A History of Philosophy in Epitome - novelonlinefull.com
You’re read light novel A History of Philosophy in Epitome Part 7 online at NovelOnlineFull.com. Please use the follow button to get notification about the latest chapter next time when you visit NovelOnlineFull.com. Use F11 button to read novel in full-screen(PC only). Drop by anytime you want to read free – fast – latest novel. It’s great if you could leave a comment, share your opinion about the new chapters, new novel with others on the internet. We’ll do our best to bring you the finest, latest novel everyday. Enjoy
The Romans have taken no independent part in the progress of philosophy.
After Grecian philosophy and literature had begun to gain a foothold among them, and especially after three distinguished representatives of Attic culture and eloquence-Carneades the Academician, Critolaus the Peripatetic, and Diogenes the Stoic-had appeared in Rome as envoys from Athens; and after Greece, a few years later, had become a Roman province, and thus outwardly in a close connection with Rome, almost all the more significant systems of Grecian philosophy, especially the Epicurean (Lucretius), and the Stoic (Seneca), flourished and found adherents in Rome, though without gaining any real philosophical progress. The Romish philosophizing is wholly eclectic, as is seen in Cicero, the most important and influential philosophic writer among the Romans. But the popular philosophy of this man and of the minds akin to him cannot be strongly a.s.sailed, for, notwithstanding its want of originality and logical sequence, it gave philosophy a broad dissemination, and made it a means of universal culture.
In New Platonism, the ancient mind made its last and almost despairing attempt at a philosophy which should resolve the dualism between the subjective and the objective. The attempt was made by taking on the one side a subjective standpoint, like the other philosophies of the post-Aristotelian time (_cf._ -- XVI 7); and on the other with the design to bring out objective determinations concerning the highest conceptions of metaphysics, and concerning the absolute; in other words, to sketch a system of absolute philosophy. In this respect the effort was made to copy the Platonic and Aristotelian philosophy, and the claim was set up by the new system to be a revival of the original Platonism. On both sides the new attempt formed the closing period of an ancient philosophy. It represents the last struggle, but at the same time the exhaustion of the ancient thinking and the dissolution of the old philosophy.
The first, and also the most important, representative of New Platonism, is _Plotinus_. He was a pupil of Ammonius Saccas, who taught the Platonic philosophy at Alexandria in the beginning of the third century, though he left no writings behind him. Plotinus (A. D. 205-270) from his fortieth year taught philosophy at Rome. His opinions are contained in a course of hastily written and not closely connected treatises, which, after his death, were collected and published in six enneads by _Porphyry_ (who was born A. D. 233, and taught both philosophy and eloquence at Rome), his most noted disciple. From Rome and Alexandria, the New Platonism of Plotinus pa.s.sed over in the fourth century to Athens, where it established itself in the Academy. In the fourth century, _Jamblichus_, a scholar of Porphyry, and in the fifth, Proclus, (412-485), were prominently distinguished among the New Platonists. With the triumph of Christianity and the consequent fall of heathenism, in the course of the sixth century, even this last bloom of Grecian philosophy faded away.
The common characteristic of all the New Platonists is a tendency to mysticism, theosophy, and theurgy. The majority of them gave themselves up to magic and sorcery, and the most distinguished boasted that they were the subjects of divine inspiration and illumination, able to look into the future, and to work miracles. They professed to be hierophants as much as philosophers, and exhibited the unmistakable tendency to represent a Pagan copy of Christianity, which should be at the same time a philosophy and a universal religion. In the following sketch of New Platonism we follow mainly the track of Plotinus.
1. ECSTASY AS A SUBJECTIVE STATE.-The result of the philosophical strivings antecedent to New Platonism had been Scepticism; which, seeing the impracticability of both the Stoic and Epicurean wisdom, had a.s.sumed a totally negative relation to every positive and theoretical content.
