Home  »  Joseph Joubert A Selection from His Thoughts  »  Literary Judgments. III. Metaphysicians

Joseph Joubert (1754–1824). Joubert: A Selection from His Thoughts. 1899.

Chapter XXIII.

Literary Judgments. III. Metaphysicians

[1]BACON put his imagination into physical science as Plato had put his into metaphysics; Bacon was as bold and adventurous in building up conjectures by the aid of experience as Plato was magnificent in the setting forth of probabilities. Plato, at least, gives his ideas as ideas; but Bacon gives his as facts. Therefore he is more misleading in natural science than the other in metaphysics. See his Historia Vitæ et Mortis. Nevertheless both were great and splendid minds. Both clove a broad way through literary space; Bacon with the light firmness of his tread, Plato with the broad sweep of his wing.

[2]Hobbes, it is said, was a bad-tempered man; this does not surprise me. Bad temper more than anything else makes the mind and tone decided; it is what irresistibly leads us to concentrate our ideas. It abounds in lively expression; but, to become philosophical, it must spring exclusively from the unreasonableness of others, and not from our own; from the evil mind of the time in which we live, and not from our own evil mind.

[3]Locke’s book is imperfect. His whole subject is not in it, because it was not in the author’s mind beforehand. He throws himself upon the lesser parts of it, which he divides and subdivides forever. He leaves the trunk for the branches, and his work has too many ramifications.

[4]Locke shows himself nearly always to be an inventive logician, but a bad metaphysician; in fact, an enemy to metaphysics. He was not merely destitute of metaphysic, he was incapable of it, and hostile to it. A good questioner, a good experimenter, but without light; a blind man who makes good use of his stick.

[5]Kant seems to have made a laborious language for himself, and as it was laborious to him to construct, so is it laborious to us to read. Thence, doubtless, it arises that he has often mistaken his method for his matter. He thought he was making ideas when he was only making phrases. His language and his concepts have something so opaque about them, that it was impossible for him not to believe that there was some solidity in them. Our French transparency and lightness deceive us less. Here is a subject for treatment: ‘Of the deceptions that the mind practises upon itself, according to the nature of the language that it employs.’

[6]One is tempted to say to Kant, ‘Show us where the unknown begins’: that we never see.