« PreviousContinue »
and all his followers, both of the French and English, or Scotch school, commences from within, and proceeds outwards; instead of commencing from without, and with various precautions and hesitations, endeavouring to proceed inwards. The ultimate aim of all Philosophy must be to interpret appearances—from the given symbol to ascertain the thing. Now the first step towards this, the aim of what may be called Primary or Critical Philosophy, must be to find some indubitable principle; to fix ourselves on some unchangeable basis; to discover what the Germans call the Urwahr, the Primitive Truth, the necessarily, absolutely and eternally True. This necessarily True, this absolute basis of Truth, Locke silentJy, and Reid and his followers with more tumult, find in a certain modified Experience, and evidence of Sense, in the universal and natural persuasion of all men. Not so the Germans: they deny that there is here any absolute Truth, or that any Philosophy whatever can be built on such a basis ; nay, they go the length of asserting, that such an appeal even to the universal persuasions of mankind, gather them with what precautions you may, amounts to a total abdication of Philosophy, strictly so called, and renders not only its farther progress, but its very existence impossible. What, they would say, have the
one. He does not enter on the field to till it, he only encompasses it with fences, invites cultivators, and drives away intruders ; often (fallen on evil days) he is reduced to long arguments with the passers by, to prove that it is a field, that this so highly prized domain of his is, in truth, soil and substance, not clouds and shadow. We regard his discussions on the nature of philosophic Language, and his unwearied efforts to set forth and guard against its fallacies, as worthy of all acknowledgment; as indeed forming the greatest, perhaps the only true improvement, which Philosophy has received among us in our age. It is only to a superficial observer that the import of these discussions can seem trivial : rightly understood, they give sufficient and final answer to Hartley's and Darwin's, and all other possible forms of Materialism, the grand Idolatry, as we may rightly call it, by which, in all times, the true Worship, that of the Invisible, has been polluted and withstood. Mr Stewart has written warmly against Kant; but it would surprise him to find how much of a Kantist he himself essentially is. Has not the whole scope of his labours been to reconcile what a Kantist would call his Understanding with his Reason; a noble, but still too fruitless effort to overarch the chasm which, for all minds but his own, separates his Science from his Religion? We regard the assiduous study of his Works, as the best preparation for studying those of Kant.
persuasions, or instinctive beliefs, or whatever they are called, of men to do in this matter? Is it not the object of Philosophy to enlighten, and rectify, and many times directly contradict these very beliefs ? Take, for instance, the voice of all generations of men on the subject of Astronomy. Will there, out of any age or climate, be one dissentient against the fact of the Sun's going round the Earth? Can any evidence be clearer; is there any persuasion more universal, any belief more instinctive? And yet the Sun moves no hairsbreadth; but stands in the centre of his Planets, let us vote as we please. So is it likewise with our evidence for an external independent existence of Matter, and, in general, with our whole argument against Hume; whose reasonings, from the premises admitted both by him and us, the Germans affirm to be rigorously consistent and legitimate, and on these premises altogether uncontroverted and incontrovertible. British Philosophy, since the time of Hume, appears to them nothing more than a laborious and unsuccess• ful striving to build dike after dike in front of our Churches 6 and Judgment-halls, and so turn back from them the deluge of • Scepticism, with which that extraordinary writer overflow
ed us, and still threatens to destroy whatever we value most.' This is Schlegel's meaning: his words are not before us.
The Germans take up the matter differently, and would assail Hume, not in his outworks, but in the centre of his citadel. They deny his first principle, that Sense is the only inlet of Knowledge, that Experience is the primary ground of Belief. Their Primitive Truth, however, they seek not, historically and by experiment, in the universal persuasions of men, but by intuition, in the deepest and purest nature of Man. Instead of attempting, which they consider vain, to prove the existence of God, Virtue, an immaterial Soul, by inferences drawn, as the conclusion of all Philosophy, from the world of sense, they find these things written as the beginning of all Philosophy, in obscured but in ineffaceable characters within our inmost being; and themselves first affording any certainty and clear meaning to that very world of sense, by which we endeavour to demonstrate them. God is, nay alone is, for with like emphasis we cannot say that anything else is. This is the Absolute, the Primitively True, which the philosopher seeks. Endeavouring, by logical argument, to prove the existence of God, a Kantist might say, would be like taking out a candle to look for the sun; nay, gaze steadily into your candle-light, and the sun himself may be invisible. To open the inward eye to the sight of this Primitively True; or rather, we might call it, to clear off the obscurations of senso, which eclipse this Truth within us, so that we may see it, and believe it not only to be true, but the foundation and essence of all other truth, may, in such language as we are here using, be said to be the problem of Critical Philosophy.
