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ARTICLE III.-CONDILLAC AND THE PRINCIPLE OF
Essai sur l'Origine des Counoissances Humanes. 2 vols. 12mo.
Traité des Systêmes. 1 vol. 12mo. La Haye. 1749.
Cours d'Etude pour l'Instruction du Prince de Parme. 16 vols.
8vo. Parme, 1776. Cours de Philosophie ou Logique Complete de Condillac. Par R.
NOËL. 1 vol. 8vo. Paris, 1821.
In a former Article, we gave certain reasons for suspecting that what we may call the Identical, or better perhaps the Analytical, Philosophy of Mr. George Henry Lewes had been invented somewhat hurriedly as a corrective for Mr. Herbert Spencer's Synthetical Philosophy. Nothing prima fronte could be more unlike the universe of Mr. Spencer than Mr. Lewes's universe, and on closer inspection the unlikeness appears to be painstaking and specific contrariety. Instead of the Vacuum strewn with Atoms imported into modern science by Bacon and Gassendi, we have the Plenum of Descartes which has hardly figured hitherto beyond metaphysics; instead of the antagonistic forces, or the dual force, of attraction and repul. sion which have yielded the contrasted phenomena, animate and inanimate, physical and mental, of Evolution, we have the differentiations of universal pressure; and instead of the ultimate antitheses of formal and material causes, of properties and substance, of phenomena and the Absolute which the duality of force compels us to recognize, or to assume, we have the resolution of all differences whatsoever, near or far, obvious or occult into the differing aspects of the Plenum, an assemblage of co-existences which are only varying sides of the same thing, a series of effects which are but the procession of their causes, a world in short in which anything differs from anything else only as its relations differ. If each of these conceptions had been worked out with thorough intelligence, sincerity, and courage, the Transfigured Realism of Mr. Spencer would have developed into a Rational system of Dualism, Substantialism, and Theism; the Reasoned Realism of Mr. Lewes into an Empirical system of Monism, Idealism, and Nihilism; as wide a divergence and as perfect an opposition as the limits of sane thinking admit.
Yet the materials of both these reciprocally destructive cosmologies are the same, or are supposed by their authors to be the same.
What differs is the manipulation of the materials. The facts of experience which Mr. Spencer distributes after one fashion Mr. Lewes distributes after another, and the contrast between the total results arises in the contrast between the fundamental principles of certitude hy wbich the two distributions have been guided. Mr. Spencer's principle is this, that any proposition must be taken as certainly true whose nega. tion is inconceivable. If we can get the criterion of a negation which the mind is wholly unable to entertain (as that force does not persist) we have got in the corresponding affirmation a sure truth (force is persistent). Pressed for a justification of this “universal postulate,” Mr. Spencer explains that it is a neces. sary result of experience which in the long course of evolution has made it impossible for the mind to think otherwise than so
You may if you choose raise the question whether thinking so and so is trustworthy thinking, whether the things you necessarily think are also necessarily true things, but your skepticism is wholly speculative and futile for meanwhile you must go on thinking those things which experience compels you to think by having made their negations impossible. Now, as Mr. Mill has been at much pains to point out, all the more important propositions supplied by experience are, according to the celebrated distinction of Kant, synthetical, that is, propositions in which the predicate affirms something of the subject which is not already contained in the subject itself.
Thus, experience supplies the proposition that a trilateral, or this trilateral, is triangular. Triangularity is a wholly different thing from trilaterality, and to say that a trilateral is triangular is much more than saying a trilateral is trilateral; in other words it is a synthetical (or ampliative) proposition which adds to our information instead of an analytical (or identical, or explicative) proposition which merely defines or describes, or develops what we knew before. So experience furnishes the propositions that unimpeded bodies tend to each other with a force directly as the masses and inversely as the squares of the distances; that one part of hydrogen tends to unite with eight parts of oxygen to form one part of water, that certain compounds of nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon manifest vital phenomena, that of these some manifest the phenomena of animal life, that some of these manifest reason ; and so throughout the realm of nature. These and the like are all synthetical propositions, which increase our information, in which the contents of the predicate are a positive addition to the contents of the subject. For Mr. Mill, knowledge and science are nothing but the perfecting of this kind of information, the patient and careful interrogation of nature to find out what predicates she joins with what subjects, and if in these junctions, or juxtapositions there is any discoverable order and law. He disdains the idea that we can get beyond our experience of her, or add anything of our own to what she is good enough to tell us of herself; that we have any potencies or impotencies of thought which assure us (not only of what she actually does but) of what she must do everywhere and for
Hence his undisguised impatience with the dogmatism of science, the interpolation among the processes of nature of agents or factors (such as the ætherial medium) which she does not confess to in plain terms herself, and the extension of generalizations (such as universal evolution) beyond the bounds of all possible observation. Nobody saw more clearly than Mr. Mill that much of what is called Experimental Science is rank rationalism, the bold realization of our own abstractions, the imposition upon nature of our own necessities of thought or the limitation of her by our own inability to think.* For if among the synthetical propositions which make up our real knowledge there are any which are known by us to be true not only in this or that case but of necessity and therefore universally, then evidently we have got hold of truths which it is not in the competence of experience to furnish, the truths first distinctly defined by Kant as transcendental à priori synthetical cognitions of pure reason. That space has three dimensions is a synthetical à posteriori proposition which we know to be true within the range of our telescopes, but that all space is of three dimensions is a synthetical à priori proposition which can only be known to be true by some faculty wholly above experience. Such propositions abound, according to Kant, in logic, mathematics, and morality. Precisely such, in spite of his ingenious disclaimers, are the propositions which his universal postulate commits Mr. Spencer to and out of which he has constructed his system of things. The whole theory of necessary universal evolution is perhaps the most surprising paradox and the most unfortunate faux-pas in modern philosophy, and we can only explain it by supposing that Mr. Spencer's familiarity with positive science is out of proportion to his knowledge of metaphysics and so, that, like Prof. Tyndall, he is unaware of the metaphysical implications which infest nearly all the great scientific abstractions and generalizations. In bis devotion to the cause of the universe Mr. Spencer has gone down like Quintus Curtius with all the panoply of Empiricism upon him into the gulf of Transcendental Rationalism.
* Mr. Mill's qualified but very positive doctrine of idealism and nihilism was therefore a singular inconsistency, for there is as much temerity in denying as in affirming an unknown predicate (substance) of a known subject (phenomena). In Mr. Mill's case there was more, for the phenomena of memory which so puzzled him are puzzling because, like the dualism of force, they point to the very thing he denied.
The Nation (No. 534) thinks that philosophy lost in the late Mr. Chauncey Wright a thinker who but for indolence and want of ambition had it in him “to have brought the work of Mill and Bain for the present to a conclusion." If by Mr. Mill's work we are to understand so much of it as was faithful to his empirical principle it will be concluded by the man who completes the exploration of nature, who discovers the last predicate she joins to her last subject. If Mr. Wright could have done that his indolence was a deplorable thing. If we are to understand Mr. Mill's metempiricism (as it appears from the Nation that we are) then his work can be brought to a conclusion only by turning his qualified into absolute idealism and nihilism, that is by the reduction of his inconsistencies ad absurdum. Mr. Wright could certainly have performed this feat in half an hour by the clock, yet it is easy to understand the sort of indolence which prevented him from doing it.
Mr. Lewes, as it happens, is a thinker wbo has studied, and for that matter written the history of philosophy before attempting to philosophize on any large scale himself. It was not to be expected therefore that he would follow Mr. Spencer into the abyss along with Dr. Tyndall, Prof. Fiske, and the gentlemen who write for the Popular Science Monthly. Synthetic extensions of knowledge which anticipate and outrun all pos. sible experience, which ascertain the revolutions of the Cosmos from the little vicissitudes of a single consciousness, leaping from feeling to motion, from motion to matter, from matter to force, from the manifestations of all these to the necessary persistencies and the absolute reality underlying them are pardon. able in one who believes, like Descartes, in the original infallibility and the divine guarantees of his own reason, but not in another who resolves reason into a late and minute product of the very evolution he is giving an account of. What might have been expected beforehand was that Mr. Lewes, warned by the catastrophe, would have gone back from the ambitious syntheses of Mr. Spencer to the modest ones of Mr. Mill. Unluckily Mr. Mill was in trouble himself; for, in the first place, bis diffident and circumspect appeal to experience involved a distinct condemnation of all the larger proposals of Experimental Science and a final renunciation of that cosmology which is the standing proposal of Speculative Philosophy. Not only did it turn Dr. Tyndall's certitudes into guesswork and Mr. Spencer's universal postulate into assumption, but it said once for all, the universe which you can't reach with eye or ear or hand is past your finding out, and save for the dreams of faith and the fervors of devotion it must be left alone. Mr. Lewes could by no means consent to this for he held to the ancient tradition and was persuaded that what Descartes and Gassendi, Spinoza, Leibnitz, and Spencer had attempted it was in him to do, "to furnish a Doctrine embracing the World Man, and Society in one homogeneous method;" so that Mr. Mill was perhaps the one thinker at whose feet it was impos.