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reject the immortality of the soul; they recognise a God wise, powerful, and just ; but, on the other hand, they are impregnated with a distressing pessimism ; lastly, whilst the writer stands up as the maintainer of social order, and as the champion of justice in the affairs of men, he is blind enough not to perceive that the destruction of Christianity which he has undertaken would drive away from this world the principles he advocates with so much spirit.
Voltaire reigned over the intellect of mankind; Rousseau established the seat of his dominion in the heart, and this is perhaps the reason why his writings are fraught with so much danger to those who approach them unguardedly. The worship of feeling was the religious code promulgated by vicaire Savoyard.” “ I feel God,” quoth he,“ ergo, God exists ;” and thousands accepted this specious creed, not perceiving that the religious phenomenon thus presented becomes, not a primary fact, but a consequent, the antecedent of which is supplied by the reason or the will. M. Bartholmèss clearly explains that, after all, reason so much disparaged by Rousseau is evidently the substratum of his system. It is reason which makes him discover the law of final causes in the universe and in man. With the help of reason he is led to conclude that the free agency of man is not destroyed by the dogma of God's omnipotence, and that the mortality of the body proves nothing against the immortality of the soul. We might go on with this enumeration, and accumulate examples to show that Rousseau's deism was merely an obscure, ill-defined species of sentimental rationalism, which could produce only, as far as practice went, an equivocal piety, dreamy, effete, full of sophisms and illusions.
Notwithstanding the intellectual activity which characterized the eighteenth century, especially in France, there was no thinker of sufficient authority to take his position as a leader in the world of speculation. Theology had died with Bossuet, and philosophy with Leibnitz. Condillac, Wolff, Mendelssohn were too weak to command the attention of the multitude. What an opportunity for scepticism! Hume was too sagacious to let it slip; and, finding that the metaphysical camp had no rallying point, he attempted to drive it from the ground altogether. Not satisfied with refuting Locke on the one side, and the religious moralists on the other, he denied the validity of metaphysical philosophy in toto. The fourth book of the Doctrines Religieuses is taken up with a careful examination both of this uncompromising scepticism and of
the reaction carried on by Thomas Reid, Beattie and Dugald Stewart, from the stand-point of common sense.
A careful study of the principles maintained by the lastnamed writers, will convince every one that in spite of the best intentions possible they were not fit to grapple with their shrewd adversary. The prominence which Kant occupies, by universal consent, as a chef d'école, and as the father of modern metaphysics, arises from the fact that he fully understood how thoroughly a reform was needed in philosophy after the work of destruction accomplished by the cyclopædists. Indeed, everything had to be erected over again ; nothing but ruins covered the ground.
“ Descartes had proved, against Bacon, that ideas acquired through the medium of the senses are uncertain. Locke had maintained, in opposition to Descartes, that there is no such thing as innate ideas. Against Locke, Leibnitz had shown that if the senses help in the development of the innate principles within us, the great proportion of our knowledge is derived from the intellect. Lastly, Hume, attacking indiscriminately all the dogmatists who had preceded him, asserted that our various notions are equally uncertain; and that before going farther, we should submit to a new study the faculties of the mind, in order to discover their laws and their principles, and to determine the extent of their power.”
This was precisely the task which Kant accomplished, and the nature of the circumstances amidst which he made his appearance explains both the character of his system and its defects. He established a subjective or transcendental idealism, but it was an idealism which led to scepticism ; and the philosopher of Kænigsberg, although starting as the avowed antagonist of Hume, deserved the name of Prussian Hume, which his countryman Hamann gave him.
“ The phenomenon which the English sceptic had endeavoured to explain by habit, the principle of causality for instance, are in Kant's theory interpreted through the categories of understanding. On the one side, it is true, we find a fortuitous inclination; on the other, we meet with necessary dispositions; but Kant's categories have no more objective value than Hume's hypothesis ; they are equally deficient when they attempt to explain to us the nature of things, of the word, or of God. Both systems, therefore, are pregnant with similar errors. Hume perceives everywhere phenomena without substance, effects without cause; less superficial, Kant grants that by virtue of our intellectual constitution, phenomena must unavoidably suppose a substance, and effects be connected with a cause; but between being and modes of being, between
* Matter, Histoire de la Philosophie dans ses Rapports avec la Religion.
effects and their causes he supposes so wide a distance, that his opinion could not but end in something very much like Hume's absolute pyrrhonism."-Barth. vol. i. p. 331.
The system of Kant, which we do not attempt to examine here, may therefore be defined as purely idealistic. The philosopher of Königsberg lived long enough to see it modified to such an extent, that he might well say, “ God preserve us from our friends !” Kant had asserted that thought produces thought; according to Fichte, thought produces being, the universe, and God. This philosophical edifice, by its apparent grandeur, by the harmony of the different parts which compose it, by the regular and unbroken sequence of the logical proportions, may at the first sight strike us as almost faultless; but on the contrary, as M. Bartholmèss truly says, the problems which it starts are far more numerous than those which it solves. The first desideratum in philosophy, according to Fichte, is the discovery of a supreme and independent principle, superior to all human science, whilst it guarantees its validity and imparts to it systematic cohesion, unity, and absoluity. But what is science, if not the work of the human mind? What other principle, therefore, can it have, except the very principle of human activity, the pure me
? Fichte, consequently, starts with the axiom that the me asserts, first, itself; then, as a natural result, the non-me, which limits the me and awakens its consciousness. Here we find, from the distinction just stated, a real contradiction between the me and the non-me ; in order to make this disappear the human mind accomplishes a third act ; it resolves and absorbs in a supreme me both terms of the opposition, the divisible me and the indivisible non-me.
