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Was it by design or accident that our eminent Scotchmen have introduced the element of common life in discussions in their several departments of science, philosophy, and religion ?
Professor Johnson has taught us the chemistry of common life; Mr. Caird has preached before Majesty on the religion of common life ; and Sir W.Hamilton, thegreat philosopher of common sense, has taught the metaphysics of common life.
The coincidence is so curious that we will not spoil it by speculations, German fashion, on the antecedent suitability of Scotch philosophy and Scotch common life to each other.
Had we leisure, or our readers the peculiar mental appetite for such controversies, we might without much trouble collect a long list of philosophers who have outraged common sense, and rejected the persuasion of ninety-nine men in a hundred that there is an external world as a vulgar prejudice--and, on the other hand, produce a long list of practical men who have misrepresented philosophers quite as unreasonably-the Dr. Johnson school of reality, who prove the existence of matter and demolish idealism by kicking a stone.
That the philosophy of common
life has settled these differences that every plain man will be henceforth a metaphysician, and every metaphysician a man of plain sense, is more than is to be expected. Professor Johnson will not succeed in making every cook a chemist, much less in making every chemist a cook; still if there is a philosophy of common life, to Sir W. Hamilton belongs the merit of bringing it, like another Socrates, from heaven to earth.
That the task is an arduous one we will show in a few prefatory observations.
The estrangement between speculative philosophy and practical life has grown with the growth and widened with the width of the two. There have been faults on both sides. In England we have had the Gradgrind school proclaiming facts.
Plato had profoundly defined man as the hunter of truth,' and in this chase the pursuit is all in all, the success comparatively nothing. He ridiculed the Sophists as a “domestic, gold-getting, lame-animal-hunting, wages-hunting, coin-selling, and riches-ensnaring-young-men set of fellows ;"--and the same unsportsmanlike pursuit of truth deserves to be ridiculed in our day. A battue of facts is not philosophy in sport, and
* Discussions on Philosophy and Literature, by Sir W. Hamilton, Bart. London : Longman and Co.
Lectures on the History of Ancient Philosophy, by the Rev. William Archer Butler, M.A., late Professor of Moral Philosophy in the University of Dublin. In two rols. Cambridge : Mac Millan.
Historical Development of Speculative Philosophy; from Kant to Hegel. From the German. Edinburgh : T. and T. Clark. VOL. XLVII.—X0. CCLXXXII.
certainly will never become science in earnest.
On the other hand, speculation had drawn off as far on the other extreme. Misunderstood at first, it accepted the reproach, and wrote mystery on its forehead. The latest school in Germany expressly characterized its philosophy as an esoteric science. In the temple of Athene Isis at Sais, on the fane there stood this sublime inscription :
I am all that was, and is, and shall be ;
Into the shrine of modern transcendentalism no uninitiated durst enter. The multitude passed by, and forgot both the priest and his mystery. Cu riosity died away in indifference, and philosophy and common life became as entirely separated as if they had not a common origin, and were not linked together from the beginning as the two sides of thought.
The inconveniences of this state of separation were felt on both sides, Men must be philosophers and philosophers after all were but men. " Hast any philosophy in thee ?" is Touchstone's question to his fellowclown. Corin's reflections on it are as pure a piece of common philosophy as Condorcet or Helvetius ever uttered. Even Hegel and Schelling, having run the circle round, come down to some thing as low as this. The phenomenology of the former, which is reached at the highest stage of self-conscious ness, candidly tells us after all, with Corin, “ that the property of rain is to wet, and fire to burn—that good pasture makes fat sheep, and that a great cause of the night is a lack of the sun."
That philosophy and common life will come to terms in the end we be lieve and are sure. It is vain either for common life to repudiate philosophy, or philosophy to cast off common life. Common life must philosophize, rightly or wrongly. Phrenology, Clairvoyance, Spirit-rapping are the husks it fills itself with, when no man gives it to eat. Give the popular mind true mental philosophy, bread enough and to spare, the simple facts of experience commented on by history and confirmed by authority from heaven, and it will turn from these husks on which it has
been for so many centuries starving itself.
