Hegel’s Lectures on the History of Philosophy
Part Two. Philosophy of the Middle Ages
THE deeper interest of the subject had been lost sight of, as we have seen, in the dryness and dulness of the content of thought, and in speculations which went wandering off into endless details. But now spirit gathered itself together, and rose to claim the right to find and know itself as actual self-consciousness, both in the supersensuous world and in immediate nature. This awakening of the selfhood of spirit brought with it the revival of the arts and sciences of the ancient world. This looked like a falling back into childhood, but it was really a spontaneous ascent into the Idea, a movement originating with self — while up to this time the intellectual world had been rather something given from without. From this proceeded all efforts and all inventions, the discovery of America and of the way to the East Indies. Thus in a very special way the love for the old, so-called heathen sciences once more awoke, for men turned to the works of the ancients, which had now become objects of study, as studia humaniora, where man is recognized in what concerns himself and in what he effects. These sciences, though at first they were placed in opposition to the divine, are rather themselves the divine, as living, however, in the reality of spirit. Men, because they are men, find it interesting to study men as men.
With this a further consideration is intimately connected, namely, that when the formal culture of the mind, found among the Scholastics, became transformed into the Universal, the result necessarily was that thought knew and found itself in itself; from this the antithesis between the finite understanding and ecclesiastical dogma or faith consequently arose. The idea became prevalent that the understanding can recognize something to be false which the Church affirms to be true; and it was of importance that the understanding did so apprehend itself, although it was in opposition to the positive in general.
The first way in which the desire to find the human element in reference to what pertains to science manifested itself, was that an interest in such matters sprang up in the West, a receptive power where the ancients in their definiteness and beauty are concerned. But the revival of the arts and sciences, and especially of the study of ancient literature bearing on Philosophy, was at first in some measure a simple revival of the old philosophy in its earlier and original form, without anything new being added; this working up of old philosophies, to which a great number of writings were devoted, was thus the restoration of something forgotten only. The study of the Greeks was more especially revived; the knowledge of the Greek originals which the West acquired is connected with external political events. The West kept up constant intercourse with the Greeks through the Crusades, and Italy did so by means of commerce; yet there were no special diplomatic relations. Even the Roman laws were brought back from the East, until a code of the corpus juris, as by chance discovered. But the West was again, and more effectually, brought into touch with the Greek East when, on the disastrous fall of the Byzantine Empire, the noblest and most distinguished of the Greeks fled to Italy. Earlier than this even, when the Greek Empire was being harassed by the Turks, ambassadors had been sent to the West in order to solicit help. These ambassadors were men of learning, and by their means — for as a rule they settled in the West — there was transplanted thither that love for antiquity to which we have referred. Petrarch in this way learned Greek from Barlaam, a monk in Calabria, where dwelt many belonging to the order of St. Basil; this order had monasteries in the south of Italy, and used Greek ritual. In Constantinople Barlaam had made the acquaintance of Greeks, particularly of Chrysoloras, who from 1395 chose Italy as his permanent dwelling-place. These Greeks made the West familiar with the works of the ancients, especially of Plato. Too much honour is done to the monks when it is asserted that they preserved for us the writings of the ancients; these works, at least such as were in Greek, came rather from Constantinople, while the Latin portion of them, it is true, were preserved in the West. Acquaintance was now also for the first time made with Aristotle’s own writings (supra, p. 75), and thereby the old philosophies were again revived, although mingled with intellectual vagaries of the utmost wildness.
Thus it was partly the old Platonic philosophy that was sought out. and partly the Neo-Platonic, as also the Aristotelian and Stoic, the Epicurean as far as it regarded physics, and the popular philosophy of Cicero in its first form; these were brought forward as authorities against Scholasticism, being in direct contradiction to it. Such endeavours are, however, connected rather with the history of literature and culture, and with the advancement of the same; we do not find originality in this philosophic work, nor can we recognize therein any forward step. We have still writings of that period, by which we find that each school of the Greeks found its adherents, and that Aristotelians, Platonists, and so on appeared on the scenes, though they were of a very different stamp from those of olden times. For true instruction in philosophy we must, however, go to the original sources, the ancients.
Pomponatius was one of the most remarkable of these Aristotelians; among other subjects he wrote in 1534 on the immortality of the soul, and in so doing he showed — following a practice which was specially in vogue at that time — that this dogma, which he believed as a Christian, was according to Aristotle and reason incapable of proof. The disciples of Averroës alleged that the universal nous, which is present in thought, is immaterial and immortal, while the soul as numerically one is mortal; and Alexander Aphrodisiensis also maintained its mortality. Both of these opinions were condemned in 1513 at the Council of Benevento, under Leo X. The vegetative and sensitive soul Pomponatius asserted to be mortal (c. VIII. p. 36; c. IX. pp. 51, 62-65): and he maintained that it is only through thought and reason that man partakes of immortality. Pomponatius was summoned before the Inquisition; but as cardinals protected him, no further notice was taken of the matter. There wore many other pure Aristotelians; especially among the Protestants at a later time were they general. The Scholastics were erroneously termed Aristotelians; therefore the Reformation was opposed to Aristotle only in appearance, but to the Scholastics it was opposed in fact.
Men now began to form acquaintance more especially with Plato, when manuscripts of his works were brought from Greece; Greeks, refugees from Constantinople, gave lectures on Plato’s philosophy. Cardinal Bessarion of Trapezunt, at one time Patriarch of Constantinople, was specially active in making Plato known in the West.
Ficinus, who was born in Florence in 1433, and died in 1499, the accomplished translator of Plato, was a man of note; it was mainly due to him that the study of Neo-Platonism, as presented by Proclus and Plotinus, was again revived. Ficinus wrote also a Platonic Theology. One of the Medici in Florence, Cosmo II., went so far as to found a Platonic Academy even in the fifteenth century. These Medici, the elder Cosmo, Lorenzo, Leo X., Clement VII., were patrons of all the arts and sciences, and made their court the resort of classical Greek scholars.
Two counts of the name of Pico della Mirandola — Giovanni, and Giovanni Francesco, his nephew — were influential rather by virtue of their marked personality and their originality; the elder propounded nine hundred theses, fifty-five of which were taken from Proclus, and invited philosophers one and all to a solemn. discussion of the same; he also in princely fashion undertook to pay the travelling expenses of those at a distance.
Somewhat later, and specially by Gassendi, the opponent of Descartes, the atom theory of Epicurus was again revived. As a development therefrom the theory of molecules maintained its place thenceforth in physical science.
The revival of Stoic philosophy due to Lipsius was not so clearly evidenced.
In Reuchlin (Kapnio), who was born at Pforzheim in Swabia in 1455, and who was himself the translator of several comedies of Aristophanes, the Cabalistic philosophy found a defender. He endeavoured also to reconstruct the Pythagorean philosophy proper; but he mingled with it much that is vague and mysterious. There was in hand a project to destroy all Hebrew books in Germany by an imperial decree, as had been done in Spain; Reuchlin deserves great credit for having prevented this. On account of the entire lack of dictionaries, the study of the Greek language was rendered so difficult that Reuchlin travelled to Vienna for the purpose of learning Greek from a Greek.
Later on we find many profound thoughts in Helmont, an Englishman, who was born in 1618, and died in 1699.
All these philosophies were carried on side by side with belief in Church dogmas, and without prejudice thereto; not in the sense in which the ancients conceived them. A mass of literature exists on this subject, containing the names of a multitude of philosophers, but it is a literature of the past, without the vitality characteristic of higher principles; it is in fact not a true philosophy at all; and I shall therefore not dwell any longer upon it.
Cicero’s mode of philosophizing, a very general mode, was revived in an especial degree. It is a popular style of Philosophizing, which has no real speculative value, but in regard to general culture it has this importance, that in it man derives more from himself as a whole, from his outer and inner experience, and speaks altogether from the standpoint of the present. He is a man of understanding who says, “What helps a man in life, is what life itself has taught him.”
The feelings, &c., of man obtained due recognition, we must observe, as against the principle of self-abnegation. A very large number of writings of this kind were issued, some of them simply on their own account, others aimed against the Scholastics. Although all that great mass of philosophical writings — much, for instance, that Erasmus wrote on similar subjects — has been forgotten, and though it possesses little intrinsic value, it was still of very great service, as succeeding the barrenness of the Scholastics and their groundless maunderings in abstractions: — groundless I say, for they had not even self-consciousness as their basis. Petrarch was one of those who wrote from himself, from his heart, as a thinking man.
