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In the last decade of the seventeenth century France had yielded the leadership in philosophy to England. Whereas Hobbes had in Paris imbibed the spirit of the Galilean and Cartesian inquiry, while Bacon, Locke, and even Hume had also visited France with advantage, now French thinkers take the watchword from the English. Montesquieu and Voltaire, returning from England in the same year (1729), acquaint their countrymen with the ideas of Locke and his contemporaries. These are eagerly caught up; are, step by step, and with the logical courage characteristic of the French mind, developed to their extreme conclusions; and, at the same time, spread abroad in this heightened form among the people beyond the circles of the learned, nay, even beyond the educated classes. The English temperament is favorable neither to this advance to extreme revolutionary inferences nor to this propagandist tendency. Locke combines a rationalistic ethics with his semi-sensational theory of knowledge; Newton is far from finding in his mechanical physics a danger for religious beliefs; the deists treat the additions of positive religion rather as superfluous ballast than as hateful unreason; Bolingbroke wishes at least to conceal from the people the illuminating principles which he offers to the higher classes. Such halting where farther progress threatens to become dangerous to moral interests does more honor to the moral, than to the logical, character of the philosopher. But with the transfer of these ideas to France, the wall of separation is broken down between the theory of knowledge and the theory of ethics, between natural philosophy and the philosophy of religion; sensationalism forces its way from the region of theory into the sphere of practice, and the mechanical theory is transformed from a principal of physical interpretation into a metaphysical view of the world of an atheistical character. Naturalism is everywhere determined to have its own: if knowledge comes from the senses, then morality must be rooted in self-interest; whoever confines natural science to the search for mechanical causes must not postulate an intelligent Power working from design, even to explain the origin of things and the beginning of motion—has no right to speak of a free will, an immortal soul, and a deity who has created the world. Further, as Bayle's proof that the dogmas of the Church were in all points contradictory to reason had, contrary to its author's own wishes, exerted an influence hostile to religion, and as, moreover, the political and social conditions of the time incited to revolt and to a break with all existing institutions, the philosophical ideas from over the Channel and the condition of things at home alike pressed toward a revolutionary intensification of modern principles, which found comprehensive expression in the atheists' Bible, the System of Nature of Baron Holbach, 1770. The movement begins in the middle of the thirties, when Montesquieu commences to naturalize Locke's political views in France, and Voltaire does the same service for Locke's theory of knowledge, and Newton's natural philosophy, which had already been commended by Maupertuis. The year 1748, the year also of Hume's Essay, brings Montesquieu's chief work and La Mettrie's Man a Machine. While the Encyclopedia, the herald of the Illumination, begun in 1751, is advancing to its completion (1772, or rather 1780), Condillac (1754) and Bonnet (1755) develop theoretical sensationalism, and Helvetius ( On Mind, 1758; in the same year, D'Alembert's Elements of Philosophy) practical sensationalism. Rousseau, engaged in authorship from 1751 and a contributor to the Encyclopedia until 1757 comes into prominence, 1762, with his two chief works, Emile and the Social Contract. Parallel with these we find interesting phenomena in the field of political economy: Morelly's communistic Code of Nature (1755), the works of Quesnay (1758), the leader of the physiocrats, and those of Turgot, 1774.

Our discussion takes up, first, the introduction and popularization of English ideas; then, the further development of these into a consistent sensationalism, into the morality of interest, and into materialism; finally, the reaction against the illumination of the understanding in Rousseau's philosophy of feeling.[1]

[Footnote 1: On the whole chapter cf. Damiron, Memoires pour Servir a l'Histoire de la Philosophie au XVIII. Siecle, 3 vols., 1858-64; and John Morley's Voltaire, 1872 [1886], Rousseau, 1873 [1886], and Diderot and the Encyclopedists, 1878 [new ed., 1886].]

1. The Entrance of English Doctrines.

Montesquieu[1] (1689-1755) made Locke's doctrine of constitutional monarchy and the division of powers (pp. 179-180), with which he joins the historical point of view of Bodin and the naturalistic positions of the time, the common property of the cultivated world. Laws must be adapted to the character and spirit of the nation; the spirit of the people, again, is the result of nature, of the past, of manners, of religion, and of political institutions. Nature has bestowed many gifts on the Southern peoples, but few on those of the North; hence the latter need freedom, while the former readily dispense with it. Warm climates produce greater sensibility and passionateness, cold ones, muscular vigor and industry; in the temperate zones nations are less constant in their habits, their vices, and their virtues. The laws of religion concern man as man, those of the state concern him as a citizen; the former have for their object the moral good of the individual, the latter, the welfare of society; the first aim at immutable, the second at mutable good. Laws and manners are closely interrelated. Right is older than the state, and the law of justice holds even in the state of nature; but in order to assure peace positive right is required in three forms, international, political, and civil.

[Footnote 1: Montesquieu, Persian Letters, 1721; Considerations on the Causes of the Greatness of the Romans and of their Decadence, 1734; Spirit of Laws, 1748.]

Each of the four political forms has a passion for its underlying principle: despotism has fear; monarchy, honor (personal and class prejudice); aristocracy, the moderation of the nobility; democracy, political virtue, which subordinates personal to general welfare, and especially the inclination to equality and frugality. While republics are destroyed by extravagance, lust, and self-seeking, a monarchy can dispense with civil virtue, patriotism, and moral disinterestedness, since in it false honor, luxury, and wantonness subserve the public good. Great states tend toward despotism; smaller ones toward aristocracy, or a democratic republicanism; for those of medium size monarchy, which is intermediate between the two former, is the best form of constitution. Although Montesquieu, in his Lettres Persanes, shows himself enthusiastic for the federal republics of Switzerland and the Netherlands, his opinions are different after his return from England, and in his Esprit des Lois he praises the English form of government as the ideal of civil liberty.

