That is, they reject methodological individualism and support methodological holism , as Popper called it. According to Popper, Plato believed that a just society required individuals to sacrifice their needs to the interests of the state. Popper saw this as profoundly dangerous. In fact, he said, the view that some collective social entity—be it, for example, a city, a state, society, a nation, or a race—has needs that are prior and superior to the needs of actual living persons is a central ethical tenet of all totalitarian systems, whether ancient or modern.
Nazis, for instance, emphasized the needs of the Aryan race to justify their brutal policies, whereas communists in the Soviet Union spoke of class aims and interests as the motor of history to which the individual must bend. The needs of the race or class superseded the needs of individuals. In contrast, Popper held, members of an open society see the state and other social institutions as human designed, subject to rational scrutiny, and always serving the interests of individuals—and never the other way around.
According to Plato, understanding of any kind of thing—for example, a bed, a triangle, a human being, or a city—requires understanding what Plato called its Form. The Forms are timeless, unchanging and perfect exemplars of sensible things found in our world. Coming to understand a Form, Plato believed, requires rational examination of its essence.
Such understanding is governed by a kind of intuition rather than empirical inquiry. For instance, mathematical intuition provides the route to understanding the essential nature of triangles—that is, their Form—as opposed to attempting to understand the nature of triangles by measuring and comparing actual sensible triangles found in our world. Although Forms are eternal and unchanging, Plato held that the imperfect copies of them that we encounter in the sensible world invariably undergo decay. Extending this theory presented a political problem for Plato.
The very nature of the world is such that human beings and the institutions that they create tend to degrade over time. For Plato, this included cities, which he believed were imperfect copies of the Form of the city. It required, first, understanding the true and best nature of the city, that is, its Form. Historicism is the view that history is governed by historical laws or principles and, further, that history has a necessary direction and end-point.
This being so, historicists believe that the aim of philosophy—and, later, history and social science—must be to predict the future course of society by uncovering the laws or principles that govern history. Historicism is a very old view, Popper said, predating Athens of the 5 th century B. Early Greek versions of historicism held that the development of cities naturally and necessarily moves in cycles: a golden age followed by inevitable decay and collapse, which in some versions paves the way for rebirth and a new golden age.
But Plato did not merely describe the gradual degeneration of the city; he offered a philosophical explanation of it, which relied upon his theory of the Forms and thus methodological essentialism. Going further, Plato sought to provide a way to arrest this natural tendency toward decay. This, Popper argued, was the deep aim of the utopian society developed in the Republic— a newly fabricated closed society as the solution to natural tendency toward moral and political decline.
Tumultuous democratic Athens would be replaced with a stable and unchanging society. As a young man he saw the citizens of Athens, under the influence of demagogues, back ill-advised military campaigns that ultimately led to the Spartan victory over the city in B. Popper as a young man had also witnessed the collapse of democracy, in his native Austria and throughout Europe. But he drew very different lessons from that experience.
For him, democracy remained a bulwark against tyranny, not its handmaiden. Prior to publication of The Open Society , Plato was widely regarded as the wellspring of enlightened humanism in the Western tradition. Subsequent scholarship could not avoid addressing his arguments. Like Plato, Aristotle believed that knowledge of an entity required grasping its essence. Plato held that the entities found in the sensible world were imperfect, decaying representation of the Forms. Thus his understanding of history, Popper argued, was ultimately pessimistic: the world degrades over time.
The oak tree, for example, is the final cause of an acorn, the end towards which it strives. Popper believed that he had revealed deep links between ancient Greek philosophy and hostility toward the open society. As we shall see in the next section, Popper argued that these very same ideas were at the heart of modern totalitarianism, too. Hegel and Karl Marx, whom Popper charged with facilitating the emergence of modern closed societies. The evolution and gradual improvement of philosophical, ethical, political and religious ideas determines the march of history, Hegel argued.
In each new mode of production, the political and legal system, as well as the dominant moral and religious values and practices, would reflect the interests of those who controlled the new productive system. Marx believed that the capitalist mode of production was the penultimate stage of human history. The productive power unleashed by new technologies and factory production under capitalism was ultimately incompatible with capitalism as an economic and political system, which was marked by inefficiency, instability and injustice. Marx predicted that these flaws would inevitably lead to revolution followed by establishment of communist society.
This final stage of human development would be one of material abundance and true freedom and equality for all. According to Popper, though they disagreed on the mechanism that directed human social evolution, both Hegel and Marx, like Plato, were historicists because they believed that trans-historical laws governed human history. This was the key point for Popper, as well as the key error and danger. The deep methodological flaw of historicism, according to Popper, is that historicists wrongly see the goal of social science as historical forecast— to predict the general course of history.
