1902 Encyclopedia > Victor Cousin

Victor Cousin
French philosopher and educationist

VICTOR COUSIN, (1792-1867), was, like another Birth and eminent Frenchman, Jean Jacques Rousseau, the son of a education, -watchmaker. He was born in Paris, in the Quartier St Antoine, on the 28th November 1792. The year of his birth was a critical one for France and for Europe. The ruins of the Bastille, which adjoined the place of his birth, already symbolized the wreck of the ancient order of things. The National Assembly had in the autumn decreed the deposition of the king ; the National Convention had been appointed to try him as Louis Capet (21st September), and three days later France was declared a republic. While the childhood of the future philosopher was passing in the Quartier St Antoine, the king was guillotined in the neigh-bouring Place de la Révolution ; Christianity was deposed, like the monarch himself, and the worship of reason colemnly inaugurated ; Marie Antoinette passed through her bitter humiliations to execution. Before the boy was old enough to be sent to the secondary school of the Quartier, Danton and Robespierre had risen, tyrannized, and fallen ; the Girondists had gone down before the Jacobins, and Bonaparte had been proclaimed consul. A youth whose predilections were towards letters or philo-sophy had his lot cast in especially troubled times. At the age of ten young Cousin was sent to the secondary or grammar school of the Quartier St Antoine, named Lycée Charlemagne, a seminary of a rank analogous to the Prussian gymnasium. Here he studied until he was eighteen. This embraced the time of the Consulate and the First Empire,—the period of the power of Bonaparte down to very near the commencement of its decline. The Lycée, had a connection with the university, and when Cousin left the secondary school, he was crowned in the ancient hall of the Sorbonne for the Latin oration delivered by him there, in the general concourse of his school com-petitors. This juvenile distinction may be taken as the sign and promise of that fervid oratorical power for which in after years he was so remarkable. Curiously enough, it was this very hall of the Sorbonne which afterwards witnessed the greatest oratorical triumphs of his manhood, and it was in a suite of rooms under the same roof that he passed in quiet reflective seclusion the latter years of his long and active intellectual life. The careful classical training of the Lycée had at this early period strongly dis-posed him to Literature. He was already known among his compeers for a decided superiority in Greek and familiarity with the best Greek authors. From the Lycée he passed to the Normal School of Paris,—an institution of the higher educational order corresponding very much to the faculty of arts in our Scottish universities. It was destined to train the best youths of the secondary schools for teachers in the more advanced departments. At first simply a pupil, he very soon became a monitor or maître-répétiteur^ in Greek. His impulse at this time was entirely towards Fariy phi-letters. But it was now his fortune to meet with a power- !°sopbicai ful influence in a somewhat opposite direction. This was uences-the teaching of Laromiguière, who was then lecturing on philosophy in the Normal School. Cousin was through life essentially open to and impressible by outward influences ; and the earnestness and striking power of intellectual analysis displayed by the thinker in France who first opened up to him the questions of philosophy, and first, though only slightly, broke up the beaten path of Condillacism, were very certain to modify his character and studies. In the second preface to the Fragmens Philosophiques, in which he manfully and candidly states the varied philo-sophical influences of his life and their relation to his own opinions, he speaks of the grateful emotion excited by the memory of the day in 1811, when as a pupil in the Normal School destined to letters, he heard Laromiguière for the first time. " That day decided my whole life. Laromi-guière taught the philosophy of Locke and Condillac, happily modified on some points, with a clearness and grace which in appearance at least removed difficulties, and with a charm of spiritual bonhomie which penetrated and sub-dued." Cousin was set forthwith to lecture on philosophy, and he speedily obtained the position of master of confer-ences (maître de conferences) in the school. It was the practice of his pupils, who were usually in the third year of their course, to take notes and make a summary of the lectures delivered, and thereafter to meet in conference, the master presiding, for the purpose of discussing the principal points contained in them. This v/as the revival of a process very much akin to the mediaeval practice of determining as it was called. Cousin in the first preface to the Fragmens refers with great pleasure to the cherished memories of this period, when, he himself young and ardent and surrounded by sympathetic pupils, they together, for-getful of all else, essayed " the eternal problems " of speculative philosophy.
The youthful thinker very soon, however, passed beyond the point of view of Laromiguière. Royer-Collard was lecturing in the chair of the history of modern philosophy in the faculty of letters. Cousin was very speedily attracted by him, and the teaching of Royer-Collard formed the second great philosophical impulse of his life. This teacher, as he tells us, " by the severity of his logic, the gravity and weight of his words, turned me by degrees, and not without resistance, from the beaten path of Con-dillac into the way which has since become so easy, but which was then painful and unfrequented, that of the Scottish philosophy." In 1815-16 Cousin attained tha position of suppléant or assistant to Royer-Collard in the

