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opposite, I care not.' This language, now so trivial that no slave can disclaim it, and every schoolboy would think it too commonplace to be repeated, was, in the fourteenth century, far more important than the most brilliant discoveries, and contained the germ of all reformation in philosophy and religion. Luther and Bacon were actuated by no other principle in the deliverance of the human understanding.
It is well known that Occam was the author of the opinion, that the words which are called universal are to be considered as signs which equally indicate any one out of many particular objects. This opinion was revived by Hobbes, Berkeley, Hume, Hartley, and Condillac; abused with great ingenuity by Horne Tooke; and followed by Mr. Stewart, who has on this occasion made common cause with philosophers in whose ranks he is not usually found. Few metaphysical speculations have been represented as more important by its supporters and opponents. Perhaps, however, when the terms are explained, and when the darkness is dissipated with which controversy never fails to cloud a long contested question, it may appear
that this subject has not yet been examined on true principles. But whatever may be the future fate of the controversy, it cannot be denied, that the reasonings in defence of Nominalism are stated with singular ingenuity, and even perspicuity, in the passages of Occam which now lie before us. Among many other observations, perfectly unlike his age, we find him limiting the philosophy of the human mind to what can be known by experience of its operations, and utterly excluding all questions relating to the nature of the thinking principle. “We are conscious that we understand and will; but whether these acts be performed by an immaterial and incorruptible principle, is a matter of which we are not conscious, and which is no farther the subject of demonstration than it can be known by experience. All attempls to prove it must be founded on the assumption of something doubtful.”+ But the most remarkable of all the reasonings of this original thinker, are those which he employs against the then received doctrine “ of sensible and intelligible species” (or appearances of things which are the immediate objects of the mind when we perceive or think. These images or likenesses of objects alone were supposed to be contemplated by the senses and the understanding, and to be necessary to perception and mental apprehension. Biel, a follower of Occam, in expounding the doctrine of his master, tells us, that “a species was the similitude or image of a thing known, naturally remaining in the mind after it ceases to be the object of actual knowledge; or otherwise, that likeness of a thing, which is a previous condition of knowledge, which excites knowledge in the understanding, and which may remain in the mind in the absence of the thing represented." The supposed necessity of such species, moving from the object to the organ of sense, is, according to Occam, founded on the assumed principle, that what moves must be in contact with what is moved. But this principle be asserts to be false; and he thinks it sufficiently disproved by the fact, that the loadstone attracts iron to it without touching it. He thought nothing necessary to sensation but the power of sensation, and the thing which is its object. All intermediate beings he regarded as arbitrary figments. We cannot pursue these quotations farther. It is easy to conceive his appli
This carious passage is quoted by Tenneman, from Occam. Prolog. ad Lib. I. Sententiarum, Quest. 1. edit. 1585 ;-probably the last, if not the only, edition of a work once of great authority, and even now of no contemptible interest. † Occam, ibid. in Tenneman.
Gabriel Biel, II. Sent. in Teno.
cation of a similar mode of reasoning to "the intelligible species," which, indeed, he who denied abstract ideas had already virtually rejected. It is plain, indeed, that Occam denied both parts of this opinion; not only that which is called Aristotelian, concerning the species supposed to move from oulward objects to the organs of sense; but also that which, under the name of the Ideal Theory, has been impuled by Dr. Reid and Mr. Stewart to Descartes, and all succeeding philosophers, who are considered as teaching the actual resemblance of our thoughts to external things, and thereby laying their philosophy open to the inferences afterwards made from it by Berkeley about the origin of our perceptions, and by Hume against the possibility of knowledge: The philosophical reader will be struck with the connexion between this rejection of images or likenesses of things” as necessary to perception, and the principle, that we know nothing of mind but its actions; and cannot fail, in a system of reasoning, of which these are specimens, illustrated by an observation of the less observed appearances of outward nalure, and animated by a disregard of authority in the search for truth, to perceive tendencies towards an independenf philosophy, to be one day built by reason upon a wide foundation of experience. The rejection of the doctrine of “Species” must be considered by Mr. Stewart as still more remarkable than it is by us. In his view of things, Occam thus escaped a fundamental error, which has led the greatest philosophers of modern times into-scepticism. But as we cannot think that the terms, “Image, Likeness," etc. were ever steadily applied to ideas by modern philosophers, otherwise than as metaphors used for illustration, so we regard their esclusion only in the very respectable light of a reform in philosophical language, with a view to prevent figurative expressions from being, however transiently, confounded with real things. Richard Suisset, “the famous English mathematician * of the middle
was a follower of Occam, the persecution and defence of whose philosophy was the principal occupation of the speculative during the fourteenth century; soon after the end of which it was lost in the Lutheran controversies, which were in some degree its issue. On a general review of this period, Roger Bacon and Suisset should probably be considered rather as philosophers of the scholastic age than schoolmen : Aquinas is the most clear, sober, and practical of school philosophers; Scotus, from qualities not of the same nature, most perfectly represents the genius and character of that philosophy; and Occam was the reformer who undermined its foundations, and prepared the way for its destruction.