But such prediction is not possible, Popper said. He provided two arguments that he said demonstrated its impossibility. The first was a succinct logical argument: Human knowledge grows and changes overtime, and knowledge in turn affects social events. That knowledge might be, for example, a scientific theory, a social theory, or an ethical or religious idea.
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We cannot predict what we will know in the future otherwise we would already know it , therefore we cannot predict the future. As long as it is granted that knowledge affects social behavior and that knowledge changes overtime—two premises that Popper considered incontestable—then the view that we can predict the future cannot be true and historicism must be rejected. But Popper contended that this represents a fundamental misunderstanding of scientific laws. In fact, Popper argued, there is no such thing as a law of historical development.
That is, there are no trans-historical laws that determine the transition from one historical period to the next. Failure to understand why this is so represented a deep philosophical error. There may be sociological laws that govern human behavior within particular social systems or institutions, Popper said. For instance, the laws of supply and demand are kinds of social laws governing market economies. But the future course of history cannot be predicted and, in particular, laws that govern the general trajectory of history do not exist. Popper does not deny that there can be historical trends —a tendency towards greater freedom and equality, more wealth or better technology, for instance, but unlike genuine laws, trends are always dependent upon conditions.
Change the conditions and the trends may alter or disappear. A trend towards greater freedom or knowledge could be disrupted by, say, the outbreak of a pandemic disease or the emergence of a new technology that facilitates authoritarian regimes. Popper acknowledges that in certain cases natural scientists can predict the future—even the distance future—with some confidence, as is the case with astronomy, for instance. Social systems can never be isolated and stationary, however. So historicism as social science is deeply defective, according to Popper.
Because historicists believe that laws determine the course of history, from their vantage it is ultimately pointless to try to engineer social change.
Just as a meteorologist can forecast the weather, but not alter it, the same holds for social scientists, historicists believe. They can predict future social developments, but not cause or alter them. First, historicism and utopian engineering share a connection to utopianism. Utopians seek to establish an ideal state of some kind, one in which all conflicts in social life are resolved and ultimate human ends—for example, freedom, equality, true happiness—are somehow reconciled and fully realized. Attaining this final goal requires radical overhaul of the existing social world and thus naturally suggests the need for utopian social engineering.
Many versions of historicism are thus inclined towards utopianism. Second, historicism and utopian social engineering both tend to embrace holism. For the historicist, society must be understood in terms of social wholes, and to understand the deep forces that move the social wholes, you must understand the laws of history. So while a philosophically consistent historicism might seem to lead to political quiescence, the fact is that historicists often cannot resist political engagement.
Popper argued that utopian engineering, though superficially attractive, is fatally flawed: it invariably leads to multitudinous unintended and usually unwelcome consequences. The social world is so complex, and our understanding of it so incomplete, that the full impact of any imposed change to it, especially grand scale change, can never be foreseen.
But, because of their unwarranted faith in their historical prophesies, the utopian engineers will be methodologically ill equipped to deal with this reality. Thus no matter how thoroughly and carefully an institution is designed, the fact that institutions are filled with human beings results in a certain degree of unpredictability in their operation. The effect of the human factor is that utopian social engineers inevitably are forced, despite themselves, to try to alter human nature itself in their bid to transform society.
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Achieving such molding requires awesome and total power and thus in this way utopian engineering naturally tends toward the most severe authoritarian dictatorship. But this is not the only reason that utopian engineering and tyranny are allied. But though Dr. Priestley is thus unsuccessful in his attempt to erect a barrier to the scepticism of Berkeley and Hume, his attacks bear dangerously upon that which was provided for us by the zeal and ingenuity of Dr. He also shows, that all his other arguments resolve themselves into misrepresentation.
They all resolve themselves into attempts to turn the doctrine of Berkeley into ridicule, by ascribing to it the absurdities which would flow from a resolution not to believe in the testimony of our senses. That these absurdities do not, in the least degree result from the doctrine of Berkeley, is most certain. That they are ostentatiously ascribed to it by Dr. Reid is no less certain. And we are sorry to add, that after what he admits in a variety of places, it is impossible not to conclude, that he ascribed them, under a perfect knowledge that the imputation was undeserved.
This is one of those disingenuous artifices in which zeal will sometimes not scruple to indulge itself; but from which it is painful to find that a man of the intellectual and moral eminence of Dr. I break my nose against a post that comes in my way; I step into a dirty kennel; and after twenty such wise and rational actions, I am taken up and clapt into a mad-house. The order in which the feelings or ideas of the mind, some agreeable, some disagreeable, succeed one another, said Berkeley, is known to us.
It is in our power to a certain degree, to pursue the one, and avoid the other. If the feeling or idea of putting my finger to the flame of the candle takes place, I know that the painful feeling of burning will follow. I therefore avoid whatever may produce the feeling of putting my finger in the flame of the candle, knowing that it will be followed by a feeling acutely painful.
In like manner, the train of ideas ludicrously expressed by the terms running my nose against a post, I know will be followed Edition: current; Page: [ ] by a feeling of pain. I therefore do what I can to avoid that train of ideas. Upon the supposition that matter, that is, an unknown cause of our sensations, exists; it is still clear, that it is only the knowledge which an individual possesses of the order among his feelings, a knowledge that such of them are followed by such, that guides him in all his actions.
When a man is said to do something, call it running his nose against a post, or any thing else, what is the real state of the facts with regard to his mind? Is it any thing else than that there passes in it a certain train of feelings? With regard to the mind, is it not this train of feelings which really constitutes the act? But if this train of feelings, which you may call an act, if you please, is followed by pain, the man will endeavour to avoid this act, or this train of feelings.
The state of the mind, therefore, and its determinations, will be exactly the same, and for exactly the same reasons, whether the material world be, or be not, supposed to exist. We have now accomplished an object of no inconsiderable importance to the end which we have in view, a clear and succinct account of the speculations of Mr. Stewart; for we have exhibited, we trust, a pretty complete view of the state of the science, at the moment when he began to exert himself for its cultivation.
As a pupil of Dr. Reid, he appears to have imbibed with fondness the doctrines of his illustrious teacher; and in his different capacities of professor and author, has employed uncommon talents of persuasion, both as a speaker and as a writer, to clothe the ideas of his master in a seducing garb; to obviate objections; to clear away imperfections; and to add to the weight of evidence by new proofs and discoveries. The first volume of the work, to which our attention has now been called by the appearance of the second, was published so long ago as the year , and has passed through several editions.
In that publication, after a long introductory discourse on the nature, object, and utility of the philosophy of the human mind, the author treats of his subject under the following heads:—the powers of external perception, or the operations of sense; attention; conception, which is only distinguished from memory by not having a reference to anterior time; abstraction; the association of ideas; memory; and imagination.
On the greater part of this elegant volume, we shall have no occasion to offer any remarks; because the greater part of it is employed not in the disclosure of new ideas, nor in elucidating and enforcing the peculiar principles of the philosophy of Reid: but in training the youthful mind to reflect upon the different classes of mental phenomena, by exhibiting to view the principal facts, by warning his pupil of the more seducing errors, and putting him in possession of the most useful practical rules.
On the Edition: current; Page: [ ] subject of the memory and the imagination, this is in a peculiar manner the case. On the subject of abstraction, the author departs from the track of his master, Dr. Reid; and illustrates in a very happy and most instructive manner in the first place, the doctrine that abstraction consists in nothing but the assignment of general names,—that nothing in reality is abstract or general but the term, conceptions as well as objects being all particular; and in the next place, the purposes to which the powers of abstraction and generalization are subservient, the difference in the intellectual character of individuals arising from their different habits of abstraction and generalization, and the errors to which we are liable in speculation and the conduct of affairs, in consequence of a rash application of general principles.
In the chapters on conception and attention, some curious mental phenomena are more accurately described than by any preceding author; and in speaking of those phenomena, a more accurate use of language is at once recommended and illustrated. Nothing, however, under these heads, is so connected with any of the leading doctrines of the system which he espouses, as in this place to require any particular remark.
It is when he examines what he calls the powers of external perception, or the phenomena of sense, that he comes, in a more especial manner, upon the ground occupied by the characteristic principles of Reid. These controversies have, in truth, no peculiar connexion with the inquiries on which I am to enter. It is indeed only by an examination of the principles of our nature, that they can be brought to a satisfactory conclusion; but supposing them to remain undecided, our sceptical doubts concerning the certainty of human knowledge would no more affect the philosophy of the mind, than they would affect any of the branches of physics; nor would our doubts concerning even the existence of mind affect this branch of science, any more than the doubts of the Berkeleian, concerning the existence of matter, affect his opinions in natural philosophy.
Two things here are worthy of attention. The last is, that all our speculations relating to the phenomena both of sense and of consciousness, are precisely the same, whether we believe in the Edition: current; Page: [ ] existence or non-existence both of matter and of mind; and if our speculations, so also our actions, which have all a reference to one and the same end.
The next thing in this passage worthy of observation is, that he professes to abstain from the discussion of the questions, whether we have, or have not, evidence that matter or mind exists. In this declaration seems to be implied an admission, that the questions are by no means determined; because, if determined, it belonged to him to declare, and to make it appear that they were so. But if they are not determined, the principles of Reid are unfit to be depended upon; for, surely, if the principles of Reid are worthy of our confidence, a doubt cannot be entertained about the answer which these questions ought to receive.
If we really have an instinctive propensity to believe in the existence of matter and mind; and if such an instinctive propensity is a proper ground of belief, which two propositions constitute the fundamental principles of his system of philosophy, the question as to the existence of body and mind is for ever closed. If, however, an author who says he will abstain from a controversy, proceeds to take for granted all the propositions by means of which, if true, the controvery is determined on a particular side, he does by no means abstain from the controversy, he only abstains from all the difficulties of it.
Now, this error is very observable in the conduct of Mr. Stewart, by whom the truth of the above-mentioned principles of Dr. Reid is uniformly assumed. Indeed, it is an art of Mr. Stewart, not rarely exemplified, to get rid of difficulties by slipping away from them.
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It is, however, to the volume which has but recently appeared, and to which our attention is more particularly summoned, that he appears to have reserved the greater part of the observations which he had to make, upon the fundamental principles of that system of philosophy which he has espoused. In a preliminary dissertation, he explains the meaning to which, in the course of his speculations, he proposes to restrict the term, reason.
On some occasions, he remarks, it is used in a very extensive signification, to denote the exercise of all those faculties, intellectual and moral, which distinguish us from the brutes. At other times, it is confined to a very limited acceptation, to express no more than the power of ratiocination, or reasoning. For a man who on many occasions displays no ordinary proofs of metaphysical acumen, there is here a wonderful defect of logical distinctness. When Mr. Stewart speaks of the power of distinguishing truth from falsehood, does he mean the power of distinguishing it immediately, or the power of distinguishing it by the invention and application of media of proof?
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Again, when he tells us, that he is to consider the power by which we distinguish truth from falsehood, and combine means for the attainment of our ends; are we to understand that the power by which we distinguish truth from falsehood, and the power by which we combine means for the attainment of our ends, is one and the same power; or, in other words, that these are operations perfectly homogeneous? It is hardly possible to conceive that this should be his meaning: yet if it be not, how gross is the impropriety of uniting them under one title, and giving no where any indication of the diversities by which they are to be distinguished?
The power of combining means for our ends, is, we must say, after so formal an introduction, very disrespectfully treated; for not another word is said to her while she remains in company:—in plainer language, till the volume is closed. In point, then, of real fact, two particulars exhaust the subject of the book; and the author, if he had spoken the best and simplest language, would have said, that his object was to consider, what happens in the mind when it distinguishes truth from falsehood without any medium; and what happens in the mind when it discovers truth by means of a medium.
There is another remark, however, which we deem it of great importance to make. It might have been expected, after what Mr. Stewart has so instructively written about the nature of abstract, general terms, in the chapter on abstraction in his Edition: current; Page: [ ] former volume, that he should have understood something more about the nature of the general term truth, than to imagine that there could be any useful meaning in a proposition, indicative of an intention to inquire into the nature of the faculty which distinguishes truth.
We ask him what sorts of truth? Truths of smell? The faculty by which they are distinguished is the sense of smelling. Truths of light or colour? They are distinguished by the faculty of sight. Truth of what happened yesterday? That is distinguished by memory: and so we might proceed. In thus plainly expressing our criticisms on the work of an author, of whom the reputation is deservedly so high as that of Mr.
Stewart, and toward whom we are conscious of unfeigned respect, it might perhaps, be a sufficient apology to state, that in a work produced under the spur of the occasion, it would be unreasonable to expect that guarded phraseology which time and frequent revisal alone can ensure. It may, however, be proper still farther to declare, that, in our opinion, it is calculated to be of great benefit to the science, to which we are well assured that Mr.
Stewart would gladly sacrifice any personal feelings of his own, and of great benefit even to Mr. Stewart himself, that unfavourable criticisms, if just, should be unsparingly expressed; because the praises which Mr. Stewart has so much been accustomed to hear have led him to employ his great talents rather in adorning the conclusions to which he had already conducted himself, than examining them with that jealous and persevering severity, which alone, in such difficult inquiries, can ensure the detection of mistakes.
On the subject of truths, if we must speak of them in the mass, it is surely obvious to remark, that they may be distinguished into two great classes. Of these, the one is the class of particular truths; truths relating to all the individual existences, corporeal or mental, in the universe. The second is the class of general truths. Now all truths relating to particular corporeal existences, are made known to us by the senses.