chair of the faculty of letters. But there was still another mind which influenced the young and susceptible philo-sopher at this early period. This was Maine-de-Biran,— the expounder of the volitional theory of cause, and the upholder of a highly spiritual philosophy. Cousin regarded Maine de-Biran as the unequalled psychological observer of his time in France, alike in the delicacy and the depth of his analysis. All these men strongly influenced both the method and the matter of his philosophical thought. To Laromiguiere he himself attributes the lesson of decom-posing thought, even though the reduction of it to sensation was inadequate. Boyer-Collard taught him that even sensation is subject to certain internal laws and principles which it does not itself explain, which are superior to analysis and the natural patrimony of the mind. De Biran made a special study of the phenomena of the will. He taught him to distinguish in all cognitions, and especially in the simplest facts of consciousness, the fact of voluntary activity, that activity in which our personality is truly revealed. It was through this " triple discipline," as he calls it, that Cousin's philosophical thought was first developed, and that in 1815 he entered on the public teaching of philosophy in the Normal School and in the faculty of letters . But the energy and impressibility of the young professor were not to be limited by the philo-sophical thought of his own country. He betook himself to the study of German, worked at Kant and Jacobi, and then sought to master the Philosophy of Nature of Schelling. By this he was at first greatly attracted. The influence of Schelling became manifest in his teaching, and it may be observed very markedly in the earlier form of his philo-sophy. He sympathized with the principle of faith of Jacobi, but regarded it as arbitrary so long as it was not recognized as grounded in reason. In 1817 he went to Germany, and met Hegel at Heidelberg. In this year appeared Hegel's Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences, of which Cousin had one of the earliest copies. He thought Hegel not particularly amiable ; but the two became "friends. The following year Cousin went to Munich, where he met Schelling for the first time, and spent a month with him and Jacobi, obtaining a deeper insight into the Philosophy of Nature, His contrast of Hegel and Schelling is interesting. No two people, he tells us, can be more unlike than the master and the disciple. " Hegel lets fall words few and profound, and somewhat enigmatic; his speech is strong but embarrassed; his immovable countenance, his clouded forehead, seem the image of thought which turns back on itself. Schelling is thought developed. His language is like his look, rapid, full of eclat and life. He is naturally eloquent."
Cousin's future course in life as a professor of philosophy Political seemed now to be determined. But the political troubles trouUes. 0f trie country were to interfere for a time with this promising career. In the events of 1814-15 Cousin took the royalist side. He at first adopted the views of the party of which Royer-Collard was the philosophical chief, known as doctrinaire. He seems then to have gone further than this party, and even to have approached the extreme Left or Carbonari section of politicians. This has been alleged, though it is not in accordance with the usual moderation of his character and political views. Then came a reaction against liberalism, and in 1821-22 Cousin was deprived of his offices alike in the faculty of letters and in the Normal School. The Normal School itself was swept away. He simply shared at the hands of a narrow and illiberal Government, influenced mainly by the priest-hood, the fate of Guizot, who was ejected from the chair of history. Such was the spirit which actuated the fiist
restoration and the Government of Louis XVIII. This enforced abandonment of public teaching was not wholly an evil to the young speculator. He again set out for Germany with a view to further philosophical study. And here there occurred a curious episode in his life. While at Berlin in 1824-25 he was arrested and thrown into prison, either on some ill-defined political charge at the instance of the French police, or on account of certain incautious expressions which he had let fall in conversation. This imprisonment was in fact the result of the persistent persecution of the man who exercised free thought and preached toleration, at the hands of the priestly party in France, who, ruling a weak king, had already deprived the professor of his public offices. Cousin was liberated at the end of six months,—having thus for an abstract philosopher had a tolerable taste of political martyrdom. He continued under the suspicion of the French Government for three years longer. It was during this period, however, that he thought out and developed what is distinctive in his philo-sophical doctrine. His eclecticism, ontology, and his philosophy of history were declared in principle and in most of their salient details in the Fragmens Philosophiques Fragmens of 1826. The preface to the second edition (1833) and-™'°s£ the Avertissement to the third (1838) aimed at a vindi-pulwes-cation of his principles from hostile contemporary criticism. Even the best of his later books, the Philosophic Ecossaise, the Du Vrai, du Beau, et du Bien, and the Philosophic de Locke were simply matured revisions of his lectures during the period from 1815 to 1820. The lectures on Locke were first sketched in 1819, and fully developed in the course of 1829.
During the seven years of forced abandonment of teach-ing, he produced, besides the Fragmens, the edition of the works of Proclus (6 vols. 1820-27), and the works of Des-cartes (11 vols., 1826). He also commenced his Translation of Plato (13 vols.), which occupied his leisure time from 1825 to 1840.
We seem the Fragmens very distinctly the fusion of the different philosophical influences of his life to which we have referred, and by which his opinions were finally moulded and matured. For Cousin was as eclectic in cast of thought and personal habit of mind, as he was in philo-sophical principle aud system. It is with the publication of the Fragmens of 1826 that the first great widening of his reputation is associated. In 1827 followed the Cours de I'Histoire de la Philosophic
In 1828 popular feeling forced the king (Charles X.) to a change of ministry, and M. Martiguac returned to the constitutional Charter of 1814, which sought to conciliate liberty and order, but which had been most unfaithfully worked under the restoration. A more enlightened and tolerant spirit seems to have arisen, and M. de Vatimesnil, minister of public instruction, recalled Cousin along with Guizot to their professorial positions in the university. Cousin's re-appearance in the chair, " on the occasion," as he said, " of the return of the constitutional hopes of France," was marked by an enthusiastic demonstration on the part of students and auditors. The professoriate in Paris reached its golden age, at least in this century, when Guizot, Villemain, and Cousin were now colleagues in the faculty of letters.
The three years which followed 1828 was the period of career as Cousin's greatest distinction and triumph as a lecturer, a lecturer. He re-appeared in sympathy with the national feeling of the time; he had suffered for his adherence to popular principles; his return to the chair was at once a compensa-tion for what he had undergone, and the symbol of the triumph of constitutional ideas. This prepared a ready sympathy for him. The hall of the Sorbonne was crowded with auditors as the hall of no philosophical teacher iu

