Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

of Human Individuality, and a Social Contract to restrict that individuality. Hence, also, arose the doctrines of Laissez-faire, free competition, human equality, freedom of religion, of speech and of the press, and universal liberty. The right of Private Judgment, naturally enough, leads to the right to act on that judgment, to the supreme sovereignty of the individual, and the abnegation of all government. No doubt the Reformation resulted from the relaxation of feudalism and the increased liberties of mind and body which men had begun to relish and enjoy. We have no quarrel with the Reformation, as such, for reform was needed; nor with all of the philosophy that has been deduced from it; but it is the excess of reform, and the excessive applications of that philosophy, to which we object. Man is selfish, as well as social; he is born a part and member of society, born and lives a slave of society; but he has also natural individual rights and liberties. What are his obligations to society, what his individual rights, what position he is entitled to, what duties he should fulfill, depend upon a thousand ever-changing circumstances, in the wants and capacities of the individual, and in the necessities and well-being of the society to which he belongs. Modern philosophy treats of men only as separate monads or individuals; it is, therefore, always partly false and partly true; because, whilst man is always a limb or member of

we assail.

the Being, Society, he is also a Being himself, and does not bear to society the mere relation which the hand or the foot does to the human body. We shall propose no new philosophy, no universal and unerring principles or guide, in place of those which

A Moral Pathology, which feels its way in life, and adapts itself to circumstances, as they present themselves, is the nearest approach to philosophy, which it is either safe or wise to attempt. All the rest must be left to Religion, to Faith, and to Providence. This inadequacy of philosophy has, in all ages and nations, driven men to lean on religious faith for support. Though assailing all common theories, we are but giving bold and candid expression to the commonest of thoughts. The universal admiration of the passages we are about to cite, proves the truth of our theory, whilst it debars us of all claim to originality:

SOLOMON, melancholy, gloomy, dissatisfied, and tossed upon a sea of endless doubt and speculation, exclaims, “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher; all is vanity.” But, at length, he finds rest from the stormy ocean of philosophy, in the calm haven of faith. How beautiful and consoling, and how natural, too, his parting words:

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.'

“For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.”

In his Tenth, or Golden Satire, JUVENAL comes to a like conclusion, after having indulged in like speculations :

Nil ergò optabunt homines ? Si consilium vis,
Permittes ipsis expendere numinibus, quid
Conveniat nobis, rebusque sit utile nostris.
Nam pro jucundis aptissama quæque dabunt diis
Carior est illis homo, quàm sibi.

The Epicurean HORACE, in his first Satire, sces the same difficulty, but gives a less satisfactory solution:

Est modus in rebus; sunt certi denique fines,
Quos ultra citraque nequit consistere rectum.

BURKE's beautiful words, “What shadows we are, and what shadows we pursue!” convey the same thought, without attempting a solution.

SHAKSPEARE employs the profoundest philosophy, to assail all philosophy:

There are more things in heaven and earth,

Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

The infidel, VOLTAIRE, admits that “philosophy had ascertained few truths, done little good;” and

when he sums up that little, satisfies the reader that it has done nothing-unless it be to perplex and mislead.

He, Voltaire, also, in another connection, exclaims, mournfully:

“I now repeat this confession, still more emphatically, since the more I read, the more I meditate, and the more I acquire, the more I am enabled to affirm, that I know nothing."

Newton, admitting his own ignorance, is a standing monument of the inadequacy and futility of moral researches and speculations.

PINDAR

Man, the frail being of a day,
Uncertain shadow of a dream,
Illumined by the heavenly beam,

Flutters his airy life away.

ÆSCHYLUS

Vain thy ardor, vain thy grace,

They, nor force, nor aid repay ;
Like a dream, man's feeble race,

Short-lived reptiles of a day.

SOPHOCLES

'Tis sad to think, but me the farce of life persuades, That men are only spectral forms, or hollow shades.

ARISTOPHANES

Come now, ye host of fading lives, like the race of withering

leaves, Who live a day, creatures of clay, tribes that flit like shadows

away; Ephemeral, wingless insects, dreamy shapes, that death expects Soon to bind in phantom sheaves.

We will conclude our citations, which we might continue to the crack of doom, (for all who have written well and much, have indulged similar reflections,) with Doctor Johnson's Rasselas, which is intended to expand and apply what others had concisely and tersely stated. The Doctor's is an elaborate failure.

Philosophy can neither account for the past, comprehend the present, nor foresee and provide for the future. “I'll none of it."

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »