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In Cousin's bold reduction of the elements of reason, the ideas of unity, substance, cause, identity, eternity, &c. are all identified as various forms of the Infinite ; while the correlative ideas of multiplicity, phenomenon, effect, diversity, and time are regarded as modifications of the Finite. These ideas of the Infinite and the Finite, and the relation between them, constitute the three ultimate elements of reason, beyond which the force of analysis can no further go. It is difficult to imagine on what principle this bold effort of generalization proceeds. Our idea of unity is not one and the same with that of cause, nor is substance identical with eternity ; nor is the idea of infinity, whether considered as the mere negation of limit, or as a positive and independent conception, necessarily predicated' of either.
The consideration of an object as one or many is very different from the view of it as active or passive, or as finite or infinite. When Cousin, therefore, ranks together all terms of the first class as infinite, and all those of the second as finite, it cannot be because the relation of sameness exists between them, in spite of apparent diversity. The diversity is real, is essential, and moreover is so apparent and striking, that it cannot be blinked out of view, or hidden by a mist of words. IL saute aux yeux.
The principles which led to this bold grouping together of dissimilar ideas, and the arguments by which it is supported, are nowhere stated in Cousin's published writings, though he affirms, that they are developed at length in some academical prelections, which as yet have not seen the light. Here is one instance of the evil effects of publishing a system piecemeal, that the reader is perplexed by broad and confident statements, which he has no means of investigating, but must accept or reject on the unsupported authority of the writer.
The most profound problem of speculative philosophy, the one which necessarily occupies the front rank in all metaphysical systems, relates to the certainty of human knowledge. How do we know, that things are what they appear ? How do we effect a passage from the percipient mind to the existence of things in themselves ? The skeptic affirms, that the mind is directly conscious only of its own operations, and that the assumption of an order of being, which exists independently of the thoughts in which it is portrayed, is entirely gratuitous and improper. He even goes further, and, on the
ground of the feeting and successive character of all mental representations, denies the existence of the thinking subject, and thus leaves nothing remaining of creation but a crowd of ideas, that succeed each other without order, self-direction, or purpose. It is true, that human nature corrects this extravagant Pyrrhonism, and compels the skeptic in his daily conduct to give the lie to his forced opinions. But the philosopher is not content with this summary treatment of the difficulty, and with restless curiosity seeks for the reasons, on which this decisive verdict of nature is based. The various modes of solving this problem amount to little more than attempts to substantiate knowledge which is admitted to be intuitive, or in other words, to find arguments wherewith to establish those principles, which, ex hypothesi, cannot rest upon argument. No wonder, therefore, that the results of the speculation in every case should be vague and profitless.
The solution of the difficulty here referred to forms the most original and characteristic doctrine in the system of Cousin. He seeks to give higher authority to the principle of intuitive belief, by maintaining that the faculty of Pure Reason is impersonal, and that its dictates ought therefore to be received as the fruits of actual inspiration. According to this theory, personality belongs only to the will, and since belief is independent of volition, truth is universal and imperative, and the individual mind is only the organ, through which it is manifested to consciousness. 66 Truth itself is absolute, and what we call Reason is truly distinct from ourselves.” If this faculty were individual and personal, it is argued, it would also be voluntary and free, and we should be able to control its acts in the same way that we determine our particular volitions. But the axioms of mathematics and the first principles of morals are necessary apprehensions, and the being who receives them knows, that all other persons must submit to the same convictions. All truths of this class, therefore, cannot be individual, cannot be human. The faith which we have in them is not grounded on our own strength, but rests on authority that cannot be evaded or denied.
But here the objection immediately presents itself, that human reason is not infallible, but is subject to constant aberrations, the reality of which is proved by the very errors, for the refutation of which this theory is propounded. Cousin replies, that as truth in itself is independent of personal conVOL. LII. — NO. 112.
viction, so the Reason in itself is independent of man in whom it appears. In him it is obscured and perverted by the personal attributes, in connexion with which it exists; it is thwarted by the passions, and clouded by the imagination. To obtain its incorrupted dictates, we must distinguish between its original and secondary condition, between its spontaneous developement and its exercise as watched and livnited by reflection. The latter faculty cannot perform its functions until objects are furnished to it by the primitive action of inind. These objects are the great truths, lying at the basis of all intellectual operations, which are at first perceived in a confused, though vivid manner, and which compel belief, almost before they are subject to attention; certainly, before they are examined. The child does not doubt, he believes; and the objects of his belief, commanding instant and unhesitating submission, are the fruits of real inspiration. These "immediate illuminations of the reason,
as Cousin styles them, are soon confused and colored with ideas borrowed from the senses and the affections, and then comes the hard task of reflection to decompose the compound thus formed, and to gather up again the primitive and pure elements of inspired truth. Thus is vindicated the authority which reason exerts in breaking through the meshes of skepticism, and in establishing the unhesitating faith of childhood on a firmer basis, than that which supports the surest deductions of science.
