Modern Rationalism/Chapter IV

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Chapter IV.


RATIONALISM AND PHILOSOPHY.


Mr. Lecky says in his History, concerning "the habit of thought which is the supreme arbiter of the opinions of successive ages," that "those who have contributed most largely to its formation are, I believe, the philosophers." Philosophers, as a rule, dwell in heights that are inaccessible to the great multitude; their systems and conclusions are the most difficult of all sciences to popularize. Yet it is true that the philosophic systems that prevail in the academies of each successive age exercise a profound influence upon the whole thought of their generation. They impart a tone and give a point of view to the large army of popular writers, of poets, historians, scientists, etc., who mediate between the multitude and the select group of wisdom-seekers. Indeed, it is complained that the subversive character of the literary and historical criticism which has preceded is due entirely to the acceptance of certain philosophical tenets which control the scientific activity and prejudice its direction. Although the statement is entirely inaccurate—for those purely scientific positions and their defences are compelling daily acceptance by their inherent weight—it illustrates the importance which attaches to the philosophical activity of the nineteenth century in view of the advance of Rationalism.

So far is it from true that all Rationalistic critics are controlled by a sceptical philosophy, that a large number of them still cling to Theism, or some attenuated shade of Theism, only in virtue of philosophical considerations. Thus Kuenen, one of the most iconoclastic of higher critics, was a devout Theist, and even Professor Max Müller, the most powerful advocate of the mythical theory of all theological doctrine, retains a belief in a supreme Reason in the physical and in the moral order. There is a curious irony of history in this fact. Religious belief preceded philosophy by countless ages, and has remained independent of its support until a comparatively recent date. Such religious belief, founded only upon a credulous acceptance of tradition, is at last rapidly decaying in civilized communities, and religion is concentrating itself upon certain broad philosophical considerations as its only enduring support. Philosophy is, as it were, an afterthought of believers. It did not bring religion into existence, yet it is somehow hoped that it will avail to prolong that existence when other sources of vitality are exhausted. Long before Thales had initiated the long train of thought that culminated in Plato and Aristotle religion had flourished in Greece, and it continued to sway the popular mind quite independently of the rise and fall of systems. With the wider diffusion of education, however, and the multiplication of every kind of literature, the necessity of a philosophic basis for religious belief is frankly recognised. Though the unthinking masses still continue, as they did twenty thousand years ago, to accept without question the myths and legends which their priests impress upon them, the number of those who demur to such curiously servile acceptance has grown enormous. Hence, not only is there a wide tendency to fall back upon fundamental Theistic positions before the advance of literary and historical criticism, but it is also clearly recognised that those fundamental positions—the existence of God and the nature of the human soul—must be logically established before there can be any question of entertaining a supposed revelation from God to the human soul. It is the duty of philosophy alone to establish those positions. The vicissitudes, therefore, of the philosophical world are of the first importance in estimating the contest between Rationalism and religious tradition.

History repeats itself perhaps more truly in philosophy than in any other branch of human affairs. In other sciences, at least, the mere secular accumulation of experiences ensures some progress in the course of ages; but the purely speculative character of philosophy makes a circular movement possible. We are certainly not advanced beyond the position of the philosophical world in Greece twenty-three centuries ago. A series of profound thinkers, grouped more or less distinctly into schools, had produced all the systems of thought which it is possible to produce on the problem. Materialism and Idealism, Monism and Dualism, Empiricism and Transcendentalism, had successively struggled from the seventh to the fourth century. Then came a natural relaxation into the weary scepticism of the immediate pre-Socratic school. In the interests of morality, Socrates and Plato lent all their genius to the resuscitation of dogmatism, and Aristotle imparted to it the utmost of purely logical strength of which it is susceptible; but it relapsed once more into the scepticism of the Neo-Academics and Neo-Peripatetics. The philosophical history of the last century and a half is a curious parallel to that brilliant Greek period, and its issue is a not dissimilar collapse. Transcendentalists will, of course, claim that certain elements, at least, of Kantism or Hegelianism are permanent acquisitions; but even Eclecticism, such as Victor Cousin advocated, is an utter failure. There is no important element of any purely philosophical system (i.e., apart from certain physico-philosophical theories) which would be recognised with any approach to unanimity to be permanent. Our thinkers have but rung the changes on the old views of Xenophanes and Parmenides, of Leucippus and Democritus, of Pythagoras, and Zeno, and Plato, and Aristotle, and they have largely ended in the abyss of Gorgias and Protagoras, or of Pyrrho or Arcesilaus or Carneades. Germany's cynical abandonment of philosophy, to which the closing pages of Erdmann's history bear eloquent witness, after a century of amazing productiveness, is an impressive warning. France is in little better condition; England does little but fan the expiring embers of German systems—almost extinct in the land of their birth.