But the end which Scepticism had actually gained was the opposite of that for which it had striven. It had striven for the perfect apathy of the sage, but it had gained only the necessity of incessantly opposing every positive affirmation. Instead of the rest which they had sought, they found rather an absolute unrest. This absolute unrest of the consciousness striving after an absolute rest, begat immediately a longing to be freed from this unrest, a longing after some content which should be absolutely satisfying, and stripped of every sceptical objection. This longing after an absolutely true, found its historical expression in New Platonism. The subject sought to master and comprehend the absolute; and this, neither by objective knowledge nor dialectic mediation, but immediately, by an inner and mystical mounting up of the subject in the form of an immediate beholding, or ecstasy. The knowledge of the true, says Plotinus, is not gained by proof nor by any mediation; it cannot be found when the objects known remain separate from the subject knowing, but only when the distinction between knower and known disappears; it is a beholding of the reason in itself, not in the sense that we see the reason, but the reason beholds itself; in no other way can knowledge come. If any one has attained to such a beholding, to such a true unison with the divine, he will despise the pure thinking which he otherwise loved, for this thinking was only a movement which presupposed a difference between the perceiver and the perceived. This mystical absorption into the Deity, or, the One, this resolving the self into the absolute, is that which gives to New Platonism a character so peculiarly distinct from the genuine Grecian systems of philosophy.
2. THE COSMICAL PRINCIPLES.-The doctrine of the three cosmical principles is most closely connected with the theory just named. To the two cosmical principles already received, viz., the world-soul and the world-reason, a third and higher one was added by the New Platonists.
For if the reason apprehends the true by means of thinking, and not within itself alone; if, in order to grasp the absolute and behold the divine, it must lose its own self-consciousness, and go out beyond itself, then reason cannot be the highest principle, but there stands above it that primal essence, with which it must be united if it will behold the true. To this primal essence Plotinus gives different names, as "the first," "the one," "the good," and "that which stands above being" (being is with him but a conception, which, like the reason, may be resolved into a higher ground, and which, united with the reason, forms but the second step in the series of highest conceptions). In all these names, Plotinus does not profess to have satisfactorily expressed the essence of this primal one, but only to have given a representation of it. In characterizing it still farther, he denies it all thinking and willing, because it needs nothing and can desire nothing; it is not energy, but above energy; life does not belong to it; neither being nor essence nor any of the most general categories of being can be ascribed to it; in short, it is that which can neither be expressed nor thought.
Plotinus has thoroughly striven to think of this first principle not as first principle, _i. e._ not in its relation to that of which it is the ground, but only in itself, as being wholly without reference either to us or to any thing else. This pure abstraction, however, he could not carry out. He sets himself to show how every thing else, and especially the two other cosmical principles, could emanate from this first; but in order to have a principle for his emanation theory, he was obliged to consider the first in its relation to the second and as its producer.
3. THE EMANATION THEORY OF THE NEW PLATONISTS.-Every emanation theory, and hence also that of the New Platonists, considers the world as the effluence of G.o.d, and gives to the emanation a greater or less degree of perfection, according as it is nearer or more remote from its source.
They all have for their principle the totality of being, and represent a progressively ascending relation in its several parts. Fire, says Plotinus, emits heat, snow cold, fragrant bodies odors, and every organic thing so far as it is perfect begets something like itself. In the same way the all-perfect and the eternal, in the overflowing of his perfection sends out from himself that which is also eternal, and after him, the best, viz., the reason or world-intelligence, which is the immediate reflection and image of the primal one. Plotinus abounds in figures to show how the primal one need lose nothing nor become weakened by this emanation of reason. Next to the original one, reason is the most perfect. It contains in itself the ideal world, and the whole of true and changeless being. Some notion may be formed of its exaltation and glory by carefully beholding the sensible world in its greatness, its beauty, and the order of its ceaseless motion, and then by rising to contemplate its archetype in the pure and changeless being of the intelligible world, and then by recognizing in intelligence the author and finisher of all. In it there is neither past nor future, but only an ever abiding present. It is, moreover, as incapable of division in s.p.a.ce as of change in time. It is the true eternity, which is only copied by time. As reason flows from the primal one, so does the world-soul eternally emanate from reason, though the latter incurs no change thereby. The world-soul is the copy of reason, permeated by it, and actualizing it in an outer world. It gives ideas externally to sensible matter, which is the last and lowest step in the series of emanations and in itself is undetermined, and has neither quality nor being. In this way the visible universe is but the transcript of the world-soul, which forms it out of matter, permeates and animates it, and carries it forward in a circle. Here closes the series of emanations, and, as was the aim of the theory, we have been carried in a constant current from the highest to the lowest, from G.o.d to the mere image of true being, or the sensible world.
