Thomas, Christian

, a modern philosopher, was born at Leipsic, in 1655, and was well educated, first under his father, and afterwards in the Leipsic university. At first, he acquiesced in the established doctrines of the schools; but, upon reading PuffendorPs “Apology for rejecting the Scholastic Principles of Morals and Law,” he determined | to renounce all implicit deference to ancient dogmas. He read lectures upon the subject of natural law, first from the text of Grotius, and afterwards from that of Puffendorf, freely exercising his own judgment, and boldly advancing new opinions. Whilst his father was living, paternal prudence and moderation restrained the natural vehemence and acrimony of the young man’s temper, which was too apt to break out, even in his public lectures. But when he was left to himself, the boldness with which he advanced unpopular tenets, and the severity with which he dealt out his satirical censures, soon brought upon him the violent resentment of theologians and professors.

An “Introduction to Puffendorf,” which Thomas published in 1687, in which he deduced the obligation of morality from natural principles, occasioned great offence, which he increased in the following year, by commencing a monthly journal which he called “Free Thoughts: or Monthly Dialogues on various books, chiefly new;” iti which he attacked many of his contemporaries with such severity, and probably with such injustice, that he -narrowly escaped punishment from the ecclesiastical court of Dresden. A charge also of contempt of religion was brought against him, but was not prosecuted. A satirical review, which he wrote, of a treatise “On the Divine right of Kings,” published by a Danish divine; “A Defence of the Sect of the Pietists,” and other satirical publications, at last excited the resentment of the clergy against Thomas, and he found it necessary to leave Leipsic, and by the permission of the elector of Brandenburgh, read private lectures in the city of Hall. After a short interval, he was appointed public professor of jurisprudence, first in Berlin, and afterwards at Hall. In these situations, he thought himself at full liberty to indulge his satirical humour, and to engage in the controversies of the times; and, as long as he lived, he continued to make use of this liberty in a manner which subjected him to much odium. He died at Hall in 1728.

Besides the satirical journal already mentioned, Thomas wrote several treatises on logic, morals, and jurisprudence; in which he advanced many dogmas contrary to received opinions. In his writings on physics, he leaves the ground of experiment and rational investigation, and appears among the mystics. His later pieces are in many particulars inconsistent with the former. His principal | philosophical works are “An Introduction to Aulic Philosophy, of Outlines to the Art of Thinking and Reasoning;” “Introduction to Rational Philosophy;” “A Logical Praxis;” “Introduction to Moral Philosophy;” “A Cure for Irregular Passions, and the Doctrine of Self-Knowledge;” “The new Art of discovering the secret Thoughts of Men;” “Divine Jurisprudence;” “Foundations of the Law of Nature and Nations;” “Dissertation on the Crime of Magic;” “Essay on the Nature and Essence of Spirit, or Principles of Natural and Moral Science;” “History of Wisdom and Folly.

Brncker gives the following brief specimen of the more peculiar tenets of this bold, eccentric, and inconsistent philosopher. "Thought arises from images impressed upon the brain; and the action of thinking is performed in the whole brain. Brutes are destitute of sensation. Man is a corporeal substance, capable of thinking and moving, or endued with intellect and will. Man does not always think. Truth is the agreement of thought with the nature of things. The senses are not deceitful, but all fallacy is the effect of precipitation and prejudice. From perceptions arise ideas, and their relations; and from these, reasonings. It is impossible to discover truth by the syllogistic art. No other rule is necessary in reasoning, than that of following the natural order of investigation; beginning from those things which are best known, and proceeding, by easy steps, to those which are more difficult.

Perception is a passive affection, produced by some external object, either in the intellectual sense, or in the inclination of the will. Essence is that without which a thing cannot be perceived. God is not perceived by the intellectual sense, but by the inclination of the will: for creatures affect the brain; but God, the heart. All creatures are in God: nothing is exterior to him. Creation is extension produced from nothing by the divine power. Creatures are of two kinds, passive and active; the former is mattr r; the latter, spirit. Matter is dark and cold, and capable of being acted upon by spirit, which is light, warm, and active. Spirit may subsist without matter, but desires a union with it. All bodies consist of matter and spirit, and have therefore some kind of life. Spirit attracts spirit, and thus sensibly operates upon matter united to spirit. This attraction in man is called love; in other bodies, sympathy. A finite spirit may be cgnsidcred as a limited | sphere in which rays, luminous, warm, and active, flow from a centre. Spirit is the region of the body to which it is united. The region of finite spirits is God. The human soul is a ray From the divine nature; whence it desires union with God, who is love. Since the essence of spirit consists in action, and of body in passion, spirit may exist without thought: of this kind are light, ether, and other active principles in nature.” Fortunately, says a very judicious writer, this jargon is as unintelligible as the categories of Kant, and the blasphemies of Spinosa. 1


Brucker. Suppl. to the Encycl. Brit.