It would be impossible here to summarize the many systems that have reigned in the philosophical world during the present century; and, in fact, it is unnecessary for our purpose. Philosophy is a science of so comprehensive a range that innumerable issues are raised of a purely speculative character which have no power to affect the religious or social life of humanity. Here it will be sufficient to discuss philosophical controversies and estimate their issues in the bearing which they have upon religious tradition. We have said that there is a tendency at the present time to sacrifice particular dogmas and symbols, and retreat upon the final positions of belief in God and an immortal soul, and an ethical relation of the two, which should be independent of historical records. Such a tendency has always been evinced by great and comparatively independent Christian thinkers (such as Descartes and Leibnitz), but it is now extended to a very large section of educated believers. These positions, which it is hoped to retain after the fall of traditional authority, are the two main problems of meta physics. How do they stand after the keen struggle of antagonistic systems which has at length comparatively subsided? That is the only aspect of philosophic activity which interests the Rationalist as such. The problem of Realism versus Idealism is, to a great extent, connected with it such problems as the nature of time or space may be conveniently disregarded. But on the fundamental problems of the nature and origin of man and of the existence of God, the strongest and keenest minds of all countries, enriched with the thought of all ages, have laboured throughout the century. What is the verdict of this last decade of the century?

It may be stated briefly that, at the commencement of the century, orthodoxy in philosophy was represented by the Scotch school of Reid and Dugald Stewart—the only comprehensive system at that time in England. Rationalism was represented by the empirical philosophy. To these was soon added the Transcendental philosophy imported from Germany by Coleridge and De Quincey. The Scotch system has struggled manfully throughout, being defended and developed by the powerful Sir William Hamilton, Dean Mansel, and a few minor lights. Kantism and Hegelianism have divided with it the allegiance of theologizing philosophers; Platonism, also revived by Coleridge, has likewise found many adherents. Empiricism, fully developed into a complete antagonism to traditional Theism, has had a stupendous growth, and has propagated religious scepticism far and wide in one or other of the forms it has assumed in the hands of Mill, Spencer, and Huxley. The interesting revival of scholasticism by a small and feeble group of Roman Catholic scholars, and the irritating opposition of muddle-headed Protestant divines who think theology can afford to be indifferent to the vicissitudes of philosophy, call for little mention. This catalogue of names, however, requires some amplification.

The empirical philosophy which has been the characteristic weapon of the English sceptics of the nineteenth century may be said to date from the time of Locke. There is no finality in speaking of the birth of systems; still it was in Locke's "Essay on the Human Understanding," published in 1690, that the principles of Sensism, or Sensationalism, or Empiricism, were first clearly enunciated. Locke himself was halting and inconsistent in the application of his declared principles; nevertheless, he was truly the "father" of recent British philosophy. His object was "to inquire into the origin, certainty, and extent of human knowledge, together with the grounds and degrees of belief, opinion, and assent." Hitherto philosophers had laboured and disputed upon different objects of human knowledge. Locke commenced the modern inquiry, more critical and more fundamental, into the nature, origin, and value of knowledge itself. The distinction had always been recognised between the mind, intellect, or intelligence, and the senses, and it had been thought that the mind had certain ideas or intuitions which had not come through the senses, whence most of our knowledge is obviously derived. Locke maintained that all our knowledge came through the senses; the mind was a mere tabula rasa, which received sense-impressions, combined and grouped them. The destructive consequences of such a system are apparent when it is known that the structure of proof which supports the theorems of the existence of God and the spirituality of the soul really rests upon those innate ideas or intuitions. Locke, however, did not pursue his principles so far; he remained a Theist. The system was little more than a revival of the principles of the Ionic school, which had been dormant for two thousand years. It is called Empiricism, or Sensationalism, because it reduces all knowledge to sensations (and their combinations) or experience (empeiria).

