Philosophy and Common Sense

Philosophy And Common Sense

[From the Boston Quarterly Review for January, 1838.]

We have read with some interest an article in the Christian Examiner for November last, on Locke and the Transcendentalists. The article is written with spirit, in a sincere and earnest tone, and, for style and language, it deserves more than ordinary commendation.  It is obviously the production of a mind somewhat given to philosophizing, although we should think of a mind which has not yet grappled, very closely, with the real problems of metaphysics.  Its author appears to us a young writer, whose philosophical views are a little vague and fluctuating; but at the same time a writer who, if he duly apply himself, may yet do himself great credit, and exert a salutary influence on the literature and philosopy of his country.

So far as we can judge from the article before us, we differ widely from the present philosophical tendency of its author; but we nevertheless welcome him into the philosophical field, and are glad to find him disposed to be one of its cultivators.  We may from time to time take an account of his labors, but we will assure him, that we shall not quarrel with him, because he may chance to labor in a direction different from the one we have marked out for ourselves.  They who cultivate philosophy must labor in peace.  They must not call one another hard names, and seek to render one another odious to the public.  Into all philosophical subjects we must carry calmness of mind, a catholic spirit, and a respect for every man's honest opinions. We must carry with us a disposition to seek for truth under the forms of gross error even, and that love for man and all that is human, which will prevent us from harboring, for one moment, a single intolerant feeling, and which will prevent a single harsh word from ever escaping us.  We may subject, we ought to subject, all opinions to the most rigid investigation, not for the sake of triumphing over adversaries, not for the sake of proving others in the wrong; but for the purpose of discovering the truth, and quickening our love and reverence for mankind.

No greater evil can befall us, than that of entering into a career of angry disputes, and of passing from the calm and rational inquiry after truth, to the violent and passionate crimination of individuals.  In philosophizing, we ought to make an abstraction of individuals and their motives.  Men honestly differ in their views.  The views of all are more or less partial, and therefore defective, and therefore erroneous; and no one, therefore, has the right to condemn another.  The philosopher, instead of complaining of men, charging them with folly, or with evil intentions, and seeking to render their views odious or suspicious, sets himself down to collect, quietly, the partial views of each, and to mould them into one systematic and harmonious whole.  We insist on this point.  A philosophical epoch for our country begins, and we would not have it disgraced by wrath and bitterness, by personal contentions, railings at individuals or systems.  We would have every man, who enters the field of philosophy, enter it with a heart at peace with mankind, and solicitous only for the truth.  Let every one guard against the trammels of a school, and the pride of system.  Let him beware how he adopts a darling theory, which he shall be ambitious to make prevail.  Let him beware how he looks on his fellow laborers as the disciples of another school, and therefore enemies to be fought and vanquished.  Let him wed himself to the truth, and give it an uncompromising support; but let him, at the same time, expect truth in all theories, and be willing to receive it, let it come to him from what quarter it may.

We young Americans, who have the future glory of our country and of Humanity at heart, who would see our country taking the lead in modern civilization, and becoming as eminent for her literature, art, science, and philosophy, as she now is for her industrial activity and enterprise, must ever bear in mind the greatness and the sanctity of our mission.  We must set an example worthy of being followed by the world.  We must feel the dignity and immense reach of the work to which we are called.  Into all our discussions we must carry a free, lofty, and earnest spirit; we must purge our hearts of all low ambition, of all selfish aims, of all wish for personal triumph.  We must fix our eyes on the True, and aspire to the Holy.  We must be invincible in our dialectics, but still more so in our love of truth, and in our sympathy with Humanity in all its forms.  A great and glorious work is given us; may we be equal to it, and worthy of achieving it!

We say we have read this article in the Examiner, with some interest, and so we have; but not altogether on account of its intrinsic merit.  It interests us mainly as one of the signs of the times, as an indication of a change which has been silently taking place among us, on philosophical matters, and as a proof that our countrymen are beginning to lose some portion of their hereditary contempt for abstract thought, and that they are preparing themselves to raise hereafter the study of metaphysical science to the rank it deserves.  It proves to us, that the day for philosophical discussion is ready to dawn on our land, and that thought with us is about to assume new and nobler forms.  Intellectual pursuits are beginning to have charms for us, and a Future, worthy our free institutions, is beginning to be elaborated.  We need not say that this gives us joy.  It is what we have for years been yearning and laboring for; but which we have not generally dared hope that we should live long enough to see realized.  Discussion of the great problems of metaphysics must come, and we are glad of it; for discussion in this country, of whatever subject it may be, cannot fail to be followed by important and useful practical results.