Individual souls, like the world-soul, are linked both to the higher and the lower, to reason and the sensible; now bound with the latter and sharing its destiny, and anon rising to their source in reason. Their original and proper home was in the rational world, from whence they have come down, each one in its proper time, into the corporeal; not, however, wholly forsaking their ideal abode, but as a sunbeam touches at the same time the sun and the earth, so are they found alike in the world of reason and the world of sense. Our calling, therefore-and here we come back to the point from which we started in our exhibition of New Platonism-can only be to direct our senses and aspirations towards our proper home, in the ideal world, and by asceticism and crucifying of the flesh, to free our better self from its partic.i.p.ation with the body. But when our soul has once mounted up to the ideal world, that image of the originally good and beautiful, it then attains the final goal of all its longings and efforts, the immediate union with G.o.d, through the enraptured beholding of the primal one in which it loses its consciousness and becomes buried and absorbed.
According to all this, the New Platonic philosophy would seem to be a monism, and thus the most perfect development of ancient philosophy, in so far as this had striven to carry back the sum of all being to one ultimate ground. But as it attained its highest principle from which all the rest was derived, by means of ecstasy, by a mystical self-destruction of the individual person (_Ichheit_), by asceticism and theurgy, and not by means of self-conscious thinking, nor by any natural or rational way, it is seen that ancient philosophy, instead of becoming perfected in New Platonism, only makes a despairing leap beyond itself to its own self-destruction.
CHRISTIANITY AND SCHOLASTICISM.
1. THE CHRISTIAN IDEA.-The Grecian intellectual life at the time of its fairest bloom, was characterized by the immediate sacrifice of the subject to the object (nature, the state, &c.): the full breach between the two, between spirit and nature, had not yet arrived; the subject had not yet so far reflected upon himself that he could apprehend his own absolute worth. This breach came in, with the decay of Grecian life, in the time after Alexander the Great. As the objective world lost its influence, the thinking consciousness turned back upon itself; but even in this very process, the bridge between subject and object was broken down. The self-consciousness had not yet become sufficiently absorbed in itself to look upon the true, the divine, in any other light than as separate from itself, and belonging to an opposite world; while a feeling of pain, of unsatisfied desire, took the place of that fair unity between spirit and nature which had been peculiar to the better periods of the Grecian civil and artistic life. New Platonism, by its overleaping speculation, and, practically, by its mortification of the sense, made a last and despairing attempt to overcome this separation, or to bury itself within it, by bringing the two sides forcibly together. The attempt was in vain, and the old philosophy, totally exhausted, came to its end. Dualism is therefore the rock on which it split. This problem, thus left without a solution, Christianity took up.
It a.s.sumed for its principle the idea which the ancient thinking had not known how to carry out, affirming that the separation between G.o.d and man might be overcome, and that the human and the divine could be united in one. The speculative fundamental idea of Christianity is, that G.o.d has become incarnate, and this had its practical exhibition (for Christianity was a practical religion) in the idea of the atonement and the demand of the new birth, _i. e._ the positive purifying of the sense from its corruptions, instead of holding it, as asceticism, in a merely negative relation.
From the introduction of Christianity, monism has been the character and the fundamental tendency of the whole modern philosophy. In fact, the new philosophy started from the very point at which the old had stood still. The turning of the self-consciousness upon itself, which was the standpoint of the post-Aristotelian speculations, forms in Descartes the starting-point of the new philosophy, whose whole course has been the reconciling of that opposition beyond which the old could not pa.s.s.
2. SCHOLASTICISM.-It very early resulted that Christianity came in contact with the cotemporaneous philosophy, especially with Platonism.
This arose first with the apologists of the second century, and the fathers of the Alexandrian church. Subsequently, in the ninth century, Scotus Erigena made an attempt to combine Christianity with New Platonism, though it was not till the second half of the Middle Ages, from the eleventh century, that there was developed any thing that might be properly termed a Christian philosophy. This was the so-called Scholasticism.
The effort of Scholasticism was to mediate between the dogma of religion and the reflecting self-consciousness; to reconcile faith and knowledge.
