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A STUDENT'S "HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY."' 1
HIS volume is deserving of a double welcome. In the first
place it has decided merits, which might give it a claim to a place of its own even among the voluminous literatureoriginal treatises, special monographs, and translations—dealing with the history of philosophy, already accessible to the English reader. But more than this, it supplies the need, long felt by both teachers and students, for an elementary work on the subject which should exhibit in a brief, yet clear and comprehensive form, the main lines of the development of philosophic thought, and epitomise and trace the general connection between the great systems which are the outcome of an effort towards a collective solution of the great problems of human life and human destiny. Up to the present, for most beginners, the only available text book has been Stirling's translation of Schwegler's hand book, a work which, whatever its value to the advanced student, is entirely unsuited to the needs of those commencing the study of the subject. The impenetrable obscurity of the German original, so far from having light thrown upon it by its translator (who was himself steeped in the Hegelian philosophy and all its unsouth phraseology), was, if possible, rendered still more obscure; and it is painful to reflect on the number of eager students, who must have contracted, at the outset, an incurable distaste for philosophical reading by having this adamantine treatise placed in their hands. To be sure there are many other histories of philosophy in txistence; and many admirable examples of German erudition and German thoroughness have recently been presented in a sufficiently attractive English garb. It is sufficient to mention the works of Neberweg, Erdmann, Windelband, Weber, and Hoffding, all standard works, and many of which have been nearly as well thumbed in the English version as in the original. None of these writings are, however, either intended for, or easily adaptable to,
1 A Student's History of Philosophy, by Arthur Kenyon Rogers, Ph. D. New York : The Macmillan Co,
the needs of beginners, and Mr. Rogers is entirely right in thinking that there is a place for a smaller and less ambitious work alongside of the great treatises mentioned. The technicalities and wealth of detail of such a book as, e.g., Erdmann's or Windelband's, are bound to confuse the beginner, no matter how clearly they may be put. Nor is it either necessary or desirable that the young student should be compelled to master at starting all the important facts and all the lines of influence from one philosopher to another, an acquaintance with which is rightly expected from those more advanced.
The plan of Mr. Rogers’ volume is therefore unexceptionable; it remains to see how he has carried it out. In a work of this kind, which is necessarily selective, the chief difficulty is to know what to omit. The principles by which Mr. Rogers has been guided in deciding upon omissions seem to be the exclusion of unnecessary technicalities, and the directing of the student's attention to the main problems of philosophy themselves and the spirit in which they are approached by the great system makers. Here and there a name is mentioned, chiefly on account of some literary or historical interest attaching to it, but on the whole only the more important and influential. thinkers receive detailed treatment, minor names being so far as possible grouped about these. Thus the learner is gradually familiarised with the general course of speculative development, and is conducted one after another to the various points of view from which philosophical problems have been historically regarded. A certain thinness and sketchiness of treatment is the, perhaps inevitable, result of such an attempt at selection, and no doubt opinions will differ as to the amount of judgment displayed by Mr. Rogers in the relative space assigned to the discussion of various topics. But as a class book, in the hands of a capable teacher, we have nothing but praise for the volume. In particular we would strongly recommend it as a text-book to candidates for the B. A. (pass) degree in mental and moral science of the Royal University of Ireland and similar examinations.
After a brief sketch of early Greek philosophy--the account of Heracletus is specially noteworthy-Mr. Rogers proceeds to give a fresh and sympathetic account of the Sophists, in which the causes of the rise of Sophistry and its good and evil tendencies are carefully summed up, and the real influence of
these thinkers on the subsequent development of speculation is satisfactorily exhibited. The treatment of Socrates is a little vague, and sufficient emphasis is scarcely laid upon the real contribution to thought contained in his famous theories of Definition and Induction. We notice that Mr. Rogers follows the usual custom of treating apart the theories of the Megarians, though in truth their existence as a distinct school seems largely due to the historians of philosophy.
But it is with the discussion of the systematic philosophers, Plato and Aristotle, that Mr. Rogers first enters seriously upon his task, and it is by his presentation of their doctrines that his qualifications as a historian and his powers of lucid interpretation can best be estimated. In dealing with Plato he begins with an exposition of his ethical philosophy, and this procedure, though novel, seems scarcely justifiable, and renders the task of grasping the central theories of the Platonic system somewhat difficult to the beginner. It is, of course, true that Plato inherited the ethical problem from Socrates, and it is, perhaps, not too much to say that in the development of his own thought ethical questions first presented themselves, and that it was by reflection upon the meaning of morality and its presuppositions that Plato was led to a thorough sifting of its metaphysical foundations, and hence to the formulation of his metaphysical system.
