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DR. BEATTIE VERY ABSURDLY ANGRY.
certain strange paradoxes as to the nature of motion, or the infinite divisibility of matter. The argument is perfectly logical and unanswerable; and yet no man in his senses can practically admit the conclusion. Thus, it may be strictly demonstrated, that the swiftest moving body can never overtake the slowest which is before it at the commencement of the motion; or, in the words of the original problem, that the swift-footed Achilles could never overtake a snail that had a few yards the start of him. The reasoning upon which this valuable proposition is founded, does not admit, we believe, of any direct confutation; and yet there are few, we suppose, who, upon the faith of it, would take a bet as to the result of such
The sceptical reasonings as to the mind led to no other practical conclusion; and may be answered or acquiesced in with the same good nature.
Such, however, are the chief topics which Dr. Beattie has discussed in this Essay, with a vehemence of temper, and an impotence of reasoning, equally surprising and humiliating to the cause of philosophy. The subjects we have mentioned occupy the greater part of the work, and are indeed almost the only ones to which its title at all applies. Yet we think it must be already apparent, that there is nothing whatever in the doctrines he opposes, to call down his indignation, or to justify his abuse. That there are other doctrines in some of the books which he has aimed at confuting, which would justify the most zealous opposition of every friend to religion, we readily admit; but these have no necessary dependence on the general speculative scepticism to which we have now been alluding, and will be best refuted by those who lay all that general reasoning entirely out of consideration. Mr. Hume's theory of morals
, which, when rightly understood, we conceive to be both salutary and true, certainly has no connexion with his doctrine of ideas and impressions; and the great question of liberty and necessity, which Dr. Beattie has settled, by mistaking, throughout, the power of doing what we will, for the power of willing without motives, evidently depends upon considerations altogether apart
NO GREAT USE IN MORAL THEORIES.
from the nature and immutability of truth. It has always appeared to us, indeed, that too much importance has been attached to Theories of morals, and to speculations on the sources of approbation. Our feelings of approbation and disapprobation, and the moral distinctions which are raised upon them, are Facts which no theory can alter, although it may fail to explain. While these facts remain, they must regulate the conduct, and affect the happiness of mankind, whether they are well or ill accounted for by the theories of philosophers. It is the same nearly with regard to the controversy about cause and effect. It does not appear to us, however, that Mr. Hume ever meant to deny the existence of such a relation, or of the relative idea of power. He has merely given a new theory as to its genealogy or descent; and detected some very gross inaccuracies in the opinions and reasonings which were formerly prevalent on the subject.
If Dr. Beattie had been able to refute these doctrines, we cannot help thinking that he would have done it with more temper and moderation; and disdained to court popularity by so much fulsome cant about common sense, virtue, and religion, and his contempt and abhorrence for infidels, sophists, and metaphysicians ; by such babyish interjections, as "fy on it! fy on it!” — such triumphant exclamations, as, “say, ye candid and intelligent !" or such terrific addresses, as, “ye traitors to human kind! ye murderers of the human soul!” “ vain hypocrites! perfidious profligates!” and a variety of other embellishments, as dignified as original in a philosophical and argumentative treatise. The truth is, that the Essay acquired its popularity, partly from the indifference and dislike which has long prevailed in England, as to the metaphysical inquiries which were there made the subject of abuse; partly from the perpetual appeal which it affects to make from philosophical subtlety to common sense; and partly from the accidental cir. cumstances of the author. It was a great matter for the orthodox scholars of the south, who knew little of metaphysics themselves, to get a Scotch professor of philoso
DR. BEATTIE'S THEORY OF POPULARITY.
phy to take up the gauntlet in their behalf. The contempt with which he chose to speak of his antagonists was the very tone which they wished to be adopted; and, some of them, imposed on by the confidence of his manner, and some resolved to give it all chances of imposing on others, they joined in one clamour of approbation, and proclaimed a triumph for a mere rash skirmisher, while the leader of the battle was still doubtful of the victory. The book, thus dandled into popularity by bishops and good ladies, contained many pieces of nursery eloquence, and much innocent pleasantry: it was not fatiguing to the understanding; and read less heavily, on the whole, than most of the Sunday library. In consequence of all these recommendations, it ran through various editions, and found its way into most well-regulated families; and, though made up of such stuff, as we really believe no grown man who had ever thought of the subject could possibly go through without nausea and compassion, still retains its place among the meritorious performances, by which youthful minds are to be purified and invigorated. We shall hear no more of it, however, among those who have left college.
STEWART'S PHILOSOPHICAL ESSAYS.
Philosophical Essays. By DUGALD STEWART, Esq. F. R. S.
Edinburgh, Emeritus Professor of Moral Philosophy in the University of Edinburgh, &c. &c. 4to. pp. 590. Edinburgh : 1810.
The studies to which Mr. Stewart has devoted himself, have lately fallen out of favour with the English public; and the nation which once placed the name of Locke immediately under those of Shakspeare and of Newton, and has since repaid the metaphysical labours of Berkeley and of Hume with such just celebrity, seems now to be almost without zeal or curiosity as to the progress of the Philosophy of Mind.
The causes of this distaste it would be curious, and probably not uninstructive, to investigate: but the inquiry would be laborious, and perhaps not very satisfactory. It is easy, indeed, to say, that the age has become frivolous and impatient of labour; and has abandoned this, along with all other good learning, and every pursuit that requires concentration of thought, and does not lead to immediate distinction. This is satire, and not reasoning; and, were it even a fair statement of the fact, such a revolution in the intellectual habits and character of a nation, is itself a phenomenon to be accounted for, — and not to be accounted for upon light or shallow considerations. To us, the phenomenon, in so far as we are inclined to admit its existence, has always appeared to arise from the great multiplication of the branches of liberal study, and from the more extensive diffusion of knowledge among the body of the people, — and to constitute, in this way, a signal example of that compensation, by which the good and evil in our lot is constantly equalised, or reduced at least to no very variable standard.
METAPHYSICS OUT OF FASHION.
The progress of knowledge has given birth, of late years, to so many arts and sciences, that a man of liberal curiosity finds both sufficient occupation for his time, and sufficient exercise to his understanding, in acquiring a superficial knowledge of such as are most inviting and most popular; and, consequently, has much less leisure, and less inducement than formerly, to dedicate himself to those abstract studies which call for more patient and persevering attention. In older times, a man had nothing for it, but either to be absolutely ignorant and idle, or to take seriously to theology and the school logic. When things grew a little better, the classics and mathematics filled up the measure of general education and private study; and, in the most splendid periods of English philosophy, had received little addition, but from these investigations into our intellectual and moral nature. Some few individuals might attend to other things; but a knowledge of these was all that was required of men of good education; and was held accomplishment enough to entitle them to the rank of scholars and philosophers. Now-a-days, however, the necessary qualification is prodigiously raised, - at least in denomination; and a man can scarcely pass current in the informed circles of society, without knowing something of political economy, chemistry, mineralogy, geology, and etymology, - having a small notion of painting, sculpture, and architecture, with some sort of taste for the picturesque, — and a smattering of German and Spanish literature, and even some idea of Indian, Sanscrit, and Chinese learning and history, — over and above some little knowledge of trade and agriculture; with a reasonable acquaintance with what is called the philosophy of politics, and a far more extensive knowledge of existing parties, factions, and eminent individuals, both literary and political, at home and abroad, than ever were required in any earlier period of society. The dissipation of time and of attention occasioned by these multifarious occupations, is, of course, very unfavourable to the pursuit of any abstract or continued study; and even if a man could, for himself, be content to remain