« НазадПродовжити »
the words "habit, belief, instinct.' In a world where there is, by hypothesis, nothing but attributes and states of consciousness without anything to unite them, there is really nothing astonishing but their harmony. Thus he acknowledges that, to him, the production of ideas is a miracle.
“There is, then, a kind of pre-established harmony between the course of nature and the succession of our ideas; and though the powers and forces by which the former is governed be wholly unknown to us, yet our thoughts and conceptions have still, we find, gone on in the same train with the other works of nature. Custom is that principle by which this correspondence has been effected.'?
The same philosopher has said that 'Physics, in its highest perfection, can do no more than remove our ignorance a little.' Might we not say that such metaphysic does but redouble it?
Mr. Mill, besides facts, admits order between minds. In addition, he grants to the bond which unites states of consciousness as much reality as to the states themselves. If he is vague, he is designedly so; it is because the obscure cannot be clearly explained. All considered, there is in his doctrine more solidity than in pure phenomenism ; and in any case we must not forget that he means to leave the question open.
1 Hume's Essays, 'Inquiry concerning Human Understanding,' section V., last paragraph but one.
MR. HERBERT SPENCER.
AMONG Philosophers, as among scientific men, there are original and independent minds, of an order above those who explain, comment upon, and develop truths already discovered or foreseen, and make them known to all. These original minds are, so to speak, creators, who are felt, on approaching them, to be like men of another race, in power, depth, and unity of thought. Whether their discoveries remain permanent acquisitions, or whether they only give a new aspect to insoluble problems, they are recognised in the sovereign fashion which is due to them; they cannot touch any question without setting their mark upon it. Mr. Herbert Spencer appears to us to be a man of this order. One of his countrymen, who is well entitled to be critical, Mr. Stuart Mill, unhesitatingly places him among the greatest of the philosophers, and says that the variety and depth of his encyclopedic knowledge would permit him to treat, as equal with equal, with the founder of the positivist school himself; that he is not a disciple, but a master.
Mr. Spencer is one of the small number of persons who, by the solidity and encyclopedical character of their knowledge, and their power of co-ordination and concatenation, may claim to be the peers of M. Comte, and entitled to a vote in the estimation of him.'1
When we have studied his works very closely, we find ourselves impressed, not only by his superior science, by the immense variety of his precise and positive information, now almost indispensable to the philosopher, but especially by the firmness of his thought, by his self-mastery, by his solidity of method, and his lucidity of exposition. His mind is drilled and disciplined by scientific research; he does better than descant upon method, he practises it. He knows how to distinguish the certain from the probable, and, as he says, the knowable from the unknowable. In everything he insists on seeing clearly, he is not content with chimerical solutions, and he never confounds reasons with metaphors.
1 Mill's Comte, p. 41.
The philosophical mind is a certain manner of thinking, not acquired, but developed by culture, which has its characteristic traits, just like the poetic or the scientific mind. If there be a definition which expresses its qualities and its defects, which may be accepted by every one, and agreed to by all the schools, it appears to be the following :
It is the mind which generalizes. The ideal would consist in laying hold, not only of the general formulas which simplify facts, but on the facts which verify the formulas; in seeing laws in facts and facts in laws. But this is an ideal, that is to say, what we may hope for, but not attain. In his study of psychological phenomena, with which only we are now occupied, Mr. Herbert Spencer has employed the fundamental processes of every method, synthesis and analysis. In our eyes, one of the greatest merits of this rare mind is his skill in handling these two different instruments, one of which distinguishes, divides, separates, while the other collects, draws together, identifies. It is with great difficulty that these two modes of thought, each of which, by its very nature, excludes the other, constitute a perfect equilibrium, so balanced that the talent of analysis may be exactly equal to the aptitude for synthesis. In Mr. Herbert Spencer synthesis predominates; he takes sensible pleasure in tracing grand outlines, in sweeping vast horizons, in seeking out simple and rich formulas, the large and comprehensive laws from whence we dominate the innumerable mass of facts; and this is his especial claim to the title of philosopher. Nevertheless, he can also handle analysis so as to satisfy the most competent and the most critical on this point.