We believe in the future of philosophy, because we believe it has at last touched ground in the philosophy of common sense. A brief survey of its past history, and the controversies it has given rise to, will show whether we are warranted in indulging these hopes.
In every act of perception we are conscious at once of a subject who perceives, and of an object perceived. Which of these two is primary, and whether their rise in consciousness is identical in time, we will not now consider. Enough that the simplest effort of thought at once presents us with the contrast between the ego and the non-ego subject and object, or what we may assume for the present to represent mind and matter.
But simple as this division of .consciousness may seem, it was not so easily reached. True, the existence of either matter or mind has not been generally denied, as many absurdly suppose ; their relation to each other has been the point in question.
Can the mind directly perceive matter?-or is there anything intermediary interposed between the two? Consciousness undoubtedly supposes the former, philosophy almost without an exception has hitherto inclined to the latter. “We have here," says Reid, “a remarkable conflict between two contradictory opinions wherein all mankind are engaged. On the one side stand all the vulgar who are unpractised in philosophical researches, and guided by the uncor rupted primary instincts of nature; on the other side all the philosophers ancient and modern, every man without exception who reflects. In this division, to my great humiliation, I find myself dassed with the vulgar."
To account for the vulgar belief in the reality of an external world is to disparage the philosophy of common sense; if the vulgar are right, the philosophy which sides with them cannot be wrong. But it is worth determining on what grounds philosophers, almost to a man, have come to an opposite judgment.
I n every act of perception I am conscious at once of a difference between the thinking ego and the object about which I think. Knowledge would thus seem to be the act of the mind identifying this difference-conscious of a contrariety of subject and object. Instead of this, another hypothesis of knowledge was assumed to be true. It was assumed that like can only cognize like that to know, the thinking agent must modify itself, or the subject make it an object; it was never suspected that such a definition of knowledge is selfdestructive, that it involves us in a circle out of which there is no escape. We know our knowledge, we perceive our perceptions, but farther than this we cannot go. These perceptions may be only states of our own mind, as the idealist thought-a representation of an external world, as the hypothetical idealist held ; but between mind and matter there was a gulf fixed which could not be passed; self could only cognize self, and so philosophy and common life--the vulgar who believed in an external world, and the philo. sopher who would not recognize what he could not prove-stood farther apart than ever.
On the connection between mind and matter three suppositions only are possible. 1st. That there is substantial reality in neither one nor the other--that object and subject are both phenomenal, and that all knowledge is only opinion. On this supposition all the world is indeed a stage, and all the men and women merely players. Virtue and vice are but the shadows of a shade, and absolute nihilism is the end of all. 2d. That there is reality in either object or subject-but not in both; or, if in both, we have no means of discover ing it. If reality is asserted of the former, materialism is the result, if of the latter, idealism; if of both—but that we have no means of proving it
cosmothetical realism, the most absurd because the most inconsistent of all systems. 3d. That there is reality in both object and subject that the universal voice of conscious ness, the vera lex, recta ratio, naturæ consensus, constans scriptura, is not to be set aside because philosophers cannot decide how such opposites as mind and matter can act together. Let whatever hypothesis be adopted to account for like cognizing like, whether it be the pre-established harmony of Leibnitz, or the vision in the Deity of Malebranche, or the Carte
sian scheme of ideas, or the irresistible belief of Dr. Brown--whatever intermediary we interpose between mind and matter, let the axiom (atiwa, a dignified opinion not to be questioned) of the philosopher be the simple declaration of consciousness, that mind exists, and matter exists, and that thought, whatever it be, is in some way the result of the identity of these opposites.
The philosophy of common sense has carried us thus far. We have escaped Nihilism, which denies both mind and matter ; Unitarianism, which admits the existence of one, but denies that we have any knowledge of the existence of the other; and we have arrived at Dualism, which asserts as an ultimate fact of consciousness the real existence of both.
