Obrazy na stronie
PDF

such materials of knowledge, proving its own strength, and consciously enlarging its own capacity, it feels pleasure return upon itself from its exertion,--it acknowledges in its activity a self-derived enjoyment; it is unfolding its own nature, by following out its dictates. But to this result of Science, it is evidently necessary, that it should be pursued with something of the genius of discovery, in the spirit of inventive inquiry, in the consciousness of original and independent thought. The science of chemistry, as long as it is so pursued, by the extreme minuteness, the intricacy, and the occult nature it may be said of its investigations, requiring a very subtle and delicate, as well as a very exact action of the intellectual faculties, tends to produce on them a cultivation of corresponding character. But when it extends itself, as with us it does, far beyond the natural limits of intellectual interest; when, comprehending vast ranges of objects, it raises up a new purpose to the mind, not to satisfy its own inquiring intelligence, but to possess the whole extent of discovery, which an age has brought forth, from that time it changes its intellectual character. It is to the mind no longer pure intellectual science. It is an enormous accumulation of facts: and, instead of infusing by the spirit of delight, a living vigour into i. action of

the intellect, it imposes a task upon the faculties, which, at the same time that it requires their strength, oppresses it... In short, by the great extent of knowledge, which as mere knowledge it lays upon its student, it takes its place at the head of those pursuits, which in their commencement are inviting, grateful, and invigorating to the intellectual faculties; but as they proceed, passing over the just limits of a natural interest, begin to contract the capacity they had before enlarged, and to stifle the animation of thought they had helped to kindle. To the causes which have been thus imperfectly stated; and to causes akin to these, may be ascribed perhaps in great part, that dereliction of the most important, and naturally most attractive knowledge, which marks the spirit of philosophy in the present day. Other causes, no doubt, and of a deeper origin, have contributed to give to the faculties merely intellectual, their present usurped place in philosophy: but the general ardent pursuit of physical science appears necessarily to concur to the same effect:—Nor does there seem more reason to doubt, that the ultimate tendency of these studies in excess, is to degrade and injure the faculties which they raise up in the first place to an unnatural and undue authority.

on the IM PossIBILITY of A STANDARD of LANGUAGE IN METAPHYsics.

MR EDITOR,

I HAve just been reading with much pleasure an article continued through two numbers of your work, in vindication of professor Stewart's philosophy, but am inclined, nevertheless, to take up discussion with the writer, if it may be permitted to do so at this distance of time, on a suggestion with which he closes his observations. “The phraseology,” he says, “which these writers,” (the Quarterly Reviewers whose strictures gave occasion to the vindication) “have employed in controverting Mr Stewart's doctrines, is so very different from his, as to occasion much embarrassment to one who wishes to form a judgment of the controversy.” “They must be aware that this author has been at great pains to fix upon precise and definite

terms for the use of metaphysical writers.” “If, indeed, they disapprove his phraseology, they may well be excused for not having adopted it, but they can hardly be excused for not having stated their objections to it, and pointed out the circumstances in which it differs from their own. But if they think that a correct, uniform, and definite phraseology is not of the utmost importance in logic and metaphysics, then they maintain an opinion which is directly opposed to that of the greatest authorities on those subjects, and for which it was still more incumbent on them to assign their reasons.” Now, Sir, I ask, must the impugner of another's doctrines, either adopthislanguage or give his reasons for dissenting from it? I think it is a very arbitrary requisition. To adopt the language of a philosopher in impugning his doctrines must be generally impracticable; for what is the specific language of a system, but a language involving its principles 2–But even if the language be distinct from the doctrines, how am I under obligation to adopt it 2–For the convenience of the judges, before whom the controversy is carried on ?—But for them it should be sufficient that I speak a recognized language of philosophy, and it is their part to be prepared to understand me. The only ground of censure I can allow is, not that my language is not of this or that philosophy, but that it is unphilosophical.—But if I reject the language as disapproving it, upon what ground am I required to specify and explain this disapproval?—Why is it not enough if I controvert the principles of a system in intelligible language?—Why must I first controvert its phraseology — To me it would appear that one writer offering criticism on the philosophical writings of another, even if these comprehended an entire system of philosophy, and were of high reputation and authority in the country to which both belonged, may with perfect propriety adopt any one of three courses. He may, if he pleases, write for the pupils of that philosophy; and then, if he can do it with satisfaction to himself he may, as a facility and an indulgence to them, adopt the language to which their minds have been formed—Or he may write to the philosophical world; in which case it is open to him to use the language of any recognized system of philosophy to which he himself is attached, or he may use what he conceives to be a more general language of metaphysics, current among philosophers at large:—Or, finally, writing to both these classes, and to all the good understandings of an intelligent nation besides, he may use—let me speak without offence—his mothertongue:—he may use, I should imagine, a natural language, free from any limitations assigned by one system of philosophy or another, and which, adapting itself to natural truth, will be found to adapt itself also to natural understanding. Why the Quarterly Reviewers, from having neither adopted Mr Stewart's language nor assigned reasons for dis

