« VorigeDoorgaan »
living infallible authority, supplementary to, and expository of, the written word of Scripture, was indeed coupled with a protest against the existing corruptions of the Church, and an expression of his fear that a formal adherence to Rome on his own part would, from the practical intolerance of the Romish theologians, cramp the freedom of his philosophical speculations. Though he thus firmly resisted all solicitations to join the outward communion of the Papal Church, yet his heart, and perhaps his conviction, was accorded to the system of the hierarchy. His love for scholastic learning may have biassed his inclinations in this direction, and his comprehensive genius, like that of many other kindred spirits, found gratification in the seeming vast unity and completeness of the ideal Catholic Church, with its ritual, and its organization, apparently so suited for all the various characters and circumstances of those whom it desires to embrace within its
ample fold, and all bearing so much the p
semblance of a fitting picture of that still waster organization wherein he loved to contemplate the whole universe reclaimed into the harmony of the government of the Allholy and the All-wise. We must not extend our notice of this very suggestive topic. This part of the life of our philosopher is not one which occasions unmixed satisfaction. The source of those oscillations of opinion which are sometimes the consequence, in honest and devout minds, of a many-sided view of an extremely comprehensive subject, is hardly sufficient to account for the inconsistencies of Leibnitz in his negotiations with the representatives of the Church of Rome. During the later years of his life he was much engaged with another project of ecclesiastical union. A scheme was developed by him about the year 1697 (under the auspices of the Courts of Hanover and Berlin), for a general union against Rome of the Protestants, and especially of the two great sections of Protestantism, the Lutheran and the Reformed. It was quite suited to the eclectic genius of the philosopher, and was long pressed by him on the public attention. He labored to destroy what he called the “idle phantoms,” by which the Protestant Churches were separated. But the same vicious principles which pervaded his other scheme of universal Christian communion, marred this project of Protestant union. Both were essentially merely political and philosophical. We find no
recognition of Religion and of the Church as independent powers, whose liberties are essential for the accomplishment of the ends of the Christian society. Even this philosopher seems not to have felt, that when religion becomes the slave of merely human authority, it ceases to be either the great instrument of civilization, or the means of preparing men for the full communion of the city of God. The pious Spener, who had personally experienced this supernatural force, predicted the ill issue of the Conference for Union, held in Hanover in 1698, at which Leibnitz, Jablonski, and Molanus were present. The result justified his sagacity. A scheme for ecclesiastical union or co-operation, in order to be successful, should be able to assume the spirit of hearty and supreme devotion to religion on the part of those who are to be united and not the political arrangements of nations, but the progress of a great spiritual commonwealth must be its ruling princile.*
The general doctrine of toleration, and the laws which regulate the attainment of truth, were frequently the subjects of incidental speculation on the part of Leibnitz, connected as they are with these ecclesiastical questions, and, indeed, with the discussion of whatever relates to the social or individual good estate of man. His disposition was naturally tolerant. In his works we have repeated glimpses of those doctrines which have now become much more widely diffused throughout society, and which were so admirably enforced by his great contemporary Locke. He repeatedly appreciates with distinctness the value of the prevalence of mild sentiments, and an unsectarian spirit, as means for the discovery and diffusion of truth—habits of mind, which, we are glad to believe, are becoming now of more generally recognized moral obligation.
* It appears that an attempt was made early in the eighteenth century, and supported by Leibnitz, to introduce the constitution and liturgy of the English Church into Hanover and Prussia. A correspondence was opened with the Archbishop of Canterbury, and afterwards with the Archbishop of York. The English liturgy was translated in o German in 1704. How strangely do the events of history re-appear ! The attempt to approximate i. organization of the Churches of England and Prussia was unsuccessfully revived very recently ; and in 1817, the fondly-cherished scheme of Leibnitz, having for its end the union of the Lutheran and the Reformed, was actually accomplished under the auspices of the late King of Prussia.
Even the speculative discussion of this class of subjects has not yet been exhausted. There is wide room for an investigation into those general relations among men considered as members of society, in regard to individual belief or opinion, which the moral law demands, and which reason and experience approve, as best fitted to secure the most extensive diffusion of truth ; and in subordination to which all special social organization, civil and ecclesiastical, ought to be regulated. The full solution of this great problem is still among those left to exercise the minds of the men of this or of some future age.
