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self freshly to experiment and particulars, of him were better things to be hoped.”
What Bacon has here recommended, Descartes attempted to execute; and so exact is the coincidence of his views on this fundamental point with those of his predecessor, that it is with difficulty I can persuade myself that he had never read Bacon's works.* In the prosecution of this undertaking, the first steps of Descartes are peculiarly interesting and instructive ; and it is these alone which merit our attention at present. As for the details of his system, they are now curious only as exhibiting an amusing contrast to the extreme rigor of the principle from whence the author sets out; a contrast so very striking, as fully to justify the epigrammatic saying of D'Alembert, that " Descartes began with doubting of everything, and ended in believing that he had left nothing unexplained.”
Among the various articles of common belief which Descartes proposed to subject to a severe scrutiny, he enumerates particularly, the conclusiveness of mathematical demonstration ; the existence of God; the existence of the material world ; and even the existence of his own body. The only thing which appeared to him certain and incontrovertible, was his own existence; by which he repeatedly reminds us, we are to understand merely the existence of his mind, abstracted from all consideration of the material organs connected with it. About every other proposition, he conceived that doubts might reasonably be entertained; but to suppose the non-existence of that which thinks, at the very moment it is conscious of thinking, appeared to him a contradiction in terms. From this single postulatum, accordingly, he took his departure ; resolved to admit nothing as a philosophical truth, which could not be deduced from it by a chain of logical reasoning. +
See Note (L.) † “ Sic autem rejicientes illa omnia, de quibus aliquo modo possumus dubitare, ac etiam falsa esse fingentes, facile quidem supponimus nullum esse Deum, nullum cælum, pulla corpora; nosque etiam ipsos, non habere manus, nec pedes, nec denique ullum corpus ; non autem ideo nos, qui talia cogitamus, nihil esse ; repugnat enim, ut putemus, id quod cogitat, eo ipso tempore quo cogitat, non existere. Ac proinde hæc cognitio, ego cogito, ergo sum, est omnium
prima et certissima, quæ cuilibet ordine philosphanti occurrat.” Princip. Philos. Pars I. $7.
Having first satisfied himself of his own existence, his next step was to inquire, how far his perceptive and intellectual faculties were entitled to credit. For this
purpose, he begins with offering a proof of the existence and attributes of God; truths which he conceived to be necessarily involved in the idea he was able to form of a perfect, self-existent, and eternal being. His reasonings on this point it would be useless to state.
It is sufficient to observe, that they led him to conclude, that God cannot possibly be supposed to deceive his creatures ; and therefore, that the intimations of our senses, and the decisions of our reason, are to be trusted to with entire confidence, wherever they afford us clear and distinct ideas of their respective objects. *
As Descartes conceived the existence of God (next to the existence of his own mind) to be the most indisputable of all truths, and rested his confidence in the conclusions of human reason entirely on his faith in the divine veracity, it is not surprising that he should have rejected the argument from final causes, as superfluous and unsatisfactory. To have availed himself of its assistance, would not only have betrayed a want of confidence in what he professed to regard as much more certain than any mathematical theorem ; but would obviously have exposed him to the charge of first appealing to the divine attributes in proof of the authority of his faculties; and afterwards, of appealing to these faculties, in proof of the existence of God.
* The substance of Descartes's argument on these fundamental points, is thus briefly recapitulated by hi!nself in the conclusion of his third Meditation :-“ Dum in meipsum mentis aciem converto, non modo intelligo me esse rem incompletam, et ab alio dependentem, remque ad majora et meliora indefinite aspirantem, sed simul etiam intelligo i!lum, a quo pendeo, majora ista omnia non indefinite et potentiâ tantum, sed reipsâ infinite in se habere, atque ita Deum esse ; totaque vis argumenti in eo est, quod agnoscam fieri non posse ut existem talis naturæ qualis sum, nempe ideam Dei in me habens, nisi reverâ Deus etiam existeret, Deus, inquam, ille idem cujus idea in me est, hoc est, habens omnes illas perfectiones quas ego non comprehendere sed quocunque modo attingere cogitatione possum, et nullis planè defectibus obnoxius. Ex his satis patet, illum fallacem esse non posse ; omnem enim fraudem et deceptionem à defectu aliquo pendere lumine naturali manifestum est."
