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ety; and which he was induced to announce without any qualification or restriction, in order to give more force and poignancy to his satire. In adopting this mode of writing, he has unconsciously conformed himself, like many other French authors, who have since followed his example, to a suggestion which Aristotle has stated with admirable depth and acuteness in his Rhetoric. “ Sentences or apothegms lend much aid to eloquence. One reason of this is, that they flatter the pride of the hearers, who are delighted when the speaker, making use of general language, touches upon opinions which they had before known to be true in part. Thus, a person who had the misfortune to live in a bad neighbourhood, or to have worthless children, would easily assent to the speaker who should affirm that nothing is more vexatious than to have any neighbours; nothing more irrational than to bring children into the world.”* This observation of Aristotle, while it goes far to account for the imposing and dazzling effect of these rhetorical exaggerations, ought to guard us against the common and popular error of mistaking them for the serious and profound generalizations of science. As for La Rochefoucauld, we know, from the best authorities, that, in private life, he was a conspicuous example of all those moral qualities of which he seemed to deny the existence; and that he exhibited, in this respect, a striking contrast to the Cardinal de Retz, who has presumed to censure him for his want of faith in the reality of virtue.
In reading La Rochefoucauld, it should never be forgotten, that it was within the vortex of a court he enjoyed his chief opportunities of studying the world ; and that the narrow and exclusive circle in which he moved was not likely to afford him the most favorable specimens of human nature in general. Of the Court of Louis the Fourteenth, in particular, we are told by a very nice and reflecting observer (Madame de la Fayette,) that " ambition and gallantry were the soul, actuating alike both men and women. So many contending interests, so many different cabals were constantly at work, and in all of these, women bore so important a part, that love was always mingled with business, and business with love. Nobody was tranquil or indifferent. Every one studied to advance himself by pleasing, serving, or ruining others. Idleness and languor were unknown, and nothing was thought of but intrigues or pleasures.”
* "Έχουσι δε (γνώμαι) εις τους λόγους βοήθειαν μεγάλην, μίαν μεν δη δια φορτικότητα των ακροατών • χαίρουσι γαρ, εάν τις καθόλου λέγων, επιτύχη των δοξών, ας έκείοι κατά μέρος έχουσιν.-Η μεν γαρ γνώμη, ώσπερ είρηται, απόφανσίς εστι· χαίρουσι δε καθόλου λιγομένου, και κατά μέρος προύπολαμβάνοντες τυγχάνουσιν· οίον είτις γείτοσι τύχη κεχρημένος, ń, to ovdey jadiáticoy TEXVOToas. Arist. Rhet. Lib. ii. c. 21.
The whole chapier is interesting and instructive, and shows how profoundly Aristotle had meditated the principles of the rhetorical art.
In the passage already quoted from Voltaire, he takes notice of the effect of La Rochefoucauld's Maxims, in improving the style of French composition. We may add to this remark, that their effect has not been less sensible in vitiating the tone and character of French philosophy, by bringing into vogue those false and degrading representations of human nature and of human life, which have prevailed in that country, more or less, for a century past. Mr. Addison, in one of the papers of the Tatler, expresses his indignation at this general bias among the French writers of his age. ." It is impossible,” he observes, “ to read a passage in Plato or Tully, and a thousand other ancient moralists, without being a greater and better man for it. On the contrary, I could never read any of our modish French authors, or those of our own country, who are the imitators and admirers of that nation, without being, for some time, out of humor with myself, and at every thing about me. Their business is to depreciate human nature, and to consider it under the worst appearances; they give mean interpretations and base motives. to the worthiest actions. In short, they endeavour to make no distinction between man and man, or between the species of man and that of the brutes." *
It is very remarkable that the censure here bestowed by Addison on the fashionable French wits of his time, should be so strictly applicable to Helvetius, and to many other of the most admired authors whom France has produced in our own day. It is still more remarkable to find
* Tatler, No. 108. The last paper of the Tatler was published in 1711 ; and, consequently, the above passage must be understood as referring to the modish tone of French philosophy, prior to the death of Louis the Fourteenth.
the same depressing spirit shedding its malignant influence on French literature, as early as the time of La Rochefoucauld, and even of Montaigne; and to observe how very little has been done by the successors of these old writers, but to expand into grave philosophical systems their loose and lively paradoxes ;-disguising and fortifying them by the aid of those logical principles, to which the name and authority of Locke have given so wide a circulation in Europe.