The specific design of the author in this article we profess not to have discovered, and we think he himself would be somewhat puzzled to inform us.  Apparently, however, the article was intended to vindicate the character of Locke as a metaphysician, and to put the community on its guard against certain individuals, whom its author denominates Transcendentalists. Who these Transcendentalists are, what is their number, and what are their principal tenets, the writer does not infrom us.  Nor does he tell us precisely the dangers we have to apprehend from their labors; but so far as we can collect his meaning, it would seem that these dangers consist in the fact that the Transcendentalists encourage the study of German literature and philosophy, and are introducing the habit of writing bad English.  He may be right in this. It is a matter we do not feel ourselves competent to decide.  So far, however, as our knowlede extends, there is no overweening fondness for German literature and philosophy.  We know not of a single man in this country, who avows himself a disciple of what is properly called the Transcendental Philosophy.  The genius of our countrymen is for Eclecticism.  As to the bad English, we presume those, whom the writer calls Transcendentalists, may sometimes be guilty of it, and we shall be happy to learn that they alone are guilty of it.

This writer may be correct in his estimate of the merits of Locke.  If we understand him, he does not mean to defend Locke's philosophy-althougth we should think him partial to it-but merely his candid spirit, and the manner in which he wrote on metaphysics.  He thinks Locke wrote on metaphysical subjects in a free and easy manner, altogether more in the manner of a man of the world, than of a cloistered monk.  We agree with him in this; but we think several of Locke's predessors and contemporaries are entitled to this praise as well as he.  Hobbes, who preceded Locke, by some years, is much his superior, so far as style and language go, and so is Cudworth.  Locke is transparent; there is seldom any difficulty in coming at his meaning: but he is diffuse, verbose, tedious, and altogether wanting in elegance, precision and vigor.  Hobbes, while he is equally as transparent as Locke, infinitely surpasses him in strength, precison and compactness.  He tells you more in a few short sentences, than Locke in the whole of a long chapter.  If the proper style and language, the proper manner of writing on metaphysical subjects, be the matter in question, we think Locke should not be named in the same year with Hobbes, a man to whom justice has never yet been done; whose name is a term of reproach; but who as a philosopher, has exerted a thousand times more influence over the English mind, than Locke, and whom Locke himself reproduces much oftener that he acknowledges.

The writer in the Examiner,  we think, also ascribes improperly to Locke the merit of delivering us from the technical phraseology and barren logic of the Scholastics.  Between Locke and the Scholastics there intervened a considerable space of time, Descartes, Bacon, Gassendi, and Hobbes, and the most glorious period of English history and literature.  The Scholastic philosophy was shaken and nearly destroyed by the Revival of Letters and the study of Antiquity, which so strongly marked the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.  The little dominion, it retained at the commencement of the seventeenth century, was completely overthrown by those two fathers of modern philosophy, Descartes and Bacon.  The Scholastics were defunct in all the world-unless Oxford offers an exception-long before Locke began his philosophical career.

But these are small matters.  The article, we are examining, appears to us to assume, that the metaphysician should always restrict himself to what may be called common sense modes of thought and expression, and that the highest philosophy may be so announced as to be comprehended at once, by any one of ordinary capacity, whether accustomed to philosophize or not.  The article, it is true, does not expressly state the doctrine here implied; but it appears to us to proceed on the supposition of its truth, and we are unable to legitimate its reasonings without assuming it.  Through the whole article, there seems to us to be a striking want of clear discernment of the difference between philosophy and common sense.  The writer evidently wishes to reconcile common sense and philosophy, which is laudable; but he sees no way by which this can be done, save by reducing philosophy to common sense.  He asks, "what is common sense, but the highest philosophy, applied to the usual purposes of practical life?  And what is philosophy, but common sense, employed in abstract investigations?"  Do not these questons confound philosophy with common sense? or rather, instead of reconciling philosophy with common sense, do they not sink philosophy in common sense?  To us they betray no slight confusion in the mind of him who puts them in earnest, and they are a very good proof that he does not discern clearly, if any difference at all, the difference there is between knowledge and philosophy, two things as far asunder as intuition and reflection.

