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CONTENTS OF NO. LII.
LECTURES ON METAPHYSICS BY Sir William HAMILTON, Bart.,
Professor of Logic and Metaphysics in the University of Edinburgh: Edited by the Rev. Henry L. Mansel, B.D., Oxford, and John Veitch, M.A., Edinburgh, Boston, Gonld & Lincoln: New York, Sheldon & Co.,: Cincinnati, G. S. Blanchard, 1859.
These are the Lectures Sir W. Hamilton was accustomed to deliver to his classes every other year during his professorship in the University; the alternate years being occupied with a series in Logic, which is also soon to be given to the publie. It is intimated by the Editor, and seems to have been generally felt by those abroad who have noticed the work, that they have not the fulness and completeness that might have been expected from one of such eminent gifts, and enjoying such ample time to perfect his views. They are marked indubitably by powers of extraordinary subtlety, strength, and comprehension, and a mastery of the literature of the subject altogether unexampled; there is no writer in the long train of metaphysicians, there is no VOL. XIII. —NO. I.
school of speculatists, there is no shape or shade of opinion with which he was not familiar; there is no topic that he was not capable of unfolding with the utmost ease and investing with interest; yet his lectures are far from forming a full series, or presenting many of the themes of which he treats with the clearness and amplitude which are desirable. Though his piercing glance, refined discrimination, delicate analysis, comprehensive memory, and adroitnes; in argument appear in every discussion, he yet is always terse, often obscure, sometimes inconsistent, and gives his lectures the air in a measure of an outline or syllabus, rather than a full presentation of his subjects; and seems to have written them more as a concise statement for himself, than for the youths to whom he addressed them. They are, however, a very important contribution to the science of Metaphysics, and are destined undoubtedly—with his other writings-to exert a large influence. They are, in the main, on the side of truth, and were probably thought by their author to be altogether consistent with the great doctrines of theism and revelation in which he professed an unhesitating faith. We regret that in the most important branch of his speculations, in which he aimed to overthrow the atheism and nihilism of the modern German schools, he admitted elements that are contradictious of his own principles, and subversive of the facts and doctrines he meant to maintain.
We have an example of this in his definition of consciousness in the perception of external oljects, as a consciousness of those objects themselves. Thus he says:
“Reid maintains, against the immense majority of all, and the entire multitude of modern philosophers, that we have a direct and immediate knowledge of the external world. He thus vindicates to mind not only an immediate knowledge of its own modifications, but also an immediate knowledge of what is essentially different from mind or self,—the modifications of matter. Ile did not, however, allow that these were known by any common faculty, but held that the qualities of mind were exclusively made known to us by consciousness, the qualities of matter exclusively made known to us by perception. Consciousness was thus the faculty of immediate knowledge, purely subjective; perception the faculty of knowledge, purely objec
tive. The ego was known by one faculty, the non-ego by another.
“Dr. Reid has many merits as a speculator, but the only merit which he arrogates to himself-the principal merit accorded to him by others-is that he was the first philosopher, in more recent times, who dared in his doctrine of immediate perception, to vindicate against the unanimous authority of philosophers, the universal conviction of mankind. But this doctrine he has at best but imperfectly developed, and at the same time has unfortunately obscured it by errors of so singular a character that some acute philosophers have never even suspected what his doctrine of perception actually is. One of those errors is the contradistinction of perception from consciousness,
"I may here notice that philosophers, at least modern philosophers, before Reid, allowed to the mind no immediate knowledge of the external reality. They conceded to it only a representative or mediate knowledge of external things. Of these some, however, held that the representative objectthe object immediately known-was different from the mind knowing, as it was also different from the reality it represented; while others, on a simpler hypothesis, maintained that there was no intermediate entity-no tertium quid, between the reality and the mind, but that the immediate or representative object was itself a mental modification. The latter thus granting to mind no immediate knowledge of aught beyond its own modifcation, could, consequently, only recognise a consciousness of self. The former, on the contrary, could, as they actually did, accord to consciousness a cognizance of not self. Now Reid, after asserting against the philosophers the immediacy of our knowledge of external things, would almost appear to have been startled by his own boldness, and instead of carrying his principle fairly to its issue, by according to consciousness on his doctrine that knowledge of the external world as existing, which on the doctrine of the philosophers it obtained of the external world as represented, he inconsistently stopped short, split immediate knowledge into two parts, and bestowed the knowledge of material qnalities on perception alone, allowing that of mental modifications to remain exclusively with consciousness. Be this, however, as it may, the exemption of the objects of perception from the sphere of consciousness, can be easily shown to be self-contradictory.
“What! say the partisans of Dr. Reid, are we not to distinguish as the product of different faculties, the knowledge we obtain of objects in themselves the most opposite ? Mind and matter are mutually separated by the whole diameter of being. Mind and matter are in fact nothing but words to express two series of phenomena known less in themselves, than in contradistinction from each other. The difference of the phenomena to be known surely legitimates a difference of faculty to know them. In answer to this we admit at once that—were the question merely whether we should not distinguish under consciousness two special faculties—whether we should not study apart, and bestow distinctive appellations on consciousness considered as more particularly cognizant of the external world and on consciousness considered as more particularly cognizant of the internal—this would be highly proper and expedient. But this is not the question. Dr. Reid distinguishes consciousness as a special faculty from perception as a special faculty, and he allows to the former the cognizance of the latter in its operation, to the exclusion of its object. He maintains that we are conscious of our perception of a rose, but not of the rose perceived. That we know the ego by one act of knowledge, the non-ego by another. This doctrine I hold to be erroneous, and it is this doctrine I now proceed to refute.”—Pp. 151-156.
He thus maintains that in the perception of external objects, the inind is conscious not only of the modification that takes place in itself, through the organ which is the medium of the perception, but of the external reality also, which is the object of perception. This we regard as not only mistaken, but subversive of the doctrine affirmed by Sir W. Hamilton of the actual perception by the mind of external existences, and directly involving the idealism which it was a leading aim of his speculations to overthrow.
His first argument against Dr. Reid is ineffective, from his failure to notice that his theory has that very characteristic of truth which he denies belongs to it.
“In the first place, it is not only a logical axiom, but a selfevident truth, that the knowledge of opposites is one. Thus we cannot know what is tall, without knowing what is short-we know what is virtue only as we know what is vice—the science of health is but another name for the science of disease. Nor do we know the opposites, the I and thon, the ego and non-ego —the subject and the object, mind and matter, by a different law. The act which affirms that this particular phenomenon is