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he says :
proper to observe," says Sir W. Hamil- Hamilton. Speaking of our knowledge ton, that had we faculties equal in of matter,
It is a name for number to all the possible modes of ex- something known-for that which apistence, whether of mind or matter, still pears to us under the forms of extenwould our knowledge of mind or matter sion, solidity, divisibility, figure, mobe only relative. If material existence tion, roughness, smoothness, color, heat, could exhibit ten thousand phenomena- cold," etc. But,” he goes on to say, if we possessed ten thousand senses to " as these phenomena appear only in apprehend these ten thousand phenome- conjunction, we are compelled by the na of material existence, of existence constitution of our nature to think them absolutely and in itself we should then conjoined in and by something; and as be as ignorant as we are at present.' they are phenomena, we cannot think The conception here is that there is them the phenomena of nothing, but something to be known about things in must regard them as the properties or which they are not presented as in any qualities of something that is extended, relation to anything else. It affirms figured, etc. But this something abthat there are certain ultimate entities solutely and in itself—i.l., considered in nature to which all phenomena are apart from its phenomena—is to us as due, and yet which can be thought of Zero. It is only in its qualities, only in as having no relation to these phenom- its effects, in its relative or phenomenal ena, or to ourselves, or to any other ex- existence, that it is cognizable or conistence whatever. Now, as the very ceivable ; and it is only by a law of idea of knowledge consists in the per- thought which compels us to think someception of relations, this affirmation is, thing absolute and unknown, as the in the purest sense of the word, non- basis or condition of the relative and sense, that is to say, it is a series of known, that this something obtains a words which have either no meaning at kind of incomprehensible reality to us. all or a meaning which is self-contradic- The argument here is that because phetoryIt belongs to the class of propo- nomena are and must be the “propersitions which throw just discredit on ties or qualities of something else,” metaphysics--mere verbal propositions, therefore we are compelled to think" pretending to deal with conceptions of that something as having an existence which are no conceptions at all, but separable from any relation to its own empty sounds. The unconditioned, , qualities and properties, and that this we are told, “is unthinkable ;''. but something acquires from this reasoning words which are unthinkable had better a "kind of incomprehensible reality !” be also unspeakable, or at least There is no such law of thought. There spoken. It is altogether untrue that we is no such necessity of thinking nonsense are compelled to believe in the existence as is here alleged. All that we are comof anything which is "unconditioned”- pelled to think is that the ultimate conin matter with no qualities—in minds stitution of matter, and the ultimate with no character-in a God with no source of its relations to our own organattributes. Even the metaphysicians ism, are unknown, and are probably inwho dwell on this distinction between accessible to us. But this is a very the relative and the unconditioned admit different conception from that which that it is one to which no idea can be affirms that if we did know or could attached. Yet, in spite of this admis- know these ultimate truths we should find sion, they proceed to found many infer- in them anything standing absolutely ences upon it, as if it had an intelligible alone and unrelated to other existences meaning. Those who have not been in the universe. accustomed to metaphysical literature It is, however, so important that we could hardly believe the flagrant unrea- should define to ourselves as clearly as son which is common on this subject. we can the nature of the limitations It cannot be better illustrated than by which affect our knowledge, and the real quoting the words in which this favorite inferences which are to be derived from doctrine is expressed by Sir William the consciousness we have of them, that
it may be well to examine these dicta of Lectures," vol. i. p. 145.
metaphysicians in the light of specific
instances. It becomes all the more im- swer would be one capable of that asportant to do so when we observe that similation by our intellectual nature in the language in which these dicta are ex- which all understanding of anything pressed generally implies that knowledge consists. There is nothing in the series which is “only relative” is less genuine of phenomena which this substance has or less absolutely true than some other exhibited to us—nothing in the question kind of knowledge which is not ex- which they raise which can even suggest plained, except that it must be knowl- the idea that all these relations which edge of that which has no relation to the we have traced, or any others which mind.
