Celebrity of Hobbes (RAW)

 

 

 

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Celebrity of Hobbes (RAW)
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By Rev. Baden Powell

The celebrity of Hobbes depends almost entirely Hobbes. oil his metaphysical, moral, and political writings (1642-78). His speculations on physical as well iw theological subjects evince little philosophical enlargement of ideas, andare conceived much in the formal scholastic spirit then prevalent. Yet the increasing influence of more positive principles may be traced in the precision of his conceptions on many 1)oints of philosophical inquiry, and his assertion of unlimited freedom of opinion is indicative of the oipirit of progress. In regard to higher subjects, he certainly ap- His theological pears to evince a clear appreciation of the value views. of the Baconian maxim distinctive of the provinces of reason and of faith; 11 Dignius credere cluftin scire." In his most celebrated work (especially in the rIkupters on religion in general, and that entitled I Rohault's ,Physics," pt. 1. c. 10.lie died 1675. so HISTORICAL SKETCH. [ESSAY 1. De Civitate Christiaii&") 1, his discussion On these subjects* almost wholly consists of formal dogmati ". expositions in the most literal sense of the accepted creed. In one passage indeed, he introduces a caution against mixing up phy8ical with religious doctrines; but in the sequel it appears that this refers only to guarding against transubstantiation. He supports at length the received evidential argument from miracles, exactly in the for al manner of theologians, as the only proof of a Divine revelation; thougli admitting the qualifying appeal to internal evidence of the worthiness of the doc- trine.2 Physical In the physical portion of his 11 Elementa Philo views. sophise " be evinces in general little advance beyond the ideas of the age; though, on some points, a singularity of opinion or expression strikes us. Thus, he expressly maintains that opinions respecting the magnitude or the or~g,~n of the universe, ought properly to be left to theological authorities to Leviathan, ch. xiv. and cb.xxxiii. Ibid. ch.xii. and ch. xxxvii. I ZMMAT 1. U.] HOMES. 81 docide.1 And on similax questions appeals to the authority of Scripture supported by that of miracles, the custom8 of our count.ry and the reverence due to the laws.2 In one passage, indeed, speaking of the interpretaflon of some paxts of. Scripture, he ventures so far as to affirm that we must not adopt too literal a sense; an in the i4stance of the a;sertions of the immo- bility of the earth and the like; observing that the object of revelation is not to teach philosophy, but religious faith and duty.3 . Ile evinces a just discrimination with respect to the popular prejudice against s~cond causes, asserthig distinctly on the contrary, that 11 ignorance I T. llobbesN "Opera Omnla Philos." Amst. 1678; "Elern. PhIlos." P. 204. I Ibid. p. 205. 11 Qumstiones igitur de infinito et Leterno sciens pra~ tereo, contentus eh doctrina circa mund! magnitudinern et originern quam suaserint Scripturm sacrae, et quae illas conflrmat miraculorum fama, et mos patrius, et legum reverentia debits." 1 11 Argumenta qum a formula dictionis surnantur, firma non esse: Quoties enim loquitur Scriptura sacra de terra ut immobill, 'quam. lainen philosophl hodie fere onmes moveri censent signis evidentissi- nds? Scriptura sacra est a prophetis et apostolis ad docendum non philosophlarn (quam ad exercitium rationis naturalis contemplationibus (11.1)utationibusque hominurn reliquit Deus), sed pietatem et salutis &,ternve viam. "-Leviathan, c. viii. p. 41, 82 HISTORICAL SKETCH. 11 of second causes makes men fear some inv,Sib~ ' C4 agent like the gods of the Gentiles; but the inv iou of them leads us to a God eternal, iw m 96 figat B , 0 and omnipotent," and he pursues the argument show that this ignorance of second causes conspiri with certain common prejudices, as those relating ffuPposed spiritual and supernatuxal beings, and t " --+,,ral source of all corrupt and supe like, are odtious forms of religion.1 But again, as to the ground of belief in revelatio ows, cc we have no cert(vin knowledge of he av of 1-t trust the holy men of God, 64 trutil 01 OCKIP V~ st church, succeeding one another, from the time 66 those who saw the wondrous works of Almigh 11 God in the flesh." Upon the whole what surprises us is -that aa Mm professing theological views so little distinguisha from the most orthodox creed of his clay, sho have been obnoxious to charges of scepticism even of atheism, did we not know how liberally tho, I The same argument is more expanded in his 11 Leviathan," P. 55. 2 Human Nature* c. iL FS8AY I. 11-1 SIR T. BROWNE. 83 epithets are bestowed from mere personal or party animosity. The publication of Sir T. Browne's 11 Inquiry into Vulgar and common Errors " (1646) has been justly commented I on as, a remarkable case of the advanchig influence of the enlightenment of the age on a mind previously given to superstition and credulity tit no ordinary degree, as evinced in his earlier work the , Religio Medici," (1633): and the author's able remaxks on subjection to authority, neglect of inquiry, and the spirit of credulity as the main sources .of populax and philosophical, error2 are doubtlesa urged in the true spirit of progress. Though when we look to the details, we must make much allowunce for the slowness with which progress manifests Itmelf. We must recognise the ideas of the age in the mrnestness with which he introduces and denounces m the main source af all errors, the malignity of the devil, continually engaged in a warfare against truth, obscuring and misleading men's minds, and propa- Buckle, 11 Hist. of Civilization)" i 334. Vulgar trroftj bk. 1. ch. 5. G 2 Sir 1. Brown& t I - - ----------- * ----------- gating every kind 0 5 on physical and religious point * s, but even ese deceptions 0 common subjects. And among th 13atan, the most notable are the practices of magic#' " witchcraft, and the like 1; which by yis agency, me took for realities. It is sometimes impossible to repress a smile mile the author's cautious insinuations of possible doubtfulnem in some cases of the most incredible ab, aurditieg; or at the elaborate learning he brin to bear on them; as in arguing against the exxii ance of the Griffin and of the PhceniX 2; or his recondite speculation on the physiology of Ada and Eve.' His remarks on the possible interpretation of th history of Loes wife and other Scripture miracles b 'a figurative philology 4 may find their parallel 1, some modem speculations, though he prudentl concludes, 44 with industry we decline such para ol doxes and peaceably submit unto the receiv 11 acceptatiQn.19 6 I XTulgar Errors, bk. 1. CIL 101 9 ibid. bk. v. ch- 65 Ibid. bk. V1. ch- L 2 Ibid. bk. M.'eh- 11, 12. 4 Ibid. bk. Vii. ch- I I - IPMAY L 11-1 MYSTICISM- 85 Fis profession of scepticism as to the commonly received antiquity of the earth resolves itself into InKimt-ing on the falsity of all the ancient traditions of the heathen nations and the entire discrepancies In the chronology of the Hebrew, Samaritan and Septuagint versions of the Old Testament, rendering thein all alike unworthy of cridit. Lastly, not to multiply instances, the author's plaborate discussion I to illustrate the Divine wisdom in making the sun to move round the earth, which is fifly ordained to be stationary in the centre, and his itt-veral arguments in support of the beneficent tit-sign of this arrangement, inight have afforded a valuable lesson to many modern writers on final mitHes. A singular exemplification bf the eAent to which mysticism of R. Fludd. j.he contradictory notion of making faith the basis of ort . ence, was carried about the period of which we are trvatiDg, may be found in the strange system of It. Fludd (who had previously been known for some anatomical researches, also curiously connected with mystical ideas), in which he makes the writings, I Vulgar Errors, bk. A. ch. 5. k 4, 88 HISTORICAL SKETCH. [ESSAY 1. i y were (as might be expected) marked througho by the peculiarities of his time. His discussio on natural theology, and his vindication of the stud of "second causes," as in no way really detractin from the admission of a 11 first cause," are, of cours earned on in the spirit of that philosophy,, which ha not yet analysed the idea of causation. He believed the whole universe subservient to th well-being of man, for whom he says 11 God or' i Ily 'g'na' created, and has vouchsafed by miracles to alter the course of nature." I While speaking of the Mosaic narrative, which he regards as designed for a real physical record, he adds, 11 though, that in haosi other places of the Scripture when the works of nature ax mentioned but incidentally in order to other purposeFi, they are spoken of rather in a popular than accurate manner, I daxe not peremptorily deny."'i And in a like tone of extreme caution he insinuates (following Bacon) that the examination of the book o nature may be valuable for the better understandin of the volume of revelation. I Usefulness of Exp. Philos. p. 24, 1665. 2 Ibid. p. 29. INGAY I. U.] ROYAL SOCIETY. so Some illustration of the state of ideas at the period Naturid and super. now referred to may be collected from the circum- natund knowleftc mfluices attending the first commencement of the Royal Society~ of which Boyle was one of the f4tinders; inwhose original charter it was expressly laid down that its object was the advancement of 11 natural knowledge " understood as opposed to "I supi,ruatural." It was probably chiefly to satisfy the ptiblic mind on this point that Bishop Sprat (one tof its earliest raembers) wrote his 11 History of the 61 1 toyal Society " (16 6 7) ; which is in fact simply a lm)l)ular exposition of some of the chief subjects which Own engaged the researches of its members, to show I liat they were not followers of occult arts; while in a higlier spirit he enlarges on the tendency of such Phidies, as eminently favourable to arming the minds tot' their votaries against the influence of fanaticism And superstition; doubtless aiming at the morose and ignorant prejudices of the puritanical party, *16ch had so recently been dominant. I Ik fact the belief in the occult arts was at this Demoniacal influence. 1w,riod beginning to undergo a gradual process of ouliversion, at least among the better educated. It isany be worth remarking that it was in connection i with the subject of witchcraft, that a Dutch theologian, Bekker (about 1690, in his 11 Monde Enchant6 followed up the denial of all real power to evil spirits, by extending his speculations to the cases of Demonia,cs related in the Gospels, and endeavoured to explain them by natural causes: an attempt afterwards so largely carried out by Semler and the Rationalists. In Blaise Pascal we must recognise one of the',, brightest ornaments as well of science as of theology, in the age in which he lived. In him we find a combination of high and diversified excellence sel om united in the same individual;-transcendent powers of mathematical and physical investigation, joined with equally high ability in moral reasoning, clo ed with glowing eloquence, and all absorbed in a predominating spirit of intense religious feeling. Of his~ geometry, only some colossal fragments remain; in physics, the'earliest generalisations of atmospheric a well as hydrostatic pressure are associated with his name:, while his "Thoughts" (not published till 1670, some, years after his death) are perhaps the chie monament of his powers of philosophical and mora, discussion applied to theology, and made subservie to the defence of the Christian doctrine. PASCAL. 91 In regard to more positive evidential arguments, whether in regard to natural or revealed religion, his expressions and mode of reasoning betray some vague- ness. Pascars belief in miracles appears to have received it powerful support from his conviction of the miracutons cure of his niece, Madlle. Perier, by the touch Of the Holy Thorn. Such a faith would be little in wcordance with the modem evidential distinctions; And we may thus account for some expressions in his writings which might otherwise be imagined of scepAicid tendency; while his app~al to the principle of faith, and his avowed preference for the practical axgiiiiient that it is safer to believe,-axe but in accord- ouice with the general spirit of the Roman Catholic t1w4)logy. Yet his philosophical mind is continually eviiicedinremaxkswhich beax a profound examination; as. for example in the emphatic sentence: "Reason confounds the dogmatists, -nature, the sceptics." ,ne latter paxt of the 17th century abounded in 81m,cillations of a mixed physical and metaphysical kind, which in one sense may seem to be related to advance of the study of natural order, though in Imil it tier they were rather its hindrances as leading the Speculative systems of the world. 92 HISTORICAI SKETCH. thoughts to conceptions but alien from the legitimate method of prosecuting it. One of the most ccelebratted, of these speculative theories was that of the erudite Cudworth ("The Intellectual System of the Universe,",", 1678), in which, among other metaphysical conce tions of great abstruseness, he indicated in a very' remarkable manner the increasing sense of the invariableness of natural order, by introducing what he termed the principle of "plastic nature," I in order to aocount for the operations of physical laws without, the continual direct agency of the Deity. But his, description of this principle is of so confused and mystical a kind, that it can convey little if any real philosophical meaning. He speaks of the "reluetance and inaptitude of matter," as if the Deity" had to contend against it. Other writers appealed to what they termed 11 oc-' casional causation," as well as various hypotheses, nearly all originating out of some modifications of the Cartesian philosophy, or rather, perhaps, a kind" of transition condition between it and the more advanced inductive system, which soon te I Intell. System, W. 37. EMAY 1. Ii.) OASSENDI. iiet aside such speculations, or at least to keep them neparate from all real and exact physical views. These metaphysical theories did not directly aid in estaWishing any legitimate generalisation of the laws of inatter, and could lead to no substantial advancesin the Audy of nature. Yet they should not pass without notice, especially when taken up, as they were, by such Ine.1i as Gassendi, Pascal, and others, as indicative of it more enlarged spirit of inquiry and research than the exclusive devotion, whether to the Aristotelian (or the Cartesian systems, had hitherto allowed. Gassendi, indeed, in his 11 Institutiones Philoso146w," maintained more purely inductive principles, and especially attacked the metaphysical principles (it' Wscartes in his 11 Disquisitio Mathematica " (about 1680). Hence some writers have drawn a distinction Im4ween two great European schools: the metaphy- cal, or Cartesian, and the mathematical, or that of Qtssendi; and, following this distinction, have ranked In I lie former sect Leibnitz, and in the latter Newton. 