Paris had been since the days of Ahelard. The lecturer had a singular power of identifying himself for the time with the system which he expounded, and the historical character he pourtrayed. Clear and comprehensive in the grasp of the general outlines of his subject, he was at the same time exceedingly methodical and vivid in the representation of details. In exposition he had the rare art of unfolding and aggrandizing. Beginning with the simple or particular, he proceeded readily and easily to complete the listener's grasp of the matter in hand. There was a rich deep-toned resonant eloquence mingled with the speculative exposition; his style of expression was clear, elegant, and forcible, abounding in happy turns and striking antitheses. To this was joined a singular power of rhetorical climax. His philosophy exhibited in a striking manner the generalizing tendency of the French intellect, and its logical need of grouping details round central principles. The pretension even to grasp and formulize the history of philosophy was dazzling to the imagination of a Parisian auditory, however little ground it might have in fact or reason.
Influence There was withal a moral earnestness and elevation in
teaching ^a spiritual philosophy which came home to the hearts of
his hearers, and which seemed to afford a ground for higher
development in national literature and art, and even in
politics, than the traditional philosophy of France had
appeared capable of yielding. It was thus not to be
wondered at that the philosophical orator was received with
enthusiasm, and that his leeturea produced more ardent
disciples, imbued at least with his spirit, than it has been
the fortune of any other professor of philosophy in France
to gather round him in this century. Tested by the power
and effect of his teaching influence, Victor Cousin occupies a
foremost place in the rank of professors of philosophy, who
like Jacobi and Schelling in Germany and Dugald Stewart
in Scotland, have united the rare gifts of speculative, ex-
pository, and imaginative faculty. Tested even by the
strength of the reaction which his writings have in some
cases occasioned, his influence is hardly less remarkable,
and the degree of petulant detraction to which he himself
and his philosophy have been subjected even in France may
be taken as the tribute of envy to his power. The taste for
philosophy,—especially its history,—was revived in France
to an extent unknown since the 17th century.
Disciples Among the more distinguished men who were influenced
and by the teaching and example of Cousin, and who have
followers, carrie(i 0n philosophical work in his manner and spirit, we may note Jouffroy, Damiron, Gamier, Barthelemy St Hilaire, Ravaisson, Remusat, Jules Simon, and Franck. Jouffroy and Damiron were first fellow students, and then auditors and disciples. Jouffroy, however, always kept firm to the early—the French and Scottish—impulses of Cousin's teaching. The best research in the history of philosophy, and the best thought of France during the period from 1830 to 1848, were doubtless due to the teaching and writings of Cousin. In fact, for fully fifty years of the philosophical life of France, Cousin has been the greatest power. He continued to lecture regularly for two years and a half after his return to the chair. The three bloody days of July 1830 led to the flight of Charles X. This was followed by the accession of Louis Philippe, " by the will of the people,"—which meant very much the bourgeoisie of Paris and the middle class of the country. Cousin sympathized entirely with the revolution of July, and he wras at once recognized by the new Government as a friend of national liberty and constitutional rights. Writing in June 1833 he explains both his philosophical and his political position:—
"I had the advantage of holding united against me for many years, both the sensational and the theological school. In 1830 both schools descended into the arena of politics. The sensational
school quite naturally produced the demagogic party, and the theo-
logical school became quite as naturally absolutism, safe to borrow
from time to time the mask of the demagogue in order the better
to reach its ends, as in philosophy it is by scepticism that it under-
takes to restore theocracy. On the other hand, he who combated
any exclusive principle in science was bound to reject also any
exclusive principle in the state, and to defend representative
government." . -,
The Government was not tardy in honouring his public services as a professor and his contributions to the philo-sophical literature of the country. He was induced by the ministry of which his friend Guizot was the head to take a part in national administration. He ceased to lecture, but retained the title of professor of philosophy. He became a member of the council of public instruction and counsellor of state, and in 1832 he was made a peer of France. Finally, he accepted the position of minister of public in-struction in 1840 under Thiers. He was besides director of the Normal School and virtual head of the university, and from 1840 a member of the Institute (Academy of the Moral and Political Sciences). His character and his official position at this period gave him great power in the university and in the educational arrangements of the country. In fact, during the seventeen and a half years of the reign of Louis Philippe, Cousin mainly moulded the philosophical and even the literary tendencies of the culti-vated class in France.
But the most important work he accomplished during this "elation of period was doubtless the organization of primary instruction e™atìon in the country. It was to the efforts of Cousin that France in France, owed her advance, in primary education, from 1830 to 1848. Prussia and Saxony had set the national example, and France was guided into it by Cousin. Forgetful, as has been well said, of " national calamity and of personal wrong," he looked to Prussia as affording the best example of an organized system of national education ; and he was persuaded that " to carry back the education of Prussia into France afforded a nobler (if a bloodless) triumph than the trophies of Austerlitz and Jena." In the summer of 1831, commissioned by the Government, he proceeded to Germany, visiting Frankfort and Saxony, and spending some time in Berlin. The result was a series of reports to the minister, afterwards published as Rapport sur l'État de VInstruction Publique dans quelques pays de l'Allemagne et particulièrement en Prusse. (Compare also De l'Instruction Publique en Hollande, 1837.) His views were readily accepted on his return to France, and soon afterwards through his influence there was passed the law of primary instruction. (See his Exposé des Motifs et Projet de Loi sur VInstruction Primaire, présentés à la Chambre des Députés, Séance du 2 Janvier 1833.)
In the words of a reviewer at the time (Edinburgh Review, July 1833), these documents " mark an epoch in the progress of national education, and are directly con-ducive to results important not only to France but to Europe." The Report was translated by Mrs Austin in 1834. The translation was frequently reprinted in the United States of America. The legislatures of New Jersey and Massachusetts distributed it in the schools at the expense of the States. Cousin remarks that, among all the literary distinctions which he had received, " None has touched me more than the title of foreign member of the American Institute for Education." To the enlightened views of the ministries of Guizot and Thiers under the citizen-king, and to the zeal, energy, and ability of Cousin in the work of organization, France owes what is best in her system of primary education,—a national interest which had been neglected under the Revolution, the. Empire, and the Restoration (see Expose,]). 17). In the first two years of the reigu of Louis Philippe more was done for the