The arrival of the Grecian refugees in Italy, being the most memorable event which distinguishes any moment in the early progress of modern literature, has been commonly considered as the era of the revival of letters: and the expression may be justifiable, if we bear in mind the previous preparation of Italy for classical learning; the men of genius who had, before ihat period, cultivated most modern languages ; the superior efficacy of printing ; the Reformation; and probably the discovery of America ; and if we also hesitate, whether the preservation of Constantinople, and the education of western students in her schools, might not have contributed to quicken the literary progress of Europe as much as the destruction and emigration which actually occurred. Certainly, if the Greek empire had
The list of English mathematicians of the fourteenth century, given by Montucla, among whom is Chaucer, shows the terms of the text to be too exclusive, and secms indeed, as he observes, io presage the future success of the English nation in that department. Montu. I. 529.
been saved, it might have been as speciously argued, that we owed our literature to the salvation of that great school and repository of learning, as it has been asserted for the last three centuries, that the cultivation of letters in the West is to be ascribed to the flight of Grecian exiles into Italy. But, however that may be, the revival of letters is an epoch in the historyof philosophy.
Literature, which lies much nearer to the feelings of mankind ihan science, has the most important effect on the sentiments with which the sciences are regarded, the activity with which they are pursued, and the mode in which they are cultivated. It is the instrument, in particular, by which ethical science is generally diffused. As the useful arts maintain the general honour of physical knowledge, so polite letters allure the world into the neighbourhood of the sciences of Morals and of Mind. Wherever the agreeable vehicle of literature does not convey their doctrines to the public, they remain the occupation of a few recluses in the schools, with no root in the general feelings, and liable to be destroyed by the dispersion of a handful of doctors, and the destruction of their unlamented seminaries. Nor is this all. Polite literature is not only the true guardian of the moral sciences, and the sole instrument of spreading their benefits among men, but it becomes, from these very circumstances, the regulator of their cultivation and their progress. As long as they are confined to a small number of men in scholastic retirements, there is no restraint upon their natural proneness to degenerate either inlo verbal subtleties or into showy dreams. It is peculiar to these vices, that, having no boundaries prescribed by reason, their course may be prolonged for ever. As long as speculation remained in the schools, all its followers were divided into mere dialecticians or mystical visionaries, both alike unmindful of the real world, and disregarded by its inhabitants. The revival of literature produced a revolution at once in the state of society and in the mode of philosophising. It attracted readers from the common ranks of society, who were gradually led on from eloquence and poetry to morals and philosophy. Philosophers and moralists, after an interval of almost a thousand years, during which they had spoken only to each other, once more discovered that they might address the great body of mankind with the hope of fame and of usefulness. Intercourse with this great public supplied new materials and imposed new restraints. The feelings, the common sense, the ordinary affairs of men, presented themselves again to the moralist.
Philosophers, compelled to speak in terms intelligible and agreeable to their new hearers, were compelled to abandon the language of the scholastic age, and to adapt both the object of their enquiries, and their manner of reasoning, to the general understanding and sentimients. Literature led out Philosophy from the schools, enabled her to teach and to servo mankind, and recalled her to experience and utility, from thorny distinctions and splendid visions. Then philosophers began to write in the modern languages. Before that period, little prose had been wrilten in any of them, except Chronicles or Romances. Boccaccio had, indeed, acquired a classical rank by compositions of the latter kind; and historical genius had risen in Froissart and Comines to a height which has not been equalled among the same nation in times of greater refinement. But Latin was still the language in which all those subjects were treated, then deemed of higher dignity, which occupied the life of the learned by profession. In general, this system continued till it was totally subverted by the Reformation, which, by the employment of the living languages in public worship , gave them a dignity unknown before; and by the version of the Bible, and the practice of preaching and writing on theology and morals in the common tongues, did more for polishing modern literature, for diffusing knowledge, and for improving moralily, than all the other events and discoveries of that active age.