senting from it, should be presumed to hold that correct and definite language is not important in philosophy, I find it still more difficult to understand. The charge is severe ; it would seem to me to have required other grounds to rest on. But with respect to the charge of holding a uniform language to be not important, in philosophy, and to the general tenor of the whole passage, which insists so much upon the value or necessity of a language fixed and defined for the use of philosophical writers—as this involves matter of much more general argument, and was chiefly in my mind in beginning to write at all—on this subject I will venture to speak a little more at large. I am aware that much importance has often been ascribed by writers in philosophy, to thus limiting and fixing the signification of words; and that much labour has been bestowed on the object of thus establishing a clear and correct philosophical language. But to my own mind, I confess, there has always appeared something harsh and unsatisfactory in the method of proceeding; and at variance, I should say, with the nature of language itself, nor have I been well able to comprehend the grounds of its alleged importance. The proceeding of which I speak, it will be understood, is the assigning to words of common language a meaning either more enlarged or more restrained than that which they commonly bear, and so rendering them applicable to philosophical use. One purpose I conceive for which a metaphysical writer may be induced to adopt words to meanings of his own, is to give names to new ideas. An original mind bending its intense action on any branch of science, and, by such action, if I may say so, causing it to unfold its natural growth, as the power of such minds in such application does indeed produce knowledge, and give to science a being of which the principles already existed in nature, but did not before take their form ;-An original mind thus creating science, produces new conceptions and new forms of thought, which in the exposition of such science may require new names, either because the language will not furnish them expression, even with much circumlocution, or because, being ne

[blocks in formation]

guage of the country. This case I have stated, rather to separate it from the consideration of the present question than in part of it. The question, I conceive, of fixing a language of philosophy, applies to those subjects and those ideas which are already familiar in philosophy, and for which expression has hitherto been sought in the language of the country. It appears to some writer whose thoughts are more precise, or he fancies so, than those of others who have treated the same subject before him, that they have certain terms too laxly or vaguely—by which I should understand variably, for any vagueness or laxity in the signification of a word on any single occasion, can mean merely that the conception which the passage should express is so obscurely and imperfectly expressed, as not to assign the exact signification of each of its terms, which would be no more in effect than that such a particular sentence was ill-written, which could plainly be no ground for proposing any general alteration in language. The vagueness or laxity of signification, therefore, which gives ground

for ing to assign the meaning of a word must be a variable signification. The inconvenience or evil it

is intended to remedy must be, that the meaning of any such word is so unfixed in the popular language, that philosophical writers themselves have used it, some with one application, or one extent of meaning, and some with another; or the same writers differently, at different times. But still what is the inconvenience? If every passage in itself were justly written, it should assign the meaning in which the word is there used, and leave no room for obscurity. But I presume, that what happens is this. The meVol. VI.