education of the people than had been either sought or accomplished in all the history of France. France since then has, perhaps, owing to political troubles and ecclesi-astical obstacles, followed but falteringly in the steps of Prussia; but some considerable progress has been made on the lines laid down by Cousin in a spirit of far-seeing patriotism. If, in 1866, about 30 per cent, of the military conscripts were unable to read, yet we must put alongside of this the fact that, while in 1824, the year of the accession of Charles X,, out of the 44,000 communes of France 25,000 were without schools, in that same year of 1866 there were 41,000 free and public schools for boys, and 14,000 for girls. In connection with his services to education we ought not to omit a notice of his noble and eloquent defence of university studies in the Chamber of Peers in 1844, when he stood manfully forth against the clerical party on the one hand, and the levelling or Philistine party on the other. His speeches on this occasion were afterwards published in a most interesting tractate entitled Defense 'de l'Université et de la Philosophie. Phiioso- This period of official life from 1830 to 1848 was spent phical D_ y™ so far as philosophical study was concerned, in revising his former lectures and writings, in maturing them for publication or re-issue, and in research into certain periods of the history of philosophy. In 1835 appeared De la Métaphysique d'Aristote, suivi d'un Essai de traduc-tion des deux premiers livres ; in 1836, Cours de philo-sophie professé à la faculté des lettres pendant Vannée 1818, and Ouvrages inédits d'Abêlard. This Cours de Philosophie appeared later in 1854 as Du Vrai, du Beau, et du Bien. From 1825 to 1840 appeared Cours de l'Histoire de la Philo-sophie, in 1839 Manuel de l'Histoire de la Philosophie de Tennemann, translated from the German. In 1840-41 we have Cours d'Histoire de la Philosophie Momie au XVIIIe Siècle (5 vols). In 1841 appeared his edition of the Œuvres Philosophiques de Maine-de-Biran ; in 1842, Leçons de Philosophie sur Kant, and in the same year Des Pensées de Pascal. The Nouveaux Fragments were gathered together and republished in 1847. Later, in 1859, appeared Petri Abcelardi Opera.
Literary During this period also he seems to have turned with Studies, fresh interest to those literary studies which in his youth he had abandoned for speculation under the influence of Laromiguière and Eoyer-Collard. To this renewed interest we owe his studies of men and women of note in France in the 17th century. This was an epoch of the national history whose spiritualism, alike in philosophy and religion, had a special attraction for him. He turned to it with increasing regard in his latter years, as best representing his own personal convictions and feelings. As the results of his work in this line, we have, besides the Des Pensées de Pascal, 1842, already noticed, Etudes sur les Femmes et la Société du XVIIe Siècle, 1853. He has sketched Jacqueline Pascal, Madame de Longueville, Madame de Sablé, Madame de Chevreuse, Madame de Hautefort. There is as yet no complete edition of his numerous works, which is a great desideratum.
"When the reign of Louis Philippe came to a close through the opposition of his ministry, with Guizot at its head, to the demand for electoral reform and through the disgrace-ful policy of the Spanish marriages, Cousin, who was opposed to the Government on these points, lent his sympathy to Cavaignac and the Provisional Government. He published a pamphlet entitled Justice et Charité, the purport of which showed the moderation of his political views. It was markedly anti-socialistic. But from this period he passed almost entirely from public life, and ceased to wield the personal \nfiuence which he had done during the preceding years. -After the coup d'état of the 2d December,he was deprived of his position as permanent
member of the superior council of public instruction. From Napoleon and the empire he stood essentially aloof. A decree of 1852 placed him along with Guizot and Villemain in the rank of honorary professors. His sympathies were apparently with the monarchy, under certain constitutional safeguards. Speaking in 1853 of the political issues of the spiritual philosophy which he had taught during his lifetime, he says,—" It conducts human societies to the true republic, that dream of all generous souls, which in our time can be realized in Europe only by constitutional monarchy."
During the last years of his life, he occupied a suite of Latter rooms in the Sorbonne, where he lived very simply and years, unostentatiously. The chief feature of the rooms was the noble library, the cherished collection of a lifetime, which was spread over the walls of each apartment. Besides Latin and Greek classics, representing the studies of his youth, it was rich in philosophical literature, especially historical. The compartments for Italian and English literature and philosophy were especially full and interest-ing ; and the whole was so carefully and methodically arranged that its learned possessor could quite readily lay his hand on any volume of his treasures. The present writer may perhaps be pardoned for saying that he well recollects a forenoon spent with him in these rooms, some twelve years ago. The kindliness of his manner, the rich-ness of his talk, his wonderful acquaintance with British literature, politics, and philosophy, the massive head with hair slightly turned to grey, and the kindling dark brown eyes, are elements in the picture of a very pleasant memory.
M. Cousin died at Cannes on the 13th January 1867 Death, in his sixty-fifth year. In the front of the Sorbonne, below the lecture-rooms of the faculty of letters, is a tablet recording an extract from the will of Victor Cousin, in which he appropriately bequeathes his noble and cherished library to the halls of his professorial work and triumphs.
There are three distinctive points in the philosophy of jjjg pnji0. M. Cousin. These are his method, the results of his method, sophy. and the application of the method and its results to his-tory,—especially to the history of philosophy. It is usual to speak of his philosophy as eclecticism. It is eclectic only in a secondary and subordinate sense. All eclecticism that is not self-condemned and inoperative implies a system of doctrine as its basis,—in fact, a criterion of truth. Otherwise, as Cousin himself remarks, it is simply a blind and useless syncretism. And Cousin saw and proclaimed from an early period in his philosophical teaching the necessity of a system on which to base his eclecticism. This is indeed advanced as an illustration or confirmation of the truth of his system,—as a proof that the facts of history correspond to his analysis of consciousness. These three points—the method, the results, and the philosophy of history—are with him intimately connected; they are developments in a natural order of sequence. They become in practice Psychology, Ontology, and Eclecticism in history.
First, as to method. On no point has Cousin more Method, strongly and frequently insisted than the importance of the method which philosophy may adopt. That which he adopts, and the necessity of which he so strongly proclaims, is the ordinary one of observation, analysis, and induction. This may seem commonplace enough, but it is really not so; it makes all the difference in the world as to the char-acter of a philosophy whether we follow the reflective analysis of experience, or a deductive method of the con-struction of notions. The observational method Cousin