The new system was taken in hand in the eighteenth century by Hume and Berkeley in England, and by Condillac in France. By the middle of the century Condillac had shown the true consequences of the empirical method, rejecting the hesitation and the reservations (as of the notion of substance) of Locke. Bishop Berkeley, on the other hand, had evolved a system of pure Idealism from it, refuting Materialism by denying the very existence of matter. Hume, however, in his "Treatise on Human Nature" in 1738, and in his later works, pointed out that the principles established by Locke compel us to reject the notion of spirit equally with the notion of matter. Locke had inconsistently and arbitrarily admitted an objective value to the idea of substance; it was a complex idea, formed from the sense-impressions, and therefore devoid of objective validity. We are logically reduced to a knowledge of the sense-impressions of which we are conscious, and cannot get beyond them. We know nothing of substance, either material or spiritual, and nothing of causality; all our know ledge is merely an acquaintance with phenomena and their inter-relations. The result is, of course, pure scepticism: we can know nothing either of God or of the origin and destiny of man and the world. Such is the empirical system which has been adopted, with individual variations, by the English philosophical Rationalists of the present century.

Hume's philosophy was adopted and enforced, at the commencement of the century, by James Mill and his friend, Jeremy Bentham. Bentham will be more particularly noticed in connection with ethical utilitarianism, and James Mill soon gave place to the more powerful and more commanding influence of his son, John Stuart Mill, one of the most imposing figures in the philosophical and ethical circles of the century. Like Hume, he holds that all our know ledge is simply a knowledge of phenomena or appearances, and even this knowledge is relative, and not absolute; we are precluded, by the very nature of our minds, from attaining to a knowledge of anything beyond. Our sensations and their associations are the unique source of all knowledge; innate ideas and non-sensuous intuitions must be rejected. Even those axiomatic and invincible convictions to which the a priori and intuitionalist school appealed against him are only the result of accumulated impressions; the ideas of two-and-two and of four are so constantly associated in our experience that the bond is practically inseverable. The vindication of this aspect of the empirical philosophy is Mill's enduring merit; so, also, is his codification of the laws of association of states of consciousness. The fundamental antithesis of philosophy, mind and matter, or self and not-self, is similarly explained; the inter-association of phenomena, according to co-existence, succession, and likeness, results finally into their division into two great aggregates, and thus produces the duality of the self and the not-self. Yet Mill is not a pure nihilist like Hume; he makes a certain concession to realism. Behind the actual sensations, which are all we can tangibly grasp as they flash upon consciousness, he recognises a vast background of "permanent possibilities of sensation" out of which they seem to emerge. In the same way, he faintly recognises a substratum of our states of consciousness: mind is "a series of feelings, with a background of possibilities of feeling." This vague and unsatisfactory outline of mind and matter is, however, all we can discern beyond our actual states of consciousness. The anthropological problem remains insoluble, and the usual arguments for the existence of a First Cause are mere sophistry. He thinks the teleological argument, the discarded work of Paley, the only one with the faintest gleam of hope; and in his posthumous "Essays on Religion" he makes a painful effort to lend some support to Theism. His effort cannot do more than suggest the existence of a non-omnipotent God, whom no system would accept. Mill's system has had a very wide influence through out the century.

The number of writers who have subscribed to and popularized the empirical philosophy is very great and very illustrious. Lewes, in his "Problems of Life and Mind," and in his History, entirely accepts the empirical principles and their sceptical conclusions, which are common both to the English school and to Comtism, which he favoured. Professor Alexander Bain, the philosophical chief of Aberdeen University, of whom James Ward writes that, "with the exception of Locke, perhaps no English writer has made equally important contributions to the science of mind," has strenuously propagated the system in his classical works on psychology. Professor Clifford has advanced along the lines of Empiricism to a frank Materialism. Professor Tyndall, less a metaphysician than a most distinguished physicist, has been similarly conducted to Materialism. Professor Huxley has adhered more closely to the doctrine of Hume, rejecting not only Materialism, but also the attenuated realism of John Stuart Mill. Deprecating all dogmatism as inconsistent with the modest nature of our only reliable knowledge—a knowledge of states of consciousness—he has suggested the name of Agnosticism to indicate the attitude of empiricists before the great world-problems. Under that title must be ranged all the distinguished names which precede, as well as Mr. Herbert Spencer, the Positivists (so far in sympathy), the long list of great writers who are more familiar in connection with ethics and general criticism—Harriet Martineau, George Eliot, Sir J. F. Stephen, John Morley, Charles Darwin, etc.

