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MODERN PHILOSOPHY. SEVENTEENTH CENTURY. SKEPTICISM
Struggle between sensualism and idealism. Leibnitz: an attempt at a con
ciliation which is resolved into idealism. Skepticism: Huet, Hirnhaim, Glanville, Pascal, Lamothe Le Vayer, Bayle.—Mysticism: Mercurius Van Helmont, More, Pordage, Poiret, Swedenborg.--Conclusion. Entrance into the second age of modern philosophy, or philosophy of the eighteenth century properly so called.
In the last lecture we saw modern philosophy divided from its birth into two opposite schools, equally exclusive, equally defective, which are represented and summed up at the beginning of the eighteenth century, on one side by Locke, and on the other by Malebranche. The struggle between these two great schools fills the first quarter, and almost the half of the eighteenth century; this struggle began at their very origin. You have seen Gassendi attack the idealism of Descartes, and Descartes the empiricism of Gassendi. At a later period, Locke, taking up the quarrel, submitted to a severe analysis the pretended innate ideas of Descartes,* and the God-vision of Malebranche ;t and even in the country of Locke, the friend and pupil of Locke, Shaftesbury, I combated the principles and consequences of the Essay on the Human Understanding : in the midst of all this Leibnitz arrived.
That which most especially characterized Leibnitz, among many other eminent qualities, was breadth of mind. He then conceived the idea of closing the struggle which divided philosophy, by combating equally the two extreme parts, and by uniting them in the centre of a vaster theory, which should comprehend while it modified them.
* Book 1st of the Essay on the Human Understanding.
$ Born at Leipsic in 1646; Journey in France in 1672, in England in 1763, in Germany and in Italy in 1687–1689; President of the Academy of Berlin in 1699, died in Hanover in 1716. Complete Works, ed. Dutens, 6 vol. in-4, Geneva, 1768.
Leibnitz wrote against Locke a work on the same plan and under the same title as that of his adversary, divided into as many books, and into as many chapters, in which he follows him gradually, from principle to principle, from consequences to consequences.* He guards against denying the intervention of sensibility; he does not destroy the axiom : there is nothing in the intelligence which is not received through the senses; but he makes this reservation: yes, but the intelligence excepted. The reservation is immense : in fact, if intelligence does not come from the senses, it is, then, an original faculty ; this original faculty has, then, a development which is peculiar to it, and engenders notions which belong to it, and which, added to those that spring from the simultaneous exercise of the sensibility, complete and constitute the entire domain of human knowledge. The exclusive theory of empiricism is destroyed by the following objection: The senses attest what is, they do not say what should be, they do not give the reason of phenomena ; they may tell us that this or that is so, of such or such a manner; they cannot teach what exists necessarily. It must be proved that no necessary idea is in the intelligence, or this order of ideas must be accounted for by sensation : now this order of ideas cannot be denied, nor can it be accounted for by sensation; then, the senses and empiricism, which explain a certain number of notions, cannot explain them all, and those which they do not explain are precisely the most important.
So much for the school of Locke. Leibnitz did not attack the Cartesian school less vigorously; he is the first who seized the
New Essays on the Human Understanding, published by Raspe ; 1 vol. in-4, 1765.
feeble side of Cartesianism, the predominance of the idea of substance over the idea of cause. Call to mind how Descartes arrives at God. He arrives at him through the impossibility which exists, the idea of the imperfect and the finite being given, of not conceiving the idea of the perfect and the infinite, and, consequently, an infinite and perfect being, a real and substantial type of this idea. God is given to him as being and substance, and not as cause. I do not say that Descartes has denied the idea of cause, but he has neglected it too much. Spinoza converted this negligence of Descartes into a system. Spinoza placed and wished to place simply a principle and a substance, where a cause also must have been seen, and the result is, that the world and humanity, all visible phenomena, those of the mind and those of matter, are no longer effects, but modes, and modes coeternal with their substance. Both the creative virtue of God and the peculiar activity of man perish in this coeternity. Malebranche is a Christian Spinoza, somewhat more orthodox, and much less consistent. If with Malebranche, restrained by the Christian faith, God is still the creator of the world and of man, Malebranche, like Spinoza, despoils the human race of all voluntary and free agency; for, like Spinoza, he identifies the will with the desire, the will which attests a personal agency, with the desire which is passive and related to God, if you please, in the last analysis, but at first to the first object which fills the soul with involuntary desires.* The philosophy of Malebranche, and that of Spinoza, is nothing less than the suicide of liberty and of humanity to the profit of eternal substance. Leibnitz discovered and exposed the hidden vice of the whole Cartesian school, and established the new principle, that all substance is essentially cause. In fact, either substance is as if it were not, or it manifests and develops itself in modalities and in attributes: now it cannot do this, if it has not in itself the power of manifesting and
* On the essential difference between desire and will, 1st Series, Vol. 2, Lecture 18, pp. 231-236; Vol. 3, Lecture 8, p. 116; Vol. 4, Lecture 28, p. 566, etc.
