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the Church to the spirit of the age, and make her on earth the Church Triumphant, by effecting an impossible amalgamation between Catholicity and modern pantheistic Socialism. All three are men with whom we have little sympathy, and the last from whose works we should expect materials suitable for a work to be composed and published by a professedly Christian minister.
Leroux is, unquestionably, a man of ability, endowed with no small portion of the philosophical spirit, and possessed of various and extensive, though ill-digested, erudition. He has been well characterized by M. Lerminier, in one of the French periodicals, we cannot now recollect which, author with “ numerous notions on a variety of subjects, but acquired in a manner somewhat confused,” as having “ more fervor of spirit than strength of mind, more impetuosity in the pursuit of ideas than power to master and translate them, and more boldness of imagination than solidity of judgment.” The present writer, as editor of The Boston Quarterly Review, bad, we believe, the very questionable honor of being the first to introduce him to the American public ; and we cannot deny that there was a brief period when he exerted a very great influence over our own philosophical speculations. Indeed, the study of his writings formed an epoch in our mental history, and we drew largely upon him in constructing our Synthetic Philosophy, some chapters of which were published in The Democratic Review for 1842 and 1843; and we are indebted to him for much that is sound, and nearly all that is unsound, chimerical, extravagant, and pantheistic, in the various philosophical essays which we published during the period beginning with January, 1842, and ending with July, 1844, and which we hope no one will regard as indicative of the philosophical doctrines we have since held or now hold.
We learned, it is true, much from Leroux which we have seen no reason to reject, but still more which we now regard as false and absurd. We learned from him to substitute, intentionally at least, the ontological method of philosophizing for the psychological, which we had bitherto professed, and this was much ; but, unhappily, we learned from him, at the same time, a vicious ontology, conducting, though we saw it not then, necessarily to pantheism or nihilism. We learned from him, though for false and insufficient reasons, to respect scientific tradition, the continuity of science through the ages, and that every system which breaks it is to be rejected, -a great and important truth ; but we learned from him to confound scientific and theological tradition, and to subject both to a psychological instead of an ontological test. We learned from him to assert the direct intuition of ideas, or the intelligible, as Reid had taught us to assert the direct perception of bodies, - a fact, the neglect or denial of which has ruined modern philosophy ; but we were, at the same time, led by him to disregard all distinction between intuition and reflection, and therefore to contend that reflection, as well as intuition, reproduces the order of being ; which involves the absurdity of supposing that, in the order of being, the abstract precedes the concrete, the possible the real, and that the creator is fulfilled or completed in the creature. In fine, we learned from him to assert an ontological basis for Christianity, and to regard the Christian mysteries as great ontological truths or facts; but were led by him to assert natural ontology, or the ontological truths and facts of the natural order, in the place of those of the supernatural order, the peculiarly Christian ontology. These errors vitiated the truths we borrowed from Leroux, and which we might better have learned from far purer sources, if we had had any thing like that acquaintance with philosophical literature which every one should have who assumes the attitude of a teacher of philosophy.
The author of the small, but ambitious and not insignificant volume before us, appears to have adopted from Leroux, substantially, these same truths, coupled with these same errors, however widely he may differ from his master in his development of them. He is not a plagiarist, he is not a mere compiler, but he fails to give his own fine metaphysical genius fair play. He thinks and writes too much under the influence of masters, and relies with too generous a confidence on the acuteness, depth, and erudition of the school to which he finds himself accidentally attached. In consequence of this, though possessing the capacity for original thought, and no ordinary aptitude for free and independent philosophical speculation, he does not work freely, and gives us, after all, little else than what we may find in the authors he has studied. He will, we trust, emancipate himself, one of these days, and justify the expectation we long ago indulged, that he would prove a valuable contributor to American philosophical science.
The author has bestowed much thought and labor on his work, and yet it bears the marks of haste. It is not equally elaborated throughout, and it wants artistic conception and finish. Its several parts do not seem to us to cohere, or to have originated in the same design. We feel, in reading it, that it lacks unity and regular scientific development. It is not easy to discover the connection between the author's Remarks on the Science of History, and his A priori Autobiography, which follows, avowedly for the purpose of illustrating and verifying them. The Autobiography is said to be constructed according to the a priori methods; that is, as we understand it, deduced, geometrically, from necessary and eternal principles. No such principles appear to be enunciated, and there is nothing in the Autobiography itself to lead one to regard it as any thing else than an autobiographical sketch of the religious experience of a serious young man, of a speculative turn, exhibiting with spirit and fidelity the various doubts he encountered, and the methods and reasonings by which he solved or attempted to solve them. But as the author really has a philosophical genius, we must presume that he connects the several parts of his work in his own mind, and has, underlying them, a philosophy which he regards as moulding them all into a uniform and systematic whole. This philosophy, which he presupposes rather than states, we must seize in the best way we can, and appreciate, as the condition of understanding and appreciating what he has written.
