Page images

pations of study and the society of a few favoured friends. It does not appear in his case more than in that of any other of your solitaries, that retirement is favourable to modesty ; for it would seem it is not merely as a metaphysician that he claims to be considered ; there is scarcely a science that he has not ventured to attempt to illustrate. "He is,' says his disciple, a mathematician, an astronomer, a chemist ;--in natural history, in physics, in physiology, in history, in languages, and literature and the arts,

-in all the details of geography, as they relate to the exact situation of the parts of the globe, their inhabitants and productions,-every thing is familiar to him ;' that is to say, he was a dabbler and a meddler with every thing of which books treat, and did nothing worth the consideration of a tyro in any of them. It is true, that Monsieur Villers contends, that the planet which Herschell discovered ought to have been known to astronomers under the ridiculous name of the Kant;' because, twenty-six years before the discovery of that portion of the solar system, its existence had been predicted by Kant in some conjectures on the heavenly bodies, which probably went beyond the orbit of Saturn, published in 1755, in a work entitled, “ The Natural History of the World, and Theory of the Heavens, on the Principles of the Newtonidn Philosophy. This is a very silly claim to set up. It ought rather to have been called · The Newton ;' for, after the demonstration which the English philosopher gave of the Coperni. can system, the existence of unknown planets, both within and without the orbit of Saturn, could not be doubted. The discovery of them depends on the patience and telescopes of the observers.”

“ I see you are no admirer, Nymph as you are," said the Bachelor, “ of the metaphysical German ; “ but what can you tell me of his system—his philosophy ?”

“ I can tell you nothing,” replied Egeria, " and I hope ever to be prevented from having it in my power : but, if you have any curiosity on the subject, look into the first volume of the Edinburgh Review, and there you will find quite enough to satisfy you that it very little deserves the attention of things of flesh and blood.”

“ Philosophy, in relation to the process which it adopts, is considered by Kant as of three kinds. It is dogmatical, when it founds a system on principles assumed as certain ; sceptical, when it shows the insufficiency of those principles which the dogmatist has assumed ; and critical, when, after adopting the objections of the sceptic, it does not rest satisfied with doubt, , but proceeds to inquire from what principle of our nature the allusions of the dogmatist have arisen, and, by a minute analysis of the cognitive powers of man, traces the whole system of his knowledge through all the modifications of its original elements, by his independent and fundamental forms of thought. It is in this analysis that the spirit of the critical philosophy is to be found : and till the process have become familiar, the whole system must appear peculiarly unintelligible ; but, when the reduction of all our feelings to their objective and subjective elements is well understood, though we may still be perplexed by the cumbrous superfluity of nomenclature, we are able to discover,

the inapends. Il i nature on regard estigating According

might ompound" every insta percipient,

through the veil that is cast over us, those dim ideas which were present to the author's mind. According to Kant, then, it is necessary, in investigating the principles of knowledge, to pay regard to the two sets of laws on which the nature of the object and of the subject depends. It is from their joint result, as directing the influence of the thing perceived, and as directing the susceptibilities of the percipient, that knowledge, which is thus in every instance compound, arises ; and this compound of objective and subjective elements might be modified equally, by the change of either set of laws; as the impression of a seal may be varied alike, by a change of figure in the gem, or by a difference of resistance in the parts of the wax which are exposed to its pressure. The subjective elements are by Kant denominated forms; and each function of the mind has its peculiar forms, with which it invests its objects, uniting with them so intimately, as to render apparently one that feeling, which cannot exist but as combined of different elements. Nothing therefore is known to us as it is ; since we acquire the knowledge of an object, only by the exertion of those laws, which necessarily modify to us the real qualities of the object known. Philosophy, therefore, in relation to its belief of external things, is empirical, when it believes them to exist exactly as they appear to us in each particular case ; it is transcendent, when, using reason to correct the false representation of the senses, it believes that the objects of our senses exist in a manner really known to us, after this correction, though different from their im. mediate appearance in particular cases. In both these views it has relation only to their objectivity, or to their qualites as independently existing in themselves; and is therefore erroneous, as those qualities cannot be discovered by us. It is transcendental, when, considering them in relation to our own powers, it investigates the subjective elements, which necessarily, in the exertion of our independent laws of cognition, modify the qualities or elements of the object as perceived. Since it is thus impossible to know the world as it is, we must content ourselves with the knowledge of the phenomenal world, and with that reality which is merely subjective. The system of our world is thus idealism, but an idealism in which we may safely confide; though we must be assured of erring, whenever we ascribe to it objective certainty. There exists, however, an independent system of noumena, or things in themselves, though we cannot know them as such, from the unavoidable modification of every objective element, by our own forms of cognition. To determine what is subjective in each peculiar perception, the nature of the subject must be investigated. This subject is self, the being to which we give the name of I, when we say, I know, I will. It has three great faculties; cognition, by which we know ; volition, by which we act ; and judgment, which is in some measure intermediate, being neither wholly speculative, nor absolutely practical, but determining to action, and thus forming the bond of our knowledge and our will.

“Pure cognition is divided into pure sensibility, pure intelligence, and pure reason; the products of sensibility being sensations, the products of intelligence conceptions, and the products of reason ideas. This division is not inconsistent with the absolute fundamental unity of the cognitive being, that unity, of which we are conscious in all the diversity of our feelings, and without which we could not exist. The threefold action is even in some measure aided by the unity itself; for, from a law of our nature, we strive, by a perpetual sinthesis of comparison and arrangement, to bring the diversity of our sensations, as nearly as possible, to the oneness of which we are conscious in ourselves.

our own degree, objective a world arises

“Pure sensibility, comprehending all those feelings in which space and time are involved, is external, when it refers them to space, and internal when it refers them to time. In itself nothing is larger or"smaller, or before or after; for space and time, the forms of sensibility, by which a subjective world arises to us, are not, in any degree, objective and real, but are modes of our own existence as sentient beings. It is impossible for us to imagine any body, which does not exist in space; it is impossible for us to imagine any feeling, which does not exist in time. With the abstraction of these, every thing to us perishes; but the certainty of space and time remains with us, though every object were conceived to be annihilated. Hence, space is an indispensable condition of the possibility of bodies, but bodies are not necessary to the possibility of space. That it exists in ourselves à priori, and independently of experience, is shown by the impossibility of acquiring it from without Space includes three dimensions. Sight, smell, taste, hearing, are evidently incapable of affording these ; nor is touch, to which Condillac as. scribes its origin, more susceptible. We gain the idea, says he, when our hand passes over a surface; but he has already supposed a surface and a hand; and what resemblance is there of a simple feeling to a body of three dimensions ? Nor can space be supposed to arise from abstraction, for by abstraction we separate only simple qualities ; but space is not a simple quality capable of being perceived separately in bodies, it is the necessary condition of their existence, implied in the first perception of the infant, which supposes an object external to itself. In every sensation there must be elements both objective and subjective ; the subjective must be permanent as ourselves, the objective fleeting as the occasion. Space, therefore, being invariably present amid all the apparent changes of quality, is subjec

« PreviousContinue »