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2. The most famous and influential actor in this period of the French clearing up, is _Voltaire_ (1694-1778). Though a writer of great versatility, rather than a philosopher, there was yet no philosopher of that time who exerted so powerful an influence upon the whole thinking of his country and his age. Voltaire was no atheist. On the contrary, he regarded the belief in a Supreme Being to be so necessary, that he once said that if there were no G.o.d we should be under the necessity of inventing one. He was just as little disposed to deny the immortality of the soul, though he often expressed his doubts upon it. He regarded the atheistic materialism of a La Mettrie as nothing but nonsense. In these respects, therefore, he is far removed from the standpoint of the philosophers who followed him. His whole hatred was expended against Christianity as a positive religion. To destroy this system he considered as his peculiar mission, and he left no means untried to attain this anxiously longed-for end. His unwearied warfare against every positive religion prepared the way and gave weapons for the attacks against spiritualism which followed.
3. The Encyclopedists had a more decidedly sceptical relation to the principles and the basis of spiritualism. The philosophical Encyclopedia established by _Diderot_ (1713-1784), and published by him in connection with d'Alembert, is a memorable monument of the ruling spirit in France in the time before the revolution. It was the pride of France at that age, because it expressed in a splendid and universally accessible form the inner consciousness of the French people. With the keenest wit it reasoned away law from the state, and freedom from morality, and spirit and G.o.d from nature, though all this was done only in scattered, and, for the most part, timorous intimations. In Diderot's independent writings we find talent of much philosophic importance united with great earnestness. But it is very difficult to fix and accurately to limit his philosophic views, since they were very gradually formed, and Diderot expressed them always with some reserve and accommodation. In general, however, it may be remarked, that in the progress of his speculations he constantly approached nearer the extreme of the philosophical direction of his age. In his earlier writings a Deist, he afterwards avowed the opinion that every thing is G.o.d. At first defending the immateriality and immortality of the soul, he expressed himself at a later period decidedly against these doctrines, affirming that the species alone has an abiding being while the individual pa.s.ses away, and that immortality is nothing other than to live in the thoughts of coming generations. But Diderot did not venture to the real extreme of logical materialism; his moral earnestness restrained him from this.
4. The last word of materialism was spoken with reckless audacity by _La Mettrie_ (1709-1751), a contemporary of Diderot: every thing spiritual is a delusion, and physical enjoyment is the highest end of men. Faith in the existence of a G.o.d, says La Mettrie, is just as groundless as it is fruitless. The world will not be happy till atheism becomes universally established. Then alone will there be no more religious strife, then alone will theologians, the most odious of combatants, disappear, and nature, poisoned at present by their influence, will come again to its rights. In reference to the human soul, there can be no philosophy but materialism. All the observation and experience of the greatest philosophers and physicians declare this. Soul is nothing but a mere name, which has a rational signification only when we understand by it that part of our body which thinks. This is the brain, which has its muscles of thought, just as the limbs have their muscles of motion. That which gives man his advantage over the brutes is, first, the organization of his brain, and second, its capacity for receiving instruction. Otherwise, is man a brute like the beasts around him, though in many respects surpa.s.sed by these. Immortality is an absurdity.
The soul perishes with the body of which it forms a part. With death every thing is over, _la farce est jouee_! The practical and selfish application of all this is-let us enjoy ourselves as long as we exist, and not throw away any satisfaction we can attain.
5. The _Systeme de la Nature_ afterwards attempted to elaborate with greater earnestness and scientific precision, that which had been uttered so superficially and so superciliously by La Mettrie, viz., the doctrine that matter alone exists, while mind is nothing other than matter refined.
The _Systeme de la Nature_ appeared in London under a fict.i.tious name in 1770. It was then published as a posthumous work of Mirabaud, late secretary of the Academy. It doubtless had its origin in the circle which was wont to a.s.semble with Baron Holbach, and of which Diderot, Grimm, and others formed a part. Whether the Baron Holbach himself, or his tutor Lagrange is the author of this work, or whether it is the joint production of a number, cannot now be determined. The _Systeme de la Nature_ is hardly a French book: the style is too heavy and tedious.
