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remarking here that Newton, who in this matter trod in Gassendi's steps, by no means thought of his law of gravitation as an immediate operation exerted at a distance.12
The evolution and dissolution of things is nothing but the union and separation of atoms. When a piece of wood is burnt, the flame, smell, and ashes, and so on, have already existed in their atoms, only in other combinations. All change is only movement in the constituents of a thing, and hence the simple substance cannot change, but only continue its movements in space.
The weak side of Atomism, the impossibility of explaining sensible qualities and sensation out of atoms and space (cf. above, p. 18 foll., and 143 foll.), appears to have been quite appreciated by Gassendi, for he discusses this problem at great length, and not only endeavours to put the explanations offered by Lucretius in the best light, but also to strengthem them by new arguments. At the same time he admits that there is something left unexplainedonly he maintains that this is the same with all other systems.13 This is, however, not quite correct, since the form of the combination, upon which the influence here depends, is with the Aristotelians something essential; but in the case of Atomism it is nothing.
Gassendi stands widely apart from Lucretius in accepting an immortal and incorporeal spirit; and yet this spirit, like Gassendi's God, stands so entirely out of relation to his system, that we can very conveniently leave it out of sight. Nor is Gassendi led to adopt it for the sake of this question of unity; he does so because religion demands it. Just because his system only recognises à material soul composed of atoms, the qualities of immortality and immateriality must be supplied by the spirit. The manner in which this is established strikingly reminds us of Averroism. Diseases of the mind, for example, are diseases of the brain; they do not affect the immortal reason, only this cannot find expression because its instrument is destroyed. But whether it is in this instrument that the individual consciousness, the ego, is seated, which is, in fact, itself disturbed by the disease, and does not look upon it as a spectator ab extra-this point Gassendi takes good care not to examine too closely. Besides, quite apart from the constraint of orthodoxy, he might well feel little inclination to follow the windings of this problem, because they would lead him away from the sphere of experience.
atoms, although of the simplest cha- of the Philosophy of Newton (Oeuvres racter. A misunderstanding is compl., 1784, t. xxxi. p. 37): “New. possible as to the application of the ton suivait les anciennes opinions de image of the boy who sees an apple to Démocrite, d'Epicure et d'une foule a purely spiritual influence. This re- de philosophes rectifiées par notre fers primarily only to a complex pro- célébre Gassendi. Newton a dit plucess of attraction, which, however, sieurs fois à quelques françois qui takes place in a purely physical way. vivent encore, qu'il regardait Gassendi It remains, indeed, questionable whe. comme un esprit très juste et très ther Gassendi has here carried out sage, et qu'il ferait gloire d'être entièMaterialism as consistently as Des- rement de son avis dans toutes les cartes in the "Passiones Animae," choses dont on vient de parler." where everything is resolved into 13 Bernier, Abrégé de la Phil, de fow and impact of particles.
Gassendi, Lyon, 1684, vi. 32–34. 12 Voltaire reports in his Elements
The theory of the external world, so admirably supported by Atomism, Gassendi had very much more at heart than psychology, in which he made shift with a minimum amount of original speculation, and that only for the completion of his system, while Descartes, independently of his metaphysical doctrine of the ego, attempted in this sphere also to make an independent contribution.
At the University of Paris, where the Aristotelian philosophy still held sway over the older teachers, the views of Descartes and of Gassendi gained increasing hold on the younger blood, and there arose two new schools—those of the Cartesians and the Gassendists, one of which in the name of reason, the other in the name of experience, were eager to inflict a final blew upon Scholasticism. This conflict was the more remarkable because just at that time, under the influence of reactionary tendencies, the philosophy of Aristotle had received a fresh impulse. The theologian Launoy, otherwise a thoroughly learned and comparatively a freethinking man, exclaims in astonishment, as - he mentions the views of his contemporary, Gassendi, “If Ramus, Litaudus, Villonius, and Clavius had so taught, what would have been done to them !” 14
Gassendi did not fall a victim to theology, because he was destined to fall a victim to medicine. Being treated for a fever in the fashion of the time, he had been reduced to extreme debility. He long, but vainly, sought restoration in his Southern home. On returning to Paris, he was again attacked by fever, and thirteen fresh blood-lettings ended his life. He died the 24th of October 1655, in his sixty-third year. The reformation of physics and natural philosophy, usually ascribed to Descartes, was at least as much the work of Gassendi. Frequently, in consequence of the fame which Descartes owed to his metaphysic, those very things have been credited to Descartes which ought properly to be assigned to Gassendi: it was also a result of the peculiar mixture of difference and agreement, of hostility and alliance, between the two systems, that the influences resulting from them became completely interfused. Thus Hobbes, the Materialist and friend of Gassendi, was a supporter of Descartes's corpuscular theory, whilst Newton conceived the atoms after the fashion of Gassendi. It was reserved for later discoveries to reconcile the two theories, and to permit of the co-existence of atoms and molecules, after each conception had received its natural development. So much, however, is at least certain, that the Atomism of our own day has, step by step, been developed from the theories of Gassendi and Descartes, and so its roots reach back to Leukippos and Demokritos.
14 Joannis Launoii de Varia Aristo- c. xviii. p. 328 of the edition I have telis in Academia Parisiensi Fortuna, used. that of Wittenberg, 1720.
THOMAS HOBBES OF MALMESBURY.
AMONGST the most remarkable characters that meet us in the history of Materialism must unquestionably be numbered the Englishman, Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury. His father was a simple country clergyman of modest education, but possessed of sufficient ability to read the necessary homilies to his flock.
When, in the year 1538, the haughty Armada of Philip of Spain was threatening the English coasts, and the people were in a state of anxiety and excitement, the wife of this clergyman, in her alarm, gave premature birth to a boy, who, in spite of his delicacy as an infant, was destined to live to his ninety-second year. This babe was Thomas Hobbes.
Hobbes was to attain not merely his celebrity, but also his later tendency and his favourite occupations, only very late in life, and by very indirect methods.
For when, in his fourteenth year, he repaired to the University of Oxford, he was, according to the spirit of the studies then prevailing there, initiated into logic and physic based upon the principles of Aristotle. For five full years he endeavoured with great zeal to master these subtleties, and in logic especially made great progress. No doubt it had some influence upon his future development that he now devoted himself to the Nominalistic School—that is, to the school which is in principle so closely related to Materialism; and although Hobbes later entirely dropped these studies, nevertheless he remained a Nominaliste Indeed, we may assert that he gave to this school the boldest development that history exhibits, by combining with the doctrine of the merely conventional value of universal concepts the doctrine of their relativity, very nearly in the sense of the Greek Sophists.
When in his twentieth year, he entered the service of Lord Cavendish, afterwards Duke of Devonshire. This position decided the whole external course of his life, and seems, moreover, to have exercised a permanent influence upon his views and principles.
He undertook the duties of companion or tutor to the con of Lord Cavendish, who was about his own age, and whose son again he was to educate in his later years; so that he stood in intimate relations with three generations of this distinguished house. His life was, therefore, that of a private tutor in the circles of the highest English nobility.
This situation introduced him to the world, and gave him that lasting practical turn which commonly marked the English philosophers of that period; he was emancipated from the narrow circle of Scholastic wisdom and clerical prejudices in which he had grown up; in his frequent journeyings he became acquainted with France and Italy, and in Paris especially he found leisure and opportunity to hold intercourse with the most famous men of the age. At the same time, however, these very circumstances early taught him subordination and inclination to the Royalist and High Church party, in opposition to the efforts of the English democracy and the dissenting sects. His Latin and Greek he soon began to forget in his new position, and by way of compensation speedily picked up on his first travels with the young lord some knowledge of French and Italian. As he everywhere perceived that the Scholastic logic was an object of contempt with all sensible men, he let it completely drop, and began instead to apply himself again zealously to his Greek and Latin, but more on their literary side. But even in these studies he was