صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

irresistible conviction, that Space is necessarily existent, and that its annihilation is impossible ; nay, it appears to me to be also accompanied with an irresistible conviction, that Space cannot possibly be extended in more than three dimensions. Call either of these propositions in question, and you open a' door to universal scepticism.

B. I can extract no meaning from this, but the nugatory proposition, that our conception of Space leads us to consider as the place in which all things are comprehended.

C. “ The conception of Space, therefore, is a pure intuition.” This follows as a necessary corollary (according to Kant's own definition) from Prop. A. What is to to be understood by the clause which asserts, that Space is the fundamental form of every external sensation, it is not easy to conjecture. Does it imply merely that the conception of Space is necessarily involved in all our notions of things external? In this case, it only repeats over, in different and most inaccurate terms, the last clause of Prop. B. What can be more loose and illogical than the phrase external sensation ?

D. That Space is neither a substance, nor an accident, nor a relation, may be safely granted ; but does it follow from this that it is nothing objective, or, in other words, that it is a mere creature of the imagination? This, however, would seem to be the idea Kant; and yet I cannot reconcile it with what he says in Prop. E., that the conception of Space is the foundation of all the truth we ascribe to our perceptions of external objects. (The author's own words are—"omnis veritatis in sensualitate esternâ fundamentum!") *

Upon the whole, it appears to me, that, among these various propositions, there are some which are quite unintelligible; that others assume, as first principles, doctrines which have been disputed by many of our most eminent philosophers; that others, again, seem to aim at involving plain and obvious truths in darkness and mystery; and that not one is expressed with the simplicity and precision which are the natural results of clear and accurate thinking. În considering time and space as the forms of all sensible phenomena, does Kant mean any thing more but this,that we necessarily refer every sensible phenomenon to some point of space, or to some instant of time? If this was really his meaning, he has only repeated over, in obscurer language, the following propositions of Newton: “ Út ordo partium temporis est immutabilis, sic etiam ordo partium spatii. Moveantur hæc de locis suis, et movebuntur (ut ita dicam) de seipsis. Nam tempora et spatia sunt sui ipsorum et rerum omnium quasi loca. In tempore, quoad ordinem successionis ; in spatio, quoad ordinem situs, locantur universa. De illorum essentiâ est ut sint loca : et loca primaria moveri absurdum est."

I have quoted this passage, not from any desire of displaying the superiority of Newton over Kant, but chiefly to show how very nearly the powers of the former sink to the same level with those of the latter, when directed to inquiries unfathomable by the human faculties. What abuse of words can be greater than to say, That neither the parts of time nor the parts of space can be moved from their places ? t


* Mr. Nitsch has remarked this difficulty, and has attempted to remove it. most essential objection,” he observes, " to Kant's system is, that it leads to scepticism; because it maintains, that the figures in which we see the external objects clothed are not inherent in those objects, and that consequently space is something within, and not without the mind.” (pp. 144, 145.) “ It may be farther objected," he adds, “ that, if there be no external space, there is also no external world. But this is concluding by far too much from these premises. If there be no external space, it will follow, that we are not authorized to assign extension to external things, but there will follow no more.” (p. 149.) Mr. Nitsch then proceeds to obviate these objections ; but his reply is far from satisfactory, and is indeed not less applicable to the doctrine of Berkeley than to that of Kaut. This point, however, I do not mean to argue here. The concessions which Nitsch has made are quité sufficient for my present purpose. They serve at least to satisfy my own mind, that I have not misrepresented Kant's meaning.

† Was it not to avoid the palpable incongruity of this language that Kant was led to substitute the word forms instead of places; the former word not seeming to be so obviously inapplicable as the latter to time and space in common; or, to speak more correctly, being, from its extreme vagueness, equally unmeaning when applied to both?

In the Principia of Newton, however, this incidental discussion is but a spot on the sun. In the Critique of Pure Reason, it is a fair specimen of the rest of the work, and forms one of the chief pillars of the whole system, both metaphysical and moral.

