DR. MARTINEAU'S " SPINOZA."* Ix is by no means to
be regretted that Dr. Martineau was unable to compress this study of Spinoza within the limits assigned to the writers of Blackwood's "Philosophical Classics," for which it was originally intended. We could ill afford to lose a single page of this delightful book. We wish, indeed, that Dr. Martineau had allowed himself a wider sweep, and entered at greater length on many of the topics which he has discussed, always with in- cisiveness, yet sometimes with undue brevity. He has written a book to which English students of Spinoza will always go, and from which they will learn all that at present is known, and is ever likely to be known, regarding the circumstances, mode of life, and outward history of Spinoza. The story of Spinoza's life has never been told as it is told here. We always find in the writings of Dr. Martineau a rare felicity of expression, com- bined with graceful subtlety of thought. In this biography, which occupfes over a hundred pages, we find the old felicity and subtlety, combined with a power of dramatic narrative, which we had not formerly seen in the works of Dr. Martineau. He has been able to weave all the correspondence of Spinoza into the texture of the biography, and he has dwelt in detail on the order in which Spinoza's works were composed, so that we are enabled to see the successive phases of his development, and to trace the growth of his system. We can fancy that people unaccustomed to abstract thought may be unwilling to face the difficulty involved in reading the second part of this study; but it is not possible to imagine any one, however unused to meta- physic, laying down this work until he has read the biographical part of it, to its very last word. For the story itself is full of interest, and the literary form is worthy of the great story it has to tell.
This volume, more than any other in our language, will help people to understand the strange fascination which has attracted to Spinoza the devoted admiration of ran of the most opposite characters and tendencies. Poets, philosophers, theologians, men of science of all classes and schools, who agree in nothing else, agree in the praise of Spinoza. When we read his works, we find ourselves breathing an atmosphere of great thoughts and of high and pure aspirations. The thoughts are sometimes too great for utterance, and the aspirations are chained down by the mathematical network in which they are confined. Yet
• A Study nf Spinor.q. By James Blartiaeau, D.D. With a Portrait. London : Macmillan and Co.
great thoughts are undeniably in the works of Spinoza. Strange to say, however, this philosopher, whose system in outward form is the most strict and severe in its reasonings of all philo- sophies, is the philosopher who is most lacking in logical con- sistency. Words are frequently used in his most rigorous demonstrations in more senses than one, and there are numerous gaps in the professedly deductive chain which no ingenuity can pass over. A great thinker, Spinoza is not a great reasoner, and any one who looks for logical connection or method in his writings will look in vain. It is a higher thing to have brought to thinking men great thoughts which cleave to the human mind throughout the centuries, than to be the author of a system which has the negative merit of logical consistency, and this higher thing we claim for Spinoza ; but when his too ardent admirers insist on claiming more than this, we at once demur.
It is one of the great merits of Dr. Martineau that he claims for Spinoza what criticism has seen to be his due, and that he does not shrink from pointing out the flaws of argument even while he expounds the great truth which lies at the root of it. We can- not enter into detail, but we will simply call attention to some of the criticisms which Dr. Martineau makes. He points out that Spinoza never overcame the dualism which he inherited from Descartes. At the very outset, we are confronted with the gravest difficulty in philosophy,—how to make the transition from the unity we assume, to the diversity we know. We do. not know that philosophy has yet solved the problem,—it is certainly not solved, in the system of Spinoza. We find, indeed,. that this primary unity is defined three times over, under different names, on which Dr. Martineau truly remarks :—
"The moment Spinoza had to his own satisfaction identifia) Nature, God, and Substance, he would have done well to select the term which he preferred, to the exclusion of the others. If a modern man of science believed hiznself to have alighted on the ultimate principle of phenomena—be it protoplasm, or some proto•dynarnia polarity—he would mark it by an invariable name. Should it have been previously known in some of its disguises, and called now this, now that, without suspicion of its universal function, he might, per- haps, choose one of its existing designations ; but, having chosen it, would certainly not keep wandering about among them all. But Spinoza, maintaining in use several terms for the same subject, virtually neutralises the equivalence be has established among them, and reopens questions which his philosophy completely shuts up." (p. 173.)
It might be added, however, that this use of many terms to. signify one thing affords many opportunities for the unconscious use of illicit logical processes. Having got his definitions, how are they to be used P How pass from the substance to the attributes, or back again from the attributes to the substance ?' Not logically or deductively, as we have a right to expect, from the method used and the profession made, but blindly, and by an instinctive and convulsive leap. And one of the most effec- tive parts of Dr. Martiueau's exposition and criticism is where • he makes this plain.
Supposing, however, that this initial difficulty has somehow been overcome, and the system has got into motion, we come to a certain point at which all deductive systems find that they must somehow unite themselves to the concrete experience of men, and show how experience is possible and is explained by the principles on which the deductive system has proceeded. On this rock lie the wrecks of many philosophies ; and the latest wreck is the huge system of Mr. Herbert Spencer, which has found here that it had more in its hands than it had bargained for, and that consciousness could neither be deduced from nor explained by the persistence of force. The same fate overtook the system of Spinoza. Dr. Martineau thus describes the crisis :—
" It was inevitable that Spinoza, on arriving with his deduction at the confines of the phenomenal world, and trying to push it across, should feel the consequences of identifying the relation of Substance and Attribute with that of Cause and Effect. So long as he was dealing only with the large conceptions from which he started, and turning them inside out, to see what coherent web could be woven from them, it was easy for one to whom reritas meant indistinguishably truth, and reality, to take the necessity of thought as a discovery of the order of being, and to forget that the firmest chain of reasoning wiTh drag nothing up out of night. But when he came to things dis- tributed in space and successive in time, to birth and death, to large and small, to changes slow and swift, dednotion from the infinite was brought to a stand, and the most capacious essences were struck with sterility. He had nothing but reasons, and he wanted causes. He was overdone with an ' infinity ' of logical possibilities, but could convert none of them into physical power. He has dealt thus far with the Adyor, or ground of things ; and now it refused to serve as thc aivia of their phenomenal existence. To force his way through this difficulty, some little violence was indispensable. no will not revoke the word cause ' from his infinite modes,' though it fails to carry him any farther ; he hopes to find soma potentia ' here- after, by leaving it wrapped up in essence.' But he brings upon the stage, under the same name, a dramatis persona that we have never seen before, and that is entrusted henceforth with half the remaining action of the piece." (pp. 206-7.)
Suppose we take this leap also, and with open eyes agree to recognise new potencies, as we need them for purposes of explanation. Lotus follow Spinoza onwards to the goal. We must be allowed as we go on to mutter, if it be only under our breath, as the French muttered in criticism of the Balaclava Charge, "Magnificent, but it is not war 1" When we pass to the con- sideration of individual things, we find profound ethical reflec- tion and insight into nature, we find thoughts which anticipate the most recent conclusions of ethical science, but when we ask how they came to be in the system, we find that they were some- how pulled in violently from without. We are glad to get them on any terms, but they have not been reasoned out or deduced from first principles. This becomes increasingly manifest when we have reached those facts which deal with man, and in this relation we specially refer to the section in Dr. Martineau's book entitled "Determining Factors of Experience." Here we have an exposition and a miticism of Spinoza's doctrine of human activity ; the doctrine of Spinoza is thus set forth by himself. The translation is Dr. hfartineau's:—" We act, when something within us or without us takes place of which we are the ade- quate cause, i.e., when from our nature something, in us or out of us, follows which can be understood by that nature alone ; while we passively undergo something, when something takes place in us, or follows from our nature, of which we are not the cause, unless partially." "According to this," Dr. Mar- tineau proceeds to comment,—
" We cannot tell whether we are the adequate cause, except by clear and distinct apprehension of the effect. Understanding is the test of causation, the evidence of action ; but in playing this part, it is far from becoming identical with action. We are still detained upon the track of Thinking, and can only look with vain wistfulness at the Doing throng on the opposite bank; and when Spinoza, lead- ing us by the hand professedly along the continuous edge, snatches us across with sadden spring, we can neither go nor let go, and the advance ends with a disastrous plunge." (pp. 235.6.)
The proposed bridge across the chasm thus suddenly revealed is found in Spinoza's formula of " Conatus," which has a strange family likeness to the formula of " persistence of force," so familiar to us in the works of Mr. Herbert Spencer. With regard to this formula, and the part it plays in the system of Spinoza, we can only here refer to the work of Dr. Martineau. Readers will find it to be one of the most effective parts of the volume, and a part which has a manifest bearing on the ethical speculations of to-day.
We note another point. No charge is more common at present than the charge of Anthropomorphism, and, no class is more ready to hurl this charge against others than those who are under the influence of Spinoza, either on the mystic side of his writings, or on the positiviit side. Both the Mystic and the positivist agree in denouncing anthropomorphism. We quote a paragraph from the great discussion contained in the fifth chapter of Dr. Martineau's volume ; we mean the chapter on Religion. It is one of the most valuable contributions of our time towards a philosophy of religion. This is how Dr. Martineau deals with the charge of anthropomorphism as coming from a Spinozist
"The objection to predicate of 'God' anything that is found in man comes the less appropriately from Spinoza, because his own con- ception embodied in that word is wholly made up of human predi- cates, and in no system more than his do the two natures stand in the relation of microcosm to macrocosm. The two known attributes of extension and thought aro simply the two factors of Our own life thrown into universal form. Further, in order to learn the first, we go to school to our own body, and thence, as a base, plant out other bodies in space, and affirm as common to all what is familiar to us at home. Similarly, we become acquainted with what Thinking means by the sample of it in ourselves, and though we fellow out the yes cogitans to infinitude, we do but look in our own glass. Nay, more, this very
mind inns is constituted by the idea of a single thing,' viz., our own body,' so that from the furthest excursions through the cosmos and to the causa sui, wo are driven to our own organism as the focus of cognition. This, surely, is not merely a geocentric, but an anthropo- centric projection of the All and the Divine Nature. That it is so, may be no just ground for reproach ; but at all events it disarms the lofty rebuke of all human analogies which mingle with religious con- ceptions."
• We have not been able to do justice to this work. We have only been able to indicate a few salient points, where the criti- cism of Dr. Martineau has been most incisive. We have not mentioned his lucid exposition of Spinoza's doctrine of the State, nor have we referred to his masterly summary of the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, in which are contained Spinoza's views on Biblical Theology. Nor have we dwelt, as we should like to have done, on the patient exposition of the system of Spinoza, which is contained in these pages. As a help to the study of Spinoza's works, this work is unequalled, and no student can afford to dispense with the use of it. It is all the more valuable, because Dr. Martineau has not allowed himself to be carried away by the enthusiasm he has manifestly felt for the subject of his study, nor permitted the fascination of Spinoza to sweep him out into the sea of mere indiscriminate eulogy. His book will be useful in showing the student where he has to make the leaps which Spinoza frequently calls on him to make. Perhaps philosophy has to make a leap sometimes, and the differ- ence between true philosophy and false may be said to lie in this, —that true philosophy takes its fences with open eyes, and untrue philosophy blunders on in a blindfold manner. It is well to know where the hedges and the ditches lie, and readers of Dr. Martineau's work will, at all events, know as much as this. They will also be able to form a judgment on the true greatness of Spinoza, to know wherein his strength did lie, and to recog- nise that what many have regarded as his strength, is only the manifestation of his weakness.