The most powerful advocate of empiricism, however, and the author of the form which is now most widely accepted, is Mr. Herbert Spencer. To give the barest outline of Mr. Spencer's vast system, in which the great wealth of modern science is largely incorporated, and which treats every branch of human activity and every aspect of being, is far beyond our scope.[1] Biology, psychology, sociology, ethics, aesthetics, and pedagogics are treated by the eminent philosopher with an exhaustiveness, and withal a unity of principle, which has no parallel in English literature. The law of evolution which astronomers, geologists, and biologists had successively detected is made an object of profound speculation, formulated as a universal law, and pursued throughout the entire dynamics of the universe, But to the empirical principles, and the rejection of Spiritualism and Theism, which are common to all Agnostics and Positivists, Mr. Spencer adds certain elements of a distinctive nature, which are usually regarded as an approach in the direction of Theism. Indeed, nothing is more common with German writers than to put him with or near Sir William Hamilton and Mr. Mansel. It is usually said that Mr. Spencer recognises with them the existence of an Absolute, and the entire inscrutability of its nature to human reason. The former, however, contends that we have no other source of knowledge of the Absolute, hence it must remain for ever unknown and unknowable; the two latter maintain that by faith we can attain to a knowledge of God, and so pass on into an acceptance of Christianity. Still, in admitting the existence of the Absolute, Mr. Spencer seems to go far beyond all other Agnostics. An Absolute is, he thinks, necessarily postulated in the admission of the relative; since, however, all our knowledge is relative, and the Absolute is, by the very force of terms, an idea that excludes all relation, we cannot get beyond the knowledge of an Unknown Cause and a Universal Power, which is at the base alike of all science and of all religion. In virtue of his admission of an Absolute and a First Cause, he is usually claimed as approaching to Theism. It would seem, however, that all Mr. Spencer says is quite as consistent with Materialism as with Theism; just as the scholastic arguments for a First Cause and a Necessary Being may lead to Materialism or to Theism. And in Mr. Spencer's case the direction of his reasoning seems to be Materialistic throughout. Instead of his Agnosticism being considered as a halt on the way to Theism, it would more correctly be regarded as a halt on the way to Materialism. The Unknown and Unknowable source of phenomena may, metaphysically, just as well be matter as God; scientifically, the former alternative is simpler, and presents less difficulty. Mr. Spencer also departs from the Idealism of Hume and Huxley, and calls himself a "Transfigured Realist." He recognises an underlying support of our states of consciousness and an objective cause—a self and not-self; but they remain entirely inscrutable in their nature.

With the Agnostic school must be mentioned the Positivists, who are often, though inaccurately, confounded with them. From our present point of view, however, the two systems may be aptly associated. Auguste Comte, whose system has been widely adopted by French sceptics, starts from the empirical principles which we have described in the English school. All our knowledge is relative, and is confined to phenomena and their relations; to the inner essences, origins, and destinies of things we can never penetrate, and causes we know only as close associations of phenomena. Thus far the system is identical with the English system, and leads to the same Agnosticism in face of the higher problems. It differs in rejecting the introspective method in psychology, which it makes a branch of physiology, and in substituting for traditional religion a cult of humanity as the Grand Etre, with saints, festivals, sacraments, etc. The latter is its chief offence in English eyes, and has elicited Mr. Huxley's caustic definition of Positivism, "Catholicism minus Christianity." Comte's philosophy was early introduced to English readers by Lewes and Harriet Martineau. It is now strenuously advocated, and finds many adherents through the distinguished historian, Frederic Harrison; Bridges, Beesley, and Congreve are also ardent Comtists.

In France the system has occupied the important position which Agnosticism has held in England; it has been the most important instrument in the spread of religious scepticism. In France, too, there has been much dogmatic Materialism; the line taken by Cabanis has been upheld by a number of physicians, such as Pinel, Broussais, Gall, etc. Another school, which held for a time a middle position between the theologians and the empiricists, was the Eclectic school, which was founded by Victor Cousin. It purported to select the better elements from the philosophies of Plato, Reid, Kant, and Hegel Such an amalgamation could never be perfect, and it would perhaps be more accurate to describe them as stages in Cousin's development. He is rightly classed as Pantheistic, for the German element conspicuously preponderated in his Eclecticism. It was the official school in France for a time after the July revolution, and numbered many distinguished adherents—Royer Collard, Maine de Biran, Jouffroy, Prevost, Ancilla, etc.: Paul Janet, Jules Simon, and E. Caro are often aggregated to it. Another system which was yet nearer to orthodoxy, but was condemned by the Catholic Church, was Traditionalism. In varying degrees its followers held that reason was incapable of attaining the solution of the. world-problems, and that authority or tradition is the only reliable guide in supra-sensible matters. J. de Maistre, Fraysinnous, De Bonald, and De Lamennais were traditionalists.