Now to explain their relation to each other. Granted their real existence. As opposites they can only be known together by means of some intermediary. So says philosophy. Common life, never suspecting that like can only cognize like, had rashly supposed that it knew by an immediate perception. Philosophy thought otherwise, and so the reign of hypothesis began. “Quot homines, tot sententiæ.” The mediatising point between mind and matter has shifted with every thinker. To catalogue these alone would be to write a biographical history of philosophy. The subject may be generalised thus-they have all hinged on one of two senses of the well-known word idea. Sir W. Hamilton, in one of those notes which throw a flood of light on the dark corners of philosophy, has accurately distinguished between the ancient and modern sense of the term idea. The confusion between the Platonic and Cartesian idea has led to the most ludicrous mistakes, even among well-informed thinkers. According to Plato, the soul contains representations of every possible substance and event-the idea being of eternal, the fact to which it is an idea only of contingent being ; thus the idea is antecedent to the fact, though the fact is to us suggestive of the idea. With Descartes, on the contrary, the idea is only an object of perceptionan eidwlov, a little image derived from objects without-in this latter and lower sense the idea is not only not an
tecedent to the object which suggests, it is even derived from it. Voltaire's definition of an idea in the modern Cartesian sense is coarse, but intelligible-“Qu'est ce qu'une idée ? C'est une image qui se peint dans mon cerveau. Toutes vos pensées sont donc des images ? Assurement."
All hypotheses on the intermediary between mind and matter have fallen in with ideas understood in the Platonic sense. Since like can only know like, and mind and matter are unlike, either one of two things must be The precept, by some law of association or suggestion, calls up an idea in the Platonic sense, the ideal with which to conquer the real. Thus Plato was driven to confound knowledge with memory--the present representation of an external fact with the recollection of its idea in some pre-existentstate. Whoever has taken the pains to watch his own thoughts must have often felt a painful pressing as of supposed associations with every new act of perception-a feeling haunting them that what they see or do now, as they are assured for the first time, has in some way been present to them before. The writer has often felt these intrudings of memory into things he has not seen, peculiarly irksome and unaccountable. Plato's theory of ideas and of knowledge, as memory, may perhaps be accounted for on the supposition of a mind over-susceptible to the law of association.
Or again, since like can only produce like, the object in some way throws off an eldwodov, a picture which stands midway between the mind within, and the external fact without An alternate object and subject ; a subject to matter without, but object only to the mind within.
Variations there are and modifications of these two hypotheses of the connection of mind with matter; but they all substantially agree in this, that like can only cognize like, and that as mind and matter are unlike, some middle point-a punctum indifferens-between the two, must be determined before consciousness can be said to arise.
What says the philosophy of common sense to this? As before it asserted Dualism, in opposition either to sceptical Nihilism or philosophi
cal Unitarianism, on the faith of the sensus communis ; so on the saine testimony of 'blessed common sense, it asserts that mind and matter need no intermediary between them--that ideas, whether ideals or idola, Platonic or Cartesian, are unnecessary hypotheses. Like cognizes unlike. Knowledge is presentative, not representative only.
The full merit of this grand primordial truth of philosophy, that all perception is presentative, and mind is brought face to face with matter, is only understood after being tossed about between contending schemes of representative perception. From the intellectual intuition of Schelling to the images peints of Voltaire, at every step of the long descent stands some philosopher, “clapping his hands, and crying, Eureka, it is clear," over some new theory of our perception of external things. If wearied of the strife, we set a little child in the midst-with its prominent enquiring eye and quick perception, we can have no doubt that the child is conscious of a immediate intuition, not of itself it knows nothing of the ego, this is the growth of after reflection--but of external things; knowledge to it is presentative.
Philosophy in Sir W. Hamilton's hands (we know no higher praise) has become as that little child. Having run the circle round, consciousness, like the tired harepants for the place from whence at first she flew; and mind sits down face to face with matter in company with children, clowns, and all the vulgar, whom philosophers have been repudiating vet returning to from the first dawn of speculation until the present day.
Thus far the philosophy of conimon sense has adopted the first as an axiom, and proved as a problem, that mind and matter both exist. Dualism does not admit of proof-for to prove would be to admit that truth of consciousness may be disputed, which cuts the ground from 0 der philosophy. To doubt consciousness is to doubt that whereby we doubt. Reason alone can judge reason, as diamonds cut diamonds-but reason cannot destroy itself. No weapon of scepticism can strike down the philosophy of consciousness, for the dart recoils on the doubter who throws it. Origen finely says, “ that were he asked for a proof of these primary truths, he would not break the silence which Jesus kept at Pilate's judgment seat.”
True ontology is thus, after all, the same as phenomenology, the simple common sense of Hudibras,
He knows what's what, and that's as high As metaphysic wit can fly.
Further than this the philosophy of common sense does not pretend to see. It knows what's what, the quality of being, not being itself. All knowledge is of the phenomenal only ; of the onta underneath these phenomena it knows nothing. It does not sup pose it necessary to know the substance in order to know its qualities --the qualities of matter we know by perception; its essence, if any, has not been disclosed to us. We may adopt a theological hypothesis of essence, and say that essences exist because God exists; ora metaphysica), that they exist because we exist, or a logical, because attribute implies subject; but in whatever way we view the essence, we can never make it an object of thought. The veil can never be pierced between the outer and inner court; the penetralia of nature, if any, can never be entered. By a law of our nature, the phenomena of matter are at once presented to our perception; we at once know all that can be known, and it is the part of wisdom to accept the bounds that we can never pass. Common sense before the dawn of speculation had marked the range of our knowledge; and philosophy, returning at last to common sense, has submitted to the same bounds. The verdict of a learned ignorance has at last been that phenomena only belong to the finite, essence to the infinite ; we only see things as they seem. God, who made them, alone knows them as they are.
The Christian theist will thankfully acknowledge that Sir W. Hamilton, in his essay on “The Philosophy of the Unconditioned,” has discovered a way of escape from the yawning chasm, pantheism, which modern idealism had opened at our feet. The limitation of our knowledge to the relative and conditioned, has at reason its bounds that it cannot pass. Rationalism, or the attempt
to argue the existence of the infinite from the finite, is at once pronounced invalid and presumptuous. When reason ends, faith begins. In this sense the precept is “crede ut intelligas,” not, “ intellige ut credas." If there be an eternal and absolute One, (and to doubt you must disprove, the burthen of proof lies with the Atheist,) He cannot be understood. To discern him I must adore, not argue. “Thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble heart, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” · Philosophy and common life have thus come together again to the school of Sir W. Hamilton. He has reconciled them on the two points on which they have been estranged from the very first-the immediacy of our perceptions and the finitude of our knowledge. The nexus between mind and matter is twofold ; first, that phenomena are presentative not representative; second, that the mind never knew anything beyond these phenomena. These two conditions satisfy all the conditions of knowledge in a finite creature like man; and each without the other would be incomplete; as it is, scepticism is excluded. Thus, were our knowledge presentative, could the mind be brought face to face with matter without the limitation that we can only perceive phenomena, not essence, we should be as gods-by an immediate perception on the one hand of phenomena, and an intellectual intuition on the other of substance, we should have passed the flaming bounds of space and time,“flammantia monia mundi," and scaled heaven itself. From this attempt of the giants we are mercifully held back by limitations which transcendentalism itself can never pass. Again, could we know only phenomena, and that not presentatively but only by representation, scepticism would be inevitable or could we know presentatively, and that of essence as well as phenomena, we should know even as we are known, the finite would comprehend the infinite-which is impossible. Thus what is given in one direction is withheld in another. The eye of