Political freedom consists in liberty to do (not what we wish, but) what we ought, or in doing that which the laws allow. Such lawful freedom is possible only where the constitution of the state and criminal legislation inspire the citizen with a sense of security. In order to prevent misuse of the supreme power, the different authorities in the state must be divided so that they shall hold one another in check. In particular Montesquieu demands for the judicial power absolute independence of the executive power (which Locke had termed the federative) as well as of the legislative power. The last belongs to parliament, which includes in its two houses an aristocratic and a democratic element.

Voltaire[1] (1694-1778)—he himself had made this anagram from his name, Arouet l(e) j(eune)—seemed by his many-sided receptivity almost made to be the interpreter of English ideas; in the words of Windelband, he “combines Newton's mechanical philosophy of nature, Locke's noetical empiricism, and Shaftesbury's moral philosophy under the deistic point of view.” The same qualities which made him the first journalist, enabled him to free philosophy from its scholastic garb, and, by concentrating it on the problems which press most upon the lay mind (God, freedom, immortality), to make it a living force among the people. His superficiality, as Erdmann acutely remarks, was his strength. True religion, so reason teaches us, consists in loving God and in being just and forbearing to our fellow-men as to our brothers; morality is so natural and necessary that it is no wonder that all philosophers since Zoroaster have inculcated the same principles. The less of dogma the better the religion; atheism is not so bad as superstition, which teaches men to commit crimes with an easy conscience. He considered it the chief mission of his life to destroy these two miserable errors. He endeavored to controvert atheism by rational arguments, while with passionate hatred and contemptuous wit he attacked positive Christianity and his persecutors, the priesthood. The existence of God is for him not merely a moral postulate, but a result of scientific reasoning. One of his famous sayings was: “If God did not exist it would be necessary to invent him; but all nature cries out to us that he exists.” He defends immortality in spite of theoretical difficulties, because of its practical necessity; his attitude toward the freedom of the will, which he had energetically defended in the beginning, grows constantly more skeptical with increasing age. His position in regard to the question of evil experiences a similar change—the Lisbon earthquake made him an opponent of optimism, though he had previously favored it.

[Footnote 1: David Friedrich Strauss, Voltaire, sechs Vortraege, 1870.]

2. Theoretical and Practical Sensationalism.

We turn next from the popular introduction and dissemination of Locke's doctrines, which left their contents unchanged, to their principiant development by the French sensationalists. Condillac (1715-80) always thinks of his work as a completion of Locke's, whose Essay he held not to have gone down to the final root of the cognitive process. Locke did not go far enough, Condillac thinks, in his rejection of innate elements; he failed to trace out the origin of perception, reflection, cognition, and volition, as also the relation between the external senses, the internal sense, and the combining intellect, which he discussed as separate sources, the two former of particular, and the last of complex, ideas; in short, he omitted to inquire into the origin of the first function of the soul. Berkeley was right in feeling that a simplification was needed here; but by erroneously reducing outer perception to inner perception, he reached the absurd conclusion of denying the external world. The true course is just the opposite of this—the one already taken by the Bishop of Cork, Peter Browne (died 1735; The Procedure, Extent, and Limits of the Human Understanding, 1728): understanding and reflection must be reduced to sensation. All psychical functions are transformed sensations. The soul has only one original faculty, that of sensation; all the others, theoretical and practical alike, are acquired, i.e., they have gradually developed from the former. Condillac is related to Locke as Fichte to Kant; in the former case the transition is mediated by Browne, in the latter by Reinhold. Each crowns the work of his predecessor with a unifying conclusion; each demands and offers a genetic psychology which finds the origin of all the spiritual functions—from sensation and feelings of pleasure and pain up to rational cognition and moral will—in a single fundamental power of the soul. But there is a great difference, materially as well as formally, between these kindred undertakings, a difference corresponding to that between Locke's empiricism and Kant's idealism. The idea of ends, which controls the course of thought in Fichte as in Leibnitz, is entirely lacking in Condillac; that which is first in time, sensation, is for the Science of Knowledge and the Monadology only the beginning, not the essence, of psychical activity, while Condillac makes no distinction between beginning and ground, but expressly identifies principe and commencement. With Fichte and Leibnitz sensation is immature thought, with Condillac thought is refined sensation. The former teach a teleological, the latter a mechanical mono-dynamism. The Science of Knowledge, moreover, makes a very serious task of the deduction of the particular psychical functions from the original power, while Condillac takes it extraordinarily easy. Good illustrations of his way of effacing distinctions instead of explaining them are given by such monotonously recurring phrases as memory is “nothing but” modified sensation; comparison and simultaneous attention to two ideas “are the same thing”; sensation “gradually becomes” comparison and judgment; reflection is “in its origin” attention itself; speech, thought, and the formation of general notions are “at bottom the same”; the passions are “only” various kinds of desire; understanding and will spring “from one root,” etc.

The demand for a single fundamental psychical power comes from Descartes, and Condillac does not hesitate to retain the word penser itself as a general designation for all mental functions. Similarly he holds fast to the dualism between extension and sensation as reciprocally incompatible properties, opposes the soul as the “simple" subject of thought to “divisible” matter, and sees in the affections of the bodily organs merely the “occasions” on which the soul of itself alone exercises its sensitive activity. Even freedom—the supremacy of thought over the passions—is maintained, in striking contrast to the whole tendency of his doctrine and to the openly announced principle, that pleasure controls the attention and governs all our actions. He has just as little intention of doubting the existence of God. All is dependent on God. He is our lawgiver; it is in virtue of his wisdom that from small beginnings—perception and need—the most splendid results, science and morality, are developed under the hands of man. Whoever undertakes to complain that He has concealed from us the nature of things and granted us to know relations alone, forgets that we need no more than this. We do not exist in order to know; to live is to enjoy.

