« ForrigeFortsæt »
Art. I.-1. Lectures on the History of Ancient Philosophy, by William
Archer Butler, M.A. Cambridge: Macmillan and Co. 2. A Biographical History of Philosophy, by G. H. Lewes. London:
article are amongst the latest English contributions to the history of Philosophy. They have been already for some time submitted to the judgment of the public, and have, on the whole, obtained a greater share of favour, than had previously been accorded to other works of the same class and of similar pretensions. Each of these works, while both are liable to very serious exceptions, is characterised by merits of a special kind, and such as are calculated to conciliate public approbation. Each is possessed of qualities winich impart to it an interest altogether independent of the success with which the author has executed the task of writing a history of philosophy.
Mr. Butler's book is the composition of a man of genius, who devoted talents which peculiarly fitted him for the undertaking, to the congenial labour, of interpreting the philosophy of Plato ; and if he has not been successful in reconciling all the contradictions of the Platonic system, he has at least produced a work, which, from the comprehensive views which it unfolds, and from the literary merits it exhibits, deserves to be welcomed as a contribution to our literature. Although we cannot apply the former praise to Mr. Lewes' volumes, it fully deserves the latter commendation, as he has maintained throughout, VOL. XLVIII.-No. XCV.
a graphic and sprightly style, not usually met with in compositions of a similar tendency.
Lord Bacon's complaint of the imperfection of our works devoted to tracing the history of philosophy, could not now be repeated with truth. Besides the important volumes of Ritter and Tenneman, we possess in Dr. Enfield's summary of Brucker, a valuable repertory of authorities, and of references to original sources of information. Stanley's work, though not of the necessary extent, is useful in the study of the Grecian systems. Dacier's essay, though under the disadvantage of having been written nearly a hundred years ago, contains much valuable information; and the special treatises on the two principal philosophies, those of Plato and Aristotle, of which so many have been recently produced, still further contribute to the supply of erudition, which the student of philosophy has now within his reach.
It is with sincere pleasure that we welcome this very abundant supply of philosophical records. So long as we had not adequate means of judging what phases philosophy had gone through in the past, we were deprived of some of the most essential data, from which to construct a history of the human mind. A history of the human mind is the greatest intellectual want which now exists. Nothing is so much needed as an antidote for those unhealthy mental epidemics, which originating with some enthusiastic professor, spread with sad rapidity through the susceptible student class, and through them are communicated to a section of society more or less extended. A firm belief in the great original powers of the teacher is ordinarily the most effectual cause of the circulation of his system.
The system is not examined into by the believers in it; indeed, as a general rule, the most steadfast believers in it, are utterly incompetent to judge of its intrinsic merits.
Were the past history of philosophy understood with even tolerable distinctness, the attribution of originality to any modern philosophical scheme, would be a thing of exceedingly rare occurrence. Had the disciples who crowded around Schelling at Berlin, when he promulgated his doctrine of an “intellectual' Intuition, and who hailed it as a discovery superseding the exclusive value of consciousness and reflection, been aware of the
extasy” to which Plotinus assigned an identical func