Page images



justifies Gassendi's second objection. But if it is pro-
posed to substitute the psychological method, then the
first of Gassendi's objections asserts itself: This psycho-
logical process does not, and can not exist; it is a pure

The justification adopted by Descartes himself appears
to go furthest, which relies upon the logical deduction,
and makes the distinction that in one case the premiss
'I think'is certain, whilst, on the other hand, in 'I go
to walk, and therefore I am,' the premiss upon which it
rests is doubtful, and therefore the conclusion is impos-
sible. But this also is idle sophistry; for if I really go
to walk, I can assuredly consider my walking as the
mere phenomenal side of an act entirely different in it-
self, and I can do the same in precisely the same way
with my thinking as a psychological phenomenon; I can-
not, however, without absolute untruth, annul the idea
that I go to walk, any more than I can the idea of my
thinking, especially if in cogitare one includes, with Car-
tesius, also velle, imaginare, and even sentire.

And, least of all, can the inference to a subject of thinking be justified, as Lichtenberg has shown in the excellent remark: “Shall we say “it thinks' as we say ‘it lightens': to say “cogito’ is too much if we are to translate it 'I think.”” It is practically necessary to assume, to postulate the 1.9



9 The credit for the priority of this question, which, in the simplest way, remark appears to be due to Kant, demonstrates so clearly the surreptiwho says in the Krit. d. r. Vern. tious nature of the Subject. Elementarl., ii. 2, 2, I Hauptst. We may mention, by the way, that (Paralogismen d. r. Vern.), E. T., p. the attempt to prove the existence of 239: “By this I, or He, or It which the soul from the very fact of doubt, thinks, nothing more is represented in very striking agreement with the than a transcendental subject of "Cogito ergo sum,' was first introthought = x, which is cognised only duced by the Father Augustine, who by means of the thoughts that are thus argues in the roth Book De its predicates, and of which, apart Trinitate : ' “Si quis dubitat, vivit from these, we cannot form the least si dubitat, unde dubitet meminit; conception." At the same time, this si dubitat, dubitare se intelligit. does not detract from the great merits This passage is quoted in the once of Lichtenberg's statement ut the widely spread “Margarita Philosu

In 1646, Gassendi became Regius Professor of Mathematics at Paris, where his lecture-room was crowded by listeners of all ages, including well-known men of letters. He had only with difficulty resolved to quit his Southern home, and being soon attacked by a lung complaint, he returned to Digne, where he remained till 1653. In this period falls the greater part of his literary activity and zeal in behalf of the philosophy of Epikuros, and simultaneously the positive extension of his own doctrines. In the same period Gassendi produced, besides several astronomical works, a series of valuable biographies, of which those of Copernicus and of Tycho Brahe are especially noteworthy. Gassendi is, of all the most prominent representatives of Materialism, the only one gifted with a historic sense, and that he has in an eminent degree. Even in his “Syntagma Philosophicum,” he treats every subject at first historically, from all possible points of view.

Of cosmical systems, he declares the Ptolemaic, the Copernican, and the Tychonic to be the most important. Of these, he entirely rejects the Ptolemaic, declares the Copernican to be the simplest and the one most thoroughly representing the facts; but one must adopt that of Tycho, because the Bible obviously attributes motion to the sun. It affords us an insight into the time, that the once so cautious Gassendi, who on all other points kept peace between his Materialism and the Church, could not even reject the Copernican system without drawing upon himself, by his laudatory expressions, the reproach of a heretical view of cosmology. Yet the hatred of the supporters of the old cosmology becomes in some measure intelligible when we see how Gassendi contrived to undermine its foundations without open assault. A favourite argument of the opponents of Copernicus was, that if the earth revolved, it would be impossible for a cannon-ball fired straight up into the air to fall back

phica” (1486, 1503 and often) at the had used this argument in order to beginning of the roth book, “ De show that that ego which thinks Anima.” Descartes, who had his is an immaterial substance. Desattention called to its agreement cartes therefore quite rightly emwith his principle, seems not to phasises as his special property prehave known it; he admits that cisely that element which is most Augustine had, in fact, proposed to obviously surreptitious. Comp. prove the certainty of our existence Oeuvres, t. viii., ed. Cousin, p. 421. in this way; he himself, however,

the cannon.

Gassendi thereupon, as he relates himself, had an experiment made: 10 on a ship travelling at great speed a stone was thrown straight up into the air. It fell back, following the motion of the ship, upon the same part of the deck from which it had been thrown. A stone was dropped from the top of the mast, and it fell exactly at its foot. These experiments, to us so ordinary, were then, when men were only beginning, by the aid of Galilei, to understand the laws of motion, of great significance, and the main argument of those who denied the motion of the earth was by their assistance hopelessly overthrown.

The world Gassendi regarded as one ordered whole, and the only question is as to the nature of the order, especially if the world possesses a soul or not. If by the worldsoul one means God, and it is only meant that God by his being and presence maintains, governs, and so in a sense constitutes the soul of all things, this may always be possible.