But this writer is not the only one who does not discern distinctly the difference between common sense and philosophy, in whose mind the limits and precise characteristics of each are not determined.  We trust, therefore, that we shall not be doing a needless work, if we undertake, in what follows, to aid our readers to draw the line between common sense and philosophy, and to determine what is the precise object of philosophy.  Moreover, something of this is necessary, to serve as a sort of introduction to a series of articles on metaphysics, which we propose to lay before our readers in our future numbers.

The term common sense may be applied to what Hobbes calls the cognitive faculty, or faculty of knowing, which is common to all human beings.  It is by this faculty, and only by this faculty, that we know either in the ordinary affairs of life or in abstract science.  The faculty, by means of which we are capable of acquiring knowledge, is the same in all cases.  Knowledge then admits of no other divisons than those of the subjects with which we may seek to become acquainted.  This is what the writer of the article we are reviewing, probably meant to assert.  But knowledge is not philosophy; and though it is indispensable to philosophy; it can and does, in most men, exist without philosophy.

But the term common sense is also used to designate the common or universal beliefs of mankind, the simple spontaneous beliefs of Humanity.  These beliefs may be true, they may be acted on; but with the multitude they are taken on trust, adopted without being ligitimated.  Philosophy is not a contradiction of these beliefs, a substituition of something else for them, but an explanation and verification of them.  This is the precise object of philosophy.

Philosophy and common sense are not opposed to one another.  There is no discrepancy between them.  Common sense furnishes the philosopher all his knowledge, all the data from which he reasons.  His sole mission is to clear up and legitimate the universal beliefs of mankind, or the facts of common sense.  The common sense man is not in the wrong; he does not err; he has the truth, but he does not know that he has it.  He believes the truth, but he does not comprehend what he believes, nor wherefore he believes.  He cannot tell how he came to believe what he does believe; he knows not what right he has to believe it; and when asked, why he believes it, he can only answer, he believes it because he does believe it.  The philosopher believes precisely the same things, as the common sense man, but he knows what he believes, and he can tell wherefore he believes.  The common sense man believes, but does not comprehend; the philosopher comprehends, and therefore believes.

We may easily bring up to our minds the common sense man, by recalling our childhood and youth.  In early life, faith is strong, and implicit.  We believe.  We are conscious of no thoughts and feelings too big for words, and which cannot be easily communicated to all who will give us their attention.  We see no mysteries in nature, in man, or in God.  All things appear to us open and plain.  Things are to us what they seem.  The primrose is a primrose, and nothing more.  The sun and stars are beautiful, and the rainbow is pleasant to look upon; but they contain no dark, perplexing mystery we are dying to wring out.  Day and night, summer and winter, spring and fall, sickness and health, life and death, are alternations to be welcomed, or not welcomed, but they are not mysteries.  They are not a book we would learn to read; hieroglyphs we would be able to decipher.  We see all.  The outward, the sensible, sufficeth us.  Common sense satisfies curiosity, and prevents inquiry from becoming doubt.  This which is a description of the childhood and youth of all, is also a description of the greater part of men through their whole lives.  All who come under this description are common sense men.

But childhood and youth, with their ready answers to all inquiries, their open brow and laughing cheek and trusting heart, for whom life is all one holiday, and all things are but their morris-men, do not abide with us all forever.  Some of us grow old, and lose the light which plays around our heads in our younger days.  One day, one hour perhaps, never to be forgotten, a sudden darkness spreads over the universe, and we no longer see where we are, or what we are.  The bright sun is extinguished; the stars no longer glimmer in the firmament, and the beacon-fires, which the philanthropic few had kindled here and there to cheer, to warn, or to guide the solitary traveller, are gone out.  Friends drop away; we stand among the dead, by the graves of those we loved, surrounded by the ghosts of affections unrequited, hopes blasted, joys cut short, plans defeated; and-there are mysteries.  The universe becomes to us a scroll, a book, like that which John saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne, sealed with seven seals.  Every object we make out in the darkness is a hieroglyph, big with a meaning of fearful import, which we can divine not; we are to ourselves a riddle we can read not; and in tumult of soul, perplexity of mind, and sorrow of heart, we find ourselves standing face to face with the dread Unknown.