This new departure in Philosophy applies in this regard to the reform of the Church by Protestantism also. Its principle is simply this, that it led man back to himself, and removed what was alien to him, in language especially. To have translated for German Christians the book on which their faith is grounded, into their mother-tongue, is one of the greatest revolutions which could have happened. Italy in the same way obtained grand poetic works when the vernacular came to be employed by such writers as Dante, Boccaccio and Petrarch; Petrarch’s political works were however written in Latin. It is not until a thing is expressed in my mother tongue that it becomes my own possession. Luther and Melancthon cast the Scholastic element quite aside, and drew their conclusions from the Bible, from faith, from the human heart. Melancthon presents to us a calm popular philosophy, in which the human element makes itself felt, and which therefore forms the most striking contrast to the lifeless and jejune Scholasticism. This attack against the Scholastic method was made in the most different directions and in the most various forms. But all this belongs rather to the history of Religion than to that of Philosophy.
A second series of writers who now appeared have mainly to do with particular attempts made in Philosophy which remained attempts merely, and are only found while this terrible time of upheaval lasted. Many individuals of that period saw themselves forsaken by what had hitherto been accepted by them as content, by the object which up to this time had formed the stay and support of their consciousness by faith. Side by side with the peaceful reappearance of the ancient philosophy there displayed itself, on the other hand, a multitude of individuals in whom a burning desire after the conscious knowledge of what is deepest and most concrete was violently manifested. It was spoilt, however, by endless fancies, extravagances of the imagination and a craze for secret, astrological, geomantic and other knowledge. These men felt themselves dominated, as they really were, by the impulse to create existence and to derive truth from their very selves. They were men of vehement nature, of wild and restless character, of enthusiastic temperament, who could not attain to the calm of knowledge. Though it cannot be denied that there was in them a wonderful insight into what was true and great, there is no doubt on the other hand that they revelled in all manner of corruption in thought and heart as well as in their outer life. There is thus to be found in them great originality and subjective energy of spirit; at the same time the content is heterogeneous and unequal, and their confusion of mind is great. Their fate, their lives, their writings — which often fill many volumes — manifest only this restlessness of their being, this tearing asunder, the revolt of their inner being against present existence and the longing to get out of it and reach certainty. These remarkable individuals really resemble the upheavals, tremblings and eruptions of a volcano which has become worked up in its depths and has brought forth new developments, which as yet are wild and uncontrolled. The most outstanding men of this nature are Cardanus, Bruno, Vanini, Campanella, and lastly Ramus. They are representative of the character of the time in this interval of transition, and fall within the period of the Reformation.
Hieronymus Cardanus is of their number; he was remarkable as an individual of world-wide reputation, in whom the upheaval and fermentation of his time manifested itself in its utmost violence. His writings fill ten folio volumes. Cardanus was born in 1501 at Pavia, and died at Rome in 1575. He recounted his own history and described his character in his book De vita propria, where he makes an extraordinary confession of his sins, passing the severest possible judgment upon them. The following may serve to give a picture of these contradictions. His life was a series of the most varied misfortunes, external and domestic. He speaks first of his pre-natal history. He relates that bis mother, when pregnant with him, drank potions in order to produce abortion. When he was still at the breast, there was an outbreak of the plague; the nurse who suckled him died of the pestilence, he survived. His father was very severe in his treatment of him. He lived sometimes in the most crushing poverty and the utmost want, sometimes in the greatest luxury. Afterwards be applied himself to science, became a Doctor of Medicine, and travelled much, He was celebrated far and wide; summons came to him from every quarter, several times he was called to Scotland. He writes that he cannot tell the sums of money that were offered to him. He was professor at Milan, first of mathematics and then of medicine; after that he lay for two years in Bologna in the strictest imprisonment, and had to undergo the most frightful tortures. He was a profound astrologer, and predicted the future for many princes, who on that account held him in the greatest awe and reverence. He is a name of note in mathematics; we have from him still the regula Cardani for the solution of equations of the third degree, the only rule we have had up to this time.
He lived his whole life in perpetual inward and outward storms. He says that he suffered the greatest torments in his soul. In this inward agony he found the greatest delight in inflicting torture both on himself and others. He scourged himself, bit his lips, pinched himself violently, distorted his fingers, in order to free himself from the tortures of his spiritual disquietude and induce weeping, which brought him relief. The same contradictions were to be seen in his outward demeanour, which was sometimes quiet and decorous, while at other times he behaved as if he were crazy and demented, and that without any external provocation whatever, and in matters the most indifferent. Sometimes he put on decent clothes and made himself neat and trim, at other times he went in rags. He would be reserved, diligent, persevering in his work, and then would break out into excesses, wasting and squandering all that he had, his household goods and his wife’s jewels. Sometimes he would walk quietly along, like other men; at other times he would rush on as if he were mad. The upbringing of his children, as was quite to be expected under the circumstances, was very bad. He had the unhappiness of seeing his sons turn out ill; one of them poisoned his own wife and was executed with the sword; he had his second son’s ears cut off, to chastise him for being dissipated.
He himself was of the wildest temperament, brooding deeply within himself, and yet breaking out into violence in the most contradictory manner; within him there also raged a consuming restlessness. I have epitomized the description which he gives of his own character, and now quote it: “I have by nature a mind of philosophic and scientific cast; I am witty, elegant, well-bred, fond of luxury, cheerful, pious, faithful, a lover of wisdom, reflective, enterprising, studious, obliging, emulous, inventive, self-taught. I have a longing to perform prodigies, I am crafty, cunning, bitter, versed in secrets, sober, diligent, careless, talkative, contemptuous of religion, vindictive, envious, melancholy, malicious, treacherous, a sorcerer, a magician, unhappy; I am surly to my family, ascetic, difficult to deal with, harsh, a soothsayer, jealous, a ribald talker, a slanderer, compliant, inconstant; such contradictoriness of nature and manners is to be found in me.”
His writings are in parts just as utterly unequal as his character. In them he gave vent to the wild vehemence of his nature; they are disconnected and contradictory, and were often written in the direst poverty. They contain a medley of all kinds of astrological and chiromantic superstition, yet lit up here and there with profound and brilliant flashes; there are Alexandrine and Cabalistic mysteries side by side with perfectly lucid psychological observations of his own. He treated astrologically the life and deeds of Christ. His positive merit consists, however, rather in the stimulus which he gave to original production, and in this direction he exercised an important influence on his times. He boasted of the originality and novelty of his ideas, and the craze to be original drove him to the strangest devices. This represents the first form taken by the newly awakened and energizing reason in its spontaneous activity; to be new and different from others was regarded as tantamount to possessing a private claim to science.
Tommaso Campanella, a student of Aristotle, represents just such another medley of all possible dispositions. He was born at Stilo. in Calabria, in 1568, and died at Paris in 1639. Many of his writings still remain to us. For seven-and-twenty years of his life he was kept in strict imprisonment at Naples. Such men as he aroused enormous interest and gave great offence, but on their own account they were productive of very little result. We have still to make special mention of Giordano Bruno and Vanini as belonging to this period.
