« PreviousContinue »
AN INTRODUCTION TO THE PHILOSOPHY OF CONSCIOUSNESS,
Part VI.- Chap. I.
Philosophy has long ceased to be con. ther man be attending to them or not. sidered a valid and practical discipline His looking on makes no difference as of life. And why? Simply because far as the nature of the water is conshe commences by assuming that man,
In short, the number and like other natural things, is a passive character of its facts continue alto. creature, ready-made to her hand; and gether uninfluenced by his study of thus she catches from her object the them. His science merely enables same inertness which she attributes to him to classify them, and to bring him. But why does philosophy found them more clearly and steadily before on the assumption that man is a being him. who comes before her ready-shaped But when man is occupied in the hewn out of the quarries of nature- study of the phenomena of his own fashioned into form, and with all his natural being, or, in other words, is lineaments made distinct, by other philosophising, the case is very matehands than his own ? She does so in rially altered. Here his contemplaimitation of the physical sciences : and tion of these phenomena does add a thus the inert and lifeless character of new phenomenon to the list already modern pbilosophy, is ultimately at- under his inspection: it adds, nametributable to her having degenerated ly, the new and anomalous phenomeinto the status of a physical science. non that he is contemplating these
But is there no method by which phenomena. To the old phenomena vigour may yet be propelled into the presented to him in his given or moribund limbs of philosophy: and ready-made being—for instance, his by which, from being a dead system sensations, passions, rational and other of theory, she may be renovated into states—which he is regarding, there is a living discipline of practice? There added the supervision of these states; is,-if we will but reflect and under and this is itself a new phenomenon stand that the course of procedure belonging to him. The very fact that proper to the physical sciences, name- man contemplates or makes a study ly, the assumption that their objects of the facts of his being, is itself a fact and the facts appertaining to these ob- which must be taken into account ; for jects, lie before them ready-made-is it is one of his phenomena just as much utterly inadmissible in true Philoso- as any other fact connected with him phy—is totally at variance with the is. In carrying forth the physical scope and spirit of a science which sciences, man very properly takes no professes to deal fairly with the phe- note of his contemplation of their nomena of Man. Let us endeavour to objects ; because this contemplation point out and illustrate the deep-seated does not add, as we have said, any contra-distinction between philosophi. new fact to the complement of phenocal and physical science; for the pur- mena connected with these objects. pose, more particularly, of getting Therefore, in sinking this fact, he does light thrown upon the moral charac- not suppress any fact to which they ter of our species.
can lay claim. But in philosopbising, When an enquirer is engaged in the that is, in constructing a science of scientific study of any natural object, himself, man cannot suppress this fact let us say, for instance, of water and without obliterating one of his own its phenomena, his contemplation of phenomena; because man's contemthis object does not add any new plation of his own phenomena is itphenomenon to the facts and qualities self a new and separate phenomenon already belonging to it. These phe- added to the given phenomena which nomena remain the same, without he is contemplating. addition or diminution, whether he Here, then, we have a most radical studies them or not. Water flows distinction laid down between physics downwards, rushes into a
and philosophy. In ourselves, as well under the atmospheric pressure, and as in nature, a certain given series of evolves all its other phenomena, whe- phenomena is presented to our obser
vation, but in studying the objects man; but the representation of an auof nature, we add no new phenome- tomaton, that is what it cannot help non to the phenomena already there; being,--a phantom dreaming what it whereas, on the contrary, in studying cannot but dream-an engine perform. ourselves we do add a new phenome. ing what it must perform-an incarnon to the other phenomena of our nate reverie—a weathercock, shifting being,—we add, to wit, the fact that helplessly in the winds of sensibility we are thus studying ourselves. Be - a wretched association - machine, this new phenomenon important or through which ideas pass linked tounimportant, it is, at any rate, evident gether by laws over which the mathat in it is violated the analogy be- chine itself has no control—any thing, tween physics and philosophy—be. in short, except that free and self-sustween the study of man and the study tained centre of underived, and there. of nature. For what can be a greater fore responsible activity, which we call or more vital distinction between two Man. sciences or disciplines than this; that If such, therefore, be the false rewhile the one contributes nothing to presentation of man which philosophy the making of its own facts, but finds invariably and inevitably pictures them all (to use a very familar collo- forth, whenever she makes common quism) cut and dried beneath its
with the natural sciences, hand—the other creates, in part at we have plainly no other course left least, its own facts-supplies to a cer- than to turn philosophy aside from tain extent, and by its own free efforts, following their analogy, and to guide as we shall see, the very materials out her footsteps upon a new line and difof which it is constructed.
