæa of Leibnitz, and, when combined with the other reasonings in the Essay on Probabilities, the very essence of Spinozism?
This, indeed, is studiously kept by the author out of the reader's view; and hence the facility with which some of his propositions have been admitted by many of his mathematical disciples, who, it is highly probable, were not aware of the consequences which they necessarily involve.
I cannot conclude this note without recurring to an observation ascribed in the above quotation from Laplace to Leibnitz, “ that the blind chance of the Epicureans involves the supposition of an effect taking place without a cause. This, I apprehend, is a very incorrect statement of the philosophy taught by Lucretius, which no where gives the slightest countenance to such a supposition. The distinguishing tenet of this sect was, that the order of the universe does not imply the existence of intelligent causes; but may be accounted for by the active powers belongiog to the atoms of matter; which active powers, being exerted through an indefinitely long period of time, might produce, nay, must have produced, exactly such a combination of things, as that with which we are surrounded. This, it is evident, does not call in question the necessity of a cause to produce every effect, but, on the con
* The impropriety of this language was long ago pointed out by Mr. Hume.
They are still more frivolous, who say, that every effect must have a cause, because it is implied in the very idea of effect. Every effect necessarily presupposes a cause ; effect being a relative term, of which cause is the co-relative. The true state of the question is, whether every object, which begins to exist, must owe its existence to a cause ? " (Treatise of Human Nature, Vol. I. p. 147.)
Notwithstanding, however, this important and unfortunate coincidence, no two systems can well be imagined more strongly contrasted on the whole, than the lofty metaphysics of Leibnitz, and that degrading theory concerning the origin of our ideas, which has been fashionable in France since the time of Condillac. In proof of this, I have only to refer to the account of both, which has been already given.
The same contrast, it would appear, still continues to exist between the favorite doctrines of the German and of the French schools. - In the French empiricism,” says a most impartial, as well as competent judge, M. Ancillon, “ the faculty of feeling, and the faculty of knowing, are one and the same. In the new philosophy of Germany, there is no faculty of knowing, but reason. In the former, taking our departure from individuals, we rise by degrees to ideas, to general notions, to principles. In the latter, beginning with what is most general, or rather with what is universal, we descend to individual existences, and to particular cases. In the one, what we see, what we touch, what we feel, are the only realities. In the other, nothing is real, but what is invisible and purely intellectual.”
“ Both these systems,” continues M. Ancillon, “ result from the exaggeration of a sound principle. They are both true and both false in part; true in what they admit, false in what they reject. All our knowledge begins, or appears to begin, in sensation ; but it does not follow from this, that it is all derived from sensation, or that
trary, virtually assumes the truth of that axiom. It only excludes from these causes the attribute of intelligence. It is in the same way, when I apply the words blind chance (hazard aveugle) to the throw of a die, I do not mean to deny that I am ultimately the cause of the particular event that is to take place; but only to intimate that I do not here act as a designing cause, in consequence of my ignorance of the various accidents to which the die is subjected, while shaken in the box. If I am not mistaken, this Epicurean Theory approaches very nearly to the scheme, which it is the main object of the Essay on Probabilities to inculcate ; and, therefore, it was not quite fair in Laplace to object to the supposition of man's free agency, as favoring those principles which he himself was laboring indirectly to insinuate.
From a passage in Plato's Sophist, it is very justly inferred by Mr. Gray, that, according to the common opinion then entertained," the creation of things was the work of blind, unintelligent matter; whereas the contrary was the result of philosophical reflection and disquisition, believed by a few people only." (Gray's Works by Matthias, Vol. II. p. 414.) On the same subject, see Smith's Posthumous Essays, p. 106. VOL. VI.
sensation constitutes its whole amount. The proper and innate activity of the mind has a large share in the origin of our representations, our sentiments, our ideas. Reason involves principles which she does not borrow from without, which she owes only to herself, which the impressions of the senses call forth from their obscurity, but which, far from owing their origin to sensations, serve to appreciate them, to judge of them, to employ them as instruments. It would be rash, however, to conclude from hence, that there is no certainty but in reason, that reason alone can seize the mystery of existences, and the intimate nature of beings, and that experience is nothing but a vain appearance, destitute of every species of real
With this short and comprehensive estimate of the new German philosophy, pronounced by one of the most distinguished members of the Berlin Academy, I might perhaps be pardoned for dismissing a subject, with which
have, in some of my former publications, acknowledged myself (from my total ignorance of the German language) to be very imperfectly acquainted; but the impression which it produced for a few years in England (more particularly while our intercourse with the Continent was interrupted,) , makes it proper for me to bestow on it a little more notice in this Dissertation, than I should othwise have judged necessary or useful.
