Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

the object of our ignorance be fixed as nothing. But who was ever so foolish as to maintain that we were ignorant of nothing? By the very terms of the research, in which our ignorance is admitted, we confess ourselves to be ignorant of something. And therefore, since this something cannot be things by themselves, or the nonego per se, and cannot be the mind by itself, or the ego per se, and moreover cannot be nothing, it must be the synthesis of things and some mind, — the non-ego plus some ego, in short, some-objectplus-some-subject. If any other alternative is left which the object of our ignorance may be, this system will be glad to learn what that alternative is.

“ It is scarcely credible that, at this time of day, any philosoph. ical opinion should be absolutely original, or that any philosophical truth, of which no previous hint exists in any quarter, should now, for the first time, be brought to light. Nevertheless, the doctrine now under consideration is believed to be altogether new. If it is not so, the present writer will be ready to surrender it to any prior claimant who may be pointed out, and to give honor to whom honor is due. But meanwhile this system may be permitted to hold possession of it as its own peculiar discovery, — a circumstance which is mentioned, because those who may favor these Institutes with their attention may perhaps have some inclination to know wherein, more particularly, their originality is supposed to consist. They claim to have announced for the first time the true law of ignorance, and to have deduced from it its consequences." - pp.

426 – 428.

mere

“ The short summing up is this, - a summary which refers in part to the epistemology. The ordinary thinker — that is, every man in his habitual and unphilosophical moods — supposes, first, that he can know less than he can really know; hence he supposes, that mere objects can be known. Secondly, he supposes that he can think of less than can be known; hence he

supposes

that objects can be conceived. Thirdly, he supposes that he can be ignorant of less than can be known; hence he supposes that mere objects are what he can be ignorant of. The first and second of these inadvertencies are corrected in the epistemology. It is there shown that we cannot know less than we can really know, and that, therefore, mere objects cannot be known, but only objects along with one's self or the subject; further, that we cannot think

of less than can be known; and that, therefore, mere objects can· not be conceived, but only objects along with some self or subject.

The main business of the agnoiology has been to correct the third inadvertency, and to show that we cannot be ignorant of less than can be known, and that, therefore, mere objects cannot be what we are ignorant of, but only objects along with some self or subject. From these considerations it is obvious that philosophers have erred, not, as is usually supposed, in consequence of striving to know more than they are competent to know, but in consequence of striving to know less than they are permitted to know by the laws and limits of intelligence; and further, that they have gone astray, not, as is usually supposed, in consequence of denying our ignorance to be as great as it really is, but in consequence of maintaining that our ignorance is not so great as it really is, — in other words, in consequence of maintaining that we are ignorant of less than it is possible for any intelligence to be ignorant of.” – pp. 438, 439.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

- p. 444.

We come now to the third and last part of the work, the Ontology, in which the author establishes the nature of absolute existence or true being :

“ The problem of ontology, as announced in the Introduction, $ 54, is, What is ? in the proper and emphatic sense of the word IS. What absolutely and independently exists? What, and what alone, possesses a clear, detached, emancipated, substantial, genuine, or unparasitical Being? What can that which possesses this be de. clared to be? What is its character? What predicate can be attached to it? This is the problem which ontology is called upon to resolve; and it will be seen as we advance, that, without the whole of the preceding demonstrations, this question is insoluble, but with them its reasoned settlement may be reached.”.

Absolute existence, he says, must be either that which we know, or that which we are ignorant of, or else that which we neither know nor are ignorant of. He contends strongly for the importance of the third alternative. Without it, he thinks the enumeration incomplete; for there is a medium between the two, something which we neither know nor are ignorant of. This is the contradictory, or that which is not knowable. But absolute existence is not the contradictory, therefore it is either that which we know or that which we are ignorant of. It is unnecessary to say which it is; for in either case its nature is established as the synthesis of subject and object, or mind-together-withthat-which-it-apprehends. The author prints these seven words together, in order to make their unity more apparent. He does not see that this argument may be used against him, that it proves too much, and Qui nimis probat, nihil probat. The same argument may be applied to contingent existence. It is either that which we know or that which we are ignorant of, or that which we neither know nor are ignorant of. That which we neither know nor are ignorant of, is the contradictory; but there is no contradiction nor absurdity in the supposition that something contingent exists, therefore contingent existence is either that which we know or that which we are ignorant of. That which we know and that which we are ignorant of, is the synthesis of subject and object, mind-togetherwith-that-which-it-apprehends. Contingent existence is then the synthesis of subject and object, mind-together-withthat-which-it-apprehends. It is thus proved that the same thing is both absolute existence and contingent or not absolute existence. The same argument proves both. Which conclusion is true? Why is not the latter as certain and undeniable as the one deduced by Professor Ferrier ? It is a matter of vital importance to his system that it should not fail here. All that has hitherto been established amounts to nothing, he can deduce nothing from it, if his argument fail him here.

