« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
John the Baptist. But the world grew tired of the metaphysical conflicts which his writings had produced, and which had been shaking with convulsions the Church for ages. The efforts of the Greeks to introduce the milder and more consistent doctrines of Plato were, therefore, under the patronage of Cosmo de Medici, attended with gradual success, and soon the effect was visible in a disposition among many to question the superiority of Aristotle over Plato, which gave rise to two new pbilosophical parties in Italy, who discussed with great virulence, and in a multiplicity of publications, the relative merits of the rival philosophers. It remained, however, for the reformation to complete the advances already made toward a revival of true learning, and to introduce the most eventful era yet recorded in the progress of society, -an era of transition-of day-dawn between the darkest, the midnight period of the history of man, and the most effulgent, rapid, and irresistible advancements in civilization that have ever been achieved. The strong arm of the Saxon reformer threw the apotheasized idol of the genius of the Stagyrite from its venerable pedestal, and estab lished in its place the primeval cross in all its glory and simplicity. (1517.) The spirit of inquiry and intellectual liberty, which had occa. sionally attempted to break in whispers before, now spoke from Wittemberg in a voice that sent a thrill of life through Europe, and which the thunders of the Vatican attempted in vain to stifle. The schools were closed; and the writings of Grotius, which are the best depositories of the ethical opinions that prevailed from the cessation of the schools to the writings of Hobbes, which introduced the modern period of the history of speculative philosophy, show the approximation of that more rational state of philosophical inquiry which has prevailed since his day.
We have thus cursorily traced the history of the progress of the scholastic philosophy, from the introduction of the Aristotelian dia. lectics, in the fifth century, to the closing of the schools, in the fifteenth century. Before dismissing the subject, let us briefly re trace our steps, and glance at the character of that strange and heterogeneous compound of subtle absurdities with Divine truths which comprehended the subjects of the inquiries and disputes of this protracted period. We have already stated that the scholastic theology originated in the example of Origen, who first applied the principles of the New Platonists to the elucidation of the sacred doctrines.. The writings of St. Augustine aided much in the subsequent influence of this unfortunate measure of Origen. His treatise on dialectics derived universal authority from the great influence which his name commanded, an influence which raised him to unrivalled eminence among the doctors of the Latin Church, and rendered for centuries his writings almost the sole oracles of its doctrines. He was a man of superior powers, but of sanguine and impetuous feelings, and was distinguished through his life for the most various and extreme tenets. He was a disciple of the Platonic school, though the schoolmen who adopted his writings adhered with exclusive veneration to the peripatetic philosophy. The doctrines of Augustine, which constituted the chief topics of the speculations of the scholastic theology, were particularly those of predestination and grace. These opinions were little known to the earlier Christians, and were never received if known in the eastern Church. Anselm, the Archbishop of Canterbury, first revived them. The powerful genius of Thomas Aquinas illustrated and defended them with extraordinary acuteness.
The great difficulty of the schoolmen, not only in respect to the Augustinian opinions, but indeed as regards almost all the topics of their discussions, lay in the want of a knowledge of those limitations which define the utmost extent of human comprehension, and the consequent endeavor to urge their researches into the ulterior regions of truth, where, at least with the present constitution of our nature, it is forbidden the human mind to penetrate. Among the subjects that thus limit our comprehension, and which were common topics of the most subtle speculation among the scholastics, and were, for the first time, designated by Locke as beyond the reach of the human understanding, are the essence, or interior nature of things, the existence and nature of the mind, the ideas of infinity, and eternity, and space, of personal identity, of the existence and nature of matter, all simple ideas, &c.,—truths that are ultimate, and therefore incapable of analysis. The opinions of Augustine, if they may not be ranked among these incomprehensible subjects, must, at least, be acknowledged to be intimately allied to them, especially the doctrine of the co-existence of the Divine prescience with the freedom of the human will. The abstruse points above enumerated were strangely blended with purely theological truths, and investigated with a system of dialectics replete with perplexity and mystery, until not only all theoretical religion became obscured to the understanding, but nearly all the practical virtues of forbearance and charity were alienated from the heart. The contentions of these polemics frequently led to the most violent animosities, and they