« PoprzedniaDalej »
compensate the mischievous tendency of some of his other doctrines.
To the same causes it was probably owing, that Locke has availed himself so little in his Conduct of the Understanding, of his own favorite doctrine of the Association of Ideas. He has been, indeed, at sufficient pains to warn parents and guardians of the mischievous consequences to be apprehended from this part of our constitution, if not diligently watched over in our infant years. But he seems to have altogether overlooked the positive and immense resources which might be derived from it, in the culture and melioration, both of our intellectual and moral powers ;-in strengthening (for instance), by early habits of right thinking, the authority of reason and of conscience ;-in blending with our best feelings the congenial and ennobling sympathies of taste and of fancy ;and in identifying with the first workings of the imagination, those pleasing views of the order of the universe, which are so essentially necessary to human happiness. A law of our nature, so mighty and so extensive in its influence, was surely not given to man in vain ; and the fatal purchase which it has, in all ages, afforded to Machiavellian statesmen, and to political religionists, in carrying into effect their joint conspiracy against the improvement and welfare of our species, is the most decisive proof of the manifold uses to which it might be turned in the hands of instructers, well disposed and well qualified humbly to co-operate with the obvious and unerring purposes of Divine Wisdom.
A more convenient opportunity will afterwards occur for taking some notice of Locke's writings on Money and Trade, and on the Principles of Government. They appear to me to be connected less naturally and closely with the literary history of the times when they appeared, than with the systematical views which were opened on the same subjects, about fifty years afterwards, by some speculative politicians in France and in England. I shall, therefore, delay any remarks on them which I have to offer, till we arrive at the period, when the questions to which they relate began every where to attract the attention of the learned world, and to be discussed on those
general principles of expediency and equity, which form the basis of the modern science of Political Economy. With respect to his merits as a logical and metaphysical reformer, enough has been already said for this introductory section : but I shall have occasion, more than once, to recur to them in the following pages, when I come to review those later theories of which the germs or rudiments may be distinctly traced in his works; and of which he is, therefore, entitled to divide the praise with such of his successors as have reared to maturity the prolific seeds scattered by his hand.*
INDEPENDENTLY of the pre-eminent rank, which the versatile talents, and the universal learning of Leibnitz entitle him to hold among the illustrious men who adorned the Continent of Europe during the eighteenth century, there are other considerations which have determined me to unite his name with that of Locke, in fixing the commencement of the period, on the history of which I am now to enter. The school of which he was the founder was strongly discriminated from that of Locke, by the general spirit of its doctrines ; and to this school a large proportion of the metaphysicians, and also of the mathematicians of Germany, Holland, France, and Italy, have, ever since his time, had a decided leaning. On the fundamental question, indeed, concerning the Origin of our Knowledge, the philosophers of the Continent (with the exception of the Germans, and a few eminent individuals in other countries) have, in general, sided with Locke, or rather with Gassendi; but, in most other instances, a
* And yet with what modesty does Locke speak of his own pretensions as a Philosopher! “ In an age that produces such masters as the great Huygenins and the incomparable Mr. Newton, it is ambition enough to be employed as an under-laborer in clearing the ground a little, and reinoving some of the rubbish that lies in the way to knowledge.” (Essay on Human Understanding. Epistle to the Reader.) See Note (W.)
partiality for the opinions, and a deference for the authority of Leibnitz, may be traced in their speculations, both on metaphysical and physical subjects. Hence a striking contrast between the characteristical features of the continental philosophy, and those of contemporary systems which have succeeded each other in our own island; the great proportion of our most noted writers, notwithstanding the opposition of their sentiments on particular points, having either attached themselves, or professed to attach themselves, to the method of inquiry recommended and exemplified by Locke.
