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THE

NORTH BRITISH REVIEW.

FEBRUARY, 1847.

ART. I.-An Historical and Critical View of the Speculative

Philosophy of Europe in the Nineteenth century. By J. D. MORELL, A.M. London, 1846.

THE Author of this important work began his studies on the Mental Philosophy in London; proceeded thence to Glasgow; after an attendance on the classes there, went to Germany, where he heard lectures, and read the works of its great masters;

last of all, passed into France, and became conversant with the writings of Cousin, and others of the Eclectic School now forming in Paris. Such a thorough work of preparation bids well for great results, a first specimen of which we have in the volumes before us; and truly, the force and clearness wherewith they are written, and this by one who has travelled so extensively over his own select and favourite department in the territory of human knowledge, fully warrants the expectation of still greater and more important services at his hand.

And it is long since any work has made its appearance before a public in a state of greater expectancy and readiness for its lessons. The subject of it is altogether adapted to the necessity of our times. We can imagine no two things more alien from each other than is the speculative philosophy of Britain from that of Germany; and, for the sake of that truth which is one and universal, a common understanding, an adjustment between them, is imperiously called for. The mental habitudes of the two countries are wide as the poles asunder; and did this divergency take effect only in some region far aloft, and where it could have no possible bearing upon human interests or human affairs, we might simply gaze upon it as a matter of philosophic curiosity. But touching, as it does, on the nearest and most affecting of all

VOL, VI. NO, XII,

our concerns, the prospect of a collision now at hand between the two philosophies in question cannot but awaken a certain sense of fearfulness in the minds of those who both admit the supreme homage that is due to truth, and at the same time the homage that is due to religion; and, accordingly, it is not too much to say, that such a fearfulness is now beginning to be felt. For we may now lay our account with a far more copious influx than heretofore of the German metaphysics into this country. Not only is the language more generally studied among the upper classes of British society; but there is in progress, at this moment, a regular series of translations, and that, too, of those authors who have most signalized themselves by a certain daring recklessness of speculation, which, while it will repel the confidence of many, might captivate and engage many more by the spectacle, at all times interesting, of great mental intrepidity and mental power. The very strangeness and peculiarity, both of diction and thought, will set the curiosity of numbers upon edge; and, besides, with such heralds as Coleridge and Carlyle, whose writings have so powerful a hold on our literary public, to open the way for them, we may surely reckon on their welcome entertainment by thousands of the readers in our land. Now, all this is not only the anticipation, but the dread of many, who feel as if the stability of our times were fast giving way; or as if all our creeds, and institutions, and existing usages, were now on the eve of some frightful overthrow. Nor do we hold these terrors to be altogether spectral and imaginary. But it is well to know the dimensions of the spectre ; for, if seen in its own definite magnitude and outlines, it might cease to be so formidable. A bugbear is always more terrific than the nucleus or the naked reality from which it hath expanded ; and, at all events, it is right to be told what the precise force and armour is of the enemy we might be called to encounter. This service, and a most important one it is, has been ably executed by the author of the work under review. It is entituled, “ An Historical and Critical View of the Speculative Philosophy of Europe in the Nineteenth Century.” As regards the historical part, we feel truly thankful for his informations; and as to the critical, in which, over and above his informations, we have also his judgments, we are thankful for this part too of his work, but will take leave to share it with him.

We confess, that our chief carnestness is to find, amid all these conflicting systems and speculations, that our theology is safe; nor do we altogether understand the obviously sensitive aversion of our author to the idea of coming into collision with it. We fully acquit him of all that mock homage rendered by Hume and other infidels to Christianity-as if its questions were

sity for our making acquaintance with the knowing faculties ere we can know.

Ere we look out upon the external world, we do not look back upon the image of it, as graven on the retina—nay, though that image had never been observed, though the first touch of the dissecting instrument had so deranged the structure of the eye, as to make the exhibition of it impossible, yet, with the exception of this single phenomenon, might the beautiful science of optics have been as complete and comprehensive a science as it is at this moment. And, in like manner, we are not to wait for the perfecting of mental science, ere that hopeful progress can be made towards the perfecting of all the other sciences. It may be very long before those physiologists be at one, who speculate on the functions of the optic nerve which retires behind the organ of vision, till lost in obscurity among

the convolutions of the brain—yet do all men see aright notwithstanding. And it might be just as long before that our mental physiologists, or pyschologists, come to a full and final settlement on all their questions; yet, meanwhile, might all other men of science, save themselves, be philosophizing aright on all the other departments of human knowledge. It is quite a just representation to speak of the mind as the centre of all the sciences, even as the sun is the centre of our planetarium. But it was not the Copernican system, discovered only a few centuries ago, which set the planets rightly agoing. It did not give the law to their movements; it only discovered the law. And neither does the mental philosophy give the law to the mental processes; it but discovers their law. In estimating the real worth of this philosophy, and the relation in which it stands to the other sciences, there is often a strange confounding of the knowledge of things with the things themselves. Had sceptics never questioned the authority of first principles, and so thrown us back on the study of mind and of its laws, the science of psychology, most interesting in itself, yet, for the mere purpose of giving evidence or stability to any of the other sciences, might never have been called for.