Giordano Bruno was of an equally restless and effervescent temperament, and we see in him a bold rejection of all Catholic beliefs resting on mere authority. In modern times he has again been brought into remembrance by Jacobi (Werke, Vol. IV. Section II. pp. 5-46), who appended to his letters on Spinoza an abstract of one of Bruno’s works. Jacobi caused great attention to be paid to Bruno, more especially by his assertion that the sum of Bruno’s teaching was the One and All of Spinoza, or really Pantheism; on account of the drawing of this parallel Bruno obtained a reputation which passes his deserts. He was less restless than Cardanus; but he had no fixed habitation on the earth. He was born at Nola in the province of Naples, and lived in the sixteenth century; the year of his birth is not known with certainty. He roamed about in most of the European states, in Italy, France, England, Germany, as a teacher of philosophy: he forsook Italy, where at one time he had been a Dominican friar, and where he had made bitter reflections both upon various Catholic dogmas — for instance, on transubstantiation and the immaculate conception of the Virgin — and upon the gross ignorance and scandalous lives of the monks. He then lived in Geneva in 1582, but there he fell out in the same way with Calvin and Beza, and could not live with them: he made some stay in several other French cities, such as Lyons; and after a time he came to Paris, where in 1585 he formally challenged the adherents of Aristotle, by following a practice greatly in favour in those days (supra, p. 112),. and proposing for public disputation a series of philosophic theses, which were specially directed against Aristotle. They appeared under the title Jord. Bruni Nol. Rationes articulorum physicorum adversus Peripateticos Parisiis propositorum, Vitebergæ apud Zachariam Cratonem, 1588; he was not successful in them, however, as the position of the Aristotelians was still too well assured. Bruno was also in London; he visited Wittenberg in the year 1586; he likewise stayed in Prague and other universities and towns. In Helmstedt he was high in the favour of the Dukes of Brunswick-Lüneburg in 1589; after that he went to Frankfort-on-Main, where he had several of his works printed. He was a wandering professor and author. Finally he came back to Italy in 1592, and lived in Padua for some time undisturbed, but at last he was ,seized in Venice by the Inquisition, cast into prison, sent on to Rome, and there in the year 1600, refusing to recant, he was burned at the stake as a heretic. Eye-witnesses, and amongst them Scioppius, recount that he met death with the most unflinching courage. He had become a Protestant when in Germany, and had broken the vows of his order.
Among both Catholics and Protestants his writings were held to be heretical and atheistic, and therefore they were burned and destroyed, or kept in concealment. His complete works are hence very seldom met with; the greatest number of them are to be found in the University Library at Göttingen; the fullest account of them is given in Buhle’s History of Philosophy (supra, Vol. I. p. 113). His works are for the most part rare, and in many cases interdicted; in Dresden they are still included among prohibited writings, and are therefore not to be seen there. Lately 2 an edition of them in the Italian language was prepared, which possibly has never yet been issued. Bruno also wrote a great deal in Latin. Wherever he took up his abode for a time, he gave public lectures, wrote and published works; and this increases the difficulty of making complete acquaintance with his books. Many of his writings are for the above reason very similar in their matter, the form only being different, and in the evolution of his thoughts he never consequently advanced very much nor attained to any results. But the loading characteristic of his various writings is really to some extent the grand enthusiasm of a noble soul, which has a sense of indwelling spirit, and knows the unity of its own. Being and all Being to be the whole life of thought. There is something bacchantic in his way of apprehending this deep consciousness; it overflows in becoming thus an object of thought, and in the expression of its riches. But it is only in knowledge that spirit can bring itself forth as a whole; when it has not yet attained to this point of scientific culture, it reaches out after all forms, without bringing them first into due order. Bruno displays just such an unregulated and multiform profusion; and on that account his expositions have frequently a dreamy, confused, allegorical appearance of mystical enthusiasm. Many of his writings are in verse, and much that is fantastic finds a place in them, as for instance when he says in one of his works, entitled La Bestia Trionfante, that something else must be put in place of the stars. He sacrificed his personal welfare to the great enthusiasm which filled him, and which left him no peace. It is easy to say that he was “C a restless being, who could get on with nobody.” But whence did this restlessness come to him? What he could not get on with was the finite, the evil, the ignoble. Thence arose his restlessness. He rose to the one universal substantiality by putting an end to this separation of self-consciousness and nature, whereby both alike are degraded. God was in self-consciousness, it was admitted, but externally, and as remaining something different from self-consciousness, another reality; while Nature was made by God, being His creature, not an image of Him. The goodness of God displayed itself only in final causes, finite ends, as when it is said: “Bees make honey for man’s food; the cork tree grows to provide stoppers for bottles.”
As to his reflections, Jacobi has by his recent [1805-6] exposition of them made it seem as if it were a theory specially characteristic of Bruno that one living Being, one World-Soul, should penetrate all existence, and should be the life of all. Bruno asserted, in the first place, the unity of life and the universality of the World-Soul, and, in the second place, the indwelling presence of reason; but Bruno in so saying is far from being original, and in fact this doctrine is a mere echo of the Alexandrian. But in his writings there are two specially marked features. The first is the nature of his system, based as it is on his leading thoughts, or his philosophic principles generally, namely the Idea as substantial unity. The second, which is closely connected with the first, is his use of the Art of Lullius; this is specially emphasized and highly esteemed by him, the art of finding differences in the Idea it he wished to bring into special recognition.
a. His philosophic thoughts, to express which he sometimes made use of Aristotle’s concepts, give evidence of a peculiar, highly strung and very original mind. The substance of his general reflections is found in the greatest enthusiasm for the above-mentioned vitality of Nature, divinity, the presence of reason in Nature. His philosophy is thus on the whole certainly Spinozism, Pantheism. The separation of man from God or the world, all such relations of externality, have been superadded to his living idea of the absolute, universal unity of all things, for the expression of which idea Bruno has been so greatly admired. In his conception of things the main points are that, on the one hand, he gives the universal determination of matter, and, on the other hand, that of form.
a. The unity of life he thus determines as the universal, active understanding (nous), which manifests itself as the universal form of all the world, and comprehends all forms in itself; it bears the same relation to the production of natural objects as does the understanding of man, and moulds and systematizes them, as the human understanding moulds the multitude of its concepts. It is the artist within, who shapes and forms the material without. From within the root or the seed-grain it makes the shoot come forth; from this again it brings the branches, and from them the twigs, and from out of. the twigs it calls forth the buds, and leaves, and flowers. All is planned, prepared and perfected within. In the same way this universal reason within calls back their saps from the fruits and. blossoms to the twigs, and so on. The universe is thus an infinite animal, in which all things live and move and have their being in modes the most diverse. The formal understanding is thus in no wise different from the Final Cause (the Notion of end, the entelechy, the unmoved principle, which we meet with in Aristotle); but these are just as truly also active understanding, the efficient cause (causæ efficiens), this same producing force. Nature and Spirit are not separated; their unity is the formal understanding, in which is contained the pure Notion, not as in consciousness, but as free and independent, remaining within itself, and at the same time exercising activity and passing beyond itself. The understanding working towards one particular end is the inward form of the thing itself, an inward principle of the understanding. What is continually produced is in accordance with this form, and contained. within it; what appears. is determined as the form is in itself determined. With Proclus in the same way the understanding, as substantial, is that which includes all things in its unity: life is the outgoing, the producing force: and the understanding as such similarly includes the returning force, which brings all things back into unity. In dealing with Kant’s philosophy we shall have again to mention this determination of final purpose.
That which has organic life, whose principle is formative, which bas its efficacy in. itself, and in the same only remains at home with itself and maintains itself, is nothing but the end, the activity determined in itself, which in its relation to what is different does not comport itself as mere cause, but returns upon itself.
b. Bruno, who asserts the final cause to be immediately operative, and the life immanent in the universe, asserts it also to be existent, as substance; he is therefore opposed to the conception of a merely extra-mundane understanding. To a certain extent Bruno distinguishes form and matter in substance, which itself, as the aforesaid activity of the Idea, is the unity of form and matter; thus matter has life in itself. The permanent element in the endless changes of existence is, he says, the first and absolute matter; although without form, it is nevertheless the mother of all forms, and receptive of all forms. Because matter is not without the first universal form, it is itself principle or in itself final cause. Form is immanent in matter; the one simply cannot exist without the other; thus matter itself brings about these changes of form, and the same matter runs through them all. What was at first seed becomes blade, then ear, then bread, chyle, blood, seed of animal, an embryo, a human being, a corpse, then once more earth, stone, or other substance; from sand and water frogs are produced. Here then we can perceive something which, although it transforms itself into all these things in turn, yet still in itself remains one and the same. This matter cannot be a body, for bodies have form; nor can it belong to the class which we term properties, attributes, or qualities, for these are liable to change. Thus nothing seems to be eternal and worthy of the name of a principle, except matter. Many have for this reason held matter to be the only reality, and all forms to be accidental. This error arises from the fact of their recognizing only a form of the second kind, and not that necessary first and eternal form, which is the form and source of all forms. In the same way the aforesaid matter, on account of its identity with the understanding which causes form beforehand, is itself intelligible, as the universal presupposition of all corporeality. Because it is everything in general, it is nothing in particular, neither air nor water, nor anything else, abstract or otherwise; it has no dimensions, in order to have all dimensions. The forms of matter are the inward power of matter itself; it is, as intelligible, the very totality of form. This system of Bruno’s is thus objective Spinozism, and nothing else; one can see how deeply he penetrated.
Bruno here asks the question: “But this first universal form and that first universal matter, how are they united, inseparable? Different — and yet one Being?” He answers by making use of the Aristotelian forms of dunamis and energeia: Matter is to be regarded as potentiality; in this way all possible forms of existence in a certain sense are included in the Notion of it. The passivity of matter must be regarded as pure and absolute. Now it is impossible to attribute existence to a thing which lacks the power to exist. Existence has, however, such an express reference to the active mode, that it is at once clear that the one cannot exist without the other, but that each of them pre-supposes the other. If therefore at all times a capacity of working, producing, creating, was there, so must there also have been at all times a capacity of being worked upon, produced, created. The perfect potentiality of the existence of things (matter) cannot precede their actual existence, and just as little can it remain after that is past. The first and most perfect principle includes all existence in itself, can be all things, and is all things. Active power and potentiality, possibility and actuality are therefore in it one undivided and indivisible principle. This simultaneousness of acting and being acted upon is a very important determination; matter is nothing without activity, form is therefore the power and inward life of matter. If matter were nothing but indeterminate potentiality, how would the determinate be arrived at? This simplicity of matter is itself only one moment of form: in wishing therefore to tear asunder matter and form, matter is at once established in one determination of form, but in so doing there is immediately established also the existence of the Other.
Thus the Absolute is determined for Bruno: it is not so with other things, which may exist and also may not exist, and which may be determined in one way or in another way. In regard to finite things and in finite determinations of the understanding the distinction between form and matter is thus present. The individual man is at every moment what he may be at that moment, but not everything which he may be in general and with reference to substance. The things which appear to be different are only modifications of one single thing which includes in its existence all other existence. The universe, unbegotten Nature, is, however, everything which it can be in reality and at one time, because it includes in itself the whole of matter, as well as the eternal, unchangeable form of its changing forms. But in its developments from moment to moment, its particular parts, qualities, individual existences, in its externality as a whole, it is no more what it is and may be; but a part such as this is only a shadow of the image of the first principle. Thus Bruno wrote also a book, De umbris idearum.
g. This is Bruno’s fundamental idea. He says: “To recognize this unity of form and matter in all things, is what reason is striving to attain to. But in order to penetrate to this unity, in order to investigate all the secrets of Nature, we must search into the opposed and contradictory extremes of things, the maximum and the minimum.” It is in these very extremes that they are intelligible, and become united in the Notion; and this union of them is infinite Nature. “To find the point of union is not the greatest matter; but to develop from the same its very opposite, this is the real and the deepest secret of the art.” It is saying much if we speak of knowing the development of the Idea as a necessity of determinations; we shall see later how Bruno proceeded to do this. He represents the original principle, which is elsewhere known as the form, under the Notion of the minimum, which is at the same time the maximum — One, which at the same time is All; the universe is this One in All. In the universe, he says, the body is not distinguished from the point, nor the centre from the circumference, nor the finite from the infinite, nor the maximum from the minimum. There is nothing but centre point; or the centre point is everywhere and in everything. The ancients expressed the same by saying of the Father of the gods., that he really had his dwelling-place in every point of the universe. It is the universe that first gives to things true reality; it is the substance of all things, the monad, the atom, the spirit poured out on all things, the innermost essence, the pure form.
b. The second object to which Bruno devoted himself was the so-called Lullian Art, which received its name from its first inventor, the Scholastic Raymundus Lullus (supra, pp. 92-94). Bruno adopted this and carried it to completion; he termed it also his ars combinatoria. This art is in some respects like what we met with in Aristotle under the name of the Topics (Vol. II. pp. 217, 218), seeing that both give an immense number of “places” and determinations which were fixed in the conception like a table with its divisions, in order that these headings might be applied to all that came to hand. But the Topics of Aristotle did this in order to apprehend and determine an object in its various aspects, while Bruno rather worked for the sake of lightening the task of memory. He thus really connected the Lullian Art with the art of mnemonics as practised by the ancients, which has come into notice again in recent times, and which will be found described in greater detail in the Auctor ad Herentium (Libr. III.c. 17, sqq.). To give an example: one establishes for oneself a certain number of different departments in the imagination, which are, to be chosen at pleasure; there may be perhaps twelve of these, arranged in sets of three, and indicated by certain words, such as Aaron, Abimelech, Achilles, Berg, Baum, Baruch, etc., into which divisions due inserts, as it were, what has to be learnt by heart, and forms it into a succession of pictures. In this way when we repeat it, we have not to say it from memory or out of our head, as we are accustomed to do, but we have only to read it off as if from a table. The only difficulty lies in making some ingenious connection between the content in question and the picture; that gives rise to the most unholy combinations, and the art is therefore not one to be commended. Bruno also soon abandoned it, since what had been a matter of memory became a matter of imagination; which was, of course, a descent. But since with Bruno the diagram is not only a picture of external images, but a system of universal determinations of thought, he certainly gave to this art a deeper inward meaning.
a. Bruno passes over to this art from universal ideas which are given. Since namely one life, one understanding is in all things, Bruno had the dim hope of apprehending this universal understanding in the totality of its determinations, and of subsuming all things under it — of setting up a logical philosophy by its means, and making it applicable in all directions .2 He says: The object of consideration therein is the universe in so far as it enters into the relation of the true, the knowable and the rational. Like Spinoza he distinguishes between the intelligible thing of reason and the actual thing: As metaphysics has for object the universal thing, which is divided into substance and accident, so the chief matter is that there is a single and more universal art which knits together and compasses round the thing of reason and the actual thing, and recognizes them both as harmonizing with one another, so that the many, be they of what kind they may, are led back to simple unity.
b. For Bruno the principle in all this is the understanding generally: None other than the understanding whose activity extends beyond itself, which brings into existence the sensuous world. It is related to the illumination of the spirit as the sun is related to the eye: it relates therefore to a phenomenal manifold, illuminating this, not itself. The Other is the active understanding in itself, which is related to the objects of thought in their various classes, as the eye is to things visible. The infinite form, the active understanding which dwells in reason, is the first, the principle, which develops; the process in some respects resembles what was met with in the Neo-Platonists. Bruno’s great endeavour is really now to apprehend and demonstrate the modes of organizing this active understanding.
g. This is presented more in detail as follows: To the pure truth itself, the absolute light, man approaches only; his Being is not absolute Being itself, which alone is the One and First. He rests only under the shadow of the Idea, whose purity is the light, but which at the same time partakes of the darkness. The light of substance emanates from this pure First Light, the light of accident emanates from the light of substance. This we met with also in Proclus (supra, Vol. II. p. 446) as the third moment in the first triad. This absolute principle in its unity is for Bruno the first matter, and the first act of this principle he names the original light (actus primus lucis). But substances and accidents, which are many, cannot receive the full light, they are therefore only included in the shadow of the light; in like manner the ideas also are only shadows thereof. The development of Nature goes on from moment to moment; created things are only a shadow of the first principle, not the first principle itself.
d. Bruno continues: From this super-essential (superessentiale) — an expression which is also met with in Proclus (supra, Vol. II. p. 441) — advance is made to the essences, from the essences to that which is, from that which is to their traces, images and shadows, and that in a double direction: both towards matter, in order to be produced within her (these shadows are then present in natural fashion), and also towards sensation and reason, in order to be known by means of these. Things withdraw themselves from the First Light towards the darkness. But since all things in the universe are in close connection, the lower with the middle, and those with the upper, the compound with the simple, the simple with those which are more simple, the material with the spiritual, in order that there may be one universe, one order and government of the same, one principle and aim, one first and last; so, following the sound of the lyre of the universal Apollo (an expression which we saw used by Heraclitus, Vol. I. pp. 284, 285), the lower can be led back step by step to the higher, as fire was condensed and transformed into air, air into water, water into earth. Thus One Being is in all. That process is the same as this return, and they form a circle. Nature within her limits .Can produce all from all, and so the understanding can also know all from all.
e. The unity of opposites is explained more in detail as follows: The diversity of shadows is no real opposition. In the same conception the opposites are known, the beautiful and the ugly, the appropriate and the inappropriate, the perfect and the imperfect, the good and the evil. Imperfection, evil, ugliness, do not rest upon special ideas of their own; they become known in another conception, not in one peculiar to themselves, which is nothing. For this that is peculiarly theirs is the nonexistent in the existent, the defect in the effect. The first understanding is the original light; it streams its light out of the innermost to the outermost, and draws it again from the outermost to itself. Every Being can, according to its capacity, appropriate somewhat of this light.