To return to England, from which both French Empiricists and Eclectics had largely borrowed, it must be said that the principal opponent of the rapid progress of Agnosticism was the Scotch school, which had inspired Royer Collard and Cousin. In the first half of the century, at least, the struggle lies between the followers of Mill and the followers of Sir William Hamilton. Here, again, the change of attitude of the opponents of Rationalism is deeply significant. The dogmatic intuitionalism of the old schoolmen, who were at least consistently logical and rational, has given place to a system which can only oppose "faith" to scepticism; the attempt to give a demonstrative solution of the world-problem is practically abandoned. Thomas Reid, the founder of the Scotch school, or school of "Common Sense," was alarmed at the sceptical results of the acceptance of Locke's principles. In his "Inquiry into the Human Mind with Principles of Common Sense," published in 1763, he introduces the new form of intuitionalism. He admits that Berkeley's and Hume's inferences are correct, and pleads that they form a reductio ad absurdum on the empirical principles. The empirical method in general must be retained; pneumatology will make no progress unless, like somatology, it runs on empirical lines. But the "ideal" system, as he calls it—the notion that we get all our ideas from without, and only come to judge about things by combining them—is incorrect. We must be admitted to have certain primitive judgments independently of experience, and "the sum-total of primitive judgments which are present in the consciousness of all men, and on which all certainty ultimately rests, is called common sense." How are we assured of the objective truth of such judgments? By an instinctive impulse to form them, a blind faith—not unlike the sentimentalism which had been advocated in Germany against the Rationalists. "It was," says Falckenberg, "a transfer of the innate faculty of judgment inculcated by the ethical and aesthetical writers from the practical to the theoretical field." Reid was immediately supported by Oswald and Dugald Stewart, and a number of minor writers. Whewell and Hamilton, though much influenced by Kant, subscribed to the principles of Reid; and the tradition has been ably supported in more recent times by Dean Mansel, and by Professor Eraser, Professor Veitch, Professor Spencer Baynes: Dr. McCosh and Dr. Cairns also adopt it with modifications. Hamilton (in whom and Mill the antagonistic forces were personified during the first half of the century) bases his philosophy on the facts of consciousness; but, in opposition to the passive receptivity of the Empirics, he emphasizes the mental activity of discrimination and judgment. At the same time, our knowledge is wholly relative, and cannot attain the unrelated; the Absolute is, therefore, inaccessible to our knowledge, and can be reached only by faith. Masson says of him that, "when affirming some cardinal belief from the logical demonstration of which he was precluded by his metaphysical Agnosticism, he was wont to say: If this is not so, God is a deceiver, and the root of our being a lie." Mansel attracted the suspicious attention of his clerical brethren by his advocacy of the relativity of our knowledge and our utter incompetency to reach the Unconditioned intellectually; at the same time, he incurred a severe attack from Mill for combining with this frank intellectual Agnosticism the elaborate Christian description of the Deity. Thus it is rather among Protestant divines than in the Roman Catholic Church (contrary to a very wide impression) that we meet the opposition of faith and reason. Catholic philosophers entirely condemn the criterion of the Scotch school. Hamiltonianism was also vigorously attacked by Ferrier, who takes an Idealistic standpoint. Dr. J. Martineau and a few other isolated thinkers have endeavoured to support Theistic positions on the more traditional arguments; but the majority of orthodox philosophers have either adopted some form of Hamiltonianism, or have accepted the teaching of Kant or Hegel. In the second half of the century the struggle lies chiefly between Spencerism and Kantism or Hegelianism (or a combination of the two), hence something must be said of the German philosophy.

