Imatges de pÓgina
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With respect to our fathers of the church, many in the early ages thought the human soul, and angels, and God himself, corporeal. The world improves and refines every day. St. Bernard, according to the confession of father Mabillon, taught on the subject of the soul, that after death it did not see God in heaven, but communed solely with the humanity of Jesus Christ. For this once, he was not believed upon his word; and indeed, the adventure of the crusade had rather discredited his oracles. Numberless schoolmen appeared afterwards upon the stage in pompous succession, such as the irrefagable doctor,* the subtle doctor,t the angelic doctor, the seraphic doctor, ş and the cherubic doctor, all of whom were perfectly confident they understood the nature of the human soul, but at the same time always spoke about it as if they wished no one else should understood it.

Our own countryman Descartes, born to detect the errors of antiquity, but unfortunately also to substitute his own in their room, and urged on by that spirit of system which blinds the strongest understandings, conceived he had demonstrated that the soul was the same thing as thought; as matter, according to him, is the same thing as extension. He affirms strongly, that a man always thinks, and that the soul arrives in the body provided with a whole stock of metaphysical notions, acquainted with God, with space and infinity, in possession of all sorts of abstract ideas, full, in short, of beautiful and sublime knowledge, which, most unluckily, it totally forgets immediately on its departure from the mother's womb. Father Malebranche, of the Oratory, in his sublime illusions, does not admit the doctrine of innate ideas; but he had no doubt but that we saw all in God, and that God, if we may so express ourselves, was in fact our soul.

After so many random reasoners had been thus forming what might have been called the Romance of

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St. Thomas.

St. Bonaventure.

-the Soul, a sage appears who has modestly presented us with the history of it. Mr. Locke has developed human reason to man, just as a skilful anatomist explains the springs and structure of the human body.

He avails himself of all the light that can be derived from natural philosophy; he sometimes ventures to speak affirmatively; but he also ventures to express

doubt. Instead of displaying definitions of what we are little or not all acquainted with, he examines, step by step, what we wish to be acquainted with. He begins with an infant at its birth; he follows slowly and cautiously the progress of its understanding; and he sees what it has in common with brutes, and what it has above them. He consults particularly his own testimonythe evidence of consciousness.. “ I leave those,” says he, “ who are better informed on the subject than myself, to discuss whether the soul exists before, or not until after the organization of the body, but I acknowledge it has fallen to my lot to have one of those heavy and inert souls which do not always think; and I am even unfortunate enough to conceive, that it may very possibly be no more necessary that the soul should be always thinking, than that the body should be always in motion.”

With regard to myself, I pride myself in being on this subject as simple as Mr. Locke. No one can ever induce me to believe that I am always thinking; and I feel no more disposed than he was, to imagine that a few weeks after my conception I was a very knowing soul, acquainted with a thousand things which I forgot on being born; and that I have to no purpose whatever possessed, while in the womb, invaluable stores of information, which abandoned me the instant I really wanted them, and which I have never since been able to recover.

Locke, after having destroyed innate ideas; after having wisely renounced the vanity of believing that man always thinks; having well established the principle, that all our ideas are derived to us through the senses; having examined our simple and analysed our compound ideas, having followed the human mind

VOL. IV.

II

through all its operations; having pointed out the imperfections of the various languages employed by mankind, and the abuse we make of words almost every moment of our lives,-Locke, I say, at last considers the extent, or rather the nothingness, of human knowledge. It is in this chapter that he ventures modestly to observe—“ We shall perhaps, never be capable of knowing, whether a being purely material thinks or not.” This judicious and guarded observation was considered by more than one divine, as neither more nor less than a scandalous and impious declaration, that the soul is material and mortal. Some English devotees, after their usual manner, sounded the alarm. The superstitious are in society what poltroons are in an army,—they both feel and excite causeless terror. The cry was, that Mr. Locke wished to overturn' religion: the subject, however, had nothing to do with religion at all; it was purely a philosophical question, and perfectly independent of faith and revelation. It was only necessary to examine, without acrimony or heat, whether there is any contradiction in saying— " Matter may think, and God may communicate thought to matter.” But theologians too often begin with passionately charging the man who does not join in their opinion with blaspheming or insulting God; somewhat resembling in this the bad poets, who thought that Despreaux spoke contemptuously of the king, because he was laughing at themselves. Doctor Stillingfleet obtained the reputation of a temperate controversialist, merely for abstaining in the discussion from positive and personal abuse of Mr. Locke. He entered the lists with him, but was decidedly defeated; for he argued like a divine, and Locke like a philosopher well acquainted with the strength and weakness of the human mind, and fighting with weapons the temper of which he well knew and justly confided in.