But, at the same time, the Platonic ethics have their roots in metaphysics, and are, indeed, but a vigorous application of metaphysical principles to the solution of ethical problems, and can, therefore, be fully understood only after an acquaintance with these principles themselves. In his treatment of the Ideal Theory Mr. Rogers hesitates a good deal, and is scarcely dogmatic enough to be of real assistance to elementary students. No doubt just now dogmatism of any kind is unwise in treating of Plato's views in this connection. Until quite recently the accredited interpretation was that Plato bestowed upon the Ideas an independent and separate existence apart from the phenomena in which they are manifested to us, and this view was based upon many passages in his own writings backed by the clear and emphatic testimony of Aristotle. But modern criticism has done much to upset this simple and plausible interpretation.
For one thing the labours of Professor Lewis Campbell and
M. Lutoslawskie have gone far to settle the order in which the Platonic Dialogues were composed, and this, not upon any arbitrary theory of their logical development, but upon definite and unimpeachable philosophical grounds, and have thus removed an important obstacle to the understanding of Plato. An increasing number of scholars, reflecting upon the facts so disclosed, have been led to the rejection of the orthodox view as to the independent existence of the Ideas, on the ground that it is incompatible at least with the position taken in what have now been ascertained to be the later dialogues. Still there is as yet little agreement as to what exactly Plato meant by the Ideas and their relation to the phenomenal world, and the precise interpretation of his later ontological views is still a matter of dispute. In these circumstances Mr. Rogers is, perhaps, wise in refusing to come to any definite conclusion, but we think that the various hypotheses in connection with the subject might have been stated more clearly and differentiated from each other with more precision. We notice that Mr. Rogers makes no mention of the view of St. Augustine and Stilbaum which regards the Ideas as existing merely in the Divine mind as patterns according to which the things of nature have been created. Such a view has little plausibility as a representation of Plato's thought, but mention might have been made of it as a matter of some historical interest. Perhaps the gravest charge that can be brought against Mr. Rogers' book as an elementary manual is this lack of definiteness in treating of the great systems from Plato to Schopenhauer. Young students need above all to be presented with definite and well marked outlines, and what might reasonably be stigmatised as dogmatism in the case of one writing for advanced students is easily excused in the author of an introductory sketch such as that under review. The analysis of the Aristotelian philosophy is more satisfactory, though some of Mr. Rogers' criticisms upon Aristotle's theory of matter and form appear hasty and ill-considered. It is a pity that so little space is assigned to the treatment of epistimological questions. No mention, for example, is made of Plato's Dialectic, and Aristotle's theories concerning the nature and genesis of knowledge are passed over too rapidly to enable the student to appreciate their real value and importance. Far more satis
factory is the account of Greek philosophy after Aristotle, and we know of nothing better than the masterly presentation of the theories of the stoics. As usual the Middle Ages meet with but scant treatment, but, perhaps, Mr. Rogers' excuse that despite its intrinsic importance, the mediæval period has, from the stand. point of an introductory course, marked disadvantages, may be taken as sufficient justification for the omission. Höffding's good example has been followed in the extended account given of Hobbes, a thinker whose importance and influence upon the subsequent development of Empiricism and on the political theories of Spinoza have but recently met with full recognition. The accounts of Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibnitz are in the main adequate, but suffer from the same indefiniteness already noticed in the case of Plato, while the treatment of the Cartesians, Geulinex and Malebranche, is too brief to be of any service. The best section of Mr. Rogers' work deals with the growth of Empiricism, and special notice is due to the way in which he explains the genesis of the problem which Kant and Reid attempted in different ways to solve. Locke had introduced the habit of dealing with ideas and processes of knowledge as subjective modifications rather than as themselves cognitive states of mind. Hence the objective reference, which is the most important and most fundamental factor in even the simplest and most elementary act of cognition, tended to become obscured and gave place to a merely psychological consideration as a purely mental fact.
The position of Hume and the Empiricists in reality amounts to a surrender of the possibility of all knowledge, for with then the knowing, as series of (unreferred) impressions and ideas is itself both cognition and thing cognized, and so ceases to be knowing in the strict sense at all. To be sure Leibnitz had called attention to the implications of knowledge, and had distinguished the psychological nature of sensation from its objective meaning. The thought of each monad has an ideal reference beyond itself ; each monad is a mirror of the universe, but each monad being shut up within its own internal nature, there is no real necessity for such objective reference in cognition. In the monads, ideas rise, as Hegel says, like bubbles, and only the essentially miraculous theory of preestablished harmony makes possible the apparent interconnection of their states. Thus even Leibnitz gives no instance of