When the dogma pa.s.sed over into the schools from the Church which had given it utterance, and theology became a science of the universities, the scientific interest a.s.serted its rights, and undertook to bring the dogma which had hitherto stood over against the self-consciousness as an external power, into a closer relation to the thinking subject. A series of attempts was now made to bring out the doctrines of the Church in the form of scientific systems (the first complete dogmatic system was given by _Peter Lombard_, who died 1164, in his four books of sentences, and was voluminously commented upon by the later Scholastics), all starting from the indisputable premise (beyond which scholastic thinking never reached), that the faith of the church is absolute truth; but all guided likewise by the interest to make this revealed truth intelligible, and to show it to be rational. "_Credo ut intelligam_"-this expression of _Anselm_, the beginner and founder of Scholasticism (he was born about 1034, and made Archbishop of Canterbury in 1093), was the watchword of this whole direction. Scholasticism applied to the solution of its problem the most remarkable logical ac.u.men, and brought out systems of doctrine like the Gothic cathedrals in their architecture. The extended study of Aristotle, called _par eminence_ "the philosopher," whom many of the most distinguished Scholastics wrote commentaries upon, and who was greatly studied at the same period among the Arabians (_Avicenna_ and _Averroes_), furnished their terminology and most of their points of view. At the summit of Scholasticism we must place the two incontestably greatest masters of the Scholastic art and method, _Thomas Aquinas_ (Dominican, who died 1274) and _Duns Scotus_ (Franciscan, who died 1308), the founders of two schools, in which since their time the whole Scholastic theology divides itself-the former exalting the understanding (_intellectus_), and the latter the will (_voluntas_), as their highest principle, both being driven into essentially differing directions by this opposition of a theoretical and a practical principle. Even with this began the downfall of Scholasticism; its highest point was also the turning-point to its self-destruction. The rationality of the dogma, the oneness of faith and knowledge, had been constantly their fundamental premise; but this premise fell away, and the whole basis of their metaphysics was given up in principle, the moment Duns Scotus placed the problem of theology in the practical. When the practical and the theoretical became divided, and still more when thought and being were separated by Nominalism (_cf._ 3), philosophy broke loose from theology and knowledge from faith; knowledge a.s.sumed its position above faith and above authority (modern philosophy), and the religious consciousness broke with the traditional dogma (the Reformation).
3. NOMINALISM AND REALISM.-Hand in hand with the whole development of Scholasticism, there was developed the opposition between Nominalism and Realism, an opposition whose origin is to be found in the relation of Scholasticism to the Platonic and Aristotelian philosophy. The Nominalists were those who held that the conceptions of the universal (the universalia) were simple names, _flatus vocis_, representations without content and without reality. According to them there are no universal conceptions, no species, no cla.s.s; every thing which is, exists only as separate in its pure individuality; there is, therefore, no pure thinking, but only a representation and sensuous perception. The Realists, on the other hand, taking pattern from Plato, held fast to the objective reality of the universals (_universalia ante rem_). These opposite directions appeared first between _Roscellinus_, who took the side of Nominalism, and _Anselm_, who advocated the Realistic theory, and it is seen from this time through the whole period of Scholasticism, though from the age of _Abelard_ (born 1079) a middle view, which was both Nominalistic and Realistic, held with some slight modifications the prominent place (_universalia in re_). According to this view the universal is only something thought and represented, though as such it is not simply a product of the representing consciousness, but has also its objective reality in objects themselves, from which it was argued we could not abstract it if it were not essentially contained in them. This ident.i.ty of thought and being, is the fundamental premise on which the whole dialectic course of the Scholastics rests. All their arguments are founded on the claim, that that which has been syllogistically proved is in reality the same as in logical thinking. If this premise is overthrown, so falls with it the whole basis of Scholasticism; and there remains nothing more for the thinker to do, who has gone astray in his objectivity, but to fall back upon himself. This self-dissolution of Scholasticism actually appears with _William of Occam_ (died 1347), the most influential reviver of that Nominalism which had been so mighty in the beginning of Scholasticism, but which now, more victorious against a decaying than then against a rising form of culture, plucked away its foundation from the framework of Scholastic dogmatism, and brought the whole structure into inevitable ruin.
TRANSITION TO THE MODERN PHILOSOPHY.
The emanc.i.p.ation of modern philosophy from the bondage of Scholasticism was a gradual process. It first showed itself in a series of preparative movements during the fifteenth century, and became perfected, negatively, in the course of the sixteenth, and positively in the first half of the seventeenth century.