There is, in fact, nothing but matter and motion, says this work. Both are inseparably connected. If matter is at rest, it is only because hindered in motion, for in its essence it is not a dead ma.s.s. Motion is twofold, attraction and repulsion. The different motions which we see are the product of these two, and through these different motions arise the different connections and the whole manifoldness of things. The laws which direct in all this are eternal and unchangeable.-The most weighty consequences of such a doctrine are:
(1.) _The materiality of man._ Man is no twofold being compounded of mind and matter, as is erroneously believed. If the inquiry is closely made what the mind is, we are answered, that the most accurate philosophical investigations have shown, that the principle of activity in man is a substance whose peculiar nature cannot be known, but of which we can affirm that it is indivisible, unextended, invisible, &c.
But now, who should conceive any thing determinate in a substance which is only the negation of that which gives knowledge, an idea which is peculiarly only the absence of all ideas? Still farther, how can it be explained upon such a hypothesis, that a substance which itself is not material can work upon material things; and how can it set these in motion, since there is no point of contact between the two? In fact, those who distinguish their soul from their body, have only to make a distinction between their brain and their body. Thought is only a modification of our brain, just as volition is another modification of the same bodily organ.
(2.) Another chimera, the belief in the being of a G.o.d, is connected with the twofold division of man into body and soul. This belief arises like the hypothesis of a soul-substance, because mind is falsely divided from matter, and nature is thus made twofold. The evil which men experienced, and whose natural cause they could not discover, they a.s.signed to a deity which they imagined for the purpose. The first notions of a G.o.d have their source therefore in sorrow, fear, and uncertainty. We tremble because our forefathers for thousands of years have done the same. This circ.u.mstance awakens no auspicious prepossession. But not only the rude, but also the theological idea of G.o.d is worthless, for it explains no phenomenon of nature. It is, moreover, full of absurdities, for, since it ascribes moral attributes to G.o.d, it renders him human; while on the other hand, by a ma.s.s of negative attributes, it seeks to distinguish him absolutely from every other being. The true system, the system of nature, is hence atheistic.
But such a doctrine requires a culture and a courage which neither all men nor most men possess. If we understand by the word atheist one who considers only _dead_ matter, or who designates the _moving power_ in nature with the name G.o.d, then is there no atheist, or whoever would be one is a fool. But if the word means one who denies the existence of a spiritual being, a being whose attributes can only be a source of annoyance to men, then are there indeed atheists, and there would be more of them, if a correct knowledge of nature and a sound reason were more widely diffused. But if atheism is true, then should it be diffused. There are, indeed, many who have cast off the yoke of religion, who nevertheless think it is necessary for the common people in order to keep them within proper limits. But this is just as if we should determine to give a man poison lest he should abuse his strength.
Every kind of Deism leads necessarily to superst.i.tion, since it is not possible to continue on the standpoint of pure deism.
(3.) With such premises the freedom and immortality of the soul both disappear. Man, like every other substance in nature, is a link in the chain of necessary connection, a blind instrument in the hands of necessity. If any thing should be endowed with self-motion, that is, with a capacity to produce motion without any other cause, then would it have the power to destroy motion in the universe; but this is contrary to the conception of the universe, which is only an endless series of necessary motions spreading out into wider circles continually. The claim of an individual immortality is absurd. For to affirm that the soul exists after the destruction of the body, is to affirm that a modification of a substance can exist after the substance itself has disappeared. There is no other immortality than to live in the remembrance of posterity.
(4.) The practical consequences of these principles are in the highest degree favorable for the system of nature, the utility of any doctrine being ever the first criterion of its truth. While the ideas of theologians are productive only of disquiet and anxiety to man, the system of nature frees him from all such unrest, teaches him to enjoy the present moment, and to quietly yield to his destiny, while it gives him that kind of apathy which every one must regard as a blessing. If morality would be active, it can rest only upon self-love and self-interest; it must show man whither his well-considered interest would lead him. He is a good man who gains his own interest in such a way that others will find it for their interest to a.s.sist him. The system of self-interest, therefore, demands the union of men among each other, and hence we have true morality.