ferent method of enquiry. Let us But the parallel between physics then, turn away the attention of phi. and philosophy, although radically losophy from the facts which she does violated by this new fact, is not to- not contribute to her object (viz. the tally subverted; and our popular phi- ready-made phenomena of man); and losophy has preferred to follow outlet us direct it upon the new fact which the track where the parallel partially she does contribute thereto-and let us holds good. It is obvious that two see whether greater truth and a more courses of procedure are open to her practical satisfaction will not now atchoice. Either following the analogy tend her investigations. of the natural sciences, which of them. The great and only fact which phiselves add no new fact to their ob- losophy, of herself, adds to the other jects, she may attend exclusively to phenomena of man, and which nothe phenomena which she finds in thing but philosophy can add, is, as man, but which she has no hand in we have said, the fact that man does contributing—or else, breaking loose philosophize. The fact that man phifrom that analogy, she may direct losophizes, is (so often as it takes her attention to the novel and unparal- place) as much a human phenomenon leled phenomenon which she, of her- as the phenomenon, for instance, of self, has added to her object, and which passion is, and therefore cannot legi. we have already described. Of these timately be overlooked by an impartwo courses philosophy has chosen to tial and true philosophy. At the adopt the former: and what has been same time, it is plain that philosophy the result? Surely all the ready-made creates and brings along with her this phenomena of man have been, by this this fact of man ; in other words, does time, sufficiently explored. Philoso- not find it in him ready-made to her phers, undisturbed, have pondered hand:-because, if man did not philoover his passions, -- unmoved they sophize, the fact that he philosophizes have watched and weighed his emo- would, it is evident, have no manner tions. His affections, his rational of existence whatsoever. What, then, states, his sensations, and all the does this fact which philosophy herother ingredients and modifications self contributes to philosophy and to of his natural frame-work have been man, contain, embody, and set forth, rigidly scrutinised and classified by and what are the consequences resultthem; and, after all, what have they ing from it ? made of it-what sort of a picture The act of philosophising is the act have their researches presented to our of systematically contemplating our observation ? Not the picture of a own natural or given phenomena. But the act of contemplating our own ture, which are at all times seeking to phenomena unsystematically, is no enslave us. The causality of nature, other than our old friend, the act of both without us, and especially within consciousness: therefore the only dis- us, strikes deep roots, and works with tinction between philosophy and con- a deep intent. The whole scheme and sciousness is, that the former is with intention of nature, as evolved in the system, and the latter without it. causal nexus of creation, tend to preThus, in attending to the fact which vent one and all of us from becoming philosophy brings along with her, we conscious, or, in other words, from find that consciousness and philoso- realising our own personality. First phy become identified,—that philoso- come our sensations, and these monophy is a systematic or studied con- polise the infant man ; that is to say, sciousness, and that consciousness is they so fill him that there is no room an unsystematic or unstudied philo- left for his personality to stand beside sophy. But what do we here mean them; and if it does attempt to rise, by the words systematic and unsystem- they tend to overbear it, and certainly atic? These words signify only a for a time they succeed.
