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MAINE DE BIRAN

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Originally appearing in Volume V17, Page 442 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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MAINE DE BIRAN, FRANcOIS-PIERRE-GONTHIER (1766-1824), French philosopher, was born at Bergerac, on the 29th of November, 1766. The name Maine he assumed (some time before 1787) from an estate called Le Maine, near Mouleydier. After studying with distinction under the doctrinaires of Perigueux, he entered the life-guards of Louis XVI., and was present at Versailles on the memorable 5th and 6th of October 1789. On the breaking up of the gardes du corps Biran retired to his patrimonial inheritance of Grateloup, near Bergerac, where his retired life preserved him from the horrors of the Revolution. It was at this period that, to use his own words, he " passed per saltum from frivolity to philosophy." He began with psychology, which he made the study of his life. After the Reign of Terror Maine de Biran took part in political affairs. Having been excluded from the council of the Five Hundred on suspicion of royalism, he took part with his friend Laine in the commission of 1813, which gave expression for the first time to direct opposition to the will of the emperor. After the Restoration he held the office of treasurer to the chamber of deputies, and habitually retired during the autumn recess to his native district to pursue his favourite study. He died on the loth (16th, or 23rd, according to others) of July 1824. Maine de Biran's philosophical reputation has suffered from two causes—his obscure and laboured style, and the fact that only a few, and these the least characteristic, of his writings appeared during his lifetime. These consisted of the essay on habit (Sur l'influence de l'habitude, 1803), a critical review of P. Laromiguiere's lectures (1817), and the philosophical portion of the article " Leibnitz " in the Biographie universelle (1819). A treatise on the analysis of thought (Sur la decomposition de la pensee), although sent to press, was never, printed. In 1834 these writings, together with the essay entitled Nouvelles considerations sur les rapports du physique et du moral de l'homme, were published by Victor Cousin, who in 1841 added three volumes, under the title fEuvres philosophiques de Maine de Biran. But the publication (in 1859) by E. Naville (from MSS. placed at his father's disposal by Biran's son) of the Euvres inedites de Maine de Biran, in three volumes, first rendered possible a connected view of his philosophical development. At first a sensualist, like Condillac and Locke, next an intellectualist, he finally shows himself a mystical theosophist. The Essai sur les fondements de la psychologie represents the second or completest stage of his philosophy, the fragments of the Nouveaux essais d'anthropologie the third. Maine de Biran's first essays in philosophy were written avowedly from the point of view of Locke and Condillac, but even in them he was brought to signalize the essential fact on which his later speculation turns. Dealing with the formation of habits, he is compelled to note that passive impressions, however transformed, do not furnish a complete or adequate explanation. With Laromiguiere he distinguishes attention as an active effort, of no less importance than the passive receptivity of sense, and with Butler distinguishes passively formed customs from active habits. He finally arrived at the conclusion that Condillac's notion of passive receptivity as the one source of conscious experience was not only an error in fact but an error of method—in short, that the mechanical mode of viewing consciousness as formed by external influence was fallacious and deceptive. For it he proposed to substitute the genetic method, whereby human conscious experience might be exhibited as growing or developing from its essential basis in connexion with external conditions. The essential basis he finds in the real consciousness, of self as an active striving power, and the stages of its development, corresponding to what one may call the relative importance of the external conditions and the reflective clearness of self-consciousness he designates as the affective, the perceptive and the reflective. In connexion with this Biran treats most of the obscure problems which arise in dealing with conscious experience, such as the mode by which the organism is cognized, the mode by which the organism is distinguished from extra-organic things, and the nature of those general ideas by which the relations of things are known to us—cause, power, force, &c. In the latest stage of his speculation Biran distinguishes the animal existence from the human, under which the three forms above noted are classed, and both from the life of the spirit, in which human thought is brought into relation with the supersensible, divine system of things. This stage is left imperfect. Altogether Biran's work presents a very remarkable specimen of deep meta-physical thinking directed by preference to the psychological aspect of experience. The tEuvres inedites of Maine de Biran by E. Naville contain an introductory study; in 1887 appeared Science et psychologie: nouvelles xuvres inedites, with introduction by A. Bertrand. See also O. Merton, Etude critique sur Maine de Biran (1865); E. Naville, Maine de Biran, sa vie et ses pensees (1874); J. Gerard, Maine de Biran, essai sur sa philosophie (1876); Mayonade, Pensees et pages inedites de Maine de Biran (Perigueux, 1896) ; G. Allievo, " Maine de Biran e la sua dottrina antropologica " (Turin, 1896, in Memorie dell' accademia delle