Page images
PDF
EPUB

1851.]

Immortality-Moral Freedom.

81

That gross pantheism which makes matter divine, and which is the equivalent of atheism, is foreign to all these systems, and the immoral and irreligious consequences deducible from it were far from the thoughts of their authors.

As to the immortality of the soul, it appears incompatible with the pantheism of Schelling and of Hegel. Yet Schelling himself and a fraction of the school of Hegel have endeavored to reconcile personal immortality with pantheistic principles. Jacobi believed in it with all his soul; Kant made it a necessary condition of the moral law, certain as this law itself; and Herbart finds this dogma so simple and so evident, that it seems to him superfluous to prove it; it is the necessary result of his doctrine respecting the soul, which is, that it is in its essence simple, and hence eternal and imperishable.

In respect to ethics, Kant, Jacobi and Herbart may be placed on one side, over against Schelling and Hegel; Fichte occupies the centre between the two parties. The ethical principle of Kant is wholly rational; that of Jacobi wholly from feeling; and the morals of Herbart are derived from both reason and feeling. Fichte advocates a kind of mystic morals, yet strong and generous, full at once of personal dignity and of self-denial, of independence and of devotedness. In the idealism of Schelling and of Hegel the practical reason is absorbed by the theoretical, and morals properly speaking occupy a secondary place. The absolute precept of pantheistic idealism is thisknow thyself; and the whole destination of man, in this system, seems to be to arrive at a knowledge of himself as absolute mind.

Moral freedom is not equally guarantied by all these systems. According to Kant, liberty is the only immediate rational fact, the only law which we know of the "intelligible world." According to Jacobi it is so certain, that it is his scale for measuring the truth of systems. He is ready to reject without further examination every scheme of fatalism. Fichte makes freedom to be the very essence of spirit, the principle of self. Though Herbart does not deny liberty, yet he does not consider it as a primitive fact, but he makes it the product of the development of the intellect, of the concurrence and mutual action of ideas. Schelling and Hegel profess an intellectual fatalism. Liberty presupposes an individuality, a real personality, such as pantheism does not admit.

As to the philosophy of nature, Kant, Schelling and Hegel explain every thing dynamically; opposite to them is Herbart, whose physics are entirely constructed on mechanical principles, although he grants that such principles are not sufficient to explain all the phenomena of the organic world.

All these philosophers have had, and still have, numerous adherents; it is then natural to suppose that there is in each system a fund of truth; for though error may seduce for a time, it cannot long carry the best minds in its train.

There was a time when almost the whole philosophy of Germany was of the school of Kant; some were drawn along by the force of the current, but others by their convictions, and among these were men of the highest distinction. That part of his system which deserved their assent, is that which will be abiding-and that is, the idea of a criticism of the human understanding, and the general spirit of his ethics. Such a criticism of the nature and limits of our knowledge founded on an examination of the primitive elements of reason, upon an analysis of consciousness, will ever be the obligatory beginning of philosophy. Such an examination will always lead to the result that the system of our knowledge reposes upon an intellectual basis; that the "forms" of our knowledge are furnished by the understanding. From this it is not necessary to conclude with Kant, that all our knowledge is subjective, but only that our knowledge of the world is from our point of view alone, limited and inadequate indeed, yet true in itself though incomplete. And as to Kant's ethical system, the general formula may be modified, and its rigor attempered, but the sovereign principle presented by him in all its purity and majesty can no longer be misconceived. Kant has conquered forever, at least in the view of science, the ethics of prudence and self-love. His indirect proof of the existence of God and of the immortality of the soul, as necessary conditions of the moral law, will also remain, though in other forms; and his idea of an universal and just state, as the providential end of history, will also abide. His theory of the sublime and beautiful [to which he was instigated by Burke] has been the commencement of a new system of Aesthetics, not false but incomplete, for beauty and sublimity are in the objects as well as in ourselves.

In Fichte we have a singular union of an heroic idealism with an ethical system of pure self-denial; no one has more strongly insisted upon the sovereignty of self; no one has carried farther a regard to duty; and if, for a time, the moral order was his God, he at least showed that he was ready to sacrifice everything to the object of his worship, His idealism will remain as a testimony how far the human mind can go in the attempt to draw everything from its own substance a proof both of its activity and of its inefficiency. To have the right to profess realism, we must have tried the way of idealism according to Fichte.

1851.]

Views of Schelling and Hegel.

83

Besides the examination of the power of self, which was the aim of Fichte, and of the pure reason which was the object of Kant, we have in Jacobi an evidence of the necessity of an analysis of our actual consciousness, illustrated also, by the Scotch and French schools of philosophy. Though this will not give us a system of philosophy, yet it is the necessary basis of such a system. Here are revealed our fundamental religious, and moral and aesthetic feelings, the disinterested love of truth and science, all those elementary dispositions which go to make up the rational nature of man. Jacobi did not make a system; but his merit consists in having constantly opposed the voice of consciousness to the aberration of the philosophy of his times.