We must really beg our reader's pardon for all this metaphysical jargon, but we could hardly avoid making use of it in discussing Fichte's system; and the system itself is worth a careful examination, on account chiefly of the results it has produced in the hands of subsequent theorists.
theorists. If the me then, according to the view we are now criticising, asserts the non-me, if it produces even the things which become its antagonists, we must conclude that the me is everything ; it is both subject and object. The consequences of such a system are extremely serious, especially as bearing upon the nature and character of God, and upon the whole doctrines of natural theology. We shall quote again from M. Bartholmèss :
“ The first article of this faith is, that there can be no Infinite Being The infinite, says Fichte, is so far from being something
FICHTE AND SPINOSA.
individual, that if we make a distinct being of it we fall into natural. ism, into atheism. Whoever can mistake the absolute for a person has altogether eliminated it from his own person. The absolute cannot be found out of man. Each man should have it within himself ; each one should live the absolute.'* In the same manner we arrive at idolatry and materialism when we conceive God as a substance. The notion of substance can only have reference to space. Lastly, we change God into man, when we ascribe to him self-consciousness. The limited individuality of man alone can have the feeling of personality. If the me is essentially active, there can be no other absolute than the term itself of all activity, viz, moral order. Moral order, such is the only true deity; all the rest is anthropomorphism. Thus nothing is more absurd than to trace back moral order to a generating cause. From a cause only contingent things proceed. The law of events, that law by virtue of which the accomplishment of duty brings happiness in its train, such is God.”—Barth. vol. i. pp. 394, 395.
Fichte's great pretension was that of simplicity; he had aimed at proving that all things are derived from one and the same principle; yet after all he was obliged to admit, in spite of himself, a duality, which brought him into contradiction with his own views. Spinosa, centuries before, after asserting that there is only one substance possible, and always identical to itself, was led to distinguish between the attribute of thought and the attribute of extent; in the same manner Fichte begins by declaring that the me is pure activity, and can be nothing else; then he distinguishes between the me commanding the non-me, and the me commanded by the non-me, and he goes so far as to assert that the power of the non-me over the me is sometimes irresistible and inconceivable. This is only one of the many features which the psychological idealism of Fichte and ontological system of Spinosa have in common.
But we must hasten on to the second volume of the work before us.
It opens with a short sketch of the religious opposition which manifested itself in Germany, both against the last upholders of the ancient theistical opinions maintained during the eighteenth century, and also against the new system of metaphysics we have just now been attempting to describe. The opposition alluded to broke out under two forms, and whilst the university of Tübingen, represented by Storr and Flatt, took up its position exclusively on the ground of revealed religion ; another group, less numerous, but characterized by views more original, endeavoured to direct
* Fichte's Complete Works, vol. v. p. 179; vol. viii. p. 371.
against the popular systems of the day the objections derived from a refined system of philosophical mysticism. Hamann, Herder, and Jacobi, were the chief leaders of that reaction. M. Bartholmèss has described with perfect accuracy the influence which these three illustrious thinkers had, and the differences which gave to each his peculiar usefulness in the task of regenerating philosophy.
We come to the great epoch in contemporary German metaphysics, to that transition period marked by the rehabilitation of Spinosism. A careful study of this new development is, to us, a subject of the highest interest, for it is one which has taken place within the memory
of most amongst us, and we have been enabled to see the practical fruits derived by our own generation, from the rapid growth of pantheistic doctrines. On grappling with this part of his subject, M. Bartholmèss in the first place answers the question, who was Spinosa? What was his doctrine? How far was it amenable to criticism? What was the secret of its unsoundness ? So many people in the present day are wont to pass judgment upon the philosopher of Amsterdam, without having the slightest notion of the theories they condemn, that the sooner they study M. Bartholmèss' Renaissance du Spinosisme, chap. I., the better. No one who reads this remarkable morceau will complain that the author has not been severe enough, but every one must admire the calmness, the impartiality, the soundness of his critique. We would particularly point out the passage in which the similarity between the doctrines of Hobbes and those of Spinosa, as far as the notion of liberty is concerned, is illustrated and accounted for. Like the disciples of the materialist school, Spinosa denies the existence of liberty, for he makes it consist sometimes in the acceptation of the rank which each being occupies necessarily in the order of things; sometimes in the ready submission, not to the will of God, but to the irresistible power of natural forces. Spinosa had placed in God the source of truth and of perfection ; nevertheless, like the materialists, he does not hesitate to propose self-preservation as the only end of our existence. He sees in man a mode of the eternal reason; and yet he explains the workings of the mind by the movements of the body. In spite of the greatest skill in the construcion of his system, Spinosa, in short, is continually oscillating between mysticism and naturalism, between idealism and materialism.
The revival of such a system at the present day is certainly, as M. Bartholmèss says, one of the most extraordinary events