scienze, 2nd ser., xlv, pt. 2); A. Lang, Maine de Biran and die neuere Philosophic (Cologne, 1901); monographs by A. Kuhtmann (Bremen, 1901) and M. Couailhac (1905); N. E. Truman in Cornell Studies in Philosophy, No. 5 (1904) on Maine de Biran's Philosophy of Will. MAINE-ET-LOIRE, a department of western France, formed in 1790 for the most part out of the southern portion of the former province of Anjou, and bounded N. by the departments of Mayenne and Sarthe, E. by Indre-et-Loire, S.E. by Vienne, S. by Deux-Sevres and Vendee, W. by Loire-Inferieure, and N.W. by Ille-et-Vilaine. Area, 2786 sq. m. Pop. (19(26), 513,490. Maine-et-Loire is made up of two distinct regions, the line of demarcation running roughly from north to south along the valley of the Sarthe, then turning south-west and passing Brissac and Doue; that to the west consists of granites, felspars, and a continuation of the geological formations of Brittany and Vendee; to the east, schists, limestone and chalk prevail. The department is traversed from east to west by the majestic valley of the Loire, with its rich orchards, nurseries and market-gardens. The highest altitudes are found in the south-west, where north-east of Cholet one eminence reaches 689 ft. Else-where the surface is low and undulating in character. The department belongs entirely to the basin of the Loire, the bed of which is wide but shallow, and full of islands, the depth of the water in summer being at some places little more than 2 ft. Floods are sudden and destructive. The chief affluent of the Loire within the department is the Maine, formed a little above Angers by the junction of the Mayenne and the Sarthe, the latter having previously received the waters of the Loire. All three are navigable. Other tributaries of the Loire are theThouet (with its tributary the Dive), the Layon, the Evre, and the Divatte on the left, and the Authion on the right. The Mayenne is joined on the right by the Oudon, which can be navigated below Segre. The Erdre, which joins the Loire at Nantes, and the Moine, a tributary of the Sevre-Nantaise, both rise within this department. The climate is very mild. The mean annual temperature of Angers is about 53°, slightly exceeding that of Paris; the rainfall (between 23 and 24 in. annually) is distinctly lower than that of the rest of France. Notwithstanding this deficiency, the frequent fogs, combined with the peculiar nature of the soil in the south-east of the department, produce a degree of moisture which is highly favourable to meadow growths. The winter colds are never severe, and readily permit the cultivation of certain trees which cannot be reared in the adjoining departments. The agriculture of the department is very prosperous. The produce of cereals, chiefly wheat, oats and barley, is in excess of its needs, and potatoes and mangels also give good returns. Extensive areas in the valley of the Loire are under hemp, and the vegetables, melons and other fruits of that region are of the finest quality. Good wine is produced at Serrant and other places near Angers, and on the right bank of the Layon and near Saumur, the sparkling white wine of which is a rival of the cheaper brands of champagne. Cider is also produced, and the cultivation of fruit is general. Forests and woodland in which oak and beech are the chief trees cover large tracts. The fattening of cattle is an important industry round Cholet, and horses much used for light cavalry are reared. Several thousand workmen are employed in the slate quarries in the vicinity of Angers, tufa is worked in the river valleys, and freestone and other stone, mispickel, iron and coal are also found. Cholet, the chief industrial town, and its district manufacture pocket-handkerchiefs, as well as linen cloths, flannels, cotton goods, and hempen and other coarse fabrics, and similar industries are carried on at Angers, which also manufactures liqueurs, rope, boots and shoes and parasols. Saumur, besides its production of wine, makes beads and enamels. The commerce of Maine-et-Loire comprises the exportation of live stock and of the various, products of its soil and industries, and the importation of hemp, cotton, and other raw materials. The department is served by the railways of the state and the Orleans and Western companies. The Mayenne, the Sarthe and the Loir, together with some of the lesser rivers, provide about 130 M. of navigable waterway. In the south-east the canal of the Dive covers some to m. in the department. There are five arrondissements—Angers, Bauge, Cholet, Saumur and Segre, with 34 cantons and 381 communes. Maineet-Loire belongs to the academie (educational division) of Rennes, to the region of the VIII. army corps, and to the ecclesiastical province of Tours. Angers (q.v.), the capital, is the seat of a bishopric and of a court of appeal. Other principal places are Cholet, Saumur, and Fontevrault, which receive separate treatment. For architectural interest there may also be mentioned the chateaux of Brissac (17th century), Serrant (15th and 16th centuries), Montreuil-Bellay (14th and 15th centuries), and Ecuille (15th century), and the churches of Puy-Notre-Dame (13th century) and St Florent-le-Vieil (13th, 17th, and 19th centuries), the last containing the fine monument to Charles Bonchamps, the Vendean leader, by David d'Angers. Gennes has remains of a theatre and other ruins of the Roman period, as well as two churches dating in part from the loth century. Ponta-de-a, an interesting old town built partly on islands in the Loire, is historically important, because till the Revolution its bridges formed the only way across the Loire between Saumur and Nantes.
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