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Character of the Political Philosophy- Political Economy-Moral Philo
sophy-Metaphysics--and Philosophy of Criticism, of the present ageCharacter of the Periodical Criticism.
HE changes which the Political practical application of these doc
has undergone, from the period from them, drove men back almost when it first attracted the attention, to the ancient and exploded docand employed the researches and trines of passive obedience, noninvestigation of men of talent in resistance, and the divine right of this Island, to the present, are full kings :—some from prudence, how. of instruction and interest, as they ever, and others from conviction, point out, in a mnost palpable and modified and softened these docsatisfactory manner, the bent and trines in a considerable degree. influence of the national character, At present, Political Philosophy, acted upon and modified occasion- strictly and properly so called, is ally by particular circumstances and not a favourite study in Great Bricarises. The doctrines of the divine tain; nor, since the fervor of the rights of kings, and of passive obe- French Revolution passed away, are dience and non-resistance, as bas we aware of any treatises of high been already shewn, lingered in character or importance, that have Britain, certainly, after the lievo been published on this subject, by lation ; soon after this event, Mr. our countrymen. We are rather to Locke's doctrine of a contract, im- look for the exact state of this plied at least, between the sovereign science, and the opinions held reand the people, gained ground. garding it, in the debates of ParliaThe American Revolution, and sub- ment, in the newspapers (as they sequently, as we have also shewn, respectively hold forih and support the French Revolution, led men to the doctrines of the political parties a bolder idea; and the doctrines of to which they adbere), in such of the divine right of the people, and our Reviews as enter into discuspassive obedience and non-resistancesions on political and other subjects, to them (if the expressions may be and in fugitive and short pamphlets, allowed), became popular, and were which confine their pages to a curembraced, even by many men of sory and general view of particular clear views, profound investigation, branches of it. and real lovers of their species. One grand and most important
The dreadful consequences which principle, however, seems to be either actually fowed from the adopted and to prevail in this
science, amongst all parties, how people are not fit to receive it, from
and does justify go- Wealtb of Nations, till the events vernments for withholding civil and of the French Revolution had propolitical liberty, so long as the duced their full operation upon it,
has been already detailed. The im- ferent writers; that even the defiportance as well as the difficulty of ditions of the most common terms this science are gradually becoming of the science are not agreed upon; more and more apparent. The em- and that, upon some of its most barrassed state of the finances of practically important topics, on most European countries, as well which there is abundance of facts as the unsound condition of their and experience, accessible to all, circulation, necessarily directed the there is still great and irreconcilable attention and investigation of poli. diversity of opinion. tical economists to those branches The Moral Philosophy of the of the science which related to these present age may be classed into topics; while the singular and un- that which is abstract and speculaprecedented state into which coin. tive, and that which is practical : merce thrown during the on the former, there are few wrigreater part of the French Revo. tings of any considerable merit or lution, caused this branch of politic character; this division of moral cal economy also to be particularly philosophy has indeed been much studied and explored. Yet such less cultivated during the last half scems the difficulties enveloping the century, than it was during the first very elements of this science, that portion of the eighteenth century ; the most acute and well-informed and the discussions on the abstruse political economists are not agreed and undeterminable points, whetber among themselves regarding these moral obligation is founded on the important topics ; and practical fitness of things, the will of God, men, that is men whose concerns a moral sense, utility or happiness, lie in the funds, in banking, in the have been wisely abandoned for money market, or in the various more approachable and profitable branches of commerce, agree on
discussions. The former discus. very few points with those who are sions, like all those which relate merely speculative political econo- to mind, were involved in much mists. That this account of the doubt and difficulty, from the va. state of this science is not inaccu- rious or the ambiguous meanings rate, must be evident to all who are attached to the words employed acquainted with the discussions on in carrying them on; and it the state of the currency, and on is no small proof of the real the corn trade, as they appeared, and beneficial advancement of not only in the parliamentary de- the human intellect, in this counbates, but in the publications on try more especially, that verbal those subjects. It is foreign to our disputes,—not merely those that purpose (and if it were not, it would were palpably and almost avowedly be a very difficult task) to assign the verbal,- but also those which seemed causes which thus retard the ad- to relate to things, whereas they revancement of this most important lated merely to words,- have in a science: that it does not advance great measure, and on most topics, nearly at the same rate with other given way to discussions of a solid sciences, is sufficiently evident from and tangible character, as well the undoubted facts, that the very as of practicable solution and applifirst principles of the science are cation to the concerns and actions very differently laid down by dif- of life.
The practical Moral Philosophy powers of intellect, and the mode of the present age, in Britain, is of applying then, which all bis deservedly of a very high character works, and especially his Natural for its soundness and simplicity, Theology, display. 'He forces his
, and for the knowledge of mankind way into the very heart of an arguon which it is grounded. The in- ment by the very strength and distructive lessons for the regulation rectness of his understanding :and government of the temper and topics which have been often dispassions, for the formation of the cussed before in such a manner as manners, and for the discharge both apparently to have left them nearly of the greater and lesser duties, exhausted, he exbibits in lights not which all the various relative con- only new,
, but which flash conviction nexions of society impose and re- on the mental eye by the steady and quire,-as they are given in a most clear illumination which they throw pleasing and attractive form in some round them. If an objection is to of our best works of fiction,--will be met and repelled, he first meets be afterwards noticed with more it face to face; he gives it every propriety : at present we sball con- advantage, sensible that if overfine ourselves to the state and come, under these circumstances, character of the Moral Pbilosophy his triumph will be the more comof the present age in Britain, as plete and lasting. they appear in the most cele- The writings of Gisborne, and of brated of those writings which other celebrated authors on the dutreat expressly of it as a science, ties of man in , society, are not or of particular branches of that marked by the acuteness of Paley, science.
but they excel them in the mild On all these writings are de- and domestic tone in which those cidedly and deeply stamped the duties are explained and enforced. most characteristic features of Bri- They are all practical ; intended tish intellect, as well as of the and calculated for real life; and British national character. The removed at once from laxity, and a most celebrated are those of Paley rigid and impracticable enforcement and Gisborne: but the writings of of a line of conduct which neither the former, not only on Moral the feelings and habits of individuPhilosophy, but also on the evi- ais, nor the state of society, admit dences of Natural Theology, are, or require. . in our opinion, distinguished by Metapbysics, or that study which much more undoubted and decided relates to the developement and exmarks of British intellect, than planation of the faculties of the those of the latter, or indeed of any mind, and in general to the nature other author on the evidences and of mind itself, has latterly, like the duties of either Natural or Revealed speculative and abstruse parts of Religion, in the English language. Moral Philosophy, gone much into We cannot help regarding Paley, disuse : several causes have probanotwithstanding the laxity and casu- bly operated to produce this effect. istry of some of his doctrines on the In the first place, great and not subject of Moral Philosophy, as an unreasonable doubts have been author of whom this country ought started regarding the utility of such to be proud, on account of the speculations as Metaphysics- em
braces and pursues ; and in the sc. vation : in direct opposition to ibe cond place, it seems to be suspected principle which guides the authors that these speculations either turn of this pation in their researches on on the meaning of words, or are other subjects, and which principle beyond the faculties of man. is every day more and more con
There are, however, still some firmed, in proportion as science metaphysical writers of pole; these advances,-viz. that nature always may be arranged under three di- works by the simplest and fewest visions. The Scotch metaphysi- means, and that her elements are cians ;-the English mataphysicians, not nearly so numerous as in the who embrace, in whole or in part, infancy of knowledge and experithe doctrines of Hartley ;—and suchence they were believed to be, British) writers as are advocates for the Scotch writers on the subject the Metaphysics of Kant, or other of mind seem to delight in multiteachers of the German school. plying causes, and to be afraid to
The character of the Scotch Me- draw the veil from the operations of taphyiscs presents rather a singular nature, so far as the moral and intel. and unaccountable phenomenon ; lectual structure of man is conthere can be po doubt that the dise cerned. Such, all must allow, is tinguishing features of Scotch intel the doctrine of common sense, or lect are acuteness,--a tendency to that doctrine which teaches inquiscepticism, and to take for granted rers to rest content with the disand believe rather 100 little than too covery of moral and mental pheno. much, and a fondness for subtlety, mena, and to regard them as system, and pushing things to the ultimate and inexplainable princifewest and simplest possible prin. ples in the constitution of man. ciples; and an examination of the That such a mode of philosophizing writings of Scotch authors, of the is at variance with the notions that greatest celebrity, and who display all acquainted with other branches the features of the national intellect of Scotch science and literature, in the most pure and marked man- must form of the features of Scotch ner, will (if we except their meta- intellect, is undoubted :-it is, as physical authors) fully bear out and we have already remarked, a curious illustrate the picture we have drawn. circumstance, and therefore desery.
In Metaphysics, however, it is ing, in our opinion, of being quite the reverse; the mode of pointed out, in connexion with this philosophizing, which, assisted by sbort sketch of Scoich Metaphysics. their national acuteness, has enabled Between the doctrines of the them to extend the limits of most Scotch metaphysical_writers, and branches of physical science, and to those of such of the English meta. give even to Political Economy phycians as are followers of Hartley, more of the dignity and simplicity there is an intermediate class : ac of a science than it previously pos- cording to this class of doctrines, sessed, seems to be utterly aban- the former do not push their inquidoned when they enter the field of ries far enough, and the latter push metaphysical inquiry. The writ- theirs too far. There are, however, ings of Reid, Beatrie, and even of no very celebrated writers of this Dugald Stewart, sufficiently bear out description. With respect to Hart. the truth and justice of this obser- ley and his followers, it appears to