Schelling and Hegel have exaggerated a true principle, and that is the harmony between our spirits and the external world, between the subject and the object, the concord of legitimate thought and of ob jective realities. This principle is tacitly recognized by every positive philosophy. It is perverted in the doctrine of absolute ideality, and in the pretension that man can attain a divine and absolute science, and reconstruct the universe by a dialectic process. The idea of Schelling, in his philosophy of nature, of an immanent and dynamic principle, by which the universe is made an organic whole, is indeed only an ideal, and it may not ever be absolutely proved and traced out; but still it is by the light of such an ideal that we must study nature; for only thus can we have a science and a progressive science of nature, instead of a map of facts without inherent unity. And this may be done without ceasing to consider each thing as having its relative independence, without seeing in man nothing above a production of animal life, and while we still admit that God is the cause of all the order of the universe.

The idea of Hegel is still more vast; it is to the whole of philosophy that which Schelling's is to the philosophy of nature. Hegel has the merit of having laid hold of the problem of speculative science in all its grandeur, and having attempted to carry it through all the departments of human thought. Such an idea of unity and system as he propounds, has always been the soul of philosophy, though it can never be absolutely realized. There is, indeed, no true philosophy of history, without the supposition that the human race is advancing to realize some great end, that of universal freedom, of a perfect state. There is no true history of philosophy, if we see in its causes only a fortuitous succession of systems. We may not adopt the end or the scheme which Hegel propounds, either for phi

losophy or for history; but we say, that history can be rationally conceived of only as a progress towards some one end, and that the history of philosophy is instructive only as we view it as a constant means of arriving at real truth.

The philosophy of Herbart is contributing to the overthrow of the purely idealistic systems, and may be the transition to the reëstablishment of a veritable realism.

Idealism, as an absolute and final system, must be abandoned; but only in its ruins, and in part from its ruins will a new system be reconstructed. This philosophy will not be the old dogmatism which Herbart has striven to reestablish; it will be a realism attempered by idealism, a rational realism, founded, not on the dogma of the real identity of subject and object, of thought and being, but upon the harmony which God himself has established between our reason and the external world, between intelligent nature and real nature, between the reason which is in us and that divine reason of which the universe is the expression.

Such is the substance of the conclusion, the final summary, of these elaborate volumes. Though many points here are stated too indefinitely, and though others are not at all peculiar to the German system, but a part of all philosophy, yet it seems to us that the summary is upon the whole cautious and candid. It may appear cold, in view of the theological and moral questions which are at stake; but the clear, intellectual dissent of a candid historian of philosophy, is a more influential authority against a false dogma than many an impulsive invective of those who know not the difficulty of the problems, especially when it is addressed to the members of the French Insti

tute.

Of all the works that have appeared upon the German philosophy, this one is to be most commended. The account of these bold and difficult systems in the able and popular History of Modern Philosophy, by J. D. Morell, is the least satisfactory portion of that interesting work; it is less thorough, and the results of less independent investigation than are his sketches of either the French or the English schools.

M. Willm promises another volume to complete his work, which shall give an account of the later philosophy of Schelling; of the various parties in Hegel's school; the rage of Bauer and the desperation of Feuerbach; of the disciples of Herbart and Fries; of Reinhold in Jena; and Ulrici in Halle; of Weisse and the younger Fichte; of Beneke in Berlin, and others still. The whole is to be

1851.]

Meyer as a Commentator.

85

completed by a bibliographical review of those works in German philosophy since the time of Kant, which still retain their value in the various departments of science. And he trusts that the final impression left upon the reader will be, the conviction, that "in the country of Kant, sound reason will eventually triumph over the vagaries of speculative imagination and the excesses of a haughty dialectics, which can only be done by constantly putting ourselves anew in the right position for hearing the voice of consciousness and knowing the eternal interests of humanity."

ARTICLE VI.

COMMENTARY ON THE SECOND AND THIRD CHAPTERS OF THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW.

From the German of H. A. W. Meyer. By B. B. Edwards.

[DR. Meyer is consistorial counsellor at Hanover, and pastor primarius of the city church. Nine Parts of his Commentary on the New Testament are published, embracing the four Gospels, the Acts, and the Epistles to the Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon. Owing to the demand for new editions of the earlier parts, and the pressure of other engagements, Dr. M. has called to his aid Prof. Huther, of Schwerin, who has prepared a Commentary on the Epistles to Timothy and Titus, and Dr. Lünemann, of Göttingen, who has published a Commentary on the Epistles to the Thessalonians. Second editions of Meyer's commentaries on the first three Gospels, and on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, have appeared. The later volumes, and especially the second editions, exhibit very marked improvement both in ability in expounding the text, and in orthodox views and feelings. In the Preface to the Commentary on the Colossians, 1848, the author writes: "It is the spirit of God which quickens the church; and it is the old, simple truth of the Gospel, which makes the church free, and one and invincible. On this rock, on which the church is placed, will the waves and foam of the spirits who affect another gospel than that of Nazareth, break and disappear." "The stock remains the VOL. VIII. No. 29.

8

« PreviousContinue »