z. The real element in things is just that which is intelligible, not that which is perceived or felt, or what peculiar to the individual; whatever else is termed real, the sensuous, is non-Being. All that comes to pass beneath the sun, all that dwells in the region of matter, falls under the notion of vanity (finitude). Seek to take from Ideas a firm basis for thy conceptions, if thou art wise. The pure light of things is nothing but this knowableness, which proceeds from the first understanding and is directed towards it; the non-existent is not known. What is here contrast and diversity, is in the first understanding harmony and unity. Try therefore if thou canst identify the images thou hast received, if thou canst harmonize and unite them; thus thou wilt not render thy mind weary, thy thoughts obscure, and thy memory confused. Through the idea which is in the understanding a better conception of anything will be formed than by means of the form of the natural thing in itself, because this last is more material: but that conception is reached in a supreme degree through the idea of the object as it exists in the divine understanding. The differences which are here given, are therefore no differences at all . but all is harmony. To develop this was therefore Bruno’s endeavour; and the determinations, as natural in that divine understanding, correspond with those which appear in the subjective understanding. Bruno’s art consists only in determining the universal scheme of form, which includes all things within itself, and in showing how its moments express themselves in the different spheres of existence.
h. The main endeavour of Bruno was thus to represent the All and One, after the method of Lullus, as a system of classes of regular determinations. Hence in the manner of Proclus he specifies the three spheres: First, the original form (uperousia) as the originator of all forms; secondly, the physical world, which impresses the traces of the Ideas on the surface of matter, and multiplies the original picture in countless mirrors set face to face; thirdly, the form of the rational world, which individualizes numerically for the senses the shadows of the Ideas, brings them into one, and raises them to general conceptions for the understanding. The moments of the original form itself are termed Being, goodness (nature or life), and unity. (Something similar to this we also met with in Proclus, Vol. II. p. 445.) In the metaphysical world the original form is thing, good, principle of plurality (ante multa); in the physical world it manifests itself in things, goods, individuals; in the rational world of knowledge it is derived from things, goods and individuals. Unity is the agent that brings them back once more; and Bruno, while distinguishing the natural and metaphysical world, seeks to set up the system of the above determinations, in order to show at once how the same thing is in one way a natural appearance, and in another way an object existing for thought.
Since Bruno sought to apprehend this connection more closely, he considers thinking as a subjective art and activity of the soul, representing inwardly and in accordance with the ordinary conception, as it were through an inward writing, what Nature represents externally, as it were, through an outward writing. Thinking, he says, is the capability both of receiving into one’s self this external writing of nature and of imagining and substantiating the inward writing in the outward. This art of thinking inwardly and organizing outwardly in accordance with the same, and the capacity to reverse the process — an art possessed by the soul of man — Bruno places in the closest connection with the art of the nature of the universe, with the energy of the absolute World-principle, by means of which all is formed and fashioned. It is one form which develops; it is the same world-principle which causes form in metals, plants and animals, and which in man thinks and organizes outside himself, only that it expresses itself in its operations in an endlessly varied manner throughout the entire world. Inwardly and outwardly there is consequently one and the same development of one and the same principle.
In his Ars Lulliana Bruno made the attempt to determine and systematize these various writings of the soul, by means of which also the organizing world-principle reveals itself. He assumes therein twelve principal kinds of writing, or classes of natural forms, to form a startingpoint: “Species, Formæ, Simulacra, Imagines, Spectra, Exemplaria, Indicia, Signa, Notæ, Characteres et Sigilli. Some kinds of writing are connected with the external sense, like external forms, pictures and ideals (extrinseca forma, imago, exemplar); these painting and other plastic arts represent, by imitating Mother Nature. Some are connected with the inner sense, where with regard to mass, duration, number — they are magnified, extended in time and multiplied; such are the products of fancy. Some are connected with a common point of similarity in several things; some are so divergent from the objective nature of things that they are quite imaginary. Finally, some appear to be peculiar to art, as signa, notæ, characteres et sigilli; by means of these the powers of art are so great that it seems to be able to act independently of Nature, beyond Nature, and, when the matter in question involves it, even against Nature?”
So far all, on the whole, goes well; it is the carrying out of the same scheme in all directions. All respect is due to this attempt to represent the logical system of the inward artist, the producing thought, in such a way that the forms of external Nature correspond thereto. But while the system of Bruno is otherwise a grand one, in it the determinations of thought nevertheless at once become superficial, or more dead types, as in later times was the case with the classification of natural philosophy; for Bruno merely enumerates the moments and contrasts of the system, just as the natural philosophers developed the threefold character in every sphere, regarded as absolute. Further or more determinate moments Bruno has done nothing more than collect together; when he tries to represent them by figures and classifications, the result is confusion. The twelve forms laid down as basis neither have their derivation traced nor are they united in one entire system, nor is the further multiplication deduced. To this part of his subject he devoted several of his writings (De sigillis), and in different works it is presented in different ways; the appearances of things are as letters, or symbols, which correspond with thoughts. The idea is on the whole praiseworthy compared with the fragmentariness of Aristotle and the Scholastics, according to whom every determination is fixed once for all. But the carrying out of the idea is in part allied with the Pythagorean numbers, and consequently unmethodical and arbitrary; and in part we find metaphorical, allegorical combinations and couplings, where we cannot follow Bruno; in this attempt to introduce order, all things are mingled together in the wildest disorder.
It is a great beginning, to have the thought of unity; and the other point is this attempt to grasp the universe in its development, in the system of its determinations, and to show how the outward appearance is a symbol of ideas. These are the two aspects of Bruno’s teaching which had to be taken into consideration.
Julius Cæsar Vanini has also to be mentioned as belonging to this period; his first name was really Lucilius. He has many points of similarity with Bruno, and, like him, he suffered as a martyr on account of philosophy; for he shared Bruno’s fate, which was to be burned at the stake. He was born in 1586 at Taurozano in the province of Naples. He wandered from country to country; we find him in Geneva, and then in Lyons, whence he fled to England in order to save himself from the Inquisition. After two years he returned to Italy. In Genoa he taught Natural Philosophy on the system of Averroës, but did not bring himself into favour. In his travels he met with all manner of strange adventures, and engaged in many and various disputations on philosophy and theology. He became more and more an object of suspicion, and fled from Paris; he was summoned before the tribunal on a charge of impiety, not of heresy. Franconus, his accuser, stated on oath that Vanini had uttered blasphemies. Vanini protested that he had remained faithful to the Catholic Church, and to his belief in the Trinity; and in answer to the charge of atheism he took up a straw from the ground in the presence of his judges, and said that even this straw would convince him of the existence of God. But it was of no avail; in 1619 at Toulouse in France he was condemned to the stake, and before the carrying out of this sentence his tongue was torn out by the executioner. How the case was proved against him is not, however, clear; the proceedings seem to have been in great part due to personal enmity, and to the zeal for persecution which filled the clergy in Toulouse.
Vanini derived his chief stimulus from the originality of Cardanus. In him we see reason and philosophy taking a direction hostile to theology, while Scholastic philosophy went hand in hand with theology, and theology was supposed to be confirmed thereby. Art developed in the Catholic Church, but free thought broke off from, and remained alien to it. In Bruno and Vanini the Church took her revenge for this; she renounced science, and took up a position of hostility to it.
Vanini’s philosophy does not go very far; he admires the living energy of Nature; his reasonings were not deep, but were more of the nature of fanciful ideas. He always chose the dialogue form; and it is not evident which of the opinions stated are his own. He wrote commentaries on Aristotle’s works on Physics. We have two other works by Vanini, which are very rare. The one is styled.. Amphitheatrum æternæ providentiæ divino-magicum, christiano-physicum, nec hioit astrologo-catholicum, adversus veteres philosophos, Atheos, Epicureos, Peripateticos et Stoicos. Auctore Julio Cæsare Vanino, Lugd. 1615; in this he gives a very eloquent account of all these philosophies and their principles, but the manner in which he refutes them is rather feeble. The second work is entitled: “On the Wonderful Secrets of Nature, the Queen and Goddess of Mortals” (De admirandis Naturæ, reginæ Deæque mortalium, arcanis libr. M, Lutetiæ 1616); it was printed “with the approval of the Sorbonne,” which at first found in it nothing “which contradicted and was hostile to the Catholic, Apostolic and Roman religion.” It contains scientific investigations into various matters belonging to physics and natural history, and is also in dialogue form, without definite indication being given as to which of the characters is made the mouthpiece of Vanini’s own opinions. What one finds is assurances from him that he would believe this or that doctrine if he had not received Christian teaching. Vanini’s tendency, however, was towards naturalism; he showed that it is Nature that is the Deity, that all things had a mechanical genesis. He therefore explained the whole universe in its connection by efficient causes alone, not by final causes; but the statement of this is made in such a way that the writer does not give it as his own conclusion.
