Page:Blackwood's Magazine volume 044.djvu/565

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1838.]
551
An Introduction to the Philosophy of Consciousness.

three great moments of humanity may be thus expressed. 1st, The natural or given man is man in passion—in enslaved Being. 2d, The conscious man—the man working into freedom against passion—is man in action. 3d, The "I" is man in free, that is, in real personal Being.


Chapter IV.


Are we then to hold that man does not become "I" by compulsion—that he is not constrained to become "I"? We must hold this doctrine. No man is forced or necessitated to become "I." All the necessitated part of his Being leans the other way, and tends to prevent him from becoming "I." He becomes "I" by fighting against the necessitated part of his nature. "I" embraces and expresses the sum and substance of his freedom, of his resistance. He becomes "I" with his own consent—through the concurrence and operation of his own will.

We have as yet said little about Human Will, because "Will" is but a word; and we have all along been anxious to avoid that very common, though most fatal, error in philosophy—the error, namely, of supposing that words can ever do the business of thoughts, or can, of themselves, put us in possession of the realities which they denote. If, in philosophy, we commence with the word "Will," or with any other word denoting what is called "a faculty" of man, and keep harping on the same, without having first of all come round the reality without the assistance of the word,—if we seek to educe the reality out of the word,—the chances are a thousand to one that we shall end where we began, and never get beyond the region of mere words. It makes a mighty difference in all kinds of composition, whether the reality suggests the word, or whether the word suggests the reality. The former kind of suggestion alone possesses any value—it alone gives truth and life both to philosophy and to poetry. The latter kind is worthless altogether, either in philosopher or poet; and the probability is, that the reality which the word suggests to him, is not the true reality at all.[1]

Without employing the word "will," then, let us look forth into the realities of man, and perhaps we shall fall in with the reality of it when we are


  1. Some curious considerations present themselves in connexion with this subject. Human compositions may be divided into two great classes. In the first, the commencement is made from feelings, ideas, or realities. These beget and clothe themselves in words. These precede the words. The workers in this order are, in poetry, the true poets. But the words having been employed and established, it is found that these of themselves give birth to feelings and ideas which may be extracted out of them without recourse being had to any other source. Hence a second class of composers arises, in whom words precede ideas—a class who, instead of construing ideas into words, construe words into ideas—and these again into other words. This class commence with words, making these feel and think for them. Of this class are the poetasters, the authors of odes to "Imagination," "Hope," &c., which are merely written because such words as "hope," "imagination," &c, have been established. These are the employers of the hereditary language of poetry. In philosophy the case is precisely the same. An Aristotle, a Leibnitz, or a Kant, having come, by certain realities of humanity, through an original exertion, and not through the instrumentality of words, makes use of a certain kind of phraseology to denote these realities. An inferior generation of philosophers, finding this phraseology made to their hand, adopt it; and, without looking for the realities themselves independently of the words, they endeavour to lay hold of the realities solely through the words; they seek to extract the realities out of the words, and, consequently, their labours are in a different subject-matter, as dead and worthless as those of the poetaster. Both classes of imitators work in an inverted order. They seek the living among the dead: that is, they seek it where it never can be found. Let us ask whether one inevitable result—one disadvantage of the possession of a highly cultivated language, is not this:—that, being fraught with numberless associations, it enables poetasters and false philosophers to abound—inasmuch as it enables them to make words stand in place of things and do the business of thoughts?