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A History of French Literature by Edward Dowden

Jouffroy brooded upon the destiny of man


The orthodoxy of the _Avenir_ was suspected. Lamennais, with his friends, journeyed to Rome "to consult the Lord in Shiloh," and in the _Affaires de Rome_ recorded his experiences. The Encyclical of 1832 pronounced against the doctrines dearest to his heart and conscience; he bowed in submission, yet he could not abandon his inmost convictions. His hopes for a democratic theocracy failing, he still trusted in the peoples. But the democracy of his desire and faith was one not devoted to material interests; to spiritualise the democracy became henceforth his aim. In the _Paroles d'un Croyant_ he announced in rhythmical prose his apocalyptic visions. "It is," said a contemporary, "a _bonnet rouge_ planted on a cross." In his elder years Lamennais believed in a spiritual power, a common thought, a common will directing society, as the soul directs the body, but, like the soul, invisible. His metaphysics, in which it is attempted to give a scientific interpretation and application to the doctrine of the Trinity, are set forth in the _Esquisse d'une Philosophie_. His former associates, Lacordaire, the eloquent Dominican, and Montalembert, the historian, learned and romantic, of Western monasticism, remained faithful children of the Church. Lamennais, no less devout in spirit than they, died insubmissive, and above his grave, among the poor of Pere-Lachaise, no cross was erected.

The antagonism to eighteenth-century thought assumed other forms than those of the theocratic school. VICTOR COUSIN (1792-1867), a pupil of Maine de Biran and Royer-Collard, became at the age of twenty-three a lecturer on philosophy at the Sorbonne. He was enthusiastic, ambitious, eloquent; with scanty knowledge he spoke as one having authority, and impressed his hearers with the force of a ruling personality. Led on from Scotch to German philosophy, and having the advantage of personal acquaintance with Hegel, he advanced through psychology to metaphysics. Not in the senses but in the reason, impersonal in its spontaneous activity, he recognised the source of absolute truth; in the first act of consciousness are disclosed the finite, the infinite, and their mutual relations. In the history of philosophy, in its four great systems of sensationalism, idealism, scepticism, mysticism, he recognised the substance of philosophy itself undergoing the process of evolution; each system is true in what it affirms, false in what it denies. With psychology as a starting-point, and eclecticism as a method, Cousin attempted to establish a spiritualist doctrine. A young leader in the domain of thought, he became at a later time too imperious a ruler. In the writings of his disciple and friend THEODORE JOUFFROY (1796-1842) there is a deeper accent of reality. Doubting, and contending with his doubts, Jouffroy brooded upon the destiny of man, made inquisition into the problems of psychology, refusing to identify mental science with physiology, and applied his remarkable powers of patient and searching thought to the solution of questions in morals and aesthetics. The school of Cousin has been named eclectic; it should rather be named spiritualist. The tendencies to which it owed its origin extended beyond philosophy, and are apparent in the literary art of Cousin's contemporaries.


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