In this point of view, Kant's system may be thought to have a remote affinity to those of Malebranche and Descartes. But if they in some measure agree as to their aim, there is the wi. dest difference as to the means. We state what to ourselves has long appeared the grand characteristic of Kant's Philosophy, when we mention his distinction, seldom perhaps expressed so broadly, but uniformly implied, between Understanding and Reason (Verstand and Vernunft). To most of our readers this may seem a distinction without a difference: nevertheless, to the Kantists it is by no means such. They believe that both Understanding and Reason are organs, or rather we should say modes of operation, by which the mind discovers truth; but they think that their manner of proceeding is essentially different: that their provinces are separable and distinguishable, nay, that it is of the last importance to separate and distinguish them. Reason, the Kantists say, is of a higher nature than Understanding; it works by subtler methods, on higher objects, and requires a far finer culture for its developement, indeed in many men it is never developed at all; but its results are no less certain, nay rather they are much more so; for Reason discerns Truth itself, the absolutely and primitively True ; while Understanding discerns only relations, and cannot decide without if. The proper province of Understanding is all strictly speaking real, practical, and material knowledge, Mathematics, Physics, Political Economy, the adaptation of means to ends in the whole business of life. In this province it is the strength and universal implement of the mind; an indispensable servant, without which, indeed, existence itself would be impossible. Let it not step beyond this province however, not usurp the province of Reason, which it is appointed to obey, and cannot rule over, without ruin to the whole spiritual man. Should Understanding attempt to prove the existence of God, it ends, if thoroughgoing and consistent with itself, in Atheism, or a faint possible Theism, which scarcely differs from this: should it speculate of Virtue, it ends in Utility, making Prudence and a sufficiently cunning love of Self the highest good. Consult Understanding about the Beauty of Poetry, and it asks, where is this Beauty ? or discovers it at length in rhythms and fitnesses, and male and female rhymes. Witness also its everlasting paradoxes on the
Necessity and Freedom of the Will; its ominous silence on the end and meaning of man; and the enigma which, under such inspection, the whole purport of existence becomes.
Nevertheless, say the Kantists, there is a truth in these things. Virtue is Virtue and not Prudence; not less surely than the angle in a semicircle is a right angle, and no trapezium : Shakspeare is a Poet, and Boileau is none, think of it as you may: Neither is it more certain that I myself exist, than that God exists, infinite, eternal, invisible, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. To discern these truths is the province of Reason, which therefore is to be cultivated as the highest faculty in man. Not by logic and argument does it work; yet surely and clearly may it be taught to work: and its domain lies in that higher region whither logic and argument cannot reach ; in that holier region, where Poetry, and Virtue, and Divinity abide, in whose presence Understanding wavers and recoils, dazzled into utter darkness by that sea of light,' at once the fountain and the termination of all true knowledge.
Will the Kantists forgive us for the loose and popular manner in which we must here speak of these things, to bring them in any measure before the eyes of our readers ?-It may illustrate this distinction still farther, if we say that, in the opinion of a Kantist, the French are of all European nations the most gifted with Understanding, and the most destitute of Reason ;* that David Hume had no forecast of this latter, and that Shakspeare and Luther dwelt perennially in its purest sphere.
Of the vast, nay, in these days boundless, importance of this distinction, could it be scientifically established, we need remind no thinking man. For the rest, far be it from the reader to suppose that this same Reason is but a new appearance, under another name, of our own old · Wholesome Prejudice,' so well known to most of us ! Prejudice, wholesome or unwholesome, is a personage for whom the German Philosophers disclaim all shadow of respect; nor do the vehement among them hide their deep disdain for all and sundry who fight under her flag. Truth is to be loved purely and solely because it is true. With moral, political, religious considerations, high and dear as they may otherwise be, the Philosopher as such has no concern. To look
* Schelling has said as much or more (Methode des Academischen Studium, pp. 105-111), in terms which we could wish we had space to transcribe. VOL. XLVI. NO. 92.
at them would but perplex him, and distract his vision from the task in his hands. "Calmly he constructs his theorem, as the Geometer does his, without hope or fear, save that he may or may not find the solution; and stands in the middle, by the one, it may be, accused as an Infidel, by the other as an Enthusiast and a Mystic, till the tumult ceases, and what was true, is and continues true to the end of all time.
Such are some of the high and momentous questions treated of, by calm, earnest, and deeply meditative men, in this system of Philosophy, which to the wiser minds among us is still unknown, and by the unwiser is spoken of and regarded as their nature requires. The profoundness, subtlety, extent of investigation, which the answer of these questions presupposes, need not be farther pointed out. With the truth or falsehood of the system we have here, as already stated, no concern : our aim has been, so far as might be done, to show it as it appeared to us; and to ask such of our readers as pursue these studies, whether this also is not worthy of some study? The reply we must now leave to themselves.
As an appendage to the charge of Mysticism brought against the Germans, there is often added the seemingly incongruous one of Irreligion. On this point also we had much to say; but must for the present decline it. Meanwhile, let the reader be assured, that to the charge of Irreligion, as to so many others, the Germans will plead not guilty. On the contrary, they will not scruple to assert that their literature is, in a positive sense, religious; nay, perhaps to maintain, that if ever neighbouring nations are to recover that pure and high spirit of devotion, the loss of which, however we may disguise it or pretend to overlook it, can be hidden from no observant mind, it must be by travelling, if not on the same path, at least in the same direction, in which the Germans have already begun to travel. We shall add, that the Religion of Germany is a subject not for slight but for deep study, and if we mistake not, may in some degree reward the deepest.
Here, however, we must close our examination or defence. We have spoken freely, because we felt distinctly, and thought the matter worthy of being stated, and more fully inquired into. Farther than this, we have no quarrel for the Germans : we would have justice done to them, as to all men and all things; but for their literature or character, we profess no sectarian or exclusive preference. We think their recent Poetry, indeed, superior to the recent poetry of any other nation; but taken as a