The above argument for the existence of God, (very improperly called by some foreigners an argument à priori), was long considered by the most eminent men in Europe as quite demonstrative. For my own part, although I do not think that it is by any means so level to the apprehension of common inquirers, as the argument from the marks of design every where manifested in the universe, I am still less inclined to reject it as altogether unworthy of attention. It is far from being so metaphysically abstruse as the reasonings of Newton and Clarke, founded on our conceplions of space and of time ; nor would it appear, perhaps, less logical and conclusive than that celebrated demonstration, if it were properly unfolded, and stated in more simple and popular terms. The two arguments, however, are in no respect exclusive of each other; and I have always thought, that, by combining them together, a proof of the point in question might be formed, more impressive and luminous than is to be obtained from either, when stated apart.
It is wonderful, that it should have escaped the penetration of this most acute' thinker, that a vicious circle of the same description is involved in every appeal to the intellectual powers, in proof of their own credibility ; and that unless this credibility be assumed as unquestionable, the farther exercise of human reason is altogether nugatory. The evidence for the existence of God seems to have appeared to Descartes too irresistible and overwhelming, to be subjected to those logical canons which apply to all the other conclusions of the understanding. *
Extravagant and hopeless as these preliminary steps must now appear, they had nevertheless an obvious tendency to direct the attention of the author, in a singular degree, to the phenomena of thought ; and to train him to those habits of abstraction from external objects, which, to the bulk of mankind, are next to impossible. In this way, he was led to perceive, with the evidence of consciousness, that the attributes of Mind were still more clearly and distinctly knowable than those of Matter; and that, in studying the former, so far from attempting to explain them by analogies borrowed from the latter, our chief aim ought to be, to banish as much as possible from the fancy, every analogy, and even every analogical expression, which, by inviting the attention abroad, might divert it from its proper business at home. In one word, that the only right method of philosophizing on this subject was comprised in the old Stoical precept (understood in a sense somewhat different from that originally annex
How painful is it to recollect, that the philosopher who had represented his faith in the serurity of God, as the sole foundation of his conlidence in the demonstrations of mathematica, was accused and persecuted by his contemporaries as an atheist; and that, lo), in the same country (Holland) where, for more than half a century after his death, his doctrines were to be taught in all the universities with a blind hoiatry! A zeal without knowledge, and the influence of those earthly passions, from which even Protestant divines are not always exempted, may, it is to be hoped, go far to account for this inconsistency and injustice, without adopting the unchar. ible in-inuation of D'Alembert: “ Malgré toute la sagacité qu'il avoit employée pour prouver l'existence de Dieu, il fut accusé de la nier par des ministres, qui peutêtre ne la croyoient pas." VOL. VI.
ed to it), Nec te quæsiveris extra. A just
A just conception of this rule, and a steady adherence to its spirit, constitutes the groundwork of what is properly called the Experimental Philosophy of the Human Mind. It is thus that all our facts relating to Mind must be ascertained ; and it is only upon facts thus attested by our own consciousness, that any just theory of Mind can be reared.
Agreeably to these views, Descartes, was, I think the first who clearly saw, that our idea of Mind is not direct, but relative ;-relative to the various operations of which we are conscious. What am I? he asks, in his second Meditation : A thinking being,—that is, a being doubting, knowing, affirming, denying, consenting, refusing, susceptible of pleasure and of pain.* Of all
Of all these things I might have had complete experience, without any previous acquaintance with the qualities and laws of matter; and therefore it is impossible that the study of matter can avail me aught in the study of myself. This, accordingly, Descartes laid down as a first principle; that nothing comprehensible by the imagination can be at all subservient to the knowledge of Mind; and that the sensible images involved in all our common forms of speaking concerning its operations, are to be guarded against with the most anxious care, as tending to confound, in our apprehensions, two classes of phenomena, which it is of the last importance to distinguish accurately from each other.t
*“Non sum compages illa membrorum, quæ corpus humanum appellatur: non sum etiam tenuis aliquis aër istis membris infusus; non ventus, non ignis, non vapor, non halitus.—Quid igitur sum res cogitans; quid est hoc: nempe dubitans, intelligens, affirmans, negans, volens, nolens,” &c. Med. Sec.
