Page images

The Stoic conception of the relation of God to the world is very similar to the Aristotelian. They are viewed as two distinguishable yet inseparable aspects of Being—two sides of the one all-comprehensive existence

—two phases of the one actual substance. God is the productive energy, and matter is the ground or substratum on and in which this energy works. God is that by which, and matter is that through which, everything is; and in all things both coexist, neither pure spirit nor pure matter having actual existence.

Various reasons were given by the Greek philosophers for denying the creation of matter and for affirming its eternity. Their weakness is very ably shown in Pearson's work ‘On the Creed,' Art. I., chap. v.

Note XXXVII., page 358


There never should have been any doubt entertained as to the indebtedness of Spinoza to Bruno; but since the discovery of the 'Brief Treatise' of the latter, it is possible only in the minds of those who are not competently informed. A single fact may be mentioned to show how the discovery has thrown light on the relationship.

Appended to the second chapter of the 'Brief Treatise' are two dialogues — the first between the personifications, Understanding, Love, Reason, and Desire; and the second between two interlocutors, Erasmus and Theophilus. The German critical historians of philosophy have started a controversy as to whether these dialogues were written before, or after, or along with the rest of the treatise. As to the direct and immediate object of their inquiry, they seem to me to have done little more than raise a very thick cloud of dust, the reverse of helpful to clear vision ; but they have brought out one important fact-viz., that the second and longer of these dialogues, which is occupied with the idea of God, the fundamental idea in Spinoza's system, may be almost composed, pieced together, from sentences of Bruno. That there were many general resemblances between the doctrine of Spinoza and of the celebrated Neapolitan pantheist—that there were even some resemblances so special that they could only be accounted for by the later thinker having received from the earlierhad already been perceived; but the fact now mentioned has naturally led to a great deal of renewed and minute inquiry in this direction. The consequence has been that Spinoza has been ascertained to have absorbed Bruno not less than Descartes.

On Bruno, see Chr. Bartholmèss, ‘Jordano Bruno, 2 tom. (1846-47), and Domenico Berti. “Vita di Giordano Bruno' (1868). There are two instructive articles on his philosophy by Prof. Barach in the 13th vol. of the 'Philosophische Monatshefte.' His Italian works have been edited by Wagner, and some of his Latin works by Gfrörer.

There is a good ‘Histoire du Panthéisme Populaire au Moyen Age et au Seizième Siècle,' by Auguste Jundt. Note XXXVIII., page 375.


The discovery first of letters of Spinoza and then of the ‘Brief Treatise, concerning God, Man, and Human Happiness,' has recently given a fresh stimulus to the study of his writings. It has brought into the foreground the questions, What were the sources of his philosophy? and, How did it grow up in the mind of its author ? It has lighted the way to the answers. .

As regards the inquiry into the sources of his doctrine, here, as everywhere else in the history of philosophy, the result of investigation has been proof of the falsity and shallowness of the notion of Hegel that philosophies have succeeded one another in a single linear series, like beads on a string, or Indians in a file, or like a straight line of buckets, each lesser destined to be emptied into a bigger in front of it. Here, as everywhere else, it has been found that the history of philosophy is not in the least like a single thread, but is rather like a very broad web; and that a great man does not hang on to a particular other great man, but rather to the whole past and the whole present. Another result is that Spinoza has been ascertained to have borrowed far more from others than was supposed. It has taken long to make out, even approximately, the extent to which he was indebted to others, because, like most writers of his age, he very seldom gives a reference to authors who had preceded him ; when he does refer to them, it is generally to indicate dissent from some of their views. The result ascertained was, however, one which might have been anticipated, and which will lower no reasonable man's estimate of Spinoza's ability. The vast system which he constructed, viewed as a whole, is one of the most original which the entire history of philosophy presents. It certainly would have been neither so vast nor so original had the architect attempted to make his bricks for himself.

In the previous note I have mentioned that Spinoza has been shown by the recent investigations to have owed not a little to Bruno. It must be added that he has been proved beyond all doubt to have derived far more from authors of his own race than had been supposed. He will never be understood by any one who forgets that he was by birth and training a Jew; that the first and most powerful influences which acted on his mind were Jewish; that he knew the Hebrew Scriptures from his youth; that he was early initiated into the study of the Talmud ; that he had become conversant even before he left school with the writings of the famous Jewish scholars and thinkers who lived in France, Spain, North Africa, &c., during the middle ages. This has often been practically forgotten, however, owing to the want of Jewish learning which exists among Gentiles. A working knowledge of Hebrew is one of the rarest accomplishments among Gentile philosophers. Hence, had the Jews themselves not come to the rescue, we would probably still have been ignorant of the closeness and comprehensiveness of the relation between Spinoza and earlier Jewish thinkers. But this they have done, and the works of Franck and Munk, Joël and Mises, Bernays, Benemozegh, and Jarackewsky, &c., have to a great extent laid bare those roots of Spinozism which were fixed in Jewish soil. They have amply proved that, to be conceived of rightly, he must be viewed as connecting and combining two great developments of thought-an Eastern and a Western, a Jewish and a Gentile ; that nothing was more natural than that a Jew, situated as he was, should have been the founder of Rationalism; that he founded it mainly by combining, developing, and organising the ideas and principles of a long series of Jewish Biblical students; and that he also derived many of the elements and doctrines of his speculative system from Jewish sources.

The political theory of Spinoza, which he expounds in a special treatise, is in the main derived from Hobbes, whose • De Cive' and 'Leviathan' acquired from their first publication great celebrity on the Continent. Spinoza refers to Hobbes, but only slightly, and in his usual way of indicating dissent. The differences between the two authors are not inconsiderable, and are interesting; but the similarities are far more numerous. Spinoza was an able political thinker, but much less so than Hobbes, and he rather modified the political theory of Hobbes than formed one of his own. The German historians of the progress of political science decidedly err when they place him in this department on a level with the Englishman.

The discovery of Spinoza's indebtedness to the authors mentioned here led some to underestimate the influence exercised on him by Descartes. They have avoided the error of regarding Spinozism as an exaggerated or corrupted Cartesianism only to fall into that of denying essential connections between the two systems. The latter error is as great as the former. Nothing has come to light to justify it. In some respects the recently discovered compositions show even more clearly than those

« PreviousContinue »