regards as that of the IStn century,—the method which Descartes began and abandoned, and which Locke and Condillac applied, but applied imperfectly, aud which Reid and Kant used with more success, yet not completely. He insists that this is the true method of philosophy as applied to consciousness, in which alone the facts of experience appear. But the proper condition of the application of the method is that it shall not through prejudice of system omit a single fact of consciousness. If the authority of consciousness is good in one instance, it is good in all. If not to be trusted in one, it is not to be trusted in any. Previous systems have erred in not presenting the facts of consciousness, i.e., consciousness itself, in their totality. The observational method applied to conscious-ness gives us the science of psychology. This is the basis and the only proper basis of ontology or metaphysics—the science of being—and of the philosophy of history. To the observation of consciousness Cousin adds induction as the complement of his method, by which he means inference as to reality necessitated by the data of consciousness, and Tegulated by certain laws found in consciousness, viz., those of the reason. By his method of observation and induction as thus explained, his philosophy will be found to be marked off very clearly, on the one hand from the deductive construction of notions of an absolute system, as represented either by Schelling or Hegel, which Cousin regards as based simply on hypothesis and abstraction, illegitimately obtained; and on the other, from that of Kant, and in a sense, of Hamilton, both of which in the view of Cousin are limited to psychology, and merely relative or phenomenal knowledge, and issue in scepticism so far as the great realities of ontology are concerned. What Cousin finds psychologically in the individual consciousness, he finds also spontaneously expressed in the common sense or universal experience of humanity. In fact, it is with him the function of philosophy to classify and explain universal convictions aud beliefs; but common sense is not with him philosophy, nor is it the instrument of philosophy; it is simply the material on which the philosophical method works, and in harmony with which its results must ultimately be found.
The three great results of psychological observation are Sensibility, Activity or Liberty, and Reason.
These three facts are different in character, but are not found apart in consciousness. Sensations, or the facts of the sensibility, are necessary; we do not impute them to ourselves. The facts of reason are also necessary, and reason is not less independent of the will than the sensibility. Voluntary facts are alone marked in the eyes of consciousness with the characters of imputability and personality. The will alone is the person or Me. The me . is the centre of the intellectual sphere without which con-sciousness is impossible. We find ourselves in a strange world, between two orders of phenomena which do not belong to us, which we apprehend only on the condition of our distinguishing ourselves from them. Further, we apprehend by means of a light which does not come from ourselves. All light comes from the reason, and it is the reason which apprehends both itself, and the sensibility which envelopes it and the will which it obliges but does not constrain. Consciousness then is composed of these three integrant and inseparable elements. But Reason is the immediate ground of knowledge, and of consciousness itself.
Spontan- But there is a peculiarity in M. Cousin's doctrine of ^ m activity or freedom, and in his doctrine of reason, which enters deeply into his system. This is the element of spontaneity in volition and in reason. This is the heart of what is new alike in his doctrine of knowledge and being. Liberty or freedom is a generic term which means a cause or being endowed with self-activity. This is to itself and its own development its own ultimate cause. Free-will is so, although it is preceded by deliberation and determination, i.e., reflection, for we are always conscious that even after determination we are free to will or not to will. But there is a primary kind of volition, which has not reflection for its condition, which is yet free and spontaneous. We must have willed thus spontaneously first, otherwise we could not know, before our reflective volition, that we could will and act. Spontaneous volition is free as reflective, but it is the primary act of the two. This view of liberty of will is the only one in accordance with the facts of humanity; it excludes reflective volition, and explains the enthusiasm of the poet and the artist in the act of creation; it explains also the ordinary actions of mankind, which are done as a rule spontaneously and not after reflective deliberation.
But it is in his doctrine of the Reason that the distinc- Imperson five principle of the philosophy of Cousin lies. The reason aht^ of given to us by psychological observation, the reason of our consciousness, is impersonal in its nature. We do not make it; its character is precisely the opposite of in-dividuality ; it is universal and necessary. The recognition of universal aud necessary principles in knowledge is the essential point in psychology ; it ought to be put first aud emphasized to the last that these exist, and that they are wholly impersonal or absolute. The number of these principles, their enumeration and classification, is an important point, but it is secondary to that of the recogni-tion of their true nature. This was the point which Kant missed in his analysis, and this is the fundamental truth which Cousin thinks he has restored to the integrity of philosophy by the method of the observation of conscious-ness. And how is this impersonality or absoluteness of the conditions of knowledge sought to be established ] The answer is in substance that Kant went wrong in putting necessity first as the criterion of those laws. This brought them within the sphere of reflection, and gave as their guarantee the impossibility of thinking them reversed; and led to their being regarded as wholly relative to human intelligence, restricted to the sphere of the phenomenal, incapable of revealing to us substantial reality—necessary, yet subjective. But this test of necessity is a wholly secondary one ; these laws are not thus guaranteed to us; they are each and all given to us, given to our conscious-ness, in an act of spontaneous apperception or apprehen-sion, immediately, instantaneously, in a sphere above the reflective consciousness, yet within the reach of knowledge. And "all subjectivity with all reflection expires in the spontaneity of apperception. The reason becomes subjective by relation to the voluntary and free self; but in itself it is impersonal; it belongs not to this or to that self in humanity; it belongs not even to humanity. We may say with truth that nature and humanity belong to it, for without its laws both would perish."
But what is the number of those laws 1 Kant reviewing Laws of the enterprize of Aristotle in modern times has given a reason, complete list of the laws of thought, but it is arbitrary in classification, and may be legitimately reduced. According to Cousin, there are but two primary laws of thought, that of causality and that of substance. From these flow naturally all the others. In the order of nature, that of substance is the first and causality second. In the order of acquisition of our knowledge, causality precedes sub-stance, or rather both are given us in each other, and are contemporaneous in consciousness.
These principles of reason, cause and substance, given thus psychologically, enable us to pass beyond the limits of the relative and subjective to objective and absolute reality,—enable us, in a word, to pass from psychology, or