attempted to overthrow each other, not only by the most contemptible efforts of chicanery, but by a resort to legal prosecutions, and the still more effectual force of arms. An excellent writer of the sixteenth century thus describes the character of these wrangling philosophers. From the writings of Aristotle they have selected, not the best and most useful, but the most intricate and unprofitable parts. The truth is, that these philosophers are less acquainted with nature than husbandmen and mechanics; and so much offended are they with nature, which they do not understand, that they have framed for themselves another nature, which God never framed, consisting of formalities, realities, relations, and other subtleties, which they honor with the name of metaphysical world ; and if any man has a turn of mind averse to the study of real nature, but adapted to the pursuit of these fictions, they say he is possessed of a sublime genius. The topics upon which these philosophers spent the whole force of their ingenuity were of a kind the most abstruse, trifling, and useless. Intention and remission, proportion and degree, infinity and formality, guiddity and individuality, and other abstract ideas, furnished innumerable questions to exercise their subtlety. Not contented with considering properties and relations as they exist and are perceived in natural objects, they separated, in their conceptions, the former from the latter, and by this artifice transferred them into universal notions; and then, forgetting that these notions
are merely the offspring of the reasoning mind, they considered them as real entities, and made use of then as substantial principles in explaining the nature of things. This they did, not only in metaphysics, but in physics, in which these imaginary entities con. fused and obscured all their reasonings. If these creatures of abstraction be brought back to their natural connection with real objects, and with the terms which express them, it will appear that they had nothing more than an imaginary existence, and the whole contest concerning them will vanish into a mere war of words; whence some judgment may be formed of the value of this most profound, angelic, and seraphic philosophy.'
The disputatious spirit, inseparable from such wild and perplexing speculations, necessarily produced a variety of sects, who indulged toward each other the most vehement enmity. The disciples of Albert, called Albertists, were violently opposed by the followers of Peter Lombard. John Duns Scotus attacked with great warmth the Augustinian doctrines of Thomas Aquinas. The Dominicans, who held as sacred the opinions of St. Thomas, and the Franciscans, who equally appreciated Scotus, violently contended for the views of their respective favorites, and thence arose the Thomists and Scotists, memorable sects in the ecclesiastical history of the times. From the school of Scotus arose Occam, the celebrated English schoolman, whose followers were denominated Occamists. But the most noted sects of the schoolmen were those called Realists and Nominalists. The controversies between these two sects related to the difficult and long contested question respect. ing the nature of general abstract ideas.
General abstract ideas are those which we have of things when we contemplate them in their genera, or species, and are expressed by common nouns, such as man, animal, tree, bird, fish, &c. These names express no individual of the classes to which they refer, but the whole genus or species. The process by which we form general abstract ideas consists in the comparison of objects, the discovery, by this comparison, of points of resemblance and difference, and the arrangement of them according to their differences and resemblances. Thus, to use an illustration rather inadvertently stated in Locke, the word triangle is the name of a general abstract idea, because it implies no one individual, but a genus of mathematical figures, concurring in the circumstance of being bounded by three straight lines intersecting each other so as to form three angles. Now this property belongs to each individual of the class,-to the obtuse angled triangle, the acute angled triangle, the right angled triangle, &c. But if we alter the definition of triangle so as to state that it is a figure constituted of three sides in such a manner as to form three angles, one of which must be a right angle, the idea conveyed loses its general and abstract character; it is the true idea of an individual of the class—the right angled triangle-but not of the class itself, for it is not true in respect to the obtuse angled and acute angled triangles. General abstract ideas are therefore the basis of classification.
The disputes of the Realists and Nominalists, as before stated, respected the nature of these generic conceptions. The Realists held that these ideas were not merely mental abstractions, but have
an actual and intrinsic existence. They contended that the generic qualities of all things existed thus, as models or archetypes, in the mind of the Creator, before any individuals of the species were made. This was the doctrine of Plato and Aristotle; the latter, however, contended, against the notion of Plato, that these archetypes existed not in the mind of the Deity before matter, but that they were impressed upon matter, and were essentially inherent in and coeval with it.
The doctrine of the Realists prevailed till the eleventh century, when Rosceline revived the Stoical theory called Nominalism, which, in opposition to Plato and Aristotle, taught that these alledged universal ideas were possessed of no proper form or essence, and that nothing could be called universal but mere names, and that these are general only in a qualified sense ; for when any individual thing is suggested, the principle of association leads the mind to take in other individuals of a similar kind, so that, while we think of more than one, the name nevertheless refers specifically to the one first suggested. This intricate question is still considered a matter of interesting inquiry among metaphysicians.
The contentions of these two parties were the most remarkable of all the disputes of the scholastics. They nearly all embraced the opinions of the Realists in the thirteenth century, the influence of Thomas Aquinas and Albert having given a universal predominance to that sect. In the fourteenth century the combats of these antagonist sects were roused with extravagant vehemence by William Occam, the English Franciscan: they were continued until the close of the schools with unabated virulence, sometimes leading the combatants to decide their claims to the truth by a resort to blows.
The character of the dialectics which the schoolmen borrowed from the ancients may be conceived from the intricate and abstruse inquiries which gravely and for ages employed their attention. One of these important topics was as follows:– You have what you have not lost; you have not lost horns, therefore you have horns." Another, upon which, it is said, one philosopher wrote six books, and another studied so intensely as to contract a consumption, with which he died, was, that · When you speak the truth and say you lie, you do lie; but you say you lie when you speak the truth; therefore while speaking the truth you lie.' . Another was, “If a body be moved, it is either moved in the place where it is, or in a place where it is not; but it is not moved in the place where it is, for where it is it remains, nor is it moved in a place where it is not, for a body can neither act nor suffer where it is not; therefore there is no such thing as motion. Such were the hair-splitting subtleties of the logical system adopted by the scholastic divines. Many others might be added, which tortured the intellects of these bewildered speculators for years; such as the essence of the Deity, whether two infinities could coexist, whether a spirit could pass from one point in space to another without going through the intermediate distance, &c.
During the prevalence of the scholastic theology, another class of divines were common through Europe, who arose from the same origin—the introduction of the doctrine of Plato into the Church by Origen. They were called Mystics, from the opinion which they taught that all piety consisted in spiritual meditation, by which the soul was to attain an abstraction from the world and the corruptions of the animal nature. An impostor, assuming the name of Dionysius the Areopagite, who was converted by the preaching of Paul at Athens, first published in the fourth century a system of doctrines suited to those who entertained these views, which was held in the highest reverence by them in succeeding ages. They were organized into a regular body, and, from their habits of living in solitude, and spending their time entirely in the exercises of devotion, the system of monkery arose in Europe. They led the most ascetic lives, and contemned, and frequently combated, with considerable violence, the metaphysical notions of the scholastics. With all their absurdities, they probably possessed among themselves the chief piety of these miserable times. Many men of eminent talents and piety adorn their annals, especially about the era of the revival of learning. Thomas A. Kempis may be referred to as an eminent example.
PROMINENT CEREMONIES OF THE ROMAN CHURCH AT ROME.
BY W. FISK, D. D. Messrs. EDITORS : Thinking it may give some gratification to your readers to be informed of some of the most prominent ceremonies of the Roman Church, at the fountain head, I have determined to communicate some sketches of what passed under my no. tice during passion week. The exercises of this festive occasion commenced with
PALM SUNDAY. Palm Sunday is instituted as a celebration of our Saviour's triumphant entry into Jerusalem. It happened the present year on the 27th of March. The public performances were in a small chapel called the Capella Sistara, which may be considered an appendage of St. Peter's. Why the capacious church of St. Peter's should be passed by, and this splendid ceremony be crowded into a small chapel, no good reason, I believe, can be given, it is, however, on the principle, I suppose, by which so many things are directed in Rome, viz: the tradition of the fathers-what has been must be. The custom, however venerable for antiquity, is certainly very inconvenient. In the first place, one half of the church is reserved for the functionaries of the day. Then a kind of side gallery is allotted to the ladies, into which they are admitted until it is fullthe filling of which does not take long, as it holds only from two to three hundred. The remainder, reserving something for alleys and yards, was appropriated to the gentlemen. The crowd was insupportable -every man had to fight almost for his stand, and then endure such a pressure as was painful and suffocating. There was crushing of hats—there was elbowing, and crowding, and scolding, and laughing, and sometimes swearing, to an extent that rendered the scene any thing but a place of Divine worship. In this jamb, I was particularly unfortunate in my position, which was just in the