taphysical writer, having exceedingly familiar to his mind certain thoughts and certain courses of thought, and having their expression in like manner exceedingly familiar, does by degrees come to affix to any terms of variable signification occurring in such expression, that peculiar meaning which they there possess, more readily than any other. So that his own mind no longer needs with the term those circumstances of concomitant expression, which would otherwise be necessary to suggest and determine the peculiar acceptation. His mind leaps, as it were, to that acceptation which is so familiar. And in writing he no longer conceives the different state of ether men's minds from his own in this respect; but writing to them, as he speaks to himself, he uses a too elliptical expression, and sets before them a term which he distinctly understands, unaccompanied by those qualifying circumstances * should determine or even suggest its peculiar meaning. To him, perhaps, it would bear his own appropriated meaning, under circumstances which to other minds would determine another signification. Under the force of this kind of habitual impression of certain terms, an inquirer of great force of mind, and great clearness and distinctness of thought, might, it should seem, in writing, use misleading expressions. And yet it would seem to me, that in such a case, nothing more than the knowledge of his writings, and such acquaintance as they might give with the habits of his mind, would be required to remove such error, and to clear up occasional obscurity. If in the minds of different writers the same word has acquired, in other senses, this kind of appropriation,there is room, it is evident, for still greater obscurity and error in the confusion of associations with which its use will be attended in passing from one of these writers to another. And the obscurity and error which may thus attach themselves to writings of great merit and value, are the inconvenience and evil which I conceive it is intended to remedy, when it is proposed to fix the philosophical meaning of the words of language. But still I am not able to understand the remedy; for I can find in it, after all, nothing else than the F

very disorder it is designed to remove. For what does the writer in effect, who limits by definition the meaning of his terms? He does that expressly and avowedly which others have perhaps unconsciously done. He takes the word from its large free use in the language, and attaches it especially to the meaning, which, in his own metaphysical speculation, is its most important meaning. For himself such definitions may be of avail; they are a means to clear up obscurity from his own language; they are a glossary annexed to his writings. But beyond this, for general application in philoo how do they seem to be available 2 The peculiar uses of terms which are found in the language of each inquirer belong to his speculations. If those speculations are just and important, and if on these, or on any other grounds, o are of authority with the public, they will carry to a certain degree into public use his own unconscious appropriation of terms; they will make their expression intelligible; and, if there is good reason, will impress its peculiarity

ermanently on the language of phi

o: and at last on the language of the country. What other authority can any writer attach to his own

peculiar expressions, to his own limitation of terms, than that which belongs to his mind and his works PAll inquirers of original thought are candidates alike for fixing the terms of language; all impress their own meaning on its words with a force which is the force of their own minds. He whose paramount authority overbears his competitors, and leaves to his successors no choice but to adopt his language, has, with or without definition, fixed the language of philosophy. Whilst he who falls short of this authority, however carefully he may have limited and defined his significations, falls back into the number of those who, by their peculiarity of expression, have prepared obscurity for the writings of others, and, except to the most exact and studious of their readers, have left it upon their own. It would seem to me, that the best a metaphysical writer can do for himself with respect to the important terms of philosophy, is to be consistent with himself in using them; and the best he can do for others, to disturb them as little as possible from their natural signification in the language to which they belong. S.

Oriel College, Oxford.

[ocr errors]

Louis XVIII. AND THE FREN CH ROYALISTs.

THE character of Louis XVIII. has been so long obscured, formerly by his exile, and latterly by the eclipsing glory of the Sieur Caze, his favourite, that one must look thirty years back to find any traces of his real disposition, which is the more material, under present circumstances, inasmuch as it has given rise to the reproach so commonly thrown out against the Ultras of France, that they are “more Royalist than the King.’ A little examination into the early history of the revolution will shew that it was hardly possible to be less Royalist than Louis XVIII. was in those days of trial. We cannot suspect that he was paralysed by the same vile and odious motives which excited the activity of