The theme of the Treatise on the Sensations, 1754, is: Memory, comparison, judgment, abstraction, and reflection (in a word, cognition) are nothing but different forms of attention; similarly the emotions, the appetites, and the will, nothing but modifications of desire; while both alike take their origin in sensation. Sensation is the sole source and the sole content of the life of the mind as a whole. To prove these positions Condillac makes use of the fiction of a statue, in which one sense awakes after another, first the lowest of the senses, smell, and last the most valuable, the sense of touch, which compels us (by its perception of density or resistance) to project our sensations, and thus wakes in us the idea of an external world. In themselves sensations are merely subjective states, modes of our own being; without the sense of touch we would ascribe odor, sound, and color to ourselves. Condillac distinguishes between sensation and ideas in a twofold sense, as mere ideas (the memory or imagination of something not present), and as ideas of objective things (the image, representative of a body); this latter sense is meant when he says, touch sensations only are also ideas.

For the details of the deduction, which often makes very happy use of a rich store of psychological material, the reader must be referred to the more extended expositions. Here we can only cite as examples the chief among the genetic definitions. Perceptions (impressions) and consciousness are the same thing under different names. A lively sensation, in which the mind is entirely occupied, becomes attention, without the necessity of assuming an additional special faculty in the mind. Attention, by its retentive effect on the sensation, becomes memory. Double attention—to a new sensation, and to the lingering trace of the previous one—is comparison; the recognition of a relation (resemblance or difference) between two ideas is judgment; the separation of an idea from another naturally connected with it, by the aid of voluntary linguistic symbols, is abstraction; a series of judgments is reflection; and the sum total of inner phenomena, that wherein ideas succeed one another, the ego or person. All truths concern relations among ideas. The tactual idea of solidity accustoms us to project the sensations of the other senses also, to transfer them thither where they are not; hence arise the ideas of our body, of external objects, and of space. If we perceive several such projected qualities together, we refer them to a substratum—substance, which we know to exist, although not what it is. By force we mean the unknown, but indubitably existent, cause of motion.

There are no indifferent mental states; every sensation is accompanied by pleasure or pain. Joy and pain give the determining law for the operation of our faculties. The soul dwells longer on agreeable sensations; without interest, ideas would pass away like shadows. The remembrance of past impressions more agreeable than the present ones is need; from this springs desire (desir) then the emotions of love, hate, hope, fear, and astonishment; finally, the will as an unconditional desire accompanied by the thought of its possible fulfillment. All inclinations, good and bad alike, spring from self-love. The predicates “good” and “beautiful” denote the pleasure-giving qualities of things, the former, that which is agreeable to smell and taste (and the passions), the latter, that which pleases sight, hearing, feeling (and the intellect). Morality is the conformity of our actions to laws, which men have established by convention with mutual obligations. In this way the good, which at first was the servant of the passions, becomes their lord.

Man's superiority to the brute depends on the greater perfection of his sense of touch; on the greater variety of his wants and his associations of ideas; on the idea of death, which leads him to seek not merely the avoidance of pain but also self-preservation; and the possession of language. Without denomination no abstractions, no thought, no handing down of knowledge. Although all that is mental has its origin, in the last analysis, in simple sensations, its development requires emancipation from the sensuous, and language is the means for freeing ourselves from the pressure of sensations by the generalization and combination of ideas.

A more moderate representative of sensationalism was Charles Bonnet, who later exercised a considerable influence in Germany, especially until Tetens (1720-93; Essay in Psychology, or Considerations on the Operations of the Soul, 1755; Analytical Essay on the Faculties of the Soul, 1760; Philosophical Palingenesis, or Ideas on the Past and the Future of Living Beings, 1769, including a defense of Christianity; Collected Works, 1779). Sensations, to which he, too, reduces all mental life, are, in his view, reactions of the immaterial soul to sense stimuli, which operate merely as occasional causes. On the other hand, he emphasizes more strongly than Condillac the dependence of psychical phenomena on physiological conditions, and endeavors to show definite brain vibrations as the basis not only of habit, memory, and the association of ideas, but also of the higher mental operations. In harmony with these views he adheres to determinism, and finds the motive of all endeavor: in self-love, and its ultimate aim in happiness. To the latter the hope of immortality is indispensable. The link between Bonnet's theory of the thoroughgoing dependence of the soul on the body and his orthodox convictions, is formed by his idea of an imperishable ethereal body, which enables the soul in the life to come to remember its life on earth and, after the dissolution of the present material body, to acquire a new one. Animals as well as men share in the continuance of existence and the transition to a higher stage.

The material earnestness of these thinkers is in sharp contrast to the superficial and frivolous manner in which Helvetius (1715-71) carries out sensationalism in the sphere of ethics. His chief work, On Mind, came out in 1758; and a year after his death, the work On Man, his Intellectual Faculties and his Education. The search for pleasure or self-love is, as Helvetius thinks he has discovered for the first time,[1] the only motive of action; the laws of interest reign in the moral world as the laws of motion in the physical world; justice and love for our neighbors are based on utility; we seek friends in order to be amused, aided, and, in misfortune, compassionated by them; the philanthropist and the monster both seek only their own pleasure.