We have followed Cousin's own phraseology here as nearly as possible without finding room for copious extracts. It will be seen, when closely examined, that the language is wavering and inconsistent to the last degree, like that of a person who has not yet made up bis own mind upon the theory, which he designs to promulgate. At one time, it is only the product of pure reason, the intuitive belief itself, which is not obtained by our own effort, but dawns upon us from a higher source. Then again, and more frequently, it is the faculty itself which is not our own, but assumes the character of an independent and decisive witness. In this latter sense, the doctrine, when stripped of the mist of words that encompass it, is wholly devoid of meaning. Define Reason as we may, separate its operations by whatever line from those of the understanding, it is still a mental faculty, or a peculiar manner of apprehending truth. Now, the thinking principle is one, and its modes of action, though separately considered for convenience and classification, and marked out with distinct appellations as various faculties, are only different pbases of one subject viewed at successive times and acting under dissimilar circumstances. That I have one faculty of memory, and another of judgment, is a phrase which means nothing more, than that I am able both to remember and to judge. Hence, the assertion that a mental faculty is impersonal and does not belong to us, is a contradiction in terms ; in the same breath it both affirms and denies, that the mind bas the power of acting in a particular way. Either the mind is capable of apprehending primitive truths, or it is not; in the former case, we are said to have the power or faculty of apprehending them; in the latter, these truths for us have no existence. To raise a question, therefore, about the ownership of a faculty, whether it is ours or somebody's else, is to deal in nonsense.
Cousin argues, that Reason is not personal, because its action is not voluntary, or subject to our control. Carry out this argument, and it will follow, that the greater part of the phenomena of mind is not personal, — does not belong to the thinking subject. All emotion is involuntary ; all sensation the same. But are not our individual pleasures and pains our own possessions, - personal in the strictest sense of the word? Is not the power of receiving these pleasures our own faculty, affected by our states of being and modes of action, sharpened by exercise and blunted by neglect? In truth, Cousin boldly identifies personality with activity, and then, as intellect is necessarily distinguished from will, he draws the necessary inference, that the whole cognitive faculty is impersonal. 6. Who ever said,” he asks, “ my truth, or your truth?” He forgets that error, no less than truth, is frequently the product of mental action, and certainly nothing is more individual, more personal, than mistaken perceptions and false deductions. The unseen power which, on his principles, kindly performs for us those actions once deemed to be our own, as frequently leads us wrong as right ; the light which leads astray is equally a light from heaven. That we may not be accused of misrepresenting the opinions of Cousin in this particular, we quote a passage in which he denies the personality of sensation, as well as of reason.
"Sensible facts are necessary.
We do not impute them to ourselves. Rational facts are also necessary; and reason is no less independent of the will than sensibility. Voluntary facts alone are marked in the view of consciousness with the characteristics of personality and responsibility. The will alone is the person or the me. The me is the centre of the intellectual sphere. So long as the me does not exist, the conditions of the existence of all the other phenomena might be in force, but, without relation to the me, they would not be reflected in the consciousness, and would be for it as though they were not. On the other hand, the will creates none of the rational and sensible phenomena ; it even supposes them, since it does not apprehend itself, except in distinction from them. We do not find ourselves, except in a foreign world, between two orders of phenomena which do not pertain to us, which we do not even perceive, except on condition of separating ourselves from them.” — Ripley's Philosophical Miscellanies, Vol. 1. p. 124.
Here is a clear avowal then, that the whole action of mind, where uncontrolled by the will, takes place by a foreign power, and is therefore wrongly ascribed to the ihinking person. The fallacies of reasoning, as well as the intuitive perception of truth, the successive acts of sensation, with the inferences, sometimes correct and sometimes erroneous, that are founded upon them, and the emotions with which they are accompanied, — are all the promptings of an agent, whose existence is independent of our own. The distinction between the spontaneous and the reflective reason is here of no avail, for it is not the secondary act which obscures and perverts the primitive perception, but the original sensations themselves which are the causes of errors, that are subsequently rectified by the judgment. What grounds of confidence have we, then, for the passage from psychology to ontology, to facilitate which the whole theory was contrived, when the independent and impersonal agent, who was to help us over the difficulty, is the convicted cause of all the blunders and fallacies, to which human intellect is liable ?
But it is a waste of time to go about controverting a theory, which contradicts itself at the first step. The familiar fact, to which Descartes appealed when seeking for proof of his own existence, is enough to place this contradiction in a clear light. Every act of consciousness is accompanied with the immediate and irresistible conviction, that the thinking subject