1. FALL OF SCHOLASTICISM.-The immediate ground of this changed direction of the time, we have already seen in the inner decay of Scholasticism itself. Just so soon as the fundamental premise on which the Scholastic theology and method rested, the rationality of the dogma, was abandoned, the whole structure, as already remarked, fell to inevitable ruin. The conviction, directly opposed to the principle of Scholasticism, that what might be true dogmatically, might be false, or, at least, incapable of proof in the eye of the reason-a point of view from which _e. g._ the Aristotelian _Pomponatius_ (1462-1530) treated the doctrines of the future state, and in whose light _Vanini_ subsequently went over the chief problems of philosophy-kept gaining ground, notwithstanding the opposition of the Church, and even a.s.sociated with itself the opinion that reason and revelation could not be harmonized. The feeling became prevalent that philosophy must be freed from its previous condition of minority and servitude; a struggle after a greater independence of philosophic investigation was awakened, and though no one yet ventured to attack directly the doctrine of the Church, the effort was made to shatter the confidence in the chief bulwark of Scholasticism, the Aristotelian philosophy, or what at that period was regarded as such; (especially in this connection _Peter Ramus_, (1515-1572) should be mentioned, who fell in the ma.s.sacre of St. Bartholomew). The authority of the Church became more and more weakened in the faith of the people, and the great principles of Scholasticism came to an end.
2. THE RESULTS OF SCHOLASTICISM.-Notwithstanding all, Scholasticism was not without its positively good results. Though standing wholly in the service of the Church, it had, nevertheless, grown out of a scientific impulse, and so naturally awakened a free spirit of inquiry and a sense for knowledge. It made the objects of faith the objects of thought, it raised men from the sphere of unconditional faith to the sphere of doubt, of investigation and of knowledge, and by its very effort to demonstrate the principles of theology it established, though against its knowledge and design, the authority of reason. It thus introduced to the world another principle than that of the old Church, the principle of the thinking spirit, the self-consciousness of the reason, or at least prepared the way for the victory of this principle. Even the deformities and unfavorable side of Scholasticism, the many absurd questions upon which the Scholastics divided, even their thousandfold unnecessary and accidental distinctions, their inquisitiveness and subtleties, all sprang from a rational principle, and grew out of a spirit of investigation, which could only utter itself in this way under the all powerful ecclesiastical spirit of the time. Only when it was surpa.s.sed by the advancing spirit of the age, did Scholasticism, falsifying its original meaning, make common cause and interest with the old ecclesiasticism, and turned itself as the most violent opposer against the improvements of the new period.
3. THE REVIVAL OF LETTERS.-The revival of cla.s.sic literature contributed prominently to that change in the spirit of the age which marks the beginning of the new epoch of philosophy. The study of the ancients, especially of the Greeks, had almost wholly ceased in the course of the Middle Ages; even the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle was known, for the most part, only through Latin translations or secondary sources; no one realized the spirit of cla.s.sic life, and all sense for beauty of form and elegant composition had pa.s.sed away. The change was chiefly brought about by means of the Greek scholars who fled from Constantinople to Italy; the study of the ancients in the original sources came up again; the newly discovered art of printing allowed the cla.s.sics to be widely circulated; the Medicis drew cla.s.sic scholars to their court; all this working for a far better understanding of the ancient philosophy. _Besarion_ (died 1472) and _Ficinus_ (died 1499) were prominent in this movement. The result was presently seen. The new scholars contended against the stiff and uncouth manner in which the sciences had hitherto been treated, new ideas began to circulate, and there arose again the free, universal, thinking spirit of antiquity. In Germany, also, cla.s.sic studies found a fruitful soil. _Reuchlin_ (born 1454), _Melancthon_ and _Erasmus_, labored in this sense, and the cla.s.sic movement, hostile as it was to the Scholastic impulse, favored most decidedly the growing tendencies to the Reformation.
4. THE GERMAN REFORMATION.-All the elements of the new age, the struggle against Scholasticism, the revival of letters and the more enlarged culture thus secured, the striving after national independence, the attempts of the state to free itself from the Church and the hierarchy, and above all, the desire of the thinking self-consciousness for autonomy, for freedom from the fetters of authority-all these elements found their focus and point of union in the German Reformation. Though having its root at first in practical, and religious, and national interests, and expending itself mainly upon the Christian doctrine and Church, yet was the Reformation in principle and in its true consequences a rupture of the thinking spirit with authority, a protesting against the fetters of the positive, a return of the mind from its self-estrangement to itself. From that which was without, the mind now came back to that which is within, and the purely human as such, the individual heart and conscience, the subjective conviction, in a word, the rights of the subject now began to be of worth. While marriage had formerly been regarded, though not immoral, as yet inferior to continence and celibacy, it appeared now as a divine inst.i.tution, a natural law ordained of G.o.d. While poverty had formerly been esteemed higher than wealth, and the contemplative life of the monk was superior to the manual labor of the layman supporting himself by his own toil, yet now poverty ceased to be desirable in itself, and labor was no longer despised. Ecclesiastical freedom took the place of spiritual bondage; monasticism and the priesthood lost their power. In the same way, on the side of knowledge the individual man came back to himself, and threw off the restraints of authority. He was impressed with the conviction that the whole process of redemption must be experienced within himself, that his reconciliation to G.o.d and salvation was his own concern, for which he needed no mediation of priests, and that he stood in an immediate relation to G.o.d. He found his whole being in his faith, in the depth of his feelings and convictions.