SECTION II.

Every philosopher is destined to endure reviling and calumny. For one man capable of replying with reason, there are a hundred who have nothing to advance but abuse, and every one pays with the money which he possesses. My ears are every day dinned and wearied with the exclamations-“ Locke denies the immortality of the soul; Locke destroys morality;". and what is surprising, if anything could surprise, is, that out of all those who in this manner bring accusations against the morality of Locke, there are very few indeed that have ever read him, fewer still that have understood him, and none whom it is not our duty to wish possessed of such virtues as were possessed by that great man, who so truly merited the epithets of wise and good.

Malebranche is read at Paris eagerly and with delight. A number of editions of his metaphysical romance have been printed; but I have remarked that there is little of him read besides the chapters relating to the errors of the senses and imagination. There are very few readers who examine the abstract part of the work. Those who have any knowledge of the French character will easily believe me, when I assert it as my firm opinion, that if Malebranche, instead of expatiating on the errors of the senses and imagination, had assumed that they were already sufficiently known by philosophers; and entered immediately upon his speculation on matter, he would not have had one follower, and would scarcely have had any readers. He confounded the reason of those whom he delighted by his style. His readers believed him on subjects which they did not understand, because he had begun intelligibly and reasonably on subjects within their grasp; he seduced because he was pleasing, as Descartes did because he was daring. Locke was merely wise; accordingly, twenty years were required to dispose of the first edition of his work “ On the Human Understanding,” which was printed in Holland. There never was a man who among us has been less read and more condemned than Locke. The echoes of calumny and ignorance every day repeat—" Locke did not believe the immortality of the soul; he must therefore have been a bad man. I leave to others the task of confuting so base a falsehood respecting that individual. I limit my

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self to showing the absurdity of the general conclusion, The doctrine of the immortality of the soul was for a very long time unknown to all the world. The first Jews were ignorant of it.

Was there no man of probity or virtue among them? Did not the Judaic law, although it taught nothing concerning the nature or immortality of the soul, teach nevertheless morality? Even although we were not at the present day assured by faith that we are immortal, although we had it clear to demonstration that everything belonging to us dissolved and perished with our perishable bodies, we surely should, notwithstanding all this, be found to adore the God that made us, and to follow the direction of that reason which he has bestowed upon us. our life and our whole existence to endure only for a single day, it is certain that, in order to pass that day in happiness, it would be necessary to be virtuous; and it is evident that, in every country and every age, being virtuous consists simply and solely in “ doing to others what men could reasonably desire should be done to themselves.” It is this genuine virtue, the daughter of reason, and not of fear, which influenced and guided all the sages of antiquity; it is this which, in our own times, regulated the life of a Descartes, that distinguished harbinger of natural philosophy; of a Newton, the great interpreter of nature; of a Locke, who alone brought the human mind acquainted with itself; and of a Bayle, that impartial and enlightened arbiter, as truly estimable as he was grossly calumniated; for to the honour of letters. it must be remarked, that philosophy makes an upright heart, as geometry does a correct head. But, not merely was Locke a virtuous man; not merely was he a believer in the immortality of the soul, huthe never did, in fact, assert that matter thinks; he only said that matter may think, if it is the will of God that it should do so, and that it is rash and absurd to deny that God has the power to make it think.

I will, however, even suppose that he said, and that others before him said, that God had in fact given thought to matter; does it thence follow that the soul

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