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and turned over, when its object and its means are thoroughly understood, then that science has won her right to independence by success.
But thenceforth philosophy could no longer claim as its object everything which exists : man, nature, and God. Physics and the kindred sciences wrest from it nature ; shall man and God be left to it?
The science of language is a purely human science, cultivated by philosophers at first rather by chance, but whose importance never escaped their notice. Plato gives a sketch of it in his Cratylus. The Epicureans and the Stoics, two schools which had then fallen into decadence, had written largely on this subject. Among moderns, we need only recall the names of Leibnitz, Locke, Condillac, and their disciples. Less than a century ago, the science of language was at that point, when the discovery of Sanscrit enabled it to find its true method and line, and to establish itself as an independent science. Since then, it has collected facts, defined laws, classified languages, determined roots; it is constantly advancing in its almost chemical analysis of words ; it has its own vocabulary, its distinct parts, its phonetics, its morphology, etc. It is singularly jealous of its independence. It will have nothing in common with metaphysics, but repels such relation as a crime. Here then is a purely human science detached from the common trunk.
In later times the science of morals has likewise claimed its independence. The task of some of our contemporaries has been to constitute the theory of the rights and duties of man, without asking the aid either of religion or philosophy; to invest morals with the rank of a primary science, arising from itself alone; to release it from the preliminary necessity of a metaphysical doctrine whose mere consequence it should be. This undertaking has found many partisans and many enemies. Without entering into the question of the value of this attempt, let us state the fact that the science of morals fearlessly asserts its independence, and claims a separate domain of its own.
This would be the place in which to show that psychology has the same tendencies; to show that its most recent transformations have set it free from the yoke of metaphysics, and that it also demands its autonomy. But the subject is to be treated at length in a later portion of this work.
Is it necessary to call attention to the fact that physiology is independent of philosophy? The truth is, that their relations never were close. Physiology is, above all, born of experience. It has been science springing from an art, rather than a particular science arising from general science. Medicine, which has existed always and everywhere, has not been able to dispense with the study of the living body. Thus, physiology was, in the first place, a means, before it became a science with a self-contained object. In this it resembles chemistry, born of certain practical inventions and of the mysterious researches of the Middle Ages into the transmutation of metals, which were not altogether discovered from philosophers, as the name 'hermetic philosophy,' so frequently employed to designate those researches, proves. Besides, the popular imagination readily confounds the philosopher with the alchemist, placing him in one of the dark vaults which Rembrandt has painted, surrounded by books, furnaces, and crucibles.
In short, all the special sciences which now exist have been derived from a double source,—from philosophy and from art. These latter, whose origin is the more humble, are not the least sound or fruitful. In comparing the facts accumulated by experience, they have been able to eliminate accidents, to separate that which is fixed and permanent, and to define its laws; that is to say, to arrive at precise knowledge, and at that essential character of science which is to foresee.' As for the independence of those sciences which have already come out, or are tending towards coming out from philosophy, we have seen it produced naturally, by unceasing and unwitting work, and the severance results from the very nature of things. An exact and positive science cannot limit itself to vague affirmations, it must prove and verify its assertions, it must weigh the most minute details; a chemist will not hesitate to devote several years to the study of
1 Nevertheless, Aristotle did much for anatomy and biology ; and among the predecessors of Hippocrates his learned translator names the φυσιολόγοι.
a single body and of its compounds; a zoologist would do the same for some humble infusoria visible only under the microscope. It is necessary to specialize one's-self, as the present phrase is, to insure the progress of science. But a result of this endless analysis is that each particular science becomes a world. In fact, greatness is a relative thing. If chemistry be only a small item in the total of human knowledge, it is immense when compared to a simple study of azote and its compounds. How can we be surprised that it amply suffices to the labourers in it, and that they seek for nothing beyond its horizon? It is the same everywhere. Beyond this, even ; that interior process which resolves philosophy into particular sciences resolves them again into sub-sciences, physics into thermology, optics, acoustics; biology into physiology, etc. etc. In this labour of decomposition, which has no assignable limits, each step in analysis leads further away from the primitive unity.