To describe the series of philosophical systems which were put forward in Germany from Kant to Von Hartmann and Feuerbach would be a long and fruitless task. Kant was aroused, by Hume's idea of causality, to a train of thought which took form in the famous "Critique of Pure Reason" in 1781, and the "Critique of Practical Reason" in 1788. The empirical school had rejected the time-honoured distinction between sense and intellect. Kant, founding the transcendental school, retained it, and contended for an a priori element in thought, and even in sensibility. Time and space he thought to be structural habits or forms of the inner and outer sense. The categories, the notions of existence and non-existence, unity, causality, etc., were forms of the intellect, anterior to all sensation. Reason, the supreme faculty, had also "a structural relation to the three boundless yet necessarily-asserted objects—the World, the Soul, and God." But the characteristic feature of the transcendental system is that it deprives these supra-sensible forms and faculties of all objective value; only our sensations (and they denuded of their time and space elements) relate us to an objective world. Our ideas are only of objective value, in so far as they embody sense-elements, and the supreme synthesis into the World, Soul, and God is a purely subjective operation. Hence the agreement of the great German and English schools, in view of a rational solution of the world-problems, is obvious. Indeed, many eminent writers deprecate the supposed opposition between the two systems, and point out that the Germans have investigated the nature of knowledge, while the Empiricists have discussed its origin. Both agree that our knowledge is reduced to a knowledge of phenomena—the noumenon, the "thing-in-itself," is inaccessible to pure reason. Substance and cause are subjective notions—problems of origin, destiny, etc., are insoluble. But Kant's philosophy has been largely adopted in Theistic circles in virtue of a sort of appendix which appeared in the "Critique of Practical Reason." After demolishing every form of Theistic argument, Kant suddenly discovers that the practical reason (moral sense) brings us into relation with God and immortality. The objective value which he had refused to speculative principles is granted to the moral principles, and the moral law postulates a supreme Legislator and a sanction in a future life. That portion of Kant's system will claim attention later on.

An immediate disciple of Kant's, J. G. Fichte, developed his system as Hume had developed Locke's. He produced an idealistic and egoistic Pantheism. He thought Kant inconsistent in granting objectivity to sense-impressions and moral principles, and denying it to the categories. He consistently rejected the world of phenomena as well as the world of noumena, and was reduced to a subjective Idealism—the ego is the Absolute, the non-ego its subjective creation. Fichte was quickly followed by Schelling, who retains his Pantheism, but rejects his Idealism. His philosophy was rather a return to the Pantheism of Spinoza. Both Fichte and Schelling were, however, immediately eclipsed by Hegel, whose system prevailed throughout Germany in the early part of the century, and is very prevalent to-day in England, whither, it is said, "all good German systems go when they die." The fundamental problem of all theories of knowledge is the relation between thought and being. Kant had ended his critical campaign in what Fichte thought an inconsistent dualism. Fichte himself had removed being from the problem altogether. Schelling had identified them in the Absolute. Hegel identified them in themselves. The foundation principle in his system is the identity of the idea of being and the idea of nothing. Both are forms of the combining idea of becoming, and every thought is a poise between the two contradictories. Thus the laws of thought are also the laws of being. Logic is Metaphysics. "The true reality is unseen; all being is the embodiment of a pregnant thought, all becoming a movement of the concept; the world is a development of thought. The Absolute or the logical Idea exists first as a system of extra-mundane concepts, then it descends into the unconscious sphere of nature, awakens to self-consciousness in man, realizes its content in social institutions, in order, finally in art, religion, and science, to return to itself enriched and completed—i.e., to attain a higher absoluteness than that of the beginning."[2] Hegel's system is certainly Pantheistic, but it is neither realistic nor idealistic; it has cut the Gordian knot.

The transcendental philosophy was introduced into England as a means of resisting empiricism at the beginning of the century by Coleridge and Wordsworth. Carlyle has been perhaps its most energetic supporter, though it is rather its influence that we find in him than a formal acceptance of the systems. J. H. Sterling was the first advocate of Hegelianism. In more recent times some form of Neo-Kantism or Neo-Hegelianism has found a large number of eminent supporters. T. H. Green, F. H. Bradley, J. Caird, E. Caird, J. P. Mahaffy, B. Bosanquet, Haldane, and many others, are mentioned as more or less faithful disciples of German teaching. The parallel between the ethical Theism of Plato and Kant is obvious, and hence it is natural to find that Plato and Kant are equally revered by the majority of the writers mentioned.