may remain behind, are the result of There is a sense (and it is the only something which can be thought of or sense in which the words have any conceived as neither a cause nor a conmeaning) in which we are all accustomed sequence-but solitary and unrelated. to say that we know a thing" in itself” On the contrary, all that remains unexwhen we have found out, for example, plained is the nature and cause of its reits origin, or its structure, or its chemi- lations—its relations, on the one hand, to cal composition, as distinguished from the elements out of which vegetable viits more superficial aspects. If a new tality has combined it, and its relations, substance were offered to us as food, on the other hand, to the still higher viand if we examired its appearance to the tality which it threatens to destroy. Its eye, and felt its consistency to the touch, place in the unity of nature is the ultiand smelled its odor, and finally tasted mate object of our search, and thus unity it, we should then know as much about is essentially a unity of relations, and of it as these various senses could tell us. nothing else. That unity everywhere Other senses or other forms of sensa- proclaims the truth that there is nothing tion might soon add their own several in the wide universe which is unrelated contributions to our knowledge, and we to the rest. might discover that this substance had Let us take another example. Until deleterious effects upon the human or- modern science had established its methganism. This would be knowing, per- ods of physical investigation, light and haps, by far the most important things sound were known as sensations only. that are to be known about it.
That is to say, they were known in should certainly like to know more, and terms of the mental impressions which we should probably consider that we had they immediately produce upon us, and found out what it was “in itself,'' when in no other terms whatever, There was we had discovered farther, for example, no proof that in these sensations we had that it was the fruit of a tree. Chemis- any knowledge " in themselves” of the try might next inform us of the analysis external agencies which produce them. of the fruit, and might exhibit some But now all this is changed. Science alkaloid to which its peculiar properties has discovered what these two agencies and its peculiar effects upon the body are “in themselves ;' that is to say, it are due. This, again, we should cer- has defined them under aspects which tainly consider as knowing what it is "in are totally distinct from seeing or hearitself.” But other questions respecting ing, and is able to describe them in it would remain behind. How the tree terms addressed to wholly different faccan extract this alkaloid from the inor- ulties of conception. Both light and ganic elements of the soil, and how, sound are in the nature of undulatory when so extracted, it should have such movements in elastic media—to which and such peculiar effects upon the ani- undulations our organs of sight and mal body, these, and similar questions, hearing are respectively adjusted or we may ask, and probably we shall ask "attuned.” In these organs, by virtue in vain. But there is nothing in the in- of that adjustment or attuning, these accessibility of this knowledge to sug- same undulations are “translated into gest that we are absolutely incapable of the sensations which we know. It thus understanding the answer if it were ex- appears that the facts as described to plained to us. On the contrary, the dis- us in this language of sensation are the position we have to put such questions true equivalent of the facts as described raises a strong presumption that the an- in the very different language of intel
lectual analysis. The eye is now under- acquired respecting light and sound is a stood to be an apparatus for enabling knowledge of these things “in themthe mind instantaneously to appreciate selves.” Such is the language in which differences of motion which are of al- we should naturally express our sense of most inconceivable minuteness. The that difference, and in so expressing it pleasure we derive from the harmonies we should be expressing an important of color and of sound, although mere
The newer knowledge is a sensations, do correctly represent the higher knowledge than the older and movement of undulations in a definite simpler knowledge which we had before. order, while those other sensations And why? Wherein does this higher which we know as discords represent the quality of the new knowledge consist ? actual clashing and disorder of interfer- Is it not in the very fact that the new ing waves. In breathing the healthy air knowledge is the perception of a higher of physical discoveries such as these, al- kind of relation than that which we had though the limitations of our knowledge perceived before? There is no differcontinually haunt us, we gain, neverthe- ence between the two kinds of knowlless, a triumphant sense of its certainty edge in respect to the mere abstract and of its truth. Not only are the men- character of relativity. The old was as tal impressions, which our organs have relative as the new; and the new is as been so constructed as to convey, a true relative as the old. Before the new disinterpretation of external facts, but the coveries sound was known to conie from conclusions we draw as to their origin sonorous bodies, and light was known to and their source, and as to the guaran- come from luminous bodies, This was tee we have for the accuracy of our con- a relation-but a relation of the vaguest ceptions, are placed on the firmest of all and most general kind. As compared foundations. The mirror into which we with this vague relation the new relation look is a true mirror, reflecting accu- under which we know them is knowledge rately and with infinite fineness the reali- of a more definite and of a higher kind. ties of nature. And this great lesson is Light and sound we now know to be being repeated in every new discovery, words or ideas representing not merely and in every new application of an old any one thing or any two things, but one. Every reduction of phenomena to especially a relation of adjustment beascertained measures of force; every ap- tween a number of things. In this adplication of mathematical proof to theo. justment light and sound, as known to retical conceptions ; every detection of sense, do “in themselves” consist. identical operations in diverse depart- Sound becomes known to us as the atments of nature ; every subjection of tunement between certain aerial pulsamaterial agencies to the service of man- tions and the auditory apparatus. Light kind ; every confirmation of knowledge becomes known to us as a similar or an. acquired through one sense by the evi- alogous attunement between the ethereal dence of another--every one of these pulsations and the optic apparatus. operations adds to the verifications of Sound in this sense is not the aerial science, confirms our reasonable trust in waves“ in themselves,” but in their 'rethe faculties we possess, and assures us lation to the ear. Light is not the that the knowledge we acquire by the ethereal undulations “in themselves,” careful use of these is a real and sub- but in their relation to the eye. It is stantial knowledge of the truth.