the science of knowledge, to ontology, or the science of
being. These laws are inextricably mixed in consciousness
with the data of volition and sensation, with free activity
and fatal action or impression, and they guide us in rising
to a personal being, a self or free cause, and to an
impersonal reality, a not-me—nature, the world of force—
lying out of us, and modifying us. As I refer to myself
the act of attention and volition, so I cannot but refer the
sensation to some cause, necessarily other than myself, that
is, to an external cause, whose existence is as certain for
me as my own existence, since the phenomenon which
suggests it to me is as certain as the phenomenon which
had suggested my reality, and both are given in each
other. I thus reach an objective impersonal world of
forces which corresponds to the variety of my sensations.
The relation of these forces or causes to each other is the
order of the universe.
The in- But these two forces, the me and the not-me, are
finite or reciprocally limitative. As reason has apprehended these absolute. ^o sjmui(;aneous phenomena, attention and sensation, and led us immediately to conceive the two sorts of distinct causes, correlative and reciprocally finite, to which they are related, so, from the notion of this limitation, we find it impossible under the same guide not to conceive a supreme cause, absolute and infinite, itself the first and last cause of all. This is relatively to self and not-self what these are to their proper effects. This cause is self-sufficient, and is sufficient for the reason. This is God; he must be con-ceived under the notion of cause, related to humanity and the world. He is absolute substance only in so far as he is absolute cause, and his essence lies precisely in his creative power. He thus creates, and he creates necessarily.
Charge of This theodicy of Cousin laid him open obviously enough pantheism. to ^ charge of pantheism. This he repels, and his answer may be summed up as follows. Pantheism is pro-perly the deification of the law of phenomena, the universe God. But I distinguish the two finite causes self and not-self from each other and from the infinite cause. They are not mere modifications of this cause or properties, as with Spinoza,—they are free forces having their power or spring of action in themselves, and this is sufficient for our idea of independent finite reality. I hold this, and I hold the relation of these as effects to the one supreme cause. The God I plead for is neither the deity of Pan-theism, nor the absolute unity of the Eleatics, a being divorced from all possibility of creation or plurality, a mere metaphysical abstraction. The deity I maintain is creative, and necessarily creative. The deity of Spinoza and the Eleatics is a mere substance, not a cause in any sense. As to the necessity under which Deity exists of acting or creating, this is the highest form of liberty, it is the free-dom of spontaneity, activity without deliberation. His action is not the result of a struggle between passion and virtue. He is free in an unlimited manner, the purest spontaneity in man is but the shadow of the freedom of God. He acts freely but not arbitrarily, and with the consciousness of being able to choose the opposite part. He cannot deliberate or will as we do. His spontaneous action excludes at once the efforts and the miseries of will and the mechanical operation of necessity.
The elements found in consciousness are also to be found History of -ia the history of humanity and in the history of philosophy.
In external nature there are expansion and contraction which correspond to spontaneity and reflection. External nature again in contrast with humanity expresses spon-taneity; humanity expresses reflection. In human his-tory the East represents the spontaneous stage; the Pagan and Christian world represent stages of reflection.
Th a was afterwards modified, expanded, and more fully expressed by saying that humanity in its universal development has three principal moments. First, in the spontaneous stage, where reflection is not jet developed, and art is imperfect, humanity has thought only of the immensity around it. It is preoccupied by the infinita Secondly, in the reflective stage, mind has become an object to itself. It thus knows itself explicitly or reflec-tively. Its own individuality is now the only or at least the supreme thing. This is the moment of the finite Thirdly, there comes an epoch in which the self or me is subordinated. Mind realizes another power in the universe. The finite and the infinite become two real correlatives in the relation of cause and product. This is the third and highest stage of development, the relation of the finite and the infinite. As philosophy is but the highest expression of humanity, these three moments will be repre-sented in its history. The East typifies the infinite, Greece the finite or reflective epoch, the modern era the stage of relation or correlation of infinite and finite. In theology, the dominant philosophical idea of each of these epochs results in pantheism, polytheism, theism. In politics wb have in correspondence also with the idea, monarchy, democracy, constitutionalism.
Eclecticism thus means the application of the psychologi- jielecti-cal method to the history of philosophy. Confronting the ism-various systems co-ordinated as sensualism, idealism, scep-ticism, mysticism, with the facts of consciousness, the result was reached " that each system expresses an order of phe-nomena and ideas, which is in truth very real, but which is not alone in consciousness, and which at the same time holds an almost exclusive place in the system; whence it follows that each system is not false but incomplete, and that in reuniting all incomplete systems, we should have a complete philosophy, adequate to the totality of conscious-ness." Philosophy, as thus perfected, would not be a mere aggregation of systems, as is ignorantly supposed, but an integration of the truth in each system after the false or incomplete is discarded.
Such is the system in outline. The historical positioa Relations of the system lies in its relations to Kant, Schelling, an 1'° Ka°t, Hegel. Cousin was opposed to Kant in asserting that the all(j Hegel, unconditioned in the form of infinite or absolute cause was but a mere unrealizable tentative or effort on the part of the mind, something different from a mere negation, yet not equivalent to a positive thought. With Cousin the absolute as the ground of being is grasped positively by the intelligence, and it renders all else intelligible; it is not as with Kant a certain hypothetical or regulative need.
With Schelling again Cousin agrees in regarding this supreme ground of all as positively apprehended, and as a source of development, but he utterly repudiates Schelling's method. The intellectual intuition either falls under the eye of consciousness, or it does not. If not, how do you know it and its object which are identical 1 If it does, it comes within the sphere of psychology; and the objections to it as thus a relative, made by Schelling himself, are to be dealt with. Schelling's intellectual intuition is the mere negation of knowledge.
Again, the pure being of Hegel is a mere abstraction,— an hypothesis illegitimately assumed, which he has nowhere sought to vindicate. The very point to be established is the possibility of reaching being per se or pure being; yet in the Hegelian system this is the very thing assumed as a starting-point. Besides this, of course, objections might be made to the method of development, as not only sub-verting the principle of contradiction, but as galvanizing negation into a means of advancing or developing the whole body of human knowledge and reality. The intellectual intuition of Schelling, as above consciousness, the pure being of Hegel, as an empty abstraction, unvindicated.