[Footnote 1: In reality not only English moralists, but also some among his countrymen, had anticipated him in the position that all actions proceed from selfishness, and that virtue is merely a refined egoism. Thus La Rochefoucauld in his Maxims (Reflexions, ou Sentences et Maximes Morales, 1665), La Bruyere (Les Characteres et les Moeurs de ce Siecle, 1687), and La Mettrie (of. pp, 251-253).]

Helvetius draws the proof for these positions from Condillac. Recollection and judgment are sensation. The soul is originally nothing more than the capacity for sensation; it receives the stimulus to its development from self-love, i.e., from powerful passions such as the love of fame, on the one hand, and, on the other, from hatred of ennui, which induces man to overcome the indolence natural to him and to submit himself to the irksome effort of attention—without passion he would remain stupid. The sum of ideas collected in him is called intellect. All distinctions among men are acquired, and concern the intellect only, not the soul: that which is innate—sensibility and self-love—is the same in all; differences arise only through external circumstances, through education. Man is the pupil of all that environs him, of his situation and his chance experience. The most important instrument in education is the law; the function of the lawgiver is to connect public and personal welfare by means of rewards and punishments, and thus to elevate morality. A man is called virtuous when his stronger passions harmonize with the general interest. Unfortunately the virtues of prejudice, which do not contribute to the public good, are more honored among most nations than the political virtues, to which alone real merit belongs. And self-interest is always the one motive to just and generous action; we serve only our own interests in furthering the welfare of the community. As the promulgator of these doctrines was himself a kind and generous man, Rousseau could make to him the apt reply: You endeavor in vain to degrade yourself below your own level; your spirit gives evidence against your principles; your benevolent heart discredits your doctrines.

The morality of enlightened self-love or “intelligent self-interest" appears in a milder form in Maupertuis (Works, 1752), and Frederick the Great,[1] to the latter of whom D'Alembert objected by letter that interest could never generate the sense of duty and reverence for the law.

[Footnote 1: Essay on Self-love as a Principle of Morals, 1770, printed in the proceedings of the Academy of Sciences. Cf. on Frederick, Ed. Zeller, 1886.]

3. Skepticism and Materialism.

The ideas thus far developed move in a direction whose further pursuit inevitably issues in materialism. Diderot, the editor of the Encyclopedia of the Sciences, Arts, and Trades (1751-72), which gathered all the currents of the Illumination into one great stream and carried them to the open sea of popular culture, reflects in his intellectual development the dialectical movement from deism through skepticism to atheism and materialism, and was a co-laborer in the work which brought the whole movement to a conclusion, Holbach's System of Nature. Two decades, however, before the latter work, the outcome of a long development of thought, appeared, the physician La Mettrie[1] (1709-51) had promulgated materialism, though rather in an anthropological form than as a world-system, and with cynical satisfaction in the violation of traditional beliefs—in his Natural History of the Soul, 1745, in a disguised form, and, undisguised, in his Man a Machine, 1748—and at the same time ( Anti-Seneca, or Discourse on Happiness, 1748) had sketched out for Helvetius the outlines of the sensationalistic morality of interest. While ill with a violent fever he observed the influence of the heightened circulation of the blood on his mental tone, and inferred that thought is the result of the bodily organization. The soul can only be known from the body. The senses, the best philosophers, teach us that matter is never without form and motion; and whether all matter is sentient or not, certainly all that is sentient is material, and every part of the organism contains a vital principle (the heart of a frog beats for an hour after its removal from the body; the parts of cut-up polyps grow into perfect animals). All ideas come from without, from the senses; without sense-impressions no ideas, without education, few ideas, the mind of a man grown up in isolation remains entirely undeveloped; and since the soul is entirely dependent on the bodily organs, along with which it originates, grows, and declines, it is subject to mortality. Not only animals, as Descartes has shown, but men, who differ from the brutes only in degree, are mere machines; by the soul we mean that part of the body which thinks, and the brain has fine muscles for thinking as the leg its coarse ones for walking.

[Footnote 1: La Mettrie was born at St. Malo, and educated in Paris, and in Leyden under Boerhave; he died in Berlin, whither Frederick the Great had called him after he had been driven out of his native land and from Holland. On La Mettrie cf. Lange, History of Materialism, vol. ii. pp. 49-91; and DuBois-Reymond's Address, 1875.]

If man is nothing but body, there is no other pleasure than that of the body. There is a difference, however, between sensuous pleasure, which is intense and brief, and intellectual pleasure, which is calm and lasting. The educated man will prefer the latter, and find in it a higher and more noble happiness; but nature has been just enough to grant the common multitude, in the coarser pleasures, a more easily attainable happiness. Enjoy the moment, till the farce of life is ended! Virtue exists only in society, which restrains from evil by its laws, and incites to good by rousing the love of honor. The good man, who subordinates his own welfare to that of society, acts under the same necessity as the evil-doer; hence repentance and pangs of conscience, which increase the amount of pain in the world, but are incapable of effecting amendment, are useless and reprehensible: the criminal is an ill man, and must not be more harshly punished than the safety of society requires. Materialism humanizes and exercises a tranquilizing influence on the mind, as the religious view of the world, with its incitement to hatred, disturbs it; materialism frees us from the sense of guilt and responsibility, and from the fear of future suffering. A state composed of atheists, is not only possible, as Bayle argued, but it would be the happiest of all states.

