History of Modern Philosophy eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 708 pages of information about History of Modern Philosophy.
and the social impulse.  Whatever is contrary to the former makes a strong and terrible impression on the soul; whatever favors the latter makes a weak but agreeable one.  The terrible delights us (first depressing and then exalting us), when we merely contemplate it, without being ourselves affected by the danger or the pain—­this is the sublime.  On the other hand, that is beautiful which inspires us with tenderness and affection without our desiring to possess it.  Sublimity implies a certain greatness, beauty, a certain smallness.  Delight in both is based on bodily phenomena.  Terror moderated exercises a beneficent influence on the nerves by stimulating them and giving them tension; the gentle impression of beauty exerts a quieting effect upon them.  The disturbances caused by the former, and the recovery induced by the latter, are both conducive to health, and hence, experienced as pleasures.

[Footnote 1:  Home, Elements of Criticism, 1762.  Burke, A Philosophical Inquiry info the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful, 1756.]

CHAPTER VI.

THE FRENCH ILLUMINATION.

In the last decade of the seventeenth century France had yielded the leadership in philosophy to England.  Whereas Hobbes had in Paris imbibed the spirit of the Galilean and Cartesian inquiry, while Bacon, Locke, and even Hume had also visited France with advantage, now French thinkers take the watchword from the English.  Montesquieu and Voltaire, returning from England in the same year (1729), acquaint their countrymen with the ideas of Locke and his contemporaries.  These are eagerly caught up; are, step by step, and with the logical courage characteristic of the French mind, developed to their extreme conclusions; and, at the same time, spread abroad in this heightened form among the people beyond the circles of the learned, nay, even beyond the educated classes.  The English temperament is favorable neither to this advance to extreme revolutionary inferences nor to this propagandist tendency.  Locke combines a rationalistic ethics with his semi-sensational theory of knowledge; Newton is far from finding in his mechanical physics a danger for religious beliefs; the deists treat the additions of positive religion rather as superfluous ballast than as hateful unreason; Bolingbroke wishes at least to conceal from the people the illuminating principles which he offers to the higher classes.  Such halting where farther progress threatens to become dangerous to moral interests does more honor to the moral, than to the logical, character of the philosopher.  But with the transfer of these ideas to France, the wall of separation is broken down between the theory of knowledge and the theory of ethics, between natural philosophy and the philosophy of religion; sensationalism forces its way from the region of theory into the sphere of practice, and the mechanical theory is transformed

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History of Modern Philosophy from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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