« PředchozíPokračovat »
political economy did not exist. Princes estimated not the number of men, but of soldiers in the state ;-finance was merely the art of plundering the people, without driving them to the desperation that might end in revolt ;—and governments paid no other attention to commerce, but that of loading it with taxes, of restricting it by privileges, or of disputing for its monopoly.”
The internal disorders then agitating the whole of Christendom, were still less favorable to the growth of this science, considered as a branch of speculative study. Religious controversies every where divided the opinions of the multitude ;-involving those collateral discussions concerning the liberty of conscience, and the relative claims of sovereigns and subjects, which, by threatening to resolve society into its first elements, present to restless and aspiring spirits the most inviting of all fields for enterprise and ambition. Amidst the shock of such discussions, the calm inquiries which meditate in silence the slow and gradual melioration of the social order, were not likely to possess strong attractions, even to men of the most sanguine benevolence; and, accordingly, the political speculations of this period turn almost entirely on the comparative advantages and disadvantages of different forms of government; or on the still more alarming questions concerning the limits of allegiance and the right of resistance.
The dialogue of our illustrious countryman Buchanan, De Jure Regni apud Scotos, though occasionally disfigured by the keen and indignant temper of the writer, and by a predilection (pardonable in a scholar warm from the schools of ancient Greece and Rome) for forms of policy unsuitable to the circumstances of Modern Europe, bears, nevertheless, in its general spirit, a closer resemblance to the political philosophy of the eighteenth century, than any composition which had previously appeared. The ethical paradoxes afterwards inculcated by Hobbes as the ground work of his slavish theory of government, are anticipated and refuted ; and a powerful argument is urged against that doctrine of Utility which has attracted so much notice in our times. The political reflections, too, incidentally introduced by the same author in bis History
of Scotland, bear marks of a mind worthy of a better age than fell to his lot. Of this kind are the remarks with which he closes his narrative of the wanton cruelties exercised in punishing the murderers of James the First. In reading them, one would almost imagine, that one is listening to the voice of Beccaria or of Montesquieu. “ After this manner,” says the historian, “ was the cruel death of James still more cruelly avenged. For punishments so far exceeding the measure of humanity, have less effect in deterring the multitude from crimes, than in rousing them to greater efforts, both as actors and as suffer
Nor do they tend so much to intimidate by their severity, as by their frequency to diminish the terrors of the spectators. The evil is more peculiarly great, when the mind of the criminal is hardened against the sense of pain ; for in the judgment of the unthinking vulgar, a stubborn confidence generally obtains the praise of heroic constancy."
After the publication of this great_work, the name of Scotland, so early distinguished over Europe by the learning and by the fervid genius * of her sons, disappears for more than a century and a half from the History of Letters.—But from this subject, so pregnant with melancholy and humiliating recollections, our attention is forcibly drawn to a mighty and auspicious light which, in a more fortunate part of the island, was already beginning to rise on the philosophical world.t
•“ Præfervidum Scotorum ingenium.”
| That, at the end of the sixteenth century, the Scotish nation were advancing not less rapidly than their neighbours, in every species of mental cultivation, is sufficiently attested by their literary remains, both in the Latin language, and in their own vernacular tongue. A remarkable testimony to the same purpose occurs in the Dialogue above quoted; the author of which had spent the best years of his life in the most polished society of the Continent. “ As often," says Buchanan, “as I turn my eyes to the niceness and elegance of our own times, the ancient manners of our forefathers appear sober and venerable, but withal rough and horrid.”-“Quoties oculos ad nostri temporis munditias et elegantiam refero, antiquitas illa sancta et sobria, sed horrida tamen, et nondum satis erpolita, fuisse videtur." (De Jure Regni apud Scotos.) One would think, that he conceived the taste of his countrymen to have then arrived at the ne plus ultra of national refinement,
“ Aurea nunc, olim sylvestribus horrida dumis.”
FROM THE PUBLICATION OF BACON'S PHILOSOPHICAL WORKS, TILL THAT
OF THE ESSAY ON HUMAN UNDERSTANDING.
Progress of Philosophy in England during this period.
The state of science towards the close of the sixteenth century presented a field of observation singularly calculated to attract the curiosity, and to awaken the genius of Bacon; nor was it the least of his personal advantages, that as the son of one of Queen Elizabeth's ministers, he had a ready access, wherever he went, to the most enlightened society in Europe. While yet only in the seventeenth year of his age, he was removed by his father from Cambridge to Paris, where it is not to be doubted, that the novelty of the literary scene must have largely contributed to cherish the natural liberality and independence of his mind. Sir Joshua Reynolds has remarked, in one of his academical Discourses, that “every seminary of learning is surrounded with an atmosphere of floating knowledge, where every mind may imbibe somewhat congenial to its own original conceptions.” † He might have added, with still greater truth, that it is an atmosphere, of which it is more peculiarly salutary, for those who have been elsewhere reared, to breathe the air. The remark is applicable to higher pursuits than were in the contemplation of this philosophical artist; and it suggests a hint of no inconsiderable value for the education of youth.
