ePub 版



ART. I.—Precursors of the Scottish Philosophy. In the College Libraries of Edinburgh and Aberdeen are collected a number of the theses which had been defended in the Scottish Universities in the seventeenth century These seem to fall under the heads of Theses Logicæ, Theses Ethicæ, Theses Physicæ, Theses Spherice. Aristotle still rules both in logic and ethics. In logic, there is much abstract enunciation, and there are many acute distinctions in regard to Ens and unity, singulars and universals; and in ethics, the discussions are about virtue and vice, and choice. In physics, there are rational and deductive investigations of the nature of motion and resistance. During the century, the courses of study differ somewhat in the different universities, but still there is a general correspondence. In the course of Philosophy the Regents use Aristotle De Anima, Porphyry's Introduction, the Categories of Aristotle, the Dialectics of Ramus, and the Rhetoric of Vossius, with the works of such writers as Crassotus, Reas, Burgerdicius, Ariaga, Oviedo, &c. The ethics include politics and economics, and there are discussions about the nature of habits. It is scarcely necessary to say that all topics are discussed in a logical and rational, and not in an observational, manner and spirit.

The Parliamentary Commission for visiting the universities, appointed in 1690, and following years, directed, in 1695, the professors of pbilosophy in St Andrews to prepare the heads of à system of logic, and the corresponding professors in Edinburgh to prepare a course of metaphysics. The compends drawn up in consequence were passed from one college to another for revision; there is no evidence that they were finally


sanctioned, but they may be accepted as giving a fair idea of the instructions in philosophy conveyed in the universities of Scotland at the close of the eighteenth century-at the very time when Locke's Essay was finding its way so rapidly over the three kingdoms. Logic is called the instrument to acquire other sciences, inasmuch as it prescribes rules for rightly apprehending, judging, and arguing. It is said to be defined by others as the science which directs the operations of the mind for finding out truth in every other science. It is represented as treating of the three operations of apprehension, judgment, and discourse, to which some add a fourth part, on method, under which analysis and synthesis are explained. In all this there is nothing but the commonplace of bygone ages. But in this same text-book of logic we have the distinction drawn in the Port Royal Logic, between the extension and comprehension of the notion, adopted and stated. “We must distinguish betwixt the extension and comprehension of an idea. All the essential attributes of an idea are called its comprehension, as being, substance, vegetative, sensitive, and rational are the comprehension of man; but Peter, Paul, &c., contained under man are called the extent of man.” It can be shewn that this distinction comes down in an unbroken historical chain in Glasgow to Sir W. Hamilton, who has so profitably amplified and applied it. It is found in the Introduction to Logic by Carmichael, and in the Logical Compend of Hutcheson; and the latter continued to be used in Glasgow till towards the time when Hamilton was a student there.

Metaphysics are said to be defined by some as a science of being as being ; by others as a speculative science, which considers being in general, and its properties and kinds, as abstracted from matter. The benefits arising from the study of metaphysics are said to be, that treating of undoubted truths and axioms, we are enabled by their assistance the better to discover truths generally, and avoid errors; that as dividing beings into classes it keeps us from confusion ; that giving general names to common and abstracted beings, it aids the understanding in every kind of learning, and specially in theology, in which use is made of metaphysical terms. The first part of metaphysics treats of the principles of being, and of the various species of beings. The second part treats of the properties of being, such as unity, verity, goodness; and under this head we have abstract discussions as to the finite and infinite, the necessary and contingent, the absolute and relative, cause and effect, means and end, substance and quality. Such was the pabulum on which college youths fed during the century. This was the learning which helped to sharpen the intellects of such men as Henderson, Ruther

litve, cause and essary and combiscussions

Scotchmen in France.

ford, Leighton, Gillespie, Baillie, Dickson, Burnet (Bishop), Stair (Lord), and Carstairs, who acted so important a part in the affairs of their country.

But in order to appreciate fully the philosophic tastes and capacities of Scotchmen, we must follow them into France. From a very old date, certainly from the thirteenth century, there had been a close connection between that country and Scotland, arising from the jealousy entertained by both nations of the power and ambition of England. The Scottish youth who had a love of adventure, or a thirst for military glory, had a splendid opening provided for them in the Scottish Guard, which protected the person of the king of France, while those who had a taste for letters found means of instruction and employment in the numerous French colleges.* The Scotch scholars who returned to their own land brought back the French learning with them. Bishop Elphinston, who was the founder, and Hector Boece, who was the first principal of King's College, Aberdeen, had both taught in the University of Paris, and they set up the Scottish University on the model of the French one. John Major or Mair, who taught scholastic theology in Glasgow and St Andrews, and who was the preceptor of Knox and Buchapan, had been for some time in the University of Paris. During the sixteenth, and the early part of the seventeenth century, there was a perpetual stream of Scottish scholars flowing into France. Some of these were Catholics, to whom toleration was denied at home, and who betook themselves to a country where they had scope for the free exercise of their gifts. But quite as many were Protestants, who finding (as Scotchmen in later ages have done) their own land too narrow, or thirsting for farther knowledge or learned employment, connected themselves with one or other of the reformed colleges of Saumur, Montauban, Sedan, Montpellier, and Nismes, where some of them remained all their lives, while others returned to their own country. Some of these emigrants were lawyers or physicians; but by far the greater number of them were devoted to literature, philosophy, or theology. George Buchanan, Thomas Ricalton, three Blackwoods, Thomas Dempster, two Barclays, Andrew Melville, John Cameron, Walter Donaldson, and William Chalmers are only a few of the Scotchmen who occupied important offices in France. Two call for special notice here, as they wrote able logical works:--The one, Robert Balfour, a Catholic, and Principal of Guienne College, Bourdeaux, and an erudite commentator on Aristotle ; and the other, Mark Duncan, a Protestant, and Principal of the Uni

