The Philosophy Of Sir William Hamilton, And Its Recent Theological Applications -- By: Joseph Haven

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 018:69 (Jan 1861)
Article: The Philosophy Of Sir William Hamilton, And Its Recent Theological Applications
Author: Joseph Haven


The Philosophy Of Sir William Hamilton, And Its Recent Theological Applications

Joseph Haven

In October, 1829, appeared, in the Edinburgh Review, an Article sharply criticising the Cours de Philosophie (then recently published) by Victor Cousin. This Article, by its profound and masterly analysis, its critical sharpness, its combined candor and fearlessness, its remarkable erudition, at once attracted attention as the work of no ordinary mind. It was understood to be from the pen of Sir William Hamilton, baronet, of the ancient family of that name, a lawyer by profession, at that time filling the chair of civil law and universal history in the university of Edinburgh; known to the literary circles of the metropolis as a man of extensive and varied acquisition, but not previously of established repute in the world of letters. A few years previously he had been an unsuccessful competitor with Wilson for the chair of Moral Philosophy in the university.

On the Continent, at the time of which we speak, few names were more illustrious, in the world of letters and philosophy than that of Victor Cousin, then in the height of his fame as professor of philosophy to the faculty of letters at Paris. His personal history, his learning, his reputation as a

critic and an author, his familiar acquaintance with systems of philosophy, ancient and modern, his clearness of thought united with a beautiful transparency of style, and a glowing fervor of delivery, rendered him, as a lecturer, peculiarly attractive. Audiences of two thousand persons, not unfrequently, thronged his lecture room to listen to the discussion of themes not usually considered attractive by the multitude.

To assail the favorite theory of a philosopher so distinguished, might seem hazardous; but the masterly ability with which the attack was made, placed the writer in the front rank of philosophical critics.1

This Article was followed, in the succeeding year, by another, on the philosophy of perception, in review of Jouffroy’s edition of the works of Reid, in which the leading principles of the author’s doctrine of perception were first promulged, and the merits of other systems, particularly the doctrines of Brown, subjected to the most severe and rigid criticism. Three years later appeared, in the same quarterly, and from the same pen, the famous article on logic, in which the English logicians, and especially Whately, are somewhat severely handled. The reputation of the writer, as at once a formidable critic and a most profound and original thinker, was now fully established; and, in 183...

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