The merits of Bacon, as the father of Experimental Philosophy, are so universally acknowledged, that it would
* Born 1561, died 1626. | Discourse delivered at the opening of the Royal Academy, January 2, 1769.
be superfluous to touch upon them here. The lights which he has struck out in various branches of the Philosophy of Mind, have been much less attended to; although the whole scope and tenor of his speculations show, that to this study his genius was far more strongly and happily turned, than to that of the Material World. It was not, as some seem to have imagined, by sagacious anticipations of particular discoveries afterwards to be made in physics, that his writings have had so powerful an influence in accelerating the advancement of that science. In the extent and accuracy of his physical knowledge, he was far inferior to many of his predecessors ; but he surpassed them all in his knowledge of the laws, the resources, and the limits of the human understanding. The sanguine expectations with which he looked forwards to the future, were founded solely on bis confidence in the untried cupacities of the mind; and on a conviction of the possibility of invigorating and guiding, by means of logical rules, those faculties, which, in all our researches after truth, are the organs or instruments to be employed. “Such rules," as he himself has observed, "do in some sort equal men's wits, and leave no great advantage or preeminence to the perfect and excellent motions of the spirit. To draw a straight line, or to describe a circle, by aim of hand only, there must be a great difference between an unsteady and unpractised hand, and a steady and practised; but to do it by rule or compass it is much alike.”
Nor is it merely as a logician that Bacon is entitled to notice on the present occasion. It would be difficult to name another writer prior to Locke, whose works are enriched with so many just observations on the intellectual phenomena. Among these, the most valuable relate to the laws of Memory, and of Imagination ; the latter of which subjects be seems to have studied with peculiar
In one short but beautiful paragraph concerning Poetry (under which title may be comprehended all the various creations of this faculty) he has exhausted every thing that philosophy and good sense have yet had to offer, on what has been since called the Beau Idéal; a topic, which has furnished occasion to so many over-refinements among the French critics, and to so much extravagance and mysticism in the cloud-capt metaphysics of the new German school.* In considering imagination as connected with the nervous system, more particularly as connected with that species of sympathy to which medical writers have given the name of imitation, he has suggested some very important hints, which none of his successors have hitherto prosecuted; and has, at the same time, left an example of cautious inquiry, worthy to be studied by all who may attempt to investigate the laws regulating the union between Mind and Body.f His illustration of the different classes of prejudices incident to human nature, is, in point of practical utility, at least equal to any thing on that head to be found in Locke; of whom it is impossible to forbear remarking, as a circumstance not easily explicable, that he should have resumed this important discussion, without once mentioning the name of his great predecessor. The chief improvement made by Locke, in the farther prosecution of the argument, is the application of
*“Cum mundus sensibilis sit anima rationali dignitate inferior, videtur Poësis, hæc humanæ naturæ largiri quæ historia denegat; atque animo umnbris rerum utcunque satisfacere, cum solida haberi non possint. Si quis eniin rem acutius introspiciat, firmum ex Poësi sumitur argumentum, magnitudinem rerum magis illustrem, ordinem magis perfectum, et varietatem magis pulchram, animæ humanæ complacere, quam in naturâ ipsâ, post lapsum reperiri ullo modo possit. Quapropter, cum res gestæ et eventus qui veræ historiæ subjiciuntur, non sint ejus amplitudinis, in quâ animna humana sibi satisfaciat, præsto est Poësis, quæ facta magis heroica confingat. Cum historia vera successus rerum, minime pro meritis virtutum et scelerum, narret, corrigit eain Poësis, et exitus et fortunas, secundum merita, et ex lege Nemeseos, exhibet. Cum historia vera obviâ rerum satietate et similitudine, animæ humanæ fastidio sit, reficit eam Poësis, inexpectata, et varia, et vicissitudinum plena canens. Adeo ut Poesis ista non solum ad delectationem, sed ad animi magnitudinem, et ad mores conferat.” (De sug. Scient. Lib. ii. cap. xiii.)
To this branch of the philosophy of mind, Bacon gives the title of Doctrina de fædere, sive de communi vinculo animæ et corporis. (De Aug. Scient, Lib. iv. cap. i.) Under this article, he mentions, among other desiderata, an inquiry (which he recommends to physicians) concerning the influence of imagination over the body. His own words are very remarkable; more particularly, the clause in which he remarks the effect of fixing and concentrating the attention, in giving to ideal objects the power of realities over the belief. “ Ad aliud quidpiam, quod huc pertinet, parce admodum, nec pro rei subtilitate, vel utilitate, inquisitum est; quatenus scilicet ipsa imaginatio animæ vel cogitatio perquam fira, et veluti in fidem quandam exaltata, valeat ad immutandum corpus imaginantis.” (Ibid). He suggests also, as a curious problem, to ascertain how far it is possible to fortify and exalt the imagination; and by what means this may most effectually be done. The class of facts here a!luded to, are manifestly of the same description with those to which the attention of philosophers has been lately called by the pretensions of Mesmer and of Perkins : “ Atque huic conjuncta est disquisitio, quomodo imaginatio intendi et fortificari possit? Quippe, si imaginatio fortis tantarum sit virium, operæ pretium fuerit nôsse, quibus modis eam exaltari, et se ipsâ majorem fieri detur? Atque hic oblique, nec minus periculose se insinuat palliatio quædam et defensio maximæ partis Magia Ceremonialis.” &c. &c. De Aug. Scient. Lib. iv. cap. iii.