Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

this (Reid's Works, p. 129, note), 'I cannot doubt that I am conscious of it (the rose) as something different from self; but whether it have, indeed, any reality beyond my mind-whether the not-self be not in truth only selfthat I may philosophically question.' Now all this is just as if the cosmothetic idealist himself were speaking, and with all this we may conceive that dejected individual highly gratified and charmed. Only one step further, however, and he will find every new hope suddenly quashed again beneath the old assertion of the facts, and the facts. These facts he had certainly been encouraged to question, but the instant he would attempt to act on the encouragement, he is stopped, panic-stricken, by the significant threat of the encourager himself, who (Meta. i. 277) assures him, “This can be done only by showing that consciousness tells different tales—that its evidence is contradictory—that its data are repugnant;—but this no sceptic has ever yet been able to do!'

No; let the cosmothetic idealist who reads Hamilton conceive at times what hopes he may, he will find ever in the end that, at the very moment of fruition, they are suddenly dissipated by the cold reassertion (Meta. i. 278) of the fact to which consciousness testifies, that the object of which we are conscious in perception is the external reality as existing, and not merely its representation in the percipient mind.' The peculiar procedure which we would here signalise finds, perhaps, its best illustration in the following passage from Reid's Works, p. 744:

It is, however, possible for us to suppose, without our

supposition at least being felo-de-se, that, though given as a non-ego, the object may, in reality, be only a representation of a non-ego, in and by the ego. Let this, therefore, be maintained : let the fact of the testimony be admitted, but the truth of the testimony, to aught beyond its own ideal existence, be doubted or denied. How in this case are we to proceed? It is evident that the doubt does not in this case refute itself. It is not suicidal by self-contradiction.

The felo-de-se, the very suicide, which Hamilton has always hitherto cast in the teeth of the cosmothetic idealist, is here formally, punctually retracted by Hamilton himself. Now then the cosmothetic idealist feels that justice has been done him at last, that his difficulty is at length fairly stated, that his question is here finally put just as he himself would wish to see it put. He may be forgiven, then, should he again allow himself to entertain the expectation of a tangible finding at last. As before, so here, however: the very next step, and his impatience begins; for Hamilton, instead of keeping by the thing now that he has come fairly up to it, instead of answering his own question, coolly looks off, turns aside to Stewart, from him again to Reid, then to Descartes, then to Cousin, enveloping himself all the while in a variety of quotations and remarks, till finally, the position lost to view by reason of the very number of the diversions, the only answer that comes out is, “The doubt is gratuitous!'

• The deliverance of consciousness must philosophically be accepted,' so cries Hamilton for the thousandth time, and we are where we were—only that

having, in this manner, been injured in the text, we find ourselves insulted in the notes thus:

From what has now been stated [i.e. in the above passage] it will be seen how far and on what grounds I hold, at once with Dr. Reid and Mr. Stewart, that our original beliefs are to be established, but their authority not to be canvassed; and with M. Jouffroy, that the question of their authority is not to be absolutely withdrawn, as a forbidden problem, from philosophy.

Would or could any man that ever existed but Hamilton—have written that note? Pray, observeand as placed — its full significance and veritable bearing: Cannot we fancy the cosmothetic idealist ironically remarking to Hamilton :— Yes, I see, though true blue with Reid, you are liberal and candid with Jouffroy; the question is not withdrawn either;-only, when my mouth presumes to open on it, there comes a back-hander of veracious, veracious -here ferocious—that shuts it again : well, once I can speak for pain, I will tell you, Sir William, that it is a queer piece of hedging, that of holding both with Reid and with Jouffroy; and I cannot, somehow, feel quite certain that two expressions mean also always two things; for, if allowed by this word, I am forbidden by the other at all to question consciousness —unless under penalty of confounding and embroiling all ?

While it is very clear, then, that Hamilton, at his own time, never scruples to allow himself the privilege of putting consciousness to the question, it is equally clear that he absolutely refuses at any time to share this privilege with that to him unclean animal—the

cosmothetic idealist. Him he drives off ever with the fiercest refusals—the angriest denials. But, no more here than elsewhere, can Hamilton assert for himself what he denies for others -- without contradiction. This, then, is still the burthen of the tale: wherever we move in Hamilton, there is always present to us the same element of inconsistency, discrepancy, and incongruity. Hence the fallacies; which here, too, are not wanting. It is probably quite impossible, for instance, to find anywhere a more striking example of artful diversion' than is furnished by the passage on which we have just commented. We may take the opportunity to remark, too, that an example of this same fallacy (the ignoratio elenchi), in the form of 'mistake' or 'misstatement,' was afforded by Hamilton's ascription to the Representationist in general, and Kant in particular, of regarding the representation (Vorstellung) perceived as, in any sense, a likeness or resemblance of the unknown antecedent. · Imputed consequences,' again, or the remaining form of the ignoratio elenchithis is the fallacy that pervades that elaborate description, now so familiar to

S,

of the results that follow the questioning of consciousness : our personality, our immortality, morality, society, religion, &c., &c. Strange that, with such a picture before him, sophistical though it be, Hamilton should still have so often admitted—if only for himself, indeed—the legitimacy of this very questioning —the legitimacy of transcending appearance, and of scientifically and systematically developing and evolving facts! The very lightness and ease with which

he thus contradicts himself, now interdicting a single look into the adytum of consciousness, and again expressly exhorting us to approach, examine, and arrange, should alone be sufficient to demonstrate his own inward consciousness of the sandy and fallacious soil on which he had sought to build.

How different Hegel, to whom the antithesis is present also, but who sees not only one side at a time, like Hamilton, but always both! It is thus, that bringing both thoughts together, Hegel is able to transcend yet hold consciousness. He, for his part, knows, too, , that the vocation of philosophy is just to oppose—that with which Hamilton browbeats us—the dogmatism of ordinary consciousness.' Philosophy, he says, ' begins by rising over common consciousness;' and (Werke, xvi. 108) with a reference that bears on what amounts to Hamilton's loud side—to his őtı, that is, or the inviolability of consciousness—he declares :

Of this barbarism, to place undeniable certainty and verity in the facts of consciousness, neither ancient scepticism, nor any materialism, nor even the commonest common sense, unless an absolutely bestial one, has ever made itself guilty, --until the most recent times, it has been unheard of in philosophy.*

By consciousness here, we are of course to understand a consciousness, as it were, at first hand — a

* From this allusion in Hegel to the Hamiltonian cry of 'the veracity of consciousness,' and from other allusions in the same volume to other Hamiltonian cries or distinctions, as in reference to Idealism, Realism, &c., and as against an Absolute, we are led partly to see and partly to suspect that, in the works—and they are evidently exotericof Krug, Schulze, &c., Hegel had then a matter before him much like that which we, in the works of Hamilton, have now before us, and that thus, probably, this last, even in his most peculiar industry, has been, to some extent, anticipated.

F

« AnteriorContinuar »