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Such thoughts have a double
original choice expressions.
Hamilton's own style is preeminently good. It expresses the most subtle distinctions and the most evanescent shades of thought with a clearness that makes one think better of the English language, and less regret the loss to philosophy of the wonderful capacities of the Greek. On the whole, we think it the best style in which Scotch philosophy has yet appeared. We acknowlege the inimitable and indescribable charm of Hume, but still his style was rather popular than philosophical, and certainly lacked precision. We acknowlege, too, the perspicuity of Reid, but then we remember those short, contracted sentences and curt clauses, which check the career of the mind, and make it halt and stumble. Besides, Dr. Reid always had an eye in writing on David Hume. It is amusing to notice at what remote distances he lays his train-how continually he shapes the expression of his propositions so as to meet some position of that philosopher. The young student finds it difficult at the first perusal to understand much that he reads, and when he does is somewhat indignant at what he considers the trick that has been played upon him. Dr. Reid was a controversialist, and this circumstance has affected, if not the structure of the sentence, the manner of statement, and style of thought, so that, while individual sentences are clear, the impression of the whole is somewhat obscure, although, we need not add that in this great controversy with the philosophical sceptic of the times, he showed a most original mind, and brought out to consciousness and enforced
many fundamental truths. Dugald Stewart was flattered in his day with the praise of having expressed the crabbed truths of philosophy in classical English. That doubtless was what he aimed at. His English came from the school of Dr. Blair, and does indeed possess all its merit. Mr. Stewart uses no vulgar words; he will go far out of his way to avoid repeating the same thought in the same words; and has a horror of calling things by their right names. The result is, that without being tautological, without being even overloaded with epithets, his style is cumbersome from the excess of circumlocution, and readers grow impatient of sonorous sentences which for the words employed are so empty of thought. We place Hamilton, then, with respect to philosophical language, above Stewart, or Reid, or even Hume, of course above all other Scotch philosophers, although we see in him what we would call the Scotch predilection for long words of Latin origin, and used in a Latin sense. We go further, and, taking into view the additional circumstance that its pages are adorned with the finely expressed thoughts of so many great thinkers, pronounce this work, notwithstanding its title of Metaphysics, one of the most interesting books of the day, even for reading, to say nothing of its value as a study.
We said above, that Hamilton had added the refinements of scholarship to Scotch philosophy. It may be thought we have not done justice in this to his predecessors. Hume was a great reader. He studied, as we learn from his biographer, the Latin and Greek classics to a considerable extent; he was acquainted with the philosophical writings of his own and the preceding age; yet he was not deeply versed in the philosophical works of ancient or medieval times. Nor can it be said that Reid's Analysis of Aristotle's Logic, which presents the most show of learning of anything in his works, gives him a title to the name of scholar in the sense we are now using the term, if, indeed, it does not make the contrary impression. Reid had that which is far better than all scholarship-a genuine philosophical genius, but he did not have scholarship and genius both-and this is what belongs to Hamilton. It is not necessary to speak of Stewart in this
connection, for, though his acquaintance with philosophical writings was more extensive than that of Dr. Reid, still his learning was comparatively limited. The pretensions of Thomas Brown have been sufficiently exposed by Hamilton himself.
We can give no analysis of these lectures. We can only touch upon a few topics, selecting such as may be most characteristic. And the first two lectures, which are upon the utility of philosophy, present one of the most interesting points in Hamilton's views of the mind, and one which he has dwelt upon in various writings; we mean the worth of intellectual activity-of mental energy-considered in itself.
The utility of any branch of knowledge is either absolute or relative, according as the science is viewed in its direct effects upon the mind, or in its relation to other studies. The absolute utility of a study-and it is only the absolute utility of philosophy that is treated of—is either subjective or objective. It is subjective, when the study disciplines the mind, the knowing subject; it is objective, when it furnishes the mind with truths, objects of knowledge. We have thus before us intellectual culture, or discipline of the faculties, and knowledge, or the possession of truths. At this point we introduce our author speaking in his own name. He maintains that "considered as ends and relation to each other, the knowledge of truths is subordinate to the cultivation of the knowing mind."
"The question-Is Truth, or is the Mental Exercise in the pursuit of truth, the superior end?-this is perhaps the most curious theoretical, and certainly the most important practical, problem in the whole compass of philosophy. For, according to the solution at which we arrive, must we accord the higher or the lower rank to certain great departments of study; and, what is of more importance, the character of its solution, as it determines the aim, regulates from first to last the method, which an enlightened science of education must adopt.
"But, however curious and important, this question has never, in so far as I am aware, been regularly discussed. Nay, what is still more remarkable, the erroneous alternative has been very generally assumed as true. The consequence of this has been, that sciences of far inferior, have been elevated above sciences of far superior, utility; while education has been systematically distorted,-though truth and nature have occasionally burst the shackles which a perverse theory had im posed. The reason of this is sufficiently obvious. At first sight, it seems even absurd to doubt that truth is more valuable than its pursuit; for is this not to say that the end is less important than the mean?-and on this superficial view is the
prevalent misapprehension founded. A slight consideration will, however, expose the fallacy.