Since thus Protestantism sprang from the essence of the same spirit in which modern philosophy had its birth, the two have the closest relation to each other, though of course there is a specific difference between the religious and the scientific principle. Yet in their origin, both kinds of Protestantism, that of religion and that of thought, are one and the same, and in their progress they have also gone hand in hand together. For religion, reduced to its simple elements, will be found to have its source, like philosophy, in the self-knowledge of the reason.
5. THE ADVANCEMENT OF THE NATURAL SCIENCES.-To all these phenomena, which should be regarded both as causes and as symptoms of the intellectual revolution of this period, we must add yet another, which essentially facilitated and gave a positive a.s.sistance to the freedom of the mind from the fetters of authority-the starting up of the natural sciences and the inductive method of examining nature. This epoch was a period of the most fruitful and influential discoveries in nature. The discovery of America and the pa.s.sage to the East Indies had already widened the circle of view, but still greater revolutions are connected with the name of a _Copernicus_ (died 1543), _Kepler_ (died 1630), and _Galileo_ (died 1642), revolutions which could not remain, without an influence upon the whole mode of thinking of that age, and which contributed prominently to break the faith in the prevailing ecclesiastical authority. Scholasticism had turned away from nature and the phenomenal world, and, blind towards that which lay before the very eyes, had spent itself in a dreamy intellectuality; but now nature rose again in honor; her glory and exaltation, her infinite diversity and fulness of life became again the immediate objects of observation; to investigate nature became an essential object of philosophy, and scientific empiricism was thus regarded as a universal and essential concern of the thinking man. From this time the natural sciences date their historical importance, for only from this time have they had an uninterrupted history. The results of this new intellectual movement can be readily estimated. Such a scientific investigation of nature not only destroyed a series of traditional errors and prejudices, but, what was of greater importance, it directed the intellectual interest towards that which is real and actual, it nourished and protected the self-thinking and feeling of self-dependence, the spirit of inquiry and proof. The standpoint of observation and experiment presupposes an independent self-consciousness of the individual, a breaking loose from authority-in a word, scepticism, with which, in fact, the founders of modern philosophy, _Bacon_ and _Descartes_, began; the former by conditioning the knowledge of nature upon the removal of all prejudice and every preconceived opinion, and the latter by demanding that philosophy should be begun with universal doubt. No wonder that a bitter struggle should soon break out between the natural sciences and ecclesiastical orthodoxy, which could only result in breaking the power of the latter.
6. BACON OF VERULAM.-Francis of Verulam was born in 1561, and was Lord High Chancellor of England and keeper of the king's seal under James I.
From these offices he was subsequently expelled, and died in 1626, with a character which has not been without reproach. He took as his principle the inductive method, which he directed expressly against Scholasticism and the ruling scientific method. On this account he is frequently placed at the head of modern philosophy.
The sciences, says Bacon, have hitherto been in a most sad condition.
Philosophy, wasted in empty and fruitless logomachies, has failed during so many centuries to bring out a single work or experiment of actual benefit to human life. Logic hitherto has served more to the establishment of error than to the investigation of truth. Whence all this? Why this penury of the sciences? Simply because they have broken away from their root in nature and experience. The blame of this is chargeable to many sources; first, the old and rooted prejudice that the human mind loses somewhat of its dignity when it busies itself much and continuously with experiments and material things; next, superst.i.tion and a blind religious zeal, which has been the most irreconcilable opposer to natural philosophy; again, the exclusive attention paid to morals and politics by the Romans, and since the Christian era to theology by every acute mind; still farther, the great authority which certain philosophers have professed, and the great reverence given, to antiquity; and in fine, a want of courage and a despair of overcoming the many and great difficulties which lie in the way of the investigation of nature. All these causes have contributed to keep down the sciences. Hence they must now be renewed, and regenerated, and reformed in their most fundamental principles; there must now be found a new basis of knowledge and new principles of science. This radical reformation of the sciences depends upon two conditions, objectively upon the referring of science to experience and the philosophy of nature, and subjectively upon the purifying of the sense and the intellect from all abstract theories and traditional prejudices. Both conditions furnish the correct method of natural science, which is nothing other than the method of induction. Upon a true induction depends all the soundness of the sciences.
In these propositions the Baconian philosophy is contained. The historical significance of its founder is, therefore, in general this,-that he directed the attention and reflection of his contemporaries again upon the given actuality, upon nature; that he affirmed the necessity of experience, which had been formerly only a matter of accident, and made it as in and for itself an object of thought. His merit consists in having brought up the principle of scientific empiricism, and only in this. Strictly speaking, we can allow no _content_ to the Baconian philosophy, although (in his treatise _de augmentis scientiarum_) he has attempted a systematic encyclopedia of the sciences according to a new principle of cla.s.sification, through which he has scattered an abundance of fine and fruitful observations, which are still used as apothegms.
7. THE ITALIAN PHILOSOPHERS OF THE TRANSITION EPOCH.-Besides Bacon, other phenomena must be noticed which have prepared and introduced the new age of philosophy. First among these is a list of Italian philosophers, from the second half of the sixteenth and the first half of the seventeenth century. These philosophers are connected in a twofold manner with the movements already sketched of this transition period, first by an enthusiasm for nature which among them all partook in a greater or less degree of pantheism (Vanini _e. g._ gave to one of his writings the t.i.tle "concerning the wonderful secrets of nature, the queen and G.o.ddess of mortals"), and second, by their connection with the systems of ancient philosophy. The best known of these philosophers are the following: _Carda.n.u.s_ (1501-1575), _Campanella_ (1568-1639), _Giordano Bruno_ (-1600), _Vanini_ (1586-1619.) They were all men of a pa.s.sionate, enthusiastic and impetuous nature, unsteady and wild in character, restless and adventurous in life, men who were inspired by an eager impulse towards knowledge, but who were carried away by great fantasy, wildness of imagination, and a seeking after secret astrological and geomantic knowledge. For these reasons they also pa.s.sed away, leaving no fruitful result behind. They were all persecuted by the hierarchy, and two of them (Bruno and Vanini) ended their lives at the stake. In their whole historical appearance they are like the eruption of a volcano, and are to be regarded more as forerunners and announcers than as beginners and founders of the new age of philosophy. The most important among them is _Giordano Bruno_. He reviewed the old idea of the Stoics, that the world is a living being, and that a world-soul penetrates it all. The content of his general thought is the profoundest enthusiasm for nature, and the plastic reason which is present in it.
The reason is, according to him, the inner artist who shapes the matter and manifests himself in the forms of the universe. From the heart of the root or the germ he sends out the lobes, and from these again he evolves the shoots, and from the shoots the branches, until bud, and leaf, and blossom are brought forth. Every thing is arranged, adjusted, and perfected within. Thus the universal reason calls back from within the sap out of the fruits and flowers to the branches again, &c. The universe thus is an infinite living thing, in which every thing lives and moves after the most manifold way.
The relation of the reason to matter, Bruno determines wholly in the Aristotelian manner; both stand related to each other as form and matter, as actuality and potentiality, neither is without the other; the form is the inner impelling might of matter, and matter, as the unlimited possibility, as the capability for an infinite diversity of form, is the mother of all forms. The other side of Bruno's philosophizing, his elaboration of the topics of Lullus, which occupies the greater part of his writings, has little philosophic interest, and we therefore pa.s.s it by.
8. JACOB BOEHME.-As Bacon among the English and Bruno among the Italians, so _Jacob Boehme_ is the index among the Germans of this transition period. Each one of these three indicates it in a way peculiar to his own nationality; Bacon as the herald of empiricism, Bruno as the representative of a poetic pantheism, and Boehme as the father of the theosophic mysticism. If we regarded alone the profoundness of his principle, Boehme should hold a much later place in the history of philosophy, but if we looked chiefly at the imperfect form of his philosophizing, his rank would be a.s.signed to the mystics of the Middle Ages, while chronologically we must a.s.sociate him with the German Reformation and the protestant elements that were nourished at that time. His true position is among the forerunners and prophets of the new age.
