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tently carried out from his fundamental principles, must have led to an Idealism in which the whole external world appears as mere phenomenon and only the ego has any real existence.63 Materialism is empirical, and rarely employs the deductive method, and then only when a sufficient stock of materials has been acquired inductively out of which we may then attain to new truths by a free use of the syllogism. Descartes began with abstraction and deduction, and that was not only not Materialistic, but also not practical: it necessarily led him to those obvious fallacies in which, among all great philosophers, perhaps, no one abounds so much as Descartes. But, for once, the deductive method came to the front, and in connection with it that purest form of all deduction, in which, too, as well as in philosophy, Descartes holds an honourable placemathematics. Bacon could not endure mathematics; the pride of the mathematicians—or perhaps, more truly, their rigorousness—displeased him, and he required that this science should be only a handmaid, but should not demean herself as mistress of physics.

Thus then proceeded principally from Descartes that mathematical side of natural philosophy which applied to all the phenomena of nature the standard of number and of geometrical figure. It deserves attention that even in the beginning of the eighteenth century the Materialists -before this name had become general—were not seldom described as 'mechanici,' that is, as people who started with a mechanical view of nature. This mechanical view of nature had really, however, been originated by Descartes, and had been developed by Spinoza, and not less Leibniz, although the last-named philosopher was very far from numbering himself amongst the adherents of this movement.

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63 In the Memoires pour l'Histoire referred to, although without mendes Sciences et des Beaux Arts, Tre- tion of his name, who holds the most voux et Paris, 1713, p. 922, a certain probable view to be, that he himself Malebranchist’ living in Paris is is the only existing being.


Although, then, in the most essential points, Materialism starts from Bacon, it was nevertheless Descartes who finally impressed upon this whole way of thinking that stamp of mechanism which appeared most strikingly in De la Mettrie's “L'Homme Machine." It was really due to Descartes that all the functions as well of intellectual as of physical life were finally regarded as the products of mechanical changes.

To the possibility of a natural science at all, Descartes had helped himself by the somewhat hasty conclusion, that although otherwise we must indeed have doubted the reality of things outside us, we may nevertheless conclude that they are really existing, because otherwise God must be a deceiver in having given us the idea of the external world.

This salto mortale accordingly lands Descartes at once in the midst of nature, in a sphere where he laboured with much greater success than in metaphysics. As to the general basis of his theory of external nature, Descartes was not an adherent of rigorous Atomism: he denied the conceivableness of the atoms. Even if there are smallest particles which cannot possibly be any further divided, yet God must be able to divide them again, for their divisibility is still constantly conceivable. But in spite of this denial of atoms, he was yet very far from striking into the path of Aristotelianism. His doctrine of the absolute fulness of space has not only an entirely different basis in its notion of matter, but it must even in the plıysical theory take a shape which is nearly allied to Atomism. There he substitutes for the atoms small round corpuscles, which remain in fact quite as unchanged as the atoms, and are only divisible in thought, that is, potentially; in place of the empty space which the ancient Atomists adopted, he had extremely fine splinters, which have been formed in the interstices when the corpuscles were originally rounded. By the side of this view we may seriously ask whether the metaphysical theory of the absolute fulness of space is not a mere makeshift, in order, on the one hand, not to swerve too far from the orthodox idea, and yet, on the other hand, to have all the advantages for a picturable explanation of natural phenomena which are possessed by Atomism ? Descartes, moreover, expressly explained the movement of the particles as well as those of bodies out of mere conduction, according to the laws of mechanical impact. He named, indeed, the universal cause of all movement, God; but all bodies, according to him, are subject to a particular motion, and every natural phenomenon consists, without distinction of the organic or inorganic, merely of the conduction of the motion of one body to another; and thus all mystical explanations of nature were set aside at once, and that by the same kind of principle which was followed by the Atomists also.

In reference to the human soul, the point around which all controversies turned in the eighteenth century, Bacon was at bottom again a Materialist. He assumed, it is true, the anima rationalis, but only on religious grounds; intelligible he did not consider it. But the anima sensitiva, which alone he thought capable of a scientific treatment, Bacon regarded in the sense of the ancients as a fine kind of matter. Bacon, in fact, did not at all recognise the conceivableness of an immaterial substance, and his whole mode of thought was inconsistent with the view of the soul as the form of the body in the Aristotelian sense.

