Jaime Luciano Balmes.

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VOL. I .

SJtto g0rk:





Entered according to Act of Congress, tn the year lS5v

By D. & J. SADLIEB & Co.,

In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the SoutiwrB
District of New York.


22! F1F






I. Importance and Utility of the Question of Certainty 3

IL True State of the Question 7

III. Certainty of the Human Race and Philosophical Certainty. 14

IV. Existence of Transcendental Science in the Absolute In-

tellectual Order 24

V. Transcendental Science in tho Human Intellectual Order

cannot emanate from the Senses 32

VI. Transcendental Science. Insufficiency of Real Truths.... 87
VII. The Philosophy of the Me cannot produce Transcendental

Science 41

VIIL Universal Identity 56

IX. Universal Identity, Continued 64

X. Problem of Representation : Monads of Leibnitz 67

XI. Problem of Representation examined 71

XIL Immediate Intelligibility. 76

XIII. Representation of Causality and Ideality 83

XIV. Impossibility of Finding the first Principle in the Ideal

Order 89

XV. The Indispensable Condition of all Human Knowledge.

Means of perceiving Truth 92

XVI. Confusion of Ideas in Disputes on the Fundamental Prin-
ciple 102

XVII. Thought and Existence. Descartes' Principle 106

XVIII. The Principle of Descartes, continued. His Method Ill

XIX. Value of the Principle, I Think: Its Analysis 118

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XX. True Sense of the Principle of Contradiction. Kant's

Opinion 126

XXL Does the Principle of Contradiction merit the Title of Fun-
damental ? and if so, in what Sense ? 140

XXII. The Principle of Evidence 146

XXIII. The Criterion of Consciousness 151

XXIV. The Criterion cf Evidence 157

XXV. The Objective Value of Ideas 163

XXVI. Can all Cognitions be reduced to the Perception of

Identity ? 171

XXVII. Continuation of the same subject 176

XXVIII. Continuation of the same subject 183

XXIX. Are there true Synthetic Judgments a priori in the Sense

of Kant? 188

XXX. Vice's Criterion 200

XXXI. Continuation of the same subject 212

XXXIL The Criterion of Common Sense 219

XXXIII. Error of Lamennais on Common Consent 230

XXXIV. Summary and Conclusion 253



I. Sensation in Itself 249

II. Matter is incapable of Sensation 255

IIL Sleep and Waking 263

IV. Relation of Sensations to an External World 267

V. An Idealist Hypothesis 273

VL Is the External and Immediate Cause of Sensations a Free

Cause ? 276

VII. Analysis of the Objectiveness of Sensations 279

VIII. Sensation of Extension 283

IX. Objectiveness of the Sensation of Extension 287

X. Force of Touch to make Sensations Objective 293

XI. Inferiority of Touch compared with other Senses 296

XII. Can Sight alone give iis the Idea of a Surface ? 302

XIII. Cheselden's Blind Man 310

XIV. Can Sight give us the Idea of a Solid ? 315



XV. Sight and Motion 319

XVI. Possibility of other Senses 324

XVII. Existence of New Senses 328

XVIIL Solution of Lamennais' Objection 333



I. Extension Inseparable from the Idea of Body 339

II. Extension not Perceptible as the Direct and Immediate

Object of Sensations 345

IIL Scientific Fruitfulness of the Idea of Extension 348

IV. Reality of Extension 357

V. Geometrical Exactness Realized in Nature 360

VI. Remarks on Extension 3(5

VII. Space. Nothing 369

VIII. Descartes and Leibnitz on Space 375

IX. Opinion of those who attribute to Space a Nature distinct

from Bodies 380

X. Opinion of those who hold Space to be the Immensity of

God 382

XI. Fenelon's Opinion 386

XII. What Space consists in 391

XIII. New Difficulties. 396

XIV. Another Important Consequence . 400

XV. Illusion of Fixed Points in Space 403

XVI. Observations on Kant's Opinion 407

XVII. Inability of Kant's Doctrine to solve the Problem of the

Possibility of Experience 415

XVIII. The Problem of Sensible Experience 418

XIX. Extension abstracted from Phenomena 421

XX. Are there Absolute Magnitudes f 427

XXI. Pure Intelligibility of the Extended World 432

XXII. Infinite Divisibility 436

XXIII.. Unextended Points 439

XXIV. A Conjecture on the Transcendental Notion of Extension . . 442
XXV. Harmony of the Real, Phenomenal, and Ideal Orders 446



XXVI. Character of the Relations of the Real Order to the Phe-
nomenal 450

XXVII. Whether every Thing must be in some Place 452

XXVIII. Contingency of Corporeal Relations 459

XXIX. Solution of two Difficulties 462

XXX. Passive Sensibility 466

XXXI. Possibility of a greater Sphere in active Sensibility 469

XXXII. Possibility of the Penetration of Bodies 480

XXXIII. A Triumph of Religion in the Field of Philosophy 483

XXXIV. Conclusion and Summing up 489





THE foL:>wing translation of the great work of
the lamented James Balmes on Philosophy, was un-
dertaken at my suggestion and recommendation,
and thus far I hold myself responsible for it. I
have compared a considerable portion of it with
the original, and as far as I have compared it, I have
found it faithfully executed. The translator ap-
pears to me to have rendered the author's thought
with exactness and precision, in a style not inferior
to his own.

I have not added, as was originally contemplated,
any Notes to those of the author. To have done
so, would have swelled the volumes to an unreason-
able size, and upon further consideration, they did
not seem to me to be necessary. They would, in
fact, have been an impertinence on my part, and
the reader will rather thank me for not having
done it. The work goes forth, therefore, as it came


from the hands of its illustrious author, with no ad-
dition or abbreviation, or change, except what was
demanded by the difference between the Spanish
and English idioms.

James Balrnes, in whose premature death in
1849, the friends of religion and science have still
to deplore a serious loss, was one of the greatest
writers and profoundest thinkers of Spain, and in-
deed of our times. He is well and favorably
known to the American public by his excellent
work on European civilization, a work which has
been translated into the principal languages of
Europe. In that work he proved himself a man
of free and liberal thought, of brilliant genius, and
varied and profound learning. But his work on
the bases of philosophy is his master-piece, and,
taken as a whole, the greatest work that has been
published on that important subject in the nine-
teenth century.

Yet it is rather as a criticism on the various erro-
neous systems of philosophy in modern times, than
as containing a system of philosophy itself that I
have wished it translated and circulated in English.
As a refutation of Bacon, Locke, Hume, and Con-
dillac, Kant, Fichte, Schelling, and Spinoza, it is a
master-piece, and leaves little to desire. In deter-
mining the fundamental principles of philosophy,


and constructing a system in accordance with the
real world, the author is not always, in my judg-
ment, successful, and must yield to his Italian con-
temporary, the unhappy Abbate Gioberti.

When criticizing the errors of others, the distin-
guished author reasons as an ontologist, but when
developing his own system, he is almost a psycholo-
gist. His ontology is usually sound, indeed, and his
conclusions are for the most part just, but not always
logically obtained. He recognizes no philosophical
formula which embraces the whole subject-matter
of philosophy, and does not appear to be aware
that the primum pliHosophiawm is and must be a
synthesis ; and hence he falls into what we may call,
not eclecticism, but syncretism. This is owing to the
fact that his genius is critical rather than construc-
tive, and more apt to demolish than to build up.

What I regard as the chief error of the illus-
trious Spaniard, is his not recognizing that con-
ceptions without intuitions are, as Kant justly
maintains, empty, purely subjective, the mind it-
self; and hence, while denying that we have intu-
ition of the infinite, contending that we have a real
and objectively valid conception of it. Throughout
his book the reader will find him maintaining that
the human mind may, by discursion, attain to valid

conceptions of a reality which transcends intuition.


This I regard as an error. Discursion is an act
of reflection, and though there is always less there
can never be more in reflection than in intuition.
If we have no intuition of the infinite, we have and
can have no proper conception of it, and what is
taken to be a conception of it is simply the human
mind itself, and of no objective application or

The excellent author is misled on this point, by
supposing that in intuition of the intelligible the
mind is the actor and not simply the spectator, and
that an intuition of the infinite implies an infinite
intuition. In both cases he is mistaken. In intu-
ition we are simply spectators, and the object affirms
itself to us. In intuition of the infinite, it is not we
who perceive and affirm the infinite, by our own in-
tellectual act, but the infinite that reveals and af-
firms itself to our intellect. In apprehending the
infinite as thus revealed and affirmed, we of course
apprehend it in a finite, not in an infinite manner.
That which is intuitively apprehended is infinite,
but the subjective apprehension is finite. The limit-
ation is on the part of the subject, riot on the part
of the object.

The error arises from failing to distinguish sharp-
ly between intuition and reflection. In intuition
the principal and primary actor is the intelligible


object. In reflection it is the intellective subject;
in the intuitive order the object presents itself
as it is, with its own characteristics ; in the reflec-
tive order it is represented with the limitations
and characteristics of the thinking subject. As the
subject is limited, its conceptions are limited, and
represent the infinite not as infinite, but as the not-
finite ; and it is in the reflective order, if we operate
on our conceptions, instead of our intuitions, only
by a discursive process that we can come to the con-
clusion that the not-finite is the infinite. The au-
thor not distinguishing the two orders, and taking
conceptions which belong to the reflective order as
if they belonged to the intuitive order, supposes
that we may have valid conceptions beyond the
sphere of intuition. But a little reflection should
have taught him that, if he had no intuition, he
could have no conception of the infinite.

Following St. Thomas and all philosophers of the
first order, the author very properly maintains that
it is by the divine intelligibility, or the divine light,
that the human mind sees whatever it does see ;
but he shrinks from saying that we have intuition
of God himself. So far as we are to understand
intuition of God as intuition, or open vision of him
as he is in himself, he is undoubtedly right. But
objects are intelligible only in the light of God,


ana it is only by this light that we apprehend them.
Do we ever apprehend objects by the light of God
without apprehending the light which renders
them apprehensible? In apprehending the object,
we apprehend first of all the light which is the me-
dium of its apprehension. The light of God is God,
and if we have intuition of the light, we must have
intuition of him who is the true light that " en-
lighteneth every man coming into this world."
We cannot see God as he is in himself, not because
he is not intelligible in himself, but because of the
excess of his light, which dazzles and blinds our
eyes through their weakness. So, very few of us
can look steadily in the face of the sun without
being dazzled, yet not therefore is it to be said we
cannot and do not see the sun.

The author does not seem to be aware that sub-
stance as distinguished from being or existence is an
abstraction, and therefore purely subjective, and no
object of intuition. Abstract from a thing all its prop-
erties or attributes, and you have remaining simply
zero. The substance is properly the concrete thing
itself, and in the real order is distinguishable simply
from its phenomena, or accidents, an abstract term,
not from its so-called attributes or properties.
Hence, the question, so much disputed, whether we
perceive substances themselves, is only the question,


whether we see things themselves or only their phe-
nomena. This question the Scottish school of Reid
and Sir William Hamilton, have settled forever, and
if it had not, Balmes has done it, making the cor-
rection I have suggested, in a manner that leaves
nothing further to be said.

The author's proofs of the fact of creation arc
strong and well put, but fail to be absolutely con-
clusive in consequence of his not recognizing intu-
ition of the creative act. They all presuppose this
intuition, and are conclusive, because we in reality
have it ; but by denying that we have it, the au-
thor renders them formally inconclusive. We have
intuition of God, real and necessary being, we
have also intuition of things or existences, and
therefore must have intuition of the creative act, for
things or existences are only the external terminus
of the creative act itself. Hence it is that Gioberti
very properly makes the ideal formula, or primum
phUosophicum, the synthetic judgment, Ens creat
existential. Real and necessary Being creates exist-
ences. This formula or judgment in all its terms is
given intuitively, and simultaneously, and it is be-
cause it is so given we are able at one blow to con-
found the skeptic, the atheist, and the pantheist.
The illustrious Spaniard, uses in all his argument
this formula, but he does so unconsciously, in contra-


diction, in fact, to his express statements, because
he could not reason a moment, form a single conclu-
sion without it. His argument in itself is good,
but his explication of it is sometimes in fault.

If the learned and excellent author had recogni-
zed the fact that we have intuition of the creative
act of the first cause, and the further fact that all
second causes, in their several spheres and degree,
imitate or copy the first, he would have succeeded
better in explaining their operation. He does not
seem to perceive clearly that the 'nexus which binds
together cause and effect is the act of the cause,
which is in its own nature causative of the effect,
and by denying all intuition of this nexus, he seems
to leave us in the position where Hume left us, be-
cause it is impossible to attain by discursion to any
objective reality of which we have no intuition.

These are all or nearly all the criticisms I am
disposed to make upon the admirable work of
Balrnes. They are important, no doubt, but really
detract much less from its value than it would seem.
It has, in spite of these defects, rare and positive
merits. The author has not indeed a synthetic
genius, but his powers of analysis are unsurpassed,
and as far as my philosophical reading goes, un-
equalled. He has not given us the last word of
philosophy, but he has given us precisely the work


most needed in the present anarchical state of philo-
sophical science. Not one of the errors to be de-
tected in his work is peculiar to himself, and the
most that the most ill-natured critic can say against
him is, that, while he retains and defends all the
truth in the prevailing philosophy of the schools,
he has not escaped all its errors. Wherever he de-
parts from scholastic tradition he follows truth, and
is defective only where that tradition is itself defec-
tive. He has advanced far, corrected innumerable
errors, poured a flood of light on a great variety of
profound, intricate, and important problems, with-
.out introducing a new or adding any thing to con-
firm an old error. This is high praise, but the
philosophic reader will concede that it is well

The work is well adapted to create a taste for
solid studies. It is written in a calm, clear, and
dignified style, sometimes rising to true eloquence.
The author threw his whole mind and soul into his
work, and shows himself everywhere animated by
a pure and noble spirit, free from all pride of opin-
ion, all love of theorizing, and all dogmatism. He
evidently writes solely for the purpose of advancing
the cause of truth and virtue, religion and civiliza-
tion, and the effect of his writings on the heart is no
less salutary than their effect on the mind.


I have wished the work to be translated and
given to the English and American public, not as
a work free from all objections, but as admirably
adapted to the present state of the English and
American mind, as admirably fitted to correct the
more dangerous errors now prevalent among us,
and to prepare the way for the elaboration of a
positive philosophy worthy of the name. We had
nothing in English to compare with it, and it is far
better adapted to the English and American genius
than the misty speculations we are importing, and
attempting to naturalize, from Germany. It will
lead no man into any error which he does not al-
ready entertain, and few, perhaps none, can read it
without positive benefit, at least without getting
rid of many errors.

With these remarks I commit these volumes to
the public, bespeaking for them a candid considera-
tion. The near relation in which I stand to the
translator makes me anxious that his labors should
be received with a kindly regard. He who trans-
lates well a good book from a foreign language into
his own, does a service to his country next to that
of writing a good book himself.


AUGUST 7, 1856.





1. WE should begin the study of philosophy by ex-
amining the question of certainty ; before raising the edi-
fice, we must lav the foundation.

Ever since there has been philosophy, that is, ever since
men first reflected on themselves and the beings around them,
they have been engaged with those questions which have
for their object the basis of human knowledge, and this
shows that on this subject serious difficulties are encoun-
tered. Inquirers, however, have not been discouraged by
the sterility of philosophical labors ; and this shows that in
the last term of the investigation an object of high import-
ance is discovered.

Philosophers have cavilled in the most extravagant
manner up^n the questions of certainty; on few subjects
has the history of the human mind presented such lament-
able aberrations. This consideration may excite suspicion
that such investigations offer nothing solid to the mind, and
serve only to feed the vanity of the sophist. But here, as
elsewhere, we attribute no exaggerated importance to the


opinions of philosophers, and we are very far from believ-
ing that they ought to be regarded as the legitimate repre-
sentatives of human reason. It cannot, however, be denied
that they are irj tL.e intellectual order the most active por-
tion of the human race. When the whole body of philos-
ophers dispute, humanity itself may be said to dispute.
Every fact affecting the human race merits a thorough ex-
amination ; to undervalue it, on account of the sophisms
which envelop it, is to fall into the worst of all sophisms.
There should be no contradiction between reason and
common sense ; yet such a contradiction there would be, if
we should, in the name of common sense, contemn what
occupies the reason of the most enlightened minds. Often-
times it happens that what is grave and significant, that
which makes a thinking man meditate*, is the result neither
of a disputation, nor of the arguments therein adduced,
but the simple existence of the dispute itself. In itself it
is sometimes of little importance, but by reason of Avhat it
indicates, of great consequence.

2. All philosophical questions are in some manner in-
volved in that of certainty. When we have completely
unfolded this, we have examined under ore aspect or an-
other all that human reason can conceive of God, man, and
the universe. At first sight it may perhaps seem to be the
simple foundation of the scientific structure ; but in this
foundation, if we carefully examine it, we shall see the
whole edifice represented : it is a plane whereon is projected,
visibly and in fair perspective, the whole body it is to sup-

3. However limited may be the direct and immediate
result of these investigations, they are of incalculable ad-
vantage. It is highly important to acquire science, but
not less important to know its limits. Near these limits
there are shoals which the navigator ought 1o know. It


is by examining the question of certainty that we ascertain
the limits of human science.

In descending to the depths to which these questions
lead us, the understanding grows dim, and the heart is
awed with a religious fear. A moment ago we were con-
templating the edifice of human ^knowledge, and grew proud
to see it with its colossal dimensions, its beautiful forms,
ts fine and bold construction ; we enter it, and are led
.hrough deep caverns, and, as if by enchantment, the
foundation seems to be subtilized, to evaporate, and the
superb edifice remains floating in the air.

4. It must be remarked that in entering on the exam-
ination of the question of certainty, we do not conceal from
ourselves its difficulties. To conceal would not be to solve
them; on the contrary, the first condition necessary to
their complete solution, is to see them with perfect clear-
ness, and to feel their full force. It is no humiliation to
the human understanding to seek those limits beyond
which it cannot pass, but it is to elevate and confirm it.
Thus the intrepid naturalist, when in search of some object
he has penetrated to the bowels of the earth, feels a mix-
ture of terror and pride to be thus buried in subterranean
caverns, with just light enough to see immense masses
barely suspended above his head and unfathomable abysses
beneath his feet. There is something sublime, something
attractive and captivating in the obscurity of the mys-
teries of science, in uncertainty itself, in the very assaults
of doubt, threatening to destroy in one instant the work
accomplished by the human mind only in the space of
long ages. The greatest men have at all times enjoyed
the contemplation of these mysteries. The genius which
spread its wings over the east, over Greece and Rome,
over the schools of the Middle Ages, is the same we now
behold in modern Europe. Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine,


Abelard, St. Anselm, St. Thomas of Aquin, Luis Vives,
Bacon, Descartes, Malebranche, and Leibnitz, all, each in
his own way, felt the sublime inspiration of philosophy.

Whatever tends to raise man to lofty contemplation in
the sanctuary of his soul, contributes to his aggrandizement;
for it separates him from natural objects, reminds him of
his noble origin, and proclaims to him his high destiny.
In a mechanical and sensual age, when every thing seems
opposed to the activity of the powers of the soul, except
when they administer to the wants of the body, it is well
to renew those great questions in which the mind roams
free and untrammelled over unbounden realms of space.

Only intellect can examine itself. The stone falls, but
knows not that it falls; the ray calcines and pulverizes,
ignorant of its power ; the flower knows not that its beauty
is enchanting ; and the brute beast follows his instincts, but
asks not the reason of them. Man alone, a fragile organi-
zation, appearing for a moment on earth again to return to
the dust, harbors a spirit, which first inspects the external
world, and then, anxious to ascertain its own nature, enters

Online LibraryJaime Luciano BalmesFundamental philosophy (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 41)