All truths relating to particular mental existences, are made known to us by consciousness, or the interpretation of sensible signs. But particular existences are the only real existences in the universe. General existences there are none. Generalities are nothing but fictions, arbitrarily created by the human mind. Particular truths, then, are the only real truths. All general truths are merely fictions, of no use whatever, but to enable us to classify particular truths, to remember them, and to speak about them.
To recognize general truths is neither more nor less, if the doctrine of Mr.
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Stewart himself, concerning abstraction, be true, than to recognize the coincidence between one fiction of the human mind and another; or in other words, to recognize an Edition: current; Page: [ ] agreement in meaning between one form of expression and another. Into the illustration of this most important proposition, it must be seen to be impossible for us here to proceed. We cannot direct our readers to a better source of instruction than Mr.
Stewart himself, in the chapter on abstraction, to which we have so repeatedly referred. Stewart, to suppose that he places any essential distinction between arithmetical or algebraical deductions, and other species of general reasoning at large; only because these sciences are possessed of more commodious signs than ordinary language affords.
Indeed, upon turning to the chapter on abstraction, we find that Mr. The difference, in fact, between the investigations we carry on by its assistance, and other processes of reasoning, is more inconsiderable than is commonly imagined; and, if I am not mistaken, amounts only to this, that the former are expressed in an appropriate language, with which we are not accustomed to associate particular notions. Hence they exhibit the efficacy of signs as an instrument of thought, in a more distinct and palpable manner, than the speculations we carry on by words, which are continually awakening the power of conception.
Stewart, in all his remaining inquiries. In truth we are led to suspect, that Mr. Stewart arrived at his present opinions concerning abstraction, at a period pretty late in life, when his conclusions on the other parts of his subject Edition: current; Page: [ ] were already formed, and were committed to writing; and that the strength of his original associations permitted him not to discover the changes which an alteration in so fundamental a point required in the rest of his speculations. We may now, then, draw together the conclusions at which which we seem to have arrived.
If all truths are either particular or general, the powers by which we recognize and discover truth—about which Mr. Stewart writes with such an air of mystery, and which, after many pages of high sounding disquisition, he leaves unexplained—are tolerably obvious and familiar. With regard to all individual, that is, all real existences, the faculties by which we discover what in this case we mean by truth, are the senses and consciousness.
With regard to all general propositions, the faculty of discovering what in this case is meant by truth is merely the faculty by which we trace the meaning of words. Having thus seen by what course Mr. Stewart might very easily have arrived at the goal at which he professedly aimed, let us next contemplate as briefly as our limits constrain us, the course which he has actually pursued.
The third chapter treats of the Aristotelian logic, that is, a more instrument of ratiocination; in propriety of arrangement, therefore, this chapter ought to have formed only a section of the former. The fourth and last chapter treats of the inductive logic, or the method of inquiry, pursued in the experimental philosophy. Attending to the nature of the subject, we shall perceive, that he thus treats in the first chapter, of what has been called the intuitive, or immediate recognition of truth; and in the three last, of its discovery by the intervention of proof, in which there are distinguishable two modes, the ratiocinative and inductive.
It is to be observed that it is general, in other words, verbal propositions and reasonings, what the author has in view thoughout almost the whole of this voluminous inquiry; and that he endeavours to explain what takes place in the mind, without adverting except casually, and in such a manner as by no means to give a turn to the current of his thoughts to his own doctrine, that all affirmation and all reasoning in general terms, are only recognizing, or tracing the connection between, different expressions of the same thing.
Stewart endeavours to establish in the second chapter. To this account, we fear, it will not be in our power to advert, however desirous we may be to develope some fundamental error which it appears to us to involve. We shall therefore postpone any remarks which we may have to offer on what Mr. Stewart advances on the subject of axioms, till we see whether we can find room for any of our criticisms on the subsequent disquisition, to which his observations on axioms more immediately refer.
We are anxious, therefore, to discover, whether he has brought any new lights to aid in showing that they are entitled to govern our belief; or whether he has left that important point as destitute of proof as he received it from Reid; and hence the scepticism of Berkeley and Hume as little provided, even at this day, with an antidote, as it was at the time of its first publication. He begins with mind—belief in the existence of mind. He allows that mind is not an object of consciousness.
Whence then is this belief—belief in the existence of mind, and belief in our personal identity, derived? Indeed it is impossible to conceive either an intellectual or active being to exist without it. From belief in the existence of mind, and belief of personal identity, where Mr. If Mr. Stewart has adduced any evidence to establish the belief of these truths, we may venture to affirm without dreading contradiction, that it is all included, to the last item, in the quotations which the last two paragraphs present.
To talk of one act of consciousness as involved, that is, wrapt up in another, having another rolled round it, we cannot help regarding as that sort of jargon which an ingenious man uses only when he is placed in that unhappy situation in which he still clings to a favourite notion, without having any thing plausible to adduce in its defence. If he had affirmed that the belief of the existence of mind and of personal identity is conjoined with every act of consciousness, that is, immediately precedes, or immediately follows it, we should at least have conceived what he meant.
And all which then would have remained for us to do, would have been to ask him for the proof of his assertion. We may suppose that this is the meaning of the ill-timed metaphor; because, as far as we are able to discover, it is the only intelligible meaning which can be assigned to it, and we do ask, what evidence of the assertion Mr. Stewart has adduced? The answer is, that he has adduced none whatsoever. He has added his ipse dixit to that of Dr. Reid; and upon that foundation, as far as they are concerned, the matter rests.
In truth, the language of Mr. Stewart is far more unguarded and exceptionable, than that of Dr. That philosopher only affirmed that we had the belief, without affirming that it accompanied every mental operation, which we apprehend is by no means the fact. If we interpret justly what we are conscious of in ourselves, the operations of the mind, in their ordinary and habitual train, have no such accompaniment; and we never think of the existence of our mind and our personal identity, but when some particular occasion suggests it as an object of reflection. What then shall we say of the belief in the existence of body and mind?
Is that a power? Or is it any thing more than one particular act of power, the power of believing? But what kind of a proposition is that which affirms, that a particular act of one power enters into the composition of another power? It is, therefore, only one of the garbs in which ipse dixit enrobes itself. But when we are in the search of reasons, ipse dixit is far from an advantage; and the more ingenious the colours in which it clothes itself, the evil is still the greater.
According to the terms of the question, the existence of such a being is the very point to be proved. The curious circumstance is, that on the preceding page, Mr. The phrase however is, on other grounds, highly objectionable. There is even a species of absurdity in calling a truth a law of belief.
A truth is an object of belief. An object of belief cannot be a law. It may be agreeable Edition: current; Page: [ ] to a law of the human mind that such or such a truth should be an object of belief. Stewart means that it is agreeable to any law of the human mind that the supposed truths in question should be objects of belief, let him point it out; and then he will have accomplished what we earnestly call upon him to accomplish; for what Mr.
Hume pretends to have demonstrated is, that the belief of these truths can be referred to none of the acknowledged laws of the human mind; and Mr. Stewart and Dr. Reid by evading his challenge so palpably, while they have so ostentatiously pretended to a victory, instead of weakening, have rather contributed to strengthen the foundations of his scepticism. It does not follow that, because men have very generally, or even universally, believed any particular proposition, that therefore it is agreeable to any law of the human mind to believe it; for it is surely very incident to men to agree in believing errors.
Yet this is the only medium of proof, to which these philosophers have so much as pretended to appeal. Because men have always believed in these propositions, it is agreeable, they affirm, to a law of the human mind to believe them; though all the acknowledged laws of the human mind relating to belief, have, one or the other, been examined before them; and though it has been proved to their avowed satisfaction, that the belief in question can be referred to none of them.
For one thing we may justly blame Mr. Why has he not given us a list of the laws of the human mind? This, as the author of a work on the philosophy of the human mind, was his appropriate duty; the proper scope and aim of his undertaking. If the science be not yet far enough advanced to enable the speculator to produce a list which he can present as complete, it would still be of great importance to exhibit all those which may be regarded as ascertained; with respect to the rest leaving the field open for future inquiry.
Had this been done, and had the belief of the propositions to which we allude, been referred to any particular item, in the list, the question would at any rate have been put in a clear and tangible shape; and there would have been no delusion practised in the case. Upon the principles of Mr. Stewart, if he would only reason from them correctly, we think it would not be a very tedious or difficult process to arrive at a decision.
There are only two classes of truths; one of particular truths; the other of general truths. With regard to particular truths, there is no dispute whatsoever. They are all referable to the senses and consciousness. But matter, as both Dr. Reid and Mr. Stewart allow, is not an object of sense, nor is mind an object of consciousness. Excepting sense and consciousness, however, which are occupied about particular truths, we have no intellectual faculties but those which Edition: current; Page: [ ] are occupied about general truths.
But we have already seen, that the only real truths with which we are acquainted are particular truths. General truths are merely fictions of the human mind, contrived to assist us in remembering and speaking about particular truths. According to Mr. It shows how little Mr. Stewart is in the habit of examining the foundations of any of his pre-conceived opinions, to find him still repeating the assertion of Dr. Reid, that the conclusions of Berkeley with regard to the evidence of the existence of matter rest entirely upon the ideal theory, and fall with that theory to the ground.
This is completely erroneous. They do not rest upon the ideal theory in the smallest degree, nor upon any theory. They rest upon nothing but the acknowledged fact, that the mind is conscious of nothing but its own feelings, and that there is no legitimate inference, as he pretends, from any thing within the mind, to the existence of matter. Reid most explicitly allows that there is no inference, on the ground either of reason or experience.
And we believe it, he says, only because we have an instinctive propensity to believe it. Notwithstanding the importance to which the power of instinct has thus been raised, as an importance which places it not merely on a level with reason, which may err, but far above reason, because it cannot err; an importance in short, which constitutes it the master and despot over reason, whose suggestions must all bend to its magisterial decisions, while they themselves remain unquestionable, it is to be remarked as a curious circumstance, that this class of philosophers have avoided to give us any systematic and detailed account of this instinct, which, as they allow, in so many words, we have in common with the brutes.
It would have been of admirable use toward the solution of the serious difficulties, which, notwithstanding their hold assumptions, still crowd about the subject, had they given us a description, logically exact, of the field of action of this extraordinary power, to which they ascribe such new and wonderful effects; or, to describe more exactly what we mean, had they presented a complete enumeration, skilfully arranged, of its acts, and endeavoured to point out their most important relations.
As their doctrine stands at present, we desire to knew wherein the ascription of a mental phenomenon to instinct really differs from the old and exploded ascription of physical phenomena to occult qualities. This instinct, or, as they like better to call it, this law of the mind, or this element of the reason, is distinguished by all the characteristic properties of an occult quality, and answers all the Edition: current; Page: [ ] same purposes in their writings, which the occult qualities of the schoolmen answered in theirs.
We have willingly pursued our remarks to some extent upon this particular topic, both because the doctrines relating to it form the characteristic feature of what is called the Scottish school, and because it is, in fact, by far the most important point of view in which their speculations can be regarded. An alarming system of scepticism was raised. The sect of philosophers in question erect a fortification against it, of which they loudly boast, as if it were impregnable.
Their lofty pretensions deceive mankind, and prevent the anxiety which would otherwise be felt not to have a danger without a remedy. In the mean time this fortification of theirs is so little calculated to answer its purpose, that it has not strength to resist the slightest attack. It is highly important that the learned world should begin to be aware of this; and that new attempts should be speedily made to provide a real, instead of an apparent antidote to the subtle and perplexing principles of modern scepticism.
We may rest assured that, if not answered, the fashion of them will one day revive. The wonder would be, had not the world been in such a state, that they should have remained without notice, and without influence, so long. On the other topics which furnish the subjects of Mr. From considering mathematical axioms, and instinctive principles, he proceeds to reasoning, by which, in fact, he means, the passing from one proposition to another, by means of intermediate steps; that species of discourse, which may be resolved into a series of syllogisms.
On the peculiar distinctions, however, of this class of operations he does not long remain. He departs to the consideration of mathematical demonstration, on which he conceives that he had new light of great importance to throw. His deductions do not appear to us of the same value as they did to himself: and we are sorry at being obliged to throw out an unfavourable idea, where we are precluded in a great measure from giving the reasons by which it is supported. Mathematical reasoning, Mr. Stewart informs us, is altogether founded upon hypothesis, namely the definitions of the figures, the properties of which are deduced.
This he represents as a highly important discovery which he has made. And it is a property, he thinks, by which mathematical is remarkably distinguished from all other reasoning. To this conclusion, it appears to us, that Mr. Stewart has been led, by a forgetfulness, to which he is very liable, of his own doctrine respecting abstraction and general Edition: current; Page: [ ] terms.
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According to that doctrine all general reasoning is hypothetical, that is, proceeds upon hypotheses or fictions of the mind, just as much as mathematical reasoning; and even the differences which he so ostentatiously displays between mathematical and other general reasoning all resolve themselves into the greater imperfections of ordinary language. We are sorry to be obliged, in this place, to content ourselves with assertion; but we do not conceive it would be difficult to prove what we have asserted, had we left ourselves room. From the chapter on the Aristotelian logic we are reluctantly compelled entirely to abstain; not that the observations appear to us to be exempt from error; but as, even where just they are not very important, nor where they are mistaken can far mislead, the demand for criticism on them is the less urgent.
The fourth, or concluding chapter is in no ordinary degree instructive. It is on the method of inquiry pursued in the experimental or inductive philosophy. On this subject, none of the peculiar doctrines of Mr. He has formed very just and enlightened views on the real business of philosophy, and expresses them with that beauty and eloquence for which he is so remarkable.