In tracing the origin of that false philosophy on which the excesses of the French revolutionists havs entailed such merited disgrace, it is usual to remount no higher than to the profligate period of the Regency; but the seeds of its most exceptionable doctrines had been sown in that country at an earlier era, and were indebted for the luxuriancy of their harvest, much more to the political and religious soil where they struck their roots, than to the skill or foresight of the individuals by whose hands they were scattered.
I have united the names of Montaigne and of La Rochefoucauld, because I consider their writings as rather addressed to the world at large, than to the small and select class of speculative students. Neither of them can be said to have enriched the stock of human knowledge by the addition of any one important general conclusion ; but the maxims of both have operated very extensively and powerfully on the taste and principles of the higher orders all over Europe, and predisposed them to give a welcome reception to the same ideas, when afterwards reproduced with the imposing appendages of logical method, and of a technical phraseology. The foregoing reflections, therefore, are not so foreign as might at first be apprehended, to the subsequent history of ethical and of metaphysical speculation. It is time, however, now to turn our attention to a subject far more intimately connected with the general progress of human reason,—the philosophy of Descartes.
According to a late writer,* whose literary decisions (excepting where he touches on religion or politics) are justly entitled to the highest deference, Descartes has a better claim than any other individual, to be regarded as the father of that spirit of free inquiry, which, in modern Europe, has so remarkably displayed itself in all the various departments of knowledge. Of Bacon, he observes, " that though he possessed, in a most eminent degree, the genius of philosophy, he did not unite with it the genius of the sciences; and that the methods proposed by him for the investigation of truth, consisting entirely of precepts which he was unable to exemplify, had little or no effect in accelerating the rate of discovery.” As for Galileo, he remarks on the other hand, “ that his exclusive taste for mathematical and physical researches, disqualified him for communicating to the general mind that impulse of which it stood in need."
- This honor," he adds, " was reserved for Descartes, who combined in himself the characteristical endowments of both his predecessors. If, in the physical sciences, his march be less sure than that of Galileo—if his logic be less cautious than that of Bacon—yet the very temerity of his errors was instrumental to the progress of the human race. He gave activity to minds which the circumspection of his rivals could not awake from their lethargy. He called upon men to throw off the yoke of authority, acknowledging no influence but what reason should avow : and his call was obeyed by a multitude of followers, encouraged by the boldness, and fascinated by the enthusiasm of their leader."
In these observations, the ingenious author has rashly generalized a conclusion deduced from the literary history of his own country. That the works of Bacon were but little read there till after the publication of D’Alembert's Preliminary Discourse, is, I believe, an unquestionable fact; t not that it necessarily follows from this, that, even
One reason for this is wel pointed out by D'Alembert. « Il n'y a que les chefs VOL. VI.
in France, no previous effect had been produced by the labors of Boyle, of Newton, and of the other English experimentalists, trained in Bacon's school. With respect to England, it is a fact not less certain, that at no period did the philosophy of Descartes produce such an impression on public opionion, either in Physics or in Ethics, as to give the slightest color to the supposition, that it contributed, in the most distant degree, to the subsequent advances made by our countrymen in these sciences. In Logic and Metaphysics, indeed, the case was different. Here the writings of Descartes did much; and if they had been studied with proper attention, they might have done much more. But of this part of their merits, Condorcet seems to have had no idea. His eulogy, therefore, is rather misplaced than excessive. He has extolled Descartes as the father of Experimental Physics: he would have been nearer the truth, if he had pointed him out as the father of the Experimental Philosophy of the Human Mind.
In bestowing this title on Descartes, I am far from being inclined to compare him, in the number or importance of the facts which he has remarked concerning our intel- . lectual powers, to various other writers of an earlier date. I allude merely to his clear and precise conception of that operation of the understanding (distinguished afterwards in Locke's Essay, by the name of Reflection,) through the medium of which all our knowledge of Mind is exclusively to be obtained. Of the essential subserviency of this power to every satisfactory conclusion that can be formed with respect to the mental phenomena, and of the futility of every theory which would attempt to explain them by metaphors borrowed from the material world, no other philosopher prior to Locke seems to have been fully aware; and from the moment that these truths were recognised as logical principles in the study of mind, a new era commences in the history of that branch of science. It will be necessary, therefore, to allot to the illustration of this part of the Cartesian philosophy a larger space,
de secte en tout genre, dont les ouvrages puissent avoir un certain éclat; Bacon n'a pas été du nombre, et la forme de sa philosophie s'y opposoit : elle étoit trop sage pour étonner personne.” Disc, Prél.