« PředchozíPokračovat »
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, 6 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.
It now only remains for me to take a slight survey of the rise and progress of the Metaphysical Philosophy of Scotland ; and is, 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 Edition of the Gospels (dated Calcutta, September 1806, and published in some of the Literary Journals of the day.)
nor perhaps so authentically, filled up by a younger hand.
The Metaphysical Philosophy of Scotland, and, indeed, the literary taste in general, which so remarkably distinguished this country during the last century, may be dated from the lectures of Dr. Francis Hutcheson, in the University of Glasgow. Strong indications of the same speculative spirit may be traced in earlier writers ; * 'but it was from this period that Scotland, after a long slumber, began again to attract general notice in the republic of letters.t
The writings of Dr. Hutcheson, however, are more closely connected with the history of Ethical than of Metaphysical Science; and I shall, accordingly, delay any remarks which I have to offer upon them till I enter upon that part of my subject. There are, indeed, some very original and important metaphysical hints scattered over his works; but it is chiefly as an ethical writer that he is known to the world, and that he is entitled to a place among the philosophers of the eighteenth century. I
" See Note (V v.)
† An Italian writer of some note, in a work published in 1763, assigns the same date to the revival of letters in Scotland. “ Fra i tanti, e sì chiari Scrittori che fiorirono nella Gran Bretagna a' tempi della Regina Anna, non se ne conta pur uno, che sia uscito di Scozia.
Francesco Hutcheson venuto in Iscozia, a professarvi la Filosofia, e gli studi di umanità, nella Università di Glasgow, v'insinuò per tutto il paese colla istruzione a viva voce, e con egregie opere date alle stampe, un vivo genio per gli studj filosofici, e literarj, e sparse quì fecondissimni semi, d'onde vediamo nascere sì felici frutti, e sì copiosi. (Discorso sopra le Vincende della Letteratura, del Sig. Carlo Denina, p. 224, Glasgow edit. 1763.)
I was somewhat surprised to meet with the foregoing observations in the work of a foreigner, but wherever he acquired his information, it evinces, in those from whom it was derived, a more intimate acquaintance with the traditionary history of letters in this country than has fallen to the share of most of our own authors who have treated of that subject. I have heard it conjectured, that the materials of his section on Scottish literature had been communicated to him by Mr. Hume.
Another foreign writer, much better qualified than Denina to appreciate the merits of Hutcheson, has expressed himself upon this subject with his usual precision.
'L'école Ecossaise a en quelque sorte pour fondateur Hutcheson, maître et prédécesseur de Smith. C'est ce philosophe qui lui a imprimé son caractère, et qui a commencé à lui donner de l'éclat.” In a note upon this passage, the author observes, -“ C'est en ce seul sens qu'on peut donner un chef à une école de philosophie qui, comme on le verra, professe d'ailleurs la plus parfait indépendance de l'autorité.”—(See the excellent reflections upon the posthumous works of Adam Smith, annexed by M. Prévost to his translation of that work.)
Dr. Hutcheson's first course of lectures at Glasgow was given in 1730. He was a native of Ireland, and is accordingly called by Denina “un dotto Irlandese;" but he was of Scotch extraction (his father or grandfather having been a younger son of a respectable family in Ayrshire,) and he was sent over when very young to receive his education in Scotland.
I One of the chief objects of Hutcheson's writings was to oppose the licentious
Among the contemporaries of Dr. Hutcheson, there was one Scottish metaphysician (Andrew Baxter, author of the Inquiry into the Nature of the Human Soul), whose name it would be improper to pass over without some notice, after the splendid eulogy bestowed on his work by Warburton. “He who would see the justest and precisest notions of God and the soul, may read this book, one of the most finished of the kind, in my humble opinion, that the present times, greatly advanced in true philosophy, have produced.”
To this unqualified praise, I must confess, I do not think Baxter's Inquiry altogether entitled, although I readily acknowledge that it displays considerable ingenuity, as well as learning. Some of the remarks on Berkeley's argument against the existence of matter are acute and just, and, at the time when they were published, had the merit of novelty.
One of his distinguishing doctrines is, that the Deity is the immediate agent in producing the phenomena of the Material World ; but that, in the Moral World, the case is different,-a doctrine, which, whatever may be thought of it in other respects, is undoubtedly a great improvement on that of Malebranche, which, by representing God as the only agent in the universe, was not less inconsistent than the scheme of Spinoza, with the moral nature of Man. “ The Deity,” says Baxter, “ is not only at the head of Nature, but in every part of it. A chain of material causes betwixt the Deity and the
system of Mandeville; a system which was the natural offspring of some of Locke's reasonings against the existence of innate practical principles.
As a inoralist, Hutcheson was a warm admirer of the ancients, and seems to have been particularly smitten with that favorite doctrine of the Socratic school which identifies the good with the beautiful. Hence he was led to follow much too closely the example of Shaftesbury, in considering moral distinctions as founded more on sentiment than on reason, and to speak vaguely of virtue as a sort of noble enthusiasm ; but he was led, at the same time, to connect with his ethical speculations some collateral inquiries concerning Beauty and Harmony, in which he pursued, with considerable success, the path recently struck out by Addison in his Essays on the Pleasures of the Imagination. These inquiries of Hutcheson, together with his Thoughts on Laughter, although they may not be very highly prized for their depth, bear everywhere the marks of an enlarged and cultivated mind, and, whatever may have been their effects elsewhere, certainly contributed powerfully, in our Northern seats of learning, to introduce a taste for more liberal and elegant pursuits than could have been expected so soon to succeed to the intolerance, bigotry, and barbarism of the preceding century.