Note (T t.) p. 371. The following quotation will account for the references which I have made to Mr. Nitsch among the expounders of Kant's Philosophy. It will also serve to show that the Critique of Pure Reason has still some admirers in England, not less enthusiastic than those it had formerly in Germany.

“ In submitting this fourth Treatise on the Philosophy of Kant to the reader," says the author of these articles in the Encyclopædia Londinensis, “ I cannot deny myself the satisfaction of publicly acknowledging the great assistance which I have derived in my literary pursuits, from my excellent and highly valued friend Mr. Hen. ry Richter. To him I am indebted for the clearness and perspicuity with which the thoughts of the immortal Kant have been conveyed to the public. Indeed, his comprehensive knowledge of the system, as well as his enthusiastic admiration of its general truth, render him a most able and desirable co-operator. Should, therefore, any good result to mankind from our joint labors in the display of this vast and profound system, he is justly entitled to his share of the praise. It is with sincere pleas. ure that I reflect upou that period, now two and-twenty years ago, when we first studied together under the same master, Frederic Augustus Nitsch, who originally imported the seeds of TRANSCENDENTAL Philosophy from its native country, to plant thein in our soil; and though, as is usually the case, many of those seeds were scattered by the wind, I trust that a sufficient number have taken root to maintain the growth of this vigorous and fourishing plant, till the time shall come, when, by its general cultivation, England may be enabled to enrich other nations with the most perfect specimens of its produce. Professor Nitsch, who thus bestowed upon our country her first attainments in the department of Pure Science, has paid the debt of nature. I confess it is some reflection upon England, that she did not foster and protect this immediate disciple of the father of philosophy; but the necessities of this learned and illustrious man unfortunately compelled him to seek that subsistence elsewhere, which was withheld from him here. At Rostock, about the year 1813, this valuable member of society, and perfect master of the philosophy he undertook to teach, entered upon his immortal career as a reward for his earthly servi. ces. It is with the most heartfelt satisfaction that I add my mite of praise to his revered memory. But for him, I might ever have remained in the dark regions of sophistry and uncertainty.”

Note (U u.) p. 381. Among the secondary mischiefs resulting from the temporary popularity of Kant, none is more to be regretted than the influence of his works on the habits, both of thinking and of writing, of soine very eminent men, who have since given to the world histories of philosophy. That of Tenneman in particular (a work said to possess great merit) would appear to have been vitiated by this unfortunate bias in the views of its author. A very competent judge has lately said of it, that “it affords, as far as it is completed, the most accurate, the most minute, and the most rational view we yet possess of the different systems of philosophy; but that the critical philosophy being chosen as the vantage ground from whence the survey of former systems is taken, the continual refference in Kant's own language to his peculiar doctrines, renders it frequently impossible for those who have not studied the dark works of this modern Heraclitus to understand the strictures of the historian on the systems even of Aristotle or Plato.” (See the article BRUCKER in this Supplement.) We are told by the same writer, that " among the learned of Germany, Brucker has never enjoyed a very distinguished reputation.” This I can very easily credit, but I am more inclined to interpret it to the disadvantage of the German taste, than to that of the historian. Brucker, indeed, is not distinguished by any extraordinary measure of depth or of acuteness; but in industry, fidelity, and sound judgment, he has few superiors ; qualities of infinitely greater value in the undertaker of a historical work, than that passion for systematical refinement, which is so apt to betray the best-intentioned writers into false glosses on the opinions they record.

When the above passage was written, I had not seen the work of Buhle. I have since had an opportunity of looking into the French translation of it, published at Paris in 1816 ; and I must frankly acknowledge, that I have seldom met with a greater disappointment. The account there given of the Kantian system, to which I turned with peculiar eagerness, has, if possible, involved, to my apprehension, in additional cbscurity, that inysterious doctrine. From this, however, I did not feel myself entitled to form an estimate of the author's merits as a philosophical historian, till I had read some other articles of which I considered myself as better qualified to judge. The following short extract will, without the aid of any comment, enable such of my readers as know anything of the literary history of Scotland, to form an opinion upon this point for themselves.