Among the editors of the Encyclopedia, the mathematician D'Alembert (Elements of Philosophy, 1758) remained loyal to skeptical views. Neither matter nor spirit is in its essence knowable; the world is probably quite different from our sensuous conception of it. As Diderot (1713-84), and the Encyclopedia with him, advanced from skepticism to materialism, D'Alembert retired from the editorial board (1757), after Rousseau, also, had separated himself from the Encyclopedists. Diderot[1] was the leading spirit in the second half of the eighteenth century, as Voltaire in the first half. His lively and many-sided receptivity, active industry, clever and combative eloquence, and enthusiastic disposition qualified him for this role beyond all his contemporaries, who testify that they owe even more to his stimulating conversation than to his writings. He commenced by bringing Shaftesbury's Inquiry into Virtue and Merit to the notice of his countrymen; and then turned his sword, on the one hand, against the atheists, to refute whom, he thought, a single glance into the microscope was sufficient, and, on the other, against the traditional belief in a God of anger and revenge, who takes pleasure in bathing in the tears of mankind. Then followed a period of skepticism, which is well illustrated by the prayer in the Thoughts on the Interpretation of Nature, 1754: O God! I do not know whether thou art, but I will guide my thoughts and actions as though thou didst see me think and act, etc. Under the influence of Holbach's circle he finally reached (in the Conversation between D'Alembert and Diderot, and D'Alembert's Dream, written in 1769, but not published until 1830, in vol. iv. of the Memoires, Correspondance, et Ouvrages Inedits de Diderot) the position of naturalistic monism—there exists but one great individual, the All. Though he had formerly distinguished thinking substance from material substance, and had based the immortality of the soul on the unity of sensation and the unity of the ego, he now makes sensation a universal and essential property of matter (la pierre sent), declares the talk about the simplicity of the soul metaphysico-theological nonsense, calls the brain a self-playing instrument, ridicules self-esteem, shame, and repentance as the absurd folly of a being that imputes to itself merit or demerit for necessary actions, and recognizes no other immortality than that of posthumous fame. But even amid these extreme conclusions, his enthusiasm for virtue remains too intense to allow him to assent to the audacious theories of La Mettrie and Helvetius.

[Footnote 1: Works in twenty-two vols., Paris, Briere, 1821; latest edition, 1875 seq. Cf. on Diderot the fine work by Karl Rosenkranz, Diderots Leben und Werke, 1866.]

French natural science also tended toward materialism. Buffon (Natural History, 1749 seq) endeavors to facilitate the mechanical explanation of the phenomena of life by the assumption of living molecules, from which visible organisms are built up. Robinet ( On Nature, 1761 seq.), availing himself of Spinozistic and Leibnitzian conceptions, goes still further, in that he endows every particle of matter with sensation, looks on the whole world as a succession of living beings with increasing mentality, and subjects the interaction of the material and psychical sides of the individual, as well as the relation of pleasure and pain in the universe, to a law of harmonious compensation.

The System of Nature, 1770, which bore on its title page the name of Mirabaud, who had died 1760, proceeded from the company of freethinkers accustomed to meet in the hospitable house of Baron von Holbach (died 1789), a native of the Palatinate. Its real author was Holbach himself, although his friends Diderot, Naigeon, Lagrange, the mathematician, and the clever Grimm (died 1807) seem to have co-operated in the preparation of certain sections. The cumbrous seriousness and the dry tone of this systematic combination of the radical ideas which the century had produced, were no doubt the chief causes of its unsympathetic reception by the public. Similarly unsuccessful was the popular account of materialism with which Holbach followed it, in 1772, and Helvetius's excerpts from the System of Nature, 1774.

Holbach applies himself to the despiritualization of nature and the destruction of religious prejudices with sincere faith in the sacred mission of unbelief—the happiness of humanity depends on atheism. “O Nature, sovereign of all beings, and ye her daughters, Virtue, Reason, and Truth, be forever our only divinities.” What has made virtue so difficult and so rare? Religion, which divides men instead of uniting them. What has so long delayed the illumination of the reason, and the discovery of truth? Religion with its mischievous errors, God, spirit, freedom, immortality. Immortality exists only in the memory of later generations; man is the creature of a day; nothing is permanent but the great whole of nature and the eternal law of universal change. Can a clock broken into a thousand pieces continue to mark the hours? The senseless doctrine of freedom was invented only to solve the senseless problem of the justification of God in view of the existence of evil. Man is at every moment of his life a passive instrument in the hands of necessity; the universe is an immeasurable and uninterrupted chain of actions and reactions, an eternal round of interchanging motions, ruled by laws, a change in which would at once alter the nature of all things. The most fatal error is the idea of human and divine spirits, which has been advanced by philosophers and adopted with applause by fools. The opinion that man is divided into two substances is based on the fact that, of the changes in our body, we directly perceive only the external molar movements, while, on the other hand, the inner motions of the invisible molecules are known only by their effects. These latter have been ascribed to the mind, which, moreover, we have adorned with properties whose emptiness is manifested by the fact that they are all mere negations of that which we know. Experience reveals to us only the extended, the corporeal, the divisible—but the mind is to be the opposite of all three, yet at the same time to possess the power (how, no man can tell) of acting on that which is material and of being acted upon by it. In thus dividing himself into body and soul, man has in reality only distinguished between his brain and himself. Man is a purely physical being. All so-called spiritual phenomena are functions of the brain, special cases of the operation of the universal forces of nature. Thought and volition are sensation, sensation is motion. The moving forces in the moral world are the same as those in the physical world; in the latter they are called attraction and repulsion, in the former, love and hate; that which the moralist terms self-love is the same instinct of self-preservation which is familiar in physics as the force of inertia.

As man has doubled himself, so also he has doubled nature. Evil gave the first impulse to the formation of the idea of God, pain and ignorance have been the parents of superstition; our sufferings were ascribed to unknown powers, of which we were in fear, but which, at the same time, we hoped to propitiate by prayer and sacrifice. The wise turned with their worship and reverence toward a more worthy object, to the great All; and, in fact, if we seek to give the word God a tenable meaning, it signifies active nature. The error lay in the dualistic view, in the distinction between nature and itself, i.e. its activity, and in the belief that the explanation of motion required a separate immaterial Mover. This assumption is, in the first place, false, for since the All is the complex of all that exists there can be nothing outside it; motion follows from the existence of the universe as necessarily as its other properties; the world does not receive it from without, but imparts it to itself by its own power. In the second place the assumption is useless; it explains nothing, but confuses the problems of natural science to the point of insolubility. In the third place it is self-contradictory, for after theology has removed the Deity as far away from man as possible, by means of the negative metaphysical predicates, it finds itself necessitated to bring the two together again through the moral attributes—which are neither compatible with one another nor with the meta-physical—and crowns the absurdity by the assurance that we can please God by believing that which is incomprehensible. Finally, the assumption is dangerous; it draws men away from the present, disturbs their peace and enjoyment, stirs up hatred, and thus makes happiness and morality impossible. If, then, utility is the criterion of truth, theism—even in the mild form of deism—is proven erroneous by its disastrous consequences. All error is bane.

Matter and motion are alike eternal. Nature is an active, self-moving, living whole, an endless chain of causes and effects. All is in unceasing motion, all is cause (nothing is dead, nothing rests), all is effect (there is no spontaneous motion, none directed to an end). Order and disorder are not in nature, but only in our understanding; they are abstract ideas to denote that which is conformable to our nature and that which is contrary to it. The end of the All is itself alone, is life, activity; the universal goal of particular beings, like that of the universe, is the conservation of being.

Anthropology is for Holbach essentially reduced to two problems, the deduction of thought from motion, and of morality from the physical tendency to self-preservation. The forces of the soul are no other than those of the body. All mental faculties develop from sensation; sensations are motions in the brain which reveal to us motions without the brain. All the passions may be reduced to love and hate, desire and aversion, and depend upon temperament, on the individual mixture of the fluid parts. Virtue is the equilibrium of the fluids. All human actions proceed from interest. Good and bad men are distinguished only by their organizations, and by the ideas they form concerning happiness. With the same necessity as that of the act itself, follow the love or contempt of fellow-men, the pleasure of self-esteem and the pain of repentance (regret for evil consequences, hence no evidence of freedom). Neither responsibility nor punishment is done away with by this necessity—have we not the right to protect ourselves against the stream which damages our fields, by building dikes and altering its course? The end of endeavor is permanent happiness, and this can be attained through virtue alone. The passions which are useful to society compel the affection and approval of our fellows. In order to interest others in our welfare we must interest ourselves in theirs—nothing is more indispensable to man than man. The clever man acts morally, interest binds us to the good; love for others means love for the means to our own happiness. Virtue is the art of making ourselves happy through the happiness of others. Nature itself chastises immorality, since she makes the intemperate unhappy. Religion has hindered the recognition of these rules, has misunderstood the diseases of the soul, and applied false and ineffective remedies; the renunciation which she requires is opposed to human nature. The true moralist recognizes in medicine the key to the human heart; he will cure the mind through the body, control the passions and hold them in check by other passions instead of by sermons, and will teach men that the surest road to personal ends is to labor for the public good. Illumination is the way to virtue and to happiness.

Volney (Chasseboeuf, died 1820; Catechism of the French Citizen, 1793, later under the title Natural Law or Physical Principles of Morals deduced front the Organization of Man and of the Universe; further, The Ruins; Complete Works, 1821) belongs among the moralists of self-love, although, besides the egoistic interests, he takes account of the natural sympathetic impulses also. This is still more the case with Condorcet (Sketch of an Historical View of the Progress of the Human Mind, 1794), who was influenced alike by Condillac and by Turgot, and who defends a tendency toward universal perfection both in the individual and in the race. Besides the selfish affections, which are directed as much to the injury as to the support of others, there lies in the organization of man a force which steadily tends toward the good, in the form of underived feelings of sympathy and benevolence, from which moral self-judgment is developed by the aid of reflection. The aim of true ethics and social art is not to make the “great” virtues universal, but to make them needless; the nearer the nations approximate to mental and moral perfection, the less they stand in need of these—happy the people in which good deeds are so customary that scarcely an opportunity is left for heroism. The chief instrument for the moral cultivation of the people is the development of the reason, the conscience, and the benevolent affections. Habituation to deeds of kindness is a source of pure and inexhaustible happiness. Sympathy with the good of others must be so cultivated that the sacrifice of personal enjoyment will be a sweeter joy than the pleasure itself. Let the child early learn to enjoy the delight of loving and of being loved. We must, finally, strive toward the gradual diminution of the inequalities of capacity, of property, and between ruler and ruled, for to abolish them is impossible.