The logical dogmatic materialism of the _Systeme de la Nature_ is the farthest limit of an empirical direction in philosophy, and consequently closes that course of the development of a one-sided realism which had begun with Locke. The attempt first made by Locke to explain and derive the ideal world from the material, ended in materialism with the total reduction of every thing spiritual to the material, with the total denial of the spiritual. We must now, before proceeding farther, according to the cla.s.sification made -- XXVII., consider the idealistic course of development which ran parallel with the systems of a partial realism. At the head of this course stands _Leibnitz_.
As empiricism sprang from the striving to subject the intellectual to the material, to materialize the spiritual, so on the other hand, idealism had its source in the effort to spiritualize the material, or so to apprehend the conception of mind that matter could be subsumed under it. To the empiric-sensualistic direction, mind was nothing but refined matter, while to the idealistic direction matter was only degenerated (_vergrobert_) mind ("a confused notion," as Leibnitz expresses it). The former, in its logical development, was driven to the principle that only material things exist, the latter (as with Leibnitz and Berkeley) comes to the opposite principle, that there are only souls and their ideas. For the partial realistic standpoint, material things were the truly substantial. But for the idealistic standpoint, the substantial belongs alone to the intellectual world, to the Egos. Mind, to the partial realism, was essentially void, a _tabula rasa_, its whole content came to it from the external world. But a partial idealism sought to carry out the principle that nothing can come into the mind which had not at least been preformed within it, that all its knowledge is furnished it by itself. According to the former view knowledge was a pa.s.sive relation, according to the latter was it wholly active. While, in fine, a partial realism had attempted to explain the becoming in nature for the most part through real, _i. e._ through mechanical motives (_l'homme machine_ is the t.i.tle of one of la Mettrie's writings), idealism had sought an explanation of the same through ideal motives, _i. e._ teleologically. While the former had made its prominent inquiry for moving causes, and had, indeed, often ridiculed the search for a final cause; it is final causes toward which the latter directs its chief aim. The mediation between mind and matter, between thought and being, will now be sought in the final cause, in the teleological harmony of all things (_pre-established harmony_). The standpoint of Leibnitz may thus be characterized in a word.
_Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz_ was born in 1646, at Leipsic, where his father was professor. Having chosen the law as his profession, he entered the university in 1661, and in 1663 he defended for his degree of doctor in philosophy, his dissertation _de principio individui_, a theme well characteristic of the direction of his later philosophizing.
He afterwards went to Jena, and subsequently to Altdorf, where he became doctor of laws. At Altdorf he was offered a professorship of jurisprudence, which he refused. The rest of his life was unsettled and desultory, spent for the most part in courts, where, as a versatile courtier, he was employed in the most varied duties of diplomacy. In the year 1672 he went to Paris, in order to induce Louis XIV. to undertake the conquest of Egypt. He subsequently visited London, whence he was afterwards called to Hanover, as councillor of the Duke of Brunswick. He received later a post as librarian at Wolfenb.u.t.tel, between which place and Hanover he spent the most of his subsequent life, though interrupted with numerous journeys to Vienna, Berlin, etc. He was intimately a.s.sociated with the Prussian Electress, Maria Charlotte, a highly talented woman, who surrounded herself with a circle of the most distinguished scholars of the time, and for whom Liebnitz wrote, at her own request, his _Theodicee_. In 1701, after Prussia had become a kingdom, an academy was established at Berlin, through, his efforts, and he became its first president. Similar, but fruitless attempts were made by him to establish academies in Dresden and Vienna. In 1711 the t.i.tle of imperial court councillor, and a baronage, was bestowed upon him by the emperor Charles VI. Soon after, he betook himself to Vienna, where he remained a considerable period, and wrote his Monadology, at the solicitation of Prince Eugene. He died in 1716. Next to Aristotle, Leibnitz was the most highly gifted scholar that had ever lived; with the richest and most extensive learning, he united the highest and most penetrating powers of mind. Germany has reason to be proud of him, since, after Jacob Boehme, he is the first philosopher of any note among the Germans. With him philosophy found a home in Germany. It is to be regretted that the great variety of his efforts and literary undertakings, together with his roving manner of life, prevented him from giving any connected exhibition of his philosophy. His views are for the most part developed only in brief and occasional writings and letters, composed frequently in the French language. It is hence not easy to state his philosophy in its internal connection, though none of his views are isolated, but all stand strictly connected with each other. The following are the chief points:
1. THE DOCTRINE OF MONADS.-The fundamental peculiarity of Leibnitz's theory is its opposition to Spinozism. Substance, as the indeterminate universal, was with Spinoza the only positive. With Leibnitz also the conception of substance lay at the basis of his philosophy, but his definition of it was entirely different. While Spinoza had sought to exclude from his substance every positive determination, and especially all acting, and had apprehended it simply as pure being, Leibnitz viewed it as living activity and active energy, an example for which might be found in a stretched bow, which moved and straightened itself through its own energy as soon as the external hindrance was removed. That this active energy forms the essence of substance is a principle to which Leibnitz ever returns, and from which, in fact, all the other chief points in his philosophy may be derived. From this there follow at the outset two determinations of substance directly opposed to Spinozism; first, that it is a single being, a monad; and second, that there are a multiplicity of monads. The first follows because substance, in so far as it exercises an activity similar to an elastic body, is essentially an excluding activity, or repulsion; the conception of an individual or a monad being that which excludes another from itself. The second follows because the existence of one monad involves the existence of many. The conception of one individual postulates other individuals, which stand over against the one as excluded from it. Hence the fundamental thesis of the Leibnitz philosophy in opposition to Spinozism is this, viz., there is a multiplicity of individual substances or monads.
2. THE MONADS MORE ACCURATELY DETERMINED.-The monads of Leibnitz are similar to atoms in their general features. Like these they are corpuscular units, independent of any external influence, and indestructible by any external power. But notwithstanding this similarity, there is an important and characteristic difference between the two. First, the atoms are not distinguished from each other, they are all qualitatively alike; but each one of the monads is different in quality from every other, every one is a peculiar world for itself, every one is different from every other. According to Leibnitz, there are no two things in the world which are exactly alike. Secondly, atoms can be considered as extended and divisible, but the monads are metaphysical points, and actually indivisible. Here, lest we should stumble at this proposition (for an aggregate of unextended monads can never give an extended world), we must take into consideration Leibnitz's view of s.p.a.ce, which, according to him, is not something real, but only confused, subjective representation. Thirdly, the monad is a representative being. With the atomists such a determination would amount to nothing, but with Leibnitz it has a very important part to play. According to him, in every monad, every other is reflected; every monad is a living mirror of the universe, and ideally contains the whole within itself as in a germ. In thus mirroring the world, however, the monad is not pa.s.sive but spontaneously self-active: it does not receive the images which it mirrors, but produces them spontaneously itself, as the soul does a dream. In every monad, therefore, the all-seeing and all-knowing one might read every thing, even the future, since this is potentially contained in the present. Every monad is a kind of G.o.d.
(_Parvus in suo genere Deus._)
3. THE PRE-ESTABLISHED HARMONY.-The universe is thus the sum of all the monads. Every thing, every composite, is an aggregate of monads. Thus every bodily organism is not one substance, but many, it is a multiplicity of monads, like a machine which is made up of a number of distinct pieces of mechanism. Leibnitz compared bodies to a fish-pond, which might be full of living elements, though dead itself. The ordinary view of things is thus wholly set aside; the truly substantial does not belong to bodies, _i. e._ to the aggregates, but to their original elements. Matter, in the vulgar sense, as something conceived to be without mind, does not at all exist. How now must the inner connection of the universe be conceived? In the following way. Every monad is a representative being, and at the same time, each one is different from every other. This difference, therefore, depends alone upon the difference of representation: there are just as many different degrees of representation as there are monads, and these degrees may be fixed according to some of their prominent stages. The representations may be cla.s.sified according to the distinction between confused and distinct knowledge. Hence a monad of the lowest rank (a monad _toute nue_) will be one which _simply_ represents, _i. e._ which stands on the stage of most confused knowledge. Leibnitz compares this state with a swoon, or with our condition in a dreamy sleep, in which we are not without representations, (notions)-for otherwise we could have none when awaking-but in which the representations are so numerous that they neutralize each other and do not come into the consciousness. This is the stage of inorganic nature. In a higher rank are those monads in which the representation is active as a formative vital force, though still without consciousness. This is the stage of the vegetable world.