“ Reid n'attaqua les systèmes de ses prédécesseurs et notamment celui de Hume, que parce qu'il se croyait convaincu de leur défaut de fondement. Mais un autre antagoniste, .non moins célèbre, du scepticisme de Hume, fut, en outre, guidé par la haine qu'ila voit vouée à son illustre compatriote, lequel lui répondit avec beaucoup d'aigreur et d'animosité. Jaines Beattie, professeur de morale à Edimbourg, puis ensuite, de logique et de morale à l'Université d'Aberdeen, obtint la préférence sur Hume lorsqu'il fut question de remplir la chair vacante à Edimbourg. Cette circonstance devint sans doute la principale source de l'inimitié que les deux savans conçurent l'un pour l'autre, et qui influa même sur le ton qu'ils employérent dans les raisonnemens par lesquels ils se combattirent.” (Toine V. p. 235.)

To this quotation may I be pardoned for adding a few sentences relative to myself?“L'ouvrage de Dugald Stewart, intitulé, Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Mind, est un syncrétisme des opinions de Hartley et de Reid. Stewart borne absolument la connoissance, tant de l'âme que des choses extérieures, à ce que le sens commun nous en apprend, et croit pouvoir ainsi mettre l'étude de la métaphysique à l'abri du reproche de rouler sur des choses qui dépassent la sphère de notre intelligence, ou qui sont tout-à-fait inutiles dans la pratique de la vie.

Les chapitres suivans renferment le développement du principe de l'association des idées. Ils sont presqu'entièrement écrits l'après Hartley. Stewart fait dériver de ce principe toutes les facultés intellectuelles et pratiques de l'homme." (Tom. V. pp. 330, 331.)

Of the discrimination displayed by Buhle in the classification of systeins and of authors, the title prefixed to his 19th chapter may serve as a specimen : “ Philoso. phy of Condillac, of Helvetius, of Baron d'Holbach, of Robinet, of Bonnet, of Montesquieu, of Burlamaqui, of Vattel, and of Reid.

But the radical defect of Buhle's work is the almost total want of references to original authors. We are presented only with the general results of the author's reading, without any guide to assist us in confirming his conclusions when right, or in correcting them when wrong. This circumstance is of itself sufficient to annihilate the value of any historical composition.

Sismondi, in mentioning the History of Modern Literature by Bouterwek, takes occasion to pay a compliment (and, I have no doubt, a very deserved one) to Gerinan scholars in general; observing that he has executed his task —"avec une étendue d'érudition, et une loyauté dans la manière d'en faire profiter ses lecteurs, qui semblent propres aux savans Allemands." (De la Litt. du Midi de l'Europe, Tom. I. p. 13, à Paris, 1813.) I regret that my ignorance of the German language has prevented me from profiting by a work of which Sismondi has expressed so favorable an opinion ; and still more, that the only history of philosophy from the pen of a contemporary German scholar, which I have had access to consult, should form so remarkable an exception to Sisinondi's observation.

The contents of the preceding note lay me under the necessity, in justice to my. sell, of taking some notice of the following remark on the first part of this Dissertation, by an anonymous critic. (See Quarterly Review, Vol. XVII. p. 42.)

“ In the plan which Mr. Stewart has adopted, if he has not consulted his strength, he has at least coasulted his case ; for supposing a person to have the requisite talent and information, the task which our author has performed, is one which, with the historical abstracts of Buhle or Tenneman, cannot be supposed to have required any very laborious meditation."