But the circumstance which chiefly induced me to assign to Leibnitz so prominent a place in this historical sketch, is the extraordinary influence of his industry and zeal, in uniting, by a mutual communication of intellectual lights and of moral sympathies, the most powerful and leading minds scattered over Christendom. Some preliminary steps towards such an union had been already taken by Wallis in England, and by Mersenne in France; but the literary commerce, of which they were the centres, was confined almost exclusively to Mathematics and to Physics; while the comprehensive correspondence of Leibnitz extended alike to every pursuit interesting to man, either as a speculative or as an active being. From this time forward, accordingly, the history of philosophy involves, in a far greater degree than at any former period, the general history of the human mind ; and we shall find, in our attempts to trace its farther progress, our attention more and more irresistibly withdrawn from local details to more enlarged views of the globe which we inhabit. A striking change in this literary commerce among nations took place, at least in the western parts of Europe, before the death of Leibnitz; but, during the remainder of the last century, it continued to proceed with an accelerated rapidity over the whole face of the civilized world. A multitude of causes, undoubtedly, conspired to produce it; but I know of no individual whose name is better entitled, than that of Leibnitz, to mark the era of its commencement.*
* The following maxims of Leibnitz deserve the serious attention of all who have at heart the improvement of mankind:
“On trouve dans le monde plusieurs personnes bien intentionées ; mais le mal est, qu'elles ne s'entendent point, et ne travaillent point de concert. S'il y avoit moyen de trouver une espèce de glu pour les réunir, on feroit quelque chose. Le mal est souvent, que les gens de bien ont quelques caprices, ou opinions particulières, qui font qu'ils sont contraires entr'eux ..... L'esprit sectaire consiste proprement dans cette prétention de vouloir que les autres se règlent sur nos maximes, au lieu qu'on se devroit contenter de voir qu'on aille au but principal.” (Leib. Op. Tom. I. p. 740.)
I have already, in treating of the philosophy of Locke, said enough, and perhaps more than enough, of the opinion of Leibnitz concerning the origin of our knowledge. Although expressed in a different phraseology, it agrees in the most essential points with the innate ideas of the Cartesians; but it approaches still more nearly to some of the mystical speculations of Plato. The very exact coincidence between the language of Leibnitz on this question, and that of his contemporary Cudworth, whose mind, like his own, was deeply tinctured with the Platonic Metaphyics, is not unworthy of notice here, as an historical fact; and it is the only remark on this part of his system which I mean to add, at present, to those in the preceding history.
“ The seeds of our acquired knowledge,” says Leibnitz, “ or, in other words, our ideas, and the eternal truths which are derived from them, are contained in the mind itself; nor is this wonderful, since we know by our own consciousness, that we possess within ourselves the ideas of existence, of unity, of substance, of action, and other ideas of a similar nature.” To the same purpose, we are told by Cudworth, that " the mind contains in itself virtually (as the future plant or tree is contained in the seed) general notions of all things, which unfold and discover themselves as occasions invite, and proper circumstances occur."
The metaphysical theories, to the establishment of which Leibnitz chiefly directed the force of his genius, are the doctrine of Pre-established Harmony; and the scheme of Optimism, as new modelled by himself. On neither of these heads will it be necessary for me long to detain my readers.
1. According to the system of Pre-established Harmony, the human mind and human body are two independent but constantly correspondent machines ;-adjusted to each other like two unconnected clocks, so constructed, that, at the same instant, the one should point the hour, and the other strike it. Of this system the following summary and illustration are given by Leibnitz himself, in his Essay entitled Theodicca:
“I cannot help coming into this notion, that God created the soul in such manner at first, that it should represent within itself all the simultaneous changes in the body; and that he has made the body also in such manner, as that it must of itself do what the soul wills :So that the laws which make the thoughts of the soul follow each other in regular succession, must produce images which shall be coincident with the impressions made by external objects upon our organs of sense ; while the laws by which the motions of the body follow each other, are likewise so coincident with the thoughts of the soul, as to give to our volitions and actions the very same appearance, as if the latter were really the natural and the necessary consequences of the former." (Leib. Op. I. p. 163.) Upon another occasion he observes, that “every thing goes on in the soul as if it had no body, and that every thing goes on in the body as if it had no soul.” (Ibid. II. p. 44.)
To convey his meaning still more fully, Leibnitz borrows from Mr. Jaquelot * a comparison, which, whatever may be thought of its justness, must be at least allowed some merit in point of ingenuity. - Suppose that an intelligent and powerful being, who knew, beforehand, every particular thing that I should order my footman to do to-morrow, should make a machine to resemble my footman exactly, and punctually to perform, all day, whatever I directed. On this supposition, would not my will, in issuing all the details of my orders, remain, in every respect, in the same circumstances as before ? And would not my machine-footman, in performing his different movements, have the appearance of acting only in obedience to my commands ?" The inference to be drawn from this comparison is, that the movements of my body have no direct dependence whatever on the voli
* Author of a book entitled Conformité de la Foi avce la Raison.