Abbildungen der Seite

are of immense value, but would never be acquired by attention to such easy subjects. With regard to the faculty of correctly appreciating and weighing moral evidence, there can, of course, be little question as to the superiority of the benefits conferred by the study of mental philosophy over those conferred by the study of the mathematics. The very exactness which the mathematics demand, and which is unattainable when we have only probabilities to deal with, often renders a man who has never disciplined his powers of abstraction and reasoning by anything, except the mathematics, unfit for this rough moral computation. This observation is trite, but not less true; and the history of several mathematicians who, with little in their heads but mathematics, have been intrusted with the management of civil or political affairs, singularly confirms it. A not less striking illustration of its value in this respect though we are not aware that it has ever been noticed, is found in the fact, that there is scarcely any writer who has elicited any new truths, or very successfully illustrated old ones, in the several departments of theology, ethics, politics, and political economy, who has not, in the course of his education, paid marked attention to metaphysical inquiries. Most of them have made some attainments in mathematics, a few of them very considerable attainments. This we think right, because we hold the mathematics, like mental philosophy, to be a peculiar, indispensable, and in all respects highly valuable discipline of mind. But the force of our argument, as showing the peculiar relation of the study of the mind to the successful prosecution of the moral sciences, lies in this; first, that we are not aware of any writers, who having neglected this study, have been marked by decided eminence in these branches of science; and, secondly, that almost all who have attained such eminence, have been distinguished by their attention to it. And be it observed, that the success or the failure of the individual speculator in metaphysics, is, in our view, of little consequence; we having placed the chief benefit of intellectual philosophy in the discipline it imparts. Of the many examples which we might cite from the history of our own country alone, in confirmation of this argument, we need mention only the names of Bacon, Locke, Barrow, Chillingworth, Butler, Adam Smith, and most of our greatest lawyers and political economists. As, in our view, mental philosophy holds such an important place as a discipline and preparation for the successful prosecution of the moral sciences, so do the mathematics hold an equally important place in relation to the physical sciences; and similar examples from history would confirm this view also.

Though we regard the study of mental philosophy to be valuable principally as a discipline, it is not solely as a discipline that it is of value. Endless as are its logomachies, and numerous as are its disputes which, though not logomachies, are scarcely

susceptible of any satisfactory adjustment, those laws of the mind which it has successfully investigated, and those principles which it has put beyond the reach of controversy, (though few,) are of exceedingly wide application in almost every department of moral science-especially in relation to criticism, politics, and ethics. Such is the great law of association, and those which control imagination and emotion. Nor, indeed, do we know of anything that tends so powerfully to inspire an enlarged and liberal spirit of inquiry, or to defecate the mind from vulgar prejudices, as a calm and attentive survey of its capacities. It was this, in fact, which enabled the great Bacon to give so clear and so beautiful an account of the prejudices which pre-occupy and beset the human mind in the investigation of truth. To all this may be added, as an incidental benefit of the study of this science, that the discussions which it involves, and the close definitions and explanations of terms which it necessitates, tend to fix in the mind the various meanings, whether popular or philosophical, of a large class of the most abstract terms in the language.

Such are our convictions of the benefits to be derived from some attention to metaphysical pursuits, even where they lead to no certain results; a disadvantage which, indeed, more or less attends all other pursuits. They furnish a peculiar discipline of mind, while the principles which are elicited are of very extensive application.

Though this study has recently been, in our opinion, much depreciated and undervalued, we are happy to believe that we have lately seen some faint symptoms of a disposition to revive it. On this account we rejoice that Mr. Douglas has been induced to enter upon this field. Though his work is principally taken up in recording and commenting upon the opinions of others, and does not contain very much of original speculation, yet the moderate size of the volume, the previous reputation of the author, and the elegance of the style, may induce many persons to read this book who would have neither time nor inclination to read others.

