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A History of Philosophy in Epitome by Schwegler

Condillac referred reflection to sensation


There

needs no further proof, than simply to utter these chief thoughts of Hume, to show that his scepticism is only a logical carrying out of Locke's empiricism. Every determination of universality and necessity must fall away, if we derive our knowledge only from perceptions through the sense; these determinations cannot be comprised in sensation.

SECTION XXX.

CONDILLAC.

The French took up the problem of carrying out the empiricism of Locke, to its ultimate consequences in sensualism and materialism. Although this empiricism had sprung up on English soil, and had soon become universally prevalent there, it was reserved for France to push it to the last extreme, and show that it overthrew all the foundations of moral and religious life. This final consequence of empiricism did not correspond to the English national character. But on the contrary, both the empiricism of Locke, and the scepticism of Hume, found themselves opposed in the latter half of the eighteenth century, by a reaction in the Scotch philosophy (_Reid_ 1701-1799, _Beattie_, _Oswald_, _Dugald Stewart_, 1753-1828). The attempt was here made to establish certain principles of truth as innate and immanent in the subject, which should avail both against the _tabula rasa_ of Locke, and the scepticism of Hume. These principles were taken in a thoroughly English way, as those of common

sense, as facts of experience, as facts of the moral instinct and sound human understanding; as something empirically given, and found in the common consciousness by self-contemplation and reflection. But in France, on the other hand, there was such a public and social condition of things during the eighteenth century, that we can only regard the systems of materialism and egoistic moralism which here appeared, as the last practical consequences of the empirical standpoint,--to be the natural result of the universal desolation. The expression of a lady respecting the system of Helvetius is well known, that it uttered only the secret of all the world.

Most closely connected with the empiricism of Locke, is the sensualism of the Abbe _Condillac_. Condillac was born at Grenoble, 1715. In his first writings he adhered to Locke, but subsequently passed beyond him, and sought to ground a philosophical standpoint of his own. He was elected a member of the French Academy in 1768, and died in 1780. His writings fill twenty-three volumes, and have their origin in a moral and religious interest.

Condillac, like Locke, started with the proposition that all our knowledge comes from experience. While, however, Locke had indicated two sources for this knowledge, sensation and reflection, the outer and the inner sense, Condillac referred reflection to sensation, and reduced the two sources to one. Reflection is, with him, only sensation; all intellectual occurrences, even the combination of ideas and volition, are to be regarded only as modified sensations. It is the chief problem and content of Condillac's philosophizing to carry out this thought, and derive the different functions of the soul out of the sensations of the outer sense. He illustrates this thought by a statue, which has been made with a perfect internal organization like a man, but which possesses no ideas, and in which only gradually one sense after another awakens and fills the soul with impressions. In such a view man stands on the same footing as the brute, for all his knowledge and all his incentives to action he receives from sensation. Condillac consequently names men perfect animals, and brutes imperfect men. Still he revolts from affirming the materiality of the soul, and denying the existence of God. These ultimate consequences of sensualism were first drawn by others after him, as would naturally enough follow. As sensualism affirmed that truth or being could only be perceived through the sense, so we have only to reverse this proposition, and have the thesis of materialism, viz.: the sensible alone is, there is no other being but material being.


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