« PreviousContinue »
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 previously published how great were Spinoza's obligations to Descartes. For instance, his account of the affections in the ' Brief Treatise' follows Descartes almost slavishly; while his theory of the affections in the 'Ethics' so little resembles the theory out of which it was developed, that he can speak of Descartes as having merely exhibited in treating of the passions "his own singular ingenuity and acuteness." There is no doubt that Spinoza received from Descartes the definition of substance, such a conception of two substances derived from and dependent on God—viz., spirit or thought, and matter or extension —as was capable of easy conversion into the conception of their being merely affections of one infinite substance, and other notions of the utmost significance in his system. It only requires to be remembered that these notions entered into a mind already possessed with others which necessarily and powerfully influenced them. There is no doubt that he received from Descartes the mathematical method of philosophical exposition. It only requires to be remembered that this method was not essential to his philosophy, and was only employed by him after his system had been substantially constituted; that the secret of his doctrine must not be sought for in the mathematical method, or in any " particular mathematical image."
The recent discoveries also show clearly that Spinoza's system was very slowly and gradually developed, and passed through various phases in its author's mind before it was elaborated into the shape which it assumes in the 'Ethics.' It is true that Spinoza died at the early age of forty-four, and that his 'Ethics' were ready for the press two years before his death - but the 'Brief Treatise,' which traverses almost the whole ground afterwards surveyed in the 'Ethics,' was certainly written not less than seventeen years before hisdeath, and probably more; so that fifteen years at least, and perhaps twenty or twentyone years, intervened between the first written sketch and the final form of the 'Ethics,' during the whole of which time the strenuous and incessant work of Spinoza's life was the elaboration of a philosophy of which all the main features and essential principles were apprehended by him from the commencement The 'Brief Treatise' and the 'Ethics' are the two extreme terms in the growth of the philosophy of Spinoza; and although in the course of that growth scarcely a single thought escaped modification, still, as the growth had been a continuous and consistent self-development, even its two extreme stages correspond in all their features as the countenance of the adult man to that of the child. It is not yet possible, however, to trace clearly and certainly the process of growth from the one of these terms to the other. It has not yet even been determined beyond doubt in what order the intervening works were composed. In the absence of direct testimony this can only be done by careful examination of their contents,—by a delicate, subtle, subjective kind of criticism, very apt to lead different inquirers to different and discordant results. In fact, the order of the composition of the works has to be determined from the course of the development of the thought, and the course of the development of the thought from the order of the composition of the works, with no external help except what is furnished by the letters arranged and studied chronologically. There are internal grounds for supposing that the fragment on the "Improvement of the Mind" was written immediately after the 'Brief Treatise,' the 'Theologico-Political Treatise,' next in order, then the 'Exposition of CartesianLsm and Metaphysical Reflections,' and so that these represent the successive stages through which the thought of Spinoza has to be traced in its progress from the time when it referred everything to the unity of nature to the time when it referred everything to the unity of substance —from the 'Brief Treatise' to the 'Ethics;' but the reasons for arranging these works in the order indicated are merely probabilities, and some of them very feeble probabilities.
The literature regarding Spinoza is enormous. For a general view of it consult Ueberweg's 'History of Philosophy,' vol. ii. pp. 56-60 (Eng. tr.), and, if still fuller information is desired, Van der Linde's 'B. Spinoza Bibliographic' (1871). The recently published monograph of Theodore Camerer—' Die Lehre Spinoza's'—is an extremely thorough and able work. The 'Benedictus de Spinoza' of R. Willis may be recommended to the merely English reader.
Note XXXIX., page 377.
In my 'Philosophy of History in Europe' I have given some account of the philosophies of Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel, and literary references which may be useful to those who are engaged in their study.
The collected edition of Fichte's work by his son is in eight volumes. His 'Popular Writings' have been translated into English by Dr William Smith; his ' Science
of Knowledge' and' Science of Rights' by A. E. Kroeger. His philosophy is ably described in Kuno Fischer's 'Geschichte der Neuern Philosophic" Bd. v., in Harms' 'Philosophic seit Kant,' and in the special works of Busse and Lowe, &c. The best account, perhaps, of his religious doctrine is Fr. Zimmer's 'Joh. Gottl. Fichte's Religionsphilosophie' (1878).
The complete edition of Schelling's works is in fourteen volumes. There is a careful exposition of the successive modifications of his doctrine of the Absolute in the two last articles of the second volume of Hoffmann's 'Philosophische Schriften.' Several of his writings have been translated in the 'Journal of Speculative Philosophy,' edited by W. T. Harris.
The complete edition of Hegel's works is in eighteen volumes. Haym and Rosenkranz have treated of his life from very different points of view. There is an English translation of his 'Logic' by Wallace; of his 'Philosophy of History' by Sibree; and of his 'Phenomenology of Spirit,' 'Propaedeutik,' and parts of his 'History of Philosophy,' in the 'Journal of Speculative Philosophy.' Cabot's article "Hegel" in the 'North American Review,' April 1868, and Dr Hutchison Stirling's " Secret of Hegel," may be mentioned.
The various recent phases of modern German pantheism have been perhaps nowhere more minutely delineated than in the volumes of Hoffmann's 'Philosophische Schriften.'