It is impossible that a man of Mr. Douglas's vigour of mind, various and extensive reading, power of illustration, and refinement of taste, should sit down to the discussion of any subject without writing much that has strong claims to attention. Yet we must confess that, gratified as we have been with many powerful and many splendid passages in the present volume, it has not furnished us with equal pleasure to that derived from his 'Truths and Errors of Religion.' This is, no doubt, partly owing to the nature of the subject, which in no hands could be made equally delightful; partly to the disproportion between the number and the multiplicity of topics touched upon, and the limited nature of the work itself. The subjects can rarely be treated with the fulness and expansion which they often demand. The effect, however, is we apprehend, partly to be attributed to the character of

the author's own mind. Every powerful and original intellect has its peculiar excellencies; and Mr. Douglas seems to us to possess greater aptitudes for enforcing and illustrating known truths; for showing the mutual connexion, harmony, beauty, and utility of acknowledged principles; for canvassing and sifting the opinions of former writers, and, where it is possible, mediating between them and reconciling them, than for original speculation. The evident delight with which he dwells upon and illustrates the harmony and utility of the great leading principles of our mental constitution, shows both his devout spirit and his poetical temperament; nor do we know of any book of the same size in which the wisdom displayed in our intellectual structure, the final cause of the various parts of the mechanism of mind, is so ably or so beautifully illustrated. Indeed, he often indulges himself in such themes to an extent disproportioned to the size of the volume; and this, perhaps, partly accounts for that want of continuous investigation and that thorough and searching analysis, which many of the topics, if treated at all, imperatively demand.

No mind can possess every species of intellectual excellence, and Mr. Douglas possesses many which it would be very questionable wisdom (even if he had the power) to exchange for any others whatsoever. But as we do not attribute to him, so far as this volume is concerned, any extraordinary aptitude for refined and subtle analysis, we are not surprised at his apparently preferring Reid and even Stuart, as metaphysicians, to Brown,-in our opinion, the greatest analyst of the mind that the last century produced; a man who, considering his comparative youth, appears to us almost a miracle of sagacity and acuteness; and who, if he had lived to revise, mature, and extend his views, would have rendered all comparison between Reid or Stuart and himself as utterly ludicrous as even now it seems to us groundless and unwise. We cannot but think that Mr. Douglas has grievously underrated this powerful thinker; nor could we read the following passage, more especially the close, without feelings of astonishment.

'Some of the most acute remarks on this subject [the Emotions], 'are those of the late Dr. Brown; his metaphysical views appear to 'us very defective and erroneous; and, therefore, we the more rea'dily acknowledge his excellence here. Mr. Stuart terms him to be 'too much of a poet to be a good metaphysician, and too much of a 'metaphysician to be a good poet; not with much justice, for 'neither his poetical nor metaphysical powers were so great as to 'injure him in any other branch of pursuit; and Shakspeare, the 'greatest, at least of all modern poets, has thrown more light 'upon the operations of the mind than most of those who make the study of the mind their principal pursuit. But whatever 'powers Dr. Brown had (and they certainly were considerable),

'seemed to lie chiefly on the confines of poetry, metaphysics, and 'rhetoric; and in treating of the emotions of the mind, which 'border on all these, he met with the subject most congenial to his powers. It is striking to observe, how the peculiarities of each mind display themselves in the partial clearness of each 'individual's views. Dr. Brown, who has treated best of the 'emotions themselves, has failed in the analysis of the mental 'operations which accompany them, while Mr. Stuart, who has 'rather passed over the emotions themselves, has been more successful in enumerating the processes of our more active 'powers.'-pp. 291, 292.

In another place Mr. Douglas says, 'Dr. Brown claims to be a 'discoverer in metaphysics, and his discoveries are such as few 'plagiarists will seek to deprive him of. Dr. Brown is certainly not free from errors; but the services he has rendered to mental philosophy ought to be a sufficient protection from language like this. We forbear to comment on it further.


But it is time we should now proceed to give some further account of Mr. Douglas's work. It is divided into two parts, the first of which is entitled 'Speculative Opinions,' and is a rapid sketch of the peculiarities of the principal theories from the earliest times to the present day. It occupies nearly half the volume. But though the salient points of the chief systems are judiciously seized, and the statements are every where perspicuous, yet is so great a disproportion between the topics and the space allotted to them; the review is necessarily so rapid; names and systems crowd so fast upon us, that we fear that those who are not pretty well read in that dark subject, the history of philosophy, will not be likely to derive very much benefit from it. Indeed, for this reason we almost wish that the sketch of the progress of ancient philosophy, unless it had been treated at much greater length, had been omitted, and that our author had commenced with the revival of letters, and confined himself to the British schools. Yet we should have been very sorry, after all, to lose some of the brilliant passages which this portion of the work contains. Take, for example, the following graphic description of the versatile Socrates; the Socrates of Plato at all events, and we suppose, as far as regards his habits and manners, the Socrates of real life also: for though Plato has made Socrates advocate many opinions which he certainly would not have owned, it is not to be supposed that one of so exquisite dramatic skill as Plato, would fail to exhibit the external peculiarities of Socrates to the very life.

The sophists, amongst whom Protagoras may be considered a distinguished leader, furnished with the sceptical arguments of the Eleatics, and prepared and practised to speak upon either side of every

question, were perplexing the boundaries of right and wrong, truth and falsehood, when the genius of Socrates arose a salutary light to Greece, and more than revived the spirit of ancient philosophy. The father of Socrates was a statuary, and the additional aid of his mother was required whenever the Athenian matrons invoked the assistance of Lucina. And to this it were needless to advert, did not Socrates in a spiritual sense consider himself of his mother's profession, and borrow his metaphors from it, when adverting to the education of the mental faculties, instead of drawing more beautiful allusions from the profession of his father. We have the portrait of Socrates, it appears, by universal consent, in the image of Silenus, or of the satyrs, but what hand, save that of Shakspeare, could draw the effigies of his mind-so versatile, and almost contradictory. The stranger who observed him must first have been struck with his appearance, and then with his manners,—so like, and yet so unlike the Sophists; every where, and at all times in the open air, generally in the public places, accosting all who would converse with him, and the Athenians were by no means averse to display their talents in conversation; by his irony and profession of ignorance inflating the vanity and self-importance, in the first instance, of the persons whom he addressed; then striking them, as they expressed it, with the benumbing touch of the torpedo, when he forced upon them the conviction that their ignorance was real, and that his was only assumed. The mortification of some, the anger of others, and the derision of the surrounding idlers, might be suddenly interrupted by the appearance of Xanthippe, in her peculiar style of eloquence recalling her husband to the consideration of his domestic affairs, and when arguments were ineffectual, extending her hand, and rending away his cloak; while the spectators loudly encouraged Socrates to return blow for blow, Socrates replying, No, by Jupiter; all you want is, that you may cry out in turns, while we are using our fists, Well done, Socrates-well done, Xanthippe! No wonder and small blame that Aristophanes should mistake Socrates for one of the Sophists whom he opposed, and should judge his face two admirable for a mask to be omitted in his comedy. But how different is Socrates in the day of battle. Alcibiades is in danger, or Xenophon lies bleeding on the ground, and the genius of Homer alone can do justice to the lion-like retreat of the sage-rather Ulysses already represents him, rousing his magnanimous heart to stand firm, whilst the bravest of the Greeks are deserting the contest around him. The stern and prominent eyes of Socrates turn upon every side, like the eyes of the bull when spurning the ground, and preparing to rush upon the enemy; but the hostile spears respect him and pause, and he bears upon his back the most beautiful of the Greeks (a satyr carrying the youthful Apollo -a model of contrast for the statuary),—and preserves Alcibiades for the ruin of Athens, and Xenophon to be the saviour of the ten thousand Grecian heroes.

'Again, what a contrast at the banquet of Agathon. The beautiful Agathon expects the admirer of the beautiful in vain; Socrates sits in the vestibule plunged in deep thought-in such a trance of meditation as occupied him at the siege of Potidea for a day and a night, insensible

« ZurückWeiter »