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The appearance of this publication , so nearly coincident with the decease of its distinguished author , naturally suggests the propriety of some attempt to form a general estimate of his character and merits as a professor of his favourite science ; more especially as they seem to us to be not less unjustly cried down by some , than they have been extravagantly overrated by others . ked
This mar diversity in the state of public opinion may be ascribed in a great measure to the sectarian spirit which has always distinguished the cultivators of mental and moral science , and to the decided manner in which Mr . Stewart has himself assumed the character of a partizan on some of the disputed questions which have been the leading subjects of controversy . It might perhaps have been supposed that the abstracted nature of many of
these questions , so little connected with any personal interests of the disputants , addressed almost exclusively to the understanding , and not to the imagination or the passions , would have given them some chance of a fair and calm examination ; we find , however , that even in these discussions the baneful influence of party feelings makes its way , and that grave philosophers too often shew themselves animated by a very unphilosophical spirit .
Owing to the influence of these feelings both in his admirers and opponents , we think it will yet be some time before the rank which Mr . Stewart is permanently to occupy in the rolls of philosophical and literary fame is fairly ascertained and generally acknowledged . That in both these characters his merits are very considerable , we imagine will be almost universally admitted . The attractive graces of his style , which , though somewhat diffuse , has been j ustly recommended as a model of that purity , correctness , and
perspicuity , which ought to be the distinguishing characteristics of philosophical composition , have done much to promote , especially among his own countrymen , the increasing popularity of metaphysical studies . He possessed the great advantage of very extensive reading , an accomplishment which he has turned to excellent account , in what may perhaps be considered as his most valuable performance , the dissertation prefixea to the first volume of the supplement to the Encyclopaedia Britannica . Here it is applied to its proper purpose in enabling him to give an interesting , and , on the whole ,
( except in the latter parts , where personal predilection and national or party prejudice have in some measure perverted his judgment , ) a correct view of the progress of thought and discovery on some of the most important subjects that can occupy the human faculties . In a treatise , however , in which we naturally look for original speculation , it not unfrequently occasions us a disappointment , by leading the author to imagine he has presented us with a new discovery , when he has only reconciled the apparent contradictions , exposed the inconsistencies and mistakes , or drawn a nice and almost
evanescent line of distinction between the tenets of former writers . It is in the character of a man of letters rather than of science , that we think Mr . Stewart will be most highly estimated by posterity . Many of his speculations on metaphysical questions appear to us very superficial and unsatisfactory , and his conclusions very far from correct ; while at other times , in the midst of the lengthened discussions and diversified illustrations in which he indulges himself , it is by no means easy to ascertain his precise object . But his dissertations on subjects connected with polite literature
? The Philosophy of the Active and Moral Powers of Man . By Dug . Stewart , Esq ., &c ., &c . 2 Vola . 8 vo . Longman and Co .
DUGAXD STEWART . *
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Monthly Repository (1806-1838) and Unitarian Chronicle (1832-1833), Jan. 2, 1829, page 31, in the Nineteenth-Century Serials Edition (2008; 2018) ncse.ac.uk/periodicals/mruc/issues/vm2-ncseproduct2568/page/31/