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Victor Cousin

philosophy, public, doctrines, philosophic, plato, france, germany and instruction

COUSIN, VICTOR, the founder of systematic eclecticism in modern philosophy, was b. in Paris, Nov. 28, 1792. He studied with brilliant success at the ..Lyee Charlemagne. In 1812, he was appointed Greek tutor in the Eeole .Kormale, and, in 1814, examiner in philosopher. In the following year he became assistant-professor to Royer-Collard at the Sorbonne, and threw himself heartily into that reaction against the sensualistic philos ophy and literature of the 18th century, which was then the order of the day. Follow ing the path of his senior, he became an exponent of the doctrines of the Scotch meta physicians, but exhibited far more brilliancy, energy, and warmth of expression than the original authors of these doctrines. In 1817, C. visited Germany, where he was introduced to bolder and more speculative systems of philosophy than any he had yet known. lie studied successively, or at the same time, Plato, Kant, Jacobi, Fieate, and Schelling. A second visit to Germany, in 1824-25, had also important consequences. Suspected of carbonarism, he was arrested at Dresden by the police, and sent to Berlin, where he was detained for six months. He took advantage of his compulsory residence in the capital of Prussia to study the philosophy of Hegel, which exercised considerable influence on his susceptible intellect. On his return to France, he took a decided stand against the reactionary policy of Charles X.; and in 1S27, when the comparatively lib eral ministry of Martignac came into office, C'., who had for some years been suspended from his professorial functions, was reinstated in his chair. Meanwhile, C. had appeared as an author. During 1820-27, he published his editions of Proclus and Descartes, and part of his celebrated translation of Plato, which was finished in 1840, in 13 vols. The year 1828 witnessed the most splendid triumph in the career of C. as a philosophic teacher. It is said that to find an audience as numerous, and as passionately interested in the topics discussed, as gathered round C., it would be necessary to go back to the days of Abelard and other medieval teachers of philosophy. C. was still young, simple, and pure in his habits; his doctrines were for the most part new to his hearers, bold, and in harmony with the spirit of the time. The finest qualities of the national genius appeared in his lectures, a NN onderful lucidity of exposition, an exquisite beauty of style such as no modern or ancient philosopher, excepting Plato, has equaled; a bril liancy of generalization and criticism that enchanted every one; and a power of co-or dinating the facts of history and philosophy in such a manner as to make each illustrate the other, and reveal their most intricate relations. At this period, C. was one of the

most influential leaders of opinion among the educated classes in Paris; and conse quently, after the revolution of 1830, when his friend Guizot became prime-minister, C. was made a member of the council of public instruction; in 1832, a peer of France; and later, director of the Ecole .Aormale. His efforts for the organization of primary instruction are to be seen in those valuable reports which be drew up, from personal observation, on the state of public education in Germany and Holland. In 1840, be was elected a member of the Actidemie des Sciences Morales d Politiques, and in the same year became minister of public instruction in the cabinet of Thiess. The revolution of 1848 found in C. a friend rather than an enemy. He aided the government of Cavaignac, and published an anti-socialistic brochure, called justice ct aurae. After 1849, he dis appeared from public life, and died in 1867.

It is more easy to state what philosophical doctrines have received exposition at the hands of C., than to determine precisely what are his own. At first a disciple of Royer Collard and the Scotch school, he was attached to the psychological method of investi gation; afterwards a keen student of the German school, he expounded the views of bchelling with such copious enthusiasm, that he might legitimately enough have been considered a thorough pantheist. Judging from such a book as Du Vrai, du Beau, et du Bien (1853), he seemed more disposed, latterly, to regard philosophy in its religious and testhetie relations. See ECLECTICISM.

C.'s chief works (besides those already mentioned) are Fragments Philosophigues (1826); Coors de CHistoire de la Philosophic (1827); Currants inedites d' Abelard (1836); Coors d'His loire de la Philosophic Modern (1841); Coors d'Histaire de la Philosophie Morale au XVII. Slide (1840-41); Lecons de Philosophie sur Kant (1842); Des Pensees de Pascal (1842); Etudes kur ks Females et la Societe du XVII. Siecle, etc. (1853). C. also contributed a great variety of papers to the literary and philosophic reviews of France.