It is evident from the Remarks on the Science of History, with which the author prefaces his A priori Autobiography, that he holds, — 1st, that the human race is progressive, and that the history of its progress is universal history ; 2d, that universal history may be written in the form of the biography of any given individual; and 3d, that biography, and therefore universal history, may be constructed a priori. The following extract will clearly prove this much.
“Desire, according to Buchez, the first President of the present French National Assembly, is a movement of the will, an outbreak, and energetic operation, of the active principle, toward something we have not as yet.
" When we do not understand our desire, we are conscious of uneasiness, doubt, and trouble : as soon, however, as the intelligence begins to comprehend the blind appetency, a formula for it rises 10 the mind, and it becomes transformed at once into acceptation, hope, determinate volition, aspiration in view of an ideal, a conviction, a form of faith, a belief, &c.;- it becomes, moreover, a thesis proposed for reasoning. Thus the movement for the comprehension of a desire may be considered as containing the progress and
completion of a distinct event, viz. the acquisition of a clearly de. fined sentiment; and, for this reason, that movement my be subdivided as follows: (1.) The appetency, or longing tendency, toward something we do not possess, and of whose nature we have no clear apprehension; (2.) The reasoning we institute within ourselves to discover the origin of our uneasiness, to discover also the object which is necessary for the satisfaction of our desires; (3.) The full and conscious act of desire, which is the operation of instinctive tendencies, with an open knowledge of the object desired.
“ The progress of any event, in which men are actors, takes place always in three stages : the first is the great epoch of Desire, which is subdivided, as we have seen, into three sub-epochs ; the second is the great epoch of REASONING, wherein are discovered the ways and means by which the object necessary in order to the gratification of desire may be obtained ; and the last is the great epoch of Execution or REALIZATION. The epochs of Reasoning and Execution are, like that of Desire, each of them subdivided into three sub-epochs, -as shall be fully exemplified in the sequel.
“ These three Grand Epochs, each of which is composed of three sub-epochs, form, when taken toge her, the great Logical Series by Nines, the series of Buchez.*
“ No example, in illustration of the movement of this series, would carry so much conviction to the mind of the reader, as one that could be verified by each individual from his own private experience : such an example is possible for us, for the ordinary process of a religious experience lends itself very readily for the purposes of scientific investigation, and, moreover, fulfils the requisite conditions. To test, therefore, the correctness of the serial order and movement, we will proceed to construct, by the a priori methods, a sort of imaginary spiritual Autobiography. And we shall take the liberty, for the sake of securing facility of composition, and avoiding circumlocution, to commence at once hy speaking in the first person.
" The method of writing universal history under the form of a biography, and of writing biography under the forms of universal history, is philosophically correct.
“ As it was necessary for the race to go through the Mosaic dispensation, in order to become prepared for the reception of Christianity, so it was necessary for it to go through the Patriarchal dispensation, in order to become prepared for the religion revealed through Moses. In like manner, in the experience of the private Christian, the understanding of the Old Testament must pave the way for the understanding of the New. Every thing moves forward
Introduction to the Science of History, by P. J. B. Buchez. Paris. 1842. 2 vols. 8vo.
in regular progressions. He who thoroughly understands the present epoch must have reproduced, and lived through, in his private experience, all the religions, dispensations, and civilizations that preceded it.” — pp. v. – viii.
1. That mankind are progressive, though not in the sense the modern progressists, or humanists, pretend, we do not dispute, and could not, without denying the propriety of all efforts for their moral, physical, intellectual, and religious improvement, and of all exhortations, admonitions, instructions, schools, colleges, seminaries, and churches. But it is no less certain that they are also retrogressive, and that, if in one time or place they advance, they in another decline and suffer deterioration. Their history, or what the author terms universal history, must take note of this fact, and record the decline and fall of individuals, of nations, states, and empires, as well as their rise and progress. The author's conception of history, then, omits a very real and a very important class of facts, and is therefore inadequate.
2. The history of mankind can be written in the form of biography only on condition that there is no difference between individual and individual, and none between the individual and the species, which, since the species is identical in all individuals, is to deny all individual existence, and therefore all existences, -for existence is, and must be, individual. Genera and species are, no doubt, very real; but, considered apart from individuals, in which they are concreted, their reality is God, and distinct or distinguishable from him they are not. As God, they are the possibility of actual existences, but are themselves only possible, not actual, existences. But history is always of the actual, and existence resolved into its possibility has no history. If, then, the author admits no difference between individual and species, he cannot write history at all ; for there is then no history conceivable. If he admits a difference between individual and species, he cannot write universal history in the form of biography, or biography in the form of universal history; for biography must note what is peculiar to one individual, and history must record, not only what is common to all individuals, but also that wherein different ages and nations differ from one another. The biography of Theodore Parker will not be the biography of Plato ; nor the biography of Aristotle, or even that of our author, the history of all men. It is true, the author cites Ralph Waldo Emerson in proof of his doctrine, but the passage he cites is not precisely to his purpose ; besides, Mr. Emerson is not conclusive philosophical authority.