« ZurückWeiter »
THERE is nothing, perhaps, more remarkable throughout the history of Philosophy, than the recession from simplicity and universality, to particularity and complexity: Hence modern philosophers are engaged in the boundless research of particulars, concerning which they present us views of surprising subtilty and precision, but altogether destitute of that breadth of principle which distinguished the philosophy of the ancients, the original source of their own.
We find accordingly that the diffuse philosophy and science of modern Europe sprung immediately from the Romans, the Roman from the sects of Zeno and Epicurus; the sectaries of Greece were the fruitful offspring of the schools of Thales and Pythagoras, and these sages, natives of the coast of Asia Minor, transplanted philosophy into Greece from Egypt, Chaldea, and the East.
Such are the historical relations of philosophy in the abstract, and if, in descending from this height, we regard
its philosophical relations, we find a gradual decline from the pure intellectual philosophy of the East, upon which religion and mcrals depend, through the sensual doctrine of Epicurus in which the Grecian schools terminated, to the material, physical, or natural philosophy, which distinguishes our own times, and while it augments the number of material goods, diminishes their security by being farthest of all removed from the moral.
Thus all the long train of philosophers, from its first dawn, has built upon its primitive universal foundation; more and more particularising in succession, whereby the branches of philosophy have been extended, while the root has been neglected: but, "if you will have sciences grow, says the great Verulam, " you need not be so solicitous for the bodies; apply all your care that the roots may be taken up sound and entire."
It is accordingly the design of the present Essay to investigate the root and ground of PHILOSOPHY, in quest of the principles, relations, and purposes of nature, art, and
Adv. Learn. p. 177.
1. THE philosopher, involved as a part in that universe which it is his desire to interpret, like Archimedes, wants a place on which to rest his powers to raise the world. His first position must be a part of what he has to prove; it is in vain, therefore, that he endeavours to elevate his system upon that which is absolutely independent; for though he may perpetually exhibit the ground on which he stands by changing his place within the sphere of all possible knowledge, he cannot do so by transcendence or anteriority.
2. He presumes, therefore, to centre his system upon something conditional or granted, to be proved and sustained, like the world, by the universal coincidence of the system itself: still arguing in a circle that would be vitious for a being out of it, but is not so for him who is confined within its limits, and a part thereof.
3. In other words; since that which is universal must comprehend its own foundation, the ground-work of an universal system can have no positive proof or support but that of universal coincidence; yet if the foundation assumed
contain no repugnance, the denying it will involve an absurdity hence the first positions of the philosopher are not proved but granted :-he cannot assert his ground on the one hand, and on the other it cannot be denied him.
4. A system is a whole consisting of parts or principles essentially related or coordinate to some design or purpose; and such it is presumed is the universe of the philosopher. If then principles and purposes be the extremes of his system, and he possess no power of transcending it, it appears to be through the medium of its relations alone that he can survey the universe with knowledge. An enquiry after the relations of the universal system is therefore the proper business of the philosopher, and the direct road to knowledge or science.
5. The relations of the system are either those of its particular parts, of collections of particulars, which afford general relations, or they are universal relations; which, comprehending all, must be the co-essentials of its synthesis, and final educts of its analysis.
6. Synthetically then, the philosopher man as subject, the universe as object, and philosophy the knowledge or view, which he takes of the latter, are the co-essential pillars of the philosophic structure; the fewest relative parts of which it can be composed; and as relations universally are the mean through which the philosopher perspects principles and purposes, so now of these related parts philosophy appears to be that medium alone through which he can view his own subject, or the universe his object.
7. Now philosophy in a subjective sense, or the view which the philosopher takes of the universe, pre-supposes that it exists, that it is knowable and communicable; since, presuming the universe a non-entity, unconceivable or incommunicable, annihilates philosophy altogether, and terminates all investigation; and that it is knowable and com
municable pre-supposes also a system of relations, or medium, by which such knowledge and communication can alone be possible. The universe therefore exists according to a system of relations by which it is knowable and communicable to the philosopher, and this system of relations is that which in an objective sense we call philosophy: accordingly philosophy refers both to the subject and to the object, and partakes of both.
8. If then there be philosophy or communicable knowledge, there must be a mode of receiving or knowing, and a mode of conveying or communicating such knowledge; and if the universe be a knowable and communicable system, the interpretation thereof will comprehend three plans, modes, or lesser systems; first, that which belongs properly immediately to the universal system itself, or its mode of being; secondly, that which belongs to the receiving or conceiving of it, or a mode of receiving; and thirdly, that which belongs to the conveying or communicating thereof, or a mode of conveying: and the two latter modes or plans must be conformable and correlative with the former, because they differ therefrom only as the receiving and con veying differ from the being received and conveyed; the one cannot be without the other; hence these plans comprehend each other under different views, and are co-essentially one, or tri-une,
9. The first of these plans or views corresponds to that which, in an objective sense, has been called philosophy, and refers to the object of all knowledge, or the universe. The second, or the science of receiving or acquiring knowledge, corresponds to philosophy in a subjective sense, and refers to the subject of knowledge or the human mind; whence logic. And the last, or science of conveying knowledge, which comprehends the sensible signs and represent、 ation of knowledge, including words and language, &c.