A philosopher must have a method. This is the point common to all, from Plato and Aristotle down to Auguste Comte and Hegel. In minds of that stamp, ideas fall naturally into order ; they think collectively, and not in detail, because each detail is to them a portion of the whole which they are reconstituting. This unity of method, this mode of systematic thinking, is common to Mr. Herbert Spencer and to the great masters. Let us see then, what is the governing idea of his philosophy, and the collective conception to which all the rest is attached. The great English naturalist, Professor Huxley, said on a recent occasion :
"The only complete and methodical exposition known to me of the theory of evolution, is to be found in Herbert Spencer's System of Philosophy, a work that should be carefully studied by those who desire to become acquainted with the tendencies of scientific thought.'
The idea of evolution or of progress; such is in fact the fundamental idea of our philosopher; he applies it to everything, and he finds it everywhere. The formation of the worlds coming forth from a primitive nebulus, according to the hypothesis of Laplace, the unfolding of life, of thought, and of all which manifests it; science, arts, civilisation, all is explained by a progress. The hypothesis of development is the substitution of mobility for fixity, of becoming for being, but also of the relative for the absolute. No more of stable existence. We cannot say of anything that it is, in so far as that word implies fixity. And if everything varies and is transformed, all existence is no more than a transition, a moment between that which is ending and that which is beginning; a striking thought, because in this universal flux we feel that the infinite presses upon us on all sides, that everything holds to everything. In the human individual we see the generation which produces it, and that which shall follow ; in one human generation, we see humanity; in humanity, the mysterious evolution of life ; in life, the geological transformations which have rendered it possible ; in them, a mode of existence so vague that it can hardly be discerned, and thus we ascend from second causes to second causes, to the point at which faith begins, and where science ends.
Is this idea of progress, such as we are about to find it in Mr. Herbert Spencer's works, a novelty in philosophy? We must be
this point. It is an idea anterior to him, but which was formerly otherwise understood. Leibnitz, who in so many respects has anticipated the most recent theories, substituted the idea of a continuous progress for the geometrical mechanism of Descartes. The Hegelian dialectic, also founded on the idea of becoming, pretends to reproduce by its synthesis the evolution of the world, from void existence up to thought and absolute consciousness. But whilst the theory of Leibnitz is only a view of the future by a genius, an hypothesis not then verified by facts, while the theory of Hegel is an entirely metaphysical conception, completely subjective, encumbered with its triple movement of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis, boldly bending facts to its a priori conceptions, the hypothesis of development is quite otherwise presented by Mr. Herbert Spencer. It is produced objectively, the facts suggest it to the mind, the mind does not impose it upon the facts. It arises of itself, out of the study of the sciences, or at least of those in which there is movement and life: geology, botany, physiology, psychology, æsthetics, morals, linguistics, history, etc. It is supported by an almost infinite mass of facts and experiences. Besides, and this is a great point, it claims to be only an hypothesis; the only concession which it demands is that no other hypothesis approaches it in probability. It is, if we please, the hypothesis of Leibnitz revived, but free from metaphysics, and supported by the experience of nearly two centuries.
I have no intention of establishing a comparison which would be inexact, and which Mr. Herbert Spencer would disclaim, between him and Leibnitz; nevertheless, I wish to cite some of the points common to both, which it is impossible to fail to remark, and which relate to their dynamism.
First, the idea of continuity, or universal compenetration, whence it comes that all things hold together, that all things
caused and causing,' and that the process by which the human mind separates them is arbitrary, though necessary. Properly speaking, this idea and that of progress are the same, the one but another aspect of the other, because, if everything is transformed and metamorphosed, everything holds together; there is not in nature a hiatus, or any solution of continuity. Only,