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Among other doctrines of natural and revealed religion, which Spinoza affected to embrace, was that of the Divine Omnipresence; a doctrine which, combined with the Plenum of Descartes, led him, by a short and plausi
process of reasoning, to the revival of the old theory which represented God as the soul of the world; or rather to that identification of God and of the material universe, which I take to be still more agreeable to the idea of Spinoza.* I am particularly anxious to direct the
laurin has observed, “to invent another system equally absurd : amounting (as it does in fact) to this proposition, that there is but one substance in the universe, endowed with infinite attributes (particularly infinite extension and cogitation,) which produces all other things necessarily as its own modifications, and which alone is, in all events, both physical and moral, at once cause and effect, agent and patient.” -- View of Newton's Discoveries, Book. I. Chap. 4.
* Spinoza supposes that there are in God iwo eternal properties, thought and extension ; and as he held, with Descartes, that extension is the essence of matter, he must necessarily have conceived materiality to be an essential attribute of God. "Per Corpus intelligo modum, qui Dei essentiam quatenus ut res extensa consideratur, cerio et determinato modo exprimit.” (Ethica ordine Geometrico Demonstrata. Fars 2. Defin. 1. See also Ethic. Pars 1. Prop. 14.). With respect to the other attributes of God, he held, that God is the cause of all things; but that he acts, not from choice, but from necessity; and, of consequence, that he is the involuntary author of all the good and evil, virtue and vice, which are exhibited in human life. “Res nullo alio modo, neque alio ordine a Deo produci potuerunt, quam productæ sunt.” (Ibid. Pars 1. Prop. 33.) In one of his letters to Mr. Oldenburgh (Letter 21), he acknowledges, that his ideas of God and of nature were very different from those entertained by modern Christians; adding by way of explanation, “ Deum rerum omnium causam immanentem, non vero transeuntem statuo;”-an expression to which I can annex no other meaning, but this, that God is inseparably and essentially united with his works, and that they form together but one being.
The diversity of opinions entertained concerning the nature of Spinozism has been chiefly owing to this, that some have formed their notions of it from the books which Spinoza published during his life, and others from his posthumous remains. It is in the last alone (particularly in his Ethics) that his system is to be seen completely unveiled and undisguised. In the former, and also in the letters addressed to his friends, he occasionally accommodates himself, with a very temporiizog spirit, to what he considered as the prejudices of the world. In proof of this, see his Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, and his epistolary correspondence, passim ; above all, his letter to a young friend who had apostatized from Protestantism to the Catholic Church. The letter is addressed, “Nobilissimo Juveni, Alberto Burgh.” (Spin. op. T. II. p. 695.)
The edition of Spinoza's works, to which my references are made, is the complete and very accurate one published at Jena in 1802, by Henr. Eberh. Gottlob Paulus, who styles binıself Doctor and Professor of Thcology.
This learned divine is at no pains to conceal his admiration of the character as well as talents of his author; nor does he seem to have much to object to the system of Spinozism, as explained in his posthumous work upon Ethics; a work which, the editor admits, contains the only genuine exposition of Spinoza's creed.
“ Sedes systematis quod sibi condidit in ethicâ est.” (Præf. Iteratà Editionis, p. ix.) In what manner all this was reconciled in his theological lectures with the doctrines either of natural or of revealed religion, it is not very easy to imagine. Perhaps be only affords a new example of what Dr. Clarke long ago remarked, that“ Believing too much and too little have commonly the luck to meet together, like two things moving contrary ways in the same circle.” (Third Letter to Dodwell.)
A late German writer, who, in his own opinions, has certainly no leaning towards Spinozism, has yet spoken of the moral tendency of Spinoza's writings, in terms of the warmeat praise. “ The morality of Spinoza,” says M. Fred. Schlegel, “ is
attention of my readers to this part of his system, as I conceive it to be at present very generally misrepresented, or, at least, very generally misunderstood; a thing
not indeed that of the Bible, for he himself was no Christian, but it is still a pure and noble morality, resembling that of the ancient Stoics, perhaps possessing considerable advantages over that system. That which makes him strong when opposed to adversaries, who do not understand or feel his depth, or who unconsciously bave fallen into errors not much different from his, is not merely the scientific clearness and decision of his intellect, but, in a much higher degree, the open-hearted ness, strong feeling, and conviction, with which all that he says seems to gush from his heart and soul.” (Lect. of Fred. Schlegel, Eng. Trans. Vol. II. p. 244.) The rest of the pasage, which contains a sort of apology for the system of Spinoza, is still more curious.
