Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/169

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157
A NEW PHASE OF GERMAN THOUGHT.

its disdainful pity, mingled with irony, upon the unfortunates cheated with the shows of happiness as upon those who yield to despair—when, at last, the soul, bracing its strength to fight this fatality, discerns a plain escape and issue from this hell—these again are but facts which philosophy, still calm and impassive, verifies and records, and its work is done.

We readily admit that there is a grandeur in these ideas of humanity and philosophy. But the critic's duty is, to ascertain whether they are correct, and do not merely create still a new illusion to add to those the world has hitherto been cradled in—one equally empty with the rest, and only perhaps differing from them by the disadvantage of being far less cheerful and helpful to humanity. As it relates to the world's progress, all these systems may be reduced to two classes: on the one side, those which hold up the universe as tending toward a designed aim, and guided by an intelligent principle toward a providential end, such as the realization of happiness for the individual, or a certain perfection of humanity, or, still more generally, some kind of cosmic condition: on the other side must be placed all those systems according to which the world is not moving toward a foreseen and chosen end, and is ruled only by the force of things, intelligence itself, wherever it is manifested, being nothing more than a resultant and a particular phenomenon. According to these latter systems, if humanity and our world were to come to an end, these results would only flow from the necessary relations between the facts of the universe; and these systems, if they are pantheistic ones, can find a very clear expression for their doctrine in the formula that the occurrences of the universe have as their principle not a divine will, but merely the eternal nature of God.

Hartmann, who belongs, at several points, to the traditioned spiritualistic philosophy, displays a strong attachment to the idea of an intelligence presiding over the destiny of the world. Although a pantheist, he continually reasons as a mere deist, a contradiction which seems to us to be the source of most of his errors. His God, who is supremely wise, omniscient, and prescient, but who is not omnipotent, for he had not the power to prevent the production of this evil world, ought a priori to govern every thing toward the best end. Now, this end cannot be individual happiness, for the individual dies, and Hartmann does not admit the survival of personality. It cannot be the perfection of the race, for humanity is doomed to perish whenever the burnt-out sun shall cease to furnish its conditions of existence. Must the end proposed by Providence be sought for in the destiny of our world itself? But modern science teaches us that the world also is doomed to inevitable destruction. Thus, from the necessity of rejecting all these positive ends, nothing remained but to seek the solution of the problem in a purely negative end, and this is what Hartmann, following Schopenhauer, has undertaken. The best possible end for