Jacob Boehme was born in 1575, in old Seidenburg, a village of upper Lusace, not far from Goerlitz. His parents were poor peasants. In his boyhood be took care of the cattle, and in his youth, after he had acquired the rudiments of reading and writing in a village school, he was sent to Goerlitz to learn the shoe-maker's art. He finished his apprenticeship and settled down at Goerlitz in 1594 as master of his trade. Even in his youth he had received illuminations or mysterious revealings, which were subsequently repeated when his soul, striving for the truth, had become profoundly agitated by the religious conflicts of the age. Besides the Bible, the only books which Boehme read were some mystical writings of a theosophic and alchymistic content, _e. g._ those of Paracelsus. His entire want of culture is seen as soon as he undertakes to write down his thoughts, or, as he calls them, his illuminations. Hence the imperious struggle of the thought with the expression, which, however, not unfrequently rises to a dialectical acuteness and a poetic beauty. His first treatise, Aurora, composed in the year 1612, brought Boehme into trouble with the chief pastor in Goerlitz, Gregorious Richter, who publicly condemned the book from the pulpit, and even ridiculed the person of its author. The writing of books was prohibited him by a magistrate, a prohibition which Boehme observed for many years, till at length the command of the spirit was too mighty within him, and he took up again his literary labors. Boehme was a plain, quiet, modest and gentle man. He died in 1624.
To give an exhibition of his theosophy in a few words is very difficult, since Boehme, instead of clothing his thoughts in a logical form, dressed them only in pictures of the sense and obscure a.n.a.logies, and often availed himself of the most arbitrary and singular modes of expression. A twilight reigns in his writings, as in a Gothic cathedral where the light falls through variegated windows. Hence the magic effect which he has made upon many hearts. The chief thought of his philosophizing is this, viz., that the distinguishing of the self from the not-self is the essential determination of spirit, and hence of G.o.d so far as G.o.d is to be apprehended as spirit. G.o.d, according to Boehme, is living spirit only at the time and in the degree in which he conceives the distinction within himself from himself, and is in this distinction object and consciousness. The distinction of G.o.d in himself is the only source of his and of all actuosity and spontaneity, the spring and fountain of that self-active life which produces consciousness out of itself. Boehme is inexhaustible in images by which this negativity in G.o.d, his self-distinguishing and self-renunciation to the world, may be made conceivable. The great expansion without end, he says, needs limitation and a compa.s.s in which it may manifest itself, for in expansion without limit there could be no manifestation, there must be a contraction and an enclosing, in order that a manifestation may arise. See, he says in another place, if the will were only of one kind, then would the soul have only one quality, and were an immovable thing, which would always lie still and never do any thing farther than one thing; in this there could be no joy, as also no art nor science of other things, and no wisdom; every thing would be a nothing, and there would be neither heart nor will for any thing, for there would be only the single. Hence it cannot be said that the whole G.o.d is in one will and essence, there is a distinction. Nothing can ever become manifest to itself without resistance, for if it has nothing resisting, it expends itself and never comes to itself again; but if it does not come to itself again except in that from which it has originally sprung, it thus knows nothing of its original condition. The above thought Boehme expresses when he says in his _Questionibus Theosophicis_; the reader should know that in yea and nay all things consist, whether divine, devilish, earthly, or whatever may be named. The one as the yea, is simple energy and love, and is the truth of G.o.d and G.o.d himself. But this were inconceivable, and there were neither delight, nor importance, nor sensibility, without the nay. The nay is thrown in the way of the yea, or of truth, in order that the truth may be manifest and something, in which there may be a contrarium, where eternal love may work and become sensitive and willing. There is nothing in the one which is an occasion for willing until the one becomes duplicated, and so there can be no sensation in unity, but only in duality. In brief, according to Boehme, neither knowledge nor consciousness is possible, without distinction, without opposition, without duplication; a thing becomes clear and an object of consciousness only through something else, through its own opposition identical with its own being. It was very natural to connect this thought of a unity distinguishing itself in itself, with the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, as Boehme has, in fact, repeatedly done when treating of the Divine life and its process of duplication. Sch.e.l.ling afterwards took up these ideas of Boehme and philosophically elaborated them.
If we should a.s.sign to the theosophy of Boehme a position in the development of later philosophy corresponding to the inner content of its principle, it would most properly be placed as a complement to the system of _Spinoza_. If Spinoza taught the flowing back of all the finite into the eternal one, Boehme, on the other hand, shows the procession of the finite from the eternal one, and the inner necessity of this procession, since the being of this one would be rather a not-being without such a self-duplication. Compared with Descartes, Boehme has at least more profoundly apprehended the conception of self-consciousness and the relation of the finite to G.o.d. But his historical position in other respects is far too isolated and exceptional, and his mode of statement far too impure, to warrant us in incorporating him anywhere in a series of systems developed continuously and in a genetic connection.