Hamilton's criticism.

Criticism of his philo sophy. Impersonality of reason.
illegitimately assumed, and arbitrarily developed, are equally useless as bases of metaphysics. This led Cousin, still holding by essential knowledge of being, to ground it in an analysis of consciousness,— in psychology.
The absolute or infinite—the unconditioned ground and source of all reality— is yet apprehended by us as an immediate datum or reality ; and it is apprehended in consciousness,—under its condition, that, to wit, of distinguish-ing subject and object, knower and known. The doctrine of Cousin was, as is well known, criticised by Sir W. Hamilton in the Edinburgh Review of 1829, and it was animadverted upon about the same time by Schelling. The latter Cousin calls the greatest thinker, and the former the greatest critic of the age. Hamilton's objections are as follows. The correlation of the ideas of infinite and finite does not necessarily imply their correality, as Cousin sup-poses ; on the contrary, it is a presumption that finite is simply positive and infinite negative of the same,—that the finite and infinite are simply contradictory relatives. Of these " the positive alone is real, the negative is only an abstraction of the other, and in the highest generality even an abstraction of thought itself." A study of the few sentences under this head might have obviated the trifling criticism of Hamilton's objection which has been set afloat recently, that the denial of a knowledge of the absolute or infinite implies a foregone knowledge of it. How can you deny the reality of that which you do not know 1 The answer to this is that in the case of contradictory statements,—A and not A,—the latter is a mere negation of the former, and posits nothing ; and the negation of a notion with positive attributes, as the finite, does not extend beyond abolishing the given attributes as an object of thought. The infinite or non-finite is not necessarily known, ere the finite is negated, or in order to negate it; all that needs be known is the finite itself ; and the contradictory negation of it implies no positive. Non-organized may or may not correspond to a positive,—i.e., an object or notion with qualities contradictory of the organized ; but the mere sublation of the organized does not posit it, or suppose that it is known beforehand, or that anything exists corresponding to it. This is one among many flaws in the Hegelian dialectic, and it paralyzes the whole of the Logic. Secondly, The conditions of intelligence, which Cousin allows, necessarily exclude the possibility of knowledge of the absolute,—they are held to be incompatible with its unity. Here Schelling and Hamilton argue that Cousin's absolute is a mere relative. Thirdly, It is objected that in order to deduce the conditioned, Cousin makes his absolute a relative; for he makes it an absolute cause, i.e., a cause existing absolutely under relation. As such it is necessarily inferior to the sum total of its effects, and dependent for reality on these—in a word, a mere potence or becoming. Further, as a theory of creation, it makes creation a necessity, and destroys the notion of the divine. Cousin made no reply to Hamilton's criticism beyond alleging that Hamilton's doctrine necessarily restricted human knowledge and certainty to psychology and logic, and destroyed metaphysics by introducing nescience and uncertainty into its highest sphere,—theodicy.
The attempt to render the laws of reason or thought impersonal by professing to find them in the sphere of spontaneous apperception, and above reflective necessity, can hardly be regarded as successful. It may be that we first of all primitively or spontaneously affirm cause, substance, time, space, &c, in this way. But these are still in each instance given us as realized in a particular form. In no single act of afnraiation of cause or substance, much less in such a primitive act, do we affirm the universality of their application. We might thus get particular instances or cases of these laws, but we could never get the laws themselves in their universality, far less absolute impersonality. And as they are not supposed to be mere generalizations from experience, no amount of individual instances of the application of any one of them by us would give it a true universality. The only sure test we have of their universality in our experience is the test of their reflective necessity. We thus after all fall back on reflection as our ground for their universal application; mere spontaneity of apprehension is futile ; their universality is grounded in their necessity, not their necessity in their universality. How far and in what sense this ground of necessity renders them personal are of course questions still to be solved.
But if these three correlative facts are immediately given, it seems to be thought possible by Cousin to vindicate them in reflective consciousness. He seeks to trace the steps which the reason has spontaneously and consciously, but irreflectively, followed. And here the question arises— Can we vindicate in a reflective or mediate process this spontaneous apprehension of reality 1
The self is found to be a cause or force, free in its action, on the ground that we are obliged to relate the volition of consciousness to the self as its cause, and its ultimate cause. It is not clear from the analysis whether the self is immediately observed as an acting or originating cause, or whether reflection working on the principle of causality is compelled to infer its exis-tence and character. If self is actually so given, we do not need the principle of causality to infer it; if it is not so given, causality could never give us either the notion or the fact of self as a cause or force, far less as an ultimate one. All that it could do would be to warrant a cause of some sort, but not this or that reality as the cause. And further, the principle of causality, if fairly carried out, as universal and necessary, would not allow us tu stop at personality or will as the ultimate cause of its effect,—voli-tion. Once applied to the facts at all, it would drive us beyond the first antecedent or term of antecedents of volition to a still further cause or ground,—in fact, land us in an infinite regress of causes.
The same criticism is even more emphatically applicable to the influence of a not-self, or world of forces, corresponding to our sensations, and the cause of them. Starting from sensation as our basis, causality could never give us this, even though it be allowed that sensation is impersonal to the extent of being independent of our volition. Causality might tell us that a cause there is of sensation somewhere and of some sort; but that this cause is a force or sum of forces, existing in space, independently of us, and corresponding to our sensations, it could never tell us, for the simple reason that such a notion is not supposed to exist in our consciousness. Causality cannot add to the number of our notions,—cannot add to the number of realities we know. All it can do is to necessitate us to think that a cause there is of a given change, but what that cause ic it cannot of itself inform us, or even suggest to us, beyond implyingthat it must be adequate to the effect. Sensation might arise, for aught we know, so far as caus-ality leads us, not from a world of forces at all, but from a will like our own, though infinitely more powerful, acting upon us, partly furthering and partly thwarting us. And indeed such a supposition is, with the principle of causality at work, within the limits of probability, as we are already supposed to know such a reality,— a will—in our own consciousness. When Cousin thus set himself to vindicate those points by reflection, he gave up the obvious advantage of his other position that the realities in question are given us in immediate and spontaneous apprehension. The same criticism applies equally to the inference of an absolute cause from the two limited forces

