Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/167

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.
155
A NEW PHASE OF GERMAN THOUGHT.

The book before us is one full of vigorous discussion, first published in 1869, repeated in the fourth edition already, which has made a powerful impression in Germany, and would assuredly have been heard of in France if the deplorable events of later years had not distracted attention from speculative studies. The book we speak of is the "Philosophy of the Unconscious," by Edward de Hartmann.

Though Hartmann adopts a very different system of metaphysics from Schopenhauer's, he admits having borrowed from that philosopher the point of departure of his system; his moral views are similar, if not identical; he has the same fellow-feeling with Eastern philosophies, the same pessimist color in his view of the world and of existence in general. Besides, Hartmann announces himself as a disciple of Schelling, and thus links himself with the romantic school. Just as he has a strongly-marked leaning toward eclecticism, and fancies he can reconcile the two systems of Hegel and of Schopenhauer, so too he attempts to fuse together optimism and pessimism: but it is for the sake of maintaining that even in the best of possible worlds, which naturally is our own, evil still prevails immeasurably over good. For him, as for Plato, for the old religions, existence is a fall. The human race, like all beings in the universe, is the prey of many miseries while tasting but few joys, and the advance of philosophy consists in gaining an ever-clearer conviction of this sad truth. Meanwhile, man is deluded by instincts that make him cling to life, and urge him to cares for its preservation and reproduction. These instincts are a divine blessing, since they were necessary to keep life going, to make civilization possible, to give man time for climbing toward philosophic intelligence, and in a word to invest triumphant science with the power to unseal his eyes to the wretchedness of his state: man at the outset must needs be sustained by the delusive love of life, that he might some day win the power of willing, not merely his own non-existence, which Schopenhauer contented himself with, but the non-existence of the whole race too, and even, if we clearly take in Hartmann's doctrine, the annihilation of all real being. When sufficiently enlightened, man will acknowledge the vanity of his desires, and let himself die of disgust. If high intellects, great poets, thinkers of genius, are for the most part melancholy, it is because they draw nearer to the truth than the ignorant crowd, ruled wholly by its instincts. The discovery that life is unendurable is pregnant perhaps with awful catastrophes for the future; the masses will grow more and more restive in their misery; formerly they felt little of it except when their stomachs grumbled, but the older the world gets, the more threateningly the spectre of pauperism rises. The social question of our time rests, in the last analysis, only on the stronger sense of their sufferings that has seized the working-classes, although their situation is a golden one compared with what it was two centuries ago, when the social question had no existence. And yet the rich are even more to be pitied than the poor, the educated classes