A change has come over us.  Childhood and youth are gone forever.  We have broken with the whole past.  We stand alone; yet not alone, for the awful Mystery of the Universe is round, about, and within us.  For a time our courage forsakes us; we can stand up no longer; we sink down, weak helpless, forlorn.  But this weakness passes away.  After a while, in a sort of desperation, we draw ourselves up into ourselves, and bid the monster in whose presence we are, a "grim, fire-eyed defiance."  Litle by little, we become inured to the obscurity, and able to discern the outline of things in the dark.  By straining, by recollecting, by comparing, by reflecting, we become able to spell out, here and there, one of these fearful hieroglyphs, till we obtain the word of the universe-God.  Then the darkness rolls back; things become plain again; conviction supplies the place of lost faith; and foresight makes amends for the inspiration of hope which returns no more forever.  A change has indeed come over us.  We are no longer in the trustingness of common sense.  We have become philosophers.  We have looked beneath the surface, beyond the shadows of sense; in the visible we have found the invisible; in the mutable, that which changes not; in the dying, the immortal; in the evanscent, the abiding and the eternal.  We have seen the world of childhood and youth vanish in the darkness of doubt; but we have found a new world, the world of truth, a new universe which is really a universe.  We see and comprehend the hidden sense of that of which we saw at first only the form, the shadow.  We now know what we believe, and wherefore we believe it, and are able to legitimate our belief.  He who has been through this scene of darkness, doubt, perplexity, grief, and has attained to a well grounded conviction of the great truths comprised in the universal beliefs of mankind is a philosopher.

Now, between this man whom we have pointed out as the philosopher, and the one we called the mere common sense man, is there no difference? and can they converse together with perfect ease?  Can they utter themselves by means of the same symbols?  Or, which is more to our purpose, will the same symbols have the same significance to them both?

Suppose a man, over whose mind and heart has passed the change of which we have spoken, a man truly born again, who has been able to see that there are mysteries, and who sees a little way into them, and who looks on man, nature, God, with other eyes and other feelings too, than those of childhood and youth; has he nothing within him, no thoughts, no spiritual facts, of which the mere common sense man knows nothing, has dreamt nothing; and which, therefore, he has not named; and which, therefore, are untranslated into his vocabulary?  Can this man utter himself in the language of the market, in terms, the full import of which can be easily seized by them in whom no such change has been wrought?  Would you talk with a blind man of colors? Couch his eyes.  Will the miser comprehend you, when you speak to him of the pleasures of benevolence?  Can you, by any possible form of words, make the meaning of the word love obvious to him, whose heart has never thawed in presence of sweet and gentle affection?  Whoever has had some little acquaintance with the world, knows to his sorrow, that he often fails to make himself understood, even when he adopts the commonest and simplest form of speech.  The words a man utters are not measured, in the minds of those to whom he speaks, by his experience, but by theirs.  Words are meaningless, save to those who have, in their own experience, a significance to give them.  Be they as full of meaning as they may, in the mouth of him who utters them, they fall as empty sounds on the ears of those who listen unless they who listen have the same inward experience as he who speaks.  How different is the import of the same words to different minds.  How different is the  import of that word death, when, with our childish simplicity and curiosity, we look from our mother's arms into the coffin to see the baby-corpse, from what it is in after life, when, one by one, all our early associates and friends and companions have dropped away, and we stand alone by the new-made grave of the last, the best loved one!  And how different, too, is the meaning of that same word death, to him who looks upon the grave as the end of life, and sees buried, in its darkness and silence, all that which is to him but the dearer and lovelier and more beloved part of himself, from what it is to him who regards the grave merely as the door of entrance, through which we pass from this world of trial, sin, and suffering, to our everlasting Home, where is repose and joy and blessedness forever and ever!  No matter what are the words one uses, nor what is the meaning he seems to himself to be conveying, if that particular fact, he would communicate, be not a fact of the experience of him to whom he would communicate it, let him be assured that to him it is incommunicable.  No matter with what wisdom we speak, we can impart no more than they, to whom we speak, are prepared to interpret by what they have thought, felt, joyed, or sorrowed in themselves.