Among the theories referred to, the abstruse speculations of Spinoza were almost entirely of a metaphysical kind, and led to an extensive pantheistic and necessitarian system. Yet, in accordance with existing physical ideas, he seems to have admitted the supernatural, though he argues that the actual boundary between it and the natural cannot be determined till the whole extent of nature shall become known to us [See especially Epist. 23. 1677]; unless, indeed, we interpret this as a virtual rejection of any such distinction. 

General Tendency of Metaphysical Theories

But, while in a strictly physical point of view, the  theories are of little value, there is still one featu common to them all; however metaphysical, how, ever little directly founded on physical inductio, however hypothetical, however mystical, visionary, evep delusive; yet, they all agree in this, that th were professedly philosophical theories; they wer designed at least to be results of the pure exercise reason; and avowedly admitted no other authori They were intended for generalisatione of concl sions and truths extending to all nature, and su posed to include the whole system of the wor They, therefore, would necessarily imply some gone idea (however faulty in its details or its foundati of universal law and order; and the mere recog tion of such a principle, lea-~ing nothing either RIBAY L IL] MITAPHYSICLL THEORIM. 95 nrbitrary intervention Or to inexplicable destiny, but professing to conceive everything regulated by law and explicable by reason, was a recognition of the only true philosophical basis of all scientific knowIC(I("e, pointing at least to some conception of the 0 twity of all nature.

The Order of Nature

 

 

   

 

 


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