Page images

coexists with the thought, and is manifested in it. The consciousness that “ I think,” necessarily implies my own existence, and the mode of that existence. It affirms three things, my own being, the reality of the thought, and the connexion between these two existences by the relation of substance and phenomenon. The latter affirmation is quite as clear and positive as the two preceding. The thought is perceived to be personal, to be mine, to be at the moment the phasis of my own being. Cousin contradicts this assertion, and thus attempts to establish the infallibility of a faculty by denying one of its first dictates.

We observe further, that the doctrine, if established, would be profitless for Cousin's purpose. A belief, that is in its own pature absolute and imperative, acquires no additional force from the knowledge that it was imparted to us by an independent agent. It must stand or fall by its intrinsic strength, the question respecting its origin being one of pure curiosity. What is received upon authority may be deceptive, as well as what is acquired by our own researches. The arguments of the skeptic, which, on the common hypothesis, are directed against the trustworthiness of our cognitive faculties, upon this theory would be turned against the truthfulness of the source of inspiration, and we do not see why they would not be as valid in the one case as in the other. Let any one ask himself, if his conviction of the truth of any proposition in Euclid would be increased by the discovery, that the theorem was made known to him by special or general inspiration. Let him ask further, if any fruits of admitted inspiration could be entertained for a moment, if they were found to contradict the first principles of natural and personal belief. Then it must be admitted, that the genesis of principles has no effect on their validity, and that the doctrine we are considering is not only destitute of foundation, but nugatory in its results.

Other peculiarities of Cousin's philosophical system will come into notice in examining his celebrated review of Locke, a work on which his reputation for acuteness, accuracy, and sound reasoning mainly depends. An English critic of high authority has pronounced it “the most important work on Locke since the Nouveaux Essais of Leibnitz.” The lectures which Cousin delivered at Paris in 1829 were intended to give a general history of the philosophy of the eighteenth century ; but nearly half the course was devoted to this critical examination of the “ Essay on Human Understanding, which has attracted much attention in Europe, and ihe translation of which has already passed to a second edition in this country. The plan and execution of the criticism place it certainly far above the writer's other publications. There is less rhetoric and more logic in it than he usually employs ; the style is more compressed, and opinions are stated with greater precision. Great candor is manisested through the whole examination, and though the misrepresentations of Locke, as we shall have occasion to show, are frequent, they do not appear intentional.

It is no easy task to criticize fairly a writer who lived a century ago, and occupied himself with a science so shifting in its phraseology and Auctuating in its aspect, as the philosophy of intellect. The subject is contemplated by the original writer and the critic from very different points of view, the parts are differently distributed, the nomenclature is not the same, and changes in the mode of statement are mistaken for contrarieties of opinion. The sense in which a particular doctrine is affirmed or denied must be gathered from contemporary writers, and a careful examination of the ends which the subject of criticism had in view. From inattention to these requisites, Cousin's estimate of Locke's merits as a philosopher does not seem to us to possess even tolerable correctness. He has not carried his mind back to the period when the “Essay" was written, nor judged of its leading doctrines in reference to the opinions which called them forth, and which they were designed to resute. But he has brought the work down to the present day, and applying to it the standard which belongs to another school, has found nothing but variety and opposition, where there was frequently coincidence, and even identity, of doctrine. He has stretched Locke upon the Procrustes bed of modern German philosophy, and then proceeded to lop off a joint here and extend a member there, when a little care and management would bave shown, that between the recumbent figure and the couch there was no such vast disproportion after all. Wherever differences of opinion, that cannot be reconciled, actually exist, we apprehend that Locke will be found in the right quite as often as his antagonist. But of such differences we say nothing for the present. Our point now is, to show that Cousin has often

misunderstood Locke, and censured bim for holding opinions which were never present to his mind, and which he would not have avowed under


circumstances. What was Locke's chief purpose in writing the greater part of his celebrated Essay? To confute the Cartesian doctrine of Innate Ideas. What is the leading object of Cousin's lectures ? To controvert that French system of philosophy, which traces all knowledge to sensation. The former argues, that the hypothesis of innate ideas is unnecessary, if it can be shown, that the mind possesses means or faculties through which, by experience, (that is, by use of these faculties, it can attain all the knowledge which it is found to possess. His point is proved, if it be made to appear, that all knowledge comes after experience ; for then the doctrine, that ideas exist in the mind antecedent to any use of the faculties, falls to the ground. The end which Locke proposed to himself is fully enunciated in the dictum of Kant, “ hat all knowledge begins with experience.” Cousin's object is to identify the doctrines of Locke with those of the French Sensualists, to whip them over his back. The system which is really confuted in these lectures is that of Condillac, the pages of Locke being searched for those expressions and forms of statement which seem to convey opinions most favorable to the Sensual theory. Unluckily, the loose and inaccurate language and endless repetitions, which Locke employs, too frequently favor this proceeding. Amid the

Amid the many dissimilar doctrines which may be extracted from the contradictory passages and careless statements of the “ Essay on Human Understanding," fairness requires us to select those, as conveying the real opinions of the writer, which conform most nearly to the end which he had in view. We have shown, that ibis end is attained by giving that interpretation to Locke's language, which makes it convey a doctrine, that is expressly sanctioned by Kant and Cousin himself.

