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modern metaphysics is confined to these internal and external feelings; and it is a common error to substitute the internal feeling as a first principle, instead of that which is apprehended by the reason through direct intuition, and revealed to the soul by language and reflection. It is likewise an equally common error to substitute reflection on these internal and external feelings for reason, as the initiatory instrument of that knowledge which is the basis of philosophy. (Here he is evidently alluding to Locke and his followers.) But it is by the view or intuition of the Divine Thought that meaning is given to these various feelings external and internal, and to the various sensible objects by which we are surrounded.
The basis of all knowledge is the knowledge of being; yet not of an abstract idea, but of the concrete Personal Being, God Himself, acting as a cause and producing existences, who is in fact the only being, because He alone has being in Himself. The knowledge of this Being is gained by revelation, by means of the written word, wherein He declares Himself—' I am that I am ;' and the mind beholds Him and has Him made known to it internally, through the reason, independently of all external sensations.
God being the only Being, all other things are only existences; and man learns from the revealed word that the one Being created existences; not that He extends Himself into these various manifestations (as Hegel teaches); not that He causes these existences to emanate from Himself, as other Pantheists teach; but that He creates them. Man thus learns their proper nature; viz. that they are distinct, individual, real things, having a kind of personality; that it is the act of creation which gives them this reality and individuality; and that it is only by the fact of their being created that their reality is assured to us: that, in short, nothing but the act of creation could assure to us the reality of external things.
Gioberti holds, moreover, that all our knowledge of philosophy must begin with a knowledge of being and existences, and their relation to each other; and that not of abstract being or abstract existence, but of one concrete Being, and of many concrete individual existences; and he thinks that the Divine Thought gives us a knowledge of the latter by a direct view of them, which gives life and meaning to all our sensations and feelings in connexion with them.
He likewise teaches that principles of knowledge are objective, eternal, and absolute; that they are not the creation of the mind, nor sought out by it, but that they present themselves to the mind unsought, and are first truths,—the foundation of other truths.
He teaches that the permanent possession of the Divine Thought depends in a degree on man himself; that he may rebel against it, and thus fail to receive it, and fall into error. He teaches that it is by the participation of it that individuals possess a moral personality; that it is the vital principle, and that if it were entirely withdrawn the consequence would be annihilation: that inasmuch as the Divine Thought creates and governs the universe, it is the soul of the world; inasmuch as it dwells in men's minds, it is knowledge; inasmuch as it actuates, produces, determines, and classifies the powers of nature, it is the generic and specific essence of things; that the basis of generality is the Divine Being Himself, having in Himself the ideas of all possible things, and the power of giving effect to those ideas. Here again Plato has evidently been the suggester.
It has taken us a good deal of pains and thought to extract these views from the diffuseness and desultoriness of Gioberti, and to clothe them in intelligible English; and after all there is much that is dreamy and mystical about them. But at least these thoughts are worthy of consideration;—that when we attempt to philosophize we should not neglect revelation; that, when God has made known to us anything in regard to Himself, or to the human soul, or to the origin of existing things, it is folly to ignore it altogether; that the truer wisdom is to endeavour to ascertain its meaning, to see what conclusions legitimately follow from it, and to govern and check all our other knowledge by what we thus learn. We are aware that it will be said that the Scriptures were not written to teach Psychology or Ontology; but still if they do directly teach portions of them, or even distinctly imply them, as religion is necessarily more or less metaphysical, we think it folly to cast aside what seems clearly narrated. Thus the declarations contained in Scripture concerning the nature of God, should govern all our metaphysical discussions which involve the consideration of the Divine nature; the recognition of man's nature as threefold, 'body, soul, and spirit,' should lead us to put a meaning on those terms, and regulate our classification of human powers accordingly; and (what is more important than this last, but seems to be altogether ignored in modern metaphysics) the action of spirits, both holy and depraved, on the human mind, as the source of ideas and emotions, ought to be fully recognised and taken into account, even if we should think it reverent not to discuss this influence in detail.
We are quite aware that some, so-styled, philosophers 'call in question or deny the reality of this spiritual influence; but that is no reason why we, who are more certain of it than of most of the so-called doctrines of psychology and ontology, should renounce that certainty, or suffer it to be forgotten, merely out of compliment to the name of philosophy. What has philosophy done by herself for the practical science of the human mind? What has she settled, that she should be supposed entitled to sit in judgment upon revelation? In spite, therefore, of the arrogant, oracular tone of Gioberti, we feel indebted to him for drawing the attention of the Christian philosopher to the duty of causing Divine Revelation to govern and control all his speculations on every subject on which it can be a fitting guide.