Stewart has not performed what still remains to be performed, and what it would be so eminently useful to have peformed; he has not exhibited an accurate map of the inductive process, and still less has he given, what is yet so great a desideratum in logic, a complete system of rules, as complete, for example, as those which Aristotle provided for the business of syllogistic reasoning, to direct the inquirer in the great business of interpreting nature, and adding to the stock of human instruments and powers.
He has contented himself with some general observations, with some remarks on the distinction between experience and analogy, on the use and abuse of hypotheses, which may be very serviceably employed as anticipations for planning a train of experiments; he has also inserted some observations on the words induction and analogy as used in mathematics, and on certain misapplications of the words experience and induction in the phraseology of modern science, more especially those applications in politics, where the word experience, so often expressive of a single fact ill understood, is employed to discredit, under the term theory, conclusions founded upon the most enlarged induction; and finally he proceeds to a train of reflections on the speculation concerning final causes.
On this concluding topic he has come out with opinions which lead to consequences so important that, great as is the length to which we have already extended this article, we cannot forbear giving hints at least of a few objections to which they appear to us to lie exposed. Before proceeding to these criticisms, we Edition: current; Page: [ ] may, however remark, that Mr. The study of final causes bears a reference to that part of his subject in which the mention of it is here introduced, only in so far as it may occasionally serve as a guide in the investigation of physical laws; and he shows, by several well chosen instances, that the consideration of the uses to which things may be subservient, has not unfrequently led to important discoveries.
He observes, accordingly, that philosophers have run into two opposite errors. In the first place, they have been led astray from the consideration of physical or efficient causes, by the search after final causes, in which, after discovery of them, they have rested, as a satisfactory account of the phenomenon the cause of which it was their intention to explore. In the second place, other philosophers, among whom particularly Des Cartes, and the majority of French philosophers, may be enumerated, observing the error of the first mentioned class of inquirers, have entirely discarded final causes from the field of philosophical inquiry.
The truth, however, is that all the caution which on this head it was necessary for any body to receive was so very slight, and the words necessary to convey it were so very few, that it requires the supposition of another motive to account for a whole section, consisting of two parts assigned to the doctrine of final causes, in a chapter appropriated to the explanation of the experimental or inductive mode of philosophizing.
Accordingly we find, that the author has taken this opportunity of producing to us a part of his opinions, on the two great subjects of morality, and the fundamental principle of natural religion. Those inquirers into the subject of ethics, who have referred the origin of moral distinctions to the perception of utility, have confounded, he says, the final with the efficient cause.
Because all the virtues may be useful, it by no means follows that they were originally recommended by their utility. If we proceed to inquire, What, then, is it, by which they are thus recommended? Stewart does not speak very explicitly; but if his language means any thing at all, it means only this, that we must betake ourselves, once more, to the never-failing resource of instinct. Edition: current; Page: [ ] Here indeed Mr.
Stewart does not call it instinct. He has inspired societies, conferences, journals, and countless dissertations; the Benjamin name has become a brand. This political Benjamin is not new, but for the first time it is the key to a wide range of his activities, from the critical to the theological, philosophical, and literary. The richly detailed narrative of a life proves as satisfying for theoreticians as for historians. Benjamin was an interdisciplinary thinker. Theory was never far from practice, and his analysis of culture was never distant from a certain philosophy of life.
Linking his theory of life, politics, and a critical reading of culture was that Benjaminian concept of intensity, clear in his reading of the classics, in his political analysis, and even in contemporary descriptions of his gestures. Involvement with the conservative revolutionaries Ludwig Klages, Carl Schmitt, and other thinkers associated with Stefan George would leave a deep impression on his thinking about life and politics. As important to him were the distinctively religious anarchism of Gershom Scholem and the anarchic view of Franz Kafka.
Benjamin, the authors show, engaged with the political philosophy of his day from an antiliberal, anti-Kantian perspective Rather than fall back on the familiar opposition of left and right wing, Benjamin asked what mechanism enabled the opposition. He then proposed a different contrast, between a self-serving, conservative impulse of retaining an existing order and a revolutionary drive to create a new world.
Toward the middle of the s, Benjamin reacted to the growing Fascist movements by cleaving more closely to Marxist Socialism. Although he never held an academic position, the biography claims that this did not hinder his rise to prominence as a literary and cultural critic during the second half of the s These various awakenings were by and large political.
During the s the rise of fascism and his own sexual turmoil cast Benjamin onto heavier issues; he was forced to consider leaving his wife and his adopted country. Heidegger is repeatedly used as a foil in the biography, as the authors show that in spite of a shared opposition to Kant the two thinkers sat on opposite sides of the basic political and intellectual divides of the day.