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who have been favored with the light of Revelation. The influence of the same fundamental error, arising, too, from the same mistaken idea, of thus strengthening the cause of Christianity, may be traced in various passages of the posthumous work of the late Bishop of Llandaff. It is wonderful that the reasonings of Clarke and of Butler did not teach these eininent men a sounder and more consistent logic; or, at least, open their eyes to the inevitable consequences of the rash concessions which they made to their adversaries.*
Among the disciples of Law, one illustrious exception to these remarks occurs in Dr. Paley, whose treatise on Natural Theology is unquestionably the most instructive as well as interesting publication on that subject which has appeared in our times. As the book was intended for popular use, the author has wisely avoided, as much as possible, all metaphysical discussions ; but I do not know that there exists any other work where the argument from final causes is placed in so great a variety of pleasing and striking points of view.
* Without entering at all into the argument with Dr. Law or his followers, it is sufficient here to mention, as an historical fact, their wide departure from the older lights of the English church, from Hooker downwards. “All religion,” says Archbishop Tillotson, whom I select as an unexceptionable organ of their common sentiments, " is founded on right notions of God and his perfections, insomuch that Divine Revelation itself does suppose these for its foundations; and can signify nothing to us unless they be first known and believed ; so that the principles of natural religion are the foundation of that which is revealed.” (Sermon 41.) “ There is an intrinsical good and evil in things, and the reasons and respects of moral good and evil are fixed and immutable, eternal and indispensable. Nor do they speak safely, who make the Divine will the rule of moral good and evil, as if there were nothing good or evil in its own nature antecedently to the will of God; but, that all things are therefore good and evil because God wills them to be so.” (Sermon 88.) ^ Natural religion is obedience to the natural law, and the performance of such duties as natural light, without any express and supernatural revelation, doth dictate to men. These lie at the bottom of all religion, and are the great fundamental duties which God requires of all mankind. These are the surest and most sacred of all other laws; those which God hath rivetted in our souls and written upon our hearts ; and these are what we call moral duties, and most valued by God, which are of eternal and perpetual obligation because they do naturally oblige, without any particular and express revelation from God; and these are the foundation of revealed and instituted religion; and all revealed religion does suppose them. and build upon them.” (Sermons 48, 49.)
Condillac, and other French Metaphysicians of a later date.
While Hartley and Bonnet were indulging their imagination in theorizing concerning the nature of the union between soul and body, Condillac was attempting to draw the attention of his countrymen to the method of studying the phenomena of Mind recommended and exemplified by Locke.* Of the vanity of expecting to illustrate, by physiological conjectures, the manner in which the intercourse between the thinking principle and the external world is carried on, no philosopher seems ever to have been more completely aware ; and, accordingly, he confines himself strictly, in all his researches concerning this intercourse, to an examination of the general laws by which it is regulated. There is, at the same time, a remarkable coincidence between some of his views and those of the other two writers. All of the three, while they profess the highest veneration for Locke, have abandoned his account of the origin of our ideas for that of Gassendi ; and, by doing so, have, with the best intentions, furnished arms against those principles which it was their common aim to establish in the world.* It is much to be regretted, that by far the greater part of those French writers who have since speculated about the human mind, have acquired the whole of their knowledge of Locke's philosophy through this mistaken comment upon its fundamental principle. On this subject I have already exhausted all that I have to offer on the effect of Condillac's writings; and, I flatter myself, have sufficiently shown how widely his commentary differs from the text of his author. It is this commentary, however, which is now almost universally received on the Continent as the doctrine of Locke, and which may justly be regarded as the sheet-anchor of those systems which are commonly stigmatized in England with the appellation of French philosophy. Had Condillac been sufficiently aware of the consequences which have been deduced (and I must add logically deduced) from his account of the origin of our knowledge, I am persuaded, from his known candor and love of truth, that he would have been eager to acknowledge and to retract his error.
* It may appear to some unaccountable, that no notice should have been taken, in this Dissertation, of any French metaphysician during the long interval between Malebranche and Condillac. As an apology for this apparent omission, I beg leave to quote the words of an author intimately acquainted with the history of French literature and philosophy, and eminently qualified to appreciate the merits of those who have contributed to their progress. “ If we except,” says Mr. Adam Smith, in a Memoir published in 1755, the Meditations of Descartes, I know of nothing in the works of French writers which aspires at originality in morals or metaphysics; for the philosophy of Regius and that of Malebranche are nothing more than the meditations of Descartes unfolded with more art and refinement. But Hobbes, Locke, Dr. Mandeville, Lord Shaftesbury, Dr. Butler, Dr. Clarke, and Mr. Hutcheson, each in his own system, all different and all incompatible, have tried to be original, at least in some points. They have attempted to add something to the fund of observations collected by their predecessors, and already the common property of mankind. This branch of science, which the English themselves neglect at present, appears to have been recently transported into France. I discover some traces of it not only in the Encyclopédie, but in the Theory of Agreeable Sensations, by M. de Pouilly; and much more in the late discourse of M. Rousseau, On the Origin and Foundation of the Inequality of Ranks among Men."
Although I perfectly agree with Mr. Smith in his general remark on the sterility of invention among the French metaphysicians posterior to Descartes, when compared to those of England, I cannot pass over the foregoing quotation without expressing my surprise, 1. To find the name of Malebranche (one of the highest in modern philosophy) degraded to a level with that of Regius; and, 2. To observe Mr. Smith's silence with respect to Buffier and Condillac, while he mentions the author of the Theory of Agreeable Sensations as a metaphysician of original genius. of the merits of Condillac, whose most important works were published several years before this paper of Mr. Smith's, I am about to speak in the text; and those of Buffier I shall have occasion to mention in a subsequent part of this discourse. In the mean time, I shall only say of him, that I regard him as one of the most original as well as sound philosophers of whom the eighteenth century has to boast.
In this apparent simplification and generalization of Locke's doctrine, there is, it must be acknowledged, something, at first sight, extremely seducing. It relieves the mind from the painful exercise of abstracted reflection, and amuses it with analogy and metaphor, when it looked only for the severity of logical discussion. The clearness and simplicity of Condillac's style add to the force of this illusion, and flatter the reader with an agreeable idea of the powers of his own understanding, when he finds himself so easily conducted through the darkest labyrinths of metaphysical science. It is to this cause I would chiefly ascribe the great popularity of his works. They may be read with as little exertion of thought as a
* Condillac's earliest work appeared three years before the publication of Hartley's Theory. It is entitled, “ Essai sur l’Origine des Connoissances Humaines. Ouvrage où l'on réduit à un seul principe tout ce qui concerne l'entendement humain.” This seul principe is the Association of Ideas. The account which both authors give of the transformation of sensations into ideas is substantially the
history or a novel; and it is only when we shut the book, and attempt to express in our own words, the substance of what we have gained, that we have the mortification to see our supposed acquisitions vanish into air.
The philosophy of Condillac was, in a more peculiar manner, suited to the taste of his own country, where (according to Mad. de Staël) “ few read a book but with à view to talk of it.”* Among such a people, speculations which are addressed to the power of reflection can never expect to acquire the same popularity with theories expressed in a metaphorical language, and constantly recalling to the fancy the impressions of the external
The state of society in France, accordingly, is singularly unfavorable to the inductive philosophy of the human mind; and of this truth no proof more decisive can be produced, than the admiration with which the metaphysical writings of Condillac have been so long regarded.
On the other hand, it cannot be denied that Condillac has, in many instances, been eminently successful, both in observing and describing the mental phenomena ; but, in such cases, he commonly follows Locke as his guide ; and, wherever he trusts to his own judgment, he seldom fails to wander from his way. The best part of his works relates to the action and reaction of thought and language on each other, a subject which had been previously very profoundly treated by Locke, but whicho Condillac has had the merit of placing in many new and happy points of view. In various cases, his conclusions are pushed too far; and in others, are expressed without due precision ; but, on the whole, they form a most valuable accession to this important branch of logic; and (what not a little enhances their value) they have been instrumental in recommending the subject to the attention of other inquirers, still better qualified than their author to do it justice.
In the speculation, too, concerning the origin and the
*“ En France, on ne lit guère un ouvrage que pour en parler,”—(Allemagne, Tom. I. p. 292.) The same remark, I am much afraid, is becoming daily more and more applicable to our own island. VOL. VI.
theoretical history of language, Condillac was one of the first who made any considerable advances; nor does it reflect any discredit on his ingenuity, that he has left some of the principal difficulties connected with the inquiry very imperfectly explained. The same subject was soon after taken up by Mr. Smith, who, I think, it must be owned, bas rather slurred over these difficulties, than attempted to remove them; an omission on his part the more remarkable, as a very specious and puzzling objection had been recently stated by Rousseau, not only to the theory of Condillac, but to all speculations which have for their object the solution of the same problem. “If language,” says Rousseau, “ be the result of human convention, and if words be essential to the exercise of thought, language would appear to be necessary for the invention of language."*
19*_But," continues the same author, “ when, by means which I cannot conceive, our new grammarians began to extend their ideas, and to generalize their words, their ignorance must have confined them within very narrow bounds.
How, for example, could they imagine or comprehend such words as matter, mind, substance, mode, figure, motion, since our philosophers, who have so long made use of them, scarcely understand them, and since the ideas attached to them, being purely metaphysical, can have no model in na
66 1 stop at these first steps,” continues Rousseau, “and intreat my judges to pause, and consider the distance between the easiest part of language, the invention of physical substantives, and the power
of expressing all the thoughts of man, so as to speak in public, and influence society. I intreat them to reflect upon the time and knowledge it must have required to discover numbers, abstract words, aorists, and all the tenses of verbs, particles, syntax, the art of connecting propositions and arguments, and how to form the whole logic of discourse.
* That men never could have invented an artificial language, if they had not possessed a natural language, is an observation of Dr. Reid's; and it is this indisputable and self-evident truth which gives to Rousseau's remark that imposing plausibility, which, at first sight, dazzles and perplexes the judgment. I by no means say, that the former proposition affords a key to all the difficulties suggested by the latter; but it advances us at least one important step towards their solution.