We are not going to depreciate the mental philosophy; or, at least, we claim the justice of being read to the end, ere such a charge shall be fastened on us. Though we see much to admire in M. Comte, yet do we hold him utterly in the wrong, his treatment of the mental and metaphysical sciences; nor upon this subject can we go along with our own Abraham Tucker —while it must be admitted, that there is much of substantial truth in his following deliverance : “ The science of abstruse learning," he says, “ I consider in the same light with the ingenious writer who compared it to Achilles' spear, that heals the wounds it had made before. It serves to repair the damage

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And then he says of mind, that “it is an agent operating in the production of new results, and employing for this purpose the known laws of thought, in the same manner as, on other occasions, it employs the known laws of matter." And, lastly, without multiplying our quotations from him any farther, he concludes, that " to the philosophy of mind, then, every speculation, in every science, may be said to have relation as to a common centre.” Even the calmly sedate and sober-minded Dr. Reid tells, in his own person, " that a distinct knowledge of the powers of the mind would undoubtedly give great light to many other branches of science;" and quotes with approbation from Mr. Hume the following sentence, that all the sciences have a relation to human nature; and, however wide any of them may seem to run from it, they still return back by one passage or another. This is the centre and capital of the sciences, which being once masters of, we may easily extend our conquests everywhere." Now, without citing innumerable depositions to the same effect from Locke and many others, there is one thing, on which we touch but slightly at present, as we may recur to it afterwards, yet which we should like even now the reader to bear in mind. It is one thing to say, with Mr. Hume, that human nature is the centre of the sciences, and altogether another thing to say

that the knowledge of human nature is the centre of the sciences. We should greatly like that this distinction were clearly apprehended. We shall not dispute the temperate and well-weighed deliverance of Reid, that this knowledge would give light to other branches of science; while we cannot go the length to which the analogies of Dr. Brown would carry one, as if all other science hung upon the philosophy of mind in the same way that it hangs upon mind itselt. It is most true, that, according to the powers of an instrument, so, when fully used, will be its performances ; and, according to the mental faculties, so, when in like manner used, will be the mental acquisitions. But though the acquisitions depend, and wholly depend, upon the faculties, they do not thus depend upon our knowledge of the faculties. There can be 110 question, that, as is the psychology of mind, so is the state of its sensations and of its beliefs, nay, of all its sciences—insomuch, that a different or reverse psychology would give rise to different or reverse sciences. But it follows not, and it argues a subtle misunderstanding of the whole matter to think otherwise, it follows not that, therefore, the study of this psychology is a prerequisite to the study of the sciences. Without the visual faculty, there could be no vision; yet is there no antecedent necessity to become acquainted with the visual faculty ere we can

Without the knowing faculty, there could be no knowledge; yet there is not, on that account, the antecedent necesa

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sity for our making acquaintance with the knowing faculties ere we can know. Ere we look out upon the external world, we do not look back upon the image of it, as graven on the retina—nay, though that image had never been observed, though the first touch of the dissecting instrument had so deranged the structure of the eye, as to make the exhibition of it impossible, yet, with the exception of this single phenomenon, might the beautiful science of optics have been as complete and comprehensive a science as it is at this moment. And, in like manner, we are not to wait for the perfecting of mental science, ere that hopeful progress can be made towards the perfecting of all the other sciences. It may be very long before those physiologists be at one, who speculate on the functions of the optic nerve which retires behind the organ of vision, till lost in obscurity among the convolutions of the brain-yet do all men see aright notwithstanding. And it might be just as long before that our mental physiologists, or pyschologists, come to a full and final settlement on all their questions ; yet, meanwhile, might all other men of science, save themselves, be philosophizing aright on all the other departments of human knowledge. It is quite a just representation to speak of the mind as the centre of all the sciences, even as the sun is the centre of our planetarium. But it was not the Copernican system, discovered only a few centuries ago, which set the planets rightly agoing. It did not give the law to their movements; it only discovered the law. And neither does the mental philosophy give the law to the mental processes; it but discovers their law. In estimating the real worth of this philosophy, and the relation in which it stands to the other sciences, there is often a strange confounding of the knowledge of things with the things themselves. Had sceptics never questioned the authority of first principles, and so thrown us back on the study of mind and of its laws, the science of psychology, most interesting in itself, yet, for the mere purpose of giving evidence or stability to any of the other sciences, might never have been called for.

We are not going to depreciate the mental philosophy; or, at least, we claim the justice of being read to the end, ere such a charge shall be fastened on us. Though we see much to admire

in M. Comte, yet do we hold him utterly in the wrong, in his treatment of the mental and metaphysical sciences; nor upon this subject can we go along with our own Abraham Tucker -while it must be admitted, that there is much of substantial truth in his following deliverance : “ The science of abstruse learning," he says, “ Ï consider in the same light with the ingenious writer who compared it to Achilles' spear, that heals the wounds it had made before. It serves to repair the damage

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