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History of Modern Philosophy From Nicolas of Cusa to the Present Time online

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case, the consequences of the act are advantageous to others. Merit =
propriety + utility. The main conclusion is this: Sympathy is that by
means of which virtue is recognized and approved, as well as that which is
approved as virtue; it is _ratio cognoscendi_ as well as _ratio essendi_,
the criterion as well as the source of morality. Thus Smith endeavors to
solve the two principal problems of English ethics - the criterion and the
origin of virtue - with a common answer.

[Footnote 1: Cf. Farrer's _Adam Smith_, English Philosophers Series,
1880. - TR.]

[Footnote 2: The epoch-making work, with which he called economic science
into existence, _The Wealth of Nations_\ appeared in 1776. Cf. Wilhelm
Hassbach, _Untersuchungen über Adam Smith_, Leipsic, 1891.]

"Sympathy" denotes primarily nothing more than the innate and purely formal
power of imitating to a certain degree the feelings of others. From this
modest germ is developed by a progressive growth the wide-spreading tree of
morality: moral judgment, the moral imperative with its religious sanction,
and ethical character. Accordingly we may distinguish different stages
in the development of sympathy - the psychological stage of mere
fellow-feeling, the aesthetic stage of moral appreciation, the imperative
stage of moral precepts, which further on are construed as commands of
God (the famous Kantian definition of religion was announced in Glasgow
a generation earlier than in Königsberg), finally, the concluding stage
wherein these laws of duty are taken up into the disposition. Besides
these, there results from the mechanism of the sympathetic feelings a
series of phenomena, which, although they do not entirely conform to the
ethical standard, yet exercise a salutary effect on the permanence of
society; _e.g._, our exceptional judgment of the deeds of the great, the
rich, and the fortunate, as also the higher worth ascribed to good (and,
conversely, the greater guilt to bad) intentions when successfully carried
out into action, in comparison with those which fall short of their result.

The first, the purely psychological stage, includes three cases. The
spectator sympathizes (1) with the feelings of the agent; (2) with the
gratitude or anger of the person affected by the action; (3) the person
observed sympathizes in return with the imitative and judging feelings of
the spectator.

The fundamental laws of sympathy are as follows: We are roused to imitate
the feeling of another by the perception either of its signs (its natural
consequences or its natural expression in visible and audible motions), or
of its causes (the circumstances and experiences which occasion it), the
latter exercising a more potent influence than the former. The wooden leg
of the beggar is more effective in exciting our pity than his anxious air;
the sight of dental instruments is more eloquent than the plaints of
the sufferer from toothache. In order to be able to imitate vividly the
feelings of a person, we must know the causes of them. - The feeling of
the spectator is, on the average, less intense than that of the person
observed, so long as the latter does not control and repress his emotions
in view of the calmness of the former. The difference of intensity between
the original and the sympathetic feelings differs widely with the various
classes of emotions. It is difficult to take part in feelings which arise
from bodily conditions, but easy to share those in the production of which
the imagination is concerned - hence easier to share in hope and fear than
in pleasure and pain. - We sympathize more readily with feelings which are
agreeable to the observer, the observed, and other participants than with
such as are not so; more willingly, therefore, with cheerfulness, love,
benevolence than with grief, hatred, malevolence. This is not only true of
temporary affections, but especially of those general dispositions which
depend on a more or less happy situation in life; we sympathize more
vividly with the fortunes of the rich and noble, because we consider them
happier than the poor and lowly. Wealth and high rank are objects of
general desire chiefly because their possessor enjoys the advantage of
knowing that whatever gives him joy or sorrow always arouses similar
feelings in countless other men. The root of all ambition is the wish to
rule over the hearts of our fellows by compelling them to make our feelings
their own; the central nerve of all happiness consists in seeing our own
sensations shared by those about us and reflected back, as it were, from
manifold mirrors. Small annoyances often have a diverting effect on the
spectator; great success easily excites his envy; great sorrows and minor
joys, on the contrary, are always sure of our sympathy. Hence the morose
man, to whom everything is an occasion of ill-humor, is nowhere welcome,
and the man of cheerful disposition, who rejoices in each little event and
whose good spirits are contagious, everywhere.

Not less admirable than the fine gift of observation which guides Smith in
his discovery of the primary manifestations and the laws of sympathy is the
skill with which he deduces moral phenomena, from the simplest to the
most complex - moral judgment, the moral law, its application to one's own
conduct, the conscience - from the interchange of sympathetic feelings. From
involuntary comparison of the representative feeling of the spectator with
its original in the person observed arises an agreeable or disagreeable
feeling of judgment, a judgment of value, approbating or rejecting the
latter. This is approving when the intensity of the original harmonizes
with that of the copy, disapproving when the former exceeds or fails to
attain the latter. In the one case the emotion is judged suitable to the
object which causes it; in the other, too violent or too weak. It is always
a certain mean of passion which, as "proper," receives approval (esteem,
love, or admiration). In the case of the social passions excess is more
readily condoned, in the case of the unsocial and selfish ones, defect;
hence we judge the over-sensitive more leniently than the over-vengeful.
Anger must be well-grounded and must express itself with great moderation
to arouse in the spectator a like degree of sympathetic resentment. For
here the sympathy of the spectator is divided between two parties, and
fellow-feeling with the angry one is weakened by fear for the person
menaced by him, whereas, in the case of kind affections, sympathy is
increased by doubling. While our judgment of propriety or decorum rests on
simple participation in the sentiments of the agent, our judgment of
merit and demerit is based, in addition, on sympathy with the feelings
of gratitude or resentment experienced by the person on whom the action
terminates. An act is meritorious if it appears to us to deserve thanks
and reward, ill-deserving if it seems to merit resentment and punishment.
Nature has inscribed on the heart, apart from all reflection on the utility
of punishment, an independent, immediate, and instinctive approbation of
the sacred law of retribution. This is the point at which a hitherto purely
contemplative sympathy passes over into an active impulse, which prepares
us to support the victim of attack and insult in his defense and revenge.

This participation in the circumstances and feelings of others is a
reciprocal phenomenon. The spectator takes pains to share the sentiments of
the person observed; and the latter, on his part, endeavors to reduce the
emotions which move him to a degree which will render participation in them
possible for the former. In these reciprocal efforts we have the beginnings
of the two classes of virtues - the gentle, amiable virtues of sympathy
and sensibility, and the exalted, estimable virtues of self-denial and
self-command. Both of these conditions of mind, however, are considered
virtues only when they are manifested in unusual intensity: humanity is
a remarkably delicate fellow-feeling, greatness of soul a rare degree of
self-command. (The consideration for those about one which is ethically
demanded is given, moreover, to a certain extent involuntarily. The man
in trouble and the merry man alike restrain themselves in the company of
persons who are indifferent, or in an opposite mood, while they give rein
to their emotions when with those similarly affected. Joy is enhanced by
sympathy, and grief mitigated.) Thus the perfection of human nature and the
divinely willed harmony among the feelings of men are dependent on every
man feeling little for himself and much for others; on his holding his
selfish inclinations in check and giving free course to his benevolent
ones. This is the injunction of Christianity as well as of nature. And
as, on the one hand, the content of the moral law is thus deduced from
sympathy, so, on the other, this yields the formal criterion of good:
Look upon thy sentiments and actions in the light in which the impartial
spectator would see them. Conscience is the spectator taken up into our own
breast. It remains to consider the origin of this third, imperative stage.

From daily experience of the fact that we judge the conduct of others, and
they ours, and from the wish to gain their approval, arises the habit of
subjecting our own actions to criticism. We learn to look at ourselves
through the eyes of others, we assign the spectator and judge a place in
our own heart, we make his calm objective judgment our own, and hear the
man within calling to us: Thou art responsible for thy acts and intentions.
In this way we are placed in a position to overcome two great delusions,
one of passion, which overestimates the present at the expense of the
future, and one of self-love, which overestimates the individual at the
expense of other men; delusions from which the impartial spectator is free,
for the pleasure of the moment seems to him no more desirable than pleasure
to come, and one person is just the same to him as another. Through
comparison of like cases in the exercise of self-examination certain rules
or principles are formed concerning what is right and good. Reverence for
these general rules of living is called the sense of duty. The last step in
the process consists in our enhancement of the binding authority of moral
rules by looking on them as commands of God. Here Smith adds subtle
discussions of the question, in what cases actions ought to be done simply
out of regard for these abstract maxims, and in what others we welcome the
co-operation of a natural impulse or passion. We ought to be angry and to
punish with reluctance, merely because reason enjoins it, but, on the other
hand, we should be benevolent and grateful from affection; she is not a
model wife who performs her duties merely from a sense of duty, and not
from inclination also. Further, in all cases where the rules cannot be
formulated with perfect exactness and definiteness (as they can in the case
of justice), and are not absolutely valid without exception, reverence for
them must be assisted by a natural taste for modifying and supplementing
the general maxims to suit particular instances.

In this sketch of the course of Smith's moral philosophy much that is fine
and much that is of importance has of necessity been passed over - his
excellent analysis of the relations of benevolence and justice, and
numerous descriptions of traits of character, _e. g_., his ingenious
parallel between pride and vanity. We may briefly mention, in conclusion,
his observations on the irregularities of moral judgment. Prosperity and
success exert an influence on this, which, though hurtful to its purity,
must, on the whole, be considered advantageous to mankind. Our lenience
toward the defects of princes, the great, and the rich, and our over-praise
for their excellent qualities are, from the moral standpoint, an injustice,
but one which has this advantage, that it encourages ambition and industry,
and maintains social distinctions intact, which without loyalty and respect
toward superiors would be broken down. For most men the road to fortune
coincides with the path to virtue. Again, it is a beneficent provision of
nature that we put a higher estimate on a successfully executed act of
benevolence, and reward it more, than a kind intention which fails of
execution; that we judge and punish the purposed crime which is not carried
out more leniently than the one which is completed; that we even ascribe
a certain degree of accountability to an unintentional act of good or
evil - although in these cases the moralist is compelled to see an ethically
unjustifiable corruption of the judgment by external success or failure
beyond the control of the agent. The first of these irregularities does
not allow the man of good intentions to content himself with noble desires
merely, but spurs him on to greater endeavors to carry them out - man
is created for action; the second protects us from the inquisitorial
questioning of motives, for it is easy for the most innocent to fall under
grave suspicion. To this inconsistency of feeling we owe the necessary
legal principle that deeds only, not intentions, are punishable. God
has reserved for himself judgment concerning dispositions. The third
irregularity, that he who inflicts unintentional injury is not guilty, even
in his own eyes, but yet seems bound to make atonement and reparation,
is useful in so far as it warns everyone to be prudent, while the
corresponding illusion, in virtue of which we are grateful to an
involuntary benefactor - for instance, the bearer of good tidings - and
reward him, is at least not harmful, for any reason appears sufficient for
the bestowal of kind intentions and actions.

It is impossible to explain in brief the relation of Smith's ethical
theory to his political economy. His merit in the former consists in his
comprehensive and characteristic combination of the results reached by his
predecessors, and in his preparation for Kantian views, so far as this
was possible from the empirical standpoint of the English. His impartial
spectator was the forerunner of the categorical imperative.

English ethics after Smith may, almost without exception, be termed
eclecticism. This is true of Ferguson _(Institutes of Moral Philosophy_,
1769); of Paley (1785); of the Scottish School (Dugald Stewart, 1793).
Bentham's utilitarianism was the first to bring in a new phase.


%4. Theory of Knowledge.%

(a) %Berkeley%. - George Berkeley, a native of Ireland, Bishop of Cloyne
(1685-1753; _An Essay toward a New Theory of Vision_, 1709; _A Treatise
concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge_, 1710; _Three Dialogues
between Hylas and Philonous_, 1713; _Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher_,
1732, against the freethinkers; _Works_, 1784. Fraser's edition of the
Collected Works appeared in 1871, in four volumes),[1] is related to Locke
as Spinoza to Descartes. He notices blemishes and contradictions allowed by
his predecessor to remain, and, recognizing that the difficulty is not to
be remedied by minor corrections and artificial hypotheses, goes back to
the fundamental principles, takes these more earnestly than their author,
and, by carrying them out more strictly, arrives at a new view of the
world. The points in Locke's doctrines which invited a further advance were
the following: Locke proclaims that our knowledge extends no further
than our ideas, and that truth consists in the agreement of ideas among
themselves, not in the agreement of ideas with things. But this principle
had scarcely been announced before it was violated. In spite of his
limitation of knowledge to ideas, Locke maintains that we know (if not the
inner constitution, yet) the qualities and powers of things without us, and
have a "sensitive" certainty of their existence. Against this, it is to be
said that there are no primary qualities, that is, qualities which exist
without as well as within us. Extension, motion, solidity, which are cited
as such, are just as purely subjective states in us as color, heat, and
sweetness. Impenetrability is nothing more than the feeling of resistance,
an idea, therefore, which self-evidently can be nowhere else than in the
mind experiencing it. Extension, size, distance, and motion are not even
sensations (we see colors only, not quantitative determinations), but
relations which we in thinking add to the sense-qualities (secondary
qualities), and which we are not able to represent apart from them; their
relativity alone would forbid us to consider them objective. And material
substances, the "support" of qualities invented by the philosophers, are
not only unknown, but entirely non-existent. Abstract matter is a phrase
without meaning, and individual things are collections of ideas in us,
nothing more. If we take away all sense-qualities from a thing, absolutely
nothing remains. Our ideas are not merely the only; objects of knowledge,
but also the only existing things - _nothing exists except minds and
their ideas_. Spirits alone are active beings, they only are indivisible
substances, and have real existence, while the being of bodies (as
dependent, inert, variable beings, which are in a constant process of
becoming) consists alone in their appearance to spirits and their being
perceived by them. Incogitative, hence passive, beings are neither
substances, nor capable of producing ideas in us. Those ideas which we do
not ourselves produce are the effects of a spirit which is mightier than
we. With this a second inconsistency was removed which had been overlooked
by Locke, who had ascribed active power to spirits alone and denied it to
matter, but at the same time had made the former affected by the latter. If
external sense is to mean the capacity for having ideas occasioned by the
action of external material things, then there is no external sense. A
third point wherein Locke had not gone far enough for his successor,
concerned the favorite English doctrine of nominalism. Locke, with his
predecessors, had maintained that all reality is individual, and that
universals exist only in the abstracting understanding. From this point
Berkeley advances a step further, the last, indeed, which was possible in
this direction, by bringing into question the possibility even of abstract
ideas. As all beings are particular things, so all ideas are particular
ideas.

[Footnote 1: Cf. also Fraser's _Berkeley_ (Blackwood's Philosophical
Classics) 1881; Eraser's _Selections from Berkeley_, 4th ed., 1891; and
Krauth's edition of the _Principles_, 1874, with notes from several
sources, especially those translated from Ueberweg. - TR.]

Berkeley looks on the refutation of these two fundamental mistakes - the
assumption of general ideas in the mind, and the belief in the existence
of a material world outside it - as his life work, holding them the chief
sources of atheism, doubt, and philosophical discord. The first of these
errors arises from the use of language. Because we employ words which
denote more than one object, we have believed ourselves warranted in
concluding that we have ideas which correspond to the extension of the
words in question, and which contain only those characteristics which are
uniformly found in all objects so named. This, however, is not the case.[1]
We speak of many things which we cannot represent: names do not always
stand for ideas. The definition of the word triangle as a three-sided
figure bounded by straight lines, makes demands upon us which our faculties
of imagination are never fully able to meet; for the triangle that we
represent to ourselves is always either right-angled or oblique-angled, and
not - as we must demand from the abstract conception of the figure - both and
neither at once. The name "man" includes men and women, children and the
aged, but we are never able to represent a man except as an individual of a
definite age and sex. Nevertheless we are in a position to make a safe
use of these non-presentative but useful abbreviations, and by means of a
particular idea to develop truths of wider application. This takes place
when, in the demonstration, those qualities are not considered which
distinguish the idea from others with a like name. In this case the
given idea stands for all others which are known by the same name; the
representative idea is not universal, but serves as such. Thus when I have
demonstrated the proposition, the sum of all the angles of a triangle is
equal to two right angles, for a given triangle, I do not need to prove
it for every triangle thereafter. For not only the color and size of the
triangle are indifferent, but its other peculiarities as well; the question
whether it is right-angled or obtuse-angled, whether it has equal
sides, whether it has equal or unequal angles, is not mentioned in the
demonstration, and has no influence upon it. _Abstracta_ exist only in this
sense. In considering the individual Paul I can attend exclusively to those
characteristics which he has in common with all men or with all living
beings, but it is impossible for me to represent this complex of common
qualities apart from his individual peculiarities. Self-observation shows
that we have no general concepts; reason, that we can have none, for the
combination of opposite elements in one idea would be a contradiction in
terms. Motion in general, neither swift nor slow, extension in general,
at once great and small, abstract matter without sensuous
determinations - these can neither exist nor be perceived.

[Footnote 1: Against the Berkeleyan denial of abstract notions the popular
philosopher, Joh. Jak. Engel, directed an essay, _Ueber die Realität
allgemeiner Begriffe_ (Engel's _Schriften_, vol. x.), to which attention
has been called by O. Liebmann, _Analysis tier Wirklichkeit_, 2d ed., p.
473.]

The "materialistic" hypothesis - so Berkeley terms the assumption that a
material world exists apart from perceiving mind, and independently of
being perceived - is, first, unnecessary, for the facts which it is to
explain can be explained as well, or even better, without it; and, second,
false, since it is a contradiction to suppose that an object can exist
unperceived, and that a sensation or idea is the copy of anything itself
not a sensation or idea. Ideas are the only objects of the understanding.
Sensible qualities (white, sweet) are subjective states of the soul; sense
objects (sugar), sensation-complexes. If sensations need a substantial
support, this is the soul which perceives them, not an external thing which
can neither perceive nor be perceived. Single ideas, and those combined
into objects, can exist nowhere else than in the mind; the being of sense
objects consists in their being perceived (_esse est percipi_). I see light
and feel heat, and combine these sensations of sight and touch into the
substance fire, because I know from experience that they constantly
accompany and suggest each other.[1] The assumption of an "object" apart
from the idea is as useless as its existence would be. Why should God
create a world of real things without the mind, when these can neither
enter into the mind, nor (because unperceived) be copied by its ideas, nor
(because they themselves lack perception and power) produce ideas in it?
Ideas signify nothing but themselves, _i. e_., affections of the subject.

[Footnote 1: The fire that I see is not the cause of the pain which I
experience in approaching it, but the visual image of the flame is only a
sign which warns me not to go too near. If I look through a microscope
I see a different object from the one perceived with the naked eye. Two
persons never see the same object, they merely have like sensations.]

The further question arises, What is the origin of ideas? Men have been led
into this erroneous belief in the reality of the material world by the
fact that certain ideas are not subject to our will, while others are.
Sensations are distinguished from the ideas of imagination, which we can
excite and alter at pleasure, by their greater strength, liveliness, and
distinctness, by their steadiness, regular order, and coherence, and by
the fact that they arise without our aid and whether we will or no. Unless
these ideas are self-originated they must have an external cause. This,
however, can be nothing else than a willing, thinking Being; for without
will it could not be active and act upon me, and without ideas of its own
it could not communicate ideas to me. Because of the manifoldness and
regularity of our sensations the Being which produces them must, further,
possess infinite power and intelligence. The ideas of imagination are



Online LibraryRichard FalckenbergHistory of Modern Philosophy From Nicolas of Cusa to the Present Time → online text (page 21 of 62)