Billeder på siden

But how shall we now understand that in Germany, that country of pure speculation, of abstract thought, and where hitherto the universities seemed to be at the head of every scientific movement, how shall we understand that people have come to speak in these terms of those great philosophers lately so idolized, and of university instruction ever so highly esteemed? This is not one of the least curious symptoms of the philosophic tendency of our times. We must go farther back.


When Hegel died in 1832, never did conqueror leave a vaster and, in appearance, less contested empire. He had silenced all emulous voices, even that of his master and rival, the illustrious Schelling. Herbart alone had been able to preserve his independence; but he was not listened to, his time had not yet come. The profound and bitter Schopenhauer began to protest at Frankfort in solitude, and was destined long to brave the indifference of the public. Humboldt jested, in a little coterie, at what he styled the dialectic prestidigitation of Hegel; but outwardly he conducted toward this school as he did toward the authorities, and testified to it a proper respect. In this universal silence the school of Hegel had invaded everything, the universities and the world, Church and State. A common formulary ruled in all the schools. It seemed that a new Church was founded.

However, a philosophic credo has never been of long duration. After the first moment of superficial agreement, when minds, animated by common sentiments, and not yet having sufficiently sifted their ideas, accord in words for want of fixing their attention upon things, after the first bewilderment which the dominating authority of a genius produces upon minds of the second rank, each one gradually recovers self-possession and seeks to account to himself for what he professes. After faith comes interpretation, and with interpretation the prestige of unity disappears, heresies begin. This speedily happened to Hegelianism; people explained themselves, and thenceforward agreed no more.

Three different interpretations were given by the disciples of Hegel to the philosophy of the master, one spiritualistic and religious, another naturalistic and atheistic, and between the

two an intermediate school strove to maintain the high conciliatory thought of the master himself, and hold the balance even between spirit and nature. Theism, pantheism, and atheism, such were the three doctrines which divided the heritage of Hegel. They called the three divisions of the school by names borrowed from the language of politics, the right, the center, and the left. From 1833 these schisms were in preparation, and in 1840 they were consummated.

Of these three fractions of the Hegelian school the most powerful, and that which most moved men's minds, was evidently the most radical, the most energetic, namely, the left and the extreme left. The left, represented at first by Michelet of Berlin and Dr. Strauss, strove above all to explain itself upon the divine personality and the immortality of the soul.

It established these two points of doctrine, grown famous in Germany, that God is personal only in man and that man is immortal only in God, which comes to this, that God is not personal and that the soul is not immortal. Yet this part of the school still remained faithful to the Hegelian spirit by distinguishing thought and nature, logic and physics, spirit and matter. The extreme Hegelian left attacked all these scholastic distinctions. Of what use, said they, this logic of Hegel's, which does but express at the outset, in an abstract form, what nature realizes in a concrete form? Why distinguish thought and nature? Thought also is nature. Once upon this steep, nothing further prevented the Neo-Hegelians from recurring purely and simply to the materialistic and atheistic doctrines of the eighteenth century. This is what the extreme Hegelian left did in the writings of Feuerbach, Bruno Bauer, Max Stirner, and Arnold Ruge. Still, the first preserved a species of religion, like that of the positivist school, the religion of humanity. "Man alone," said he, "is the true Saviour! Man alone is our God, our Judge, and our Redeemer!" But the disciples went further and would none of this God-humanity, and of this worship which they called anthropolatry. Max Stirner combated the humanity of Feuerbach as a remnant of superstition, and he taught autolatry, self-worship. "Everybody is his own God," said he, quisquis sibi Deus. "Everybody has a right to everything," cuique omnia. Another disciple of the same school, Arnold Ruge, founder of the

"Annals of Halle," the journal of the sect, said, "Atheism is still a religious system: the atheist is no more free than the Jew who eats bacon. We must not struggle against religion, we must forget it." To get an idea of the kind of anti-religious rage which animated the Neo-Hegelians, one should read over some of the atheists of the eighteenth century: a Naigeon, a Lalande, a Sylvain Maréchal.

We perceive that this fanaticism of impiety, in a country which still is profoundly religious, must bring great discredit upon the philosophy and its interpreters. In Germany people love liberty of thought, but they respect holy things. It is permissible to say every thing there, provided it be done in hieroglyphic formulas, inaccessible to the multitude; but precisely the young Hegelian school was weary of these formulas, it wished to speak frankly and aloud, to call things by their name, and did not fear to employ the most gross and brutal language. This is not all. In politics as in philosophy the young school professed the most radical doctrines. Eighteen hundred and forty-eight came; the extreme Hegelian left became the extreme revolutionary left; atheism and socialism struck hands; thereby was augmented the repulsion that Hegelianism inspired, and of which philosophy was to feel the rebound. The reaction of 1850 came to smite it in Germany as it smote it among ourselves. Opinion went against it; silence occurred in the universities occupied in general by men of the second class, some of whom however, especially in criticism, were eminent. All these facts are the easier to understand because analogous ones have transpired among ourselves.