Next come greater and a less degree of clearness, the passions, a train of even more expansion, strength, and exaltation. overwhelmlog sway, and of still more Philosophy possesses these in the flattering aspect ; and now there is higher degree, our ordinary conscious- even less chance than before of ourever ness in the lower degree. Thus phi.. becoming personal beings. The causal, losophy is but a clear, an expanded, a or enslaving powers of nature, are mulstrong, and an exalted consciousness; tiplying upon us. These passions, like while, on the other hand, conscious- our sensations, monopolise the man, ness is an obscurer, a narrower, a and cannot endure that any thing weaker, and a less exalted philosophy. should infringe their dominion. So Consciousness is philosophy nascent; far from helping to realise our perphilosophy is consciousness in full sonality, they do every thing in their bloom and blow. The difference be- power to keep it aloof or in abeyance, tween them is only one of degree, and and to lull man into oblivion-of him. not one of kind; and thus all conscious self. So far from coming into life, men are to a certain extent philoso- our personality tends to disappear, phers, although they may not know it. and, like water torn and beaten into
But what comes of this? Whither invisible mist by the force of a whirldo these observations tend? With what wind, it often entirely vanishes beneath purport do we point out, thus par- the tread of the passions. Then comes ticularly, the identity in kind be- reason ; and perhaps you imagine that tween philosophy and the act of con- reason elevates us to the rank of persciousness ? Reader! if thou hast sonal beings. But looking at reason eyes to see, thou canst not fail to per- in itself,—that is, considering it as a ceive (and we pray thee mark it well) straight, and not as a reflex act,* that it is precisely in this identity of what has reason done, or what can philosophy and consciousness that the reason do for man (we speak of kind, merely theoretical character of phi- and not of degree, for man may have losophy disappears, while, at this very a higher degree of it than animals), point, her ever living character, as a which she has not also done for beavers practical disciplinarian of life, bursts and for bees, creatures which, though forth into the strongest light. For rational, are yet not personal beings? consciousness is no dream-no theory; Without some other power to act as it is no lesson taught in the schools, supervisor of reason, this faculty would and confined within their walls; it is, have worked in man just as it works not a system remote from the practi- in animals,--that is to say, it would cal pursuits and interests of humanity; have operated within him merely as a but it has its proper place of abode power of adapting means to ends, upon the working theatre of living without lending him any assistance men. It is a real, and often a bitter towards the realisation of his own perstruggle on the part of each of us sonality. Indeed, being, like our other against the fatalistic forces of our na- natural modifications, a state of mo
• Vol. xliii., p. 791.
nopoly of the man, it would, like them, and in its results; and this is what we have tended to keep down the estab- are here particularly desirous of having lishment of his personal being.
noted. For what act can be more Such are the chief powers that enter vitally practical than the act by which into league to enslave us, and to bind we realise our existence as free perus down under the causal nexus, the sonal beings ? and what act can be moment we are born. By imposing attended by a more practical result their agency upon us, they prevent us than the act by which we look our from exercising our own. By filling passions in the face, and, in the very us with them, they prevent us from be- act of looking at them, look them coming ourselves. They do all they down? can to withhold each of us from be- Now, if consciousness be an act of coming “ I.” They throw every ob- such mighty and practical efficiency stacle they can in the way of our in real life, what must not the practibecoming conscious beings ; they cal might and authority of philosophy strive, by every possible contrivance, be? Philosophy is consciousness suto keep down our personality. They blimed. If, therefore, the lower and would fain have each of us to take all obscurer form of this act can work such our activity from them, instead of be. real wonders and such great results, coming, each man for himself, a new what may we not expect from it in its centre of free and independent action. highest and clearest potence? If our
But, strong as these powers are, and unsystematic and undisciplined con. actively as they exert themselves to sciousness be thus practical in its refulfil their tendencies with respect to sults (and practical to a most momen. man, they do not succeed for ever in tous extent it is), how much more rendering human personality a non- vitally and effectively practical must existent thing. After a time man not our systematic and tutored conproves too strong for them ; he rises sciouness, namely philosophy, be?-up against them, and shakes their consciousness when enlightened and shackles from his hands and feet. He expanded is identical with philosophy, puts forth (obscurely and unsytemati- And what is consciousness enlightened cally, no doubt), but still he puts and expanded ? It is, as