Philip Egalité; but undoubtedly the

circumstance in which he stood, of being the second in succession to the crown, and the first in succession to the regency, ought, as a matter of

mere good taste, to have made his af. fection towards his unhappy and persecuted brother, a little more promiment. It was surely a singular and unlucky coincidence, that he should be, of all his family, after the Dauphin, the nearest to the throne, and after Egalité, the dearest to the Jacobins. It is true that this disgraceful popularity was softened down by the very qualities which perhaps contributed to create it. His manners were low ; his tastes were rather worse than his manners, and whatever abilities he may have possessed, were so buried i. the sensuality and selfishness of his mode of life, that they gave neither hopes nor fears to the discontented nor to the loyal. Observe, we speak of thirty years ago. It is to be hoped, and indeed there is reason to believe, that these thirty years of adversity (if the king considered that to be adversity during which he never wanted two courses) may have in some degree

improved the personal character of this prince. But it is surely not too much to say, that somewhat of his original and natural indolence and selfishness is likely still to adhere to him, and to render him as indifferent to what may be the state of France under his younger brother, as he was to what was the state of France under his elder brother.

In 1789, a patriotic wit attributes to each of the royal family a song, the first line of which is supposed to be characteristic. The Count D'Artois sings,

“I am a soldier and a gentleman,” but the Comte de Provence (Louis XVIII.) only mutters, “I am no king; and, what is worse, no

prince.”

Again-in another jeu d'esprit, also from a patriot pen, where characteristic residences in the different streets of Paris are assigned to the royal family, Egalité is lodged in the Rue de Louis le Grand; the Count D'Artois (whose devotion to his brother was so honourable that even his enemies respected it.), is placed in the Place Royale, while Monsieur (Louis XVIII.) is trundled into the Rue des Francs Bourgeois—a street, says St Foix, which has its name from being inhabited by the lowest and meanest of the people. These not unimportant trifles are to be found in the Memoires pour servir a l'Histoire de 1789, p. 30 and 116.

But this, you will perhaps say, is the malice of the Jacobins. Not al

together; for the Jacobins detested M. D'Artois; yet, as we see, did him some kind of justice; and why should we take it for granted that they did not also do justice to M. de Provence? But let us see what the Royalists thought of him. In the 15th volume of the Actes des Apotres, p. 128, there is one of those satirical songs called by the French Noels: the verse in which Louis XVIII is described, may be uoted as an additional proof of what the public opinion even of the Royalists of 1790, was with regard to him:—

Grand amidu silence, o Dubon vin, du repos. Le Comte de Provence Balbutia ces mots; “Souffrez que promptement chez moije me retire, “Je crains trop de l'embarras; “Mon frère est dans un vilain pas, “Mais, helas ! qu'il s'en tire.”

which may be thus imitated—

Very active at clearing his plate, Very clever at holding his tongue; In size he is Louis the great, And thus he half-hiccupp'd half-sung: “Permit me to make my escape, “I’m a poor inoffensive good man? - “My brother, who's in a d-d scrape, “Must get out o't as well as he can.” We think one may now safely say, that it is no very great crime in the French Royalists to be more Royalist than Louis the XVIIIth, who seeing his brother, his king, in a d-d scrape,' is represented as leaving him ‘to get out of it as well as he could.”

Extracts Faom THE “PRAto FIokito,” on The vice of DANcing.

MR EDItor,

The godly book above mentioned lately furnished me some important lessons, or familiar examples, relative to the sin of usury, which you agreed with me in thinking peculiarly apposite and instructive, on the eve of the meeting of a new Parliament, wherein it was apprehended that matters of this nature might undergo a great deal of discussion, and require the salutary check of ancient experience, to restrain the too licentious spirit of modern innovation. The close of the first session of the same Parliament induces me to refer again to the same valuable repertory of monastic lore with a like view of benefiting such of my

Protestant country-men, or women, as may not be too zealous in the cause of our reformed religion to think of availing themselves of the wisdom of the scarlet lady; and the first subject which I happen to hit upon is one which appears to me, of all others, to afford an useful field for reflection at the termination of a London season. It is the following,

“How damnable and detectable a thing, And how odious to God, is vain and disso

lute dancing.” Lib. I. Cap X.

“Truly,” observes our pious and elo}. author, “one of the most singular ollies committed by man and woman among the vanities of this world, is light and

« PoprzedniaDalej »