Let us now inquire what remains to philosophy after those successive subtractions ? What are its pretensions, it limits, its object? If we examine the different senses in which the word philosophy is used in correct language, discussions, or books, we shall be struck by the various acceptations to which it lends itself, and by the confusion which it may produce. A man who describes, analyses, and classifies the phenomena of thought like Mr. Herbert Spencer or Mr. A. Bain is called a philosopher. А man who regulates morals, lays down prescriptions, proposes an ideal of conduct, is equally a philosopher. Do you place logic among the recent discoveries of science, as Mr. Stuart Mill has done, or discourse upon the attributes of God, or search into first causes ?—the same title is bestowed upon you. high philosophical bearing is justly acknowledged as belonging to a theory like that of the unity of physical forces, which establishes their correlations and transformations. Here are different significations, and we may add to them many others. Whence this confusion ? It seems to us to originate thus : Two very different things may be meant by philosophy ; that which is, and that which tends to be; the first consisting of a rather incoherent assemblage of four or five sciences; the second offering a precise rational signification, having a determinate object, and limits assigned by experience.
In the ordinary sense of the word this is philosophy. It is a study which comes from the human mind and from its various manifestations, which, by the faculty of reasoning, is led up to logic, and, by the faculty of willing and acting conformably to a law, is led up to morals, and from thence mounts up to the first cause of all things, to God; it is completed by some metaphysical researches into the essence of the soul, the nature of certitude, and the fundamental principles of morals. Can this be rightly designated a science having an object ? If you ask what is the object of physics, astronomy, chemistry, anthropology, the reply is easy and ready. But has philosophy an object, or objects, or portions of objects? It has one, in the first place, with which no other science occupies itself. That object is God. Must we add to this, Man? Assuredly not man as a whole, for anatomy, physiology, in short the biological sciences, have taken a share in him for themselves. A portion of man then,his soul? This is also to be contested. History, in its extended sense, the science of language, jurisprudence, even political economy, claim their share of that.
It comes to this, then, that the object of philosophy is God, plus a certain portion of man,
an object, plus a portion of an object. How can it henceforth claim the title of a primary and universal science ? How, above all, can it arrive at unity? That would be possible only according to the idealist solution, which holds that God, nature, history, everything, has no reality except in human thought.
This is what philosophy actually is. But what does it tend to become? If we admit, as facts constrain us to admit, that the special sciences detach themselves from it, as time goes on, at uncertain intervals,-if it be granted that this rupture is naturally produced by the accumulation of facts, the incessant progress of analysis, and the necessity of specialization, if we remark that psychology is already almost independent, that morals desires to become so, and that logic is only a portion of psychology, we foresee the possibility of new sciences, more or less distant, and a further impoverishment of philosophy, at least in appearance. Its actual incoherence appears to us to be caused by its containing, besides general science, special sciences, which are regarded as an integral part of itself. It resembles those beings which are reproduced by division, or cutting into pieces, and which, at certain moments, present the strange spectacle of three or four individuals still adhering to the common stem.
In order that we may understand what philosophy tends to become by the progress of human knowledge, let us see what is produced in the special sciences when they detach themselves. Let us suppose mathematics cultivated by the philosophers, not as a special science, but as forming a portion of philosophy; this is what would happen. The method of all philosophic minds is to give the precedence to questions of principles over everything else ; they will therefore begin by examining axioms, discussing the legitimacy of method, investigating quantity, measuring time and space, at the risk of never believing themselves sufficiently certain to begin. They may even lose themselves in strange systems of numbers, like the Pythagoreans and Plato. Mathematicians go to work differently. They do not trouble themselves to reconcile Newton with Leibnitz, or Locke with Kant, on the nature of time and space; they accept axioms without discussing them, on the guarantee of common sense only, but they go on. The constitution and development of this science depended upon the condition that they should lay aside at the outset a number of unresolved questions, abandoning them to discussion by the philosophers.
It is the same with physics. Before Galileo, physics were merely metaphysics with some roughly explained facts over and above. In Aristotle's works the one is hardly to be distinguished from the other,—they succeed and supplement, and naturally suppose each other.
What is matter ? What is nature ? Does it comprehend matter and form? What is motion ? Is it infinitely divisible ? What is power, and what is action ? Does the external world exist ? What is the worth of our senses? May we trust them? All these questions are put aside by the physicist. He accepts the faith of common sense in the material world, and the