There is also another point in which he appears to us worthy of attention, i. e. on the great importance of language as a divine agent for forming our minds. Kant spoke of space and time as necessary forms of human thought. We regard number and causation as equally necessary and unavoidable for all sound minds. But it seems to be forgotten that the tendencies to the formation of language, although not universal in their manner of operation, are universal in the necessity they impose upon all men to cast their thoughts into the mould of the language they customarily speak. Thus those in whose language there is a dual number must necessarily attend more than others to the fact that two agents, and not more, have acted in certain cases. Those in whose language the words are broken up into minute fragments, which never coalesce or suffer crasis (as is the case with the North American Indians), cannot avoid thinking more slowly (both from the length of the words and the stereotyped distinctness of the ideas) than those whose language is more close and compact, like the English; nor can they avoid a more minute analysis of thought. So again, the different masses of ideas which are variously combined into words in different languages, and the different directions of thought which have created the various shades of signification of the same words, must necessarily direct the mind into different channels of thought, in consequence of these relations of words and the ideas they represent in different languages. In nothing is this more evident than in studying philosophical treatises in different languages,—Greek, Latin, French, Italian, English,—especially when we attempt to render from one language into another. No one word or form of expression seems capable of being rendered invariably into a corresponding word or form of expression in another language. The reason is, that every word embraces and leaves out some idea or ideas which the corresponding word in another language omits and comprises. It necessarily follows that, from the laws of association of ideas by means of words, men's thoughts arrange themselves differently. It cannot be otherwise.
One result of this seems unavoidable, viz. that we can never have a universal philosophy of the human mind. Supposing an English or a German writer to have treated even a branch of the subject satisfactorily, when hia book comes to be read by a foreigner, it will awake a series of associated thoughts in bis mind, quite different from the intention of the author, purely in consequence of the different extent of meaning of some single word. And thence conclusions will be drawn, not only beyond the sense of the author, but sometimes quite contrary to it. Then the theory of Condillac, that all our thoughts and feelings are nothing but transformed sensations, is justly suspected by Brown to have arisen from his combining with Locke's views the meaning of the word sentir, which signifies not only to perceive with the sense, but also to perceive with the understanding, or intellect; just as a similar ambiguity in the word aiadrja-K led another writer to assert a similar doctrine. Thus, again, conscience in French, includes not only what in English we express by the same name, but also that which we express by consciousness; and when used in the latter sense will sometimes be supposed to be taken in the former. In short, it is all but impossible for a person to think accurately in two different languages. This appears strikingly in the life of Blanco White, who long felt that he was a stranger in English society, from the two-fold impossibility of accurately apprehending all that was said, and accurately expressing in English his own thoughts. And when by long residence he had surmounted these difficulties, he found a corresponding difficulty in bringing himself again to think and express himself accurately in Spanish.
So that language (we mean the structure of each particular language) is a bond, imposed on our minds by its Author, from which no one can escape, and which, equally with the structure of the mind in other respects, constrains us to cast our thoughts in particular moulds. It therefore follows that any system of psychology which overlooks these facts must be defective; and Gioberti again deserves our thanks for drawing our attention, both directly and indirectly, to the important function of language in moulding our minds.
But the particular point of view in which he especially regarded it, is equally true and important, viz. that all languages possess features in common, which give definiteness to the ideas which (in whatever manner) God thinks proper to convey to them. All languages have the substantive, the adjective, the verb, the words of qualification to all these. All languages therefore necessitate the mind to consider some things as distinct, and perhaps as permanent existences, and others as appendages, accidental and transitory; some things as agents, others as acted upon.
But it is time that we should bring these observations to a close. Metaphysics still require a systematic writer, well trained by the strict discipline of an English university, with the learning and acuteness of Hamilton or Cousin, with the religious principles of Gioberti and Dr. Hickok, and with the plain common-sense and lucid style of Reid and Stewart, or, still better as to style, of Smith, the translator of Fichte. That such a person might be found we think from the published writings of Dr. Whewell, the most metaphysical, perhaps, of our non-metaphysical writers; especially rf he would condescend to render his style less technical. It is not that we object to fix the meaning of words, or even, if absolutely necessary, to coin new words. Possibly our language may still, in some degree, be in the condition in which Cicero found his own in respect to philosophical language. But we do think that scientific men of all classes are too apt to use strange words when ordinary ones would answer the purpose equally well. Not that we suppose Dr. Whewell the only existing person competent to the task, but that we do not remember another person who is equally well qualified, who would have weight enough to stamp an imprimatur at once on any work he might produce which was worthy of the subject.