Throughout the forty years of his connexion with the court of Hanover, Leibnitz maintained, with unabated energy, his literary intercourse, during which he settled and strengthened the foundations of the literary republic of Europe. In 1687, he travelled up the Rhine, and ransacked the libraries and archives of Bavaria, Bohemia and Vienna, extending his acquaintance with learned men. In 1689, he went to Italy, and gained free access to the Vatican and Barberini libraries. His intercourse with the Jesuits and other religious Orders, was all turned to the account of adding to his stores of learning. After visiting Rome he travelled through most of Italy, and returned to Hanover in 1690, only to resume his labors in the Royal library, of which he had been appointed keeper. In 1700, he was the means of founding the famous Berlin Academy of Sciences, meant by him to be a centre of German literary and scientific intercourse and effort. He was unfortunately unsuccessful in his endeavor to establish at Vienna another institute of the same kind, and on a still more comprehensive plan. He was much interested in the civilization of the rising Russian empire, and had several personal conferences on the subject with Peter the Great. He busied himself with the cause of education and missionary exertion in Russia, and also in the German States, where he was anxious that the schools and colleges should be seminaries of Protestant missions.
Amid all his diversified projects and stupendous literary activity, the metaphysical tendency ever preserved the ascendency in the genius of Leibnitz. His philosophical principles were gradually matured soon af. ter his settlement in Hanover. The doctrine of Monads appeared in a succession of publications subsequent to 1680. Some
of his most valuable contributions to philosophy are due to the publication of the celebrated “Essay on Human Understanding,” which appeared in 1690, and at once attracted his attention. There could be little mutual sympathy between two philosophers so completely antagonist as the author of the Essay and himself. Locke despised what he called the “chimeras” of Leibnitz. The Teutonic philosopher accorded to his English contemporary the praise of perspicuity, but proclaimed his utter ignorance of the “demonstrative metaphysics.” In 1703, being disengaged, he undertook a formal reply to Locke, which he completed in the following year. The death of Locke caused an indefinite postponement of the publication of this book, which did not appear till long after the death of the author. In 1765, it was given to the world by the industrious Raspe. This work, under the title of “ Nouveaur Essais sur l'Entendement Humain,” is the masterpiece of his philosophical works, and contains the substance of all that has been advanced by him on behalf of his speculative system, against the school of Locke. Leibnitz' manner of publication was, for the most part, fragmentary. His “Systeme de l’Harmonie Préétablie” is developed in various small treatises. There is, however, one great work, which is more popular and practical in its style, and therefore more generally known than any of his other writings, the preparation of which occupied much part of many years of his life. We refer to the Theodicée—a book which holds a front rank in the very small class of works specially conversant with the philosophy of religion. The design of the Théodicée is to reconcile the existence and continuance of evil in the universe with the character of God—to remove a difficulty that has been raised in all ages, and in all religions—and that is to be counted the fundamental metaphysical problem of the Christian philosophy. It has already been indicated that the thoughts of Leibnitz were directed to these subjects from the time of his decided intellectual development. In 1671 he wrote a tract on Free Will and Predestination. The negotiations about Church union probably interested him the more in these speculations, as the circulation of doctrines fitted to harmonize the Scripture view of the character of God with the dark phenomena of the moral world might facilitate the peace of the Church. The avowed purpose of the Théodicée is to refute the skeptical principle of Bayle, who denied the consistency of faith and reason, and thus laid a foundation for universal doubt. The public appearance of the work in 1710, produced a profound sensation. It was received with applause by most of the continental universities, but the prevalence of Locke's Philosophy in England prepared the public mind in this country to receive it with distaste. The current of speculation continued to flow during the later years of the philosopher's life. In 1714 he drew up a scheme of his philosophy for the use of Prince Eugene of Savoy (La monadologie). This period of his life was signalized by his correspondence with Des Bosses. The close of 1715 is memorable as the commencement of a still more interesting correspondence. In a letter to the Princess of Wales, he assailed the philosophical and religious principles of the school of Locke and Newton. This called forth Samuel Clarke on their defence. The replies of Leibnitz and the rejoinders of Clarke contain as large an amount of curious speculation as any work of modern times. The manner of God's relation to the universe —the nature of miracles—the laws of the divine and human will—the ideas of space and time—and the character and limits of the material world, are among the stores of this magazine of speculative discussion. The controversy was continued with increasing zeal on both sides. Inferior far in power of generalization and originality to his antagonist, the intellect of Clarke was yet possessed of an acuteness and logical force which rendered him one of the most skilful of philosophical disputants, and demanded a full display of the comprehensiveness and grandeur of mind of his German rival.” But that mighty spirit was now to have his connexion with this scene of existence closed. Leibnitz had suffered from occasional illness during several preceding years. These attacks, however, passed away, and the philosopher resumed his speculations with renewed energy. In November 1716, when he had to prepare his reply to Clarke's fifth letter, his complaint returned with great violence. The closing scene suggests gloomy reflections, as the
* An English version of t' is correspondence was published by Clarke in 1717.