Still higher ascends the life of the monad when it attains to sensation and memory, as is the case in the animal kingdom. The lower monads may be said to sleep, and the brute monads to dream. When still farther the soul rises to reason or reflection, we call it mind, spirit.-The distinction of the monads from each other is, therefore, this, that each one, though mirroring the whole and the same universe in itself, does it from a different point of view, and, therefore, differently, the one more, and the rest less perfectly. Each one is a different centre of the world which it mirrors. Each one contains the whole universe, the whole infinity within itself, and in this respect is like G.o.d, the only difference being that G.o.d knows every thing with perfect distinctness, while the monad represents it confusedly, though one monad may represent it more confusedly than another. The limitation of a monad does not, therefore, consist in its containing less than another or than G.o.d, but only in its containing more imperfectly or in its representing less distinctly.-Upon this standpoint the universe, in so far as every monad mirrors one and the same universe, though each in a different way, represents a drama of the greatest possible difference, as well as of the greatest possible unity and order, _i. e._ of the greatest possible perfection, or the _absolute harmony_. For distinction in unity is harmony.-But in still another respect the universe is a system of harmony. Since the monads do not work upon each other, but each one follows only the law of its own being, there is danger lest the inner harmony of the universe may be disturbed. How is this danger removed?
Thus, viz., every monad mirrors the whole and the same universe. The changes of the collected monads, therefore, run parallel with each other, and in this consists the harmony of all as pre-established by G.o.d.
4. THE RELATION OF THE DEITY TO THE MONADS.-What part does the conception of G.o.d play in the system of Leibnitz? An almost idle one.
Following the strict consequences of his system, Leibnitz should have held to no proper theism, but the harmony of the universe should have taken the place of the Deity. Ordinarily he considers G.o.d as the sufficient cause of all monads. But he was also accustomed to consider the final cause of a thing as its sufficient cause. In this respect, therefore, he almost identifies G.o.d and the absolute final cause.
Elsewhere he considers the Deity as a simple primitive substance, or as the individual primitive unity. Again, he speaks of G.o.d as a pure immaterial actuality, _actus purus_, while to the monads belongs matter, _i. e._ restrained actuality, striving, _appet.i.tio_. Once he calls him a monad, though this is in manifest contradiction with the determinations otherwise a.s.signed him. It was for Leibnitz a very difficult problem to bring his monadology and his theism into harmony with each other, without giving up the premises of both. If he held fast to the substantiality of the monads, he was in danger of making them independent of the Deity, and if he did not, he could hardly escape falling back into Spinozism.
5. THE RELATION OF SOUL AND BODY is clearly explained on the standpoint of the pre-established harmony. This relation, taking the premises of the monadology, might seem enigmatical. If no monad can work upon any other, how can the soul work upon the body to lead and move it? The enigma is solved by the pre-established harmony. While the body and soul, each one independently of the other, follows the laws of its being, the body working mechanically, and the soul pursuing ends, yet G.o.d has established such a concordant harmony of the two activities, such a parallelism of the two functions, that there is in fact a perfect unity for body and soul. There are, says Leibnitz, three views respecting the relation of body and soul. The first and most common supposes a reciprocal influence between the two, but such a view is untenable, because there can be no interchange between mind and matter.
The second and occasional one (_cf._ -- XXV. 1), brings about this interchange through the constant a.s.sistance of G.o.d, which is nothing more nor less than to make G.o.d a _Deus ex machina_. Hence the only solution for the problem is the hypothesis of a pre-established harmony.