Of the remaining philosophers of the revolutionary period mention may be made of the physician Cabanis (Relations of the Physical and the Moral in Man, 1799), and Destutt de Tracy (Elements of Ideology, 1801 seq.). The former is a materialist in psychology (the nerves are the man, ideas are secretions of the brain), considers consciousness a property of organic matter (the soul is not a being, but a faculty), and makes moral sympathy develop out of the animal instincts of preservation and nourishment. De Tracy, also, derives all psychical activity from organization and sensation. His doctrine of the will, though but briefly sketched, is interesting. The desires have a passive and an active side (corresponding to the twofold action of the nerves, on themselves and on the muscles); on the one hand, they are feelings of pleasure or pain, and on the other, they lead us to action—will is need, and, at the same time, the source of the means for satisfying this need. Both these feelings and the external movements are probably based upon unconscious organic motions. The will is rightly identified with the personality, it is the ego itself, the totality of the physico-psychical life of man attaining to self-consciousness. The inner or organic life consists in the self-preserving functions of the individual, the outer or animal life, in the functions of relation (of sense, of motion, of speech, of reproduction); individual interests are rooted in the former, sympathy in the latter. The primal good is freedom, or the power to do what we will; the highest thing in life is love. In order to be happy we must avoid punishment, blame, and pangs of conscience.

4. Rousseau's Conflict with the Illumination.

The Genevese, Jean Jacques Rousseau[1] (1712-78), stands in a similar relation of opposition to the French Illumination as the Scottish School to the English, and Herder and Jacobi to the German. He points us away from the cold sophistical inferences of the understanding to the immediate conviction of feeling; from the imaginations of science to the unerring voice of the heart and the conscience; from the artificial conditions of culture to healthy nature. The vaunted Illumination is not the lever of progress, but the source of all degeneration; morality does not rest on the shrewd calculation of self-interest, but on original social and sympathetic instincts (love for the good is just as natural to the human heart as self-love; enthusiasm for virtue has nothing to do with our interest; what would it mean to give up one's life for the sake of advantage?); the truths of religion are not objects of thought, but of pious feeling.

[Footnote 1: Cf. Brockerhoff, Leipsic, 1863-74; L. Moreau, Paris, 1870.]

Rousseau commenced his career as an author with the Discourse on the Sciences and the Arts, 1750 (the discussion of a prize question, crowned by the Academy of Dijon), which he describes as entirely pernicious, and the Discourse on the Origin and the Bases of the Inequality among Men, 1753. By nature man is innocent and good, becoming evil only in society. Reflection, civilization, and egoism are unnatural. In the happy state of nature pity and innocent self-love (amour de soi) ruled, and the latter was first corrupted by the reason into the artificial feeling of selfishness ( amour propre) in the course of social development—thinking man is a degenerate animal. Property has divided men into rich and poor; the magistracy, into strong and weak; arbitrary power, into masters and slaves. Wealth generated luxury with its artificial delights of science and the theater, which make us more unhappy and evil than we otherwise are; science, the child of vice, becomes in turn the mother of new vices. All nature, all that is characteristic, all that is good, has disappeared with advancing culture; the only relief from the universal degeneracy is to be hoped for from a return to nature on the part of the individual and society alike—from education and a state conformed to nature. The novel Emile is devoted to the pedagogical, and the Social Contract, or the Principles of Political Law, to the political problem. Both appeared in 1762, followed two years later by the Letters from the Mountain, a defense against the attacks of the clergy. In these later writings Rousseau's naturalistic hatred of reason appears essentially softened.

Social order is a sacred right, which forms the basis of all others. It does not proceed, however, from nature—no man has natural power over his fellows, and might confers no right—consequently it rests on a contract. Not, however, on a contract between ruler and people. The act by which the people chooses a king is preceded by the act in virtue of which it is a people. In the social contract each devotes himself with his powers and his goods to the community, in order to gain the protection of the latter. With this act the spiritual body politic comes into being, and attains its unity, its ego, its will. The sum of the members is called the people; each member, as a participant in the sovereignty, citizen, and, as bound to obedience to the law, subject. The individual loses his natural freedom, receiving in exchange the liberty of a citizen, which is limited by the general will, and, in addition, property rights in all that he possesses, equality before the law, and moral freedom, which first really makes him master of himself. The impulse of mere desire is slavery, obedience to self-imposed law, freedom. The sovereign is the people, law the general popular will directed to the common good, the supreme goods, “freedom and equality,” the chief objects of legislation. The lawgiving power is the moral will of the body politic, the government (magistracy, prince) its executive physical power; the former is its heart, the latter its brain. Rousseau calls the government the middle term between the head of the state and the individual, or between the citizen as lawgiver and as subject—the sovereign (the people) commands, the government executes, the subject obeys. The act by which the people submits itself to its head is not a contract, but merely a mandate; whenever it chooses it can limit, alter, or entirely recall the delegated power. In order to security against illegal encroachments on the part of the government, Rousseau recommends regular assemblies of the people, in which, under suspension of governmental authority, the confirmation, abrogation, or alteration of the constitution shall be determined upon. Even the establishment of the articles of social belief falls to the sovereign people. The essential difference between Rousseau's theory of the state and that of Locke and Montesquieu consists in his rejection of the division of powers and of representation by delegates, hence in its unlimited democratic character. A generation after it was given to the world, the French Revolution made the attempt to translate it into practice. “The masses carried out what Rousseau himself had thought, it is true, but never willed” (Windelband).

Rousseau's theory of education is closely allied to Locke's (cf. above), whose leading idea—the development of individuality—was entirely in harmony with the subjectivism of the philosopher of feeling. Posterity has not found it a difficult task to free the sound kernel therein from the husks of exaggeration and idiosyncrasy which surrounded it. Among the latter belong the preference of bodily over intellectual development, and the unlimited faith in the goodness of human nature. Exercise the body, the organs, the senses of the pupil, and keep his soul unemployed as long as possible; for the first, take care only that his mind be kept free from error and his heart from vice. In order to secure complete freedom from disturbance in this development, it is advisable to isolate the child from society, nay, even from the family, and to bring him up in retirement under the guidance of a private tutor.