Thus each of the three parts of our author's work has its peculiar error. His Epistemology asserts the identity of subject and object; his Agnoiology denies all ignorance; and his Ontology is based on an argument which proves as much against him as for him. These are the three counts in the indictment, any one of which is sufficient to hangnot the author, but his system.

When the author declares that absolute existence is not the contradictory, he is guilty of what logicians call petilio principii. The author is accustomed to reason on two distinct sets of principles, the one opposed to his system, the other sustaining it. When a thing cannot be proved by one, he has recourse to the other. Thus, in the present instance, to eliminate the third alternative as to the nature of absolute existence, which it is essential to the progress of his system to be got rid of, he declares that it is not the contradictory, because there is no contradiction in supposing that something really and truly is. How does he know this? The contradictory in his system is object without subject, the egro, per se, or the non-ego, per se. How does the author know that either of these is not absolute existence? In denying that absolute existence is the contradictory, he assumes that it is neither subject nor object per se. If, therefore, it is anything, it is both. This is the very thing the author has to prove, and he does not prove it, for he assumes it as his premises.

43

THIRD SERIES.

VOL. III. NO. III.

Another fault of the author's system is, that he deduces the category of existence from that of cognition. Things are, according to him, only because we know them, and in proportion as we know them. He regards the object as the creation of the intellect, the product of the me. The true doctrine is precisely the reverse of this. Things are not because we know them, but we know them because they are. This seems to us so plain, that it need only be pointed out to be admitted. For we cannot see how any one can so far reject reason, as to hold that we may know an object when there is none to be known.

We might also object to the improper, or at least extraordinary, use which the author makes of words, and which in some instances, as when he says of absolute beings that one only is necessary, is incorrect. But our object is not to find fault with Professor Ferrier's language or his style. And even while pointing out the errors of the work, which are not few nor slight, we have no wish to deny that there is much that is good in the book. There are frequent outbursts of eloquence, which would afford grounds to believe that the learned professor, whatever may be said of his philosophical genius, might rise to eminence in other occupations would he but be persuaded to try them. His mind is not subtle or acute enough for the depths of metaphysics into which he would dive. He has glimpses of truths which he thinks have heretofore been overlooked; but not making nice and accurate distinctions where they are requisite, he is led to deduce what he supposes is a newly discovered truth, but which, not unfrequently, is an old, exploded error. Accuracy is as essential as depth of thought, in a metaphysician. Better that the last should be dispensed with, if either, than the first. Professor Ferrier, like the German speculators almost without an exception, makes small account of the former in comparison with the latter. Truth is not their chief aim, and consequently they cannot be expected to attain it. To philosophize for the sake of philosophizing, is so much labor thrown away, and the sooner those who are speculatively inclined become convinced of this, the better it will be for the human race generally.

In taking our leave of the author, we feel that when next we meet him, in whatever dress he may appear, it will be as a friend with whom we may have differed, but with whom we have had no wish to quarrel.

Art. IV.- An Inquiry into the Principles of Church Au

thority; or, Reasons for recalling my Subscription to the Royal Supremacy. By the Rev. R. I. WILBERFORCE, M. A. Baltimore: Hedian & O'Brien. 1855. 12mo.

pp. 333.

Mr. WillERFORCE appears to have written this book before his reception into the bosom of the Catholic Church, and while still an archdeacon in the Anglican Establishment. It therefore cannot be regarded precisely as a Catholic work, and if it should not always speak in a Catholic tone or in strict accordance with Catholic doctrine, no particular blame can attach to the author. He does not appear while writing it to have fully made up his mind to do more than to divest himself of the preferments which he held in the Establishment, and to "put himself as far as possible into the condition of a lay member of the Church.” Yet, though he speaks perhaps of the Episcopacy, as distinguished from the Papacy, somewhat too much as an Anglican, his work is substantially Catholic, and admirably adapted, we should think, to make a favorable impression on all Anglicans who really mean to be Churchmen, or who believe the Church to be a Divine, and not a mere human institution. We have read it with deep interest. It is written with rare ability and great learning, and we see not how any man can read it without being convinced that the Anglican Establishment is no part of the Church of God.

The great trouble with Protestants in discussing the question of Church authority is, that they have no principles, and always reason from detached facts, which are often no facts at all. They run over ecclesiastical history, and seize upon certain statements, sometimes true, sometimes false, and bring them forward as disproving some Catholic doctrine or some claim of the Catholic Church, without ever stopping to inquire on what principle they do it, if they do it at all. A Father says all bishops are equal; therefore say they, The Bishop of Rome has no primacy, forgetful that all bishops, including the Bishop of Rome, as bishops may be equal, and that the Papacy, that is to say, the Apostleship, a distinct office from that of Bishop, though including it, may be attached to the

« PředchozíPokračovat »