Although it is with the metaphysical tenets of Spinoza alone that we are immediately concerned at present, it is not altogether foreign to my purpose to observe, that he had also speculated much about the principles of government; and that the coincidence of his opinions with those of Hobbes, on this last subject, was not less remarkable than the similarity of their views on the most important questions of inetaphysics and ethics. Unconnected as these different branches of knowledge may at first appear, the theories of Spinoza and of Hobbes concerning all of them, formed parts of one and the same system; the whole terminating ultimately in the maxim with which (according to Plutarch) Anaxarchus consoled Alexander after the murder of Clytus : Πάν το πραχθέν από του κρατούντος δίκαιον είναι. Even in discussing the question about Liberty and Necessity, Hobbes cannot help glancing at this political corollary. “ The power of God alone is a sufficient justification of any action he doth." “ That which he doth is made just by his doing it.”. “, Power irresistible justifies all actions really and properly, in whomsoever it be found.” (Of Liberty and Necessity, addressed to the Lord Marquis of Newcastle.) Spinoza has expressed himself exactly to the same purpose. (See his Tractatus Politicus, Cap. 2. Ş$ 3, 4.) So steadily, indeed, is this practical application of their abstract principles kept in view by both these writers, that not one generous feeling is ever suffered to escape the pen of either in favor of the rights, the liberties, or the improvement of their species.
The close affinity between those abstract theories which tend to degrade human nature, and that accommodating morality which prepares the minds of men for receiving passively the yoke of slavery, although too little attended to by the writers of literary history, has not been overlooked by those deeper politicians who are disposed (as has been alleged of the first of the Cæsars) to consider their fellow-creatures " but as rubbish in the way of their ambition, or tools to be employed in removing it." This practical tendency of the Epicurean philosophy is remarked by one of the wisest of the Roman statesmen: and we learn from the same high authority, how fashionable this philosophy was in the higher circles of his countrymen, at that disastrous period which immediately preceded the ruin of the Republic. Nunquam audivi in Epi. curi scholâ, Lycurgum, Solonem, Miltiadem, Themistoclem, Epaminondain pominari; qui in ore sunt cæterorum omnium philosophorum.” (De Fin. Lib. ii. c. 21.) “ Nec tamen Epicuri licet oblivisci, si cupiam ; cujus imaginem non modo in tabulis nostri familiares, sed etiam in poculis et annulis, habent.” (Ibid. Lib. v. c. 1.)
The prevalence of Hobbism at the court of Charles II. (a fact acknowledged by Clarendon himself), is but one of the many instances which might be quoted from modern times in confirination of these remarks.
The practical tendency of such doctrines as would pave the way to universal scepticism, by holding up to ridicule the extravagancies and inconsistencies of the learned, is precisely similar. We are told by Tacitus (Annal. Lib. 14,) that Nero was accustomed, at the close of a banquet, to summon a party of philosophers, that he moight amuse himself with listening to the endless diversity and discordancy of their respective systems; nor were there wanting philosophers at Rome, the same historian adds, who were flattered to be thus exhibited as a spectacle at the table of the Emperor. What a deep and instructive moral is conveyed by this anecdote,
not to be wondered at, considering the total neglect into which his works have long fallen. It is only in this way I can account for the frequent use which has most unfairly been made of the term Spinozism to stigmatize and discredit some doctrines, or rather some modes of speaking, which have been sanctioned, not only by the wisest of the ancients, but by the highest names in English philosophy and literature ; and which, whether right or wrong, will be found, on a careful examination and comparison, not to have the most distant affinity to the absurd creed with which they have been confounded. I am afraid that Pope, in the following lines of the Dunciad, suffered himself so far to be misled by the malignity of Warburton, as to aim a secret stab at Newton and Clarke, by associating their figurative, and not altogether unexceptionable language, concerning space (when they called it the sensorium of the Deity), with the opinion of Spinoza, as I have just explained it.
“ Thrust some Mechanic Cause into His place,
Or bind in matter, or diffuse in space." How little was it suspected by the poet, when this sarcasm escaped him, that the charge of Spinozism and Pantheism was afterwards to be brought against himself, for the sublimest passage to be found in his writings !
“ All are but parts of one stupendous whole,
Whose body Nature is, and God the soul.
Lives through all life, extends through all extent,
and what a contrast does it afford to the sentiment of one of Nero's successors, who was himself a philosopher in the best sense of the word, and whose reign furnishes some of the fairest pages in the annals of the human race ! “ I search for truth,” says Marcus Antoninus, " by wbich no person has ever been injured.” Zntü yap την αλήθειαν, υφ' ής ουδείς πώποτε έβλάβη.
* Warburton, indeed, always professes great respect for Newton, but of his hos. tility to Clarke it is unnecessary to produce any other proof than his note on the following line of the Dunciad: “ Where Tindal dictates, and Silenus snores."
B. iv. 1. 492. May I venture to add that the noted line of the Essay on Man,
“ And showed a Newton as we show an ape,” could not possibly have been written by any person impressed with a due veneration for this glory of his species?