Thus Vanini placed reason in opposition to faith and church dogma, as had already been done by Pomponatius (supra, p. 111) and others. Yet all the time that they were proving by reason this or that dogma which is in direct contradiction to the Christian belief, they were declaring that they submitted their conviction to the Church — a course which was always adopted by Bayle afterwards in the reformed church. Another practice of these philosophers was to bring forward all sorts of arguments and theories contradictory of theological dogmas, as so many insoluble difficulties and contradictions brought about by reason, which were, however, by them submitted to faith. Thus, for instance, Bayle says in the article “Manichæans” found in his critical Dictionnaire — in which he touches on many philosophic conceptions — that the assertion of the existence of two principles cannot be disproved, but that we must submit herein to the Church. In this fashion all possible arguments were advanced against the Church. Vanini thus states objections against the Atonement, and brings forward arguments to prove that Nature is God. Now men were convinced that reason could not be contradictory of the Christian dogmas, and no faith was placed in the sincerity of a submission which consisted in giving up what one was convinced of by reason; therefore Galileo, because he defended the system of Copernicus, had to recant on his knees, and Vanini was burned at the stake. Both of them had in vain chosen the dialogue form for their writings.
Vanini certainly made one of the speakers in the Dialogues prove (De naturæ arcanis, p. 420) even “out of the text of the Bible, that the devil is mightier than God,” and that therefore God does not rule the world. Among his arguments are the following: It was against the will of God that Adam and Eve sinned, and thus brought the whole human race to ruin (ad interitum): Christ also was crucified by the powers of darkness. Moreover it is the will of God that all men should be saved. But of Catholics there are very few in comparison with the rest of the world, and the Jews often fell away from their faith; the Catholic religion extends only over Spain, France, Italy, Poland and a part of Germany. If there were to be deducted also the atheists, blasphemers, heretics, whoremongers, adulterers, and so on, there would be still fewer left. Consequently the devil is mightier than God. These are arguments of reason; they are not to be refuted; but he submitted himself to the faith. It is remarkable that no one believed this of him; the reason thereof being that it was impossible for him to be in earnest with the refutation of what he asserted to be rational. That the refutation was but weak and subjective does not justify anyone in doubting Vanini’s sincerity; for poor reasons may be convincing for the subject, just as the subject holds to his own rights in respect of objective matters. What lies at the bottom of the proceedings against Vanini is this, that when a man by means of his reason has come to perceive something which seems to him incontrovertible, he cannot but adhere to these definite perceptions, he cannot believe what is opposed to them. It is impossible to believe that faith is stronger in him than this power of perception.
The Church in this way fell into the strange contradiction of condemning Vanini, because he did not find her doctrines in accordance with reason, and yet submitted himself to them; she thus appeared to demand — a demand which she emphasized with the burning pile — not that her doctrines should be considered above reason, but in accordance with it, and that reason should have merely the formal function of explaining the content of theology, without adding anything of her own. This susceptibility of the Church is inconsistent, and entangled her in contradictions. For in earlier times she certainly admitted that reason could not grasp what was revealed, and that it was consequently a matter of little importance to refute and solve by reason the objections which reason itself brought forward. But as she now would not permit the contradiction of faith and reason to be taken seriously, but burned Vanini at the stake as an atheist for professing so to do, it was implied that the doctrine of the Church cannot contradict reason, while man has yet to submit reason to the Church.
There is kindled here the strife between so-called revelation and reason, in which the latter emerges independently, and the former is separated from it. Up to this time both were one, or the light of man was the light of God; man had not a light of his own, but his light was held to be the divine. The Scholastics had no knowledge having a content of its own beyond the content of religion; philosophy remained entirely formal. But now it came to have a content of its own, which was opposed to the content of religion; or reason felt at least that it had its own content, or was opposing the form of reasonableness to the immediate content of the other.
This opposition had a different meaning in former times from what it bears now-a-days; the earlier meaning is this, that faith is the doctrine of Christianity, which is given as truth, and by which as truth man has to remain. We have here faith in this content, and opposed to this stands conviction by means of reason. But now this faith is transferred into the thinking consciousness itself; it is a relation of self-consciousness itself to the facts which it finds within itself, not to the objective content of the doctrine. In respect to the earlier opposition a distinction must be drawn in the objective creed; the one part of it is the teaching of the Church as dogma, the teaching as to the nature of God, that He is Three in One; to this pertains the appearing of God in the world, in the flesh, the relation of man to this divine nature, His holiness and divinity. That is the part which has to do with the eternal verities, the part which is of absolute interest for men; this part is in its content essentially speculative, and can be object only for the speculative Notion. The other part, belief in which is also required, has reference to other external conceptions, which are connected with that content; to this pertains the whole extent of what belongs to history, in the Old and New Testament as well as in the Church. A belief in all this finite element may be demanded also. If a man, for instance, did not believe in ghosts, he would be taken for a free-thinker, an atheist: it would be just the same if a man did not believe that Adam in Paradise ate of the forbidden fruit. Both parts are placed upon the one level; but it tends to the destruction of Church and faith, when belief is demanded for these parts alike. It is to the external conceptions that attention has been chiefly directed by those who have been decried as opponents of Christianity and as atheists, down to the time of Voltaire. When external conceptions such as these are held to firmly, it is inevitable that contradictions should be pointed out.
Pierre de la Ramée was born in 1515 in Vermandois, where his father worked as a day-labourer. He early betook himself to Paris, in order to satisfy his desire for learning: he was, however, obliged on two occasions to leave it on account of the difficulty he experienced in procuring a subsistence, before he obtained employment as a servant at the Collége de Navarre. Here he found an opportunity of extending his knowledge; he occupied himself with the Aristotelian philosophy and with mathematics, and he distinguished himself in disputation by extraordinary oratorical and dialectical readiness. In a disputation for obtaining the degree of magister, he came publicly forward with a thesis that caused a great sensation: “All that Aristotle taught is not true;” and the honour fell to him. Having became magister, he attacked so bitterly and violently the Aristotelian logic and dialectic, that the government took notice of it. He was now accused of undermining by his anti-Aristotelian opinions the foundations of religion and science; this accusation was brought before the parliament of Paris by the enemies of Ramus, as a criminal case. But because the parliament appeared disposed to act in a judicial way, and seemed favourably inclined to Ramus, the complaint was withdrawn, and brought before the council of the king. The latter decided that Ramus should hold a disputation with his opponent Goveanus before a special commission of five judges, two of whom Goveanus was to choose, and two Ramus, while the king was to appoint the president; these judges were to lay their opinion of the result before the king. The interest of the public was intense, but the contest was conducted in the most pedantic way. On the first day Ramus maintained that the Aristotelian logic and dialectic were imperfect and faulty, because the Organon did not begin with a definition. The commission decided that a disputation or a dissertation requires indeed a definition, but in dialectic it is not necessary. On the second day Ramus criticized the Aristotelian logic for its want of arrangement; this, he asserted, is essential. The majority of the judges, consisting of the commissioner of the king and the two nominees of the opponent Goveanus, now wished to annul the investigation as far as it had gone, and to set to work in another way, since the assertions of Ramus put them in a difficulty. He appealed to the king, who, however, refused to hear him, and decided that the decision of the judges should be considered final. Ramus was hence condemned, but the other two took no share in the matter, and, indeed, resigned. The decision was publicly placarded in all the streets of Paris, and sent to all the academies of learning throughout Europe. Plays aimed against Ramus were performed in the theatres, greatly to the delight cf the Aristotelians. The public generally took a very lively interest in such disputes, and a number of contests of this kind had already taken place on similar questions of the schools. For example, the professors in a royal Collége disputed with the theologians of the Sorbonne whether quidam, quisquis, quoniam should be said or kidem, kiskis, koniam, and from this dispute a case before parliament arose, because the doctors took away his benefice from a theologian who said quisquis. Another hot and bitter controversy came before the magistrates as to whether ego amat was as correct as ego amo, and this dispute had to be suppressed by them. Finally Ramus obtained a public educational appointment, a professorship in Paris; but because he had become a Huguenot he had to vacate this office several times in the internal disquietude that prevailed; on one occasion he even went to travel in Germany. On St. Bartholomew’s Eve in 1572, Ramus finally fell, murdered through the instrumentality of his enemies; one of his colleagues who was among his bitterest enemies, Charpentier, had engaged assassins for the purpose, by whom Ramus was frightfully maltreated, and then thrown down from an upper window.
Ramus aroused great interest, more especially by his attacks on the Aristotelian dialectic as it had hitherto existed, and he contributed very greatly to the simplification of the formal nature of the rules of dialectic. He is specially famed for his extreme hostility to the scholastic logic, and for having set up in opposition to it a logic of Ramus — an opposition which has spread so far that even in the history of literature in Germany we find various factions of Ramists and anti-Ramists and semi-Ramists mentioned.
There are many other remarkable men who come within this period and who are usually mentioned in the history of Philosophy, such as Michael of Montaigne, Charron, Macchiavelli, etc. The popular writings of the first two contain pleasing, refined and spiritual thoughts on human life, social relationships, the right and good. The efforts of such men are counted as philosophy in as far as they have drawn from their consciousness, from the sphere of human experience, from observation, from what takes place in the world and in the heart. It is in a philosophy of life that they have comprehended and imparted such experiences; they are thus both entertaining and instructive. In accordance with the principle on which they worked, they entirely forsook the sources from which Scholastic knowledge had up to this time been derived, and also the methods hitherto prevalent of acquiring it. But because they do not make the question of highest interest to Philosophy the object of their investigation, and do not reason from thought, they do not properly belong to the history of Philosophy, but to general culture and to the healthy human understanding. They have contributed to man’s taking a greater interest in his own affairs, to his obtaining confidence in himself; and this is their main service. Man has looked within his heart again and given to it its proper value; then he has restored to his own heart and understanding, to his faith, the essence of the relationship of the individual to absolute existence. Although still a divided heart, this division, this yearning, has become a disunion within itself; and man feels this disunion within himself, and along with that his rest in himself. But here we must notice a transition, with which we are concerned, on account of the universal principle which in it is known in a higher way and in its true authority.
It was in the Lutheran Reformation that the great revolution appeared, as, after the eternal conflicts and the terrible discipline which the stiff-necked Germanic character had undergone and which it had to undergo, mind came to the consciousness of reconciliation with itself, a reconciliation whose form required that it should be brought about within the mind. From the Beyond man was thus called into the presence of spirit, as earth and her bodily objects, human virtues and morality, the individual heart and conscience, began to have some value to him. In the church, if marriage was not held to be immoral, self-restraint and celibacy were considered higher, but now marriage came to be looked on as a divine institution. Then poverty was esteemed better than possession, and to live on alms was considered higher than to support oneself honestly by the work of one’s hands; now, however, it becomes known that poverty is not the most moral life, for this last consists in living by one’s work and taking pleasure in the fruits thereof. The blind obedience by which human freedom was suppressed, was the third vow taken by the monks, as against which freedom, like marriage and property, was now also recognized as divine. Similarly on the side of knowledge man turned back into himself from the Beyond of authority; and reason was recognized as the absolutely universal, and hence as divine. Now it was perceived that it is in the mind of man that religion must have its place, and the whole process of salvation be gone through — that man’s salvation is his own affair, and that by it he enters into relationship with his conscience and into immediate connection with God, requiring no mediation of priests having the so-called means of grace within their hands. There is indeed a mediation present still by means of doctrine, perception, the observation of self and of one’s actions; but that is a mediation without a separating wall, while formerly a brazen wall of division was present separating the laity from the church. It is thus the spirit of God that must dwell within the heart of man, and. this indwelling spirit must operate in him.
Although Wycliffe, Huss, and Arnold of Brescia had started from scholastic philosophy with similar ends in view, they did not possess the character requisite to enable them modestly, and without any learned scholastic convictions, to set aside everything but mind and spirit. It was with Luther first of all that freedom of spirit began to exist in embryo, and its form indicated that it would remain in embryo. This beginning of the reconciliation of man with himself, whereby divinity is brought into man’s actuality, is thus at first principle alone. The unfolding of this freedom and the self-reflecting grasp of the same was a subsequent step, in the same way as was the working out of the Christian doctrine in the Church in its time. The subjective thought and knowledge of man, which enables him, being satisfied in his activity, to have joy in his work and to consider his work as something both permissible and justifiable — this value accorded to subjectivity now required a higher confirmation and the highest confirmation, in order to be made perfectly legitimate, and even to become absolute duty; and to be able to receive this confirmation it had to be taken in its purest form. The mere subjectivity of man, the fact that he has a will, and with it directs his actions this way or that, does not constitute any justification: for else the barbarous will, which fulfils itself in subjective ends alone, such as cannot subsist before reason, would be justified. If, further, self-will obtains the form of universality, if its ends are conformable to reason, and it is apprehended as the freedom of mankind. as legal right which likewise belongs to others, there is therein only indeed the element of permission, but still there is much in the end being recognized as permitted, and not as absolutely sinful. Art and industry receive through this principle new activity, since now their activity is justified. But we always find the principle of personal spirituality and independence at first limited to particular spheres of objects merely, in accordance with its content. Not until this principle is known and recognized in relation to the absolutely existent object, i.e. in relation to God, and is likewise grasped in its perfect purity, free from desires and finite ends, does it receive its highest confirmation, and that is its sanctification through religion.
This, then, is the Lutheran faith, in accordance with which man stands in a relation to God which involves his personal existence: that is, his piety and the hope of his salvation and the like all demand that his heart, his subjectivity, should be present in them. His feelings, his faith, the inmost certainty of himself, in short, all that belongs to him is laid claim to, and this alone can truly come under consideration: man must himself repent from his heart and experience contrition; his own heart must be filled with the Holy Ghost. Thus here the principle of subjectivity, of pure relation to me personally, i.e. freedom, is recognized, and not merely so, but it is clearly demanded that in religious worship this alone should be considered. The highest confirmation of the principle is that it alone has value in the eyes of God, that faith and the subjection of the individual heart are alone essential: in this way this principle of Christian freedom is first presented and brought to a true consciousness. Thereby a place has been set apart in the depths of man’s inmost nature, in which alone he is at home with himself and at home with God; and with God alone is he really himself, in the conscience he can be said to be at home with himself. This sense of being at home should not be capable of being destroyed through others; no one should presume to have a place therein. All externality in relation to me is thereby banished, just as is the externality of the Host; it is only in communion and faith that I stand in relation to God. The distinction between the laity and the priests is by it removed; there are no longer any laymen, for in religion each by himself is enjoined to know personally what it is. Responsibility is not to be avoided; good works without spiritual reality in them are no longer of avail; there must be the heart which relates itself directly to God without mediation, without the Virgin, and without the Saints.
This is the great principle — that all externality disappears in the point of the absolute relation to God; along with this externality, this estrangement of self, all servitude has also disappeared. With it is connected our ceasing to tolerate prayer in foreign tongues, or to study the sciences in such. In speech man is productive; it is the first externality that he gives himself, the simplest form of existence which he reaches in consciousness. What man represents to himself, he inwardly places before himself as spoken. This first form is broken up and rendered foreign if man is in an alien tongue to express or conceive to himself what concerns his highest interest. This breach with the first entrance into consciousness is accordingly removed; to have one’s own right to speak and think in one’s own language really belongs to liberty. This is of infinite importance, and without this form of being-at-home-with-self subjective freedom could not have existed; Luther could not have accomplished his Reformation without translating the Bible into German. Now the principle of subjectivity has thus become a moment in religion itself, and in this way it has received its absolute recognition, and has been grasped as a whole in the form in which it eau only be a moment in religion. The injunction to worship God in spirit is now fulfilled. Spirit, however, is merely conditioned by the free spirituality of the subject. For it is this alone which can be related to spirit; a subject who is not free does not stand in an attitude of spirituality, does not worship God in spirit. This is the general signification of the principle.