On the insinuation contained in the foregoing passage, I abstain from offering any comment. I have only to say, that it is now, for the first time (suinmer of 1820), that I have seen the work of Buble ; and that I have never yet had an opportunity of seeing that of Tenneman. From what I have found in the one, and from what I have heard of the other, I am strongly inclined to suspect, that when the anonymous critic wrote the above sentence, he was not less ignorant than myself of the works of these two historians. Nor can I refrain from adding (which I do with perfect confidence), that no person competent to judge on such a subject can read with attention this Historical Sketch, without perceiving that its merits and defects, whatever they may be, are at least all iny own.

Note (V v.) p. 387. Of the Scottish authors who turned their attention to metaphysical studies, prior to the Union of the two Kingdoms, I know of none so eminent as George Dalgarno of Aberdeen, author of two works, both of them strongly marked with sousd philosophy, as well as with original genius. The one published at London, 1660, is entitled, “ Ars signorum, vulgo character universalis et lingua philosophica, qua poterunt homines diversissimorum idiomatum, spatio duarum septimanarum, omnia animi sui sensa (in rebus familiaribus) non minus intelligibiliter sive scribendo, sive loquendo, mutuo communicare, quam linguis propriis vernaculis. Præterea, hinc etiam poterunt juvenes, philosophiæ principia, et veram logicæ prarin, citius et facilius multo imbibere, quam ex vulgaribus philosophorum scriptis." The other work of Dalgarno is entitled, “ Didascolocophus, or the Deaf and Dumo Man's Tutor.Printed at Oxford, 1630. I have given some account of the former in the notes at the end of first volume of the Philosophy of the Human Mind; and of the latter in a Memoir published in Vol. VII. of the Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. As they are now become extremely rare, and would together forin a very small octavo volume, I cannot help thinking that a bookseller, who should reprint them, would be fully indemnified by the sale. The fate of Dalgarno will be hard, indeed, if, in addition to the unjust neglect he experienced from his contemporaries, the proofs he has left of his philosophical talents shall be suffered to sink into total oblivion.

Lord Stair's Physiologia Nova Experimentalis (published at Leyden in 1686) is also worthy of notice in the literary bistory of Scotland. Although it bears few marks of the eminent talents which distinguished the author, both as a lawyer and as a statesman, it discovers a very extensive acquaintance with the metaphysical as well as with the physical doctrines, which were chiefly in vogue at that period; more particularly with the leading doctrines of Gassendi, Descartes, and Malebranche. Many acute and some important strictures are made on the errors of all the three, and at the same time complete justice is done to their merits; the writer every where manifesting an independence of opinion and a spirit of free inquiry, very uncommon among the philosophers of the seventeenth century. The work is dedicated to the Royal Society of London, of the utility of which institution, in promoting experimental knowledge, he appears to have been fully aware.

The limits of a vote will not permit me to enter into farther details concerning the state of philosophy in Scotland, during the interval between the Union of the Crowns and that of the Kingdoms. The circumstances of the country were indeed peculiarly unfavorable to it. But memorials still exist of a few individuals, sufficient to show, that the philosophical taste, which has so remarkably distinguished our countrymen during the eighteenth century, was in some measure an inheritance from their immediate predecessors. Leibnitz, I think, somewhere mentions the number of learned Scotchmen by whom he was visited in the course of their travels. To one of them (Mr. Burnet of Kemney) he has addressed a most interesting letter, dated in 1697, on the general state of learning and science in Europe ; opening his mind on the various topics which he introduces, with a freedom and confidence highly honorable to the attainments and character of his correspondent. Dr. Ar buthnot, who was born about the time of the Restoration, may serve as a fair specimen of the very

liberal education which was then to be had in some of the Scottish Universities. The large share which he is allowed to have contributed to the Memoirs of Martinus Scriblerus abundantly attests the variety of his learning, and the just estimate he had formed of the philosophy of the schools ; and in one or two passages, where he glances at the errors of his contemporaries, an attentive and intelligent reader will trace, amid all his pleasantry, a metaphysical depth and sound. ness which seem to belong to a later period.- Is there no Arbuthnot now, to chastise the follies of our craniologists ?

Note (W w.) p. 406. The letter which gives occasion to this note was written twenty years after the publication of the Treatise of Human Nature. As it relates, however, to the history of Mr. Hume's studies previous to that publication, I consider this as the proper place for introducing it. The Dialogue to which the letter refers, was plainly that which appeared after Mr. Hume's death, under the title of Dialogues on Natural Religion. “ Dear Sir,

Ninewells, March 19, 1751. “ You would perceive by the sample I have given you, that I make Cleanthes the hero of the dialogue. Whatever you can think of to strengthen that side of the argument will be most acceptable to me. Any propensity you imagine I have to the other side, crept in upon me against my will, and it is not long ago that I burned an old manuscript book, wrote before I was twenty, which contained, page after page, the gradual progress of my thoughts on that head. It begun with an anxious search after arguments to confirm the common opinion; doubts stole in, dissipated, returned, were again dissipated, returned again, and it was a perpetual struggle of a restless imagination against inclination, perhaps against reason.

“I have often thought that the best way of composing a dialogue would be for two persons that are of different opinions about any question of importance, to write alternately the different parts of the discourse, and reply to each other. By this means that vulgar error would be avoided of putting nothing but nonsense into the mouth of the adversary; and, at the same time, a variety of character and genius being upheld, would make the whole look more natural and unaffected. Had it been my good fortune to live near you, I should have taken on me the character of Philo in the dialogue, which you ’II own I could have supported naturally enough; and you would not have been averse to that of Cleanthes. I believe, too, we could both of us have kept our tempers very well: only you have not reached an absolute philosophical indifference on these points. What danger can ever come from ingenious reasoning and inquiry? The worst speculative sceptic ever I knew was a much better man than the best superstitious devotee and bigot. I must inform you, too, that this was the way of thinking of the ancients on this subject. If a man made profession of philosophy, whatever his sect was, they always expected to find more regularity in his life and manners than in those of the ignorant and illiterate. There is a remarkable passage of Appian to this purpose. That historian observes, that, notwithstanding the established prepossession in favor of learning, yet some philosophers who have been trusted with absolute power have very much abused it; and he instances in Critias, the most violent of the Thirty, and Aristion who governed Athens in the time of Sylla. But I find, upon inquiry, that Critias was a professed Atheist, and Aristion an Epicurean, which is little or nothing different; and yet Appian wonders at their corruption as much as if they had been Stoics or Platonists. A modern zealot would have thought that corruption unavoidable.

“ I could wish that Cleanthes' argument could be so analyzed as to be rendered quite formal and regular. The propensity of the mind towards it, unless that propensity were as strong and universal as that to believe in our senses and experience, will still, I am afraid, be esteemed a suspicious foundation. 'T is here I wish for your assistance. We must endeavour to prove that this propensity is somewhat different from our inclination to find our own figures in the clouds, our face in the moon, our passions and sentiments even in inanimate matter. Such an inclination may and ought to be controlled, and can never be a legitimate ground of assent.

“The instances I have chosen for Cleanthes are, I hope, tolerably happy; and the confusion in which I represent the sceptic seems natural. But, si quid novisti rectius, &c.

“ You ask me, if the idea of cause and effect is nothing but vicinity, (you should have said constant vicinity or regular conjunction)---1 would gladly know whence is that farther idea of causation against which you argue ?' The question is pertinent; but I hope I have answered it. We feel, after the constant conjunction, an easy transition from one idea to the other, or a connexion in the imagination; and, as it is usual for us to transfer our own feelings to the objects on which they are dependent, we attach the internal sentiment to the external objects. If no single instances of cause and effect appear to have any connexion, but only repeated similar ones, you will find yourself obliged to have recourse to this theory.

“I am sorry our correspondence should lead us into these abstract speculations. I have thought, and read, and composed very little on such questions of late. Morals, politics, and literature, have employed all my time; but still the other topics I must think more curiouş, important, entertaining, and useful, than any geometry VOL. VI.


« السابقةمتابعة »