Leibnitz ill.u.s.trates these three views in the following example. Let one conceive of two watches, whose hands ever accurately point to the same time. This agreement may be explained, first (the common view), by supposing an actual connection between the hands of each, so that the hand of the one watch might draw the hand of the other after it, or second (the occasional view), by conceiving of a watch-maker who continually keeps the hands alike, or in fine (the pre-established harmony), by ascribing to each a mechanism so exquisitely wrought that each one goes in perfect independence of the other, and at the same time in entire agreement with it.-That the soul is immortal (indestructible), follows at once from the doctrine of monads. There is no proper death.
That which is called death is only the soul losing a part of the monads which compose the mechanism of its body, while the living element goes back to a condition similar to that in which it was before it came upon the theatre of the world.
6. The monadology has very important consequences in reference to THE THEORY OF KNOWLEDGE. As the philosophy of Leibnitz, by its opposition to Spinozism, had to do with the doctrine of being, so by its opposition to the empiricism of Locke must it expound the theory of knowledge. Locke's Essay on the Human Understanding had attracted Leibnitz without satisfying him, and he therefore attempted a new investigation in his _Nouveaux Essais_, in which he defended the doctrine of innate ideas.
But this hypothesis of innate ideas Leibnitz now freed from that defective view which had justified the objections of Locke. The innateness of the ideas must not be held as though they were explicitly and consciously contained in the mind, but rather the mind possesses them potentially and only virtually, though with the capacity to produce them out of itself. All thoughts are properly innate, _i. e._ they do not come into the mind from without, but are rather produced by it from itself. Any external influence upon the mind is inconceivable, it even needs nothing external for its sensations. While Locke had compared the mind to an unwritten piece of paper, Leibnitz likened it to a block of marble, in which the veins prefigure the form of the statue. Hence the common ant.i.thesis between rational and empirical knowledge disappears with Leibnitz in the degrees of greater or less distinctness.-Among these theoretically innate ideas, Leibnitz recognizes two of special prominence, which take the first rank as principles of all knowledge and all ratiocination,-the principle of contradiction (_principium contradictionis_), and the principle of sufficient cause (_principium rationis sufficientis_). To these, as a principle of the second rank, must be added the _principium indiscernibilium_, or the principle that there are in nature no two things wholly alike.
7. The most elaborate exhibition of Leibnitz's theological views is given in his _Theodicee_. The Theodicee, is, however, his weakest work, and has but a loose connection with the rest of his philosophy. Written at the instigation of a woman, it belies this origin neither in its form nor in its content-not in its form, for in its effort to be popular it becomes diffuse and unscientific, and not in its content, for it accommodates itself to the positive dogmas and the premises of theology farther than the scientific basis of the system of Leibnitz would permit. In this work, Leibnitz investigates the relation of G.o.d to the world in order to show a conformity in this relation to a final cause, and to free G.o.d from the charge of acting without or contrary to an aim.
Why is the world as it is? G.o.d might have created it very differently.
True, answers Leibnitz, G.o.d saw an infinite number of worlds as possible before him, but out of all these he chose the one which actually is as the best. This is the famous doctrine of the best world, according to which no more perfect world is possible than the one which is.-But how so? Is not the existence of evil at variance with this? Leibnitz answers this objection by distinguishing three kinds of evil, the metaphysical, the physical, and the moral. The metaphysical evil, _i. e._ the finiteness and incompleteness of things, is necessary because inseparable from finite existence, and is thus independent of the will of G.o.d. Physical evil (pain, &c.), though not independent of the will of G.o.d, is often a good conditionally, _i. e._ as a punishment or means of improvement. Moral evil or wickedness can in no way be charged to the will of G.o.d. Leibnitz took various ways to account for its existence, and obviate the contradiction lying between it and the conception of G.o.d. At one time he says that wickedness is only permitted by G.o.d as a _conditio sine qua non_, because without wickedness there were no freedom, and without freedom no virtue. Again, he reduces the moral evil to the metaphysical, and makes wickedness nothing but a want of perfection, a negation, a limitation, playing the same part as do the shadows in a painted picture, or the discords in a piece of music, which do not diminish the beauty, but only increase it through contrast.