• This passage (as Warton has remarked) bears a very striking analogy to a noble
Bayle was, I think, the writer who first led the way to this misapplication of the term Spinozism ; and his object in doing so, was plainly to destroy the effect of the most refined and philosophical conceptions of the Deity which were ever formed by the unassisted power of human
“ Estne Dei sedes nisi terra, et pontus, et aër,
Et cælum, et virtus? Superos quid quærimus ultra ?
Jupiter est quodcumque vides, quocumque moveris.”
Beyond this earth, the seas, yon Heaven above,
Rowe's Lucan. Who but Bayle, could have thought of extracting anything like Spinozism from such verses as these !
On a subject so infinitely disproportioned to our faculties, it is vain to expect language will bear a logical and captious examination. Even the Sacred Writers themselves are forced to adapt their phraseology to the comprehension of those to whom it is addressed, and frequentjy borrow the figurative diction of poetry to convey ideas which must be interpreted, not according to the letter, but the spirit of the passage.
It is thus that thunder is called the voice of God; the wind, His breath ; and the tempest, the blast of His nostrils. Not attending to this circumstance, or rather not choosing to direct to it the attention of his readers, Spinoza has laid hold of the well known expression of St. Paul, that “ in God we live, and move, and have our being," as a proof that the ideas of the apostle, concerning the Divine Nature, were pretty much the same with his own; a consideration which, if duly weighed, might have protected some of the passages
one in the old Orphic verses quoted in the treatise Ilogi xoops, ascribed to Aristotle ; and it is not a little curious, that the same ideas occur in some specimens of Hindoo poetry, translated by Sir W. Jones; more particularly in the Hymn to Narrayna, or the Spirit of God, taken, as he informs us, from the writings of their ancient authors :
“ Omniscient Spirit, whose all-ruling power
Bids from each sense bright emanations beam;
above quoted from the uncharitable criticisms to which they have frequently been exposed. *
To return, however, to Collins, from whose controversy with Clarke I was insensibly led aside into this short digression about Spinoza: I have already said, that it seems to have been the aim of Collins to vindicate the doctrine of Necessity from the reproach brought on it by its supposed alliance with Spinozism; and to retort upon the partizans of free-will the charges of favoring atheism and immorality. In proof of this I have only to quote the account, given by the author himself, of the plan of his work :
“ Too much care cannot be taken to prevent being misunderstood and prejudged, in handling questions of such nice speculation as those of Liberty and Necessity; and, therefore, though I might in justice expect to be
* Mr. Gibbon, in commenting upon the celebrated lines of Virgil,
“ Spiritus intus alit, totamque infusa per artus,
Mens agitat molem, et magno se corpore miscet," observes, that “ the mind which is INFUSED into the different parts of matter, and which MINGLES ITSELF with the mighty mass, scarcely retains any property of a spiritual substance, and bears too near an affinity to the principles which the impious Spinoza revived rather than invented.” He adds, however, that “ the poverty of human language, and the obscurity of human ideas, make it difficult to speak worthily of the GREAT FIRST CAUSE ; and that our most religious poets (particularly Pope and Thomson), in striving to express the presence and energy of the Deity in every part of the universe, deviate unwarily into images which require a favorable construction. But these writers," he candidly remarks, “ deserve that favor, by the sublime manner in which they celebrate the Great Father of the universe, and by those effusions of love and gratitude which are inconsistent with the materialist's system.” (Misc. Works. Vol. II, pp. 509, 510.)
May I be permitted here to remark, that it is not only difficult but impossible to speak of the omnipresence or omnipotence of God, without deviating into such images?
With the doctrine of the Animus Mundi, some philosophers, both ancient and modern, have connected another theory, according to which the souls of men are portions of the Supreme Being, with whom they are re-united at death, and in whom they are finally absorbed and lost. To assist the imagination in conceiving this theory, death has been compared to the breaking of a phial of water, immersed in the ocean. It is needless to say, that this incomprehensible jargon has no necessary connexion with the doctrine which represents God as the soul of the world, and ihat it would have been loudly disclaimed, not only by Pope and Thomson, but by Epictetus, Antoninus, and all the wisest and soberest of the Stoical school. Whatever objections, therefore, may be made to this doctrine, let not its supposed consequences be charged upon any but those who may expressly avow them. “On such a subject," as Gibbon has well remarked, “ we should be slow to suspect, and still slower to condemn.” (Ibid, p. 510.)
Sir William Jones mentions a very curious modification of this theory of absorption, as one of the doctrines of the Vedanta school. “ The Vedanta school represents Elysian happiness as a total absorption, though not such as to destroy cunsciousness, in the Divine Essence.” (Dissertation on the Gods of Greece, Italy, and India.)