Among the first writers who took a part in this Revolution, was Sir Thomas More. His short historical narrative is in this respect remarkable. He, too, is the first person named among us who seems to have acquired part of his importance by public speaking. His controversial tracts, in other respects compositions of great curiosity, must be considered as the offspring of the Reformation. In speaking of the English language, as fit for translating the Bible, he uses terms of honour towards it, which would not have been applied to any vulgar tongue before learning had left the schools. For as for that our longe is called barbarouse, is but a fantasye. For so is, as every lerned man knoweth, every straunge language to olher. And if they wolde call it barayne of wordes, there is no doubt but it is plenteouse enoughe to express our myndes in any thinge whereof one man hath used to speke with another.”*
Machiavel is the first still celebrated writer who discussed grave questions in a modern language. This peculiarity is the more worthy of notice, because he was not excited by the powerful stimulant of the Reformation. That event was probably regarded by him as a disturbance in a barbarous country, produced by the novelties of a vulgar monk, unworthy of the notice of a man wholly occupied by the affairs of Florence, and the hope of expelling strangers from Italy; and having reached, at the appearance of Luther, the last unhappy period of his agitated life. The justness of the discriminating praise bestowed on this famous writer, in the following beautiful passage, will be acknowledged by every reader of his works; and the observation required by the censure, will be rather for explanation than dispute :
“No writer, certainly, either in ancient or in modern times, has ever united, in a inore remar, kable degree, a greater variety of the most dissimilar and seemingly the most discordant gifts and altainments ;-a profound acquaintance with all those arts of dissimulation and intrigue, which, in the petty cabinets of Italy, were then universally confounded with political wisdom;-an imagination familiarised to the cool contemplation of whatever is pertidious or atrocious in the history of conspirators and of tyrants ;-combined with a graphical skill in holding up to laughter the comparatively harmless follies of ordinary lise. His dramatic humour has been often compared to that of Molière; but it resembles it rather in comic force, ihan in benevolent gaiety, or in chastened morality. Such as it is, however, it forms an extraordinary contrast to that strength of intellectual character, which, in one page, reminds us of the deep sense of Tacitus, and in the next, of the dark and infernal policy of Cæsar Borgia. To all this must be superadded a purity of taste, which has enabled him, as an historian, to rival the severe simplicity of the Grecian masters; and a sagacity in combining historical facts, which was afterwards to afford lights to the school of Montesquieu.
“Eminent, however, as the talents of Machiavel unquestionably were, he cannot be numbered among the benefactors of mankind. In none of his writings does he exhibit any marks of that lively sympathy with the fortunes of the human race, or of that warm zeal for the interests of truth and justice, without the guidance of which the highest mental endowments, when applied to moral or to political researches, are in perpetual danger of mistaking their way. What is still more remarkable, he seems to have been altogether blind to the miglity changes in human affairs, which, in conscquence of the recent invention of printing, were about to re-uli from the progress of reason and the diffusion of knowledge. Through the whole of his Prince (the most noied as well as one of the latest of his publications) he proceeds on the supposition, that the sovereign has no other object in governing but his own advantage; the very circumstance which, in the judgment of Aristotle, constitutes the essence of the worst species of tyranny. He assumes also the possibility of retaining mankind in perpetual bondage by the old policy of the double doctrine ; or, in other
A Dialogue of Sir Thomas More, Knight, touching the pestilent Sect of Luther and Tindal, üi. 16. London, 1530.
words, by enlightening the few, and hoodwinking the many ;-a policy less or more practised by statesmen in all ages and countries; but which (wherever the freedom of the press is respected) cannot fail
, by the insult it offers to the discernment of the multitude, to increase the insecurity of those who have the weakness to employ it. It has been contended, indeed, by some of Ma. chiavel's apologists, that his real object in unfolding and systematising the mysteries of King-craft, was to point out indirectly to the governed the means by which the encroachments of their rulers might be most effectually resisted; and, at the same time, to satirise, under the ironical mask of loyal and courtly admonition, the characteristical vices of princes. But, although this hypothesis has been sanctioned by several distinguished names, and derives some verisimilitude from various incidents in the author's life, it will be found, on examination, quite untenable; and accordingly it is now, I believe, very generally rejected. One thing is certain, that if such' were actually Machiavel's views, they were much too refined for the capacity of his royal pupils. By many of these his book has been adopted as a manual for daily use ; but l have never heard of a single instance in which it has been regarded by this class of students as a disguised panegyric upon liberty and virtue. The question concerning the motives of the author is surely of little moment, when experience has enabled us to pronounce so decidedly on the practical effects of his precepts.