As the Swiss republican spoke in Rousseau's politics, so his religious theories[1] betray the Genevan Calvinist. “The Savoyard Vicar's Profession of Faith” (in Emile) proclaims deism as a religion of feeling. The rational proofs brought forward for the existence of God—from the motion of matter in itself at rest, and from the finality of the world—are only designed, as he declares by letter, to confute the materialists, and derive their impregnability entirely from the inner evidence of feeling, which amid the vacillation of the reason pro and con gives the final decision.

[Footnote 1: Cf. Ch. Borgeaud, Rousseaus Religionsphilosophie, Geneva and Leipsic, 1883.]

If we limit our inquiry to that which is alone of importance for us, and rely on the evidence of feeling, it cannot be doubted that I myself exist and feel; that there exists an external world which affects me; that thought, comparison or judgment concerning relations is different from sensation or the perception of objects—for the latter is a passive, but the former an active process; that I myself produce the activity of attention or consideration; that, consequently, I am not merely a sensitive or passive, but also an active or intelligent being. The freedom of my thought and action guarantees to me the immateriality of my soul, and is that which distinguishes me from the brute. The life of the soul after the decay of the body is assured to me by the fact that in this world the wicked triumphs, while the good are oppressed. The favored position which man occupies in the scale of beings—he is able to look over the universe and to reverence its author, to recognize order and beauty, to love the good and to do it; and shall he, then, compare himself to the brute?—fills me with emotion and gratitude to the benevolent Creator, who existed before all things, and who will exist when they all shall have vanished away, to whom all truths are one single idea, all places a point, all times a moment. The how of freedom, of eternity, of creation, of the action of my will upon matter, etc., is, indeed, incomprehensible to me, but that these are so, my feeling makes me certain. The worthiest employment of my reason is to annihilate itself before God. “The more I strive to contemplate his infinite essence the less do I conceive it. But it is, and that suffices me. The less I conceive it, the more I adore.”

In the depths of my heart I find the rules for my conduct engraved by nature in ineffaceable characters. Everything is good that I feel to be so. The conscience is the most enlightened of all philosophers, and as safe a guide for the soul as instinct for the body. The infallibility of its judgment is evidenced by the agreement of different peoples; amid the surprising differences of manners you will everywhere find the same ideas of justice, the same notions of good and evil. Show me a land where it is a crime to keep one's word, to be merciful, benevolent, magnanimous, where the upright man is despised and the faithless honored! Conscience enjoins the limitation of our desires to the degree to which we are capable of satisfying them, but not their complete suppression—all passions are good when we control them, all evil when they control us.

In the second part of the “Profession du Foi du Vicaire Savoyard" Rousseau turns from his attacks on sensationalism, materialism, atheism, and the morality of interest, to the criticism of revelation. Why, in addition to natural religion, with its three fundamental doctrines, God, freedom, and immortality, should other special doctrines be necessary, which rather confuse than clear up our ideas of the Great Being, which exact from us the acceptance of absurdities, and make men proud, intolerant, and cruel—whereas God requires from us no other service than that of the heart? Every religion is good in which men serve God in a befitting manner. If God had prescribed one single religion for us, he would have provided it with infallible marks of its unique authenticity. The authority of the fathers and the priesthood is not decisive, for every religion claims to be revealed and alone true; the Mohammedan has the same right as the Christian to adhere to the religion of his fathers. Since all revelation comes down to us by human tradition, reason alone can be the judge of its divinity. The careful examination of the documents, which are written in ancient languages, would require an amount of learning which could not possibly be a condition of salvation and acceptance with God. Miracles and prophecy are not conclusive, for how are we to distinguish the true among them from the false? If we turn from the external to the internal criteria of the doctrines themselves, even here no decision can be reached between the reasons pro and con (the author puts the former into the mouth of a believer, and the latter into that of a rationalist); even if the former outweighed the latter, the difficulty would still remain of reconciling it with God's goodness and justice that the gospel has not reached so many of mankind, and of explaining how those to whom the divinity of Christ is now proclaimed can convince themselves of it, while his contemporaries misjudged and crucified him. In my opinion, I am incapable of fathoming the truth of the Christian religion and its value to those who confess it. The investigation of the reason ends in “reverential doubt”: I neither accept revelation nor reject it, but I reject the obligation to accept it. My heart, however, judges otherwise than the reflection of my intellect; for this the sacred majesty and exalted simplicity of the Scriptures are a most cogent proof that they are more than human, and that He whose history they contain is more than man. The touching grace and profound wisdom of his words, the gentleness of his conduct, the loftiness of his maxims, his mastery over his passions, abundantly prove that he was neither an enthusiast nor an ambitious sectary. Socrates lived and died like a philosopher, Jesus like a God. The virtues of justice, patriotism, and moderation taught by Socrates, had been exercised by the great men of Greece before he inculcated them. But whence could Jesus derive in his time and country that lofty morality which he alone taught and exemplified? Things of this sort are not invented. The inventor of such deeds would be more wonderful than the doer of them. Thus again, in the question of revealed religion, the voice of the heart triumphs over the doubts of the reason, as, in the question of natural religion, it had done over the objections of opponents. It is true, however, that this enthusiasm is paid not to the current Christianity of the priests, but to I the real Christianity of the gospel.

Rousseau was the conscience of France, which rebelled against the negations and the bald emptiness of the materialistic and atheistic doctrines. By vindicating with fervid eloquence the participation of the whole man in the highest questions, in opposition to the one-sided illumination of the understanding, he became a pre-Kantian defender of the faith of practical reason. His emphatic summons aroused a loud and lasting echo, especially in Germany, in the hearts of Goethe, Kant, and Fichte.