The darkness, we sometimes complain of in men's speech and in books, is not unfrequently the darkness of our own minds.  To say of a book, that it is unintelligible, is seldom any thing more than to say, that we are aware of nothing in our experience, by which it can be interpreted.  A wise man, especially a modest man, is slow to infer, from the fact that he does not comprehend a book, that is contains nothing to be comprehended.  We often fancy, too, that we understand an author, when we have not the remotest suspicion of his meaning.  His words are so common, his manner is so familiar, he talks so much like one of our old friends, that we never think of asking ourselves, whether we understand him or not.  One day we shall read him, and be startled at the new and unthought-of meaning we discover in his words, and we shall be filled with wonder that we did not see it before.  We rarely understand one another.  Only they who have a common experience are mutually intelligible.  This is the reason why we are so estranged one from another.  Two men meet for the first time, they converse together, understand each other, and they are friends forever.  Let men but understand one another, and all strife, hatreds, contentions, wars, are at an end; and of this they seem to have a secret consciousness, for this is what they imply, whether they know it or not, when they say of two or more persons, "there is a good understanding between them."

They, who, like Nicodemus, sneer at the New Birth, have made as little proficiency in philosophy as in theology.  No man, who has not been born again, been born spiritually as well as naturally, can see the kingdom of  God, in a philosophical, any more than in a religious sense.  There are some things which the natural man may understand, and there are some things which he cannot, for they are spiritually discerned.  Spiritual things, be they expressed in what language they may, can be discerned only by spiritual men.  Spiritual things are foolishness to the natural man, and the common sense man laughs outright at the profound words of the philosopher.  When the natural man becomes a spiritual man, he finds that what he had called foolishness, are the deep and unsearchable things of God, and the common sense man, when he becomes a philosopher, stands in awe of that at which he had laughed.  Let no man laugh at what he understands not, for the day may come when he shall weep at his folly; when he shall bitterly condemn himself, for his previous want of spiritual discernment.

We know no help for this difficulty, on the part of the unregenerate, to understand the regenerate.  No matter what terms are used; the most common household words will be as dark, as unmeaning, as are said to be the most abstruse, the most far-fetched terms ever adopted by the most hopeless Germanizing Transcendentalist.  Admitting then that Locke did write on metaphysical subjects in a sort of common sense phraseology, we cannot esteem it a very great merit.  We have sometimes thought that, by studying to adapt this style and language to the apprehension of the unlearned and the superficial, he retarded instead of accelerating the progress of metaphysical science.  It is true, that the manner in which he treated metaphysics made his "Essay" somewhat popular, and secured it a much larger number of readers, than it probably would have had, if he had written more in the manner of the scholar; but we very much doubt whether he by this means added at all to the number of metaphysicians.  He became popular because nobody found any thing in his "Essay," which made any body a whit the wiser.  People read him and called themselves philosophers, without having one grain more of philosophic thought than they had before they read him.  By creating the impression that men can become philosophers, without any severe mental discipline, he checked instead of encouraging that patient and laborious thought, without which no man becomes a philosopher; just as he, who is always telling what an easy thing it is to be a Christian, hinders those efforts which alone can make us Christians.  We are far from thinking that Locke himself was superficial, but he helped to make others superficial, or rather he hindered others from becoming profound. The most striking characteristic of his followers has ever been their superficialness.  Few of them have ever dreamed of penetrating beneath the surface of things.  English literature, during the period of his reign, contrasts singularly enough with that of the epoch which preceded him.  Saving the productions of those writers who were not of his school, of those whose hearts were touched with the coals from off religion's altar, or whose souls were kindled up by the great democratic movements of the time, English Literature of the eighteenth century is, to the earnest spirits of our times, after the age of childhood, or early youth, absolutely unreadable.  It is as light, as shallow, as unproductive, as the soil on one of our immense pine barrens.  We look into it in vain for a new or profound thought, for a thrilling remark, for somethings which goes down into the deep places of the heart, and moves the soul at its bottom.  We grow weary of it, and pass it over in order to come at the richer and profounder and more living literature of the seventeenth century,-the literature of those "giants of old," as they have been called.  How far the light and shallow, cold and lifeless literature of England, during the eighteenth century, is to be attributed to the influence of Locke's philosphy, we shall not undertake to determine; but of this we are certain, that a different literature is never to be looked for, where that philosophy is the dominant one.

We trust that the design of these remarks will not be misinterpreted.  We have no wish to dress up philosophy in the garb of the old Schoolmen.  We are advocates for no technical phraseology, for no unintelligible jargon.  We set our faces, as much as any one, against all affected or far-fetched modes of speech.  We ask for naturalness and simplicity.  We ask every man to make it a matter of conscience, to speak and write as intelligibly to even the undisciplined mind, as the nature of his subject will admit.  But we insist upon it, that the interests of science, literature, philosophy, are never to be sacrificed for the sake of adapting ourselves to the apprehension of men of no spiritual experience.  We need not "bring philosophy down from its high places, in order to add to its usefulness."  This is a sort of levelling which is uncalled for.  Bring the masses up, if you will, enable them to comprehend the highest philosophy, if you can; but never talk of bringing philosophy down to vulgar capacities.  We have heard too much, in our day, about the necessity of "adapting ourselves to the capacity of the common people," and about the danger of "shooting over the heads of the people."   We have no patience with this left-handed democracy.  We have no patience with men who talk of letting themselves down. There has been quite too much letting down.  We would not bring the great gods down to earth, even if we could; but we would raise men to heaven, and enable them to hold fellowship with the Divinity.  Philosophy is not, and never was, too high; but the people are, and ever have been, too low.  Let him, who would "enhance the dignity of philosophy by adding to its usefulness," set himself seriously and earnestly at work, to elevate the people.  Let him, if his heart throb with genuine love of man, and his soul burn to augment the sum of human well-being, let him study to elevate the masses, to quicken their dormant energies, to create within them a craving for the loftiest range of thought, and to make them feel that they may aspire to it.  But we pray him to withhold his condescension.  Let him forget that the masses are below him; let him speak from his own full heart and strong convictions, to the universal heart and mind of Humanity, in his own natural tones, with all the power and depth and sublimity of thought and feeling he can command.  Let him speak to all men as his equals, and speak out his ripest thoughts, his profoundest reflections, and have no fear that he will speak in vain.

Assuredly we would not seek obsure modes of expression; we would ever be as transparent as possible; but we cannot consent to sacrifice depth for the sake of clearness, to dilute our thoughts for fear that they may be too strong for the intellects of our readers.  We will take no pains to supersede the necessity of severe thinking on the part of those, for whom we write.  If we aid them, it is not by thinking for them, but by compelling them to think for themselves.  There is no such thing as one man's thinking for another.  The real difficulty in the way of acquiring a knowledge of a given science, does not consist, and never did consist, in the language adopted by its cultivators.  There are difficulties which lie deeper than words, and which no form of words can remove.  Set all the world a-talking metaphysics, and nothing is gained, unless the real metaphysical problems be clearly seen, and the bearings of the proffered solutions fully comprehended; and these problems-state them in what words you will-are not perceived, and these solutions-express them in the simplest terms you can-are not and cannot be appreciated, without severe mental discipline, without long, patient, and profound thought.  And thought is one's own act.  It cannot be imparted from one mind to another.  It is impossible to form a tunnel out of common sense phraseology, by means of which, thought may be poured from one mind into another, as we pour wine into a demijohn.  Knowledge, in its higher and nobler sense, is ever the mind's own creation.  It is wrought out in the mind by the mind itself.  Man was to gain his bread by the sweat of his face, by hard work; and it is only by hard work, by incessant toil and mental labor, that the mind can attain to true philosophical knowledge.  This may be discouragaing to the indolent, and frightful to all who are wanting in robust mental health; but so be it then.  There is no help for it.  There is no labor-saving machinery, that can be introduced into the mind's workshop, no locomotive to run by steam on the mind's rail-road to philosophy.  The old way is still the only way.  The various inventions, christened "Thinking made easy," so numerous of late, stand us in no stead.

The only machinery that will work at all, is that of patient and scrupulous observation, and calm and profound reflection.  He who will not observe, he who will not reflect, can, by no process yet discovered, ever become a philosopher.

We have dwelt long on this point, not so much for the sake of replying to the writer in the Examiner, as because we deem it of some importance in itself; because we are fully convinced that a preparation is no less needed, in order to be a good hearer or a good reader, than in order to be a good speaker or a good writer; and because we have thought it neither mistimed nor misplaced, to admonish those-and many there are-who sneer at what they do not understand, and "speak evil of dignities," that
 "There are more things in heaven and earth-
  Than are dreamt of in" their "philosophy."

Still we wish it to be understood, that we do not look for this preparation exclusively in saloons or in universities.  These are not the places in which we are most likely to find those, whose hearts and minds are best prepared to hear and comprehend the philosopher.  They only have the preparation needed, whose hearts have sorrowed before the Mystery of the universe, and whose minds are scarred by their conflicts with Doubt.  And these are not seldomest found in that mighty multitude, on whom we often look down, from our high places, in pity or in scorn.  We shall, if we seek, often find those to have the inward experience required, who have been to no school but Nature's and had no instructers but the internal whisperings of God's Spirit.  Whoever has doubted, whoever has really sorrowed that there was no man found to open the book of God's providence, and read him the Destiny of Man and Society, is prepared to hear and to comprehend the philosopher.

Nor let it be supposed that we would debar the people at large from the truths the philosopher professes to have demonstrated.  These truths are not the peculiar possessions of the philosopher.  They are the truths of the universal reason, and are the property alike of all men.  They are taught to all men by the spontaneous reason, which is the same in kind in every man.  These truths are not philosophy.  Philosophy is the explanation and verification of them.  The masses, who see nothing mysterious in these truths, and who have never thought of questioning them, do not wish to have them explained or verified.  The explanation and verification, which is philosophy, are unintelligible to them.  But the truths themselves, are not unintelligible to them.  Whoever proclaims to the masses these truths which the philosopher has demonstrated, cleared up, and legitimated, is sure to be heard and believed and followed.

The fact is, the great mass of mankind are not, as to their beliefs, in so sad a condition, as schoolmen sometimes imagine.  The educated, the scientific are prone to look upon the masses as possessing no ideas, as having no knowledge but that which they obtain from human teachers.  This is peculiarly the case with Locke and his followers.  According to them, the child receives no patrimony from his father; he is born into the world naked and destitute in soul as well as in body, and with no innate power to weave himself a garment.  His mind is a tabula rasa, on which others indeed may write what they will, but upon which he himself can write nothing, save the summing up of what others have written thereon.  Evil as well as good, falsehood as well as truth, may be written thereon.  It depends wholly on the external circumstances, the quality of the masters secured, whether the mind's blank sheets shall be written over with truth or falsehood.  The masses, after the flesh, it must be admitted are surrounded with unwholesome influences, and provided with most wretched teachers.  They must then be filled with evil thoughts and false notions.  Their beliefs, their hopes and fears, likes and dislikes, are deserving no respect.  Hence, on the one hand, the contempt of the masses manifested by so larege a portion of the educated, even in democratic America, and, on the other hand, the pity and commiseraton, the great condescension, and vast amount of baby-talk, which equally characterize another, but more kind-hearted, portion of the more favored classes.  Of this last division, we presume, is the writer on whom we are remarking.  He is not a man to look with contempt on human beings; he feels that we ought to labor to benefit the masses; but we presume he has no suspicion that the masses have any correct beliefs, but such as they receive from the favored and superior few.  Hence his strong desire that all men, who write, should write in a simple style, and so let themselves down, that they will not be above the capacities of the many.  He would not, we presume, think of learning from them, or of verifying their beliefs; but merely of teaching them what they ought to believe.  We bring not this as a charge against him.  It speaks well for his goodness of heart, and proves him to be as good a democrat as a follower of Locke consistently can be.

But in point of fact, the masses are not so poor and destitute as all this supposes.  They are not so dependent on us, the enlightened few, as we sometimes think them.  We need not feel that, if we should die, all wisdom would die with us, and that there would be henceforth no means by which the millions would be able to come at truth and virtue.  Reason is the true light, and it enlighteneth every man who cometh into the world.  It is, as we have said, the same in all men, and therfore it is that no man is left in darkness.  The reason has two modes of activity, one the spontaneous, the other the reflective.  In the great majority of men, the reflective reason, which gives philosphy, is never awakened, and consequently but a small minority of mankind ever become philosophers.  But the spontaneous reason developes itself in all men, in the highest and the lowest, in the uneducated as well as in the educated.  This reason, the spontaneous reason, furnishes the universal beliefs of mankind, which are termed common sense.  It furnishes all the ideas we ever have; teaches us all the truths we ever know.  As this reason is the same in all men, it gives to all men the same ideas, furnishes them with the same truths, the same beliefs.  These masses then, on which we look down with contempt or with pity for their weakness and ignorance, have all the truths we who look down upon them have; they have the same ideas, and the same beliefs.  They are not so destitute then as the Lockeites thought them; they are not so erroneous then as the self-complacent aristocrat judged them, nor so dependent on their betters, as great men have generally counted them.  Their views, beliefs, hopes, fears, likes, dislikes, are wothy to be examined, are to be respected.  The masses are not to be pitied then, but respected, and herein is laid the foundation of true philanthropy.

But we are controverted.  We are met by men who have no confidence in the masses, no respect for their beliefs, and who regard them as blind, infatuated, bent on evil, and only evil, and that continually.  Here comes then the doubt; common sense is suspected, and put on trial.  We may ourselves doubt.  That is, we may, in looking in upon ourselves, doubt the legitimacy of those beliefs we have had in common with the rest of mankind, or, looking abroad upon immense masses of human beings, following blindly their instincts, we may seriously doubt whether they are going in the right direction.  There is a problem now in our minds.  The reflective reason awakes, and we reflect on this problem, and seek its solution.  This is to philosophize; and here is seen the utility of philosophy.  We did not seek philosophy for the sake of instructing those masses; we do not need it, that we may communicate it to them; we merely desire to know whether their beliefs be well founded , whether relying, as they do, on common sense, following, as they do, the teachings of the spontaneous reason, they are safe or not.  Shall we pity, or reverence them?  War against them or become their allies  This is the problem.  Philosophy is merely the solution we arrive at by reflection.

Well, what is this solution?  Is common sense a liar?  Are the teachings of the spontaneous reason false?  Is Humanity doomed to everlasing and universal error?  So says the sceptic, so say Locke and his followers, or so they must say, if faithful to the principles they avow.  But so say not we.  Different from this is the solution we have obtained.  We cannot now undertake to prove that our solution is the true one; but the reflective reason has with us legitimated the teachings of the spontaneous reason, legitimated common sense, assured us that it is the voice of the spontaneous reason, and that the spontaneous reason is the voice of God.  True and holy for us then are the instincts of the masses; true and holy for us then are the universal beliefs of mankind.  We no longer pity the many, we no longer apologize for their conduct, no longer labor to change their faith.  We stand in awe of them, and apply ourselves to the work of enabling them to march to the glorious destiny God hath appointed them, and to which his own hand is leading them.

Philosophy, as it is a solution of the problem which doubt has placed in the mind, can be understood only by those in whose minds the problem has been placed.  By this fact the philosopher is, and must be, separated from the great mass of his brethern; but since the truths he has demonstrated, and which he believes, are precisely the truths of the spontaneous reason, precisely the universal beliefs of mankind, he is also connected with his race, and, by all the truth he believes intimately bound to the humblest, as well as to the proudest, member of the human family.  No stranger is he then to Humanity.  Not with contempt does he look on the masses, not with scorn does he treat their instincts.  Nothing that is human is foreign to him.  He reverences in each human being the human nature he reverences in himself, and in each human being he finds all the elements of that truth and virtue, his own reason and conscience bid him believe and obey.

It will be seen from this, that our philosophy, notwithstanding certain aristocratic airs, is by no means wanting in its democratic tendencies.  Its aim is not utility, but the establishment of truth, and that not for the many, but for the few; nevertheless the truth established always benefits the world, and the truth established in this case, is the truth which every body is interested in.  We by no means reject common sense; we love, we obey it because we have legitimated its right to be loved and obeyed.  All true philosophy accepts, and explains, and legitimates, the instinctive beliefs of mankind.  Philosophy therefore, though it is not common sense, is in perfect harmony with it.