In Germany itself, while there has been so great a development of history and criticism, there has been a conspicuous decay of philosophy. A speaker at Hegel's grave predicted that his kingdom would be divided among his satraps, and certainly within a short period of his death his system was very generally abandoned. With the decay of metaphysics and the triumphant progress of physics, a powerful Materialistic school made its appearance; Feuerbach, Strauss, Dubois Raymond, Vogt, Lange, Büchner, Helmholz, and many other popular writers, have propagated it very extensively. Schopenhauer's system found much posthumous veneration. Schopenhauer agreed with Kant in his subjective Idealism, but went on to teach the utter blindness and irrationality of the world-ground in its despairing necessary evolution; hence the well-known pessimism of his school. Schopenhauer's philosophical inspirers had been Kant, Plato, and Buddha; the latter he is said to have venerated principally as an Atheist. The Oriental influence in his system is conspicuous. Hartmann's "Philosophy of the Unconscious" also received a moderate support. It was a compound of the thoughts of Hegel and Schopenhauer—the pessimism of the latter occupying a prominent position. Hartmann thought that the world was so essentially evil and wretched that its non-existence would be preferable to its existence; hence the final goal of the world-evolution was the blissful Nirvana of non-existence. Many writers returned to the anti-monistic and anti-idealistic teaching of Herbart. Lotze, in particular, has exercised a wide influence in the reaction; his teaching is a compound of Herbartian and Fichteo-Hegelian elements, and raises a strong protest against scientific Materialism.

Such, therefore, is the history of the rise, conflict, and decay of systems in the nineteenth century. The same painful impression is felt in surveying the drama, for such it truly is, as in surveying the Greek activity from Thales to Carneades. The most gifted minds of the three most gifted nations of modern Europe have sought, in grim earnest, a solution of the ever-impending problem of the universe; yet it can hardly be claimed that any positive advance has been made in the direction of a solution—certainly no constructive system bids fair to endure save in the history of philosophy. That there has been incidental profit from the ceaseless efforts of the various schools is beyond question. The science of psychology has derived enduring advantage. The work of Fechner, Wundt, etc., and of our own eminent English psychologists, Sully, Bain, etc., is certainly not of an ephemeral character. Yet even this brings us no nearer to the all-absorbing questions of anthropology—the nature and the destiny of the mind. One point, indeed, of some importance has secured a very general acceptance—the theory of a division of the possible objects of perception into noumena and phenomena, and the complementary doctrine of the phenomenal character of all our perceptions. The distinction is claimed to be Platonic in origin, though Plato's clear distinction into objects of sense and objects of mind (nous) can hardly be said to coincide accurately with Kant's. However, both Transcendentalists, Empiricists, and Hamiltonians agree in accepting the distinction, and it is pointed to as a permanent acquisition to metaphysics. Yet even here the opposition of the scientific Materialists must be included in the estimate; a system that numbers Tyndall, Clifford, Maudsley, Bastian, Draper, Pinet, Broussais, Moleschott, Helmholz, Büchner, Vogt, Feuerbach, and Strauss cannot be set aside as a negligeable quantity. Whether the distinction into noumena and phenomena be Platonic or not, it is certainly Aristotelic; it corresponds with the distinction into substance and accidents which the Stagyrite fully developed, and which plays a conspicuous part in mediaeval philosophy. Now, the tendency of modern science is to suppress the duality which the metaphysicians have created. The schoolmen went so far as to teach the absolute separability of accidents from substance (as the Catholic dogma of Transubstantiation seemed to demand); modern phenomenalists, teaching the cognoscibility of phenomena and the imperceptibility of noumena, do not seem to be far behind them. But one by one their phenomena—sounds, odours, colours, etc.—have been conclusively shown to be merely modes of the sonorous, odorous, or coloured body, only separable from it by an abstraction. Hence to the scientist it must seem just as perplexing to talk of perceiving colours, etc., and not coloured things, as to believe in a bundle of supernatural qualities without a substance. This is a question in which both physics and metaphysics are concerned; the metaphysical position cannot long remain unaffected by the progress of physics.

It is, therefore, difficult to point to any positive results of the philosophical activity of the century which are likely to abide. Fortunately, it is the negative results which are mainly interesting to the Rationalistic historian, and in this aspect a profound change has been effected. To summarize the result as clearly and effectively as possible, we shall consider the change only in connection with the existence of God and the nature of the mind. During the last century Theism was equally strong on both sides of the controversy; the struggle lay between pure Theism and Christianity. The present century has witnessed a very numerous defection of the most eminent scholars from the ranks of Theism, a most extensive diffusion of theoretical Agnosticism in all but the very lowest classes, a remarkable collapse of the dogmatic defence of all philosophical Theists, and a very general tendency to substitute vague moral and mystic considerations for the "proofs" which formerly sup ported the Theistic position. Such a result is one of the most important elements of the progress of Rationalism.