† “ Itaque cognosco, nihil eorum quæ possum Imaginatione comprehendere, ad hanc quam de me habeo notitiam pertinere ; mentemque ab illis diligentissime esse avocandam, ut suam ipsa naturam quàm distinctissime percipiat. Ibid. A few sentences before, Descartes explains with precision in what sense Imagination is here to be understood. Nihil aliud est imaginari quam rei corporeæ figuram seu imaginem contemplari.”
The following extracts from a book published at Cambridge in 1660 (precisely ten years after the death of Descartes,) while they furnish a useful comment on some of the above remarks, may serve to show, how completely the spirit of the Cartesian philosophy of Mind had been seized, even then, by some of the members of that university.
“ The souls of men exercising themselves first of all runou repo@atıxm, as the Greek philosopher expresseth himself, merely by a progressive kind of motion, spending themselves about bodily and material acts, and conversing only with sensible things; they are apt to acquire such deep stamps of material phantasms to themselves, that they cannot imagine their own Being to be any other than material and
To those who are familiarly acquainted with the writings of Locke, and of the very few among his successors who have thoroughly entered into the spirit of his philosophy, the foregoing observations may not appear to possess much either of originality or of importance; but when first given to the world, they formed the greatest step ever made in the science of Mind, by a single individual. What a contrast do they exhibit, not only to the discussions of the schoolmen, but to the analogical theories of Hobbes at the very same period ! and how often have they been since lost sight of, notwithstanding the clearest speculative conviction of their truth and importance, by Locke himself, and by the greatest part of his professed followers! Had they been duly studied and understood by Mr. Horne Tooke, they would have furnished him with a key for solving those etymological riddles, which, although mistaken by many of his contemporaries for profound philosophical discoveries, derive, in fact, the whole of their mystery, from the strong bias of shallow reasoners to relapse into the same scholastic errors, from which Descartes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Reid, have so successfully labored to emancipate the mind.
If any thing can add to our admiration of a train of thought manifesting in its author so unexampled a triumph over the strongest prejudices of sense, it is the extraordinary circumstance of its having first occurred to a young man, who had spent the years commonly devoted to academical study, amid the dissipation and tumult of camps.
dirisible, though of a fine ethereal nature. It is not possible for us well to know what our souls are, but only by their xovýous xvxhixal, their circular or reflex motions, and converse with themselves, which can only steal from them their own secrets." Smith's Select Discourses, pp. 65, 66.
"If we reflect but upon our own souls, how manifestly do the notions of reason, freedom, perception, and the like, offer themselves to us, whereby we may know a thousand times more distinctly what our souls are, than what our bodies are. For the former we know, by an immediate converse with ourselves, and a distinct sense of their operations; whereas all our knowledge of the body is little better than merely historical, which we gather up by scraps and piecemeal, from more doubtful and uncertain experiments which we make of them; but the notions which we bave of a mind, i.e. something within us that thinks, apprehends, reasons, and discourses, are so clear and distinct from all those notions which we can fasten upon a body, that we can easily conceive that if all body-being in the world were destroyed, yet we might then as well subsist as now we do.” Ibid. p. 98.
• Descartes porta les armes, d'abord en Hollande, sous le célèbre Maurice de Nassan ; de-là en Allemagne, sous Maximilien de Bavière, au commencement de la guerre de trente ans. Il passa ensuite au service de l'Empereur Ferdinand II. pour