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HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY

IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY.

YEAR 1829-SECOND HALF-YEAR.

SENSUALISTIC SCHOOL. SYSTEM OF LOCKE.

LECTURE XIII.

CLASSIFICATION OF THE SCHOOLS OF THE EIGHTEENTH

CENTURY.

of the method of observation and of induction in history. That induction,

resting upon the observation of all the anterior facts in the philosophy of history, divides at first the philosophy of the eighteenth century into four systems.—Confirmation of induction by facts.—Division of the European schools of the eighteenth century into four schools: sensualistic, idealistic, skeptical, mystical. Division of this course into four corresponding parts.Order of the development of these four schools, and consequently the order to follow in their exposition.-Spirit of this course.—Its last aim.

The analysis of the human mind has demonstrated to us that in its natural development it ends at four fundamental points of view, which measure it and wholly represent it. These four points of view, in their scientific expression, give four elementary systems : sensualism, idealism, skepticism, and mysticism. And, as the history of philosophy is the manifestation of the human mind in time and space, there must be in history all that there is in the human mind: so, we have not feared to affirm, in advance, that the history of philosophy would constantly reproduce these four systems.

This is not a hypothetical method, it is a rational method, as Bacon says ;* it consists in going from the human mind, which is the material of history, to history, which is the manifestation of the human mind, and in confirming one by the other. And we have not confined ourselves to the rational method, we have joined to it the experimental method; we have interrogated history as we have interrogated the human mind. I have exhibited to you all the great epochs of the history of philosophy; I have shown you successively the East, Greece, scholasticism, the philosophy of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, finally all the first period of modern philosophy, from the first years of the seventeenth century up to 1750. Not only have I run over with you all these epochs, but I am not conscious of having omitted in each one of these any important school, and in each of these schools any celebrated system; and entire history at each one of these epochs has adjusted itself to the frame itself which the analysis of the human mind had furnished us. The last result of the experiences of history has been the constant recurrence, in each epoch, of the four systems which are intimately connected without being confounded, which are developed unequally, but harmoniously, and always with a marked progress. Why, then, have we not the right to convert the constant recurrence of this phenomenon into a law of history?

Call to mind by what processes and upon what conditions we obtain a law in the physical order. When a phenomenon presents itself with such a character in such a circumstance, and when, the circumstance changing, the character of the phenomenon changes also, it follows that this character is not a law of the phenomenon ; for this phenomenon can still appear, even when this character no longer exists. But if this phenomenon appears with the same character in a succession of numerous and diverse cases, and even in all the cases that fall under the observation,

* Preceding Vol., Lecture 9.—On the necessity of uniting the rational method and the experimental method, see Vol. 1 of this Series, Lecture 4, and first Series, Vol. 2, Discours d'Ouverture, and Lecture 1.

we hence conclude that this character does not pertain to such or such a circumstance, but to the existence itself of the phenomenon. Such is the process which gives to the physical philosopher and to the naturalist what is called a law. When a law has been thus obtained by observation, that is, by the comparison of a great number of particular cases, the mind in possession of this law transfers it from the past to the future, and predicts that, in all the analogous circumstances that can take place, the same phenomenon will be produced with the same character. This prediction is induction : induction has for a necessary condition a supposition, that of the constancy of nature; for leave out this supposition, admit that nature does not resemble herself, and the night does not guarantee the coming day, the future eludes foresight, and there no longer exists any thing but arbitrary chance: all induction is impossible.* The supposition of the constancy of nature is the necessary condition of induction ; but this condition being granted, induction, resting upon sufficient observation, has all its force. In the moral order, the same processes severely employed conduct to the same results, to laws which give to the moralist and the historian, quite as well as to the physical philosopher and the naturalist, the right to foresee and to predict the future. All the epochs of the history of philosophy being given, that is, all the experiments upon which observation of this kind can bear, when all these experiments, very different by reason of external circumstances, have always offered us the same phenomenon with the same character, that is, the constant recurrence of these four elementary systems, distinct from each other and developed by each other, I ask, what is wanting to give us the right to consider this result as the law itself of the history of philosophy? Will it be said that observation bears upon too small a number of cases ? But we have commenced with the East, and we have been as far as to 1750 : We have five great experiments, one of which embraces twelve hundred years. Observation bears therefore upon a sufficiently great number of particular cases; it bears at least upon all existing cases; we have omitted none: each great philosophical experiment has presented the same character, the division into four elementary systems. There remains only one condition to be fulfilled, to wit, the supposition of the constancy of the human mind, a supposition as necessary here as that of the constancy of nature in the physical order. But what right has the physical philosopher to suppose that nature is rather constant to herself, than the moralist to suppose that the human mind is constant to itself? All human life is founded upon the supposition of the constancy of human nature.* You suppose that humanity will do to-morrow what it has done to-day, the circumstances being analogous, as you suppose that nature will not fail to reproduce what has already been produced. Induction, therefore, has the same value in one case as in the other. So, when, after having met, in all the great epochs of the history of philosophy from the East up to 1750, the same phenomenon with the same character, I come to the philosophy of the eighteenth century, induction founded upon the experience of three thousand years authorizes me to predict that if this new experiment is extended, developed, completed (for an incomplete experiment proves nothing), the human mind, constant to itself in the eighteenth century, will reproduce the same philosophical phenomena which it has thus far produced, with the same characters, and that the philosophy of the eighteenth century will also be resolved into sensualism, into idealism, into skepticism, and into mysticism. Historical induction incontestably bears us thus far; it only remains to submit this legitimate conjecture to a last and decisive proof, that of facts.

* See on the stability of the laws of nature as the condition of all induction, 1st Series, Vol. 4, Lecture 20, p. 882; and Lecture 22, p. 485.

The philosophy of the eighteenth century forms a great experiment. Never, at any epoch of history, has there appeared in less time a greater number of systems; never have more

* First Series, Vol. 4, Lecture 22, p. 484.

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