But silence and peace belong not to this world. Philosophy, conquered with the Revolution, confined to universities, apparently forgotten by the public, began speedily to arouse. Neither the human mind nor Germany can dispense with philosophy; but the awakening came from an unexpected quarter: it came from the natural sciences. This phenomenon must have its reason in the spirit of our times, for this is what we have also seen. In fact, it is the positivist school which has gained among us by the penance inflicted upon the philosophy of the schools. . Wishing to restrain a free spiritualism, a large and undisputed highway has been completely opened for materialism.

One of the first symptoms of the awakening of philosophy in Germany was the unexpected success of a philosopher, already aged, who, for more than thirty years, wrote amid public indifference, and whose words, full of humor and bitterness, we have cited we mean Schopenhauer. The incontestible originality of this writer, his style full of coloring and bitterness, of a clearness hardly common in Germany, his pungent invectives against the school philosophy, the strangeness of his character, at once misanthropic and inclined to the worst view of things, a kind of proud and haughty atheism which reminds us of Obermann's, his merits and defects, befitted well enough an epoch of intellectual lassitude when neither faith nor philosophy longer satisfied any one, the first having got no cure from the wounds of Dr. Strauss, the latter being in discredit through the abuses of scholastic formalism. The German schools, smitten at first by the reaction, were now smitten by free and individual philosophy. This we likewise witnessed in France, where the schools, proud of having been checked by the retrograde party, innocently believed themselves the organs and depositories of philosophic liberalism, when they suddenly saw themselves assaulted from without by the critical and positivist movement and the Hegelian movement, at bottom retrograde, but here innovating. Thus we found ourselves constrained, we French spiritualists, to pass at once, and without preparation, from the left to the right.

Yet the success of the philosophy of Schopenhauer seems to have been but a fleeting affair. This philosopher belonged too much to the movement he combated. He is an idealist, connecting evidently with Kant and even with Fichte, and on that side his doctrines are clearly obsolete. What period is that where one could, like Schopenhauer, seriously write and win faith for such axioms: "I am, because I wish to be?" Moreover one must be profoundly skilled in the mysteries of the philosophic phraseology of Germany to comprehend the difference that may exist between the absolute will, which is, according to this philosopher, the essence of the world, and the absolute idea of the Hegelian school. A will without . consciousness and an idea without consciousness seem to me greatly alike, and are nothing but the instinctive and immanent activity of the absolute Being.

It was in an order of more positive ideas that Germany was to seek a philosophy. This was furnished her by physiology and the natural sciences. As long as the philosophy of identity reigned, the sciences were isolated and held in reserve. Some great savans, however, Oersted, Oken, Burdach, Corus, and even Müller, had evidently been under the prestige of idealism. Reclamations to this effect were made in the name of experimentalism, and Goethe himself, although a poet, but a savan as well as poet, had distinctly perceived the vice of the speculative method and of à priori science. "Here for twenty years,” said he, "the Germans have been forming a transcendental philosophy. If they once come to bethink themselves of it, they will feel themselves very ridiculous." Still, the empire of philosophy was so strong that it arrogated the right of treating with the highest disdain the objections of experimentalism. When this philosophy was reproached with inability to explain particular facts, Michelet, of Berlin, answered haughtily that "such objections were not above but below erudition." We answer in this way when we are the stronger party, but such responses must necessarily be paid for some day or other. This is what has happened in Germany to the philosophy of nature. "The disfavor of this system is such," says Büchner, "that the name, philosophy of nature, is hardly more than a term of contempt in science." The natural and positive sciences have resumed the scepter which the idealist philosophy had been constrained to yield; in their turn they have had their philosophy, which is no other, it must be said, than the purest materialism. The chief and propagator of this new movement is Mr. Moleschott.

Evidently the school of Moleschott strikes hands with the school of Feuerbach. The latter has made the other possible; but there is a great difference between them; they are of various origin. The school of Feuerbach is of Hegelian origin: it is born of dialectics; doubtless it comes likewise to materialism; but this is through deduction, through the sweeping logic of ideas. It is an abstract materialism, accompanied by atheistic fanaticism and political passion mingled with illusion. Mr. Proudhon, among ourselves, represents well enough this kind of reasoning, violent, and chimerical philosophy. The materialism of Moleschott and his friends has a wholly different

« ForrigeFortsæt »