It is unnecessary to repeat the long list of great writers who have unreservedly abandoned Theism during the progress of the controversy. Of the many eminent names which have been mentioned, only John Stuart Mill commenced his career in a definite Agnostic position; all the others are seceders from one or other forms of Theism. Again, it is unnecessary to enlarge upon the extent of the spread of Agnosticism in the nation at large. The writings of Huxley, Spencer, Darwin, Lewes, Harrison, Tyndall, etc., have had an enormous circulation. The works of Spencer, Bain, Leslie Stephen, Karl Pearson, and Clifford have entered into the university programme. Every review has been incessantly utilized by them, and a number of minor periodicals of pronounced Rationalistic temper have conveyed their theories and criticisms. England and France are permeated throughout with the Agnostic results of the empirical philosophy. And when we pass from declared Agnostics, who admit no shade of Theism, to the wider circle of those who have lost faith in the personal God of tradition, but cling to some undefined and intangible shadow of the lost God, the number of those who are affected by Rationalistic criticism increases enormously. Whether a man is still entitled to the name of Theist who believes in an Absolute (not even an absolute being), an Unconditioned, an Unconscious, or a stream-of-tendency-not-ourselves-making-for-righteousness, is a question of terminology; but that vast modern pantheon of umbratilous deities, the manes of the Olympian family, bears eloquent witness to the progress of Rationalism. Then the large number of those who accept Hegelianism must be considered; belief in Hegel and belief in a personal God cannot long co-exist. The Neo-Kantists, including, perhaps, the larger number of orthodox professors of philosophy, find an escape from scepticism, with Kant, in the moral order: their position must be relegated to a future chapter. The followers of Hamilton and Mansel compensate their intellectual losses by a generous indulgence of faith. There are, no doubt, a large number of minds who will continue to find a relief in that manner; but it may be questioned whether the spread of scientific training is not calculated to correct that tendency. In fine, the old a priori (in the current sense) arguments for Theism have fallen into disrepute. The Roman Catholic attempt to restore their credit, though ably represented by Dr. Ward and Dr. Mivart, has been a signal failure; they have not elicited the slightest sympathy outside their own sect, and have met important opposition within it. The theological argument has also apparently lost favour in philosophical circles; indeed, the larger scientific view of the world-process which we now have gives no inconsiderable weight to the disteleologists. The most recent apologetic efforts, the works of Balfour, Drummond, Kidd, and Mallock, which, however undeservedly, have attracted universal attention, show that the whole question now turns upon the ethical problem. The spread of Platonism and Kantism points to the same conclusion. If it can be shown that the moral law is purely humanitarian in origin and effect, and entirely independent of the Theistic hypothesis, the last support of that hypothesis totters; whether the Agnostic moralists have made good that contention will appear in the sixth chapter.

On the question of the spirituality of the soul and its separability from the body the result of the philosophical struggle is, perhaps, more definite. The traditional notion of a spiritual principle informing a material structure, acting independently of it in its higher powers, and substantially separable from it, is now not only destitute of scientific proof, but is negatived by all the evidence of psychology. There is a general practice of either having recourse to "revealed" documents for a solution of the anthropological problem, or of seeking a solution in the phenomena of ethical life. Of the value of the revealed documents we have already seen the decision of the Rationalistic critics. Of the second source of hope of personal immortality we must again forbear to speak until we have discussed the ethical progress of the nineteenth century. The scholastic arguments for the spirituality of the soul have once more collapsed, and modern scholastics are at utter variance with regard to their value. Other philosophers entirely neglect them. The spiritualistic position has also been deeply affected by the discovery of the evolution of man. The proof of the somatic evolution of man from the lower animals (which will be described in the next chapter) concentrated attention upon the psychical differences which seemed to mark him off. These were not found sufficiently strong to forbid the extension of the doctrine of evolution to his mental constitution. The problem has, therefore, become a question of revealed doctrine or of ethical consideration for the majority of philosophers. When we remember that at the close of the last century the existence of a personal God and the immortality of the human soul were scarcely called into question outside of the French school of Diderot, Lamettrie, Holbach, and Cabanis, and when we consider the universal diffusion of Empiricism (Agnostic or Positivistic or Materialistic) and of Pantheism—each of which systems excludes both beliefs—in England, France, Italy, and Germany, we have a correct idea of the progress of Rationalism in the province of philosophy.

  1. A comprehensive exposition of the system, written on the authority of Mr. Spencer, by F. H. Collins, under the title "Epitome of the Synthetic Philosophy," is an excellent introduction to Mr. Spencer's voluminous works.
  2. R. Falckenberg, "History of Modern Philosophy."