lurid glare, which during his extraordinary life had attracted the eyes of the world, disappears; while we have not the record we could desire, indicating that the moral sensibilities of the Philosopher were rightly alive to the decisive nature of the awful change. His seventy years are ended, and the lightning seems lost among dark clouds. During the last day of his life, we are told he was busied in conversation with his physician on the nature of his disease, and on the doctrines of alchymy. Towards evening his servant asked him if he would receive the Eucharist. “Let me alone,” said he ; “I have done ill to no one. I have nothing to confess. All must die.” He raised himself on the bed and tried to write. The darkness of death was gathering around him. He found himself unable to read what he had written. He tore the paper, and, lying down, covered his face, and a few minutes after nine o'clock on the evening of the 14th November, 1716, he ceased to breathe. It is most solemn to contemplate a human spirit, whose course of thought throughout life was unsurpassed for power of speculation, and daring range of mind among the higher objects of knowledge, and which, at the period of its departure, was in the depths of a controversy about the mysteries of the supersensible world,—thus summoned into that world, to become conversant in its final relations with that Being who had entrusted it with such mental power, and whose nature and attributes had so often tasked its speculative energies. The effect, upon most minds, of the record of the life of this Philosopher, is likely to be a confused amazement at the extraordinary spectacle of continued mental exercises so unparalleled in kind and variety. Yet a vague impression of this sort ought not to be the predominant one. A grand unity pervades the seeming confusion. The reigning idea which diffuses a community of principle through the whole cycle of his works, we have traced back to the earliest operations of his reflecting powers. Conversant throughout his life with those mysteries in proof of which no reason can be given, and with real or seeming demonstrations based on te foundation of these first principles, we find in Leibnitz the model of the speculative metaphysician. The philosophical works of Leibnitz are in bulk only a small part of the literary productions of a life devoted to almost the whole sphere of possible knowledge.” Professor Erdmann has rendered good service to the “thinking world by his edition (the most valuable of those enumerated at the commencement of this Article) of this class of the writings of the father of German speculation. While Leibnitz could on no subject write unphilosophically, yet, there are sections of his works which may be extracted and combined for publication as more exclusively and profoundly philosophical, indicating not ripples, extended widely, perhaps, over the surface of thought, but the ocean-swell of an agitation that is far below. This department of his writings is scattered, without much attention to order, through the voluminous publication of Dutens, and is partly contained in the rare edition of his posthumous philosophical works by Raspe. Accordingly, while the life of Leibnitz is an epoch in the history of speculation, his speculative writings have been seldom and superficially studied. Besides the materials collected in former editions, Professor Erdinann has enriched the publication now before us with no fewer than twenty-three original documents of his author, not before published, and which this able and industrious editor has recovered, during an active search in 1836, among the accumulation of manuscripts in the Royal Library of Hanover. Most of these added works relate to that theme, on the subject of which we have already remarked as the central one of the intellectual life of Leibnitz. It increases the convenience of this edition, that the several works which it includes, not fewer than 101 in number, have been arranged, as nearly as possible, in the order in which they were written. In this extensive collection, we are glad to recognize the Nouveauz Essais and the Théodicée. It is not easy to give even a brief exposition of the very miscellaneous contents of these works. The system and manner of thinking of Leibnitz is to be gathered from his philosophical works studied collectively, rather than from any separate publication. These collected writings bear throughout one very marked characteristic of inventive genius; for they are crowded with richly suggestive germs of thought,
* This may be seen by an inspection of the most comprehensive edition of his works, by Dutens, (Geneva, 1768, 6 vols. 4to) We observe that a new edition of the entire works of Leibnitz is just now in course of preparation at Hanover.