we have forth a particular kind of act, which already seen, an act of practical antathwarts and sets at nought the whole gonism put forth against the modifica, causal domination of nature. Out of tions of the whole natural man : and the working of this act is evolved man what then is philosophy but an act of in his character of a free, personal, and practical antagonism put forth against moral being. This act is itself man ; the modifications of the whole natural it is man acting, and man in act pre- man? But further, what is this act of cedes, as we have seen, man in being, antagonism, when it, too, is enlightthat is, in true and proper being. Na- ened and explained ? What is it but ture and her powers have now no con- an act of freedom-an act of resistance, straining hold over him ; he stands by which we free ouselves from the out of her jurisdiction. In this act he causal bondage of nature—from all the has taken himself out of her hands natural laws and conditions under into his own; he has made himself which we were born: and what then his own master. In this act he has is philosophy but an act of the highest, displaced his sensations, and his sen- the most essential, and the most pracsations no longer monopolise him; tical freedom? But further, what is they have no longer the complete this act of freedom when it also is mastery over him. In this act he has cleared up and explained ? It turns thrust his passions from their place, , out to be Human Will—for the refusal and his passions have lost their su- to submit to the modifications of the preme ascendency. And now what whole natural man must be grounded is this particular kind of act? What on a law opposed to the law under is it but the act of consciousness-the which these modifications develope act of becoming “I”—the act of themselves-namely, the causal lawplacing ourselves in the room which and this opposing law is the law called sensation and passion have been made human will: and what then is philoto vacate ? This act may be obscure sophy but pure and indomitable will? in the extreme, but still it is an act of or, in other words, the most practical the most practical kind, both in itself of all conceivable acts, inasmuch as will is the absolute source and foun- ready to reclaim him; and, therefore, tainhead of all real activity. And, philosophy, which is but a higher finally, let us ask again—what is this phase of consciousness, is seen to be act of antagonism against the natural an act of a still higher practical chastates of humanity,—what is this act racter. Now, the whole of this vinin which we sacrifice our sensations, dication of the practical character of passions, and desires, that is our false philosophy is evidently based upon her selves, upon
the shrine of our true selves abandonment of the physical method, -what is this act in which Freedom upon her turning away from the given and Will are embodied to defeat all facts of man to the contemplation of a the enslaving powers of darkness that fact which is not given in his natural are incessantly beleaguering us—what being, but which philosophy herself is it but morality of the highest, noblest, contributes to her own construction and most active kind? and, therefore, and to man, namely, the act itself of what is human philosophy, ultimately, philosophising, or, in simple language, but another name for human virtue of the act of consciousness. This fact the most practical and exalted cha- cannot possibly be given : for we have racter ?
seen that all the given facts of man's Such are the steps by which we vin. being necessarily tend to suppress it ; dicate the title of philosophy to the and therefore (as we have also seen) rank of a real and practical discipline it is, and must be a free and undeof humanity. To sum up :-we com. rived, and not in any conceivable menced by noticing, what cannot fail sense, a ready-made fact of humanity. to present itself to the observation of Thus, then, we see that philosophy, every one, the inert and unreal cha. when she gets her due-when she deals racter of our modern philosophy- fairly by man, and when man deals metaphysical philosophy as it is called fairly by her-in short, when she is -and we suspected, indeed we felt as- rightly represented and understood, sured, that this character arose from loses her merely theoretical complexion our adopting, in philosophy, the method and becomes identified with all the best of the physical sciences. We, there. practical interests of our living selves. fore, tore philosophy away from the She no longer stands aloof from huanalogy of physics, and in direct viola- manity, but, descending into this tion of their procedure we made her world's arena, she takes an active part contemplate a fact which she herself in the ongoings of busy life. Her dead created, and contributed to her object, symbols burst forth into living realities a fact which she did not find there, the dry rustling twigs of science bethe fact namely, that an act of philo- come clothed with all the verdure of sophising was taking place. But the the spring. Her inert tutorage is consideration of this factor act brought transformed into an actual life. Her us to perceive the identity between dead lessons grow into man's activo consciousness and philosophy, and then wisdom and practical virtue. Her the perception of this identity led us at sleeping waters become the bursting once to note the truly practical cha- fountain-head from whence flows all racter of philosophy. For conscious- the activity which sets in motion the ness is an act of the most vitally real currents of human practice and of and practical character (we have yet human progression. Truly, gravels to see more fully how it makes us CAUToy was the sublimest, the most moral beings). It is zur Boxmthe comprehensive, and the most practical great practical act of humanity- the oracle of ancient wisdom. Know thyact by which man becomes man in the self, and, in knowing thyself, thou first instance, and by the incessant shalt see that this self is not thy true performance of which he preserves his self; but, in the very act of knowing moral status, and prevents himself from this, thou shalt at once displace this falling back into the causal bondage false self, and establish thy true self in of nature, which is at all times too its room.
Philosophy, then, has a practical as real and effective discipline of humawell as a theoretical side ; besides being nity. It is the point of conciliation in a system of speculative truth, it is a which life, knowledge, and virtue-meet,