« PředchozíPokračovat »
a Neapolitan philosopher,* (best known as a political economist,) has attracted a good deal of notice by some metaphysical publications. Their chief object is said to be to reconcile, as far as possible, the opinions of Leibnitz with those of Locke. “ Pendant que Condillac donnait inutilement des leçons à un Prince d’Italie, Genovesi en donnait avec plus de succès à ses élèves Napolitians : il combinait le mieux qu'il lui étoit possible les théories de Leibnitz, pour lequel il eut toujours une prévention favorable, avec celle de Locke, qu'il accrédita le premier en Italie.” + Various other works of greater or less celebrity, from Italian authors, seem to announce a growing taste in that part of Europe for these abstract researches. The names of Francesco Soave, of Biagioli, and of Mariano Gigli, are advantageously mentioned by their countrymen; but none of their works, as far as I can learn, have yet reached Scotland. Indeed, with the single exception of Boscovich, I recollect no writer on the other side of the Alps, whose metaphysical speculations have been heard of in this island. This is the more to be regretted, as the specimens he has given, both of originality and soundness, in some of his abstract discussions, convey a very favorable idea of the schools in which he received his education. The authority to which he seems most inclined to lean is that of Leibnitz; but, on all important questions, he exercises his own judgment, and often combats Leibnitz with equal freedom and success. Remarkable instances of this occur in his strictures on the principle of the sufficient reason, and in the limitations with which he has admitted the law of continuity.
curiosity. 1. The Immateriality of the Soul Demonstrated against Mr. Locke, on the same Principles on which this Philosopher has Demonstrated the Existence and the Immateriality of God. Turin, 1747. 2. Defence of the Opinion of Malebranche, on the Nature and Origin of our Ideas, against the Examination of Mr. Locke. Turin, 1748. The only other works of Gerdil, which I have seen referred to, are, A Dissertation on the Incompatibility of the Principles of Des. cartes with those of Spinoza ; and, A Refutation of some Principles maintained in the Emile of Rousseau.
Of this last performance Rousseau is reported to have said, “ Voila l'unique écrit publié contre moi que j'aie trouvé digne d'être lu en entier." (Nouveau Dict. Hist. article Gerdil.) In the same article, a reference is made to a public discourse of the celebrated M. Mairan, of the Academy of Sciences, in which he pronounces the following judgment on Gerdil's metaphysical powers : “ Gerdil porte avec lui dans tous ces discours un esprit géométrique, qui manque trop souvent aus géomètres mêmes.”
Born 1712, died 1769. † Revue Encyclopédique, ou Analyse Raisonnéc des Productions les plus Remarquables dans la Littérature, les Sciences, et les Arts. I. Vol. 3me livraison, p. 515. Paris, Mars 1819. (The writer of the article quoted in the text is M. Sarpi, an Italian by birth, who, after having distinguished himself by various publications in his own country, has now (if I am not mistaken) fixed his residence at Paris. In his own philosophical opinions, he seems to be a follower of Condillac's school, otherwise he would scarcely have spoken so highly as he has done of the French Ideologists : “L'Idéologie qui, d'après sa dénomination récente, pourrait être considerée comme spécialement due aux Français, mais qui est aussi ancienne que la philosophie, puisqu'elle a pour objet la génération des idées et l'analyse des facultés qui concourent à leur formation, n'est pas étrangère aux Italiens, comme on pourrait le croire.”)
Genovesi is considered, by an historian of high reputation, as the reformer of Italian philosophy. If the execution of his Treatise on Logic corresponds at all to the enlightened views with which the design seems to have been conceived, it cannot fail to be a work of much practical utility. “Ma chi può veramente dirsi il riformatore dell' Italiana filosofia, chi la fece iosto conoscere, e respettare da' più dotti filosofi delle altre nazioni, chi seppe arricchire di nuovi pregi la logica, la metafisica, e la morale, fu il celebre Genovesi. Tuttochè molli fossero stati i filosofi che cercarono con sottili riflessioni, e giusti precetti d'ajutare la mente a pensare ed a ragionare con esattezza e verità, e Bacone, Malebranche, Loke, Wolfio, e molt altri sembrassero avere esaurito quanto v'era da scrivere su tale arte, seppe nondimeno il Genovesi trovare nuove osservazioni, e nuovi avvertimenti da preporre, e dare una logica più piena e compiuta, e più utile non solo allo studio della filosofia, e generalmente ad ogni studio scientifico, ma eziandio alla condotta morale, ed alla civile società.” (Dell'Origine, de Progressi, e dello Stato attuale d'Ogni Letteratura dell' Abate D. Giovanni Andres. Tomo XV. pp. 260, 261. Venezia, 1800.) * See a most interesting account of Galileo's taste for poetry and polite literature in Ginguené, Histoire Littéraire d'Italie. Tome V. pp. 331 et seq. à Paris, 1812.
The vigor, and, at the same time, the versatility of talents, displayed in the voluminous works of this extraordinary man, reflect the highest honor on the country which gave him birth, and would almost tempt one to give credit to the theory which ascribes to the genial climates of the south a beneficial influence on the intellectual frame. Italy is certainly the only part of Europe where mathematicians and metaphysicians of the highest rank have produced such poetry as has proceeded from the pens of Boscovich and Stay. It is in this rare balance of imagination and of the reasoning powers, that the perfection of the human intellect will be allowed to consist; and of this balance a far greater number of instances may be quoted from Italy, (reckoning from Galileo * downwards) than in any other corner of the learned world.
The sciences of ethics, and of political economy, seem to be more suited to the taste of the modern Italians, than logic or metaphysics, properly so called. And in the two former branches of knowledge, they have certainly contributed much to the instruction and improvement of the eighteenth century. But on these subjects we are not yet prepared to enter.
In the New World, the state of society and of manners has not hitherto been so favorable to abstract science as to pursuits which come home directly to the business of human life. There is, however, one metaphysician of whom America has to boast, who, in logical acuteness and subtilty, does not yield to any disputant bred in the universities of Europe. I need not say, that I allude to Jonathan Edwards. But, at the time when he wrote, the state of America was more favorable than it now is, or can for a long period be expected to be, to such inquiries as those which engaged his attention ; inquiries (by the way) to which his thoughts were evidently turned, less by the impulse of speculative curiosity, than by his anxiety to defend the theological system in which he had been educated, and to which he was most conscientiously and zealously attached. The effect of this anxiety in sharpening his faculties, and in keeping his polemical vigilance constantly on the alert, may be traced in every step of his argument.
* While this Dissertation was in the press, I received a new American publication, entitled, “ Transactions of the Historical and Literary Committee of the American Philosophical Society, held at Philadelphia, for Promoting Useful Knowledge." Vol. I. (Philadelphia, 1819.) From an advertisement prefixed to this volume, it appears that, at a meeting of this learned body in 1815, it was resolved, " That a new committee be added to those already established, to be denominated the Committee of History, Moral Science, and General Literature." It is with great pleasure I observed, that one of the first objects to which the committee has directed its attention, is to investigate and ascertain, as much as possible, the structure and grammatical forms of the languages of the aboriginal nations of America. The Report of the Corresponding Secretary, (M. Duponceau,) dated January 1819, with respect to the progress then made in this investigation, is highly curious and interesting, and displays not only enlarged and philosophical views, but an intimate acquaintance with the philological researches of Adelung, Vater, Humboldt, and other German scholars. All this evinces an enlightened curiosity, and an extent of literary information, which could scarcely have been expected in these rising States for many years to come.
The rapid progress which the Americans have lately made in the art of writing has been remarked by various critics, and it is certainly a very important fact in the history of their literature. Their state papers were, indeed, always distinguished by a strain of animated and vigorous eloquence; but as most of them were composed on the spur of the occasion, their authors had little time to bestow on the niceties, or even upon the purity of diction. An attention to these is the slow offspring of learned leisure, and of the diligent study of the best models. This I presume was Gray's meaning, when he said, that “ good writing not only required great
In the mean time, a new and unexpected mine of intellectual wealth has been opened to the learned of Europe, in those regions of the East, which, although in all probability the cradle of civilization and science, were, till very lately, better known in the annals of commerce than of philosophy. The metaphysical and ethical remains of the Indian sages are, in a peculiar degree, interesting and instructive ; inasmuch as they seem to have furnished the germs of the chief systems taught in the Grecian schools. The favorite theories, however, of the Hindoos will all of them be found, more or less tinctured with those ascetic habits of abstract and mystical meditation which seem to have been, in all ages, congenial to their constitutional temperament. Of such habits, an Idealism, approaching to that of Berkeley and Malebranche, is as natural an offspring, as Materialism is of the gay and dissipated manners, which, in great and luxurious capitals, are constantly inviting the thoughts abroad.
To these remains of ancient science in the East, the attention of Europe was first called by Bernier, a most intelligent and authentic traveller, of whom I formerly took notice as a favorite pupil of Gassendi. But it is chiefly by our own countrymen that the field which he opened has been subsequently explored ; and of their meritorious labors in the prosecution of this task, during the reign of our late Sovereign, it is scarcely possible to i form too high an estimate.
Much more, however, may be yet expected, if such a prodigy as Sir William Jones should again appear, uniting, in as miraculous a degree, the gift of tongues with the spirit of philosophy. The structure of the Sanscrit, in itself, independently of the treasures locked up in it, affords one of the most puzzling subjects of inquiry that was ever
parts, but the very best of those parts ;" a maxim which, if true, would point out the state of the public taste with respect to style, as the surest test among any people of the general improvement which their intellectual powers have received; and which, when applied to our Trans-atlantic brethren, would justify sanguine expectations of the attainments of the rising generation.
• Note of Mason on a Letter of Gray's to Dr. Wharton on the death of Dr. Middleton. VOL. VI.
presented to human ingenuity. The affinities and filiations of different tongues, as evinced in their corresponding roots and other coincidences, are abundantly curious, but incomparably more easy in the explanation, than the systematical analogy which is said to exist between the Sanscrit and the Greek, (and also between the Sanscrit and the Latin, which is considered as the most ancient dialect of the Greek,) in the conjugations and flexions of their verbs, and in many other particulars of their mechanism; an analogy which is represented as so complete, that, in the versions which have been made from the one language into the other, “ Sanscrit,” we are told, "answers to Greek, as face to face in a glass."* That the Sanscrit did not grow up to the perfection which it now exhibits, from popular and casual modes of speech, the unexampled regularity of its forms seems almost to demonstrate ; and yet, should this supposition be rejected, to what other hypothesis shall we have recourse, which does not involve equal, if not greater, improbabilities? The problein is well worthy of the attention of philosophical grammarians; and the solution of it, whatever it may be, can scarcely fail to throw some new lights on the history of the human race, as well as on that of the human mind.
Metaphysical Philosophy of Scotland.
Ir now only remains for me to take a slight survey of the rise and progress of the Metaphysical Philosophy of Scotland ; and if, in treating of this, I should be somewhat more minute than in the former parts of this Historical Sketch, I flatter myself that allowances will be made for my anxiety to supply some chasms in the literary History of my country, which could not be so easily,
* Letter from the Reverend David Brown, Provost of the College of Fort-William, about the Sanscrit Edilion of the Gospels (dated Calcutta, September 1806, and published in some of the Literary Journals of the day.)