only when these come into contact with If now
we examine the kind of a prearranged machinery that they beknowledge respecting light and sound come what we know and speak of as light which recent discoveries have revealed and sound. This conception, therefore, to us, as compared with the knowledge is found to represent and express a pure which we had of them before these dis- relation ; and it is a conception higher coveries were made, we shall find that than the one we had before, not because there is an important difference. The it is either less or more relative, but be· knowledge which we had before was the cause its relativity is to a higher faculty simple and elementary knowledge of of the intellect or the understanding. sensation. As compared with that And indeed, when we come to think knowledge the new knowledge we have of it, we see that all kinds of knowledge must take their place and rank according knowledge depends on the degree in to this order of precedence. For as all which it brings the facts of nature into knowledge consists in the establishment relation with the highest faculties of of relations between external facts and mind. the various faculties of the mind, the It must be so if man is part of the highest knowledge must always be that great system of things in which he lives. in which such relations are established It must be so, especially if in being part with those intellectual powers which are of it he is also the highest visible part of the highest kind. Hence we have a of it-the product of its “laws” and strictly scientific basis of classification (as regards his own little corner of the for arranging the three great subjects of universe) the consummation of its all human inquiry--the What, the How, history, and the Whence or Why. These are Nor can there be any doubt as to steps in an ascending series. What what are the supreme faculties of the things are, how they come to be, and for human mind. The power of initiating what purpose they are intended in the changes in the order of nature and of whole system of nature-these are the shaping them from the highest motives questions, each rising above the other, to the noblest ends-this, in general which correspond to the order and the terms, may be said to include or to inrank of our own faculties in the value volve them all. They are based upon and importance of their work.
the ultimate and irresolvable power of It is the result of this analysis to will, with such freedom as belongs 10 establish that, even if it were true that it ; upon the faculty of understanding there could be anything in the universe the use of means to ends, and upon the existing out of relation with other things moral sense which recognizes the law of around it, or if it were conceivable that righteousness, and the ultimate authority there could be any knowledge of things on which it rests. If the universe or as they so exist, it would be not higher any part of it is ever to be really underknowledge, but infinitely lower knowl- stood by us—if anything in the nature edge than that which we actually pos- of an explanation is ever to be reached sess. It could at the best be only concerning the system of things in knowledge of the “What,” and that too which we live, these are the perceptive in the lowest conceivable form-knowl- powers to which the information must edge of the barest, driest, nakedest exist- be given--these are the faculties to which ence, without value or significance of the explanation must be addressed. any kind. And, further, it results from When we desire to know the nature of the same analysis that the relativity of things “in themselves, we desire to human knowledge, instead of casting know the highest of their relations which any doubt upon its authenticity, is the are conceivable to us; we desire, in very characteristic which guarantees its the words of Bishop Butler, to know reality and its truth. It results, further, the author, the cause, and the end of that the depth and completeness of that them."*--Contemporary Review,
SHORT NOTES ON ENGLISH POETS:
CHAUCER; SPENSER; THE SONNETS OF SHAKESPEARE ; Milton.
BY ALGERNON CHARLES SWINBURNE.
It was no unmemorable day in the songs. No hand, it must have been history of English letters when Thomas thought, could be fitter for this only less Campbell, the Callistratus of Great glorious task ; and with all its grave and Britain, undertook to select and com- many shortcomings his collection rement on his “ Specimens of the British mains as yet unrivalled and unapproachPoets" with the hand which had given ed, as the very flower of our too manito England her only two great national
"On the Ignorance of Man.”
fold anthologies. A yet greater and tongues of its teachers ; but it speaks heavier undertaking has in our own day after its own fashion no other than the been attempted and accomplished by a lesson they have taught. Chaucer was more thoughtful and sometimes a more in the main a French or Italian poet, trustworthy critic than Campbell. Hav- lined thoroughly and warmly throughing before this had occasion to remark out with the substance of an English in terms of somewhat strong deprecation humorist. And with this great gift on the principle adopted by Mr. William of specially English humor he comRossetti in his revision and rearrange- bined, naturally as it were and inment of the text of our greatest lyric evitably, the inseparable twin-born poet, I am the more desirous to bear gift of peculiarly English pathos. In witness to the elevation and the excel- the figures of Arcite and Grisilde he lence of his critical workmanship in this has actually outdone Boccaccio's very wider and more general field. On some self for pathos : as far almost as Keats points I differ gravely from his estimate ; was afterward to fall short of the same once or twice I differ from it on all great model in the same great quality. points ; but on the whole I find it not And but for the instinctive distaste and acceptable merely but admirable as the congenital repugnance of his composed very best and most sufficient ever yet and comfortable genius from its accomgiven of some at least among the lead- panying horror, he might haply have ing names of our poets.
come nearer than he has cared or dared Four of these are by him selected as to come even to the unapproachable composing the supreme quadrilateral of pathos of Dante. But it was only in English song. It is through no lack of the world of one who stands far higher love and reverence for the name of above Dante than even Dante can on Chaucer that I must question his right, the whole be justly held to stand above though the first narrative poet of Eng. Chaucer that figures as heavenly as the land, to stand on that account beside figures of Beatrice and Matilda could her first dramatic, her first epic, or her move unspotted and undegraded among first lyric poet. But, being certainly
But, being certainly figures as earthly as those of the Reve, unprepared to admit his equality with the Miller, and the Wife of Bath ; that a Shakespeare, with Milton, and with wider if not keener pathos than UgoliShelley, I would reduce Mr. Rossetti's no's or Francesca's could alternate with mystic four to the old sacred number of a deeper if not richer humor than that three. Pure or mere narrative is a form of Absolon and Nicholas. essentially and avowedly inferior to the It is a notable dispensation of chance lyrical or the dramatic form of poetry ; that the three great typical poets of the and the finer line of distinction which three great representative nations of marks it off from the epic marks it also Europe during the dark and lurid lapse thereby as inferior.
of the middle ages should each afford as Of all whose names may claim any- complete and profound a type of a thing like equality of rank on the roll of different and alien class as of a different national poets-not even excepting Vir- and alien people. Vast as are the digil-we may say that Chaucer borrowed versities of their national and personal most from abroad, and did most to im- characters, these are yet less radical prove whatever he borrowed. I believe than the divergences between class and it would be but accurate to admit that in class which mark off each from either all his poems of serious or tragic narra- of his fellows in nothing but in fame. tive we hear a French or Italian tongue Dante represents, at its best and highspeaking with a Teutonic accent through est, the upper class of the dark ages not English lips. It has utterly unlearned less than he represents their Italy ; the native tone and cadence of its Chaucer represents their middle class at natural inflections ; it has perfectly put its best and wisest not less than he repon the native tone and cadence of a resents their England ; Villon represents stranger's ; yet is it always what it was their lower class at its worst and its best at first-lingua romana in bocca tedesca. alike even more than he represents their It speaks not only with more vigor but France, And of these three the English actually with more sweetness than the middle class, being incomparably the