_which he names self and not-self. Immediate spontaneous apperception may seize this supreme reality; but to vindicate it by reflection as an inference on the principle of causality is impossible. This is a mere paralogism; we can never infer either absolute or infinite from relative or finite.
The truth is that M. Cousin's doctrine of the spontaneous apperception of impersonal truth amounts to little more than a presentment in philosophical language of the ordinary convictions and beliefs of mankind. This is important as a preliminary stage, but philosophy properly begins when it attempts to co-ordinate or systematize those convictions in harmony, to conciliate apparent contradiction and opposition, as between the correlative notions of finite and infinite, the apparently conflicting notions of personality and infinitude, self and not-self; in a word, to reconcile the various sides of consciousness with each other. And whether the laws of our reason are the laws of all intelli-gence and being,—whether and how we are to relate our fundamental, intellectual, and moral conceptions to what is beyond our experience, or to an infinite being,—are problems which Cousin cannot be regarded as having solved. These are in truth the outstanding problems of modern philosophy. Volition. Cousin's doctrine of spontaneity in volition can hardly be said to be more successful than his impersonality of the reason through spontaneous apperception. Sudden, unpre-meditated volitiou may be the earliest and the most artistic, but it is not the best. Volition is essentially a free choice between alternatives, and that is best which is most deliberate, because it is most rational. Aristotle long ago touched this point in his distinction between BovXrjms and wpocupeo-ts. The sudden and unpremeditated wish repre-sented by the former is wholly inferior in character to the free choice of the latter, guided and illumined by intel-ligence. In this we can deliberately resolve upon what is in our power; in that we are subject to the vain impulse of wishing the impossible. Spontaneity is pleasing, sometimes beautiful, but it is not in this instance the highest quality of the thing to be obtained. That is to be found in a guiding and illumining reflective activity. General Eclecticism is not open to the superficial objection of pro-estimate, ceediug without a system or test in determining the com-plete or incomplete. But it is open to the objection of assuming that a particular analysis of consciousness has reached all the passible elements in humanity and in history, and all their ccmbinations. It may be asked, Can history have that which is not in the individual con-sciousness 1 In a sense not; but our analysis may not give all that is there, and we ought not at once to impose that analysis or any formula on history. History is as likely to reveal to us in the first place true and original elements, and combinations of ele-ments in man, as a study of consciousness. Besides, the tendency of applying a formula of this sort to history is to assume that the elements are developed in a certain regular or necessary order, whereas this may not at all be the case ; but we may find at any epoch the whole mixed, either crossing or co-operative, as in the consciousness of the individual himself. Further, the question as to how these elements may possibly have grown up in the general con-sciousness of mankind is assumed to be non-existent or impossible.
It was the tendency of the philosophy of Cousin to out-line things and to fill up the details in an artistic and imaginative interest. This is necessarily the case, especially in the application to history of all formulas sup-posed to be derived either from an analysis of conscious-ness, or from an abstraction called pure thought. Cousin was observational and generalizing rather than analytic and discriminating. His search into principles was not profound, and his power of rigorous consecutive development was not remarkable. These qualities are essential to the formation of a lasting body of philosophic knowledge. He has left no distinctive principle of philosophy which is likely to be permanent. But he has left very interesting psychological analyses, and several new, just, and true expositions of philo-sophical systems, especially that of Locke and the philo-sophers of Scotland. He was at the same time a man of impressive power, of rare and wide culture, and of lofty aim,—far above priestly conception and Philistine narrow-ness. He was familiar with the broad lines of nearly every system of philosophy ancient and modern. His eclecticism was the proof of a reverential sympathy with the struggles of human thought to attain to certainty in the highest pro-blems of speculation. It was eminently a doctrine of comprehension and of toleration. In these respects it formed a marked and valuable contrast to the arrogance of absolutism, which really means a supreme egoism, to the narrow dogmatism of sensationalism, and to the not less narrow doctrine of church authority, preached by the theo-logical school of his day. His spirit, while it influenced the youth of France, saved them from the effects of all these lowering influences. As an earnest educational reformer, as a man of letters and learning, who trode " the large and impartial ways of knowledge," and who swayed others to the same paths, as a thinker influential alike in the action and the reaction to which he led,—in some cases the petulant detraction which may pass as a tribute to power,—Cousin stands out conspicuously among the memorable Frenchmen of the 19th century.
We might be inclined to modify the strength of some
of the following expressions, but we cannot help feeling
that they are in the main true :—" A profound and original
thinker, a lucid and eloquent writer, a scholar equally at
home in ancient and in modern learning, a philosopher
superior to all prejudices of age or country, party or pro-
fession, and whose lofty eclecticism, seeking truth under
every form of opinion, traces its unity even through the
most hostile systems." Such was the estimate of Victor
Cousin by the acutest critic and most resolute opponent of
his philosophy in this century. (j. v.)


Fragmens Fhilosophiques,—Preface Deuxieme.

Du Vrai, Du Beau, Du Bien,—Preface.

Search the Encyclopedia:

About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us

© 2005-17 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries