24 APRIL 1880, Page 21


Thomas Aquinas, Bacon, Descartes, Spinoza, John Locke, Leibnitz, Berkeley, Hume, Kant, are the philosophers chosen as the greatest ; but Professor Porter, in his preface, winds up his short account of the history of philosophy by a notice of Darwin, saying, after mentioning the potent influence German philosophy has exerted over the whole civilized world,—

" Meanwhile, philosophical discussion has been taking a new direc- tion from the side of physiology. The doctrine of the permanence of species, which had been accepted since the time of Plato, was effectually called in question by Charles Darwin, and on grounds of induction. To this was added the nebula hypothesis and the physio- logical doctrine of development taught by Schelling in his meta- physics, and by the naturalists of his school. This product was propounded by Herbert Spencer as the great metaphysical discovery of the age. It proposes to account for the history of the universe from its elemental condition, and explains the growth of all forms of being, from the most simple to the most complex, as a necessary result of the processes of differentiation and integration. It essays also to explain by this single process every product of spiritual activity,—the sciences, the arts, the institutions, the laws, the manners, and the religious of the race. By its devotees the doctrine is regarded as the sum and substance of the Final Philosophy. By those who reject it, it is held to be the last Philosophical romance. The confident zeal of its advocates is matched by the strong convic- tion of those who reject it. Its growth and existence cannot be over- looked, in a sketch which includes the latest phase of Philosophy."

Unlike the prefaces to the portfolios of the poets, artists, and theologians, by Matthew Arnold, Taine, Max ➢hiller, and Renan, which we have reviewed in our previous notices of the Hundred Greatest Men, Professor Porter has not given us an essay on the general features of the subject in question, so much as a short historical notice of the different phases philosophy has passed through ; and though able and instructive, this preface is not so suggestive of thought or discussion on the subject as those in the previous portfolios. The first paragraph alone discusses the general nature and meaning of Philosophy :—

" Philosophy, in its special meaning, designates the highest and noblest knowledge which man can achieve, or to which man can aspire. In the order of time, man first knows that something is ; next, what it is ; next, whence and how it begins to be ; and last, for what end it exists, or what is its place in the universe of being. The first of these steps gives facts ; the next, classification and language ; the next, explanation by causes and laws ; and the last, reconstruction by system and design. Science is simply common knowledge made exact and complete within a special and limited sphere ; philosophy is the science of knowledge itself in its processes, its objects, its products. It is the Science of Sciences, and in the order of thought is fundamental and foremost,—the Scientia Scientiarum."

The writing in this preface, and also in the Philosophers' Lives, is, we think, less popular than it need have been. Considering that this work must be treated as one more especially useful to those classes whose culture cannot be carried to any very pro-

• The Portraits and Sketches of the Lives of Philosophers, forming the Pour* Port. folio of " The Hundred Greatest Men." Prefaced by a Short Essay, by Profesioe Noah Porter. London: Sampson Low and Co.

found depths, the endeavour, we think, should have been to have given a clear and more popular tone to the resumes of the subjects described in the sketches annexed to the portraits. The fault we feel in these biographies of the philosophers is that they are composed of snatches from profounder, more elaborate works, put together without affording the reader any grasp of the essential differences in the various schemes of philosophy,—or at least a grasp sufficiently real and clear to enable him to simplify and map out the very wide sub- ject he has in hand. Doubtless, the talent of making great and lengthy subjects short and comparatively easy is most rare, and one requiring thorough and most genuinely possessed knowledge ; in fact, genius of a certain kind is required. But though rare, such a gift is indispensable in the writers of such works as those we are considering, in order to ensure their usefulness. If, in drawing the com- parisons between different schemes of philosophy in a few pages, some peculiarly happy and lucid expression is not found to explain such differences, the writing cannot meet the end in view, and ceases to be instructive, being too sketchy to give full information, too abstruse to impress the mind with any general clear idea which can be seized easily, and which might induce a taste for a further study of the subject. But if a genius for condensing in a lucid and striking manner the ideas of great philosophers is too rare in the compilers of biographies to justify much grumbling at its absence, still we think we might have expected a more interesting treatment of their biographies. Spinoza, for instance, had a character at once so individual and so elevated, that the shortest sketch of his life should have been stamped with an exceptional interest by any writer who had grasped the peculiar features of his nature. His life, in this work, however, is not impressively given, and would not, we should think, induce any one who did not already realise his peculiar superiority of character to make a further study of it.

The engraving of Pythagoras is badly executed, and can have no interest as a portrait, as it is quite impossible to trace, in any reliable way, the likelihood of the gem from which it was taken having ever been meant as his portrait. The portrait of Socrates, from the bust in the Capitol, gives us the well known face, but slightly ironed out, there not being so many rugged and wrinkled forms as in the original. The power in the ox-like strength of the throat is given, also a most decided squint in the eyes. The peculiar ugliness of Socrates, as we should gather from descriptions and busts, must have been the result of the child-like rotundity of form having remained after he grew up, and having been thickened by rugged excrescences, the features having widened instead of leng- thened; but it is an ugliness which is more curious than repellent, and even in this engraving, which has an unpleasant woolly texture and is not good as a work of art, there is a sug- gestion of power and kindliness combined which is the reverse of ugly. Plato's portrait, from the bust in the Uffizi, is

less successful. The forms are regular and there is a certain weight and solidity in their character, but there is little refinement and no subtlety, though there is an intention to give nobility and a commanding aspect which suggest the typical ruler or governor more than the philosopher. Aristotle's portrait, besides being better executed, looks as if it really might have been like. There is no exaggeration in the forms, and yet the countenance is intense in expressive power and intelligence. The mouth is very clever, peculiarly full of meaning and precision. This engraving is from the antique bust. St. Thomas Aquinas's portrait is said to have been taken from a "painting of the middle-ages," but we should think the original must have been some metal, probably brass, relievo. It is a curious countenance, the eyes starting and the forms globular, but not without a suggestion of power and strength. The engraving of Lord Bacon, from " the well-known line en- graving by Houbraken," is quite -ansuggestive of an intellect of any special power. The forehead is broad, but the brow smooth, and the jaw cut away. The most striking fault in the execution of this engraving is the shadow down the side of the nose, which is far too black, and destroys the roundness of the form. In Descartes' likeness we have the suggestion of an acute man and a brilliant thinker. There is a clenching firmness about the mouth which, added to the speculative brow raised high over the deep lids of the eye, gives us a countenance of great poffircr. As in many great thinkers, the face is very large com- pared to the size of the head, a fact which we see constantly contradicting the theory that the larger the head the greater the likelihood of finding intellectual power. In Descartes, judging from this likeness, the brow was enormous, the skull behind it remarkably small. There is nothing in Spinoza's• portrait which reminds us of his Jewish origin, no heaviness in the forms or thickness of the features. On the contrary, the type is that commonly known as " foxy ;" the countenance has an amiable and kindly expression, the force of the character being shown:chiefly in the firm squareness of the chin. John Locke's portrait looks as if it were a very good likeness, and is perhaps the best executed of the engravings in this portfolio. There is some fine line-drawing in the hair, and the form of the features and the modelling of the face are full of individual expression. The face is very long and the features large in proportion to the size of the head and cheeks, but the drawing in the forms of the features is square and strong, and the ex- pression amiable and sociable, so that though the face is remarkable in its proportions from the size of the features,. the absence of heaviness prevents it being ugly. The tone of this engraving is superior to most of the others in this port- folio. There are not so many shades which look like black spots, owing to their being put close to high lights. But even here- the darkest lines are not kept sufficiently to the shaded side of drawing, a fault which destroys breadth and solidity, and must be false to nature. The expression is often cleverly rendered in these portraits, but they would be more satisfactory as works of art if this success were not often achieved, partly at the expense of the essential requirements of art, breadth, tone, solidity, and truth in light and shade. Though embedded in one of the ridiculous King Charles's curled wigs, the countenance of Leibnitz, as given us here, is thoughtful, strong, and pleasant.. It isIGerman in character, and reminds us of the Goethe por- traits in the lower part of the face. This engraving is also fairly good, from an artistic point of view,—a contrast in treat- ment to the woolly engraving of Berkeley, which is very English in character, and which is unpleasantly spotted over with little dabs of high light, and does not carry out or suggest the description of the man in any way. It is the portrait of a \yell-to-do, prosperous Bishop, not unamiable, but dis- tinctly material; not the man who would conceive the ideal system; or elaborate a difficult scheme for converting American- Indians, and leaving comforts, popularity, and power behind,. and himself try and carry such a scheme through. This Berkeley did, and, moreover, when the scheme failed,. scrupulously returned all the funds given for the pur- pose from his own income. David Hume's portrait, on the contrary, indicates well the written description given of him. Capable of any intellectual effort he wished to exert, self - opinionated, free from all the puzzling- difficulties the largest views of existence entail, yet un- trammelled by any spiritual faith or fear, be saw no farther than he could understand, and understood no further than he could see. The countenance which suggests such a nature is naturally an unpleasant one, and in Hume's case the unpleasant- ness was not relieved by any beauty of form. This engraving is good. Kant's portrait ends the list of philosophers. The forms in this profile are almost too strange to be possible. The facial line is curious beyond what is natural,—more like the Mongol type than the European; still, there is much that sag- gents the methodical life, the concentrated aims, and the excep- tional temperament of Kant in this portrait, and we can imagine such a countenance living the routine life of intense thought, unrelieved by any domestic relation, unvaried by any occupation outside his work.

The rest of the Hundred Greatest Men, will, we suppose, include men of science, men of action, and philanthropists.