Now this principle was at first grasped in relation to religious objects only, and thereby it has indeed received its absolute justification, but still it has not been extended to the further development of the subjective principle itself. Yet in so far as man has come to the consciousness of being reconciled to himself, and of only being able to reconcile himself in his personal existence, he has in his actuality likewise attained another form. The otherwise hearty and vigorous man may also, in as far as he enjoys, do so with a good conscience; the enjoyment of life for its own sake is no longer regarded as something which is to be given up, for monkish renunciation is renounced. But to any other content the principle did not at first extend. Yet further, the religious content has more specially been apprehended as concrete, as it is for the recollection, and into this spiritual freedom the beginning and the possibility of an unspiritual mode of regarding things has thus entered. The content of the Credo, speculative as it is in itself, has, that is to say, an historical side. Within this barren form the old faith of the church has been admitted and allowed to exist, so that in this form it has to be regarded by the subject as the highest truth. The result then follows that all development of the dogmatic content in a speculative manner is quite set aside. What was required is man’s inward assurance of his deliverance, of his salvation — the relation of the subjective spirit to the absolute, the form of subjectivity as aspiration, repentance, conversion. This new principle has been laid down as paramount, so that the content of truth is clearly of importance; but the teaching respecting the nature and the process of God is grasped in the form in which it at first appears for the ordinary conception. Not only have all this finality, externality, unspirituality, this formalism of scholastic philosophy, been on the one hand discarded, and with justice, but, on the other, the philosophic development of the doctrines of the church has been also set aside, and this is done in connection with the very fact that the subject is immersed in his own heart. This immersion, his penitence, contrition, conversion, this occupation of the subject with him. self, has become the moment of first importance; but the subject has not immersed himself in the content, and the earlier immersion of spirit therein bas also been rejected. Even to this present day we shall find in the Catholic Church and in her dogmas the echoes, and so to speak the heritage of the philosophy of the Alexandrian school; in it there is much more that is philosophic and speculative than in the dogmatism of Protestantism, even if there is still in this an objective element and if it has not been made perfectly barren, as though the content were really retained only in the form of history. The connection of Philosophy with the theology of the Middle Ages has thus in the Catholic Church been retained in its essentials; in Protestantism, on the contrary, the subjective religious principle has been separated from Philosophy, and it is only in Philosophy that it has arisen in its true form again. In this principle the religious content of the Christian Church is thus retained, and it obtains its confirmation through the testimony of spirit that this content shall only hold good for me in as far as it makes its influence felt in my conscience and heart. This is the meaning of the words: “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God.” The criterion of truth is how it is confirmed in my heart; the fact that I judge and know rightly — or that what I hold to be true is the truth — must be revealed to my heart. Truth is what it is in my mind; and, on the other hand, my spirit is only then in its proper attitude to truth when truth is within it, when the spirit and its content are related thus. One cannot be isolated from the other. The content has not thus the confirmation in itself which was given to it by philosophical theology in the fact that the speculative Idea made itself therein effectual; neither has it the historic confirmation which is given to a contient in so far as it has an outward and historic side in which historic witnesses are heard in evidence, and in which its correctness is determined by their testimony. The doctrine has to prove itself by the condition of my heart, by penitence, conversion and joy in God. In doctrine we begin with the external content, and thus it is external only; but taken thus, independently of the state of my mind, it properly speaking has no significance. Now this beginning is, as Christian baptism and education, a working upon the nature in addition to an acquaintance with externals. The truth of the gospel and of Christian doctrines only, however, exists in true relation to the same; it is really so to speak a use of the content to make it educative. And this is just what has been maid, that the nature is reconstructed and sanctified in itself, and it is this sanctification for which the content is a true one. No further use can be made of the content than to build up and edify the mind, and awaken it to assurance, joy, penitence, conversion. Another and wrong relation to the content is to take it in an external way, e.g. according to the great new principle of exegesis, and to treat the writings of the New Testament like those of a Greek, Latin or other author, critically, philologically, historically. Spirit is alone in true relation to spirit; and it is a wrong beginning of a wooden and unyielding exegesis to prove in such an external and philological way the truth of the Christian religion. This has been done by orthodoxy, which thereby renders the content devoid of spirituality. This, then, is the first relation of spirit to this content; here the content is indeed essential, but it is as essential that the holy and sanctifying spirit should bear a relation to it.
This spirit is, however, in the second place really thinking spirit likewise. Thought as such must also develop itself therein, and that really as this form of inmost unity of spirit with itself; thought must come to the distinction and contemplation of this content, and pass over into this form of the purest unity of spirit with itself. At first thought, however, reveals itself as abstract thought alone, and it possesses as such a relation to theology and religion. The content which is here in question, even in so far as it is historic merely and externally accepted, must yet be religious; the unfolding of the nature of God must be present therein. In this we have the further demand that the thought for which the inward nature of God is, should also set itself in relation to this content. But inasmuch as thought is at first understanding and the metaphysic of the understanding, it will remove from the content the rational Idea and make it so empty that only external history remains, which is devoid of interest.
The third position arrived at is that of concrete speculative thought. According to the standpoint which has just been given, and as religious feeling and its form are here determined, all speculative content as such, as well as its developments, are at first rejected. And as for the enrichment of the Christian conceptions through the treasures of the philosophy of the ancient world, and through the profound ideas of all earlier oriental religions, and the like, — all this is set aside. The content had objectivity; but this merely signified that the objective content, without subsisting for itself, was to constitute the beginning only, on which the mind had spiritually to build up and sanctify itself. All the enrichment of the content whereby it became philosophic, is thus abandoned, and what follows later simply is that the mind, as thinking, again immerses itself in itself, in order to be concrete and rational. What forms the basis of the Reformation is the abstract moment of a mind being within self, of freedom, of coming to self; freedom signifies the life of the spirit in being turned back within itself in the particular content which appears as another; while spirit is not free if it allows this other-being, either unassimilated or dead, to exist in it as something foreign. In as far as spirit now goes on to knowledge, to spiritual determinations, and as it looks around and comes forth as a content., so far will it conduct itself therein as in its own domain, as in its concrete world, so to speak — and it will there really assert and possess its own. This concrete form of knowledge which, however, in the beginning remains but dim, we have now to consider, and it forms the third period of our treatise, into which we properly step with the Reformation, although Bruno, Vanini and Ramus, who lived later, still belong to the Middle Ages.
1. Jordanus Brunus.. De Minimo, pp. 10, 16-18; Jacobi: Werke, Vol. IV. Section II. pp. 34-39; Tennemann, Vol. IX. pp. 400-402; Giordano Bruno: De la causa, principio et uno, Dial. V. pp. 281-284. — On this opposition of the minimum and the maximum Bruno wrote several special works, for example, De triplici Minimo et Mensura libri V. Francofurti apud Wechelium et Fischer, 1591, 8; the text is hexameters, with notes and scholia; Buhle gives the title as De Minimo libri V. Another work bears the title: De Monade, Numero et figura liber; Item De Innumerabilibus, Immenso et Infigurabili: seu de Universo et Mundis libri VIII. Francof. 1591, 8.
2. Bruno wrote many such topico-mnemonic works, of which the earliest are the following: Philotheus Jordanus Brunus Nolanus De compendiosa architectura et complemento artis Lullii, Paris. ap. Æg. Gorbinum, 1582.12. — J. Brunus Nol. De Umbrisidearum, implicantibus Artem quærendi, &c., Paris. ap. eund. 1582. 8. The second part has the title: Ars memoriæ. — Ph. Jord. Bruni Explicatio XXX sigillorum &c. Quibus adjectus est Sigillus sigillorum, &c. It is evident front the dedication that Bruno published this work in England, therefore between 1582 and 1585. — Jordanus Brunus De Lampade combinatoria, Lulliana, Vitebergæ 1587. 8. In the same place he wrote De Progressu et lampade venatoria Logicorum, Anno 1587, which he dedicated to the Chancellor of the Wittenberg University — Jordan us Brunus De Specierum scrutinio et lampade combinatoria Raym. Lullii, Pragæ, exc. Georg. Nigrinus 1588. 8; also printed in the works of Raymund Lullius. — Also De imaginum, signorum et idearum compositione Libri III. Francofurti ap. Jo. Wechel. et Petr. Fischer. 1591. 8.
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