Again, he distinguishes between the material and the formal element in a wicked act. The material of sin, the power to act, is from G.o.d, but the formal element, the wickedness of the act, belongs wholly to man, and is the result of his limitation, or, as Leibnitz here and there expresses it, of his eternal self-predestination. In no case can the harmony of the universe be destroyed through such a cause.
These are the chief points of Leibnitz's philosophy. The general characteristic of it as given in the beginning of the present section, will be found to have its sanction in the specific exhibition that has now been furnished.
Leibnitz had not carried out the standpoint of idealism to its extreme.
He had indeed, on the one side, explained s.p.a.ce and motion and bodily things as phenomena which had their existence only in a confused representation, but on the other side, he had not wholly denied the existence of the bodily world, but had recognized as a reality lying at its basis, the world of monads. The phenomenal or bodily world had its fixed and substantial foundation in the monads. Thus Leibnitz, though an idealist, did not wholly break with realism. The ultimate consequence of a subjective idealism would have been to wholly deny the reality of the objective, sensible world, and explain corporeal objects as simply phenomena, as nothing but subjective notions without any objective reality as a basis. This consequence the idealistic counterpart to the ultimate realistic result of materialism-appears in _George Berkeley_, who was born in Ireland, 1684, made bishop of the Anglican Church in 1734, and died in 1753. Hence, though he followed the empiricism of Locke, and sustained no outward connection with Leibnitz, we must place him in immediate succession to the latter as the perfecter of a subjective idealism.
Our sensations, says Berkeley, are entirely subjective. We are wholly in error if we believe that we have a sensation of external objects or perceive them. That which we have and perceive is only our sensations.
It is _e. g._ clear, that by the sense of sight we can _see_ neither the distance, the size, nor the form of objects, but that we only _conclude_ that these exist, because our experience has taught us that a certain sensation of sight is always attended by certain sensations of touch.
That which we see is only colors, clearness, obscurity, &c., and it is therefore false to say that we see and feel the same thing. So also we never go out of ourselves for those sensations to which we ascribe most decidedly an objective character. The peculiar objects of our understanding are only our own affections; all ideas are hence only our own sensations. But just as there can be no sensations outside of the sensitive subject, so no idea can have existence outside of him who possesses it. The so-called objects exist only in our notion, and have a being only as they are perceived. It is the great error of most philosophers that they ascribe to corporeal objects a being outside the conceiving mind, and do not see that they are only mental. It is not possible that material things should produce any thing so wholly distinct from themselves as sensations and notions. There is no such thing as a material external world; _mind alone exists_ as thinking being, whose nature consists in thinking and willing. But whence then arise all our sensations which come to us like the images of fancy, without our agency, and which are thus no products of our will? They arise from a spirit superior to ourselves-for only a spirit can produce within us notions-even from G.o.d. G.o.d gives us ideas; but as it would be contradictory to a.s.sert that a being could give what it does not possess, so ideas exist _in G.o.d_, and we derive them from him. These ideas in G.o.d may be called archetypes, and those in us ectypes.-In consequence of this view, says Berkeley, we do not deny an independent reality of things, we only deny that they can exist elsewhere than in an understanding. Instead therefore of speaking of a nature in which, _e.
g._ the sun is the cause of warmth, &c., the accurate expression would be this: G.o.d announces to us through the sense of sight that we should soon perceive a sensation of warmth. Hence by nature we are only to understand the succession or the connection of ideas, and by natural laws the constant order in which they proceed, _i. e._ the laws of the a.s.sociation of ideas. This thorough-going subjective idealism, this complete denial of matter, Berkeley considered as the surest way to oppose materialism and atheism.
The idealism of Berkeley, as was to be expected from the nature of the case, remained without any farther development, but the philosophy of Leibnitz was taken up and subjected to a farther revision by _Christian Wolff_. He was born in Breslau in 1679. He was chosen professor at Halle, where he became obnoxious to the charge of teaching a doctrine at variance with the Scriptures, and drew upon himself such a violent opposition from the theologians of the university, that a cabinet order was issued for his dismissal on the 8th of November, 1723, and he was enjoined to leave Prussia within forty-eight hours on pain of being hung. He then became professor in Marburg, but was afterwards recalled to Prussia by Frederic II. immediately upon his accession to the throne.
He was subsequently made baron, and died 1754. In his chief thoughts he followed Leibnitz, a connection which he himself admitted, though he protested against the identification of his philosophy with that of Leibnitz, and objected to the name, _Philosophia Leibnitio-Wolffiana_, which was taken by his disciple Bilfinger. The historical merit of Wolff is threefold. First, and most important, he laid claim again to the whole domain of knowledge in the name of philosophy, and sought again to build up a systematic framework, and make an encyclopedia of philosophy in the highest sense of the word. Though he did not himself furnish much new material for this purpose, yet he carefully elaborated and arranged that which he found at hand. Secondly, he made again the philosophical method as such, an object of attention. His own method is, indeed, an external one as to its content, namely, the mathematical or the mathematico-syllogistical, recommended by Leibnitz, and by the application of this his whole philosophizing sinks to a level formalism.
(For instance, in his principles of architecture, the eighth proposition is-"a window must be wide enough for two persons to recline together conveniently,"-a proposition which is thus proved: "we are more frequently accustomed to recline and look out at a window in company with another person than alone, and hence, since the builder of the house should satisfy the owner in every respect (-- 1), he must make a window wide enough for two persons conveniently to recline within it at the same time".) Still this formalism is not without its advantage, for it subjects the philosophical content to a logical treatment. Thirdly, Wolff has taught philosophy to speak German, an art which it has not since forgotten. Next to Leibnitz, he is ent.i.tled to the merit of having made the German language for ever the organ of philosophy.
The following remarks will suffice for the content and the scientific cla.s.sification of Wolff's philosophy. He defines philosophy to be the science of the possible as such. But that is possible which contains no contradiction. Wolff defends this definition against the charge of presuming too much. It is not affirmed, he says, with this definition that either he or any other philosopher knows every thing which is possible. The definition only claims for philosophy the whole province of human knowledge, and it is certainly proper that philosophy should be described according to the highest perfection which it can attain, even though it has not yet actually reached it.-In what parts now does this science of the possible consist? Resting on the perception that there are within the soul two faculties, one of knowing and one of willing, Wolff divides philosophy into two great parts, theoretical philosophy (an expression, however, which first appears among his followers), or metaphysics, and practical philosophy. Logic precedes both as a preliminary training for philosophical study. Metaphysics are still farther divided by Wolff into ontology, cosmology, psychology, and natural theology; practical philosophy he divides into ethics, whose object is man as man; economics, whose object is man as a member of the family; and politics, whose object is man as a citizen of the state.
1. ONTOLOGY is the first part of Wolff's metaphysics. Ontology treats of what are now called categories, or those fundamental conceptions which are applied to every object, and must therefore at the outset be investigated. Aristotle had already furnished a table of categories, but he had derived them wholly empirically. It is not much better with the ontology of Wolff; it is laid out like a philosophical dictionary. At its head he places the principle of contradiction, viz.: it is not possible for any thing to be, and at the same time not to be. The conception of the possible at once follows from this principle. That is possible which contains no contradiction. That is necessary, the opposite of which contradicts itself, and that is accidental, the opposite of which is possible. Every thing which is possible is a thing, though only an imaginary one; that which neither is, nor is possible, is nothing. When many things together compose a thing, this is a whole, and the individual things comprehended by it are its parts. The greatness of a thing consists in the mult.i.tude of its parts. If A contains that by which we can understand the being of B, then that in A by which B becomes understood is the ground of B, and the whole A which contains the ground of B is its cause. That which contains the ground of its properties is the essence of a thing. s.p.a.ce is the arrangement of things which exist conjointly. Place is the determinate way in which a thing exists in conjunction with others. Movement is change of place. Time is the arrangement of that which exists successively, etc.
2. COSMOLOGY.-Wolff defines the world to be a series of changing objects, which exist conjointly and successively, but which are so connected together that one ever contains the ground of the other.