Although this was just the point on which Descartes seemed to stand most sharply opposed to Materialism, it is nevertheless in this very sphere that the Materialists borrowed from him the principles leading to the most important consequences.

Descartes, in his corpuscular theory, made no essential distinction between organic and inorganic nature. Plants were machines; and as to animals, he suggested, even though it was only under the form of an hypothesis, that Le regarded them also as in fact mere machines.

Now the age of Descartes happened to occupy itself very busily with animal psychology. In France especially one of the best-read and most influential of authors, the ingenious sceptic Montaigne,64 had rendered popular the paradoxical proposition that the animals display as much, and often more, reason than men. But what Montaigne had playfully suggested, in the shape of an apology for Raymund of Sabunde, was made by Hieronymus Rorarius the subject of a special treatise, published by Gabriel Naudäus in 1648, and bearing the title, “Quod animalia bruta

ratione utantur melius homine.” 65 This proposition appeared to be a direct contradiction to that of Descartes, but there was, nevertheless, a synthesis of the two found possible in this position—that the animals are machines, and yet think. The step from the animal to man was then but a short one; and, moreover, here also Descartes had so prepared the way, that he may fairly be regarded as the immediate forerunner of outspoken Materialism. In his treatise “ Passiones Animae," he calls attention to the important fact that the dead body is not only dead because the soul is wanting to it, but because the bodily machine itself is partially destroyed.66 If we reflect that the entire sum of the idea of the soul possessed by primitive peoples is due to the comparison of the living and the dead body, and that the ignorance of the physiological phenomena in the dying body is one of the strongest supports of the theory of a 'visionary soul' —that is, of that more subtle man who is supposed by the popular psychology to be present as the motive force in the inside of the man—we shall immediately recognise in this single point an important contribution to the carrying out of anthropological Materialism. And not less important is the unambiguous recognition of Harvey's great discovery of the circulation of the blood.67 With this the whole Aristotelo-Galenian physiology fell to the ground; and although Descartes still held to the 'vital spirits,' they are at least in him entirely free from that mystical antithesis between matter and spirit, and from the incomprehensible relations of sympathy' and 'antipathy' to half-sensible half-supersensible “spirits' of all kinds. With Descartes the vital spirits are genuine, materially-conceived matter, more logically imagined than Epikuros's soul-atoms, with their added element of caprice. They move themselves, and effect movement, just as in Demokritos, exclusively according to mathematical and physical laws. A mechanism of pressure and collision, which Descartes follows out with great ingenuity through all the separate steps, forms an uninterrupted chain of effects produced by external things through the senses upon the brain, and from the brain back again outwards through nerves and muscular filaments.


64 Montaigne is at the same time of animals as are most generally deone of the most dangerous opponents nied to them as being products of the of Scholasticism and the founder of 'higher faculties of the soul.' With French scepticism. The leading their virtues the vices of men are set Frenchmen of the seventeenth cen- in sharp contrast. We can therefore tury were almost all under his influ- understand that the manuscript, al. ence, friend and foe alike; nay, we though written by a priest who was find that he exercised an important a friend both of Pope and Emperor, influence even upon the opponents of had to wait so long for publication. his gay and somewhat frivolous phi

The publisher, Naudäus, was losophy, as, for instance, upon Pascal a friend of Gassendi's, who also, un. and the men of Port Royal.

like Descartes, has a very high esti65 The work of Hieronymus Rora- mate of the capacities of the animals. rius waited a full hundred years for 66 Passiones Animae, Art. v. : its publication, and it is therefore in roneum esse credere animam dare its origin earlier than the “Essais" motum et calorem corpori ;” and Art. of Montaigne. It is distinguished by vi. : “Quaenam differentia sit inter a grim and serious tone, and the assi- corpus vivens et cadaver.” duous emphasising of just such traits

“ Er

In this state of things we may seriously ask whether De la Mettrie was not in truth quite justified when he traced his own Materialism to Descartes, and maintained that the wily philosopher, purely for the sake of the parsons, had patched on to his theory a soul, which was in reality quite superfluous. If we do not go quite so far as this, it is chiefly the unmistakable importance of the

67 On the universal denial with agreement, comp. also Buckle, “His. which Harvey's great discovery was tory of Civilisation in England," ü. met, and the importance of Descartes's 80, ed. 1871.

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