developing itself, that is, if besides being a substance it is not also a cause. Take away from it this causative power, it is no longer any thing more than an abstract substance, a scholastic entity. Thus, according to Leibnitz, every real and not verbal substance is endowed with energy, it is a force ;* hence God, according to Leibnitz, is essentially creator; hence, at the same time, a creation not accidental and arbitrary, but which proceeds necessarily from the nature of God, which develops it and manifests it, and which, consequently, is perfectly regulated ; hence a world composed of beings which are forces; hence, in short, a human soul like that which we have, and in which we all believe, a soul which is not only subject to the action of the world and of God, but which has also in itself a power of action which belongs to it, and proceeds only from itself.
Thus far every thing works very well; the vice of the empiric school and that of the Cartesian school could not be better seized. The first discussion is known; the second is not so well known, nevertheless it is the best title which Leibnitz has to glory. This title, obscured and almost lost, has been restored to him during these latter times; he has been placed in highest honor by one of our own countrymen, one worthy to be the interpreter of Leibnitz, M. de Biran, whose name I cannot here pronounce without painful emotion, when I think that he was so suddenly taken away from French philosophy, already so much his debtor !
Behold Leibnitz, then, separating himself equally from the sensualism of Locke and from the idealism of Descartes, and absolutely rejecting neither the one nor the other: this in my opinion is the fundamental idea of Leibnitz, and you perceive that I applaud it with all my heart. Why should I not say so? Since precedents are sought to these feeble lectures, I willingly acknowledge that they are found in Leibnitz; for Leibnitz is not only a system, but a method, and a method at the same time theoretical and historical, whose eminent characteristic is to reject nothing, and to comprehend every thing, in order to use every thing. Such is the direction which we strive to follow, and which we shall not cease to recommend as the only, as the true star on the obscure road of the history of philosophy. But it is necessary to distinguish this general direction of the spirit of Leibnitz from his system; for he also finished by a system, and by a system which unfortunately resembles an hypothesis. Of this system we have nothing more than morsels, disjecti membra poetæ ; for Leibnitz has left no true systematic monument. Distracted by his employments and by that unbounded curiosity which led him to pursue every branch of human knowledge and to maintain a vast correspondence with all scientific Europe, * Leibnitz was unable to write out the whole of his philosophy: it must be sought here and there in the fragments which have escaped, at different periods, from his pen. The basis of all his thoughts is monadology and pre-established harmony. Monadology rests upon this axiom : Every substance is at the same time a cause, and every substance being a cause, has therefore in itself the principle of its own development: such is the monad; it is a simple force. Each monad has relation to all others; it corresponds with the plan of the universe; it is the universe abridged; it is, as Leibnitz says, a living mirror which reflects the entire universe under its own point of view. But every monad being simple, there is no immediate action of one monad upon another; there is, however, a natural relation of their respective development, which makes their apparent communication: this natural relation, this harmony which has its reason in the wisdom of the supreme director, is pre-established harmony.
* On the relation between cause and substance, see 1st Series, Vol. 2, Leoture 6, p. 76.
+ Works of M. de Biran, Ecamination of the Lectures of M. Laromeguière, and the article Leibnitz in the 1st Vol., with the editor's preface.