cast forth often in disorder, as it were with intent to exercise the generalizing powers of others. From out of this stimulating variety, there may, however, be extracted two or three more prominent ideas, united, as far as possible, by demonstration, with his assumed first principles; for the main purpose of this metaphysician was to give to philosophy a mathematical strictness and certainty, and to reconcile its doctrines with those of theology. The universe is contemplated by him in the threefold relation of (1), Its elements; (2), Their manner of connerion; and (3), The end of their combination. The doctrine of elements, he calls monadologie. The mutual relations of these elements, he held to be developed in a pre-established harmony. The final end of creation, he represented as an optimism. Let us accompany him at a distance, as he is constructing this system of a priori universal philosophy, in order to have before us a specimen of a class of systems, foreign, indeed, to Britain, but which may be compared with the doctrines of the Eleatics, the Alexandrines, or Spinoza, in respect of its boldness and comprehension. Through experience, Leibnitz finds himself surrounded by compound or material bodies of amazing variety. This implies the existence of elements, of which these compounds are the results, and the nature of these elements is to be ascertained according to the laws of thought. An application of the principle of the Sufficient Reason, demonstrates that matter can consist neither of parts which are infinitely divisible, nor of atoms possessed of figure and extension. Its elements must, therefore, be simple, unextended forces, or Monads, in which we obtain the a priori idea of substance. The individuality of these monads must consist in the different series of internal change through which each one passes in the course of its existence. In these series, each successive change is termed a Perception, and every monad is a living mirror, giving forth, after its own fashion, a picture of the universe, which is thus one vast collection of spiritual forces. These necessary elements of all concrete existence cannot all be reduced to one class or order, for they are distinguished by different degrees of perception and active power. Some are destitute of conscious perception, and these are the elements of which the material world is the result. Then there is the animating principle of the lower animals. There are also the selfconscious souls of men, containing in themselves the fountains of necessary truth. And these three classes of created forces or substances must have a sufficient reason for their existence. There cannot be an infinite series of contingents, and, if there could, the final reason even of such an infinite series could be found only in a necessary substance. Creation must thus involve the existence of One Supreme Infinite, the monas monadum, from whom all that is finite has been derived, and in whose existence it all finds its explanation. This Supreme substance is God. He is the fountain of all reality. The attributes of the created monads, as far as they are persect, result from the pesection of God; as far as they are imperfect, from the necessary imperfection of the creature.” Having in these conclusions, as he conceived, demonstratively resunded concrete being into its elements, and related all created elements to the One uncreated and supreme, Leibnitz would next find the mutual relations of the several elementary forces of creation. As the monads cannot have either figure or extension in themselves, their co-existence and relations must sufficiently account for the phenomena of extension, duration, and body. Space and Time have thus merely an ideal and relative existence. They result from the relation of monads, regarded as co-existing or in succession. Further, the elements of creation being absolutely destitute of parts and extension, cannot mutually influence one another. Inter-causation is thus excluded from the real universe, and is confined to the phenomenal, which is governed by mechanical law. Yet the universe is ideally related in the mind of God, and of each creature, in proportion as his ideas approximate to the Divine. God, “in the beginning,” launched the elements into being, having resolved for each one a determinate history throughout eternity, and a history which should harmonize with that of every other. This mutual relation is beautifully illustrated, when we are told that from the given state of any monad at any time, the Eternal
* The Monadologie of Leibnitz is discussed in the pieces presented for the competition (Sur le Systeme des Monades) proposed by the Berlin Academy of Sciences, and which, with the successful prize dissertation by T. H. G. Ju-ti, were published at Berlin in 1748. Each side in the controversy has its able defenders among the writers of these curious disquisitions.
Geometer can find the state of the universe past, present, and to come. In the attributes of the Uncreated and Supreme, is to be found the sufficient reason for a Pre-established Harmony in all that He has made. This explains the nature of the changes of creation. The apparent action of finite monads upon each other, is really the result of that original harmonious arrangement of God, in virtue of which He secures, without fail, those ends which He contemplated when the universe issued from his hands. The phenomena attendant on that fruitful theme of philosophical disputation, the union of soul and body, of the self-conscious monad and the related monads of an inferior order, are counted capable of explanation on the same general principle. The successive changes of the soul must exactly tally with those of the body; yet without any mutual action. They are related as two clocks, of which the one points to the hour exactly as the other strikes; or as separate parts of the same clock, for Leibnitz likens the whole universe to a time-piece which was wound up in the act of creation, and which thenceforward pursues its own movements harmoniously for ever.” Mind and matter— the realm of final causes, and the realm of efficient causes—are thus in necessary harmony. And a like harmony must obtain between reason and religious faith— the kingdom of nature, and the city of God. This last harmony links the theological with the merely philosophical part of the system of Leibnitz; and introduces us to his philosophy of religion. A question may be asked,—If the universe—moral as well as physical—is a self-regulating machine, is not the Creator seemingly excluded from the government of His creation; and if not thus excluded, how is He related to the sin and misery which it contains ! That the apparent manner of His relations to the creation should be what it is, results, he thinks, from our relative knowledge, which must be implicated with the idea of time. In reality, this pre-established harmony is a revelation of the Divine perfection in a scheme of Optimism. Every possible universe was, from eternity,
* A comparison of this doctrine of pre-established harmony with the late Dr. Brown's Theory of Cause and Effect, illustrating their partial similarity and partial contrast, might tend to excite an important train of metaphysical speculation.