• About the period of the Reformation,' says Condorcet, the principles of religious Machiavelism had become the only creed of princes, of ministers, and of pontiffs; and the same opinions had contributed 10 corrupt philosophy. What code, indeed, of morals,' he adds, 'was to be expected from a system of which one of the principles is,--that it is necessary to support the morality of the people by false pretences.--and that men of enlightened minds have a right to retain others in the chains from which they have themselves contrived to escape ?' The fact is, perhaps, stated in terms somewhat 100 unqualified) but there are the best reasons for believing ibat the exceptions were few, when compared with the general proposition.
“The consequences of the prevalence of such a creed among the rulers of mankind were such as might be expected. • Infamous crimes, assassinations, and poisonings (says a French historian), prevailed more than ever. They were thought to be the growth of Italy, where the rage and weakness of the opposite factions conspired to multiply them. Morality gradually disappeared, and with it all security in the intercourse of life. The first principles of duty were obliterated by the joint influence of a theism and of superstition.'
"And here may I be permitted to caution my readers against the common error of confounding the double doctrine of Machiavelian politicians, with the benevolent reverence for established opinions, manifested in the noted maxim of Fontenelle,—that a wise man, even when his hand was full of truths, would often content himself with opening his little finger?' Of the advocates for the former it may be justly said, that they love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil;' well knowing (if I may borrow ihe words of Bacon),' that the open daylight doth not show the masks and mummeries, and triumphs of the world, half so stately as candelight. The philosopher, on the other hand, who is duly impressed with the latter, may be compared to the oc list, who, after removing the cataract of his patient, prepares the still irritable eye, by the glimmering dawn of a darkened apartment, for enjoying in safely the light of day.
“ Machiavel is well known to bave been, at bottom, no friend to the priesthood; and his character has been stigmatised by many of the order with the most opprobrious epithets. It is nevertheless certain that to his maxims the royal defenders of the Catholic faith have been indebted for the spirit of that policy which they have uniformly opposed to the innovations of the Reformers. The Prince was a favourite book of the Emperor Charles V.; and was called the Bible of Catharine of Medicis. At the court of the latter, while Regent of France, those who approached her are said to have professed openly its most atrocious maxims; particularly that which recommends to sovereigns not to commit crimes by halves. The Italian cardinals, who are supposed to have been the secret instigators of the masacre of St. Bartholomew, were bred in the same school.
It is observed by Mr. Hume, that there is scarcely any maxim in the Prince which subsequent experience has not entirely refuted.—Machiavel,' says the same writer,' was certainly a great genius; but having confined his study to the furious and tyrannical governments of ancient times, or to the little disorderly principalities of Italy, his reasonings, especially upon monarchical governments, have been found extremely defective. The errors of this politician proceeded, in a great measure, from his having lived in too early an age of the world to be a good judge of political iruth.'
“ To these very judicious remarks, it may be added, that the bent of Machiavel's mind seems to have disposed him much more strongly to combine and to generalise his historical reading, than to remount to the first principles of political science, in the constitution of human nature, and in the iinmulable truths of morality. His conclusions, accordingly, ingenious and refined as they commonly are, amount to little more (with a few very splendid exceptions) than empirical results from the events of past ages.
To the student of ancient history they may be often both interesting and instructive; but to the modern politician, the inost important lesson ihey afford is, the danger, in the present circumstances of the world, of trusting to such results, as máxims of universal application, or of permanent utility.
“ The progress of political philosophy, and, along with it, of morality and good order, in every part of Earope, since the period of which I am now speaking, forms so pleasing a comment on the profligate and short-sighted policy of Machiavel, that I cannot help pausing for a moment to remark ihe fact. In stating it, I shall avail myselí of the words of the same profound writer, whose strictures on Machiavel's Prince I bad already occasion to quote. Though all kinds of government,' says Mr. Hume, ' be improved in modern times, yet monarchical goverument seems to have made the greatest advances towards perfection. It may now be affirmed of civilised monarchies, what