* Mélanges de Littérature et de Philosophie, par F. Ancillon, Préface. (à Paris, 1809.) The intimacy of M. Ancillon's literary connexions both with France and with Germany entitle his opinions on the respective merits of their philosophical systems to peculiar weight. If he any where discovers a partiality for either, the modest account which he gives of himself would lead us to expect his leaning to be in favor of his countrymen. “ Placé entre la France et l'Allemagne, appartenant à la première par la langue dans laquelle je hasarde d'écrire, à la seconde par ma naissance, mes études, mes principes, mes affections, et j'ose, le dire, par la couleur de ma pensée, je desirerois pouvoir servir de médiateur littéraire, ou d'interprète philosophique entre les deux nations."
In translating from M. Ancillon the passage quoted in the text, I have adhered as closely as possible to the words of the original; although I cannot help imagining that I could have rendered it still more intelligible to the English reader by laying aside some of the peculiarities of his German phraseology. My chief reason for retaining these, was to add weight to the strictures which a critic, so deeply tinctured with the German habits of thinking and of writing, has offered on the most prominent faults of the systems in which he had been educated.
Kant and other Metaphysicians of the new German School.*
The long reign of the Leibnitzian Philosophy in Germany was owing, in no inconsiderable degree, to the zeal and ability with which it was taught in that part of Europe, for nearly half a century, by his disciple Wolfius,t a man of little genius, originality, or taste, but whose extensive and various learning, seconded by a methodical head, † and by an incredible industry and perseverance, seem to have been peculiarly fitted to command the admiration of his countrymen.
Wolfius, indeed, did not
* My ignorance of German would have prevented me from saying any thing of the philosophy of Kant, if the extraordinary pretensions with which it was at first brought forward in this island, contrasted with the total oblivion into which it soon after very suddenly tell, had not seemed to demand some attention to so wonderful a phenomenon in the literary history of the eighteenth century. My readers will perceive that I have taken some pains to atone for my inability to read Kant's works in the original, not only by availing n.yself of the Latin version of Born, but by consulting various comments on them which have appeared in the English, French, and Latin languages. As commentators, however, and even translators, are not always to be trusted to as unexceptionable interpreters of their authors' opinions, my chief reliance has been placed on one of Kant's own compositions in Latin; his Dissertation De Mundi Sensibilis atque Intelligibilis Formà et Principiis, which he printed as the subject of a public disputation, when he was candidate for a Professorship in the University of Königsberg. It is far from being improbable, after all, that I may, in some instances, have misapprehended his meaning, but I hope I shall not be accused of wilfully misrepresenting it. Where my remarks are borrowed from other writers, I have been careful in referring to my authorities, that my reader may judge for himself of the fidelity of my statements. If no other purpose, therefore, should be answered by this part of my work, it may at least be of use by calling forth some person properly qualified to correct any mistakes into which I may involuntarily have fallen; and, in the meantime, may serve to direct those who are strangers to German literature, to so:ne of the comments on this philosophy which have appeared in languages more generally understood in this country.
| Born 1679. Died 1754. | The display of method, however, so conspicuous in all the works of Wolfius, will often be found to amount to little more than an awkward affectation of the phraseology and forms of mathematics, in sciences where they contribute nothing to the clearness of our ideas, or the correctness of our reasonings. This affectation, which seems to have been well adapted to the taste of Germany at the time when he wrote, is now one of the chief causes of the neglect into which his writings have fallen. Some of them may be still usefuily consulted as dictionaries, but to read them is impossible. They ainount to about forty quarto volumes, twenty-three of which are in Latin, the rest in Gerinan.