* The reader curious on this subject will find ample information in " Les Ecossais en France," hy Michel.

versity of Saumur, and author of Institutes of Logic. There must have been some reality as the ground of the extravagant statement of Sir Thomas Urquhart in his “ Discovery of a Most Exquisite Jewel,” that “the most of the Scottish nation, never having restricted themselves so much to the propriety of words as to the knowledge of things, where there was one preceptor of languages among them, there was above forty professors of philosophy.” “The French conceived the Scots to have above all nations in matter of their subtlety in philosophical disputations, that there have not been till of late for these several years together any lord, gentleman, or other in all that country, who being desirous to have his son instructed in the principles of philosophy, would entrust him to the discipline of any other than a Scottish master.” He adds, that “if a Frenchman entered into competition, a Scotchman would be preferred."

By such teaching at home, and by such foreign intercourse, a considerable amount of narrow but intense intellectual life was produced and fostered in Scotland. But youths were beginning to feel that the air was too close, too confined, and too monastic for them, and were longing for greater freedom and expansion. While Aristotle and the scholastic method still hold their place in the cloisters of the colleges, there is a more bracing atmosphere in the regions without and beyond ; and this is now to rush into Scotland.

From the time of the revival of letters in the sixteenth century, almost every great and original thinker had thought it necessary to protest against the authority of Aristotle and the schoolmen. Bacon left Cambridge with a thorough contempt for the scholastic studies pursued there; and the grand end aimed at in his “Novum Organum,” was to carry away men's regards from words and notions, to which they had paid too exclusive attention, and to fix them on things. In respect of a disposition to rebel against Aristotle and the schoolmen, Descartes was of the same spirit as Bacon; and Gassendi and Hobbes agreed with Descartes, with whom they differed in almost everything else. It would be easy to produce a succession of strong testimonies against the Stagyrite and the Mediævals, spread over the whole of the seventeenth century. The rising sentiment is graphically expressed by Glanvil in his “Scepsis Scientifica," published in 1665. He declares: that the “ingenious world is grown quite weary of qualities and forms;" he declaims against "dry spinosities, lean notions, endless altercations about things of nothing ;" and he recommends a “knowledge of nature, without which our hypotheses are but dreams and romances, and our science mere conjecture and opinion; for while we have schemes of things without con

Grotius and Locke.

sulting the phenomena, we do but build in the air, and describe an imaginary world of our own making, that is but little akin to the real one that God made.”

The realistic reaction took two different but not totally divergent directions in the seventeenth century, and both the streams reached Scotland in the following century. In the works of Grotius and Puffendorf, an elaborate attempt is made to determine the laws of nature in regard to man's political and social conditions, and apply the same to the examination and rectification of national and international laws. This was thought by many to be a more profitable and promising theme than the perpetual discussion of the nature of being and universals. This school had undoubtedly its influence in Scotland, where Carmichael, in 1718, edited and annotated Puffendorf, and where Hutcheson, and Hume, and A. Smith, and Ferguson, and D. Stewart, combined juridical and political with moral inquiries, and became the most influential writers of the century on all questions of what has since been called social science.

But a stronger and deeper current was setting in about the same time—a determination to have the experimental mode of investigation applied to every department of knowledge. This method had already been applied to physical science with brilliant results. And now there was a strong desire felt to have the new manner adopted in the investigation of the human mind. In 1670, John Locke and five or six friends are conversing in his chamber in Oxford on a knotty topic, and quickly they find themselves at a stand ; and it occurred to Locke that, before entering “on inquiries of that nature, it was necessary to examine our own abilities, and see what objects our understandings were or were not fitted to deal with." He pondered and wrote on this subject for twenty years, at the close of which in 1690) he published his immortal “Essay on the Human Understanding. In this work he would banish for ever those innate ideas which had offered such obstacles to the progress of thought; and, by an inquiry into the actual operations of the human mind, he would trace the ways in which mankind attain ideas and knowledge, and settle the bounds imposed on the human understanding. Locke's Essay was bailed with acclamation by all who were wearied of the old scholastic abstractions and distinctions, and who had caught the new spirit that was abroad.

Still Locke's Essay was not allowed to take possession of the thinking minds of the country without a vigorous opposition. Locke was met in his own day by Stillingfleet, the Bishop of Worcester, who argued resolutely that the view given in the Essay of our idea of substance was not sufficiently deep to

« 上一頁繼續 »