All are agreed also that heat is diffused throughout the universe; this heat might also be called the soul of the world; and yet to attribute to the world, in the strict sense, a vegetative, feeling, or thinking soul contradicts the reality of things. For the world neither produces another world, as the plants and animals, nor grows or nourishes itself by food and drink; still less has it sight, hearing, and other functions of things possessing souls.

Place and time are viewed by Gassendi as existing quite independently, neither substance nor accident. At the point where all corporeal things cease space still extends without limit, and time sped before the creation of the world as regularly as now. By the material principle or materia prima is meant that matter which cannot be further dissolved. So man is composed of head, heart, belly, and so on. These are formed out of chyle and blood; these again from food, and food from the so-called elements; but these also are again composed of atoms, which are therefore the material principle or materia prima. Matter is consequently in itself as yet without form. But there is also no form without a material body, and this is the durable substratum, while forms change themselves and go. Matter is therefore itself indestructible, and it is incapable of being produced, and no body can arise out of nothing, although this does not go to deny the creation of matter by God. The atoms are in point of substance identical, but vary in figure.

10 In the treatise “ De Motu Im- letter of Galilei's on the reconciliapresso a Motore Translato," which, as tion of the Holy Scriptures with the it was pretended, was printed against doctrine of the earth’s revolution, at the author's wish, together with a Lyons, 1649.

The further exposition of atoms, void, the denial of infinite divisibility, the motion of the atoms, and so on, closely follows Epikuros. We need only remark, that Gassendi identifies the weight or gravity of the atoms with their inherent capability of self-determined motion. For the rest, this motion also has been from the beginning bestowed


the atoms. God, who made the earth and sea bring forth plants and animals, created a finite number of atoms, so as to form the seeds of all things. Thereupon commenced that alternation of generation and dissolution which exists now, and will continue to exist.

• The first cause of everything is God, but the whole inquiry is concerned only with the secondary causes, which immediately produce each single change. Their principle, however, must necessarily be corporeal. In artistic productions, the moving principle is indeed independent of the material; but in nature the active cause works inwardly, and is only the most active and mobile part of the material. In the case of visible bodies, one is always

by God

moved by the other: the self-moving principles are the atoms.

The falling of bodies Gassendi explains to be due to the attraction of the earth; but this attraction cannot be an 'actio in distans.' Unless something from the earth reached the stone and overpowered it, it would not trouble itself about the earth; just as the magnet must in some real if invisible manner lay hold upon the iron in order to draw it to itself. That this is not to be conceived crudely, as done by the throwing out of harpoons or hooks, is shown by a remarkable picture employed by Gassendi to explain this attraction, of a boy attracted by an apple, a figure of which has reached him through the senses. 11 It is worth

11 With regard to this, it seems to de Gassendi, vi. 48 foll., as while reme very doubtful whether the account vising I have no complete edition of in Ueberweg, Hist. Phil., iii. 15 foll., Gassendi at my service, and the press E. T. ii. 14, is correct-an account cannot be longer delayed. There it resting perhaps partly on a misunder- runs: “En second lieu (among the standing of the account in the first edi- reasons which Lucretius has not ad. tion of the “ History of Materialism," duced, but, according to Gassendi, but partly also on an actual error in might have adduced) que toute sorte that account. Ueberweg says of Gas- de semence estant animée, et que non sendi: Gassendi's Atomism is less a seulement les animaux qui naissent doctrine of dead nature than is that de l'accouplement, mais ceux mesme of Epikuros. Gassendi ascribed to the qui s'engendrent de la pourriture atoms force, and even sensation, just estant forinez de petites molecules as a boy is moved by the image of an seminales qui ont esté assemblées et apple to turn aside from his way and formées ou dès le commencement du approach the apple-tree. So the stone monde ou depuis, on ne peut pas abthrown into the air is moved by the solument dire, que les choses sensibles influence of the earth, reaching to it se fassent de choses insensibles, mais to pass out of the direct line and to plutôst qu'elles se font de choses qui approach the earth.” Erroneous bien qu'elles ne sentent pas effectiveabove all appears to have been the ment, sont neanmoins, ou contiennent transference of sensation to the atoms, en effet les principes du sentiment, de as was assumed in the first edition of mesine que les principes du feu sont the “History of Materialism,"S. 125, contenus, et caches dans les veines while, upon revision, I am not in a des cailloux, ou dans quelque autre position to find a voucher for this. matière grasse.” Gassendi therefore The error seems to have arisen in this assumes here at least the possibility way-that Gassendi, in fact, with re- that organic germs, with the disposigard to the difficult question how the tion towards sensation, exist right sentient can proceed from the non- from the beginning of creation. These sentient, does in a very remarkable germs, however, despite their origi. respect go far beyond Lucretius. Inality (naturally quite inconsistent am indeed sorry that I can here only with the cosmogony of Epikuros) quote Bernier, Abrégé de la Philos. are not atoms, but combinations of

« PreviousContinue »