In his own country the reputation of Wolfius is not yet at an end. In the preface to Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. he is called "Summus omnium dogmaticorum Philosophus.” (Kantii Opera ad Philosophiam Criticam, Vol. I. Præf. Auctoris Posterior, p. xxxvi. Latine vertit Fred. Born. Lipsiæ, 1796.) And by one of Kant's commentators, his name is advantageously contrasted with that of David Hume : “ Est autem scientifica methodus aut doginatica, aut sceptica. Primi generis auctorem celeberrimum Wolfium, alterius Davidum Humium nominâsse sat est.” (Expositio Philos. Critice. Auctore Conrado Friderico a Schmidt-Phiseldek, Hafniæ, 1796.)
profess to follow implicitly the opinions of his master, and, on some points, laid claim to peculiar ideas of his own; but the spirit of his philosophy is essentially the same with that of Leibnitz,* and the particulars in which he dissented from him are too trifling to deserve any notice in the history of literature.f
The high reputation so long maintained by Wolfius in Germany suggested, at different times, to the book-makers at Paris, the idea of introducing into France the philosophy. which he taught. Hence a number of French abridgments of his logical and metaphysical writings. But an attempt, which bad failed in the hands of Madame du Chatelet, was not likely to succeed with the admirers and abridgers of Wolfius. I
* On the great question of Free-Will, Wolfius adopted implicitly the principles of the Theodicæa; considering man merely in the light of a machine ; but (with the author of that work) dignifying this machine by the epithet spiritual. This language, which still very prevalent among German philosophers, may be regarded as a relic of the doctrines of Leibnitz and of Wolfius; and affords an additional proof of the difficulty of eradicating errors sanctioned by illustrious and popular names.
When the system of Pre-established Harmony was first introduced by Wolfius into the University of Halle, it excited an alarm which had very nearly been attend. ed with fatal consequences to the professor. The following anecdote on the subject is told by Euler : “ Lorsque du temps du feu Roi de Prusse, M. Wolf enseignoit à Halle le système de l'Harinonie Pré-établie, le Roi s'informa de cette doctrine, qui faisoit grand bruit alors; et un courtisan répondit à sa Majesté, que tous les soldats, selon cette doctrine, n'étoient que des machines; que quand il en désertoit c'étoit une suite nécessaire de leur structure, et qu’on avoit tort par conséquent de les punir, comme on l'auroit si on punissoit une machine pour avoir produit tel ou tel mouvement. Le Roi se facha si fort sur ce rapport, qu'il donna ordre de chasser M. Wolf de Halle sous peine d'être pendu s'il s'y trouvoit au bout de 24 heures. Le philosophe se refugia alors à Marbourg, où je lui ai parlé peu de temps après.” (Lettres à une Princesse d'Allemagne, Lettre 81me.) We are informed by Condorcet, that some reparation was afterwards made for this injustice by Frederic the Great. “ Le Roi de Prusse, qui ne croit pas pourtant à l'Harmonie Pré-établie, s'est empressé de rendre justice à Wolf dès le premier jour de son règne.”
† Among other novelties affected by Wolfius, was a new modification of the Theory of the Monads. A slight outline of it, but quite sufficient, I should suppose, to gratify the curiosity of most readers, may be found Euler's Letters to a German Princess.
| To what was before remarked, of the opposition in matters of philosophy between the taste of the French and that of the Germans, I shall here add a short pas. sage from an author intimately acquainted with the literature of both nations.
* L'école Allemande reconnoit Leibnitz pour chef. Son fameux disciple Wolf régna dans les universités pendant près d'un demi siècle avec une autorité non contestée. On connoit en France cette philosophie par un grand nombre d'abrégés dont quelques-uns sont faits par des auteurs qui seuls auroient suffi pour lui donner de la célébrité.
“ Malgré l'appui de tous ces noms, jamais en France cette philosopie ne s'est soutenue même quelques instans. La profondeur apparente des idées, l'air d'ensemble et de système, n'ont jamais pu y suppléer à ce qui a paru lui manquer pour en faire une doctrine solide et digne d'être accueillie. Outre quelque défaut de clarté, qui probablement en a écarté des esprits pour qui cette qualité de style et de la pensée