"Knowledge is either practical or speculative. In practical knowledge it is evident that truth is not the ultimate end; for, in that case, knowledge is, ex hypothesi, for the sake of application. The knowledge of a moral, of a political, of a religious truth, is of value only as it affords the preliminary or condition of its exercise.
"In speculative knowledge, on the other hand, there may indeed, at first sight, seem greater difficulty; but further reflection will prove that speculative truth is only pursued, and is only held of value, for the sake of intellectual activity: 'Sordet cognita veritas' is a shrewd aphorism of Seneca. A truth, once known, falls into comparative insignificance. It is now prized, less on its own account than as opening up new ways to new activity, new suspense, new hopes, new discoveries, new self-gratulation. Every votary of science is willfully ignorant of a thousand established facts,-of a thousand which he might make his own more easily than he could attempt the discovery of even one. But it is not knowledge-it is not truth-that he principally seeks; he seeks the exercise of his faculties and feelings: and, as in following after the one he exerts a greater amount of pleasurable energy than in taking formal possession of the thousand, be disdains the certainty of the many, and prefers the chances of the one. Accordingly, the sciences always studied with keenest interest are those in a state of progress and uncertainty; absolute certainty and absolute completion would be the paralysis of any study; and the last worst calamity that could befall man, as he is at present constituted, would be that full and final possession of speculative truth, which he now vainly anticipates as the consummation of his intellectual happiness.
'Quæsivit cœlo lucem ingemuitque reperta.'
"But what is true of science is true, indeed, of all human activity. 'In lite,' as the great Pascal observes, we always believe that we are seeking repose, while, in reality, all that we ever seek is agitation.' When Pyrrhus proposed to subdue a part of the world, and then to enjoy rest among his friends, he believed that what he sought was possession, not pursuit ; and Alexander assuredly did not foresee that the conquest of one world would only leave him to weep for another world to conquer. It is ever the contest that pleases us, and not the victory. Thus it is in play; thus it is in hunting; thus it is in the search of truth; thus it is in life. The past does not interest, the present does not satisfy; the future alone is the object which engages us.
'(Nullo votorum fine beati)
Victuros agimus semper, nec vivimus unquam.'
'Man never is, but always to be, blest.'
“The question, I said, has never been regularly discussed,-probably because it lay in too narrow a compass; but no philosopher appears to have ever seriously proposed it to himself, who did not resolve it in contradiction to the ordinary opinion. A contradiction of this opinion is even involved in the very term Philosophy, and the man who first declared that he was not a σοφός, or possessor, but a φιλόσοφος, or seeker of truth, at once enounced the true end of human speculation, and em
bodied it in a significant name. 'the hunter of truth,' for science is a chase, and in a chase the pursuit is always of greater value than the game.
Under the same conviction Plato defines man
'Our hopes, like towering falcons, aim
At objects in an airy hight;
But all the pleasure of the game
Is afar off to view the flight.'
'The intellect,' says Aristotle, in one passage, 'is perfected, not by knowledge, but by activity;' and in another, The arts and sciences are powers, but every power exists only for the sake of action; the end of philosophy, therefore, is not knowledge, but the energy conversant about knowledge.' Descending to the schoolmen. The intellect,' says Aquinas, 'commences in operation, and in operation it ends;' and Scotus even declares that a man's knowledge is measured by the amount of his mental activity-' tantum scit homo, quantum operatur.' The profoundest thinkers of modern times have emphatically testified to the same great principle. If,' says Mallebranche, 'I held truth captive in my hand, I should open my hand and let it fly, in order that I might again pursue and capture it.' 'Did the Almighty,' says Lessing, holding in his right hand Truth, and in his left Search after Truth, deign to tender me the one I might prefer,-in all humility, but without hesitation, I should request Search after Truth.' 'Truth,' says Von Müller, 'is the property of God; the pursuit of truth is what belongs to man;' and Jean Paul Richter: 'It is not the goal, but the course, which makes us happy.' But there would be no end of similar quotations.
"But if speculative truth itself be only valuable as a mean of intellectual activity, those studies which determine the faculties to a more vigorous exertion, will, in every liberal sense, be better entitled, absolutely, to the name of useful, than those which, with a greater complement of more certain facts, awaken them to a less intense, and consequently to a less improving exercise. On this ground I would rest one of the preeminent utilities of mental philosophy. That it comprehends all the sublimest objects of our theoretical and moral interest;—that every (natural) conclusion concerning God, the soul, the present worth and the future destiny of man, is exclusively deduced from the philosophy of mind, will be at once admitted. But I do not at present found the importance on the paramount dig. nity of the pursuit. It is as the best gymnastic of the mind,-as a mean, principally, and almost exclusively, conducive to the highest education of our noblest powers, that I would vindicate to these speculations the necessity which has too frequently been denied them. By no other intellectual application is the mind thus reflected on itself, and its faculties aroused to such independent, vigorous, unwonted, and continued energy; by none therefore, are its best capacities so variously and intensely evolved. By turning,' says Burke, 'the soul inward on itself, its forces are concentred, and are fitted for greater and stronger flights of science; and in this pursuit, whether we take or whether we lose our game, the chase is certainly of service.'" pp. 6-10
The above topic shadows forth a prominent doctrine of these lectures. Without going so far as Descartes, who made Activity the essence itself of the soul, Hamilton regards it as an