† See Warburton's Divine Legation of Moses demonstrated, p. 395 of the first edition.
effect produced, and much more a series of them, is such a supposition as would conceal the Deity from the knowledge of mortals for ever. We might search for matter above matter, till we were lost in a labyrinth out of which no philosopher ever yet found his way. This way of bringing in second causes is borrowed from the ment of the moral world, where free agents act a part; but it is very improperly applied to the material universe, where matter and motion only (or mechanism as it is called) coines in competition with the Deity.” *
Notwithstanding, however, these and other merits, Baxter has contributed so little to the advancement of that philosophy which has since been cultivated in Scotland, that I am afraid the very slight notice I have now taken of him may be considered as an unseasonable digression. The great object of his studies plainly was, to strengthen the old argument for the soul's immateriality, by the new lights furnished by Newton's discoveries. To the intellectual and moral phenomena of Man, and to the laws by which they are regulated, he seems to have paid but little attention. +
While Dr. Hutcheson's reputation as an author, and still more as an eloquent teacher, was at its zenith in Scotland, Mr. Hume began his literary career, by the , publication of his Treatise of Human Nature. It appeared in 1739, but seems at that time to have attracted little or no attention from the public. According to the author himself, “ never literary attempt was more unforIt fell dead-born from the
without reaching such distinction as even to excite a murmur among the zealots.” It forms, however, a very important link in this Historical Sketch, as it has contributed, either directly or indirectly, more than any other single work, to the subsequent progress of the Philosophy of the Human Mind. In order to adapt his principles better to the public taste, the author afterwards threw them into the more popular form of Essays; but it is in the original work that philosophical readers will always study his system, and it is there alone that the relations and bearings of its different parts, as well as its connexion with the speculations of his immediate predecessors, can be distinctly traced. It is there, too, that his metaphysical talents appear, in my opinion, to the greatest advantage; nor am I certain, that he has anywhere else displayed more skill or a sounder taste in point of composition.*
Appendix to the first part of the Inquiry into the Nature of the Human Soul, pp. 109, 110.
| Baxter was born at Old Aberdeen, in 1686, or 1687, and died at Whittingham, in East Lothian, in 1750. I have not been able to discover the date of the first edition of his Inquiry into the Nature of the Human Soul, but the second edition appeared in 1737, two years before the publication of Mr. Hume's Treatise of Human Nature.
* A gentleman, who lived in habits of great intimacy with Dr. Reid towards the close of his life, and on whose accuracy I can fully depend, remembers to have heard him say repeatedly, that Mr. Hume, in his Essays, appeared to have forgotten his Metaphysics.” Nor will this supposition be thought improbable, if, in addition to the subtle and fugitive nature of the subjects canvassed in the Treatise of Human Nature, it be considered that long before the publication of his Essays, Mr. Hume had abandoned all bis metaphysical researches. In proot of this, I shall quote a passage froin a letter of his to Sir Gilbert Elliot, which, though without a date, seems from its contents to have been written about 1750 or 1751. The passage is interesting on another account, as it serves to show how much Mr. Humne undervalued the utility of mathematical learning, and consequently how little he was aware of its importance, as an organ of physical discovery, and as the foundation of some of the most necessary arts of civilized life. “I am sorry that our correspondence should lead us into these abstract speculations. I have thought, and read, and composed very little on such questions of late. Morals, politics, and literature, have employed all my time; but still the other topics I must think more curious, important, entertaining, and useful, than any geometry that is deeper than Euclid."
I have said that it is in Mr. Hume's earliest work that his metaphysical talents appear, in my opinion, to the greatest advantage. From the following advertisement, however, prefixed, in the latest editions of his works, to the second volume of his Essays and Treatises, Mr. Hume himself would appear to have thought differently. .“ Most of the principles and reasonings, contained in this volume, were published in a work in three voluines, called A Treatise of Human Nature; a work which the author had projected before he left College, and which he wrote and published not long after.
But not firding it successful, he was sensible of his error in going to the press too early, and he cast the whole anew in the following pieces, where some negligencies in his former reasoning, and some in the expression, are, he hopes, corrected. Yet several writers, who have honored the author's philosophy with answers, have taken care to direct all their batteries against that juvenile work, which the author never acknowledged, and have affected to triumph in any advantage which they imagined they had obtained over it; a practice very contrary to all rules of candor and fair dealing, and a strong instance of those polemical artifices which a bigoted zeal thinks itself authorized to employ. Henceforth, the author desires, that the following pieces may alone be regarded as containing his philosophical sentiments and principles.”
After this declaration, it certainly would be highly uncandid to impute to Mr. Hume any philosophical sentiments or principles not to be found in his Philosophical Essays, as well as in his Treatise. But where is the unfairness of replying to any plausible arguments in the latter work, even although Mr. Hume may have omitted them in his subsequent publications ; more especially where these arguments supply any useful lights for illustrating his more popular compositions ? The Treatise of Human Nature will certainly be remembered as long as any of Mr. Hume's philosophical writings; nor is any person qualified either to approve or to reject his doctrines, who has not studied them in the systematical form in which they were originally cast. That Mr. Hume's remonstrance may be just with respect to some of his adversaries, I believe to be true; but it is surely expressed in a tone more querulous and peevish than is justified by the occasion.
I shall take this opportunity of preserving another judgment of Mr. Hume's (still