Locke ascribes the origin or beginning of our knowledge to the two faculties of Sensation and Reflection. Sometimes he appears to maintain, that all our ideas proceed from these sources; then again bis language implies, that our knowledge comes through these faculties, or is first manifested on occasion of their exercise. Instances of the former mode of expressing the doctrine are cited in sufficient number by Cousin. As examples falling under the second class, take the following extracts, which may be multiplied at pleasure.




There are some (ideas) that make themselves way and are suggested to the mind by all the ways of sensation and reflec

Book 2. Chap. iii. $ 1. “Existence and unity are two other ideas, that are suggested to the understanding by every object without and every idea within."

- Book 2. Chap. vii. $7. " By observing what passes in our minds, how our ideas there in train constantly some vanish, and others begin to appear, come by the idea of succession.” Book 2. Chap. xiv. $31.

Among all the ideas we have, as there is none suggested to the mind by more ways, so there is none more simple than that of unity, or one. Book 2. Chap. xvi. $ 1.

“ Being capable of no other simple ideas, belonging to any thing but body, but those which by reflection we receive from the operation of our mind, we can attribute to spirits no other but what we receive from thence.” — Book 2. Chap. xxiii. $36.

The language in this last extract is strictly precise and accurate, for reflection is represented in its true function, as the vehicle, not the source, of the knowledge which it is said to communicate. In the other extracts the same doctrine is conveyed, though in phraseology not equally clear ; the act of reflection or sensation suggests the idea, but does not impart it; in other words, the act marks the occasion on which the knowledge is developed. We believe this statement conveys Locke's real opinion, in spite of the unguarded language so frequently used throughout the Essay. He intended to mark the chronological, not the logical, succession of our ideas, intentionally passing over the latter branch of the inquiry, as the consideration of it was unnecessary for the accomplishment of his chief purpose, — the refutation of Descartes. His theory interpreted in this manner, when tried by the standard of our modern philosophy, appears correct as far as it goes. Indeed, bis doctrine respecting the functions of sensation and reflection, representing them as the only avenues of intelligence, is not merely the only true, but the only possible, description of the beginning of knowledge. The two worlds of matter and mind are the only objects of human cognition. We can know the former only by the agency of that faculty which, - whether it be a simple or a compound activity, whether it afford results that are pure, or those only which are colored and modified by the constitution of the recipient, -- is always denominated sensation. We learn the phenomena of mind only through that power, - call it reflection, consciousness, or what you please, - through which the thinking subject takes cognizance of self.

In criticizing this account of the origin of the ideas, Cousin objects “ that Locke evidently consounds reflection with consciousness. Reflection, in strict language, is undoubtedly a faculty analogous to consciousness, but distinct from it, and pertains more particularly to the philosopher, while consciousness pertains to every man as an intellectual being.” It would be quite as well to show that the two things are really distinct, before blaming Locke for consounding them. On this point, it seems plain 10 us, that Locke is right and his critic is wrong.

The distinction usually stated between consciousness and reflection is, that the former is the immediate witness, while the latter is the reviewer, of the operations of mind ; mental phenomena as they rise are taken notice of by the one, while they must be recalled or presented anew before they are subject to the inspection of the other. Taken in this sense, we deny that there is any such thing as immediate and active consciousness distinct from the mental act. A cognition and the consciousness of that cognition are one and the same thing. A single perception is simple and indivisible ; it cannot be analyzed into a fact and the consciousness of that fact, for the event itself being an act of knowing, it does not exist, if it be not known to exist. In one act of perception there is but one object, the thing perceived ; while the hypothesis of a distinct and independent consciousness requires two, - the thing perceived, and the object of the consciousness, which is the perception itself. There is this further absurdity in the doctrine in question, that it requires every cognitive act to be followed by an infinite series of repetitions of itself ; I am conscious, first of the original thought, and then of that act of consciousness, and so on for ever. The truth seems to be, that whenever we are occupied with any subject of investigation, except the operations of our own minds, the current of thought runs on unchecked, the attention being wholly fastened on the object of study, and the relation between the successive ideas and the thinking person, the me, never attracting our notice. In such a state, of which the condition of a person absorbed in mathematical studies may be taken as an example, there is, properly speaking, neither reflection nor consciousness.

VOL. LIII. — No. 112. 3

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »