by Paul Elmer More
By positive science I mean the observation and classification of facts and the discovery of those constant sequences in phenomena which can be expressed in mathematical formulae or in the generalized language of law; I mean that procedure which Huxley had in mind when he said that science is "nothing but trained and organized common sense, differing from the latter only as a veteran may differ from a raw recruit: and its methods differ from those of common sense only so far as the guardsman's cut and thrust differ from the manner in which a savage wields his club." Now for such a procedure no one can feel anything but the highest respect - respect which in the lay mind may well mount to admiration and even to awe. He has but a poor imagination who cannot be stirred to wonder before the triumphs over material forces gained by methods of which he can confess only humble ignorance; and beyond these visible achievements lies a whole region of intellectual activity open to the man of science, but closed and forever foreign to the investigator in other kinds of ideas. I am bound to insist on the fact that I have no foolish desire to belittle the honours of science in its practical applications, and that I can in a way estimate its rewards as an abstract study, however far the full fruition of the scientific life may lie beyond my reach.
Positive science, thus defined as that trained observation which brings the vision of order out of disorder, system out of chaos, law out of chance, might seem splendid enough in theory and useful enough in practice to satisfy the most exorbitant ambition. But it must be remembered that a law of science, however wide its scope, does not go beyond a statement of the relation of observed facts and tells us not a word of what lies behind this relationship or of the cause of these facts. Now the mind of man is so constituted that this ignorance of causes is to it a constant source of irritation; we are almost resistlessly tempted to pass beyond the mere statement of law to erecting a theory of the reality that underlies the law. Such a theory is an hypothesis, and such activity of the mind is hypothetical science as distinguished from positive science. But we must distinguish further. The word hypothesis is used, by the man of science as well as by the layman, in two quite different senses. On the one hand, it may mean the attempt to express in language borrowed from our sensuous experience the nature of a cause or reality which transcends such experience. Thus the luminiferous ether is properly an hypothesis: by its very definition it transcends the reach of our perceptive faculties; we cannot see it, or feel it in any way; yet it is, or was, assumed to exist as the cause of known phenomena and its properties were given in terms of density, elasticity, etc., which are appropriate to material things which we can see and feel. On the other hand, the word hypothesis is often taken to signify merely a scientific law which belongs to the realm of positive science, but which is still to be established. Confusion would be avoided if we employed the term scientific conjecture for this second, and proper, procedure, and confined the use of the term hypothesis to the former, and as I think improper, procedure. To make clear these distinctions let me give an illustration or two. The formula of gravitation merely states the regularity of a certain group of known phenomena from the motion of a falling apple to the motion of the planets about the sun. When this formula first dawned on the mind of Newton, it was a scientific conjecture; when it was tested and proved to conform to facts, it became an accepted scientific law. Both conjecture and accepted law are strictly within the field of positive science. But if Newton, not content with generalizing the phenomena of gravitation in the form of a law, had undertaken to theorize on the absolute nature of the attraction which caused the phenomena of gravitation,* he would have passed from the sphere of positive science to that of hypothetical science. So when Darwin, by systematizing the vast body of observations in biology and geology, showed that plants and animals develop in time and with the changes of the earth from the simplest forms of animate existence to the most complex forms now seen, and thus gave precision to the law of evolution, he was working in the field of positive science: he changed what had been a conjectured law to a generally accepted law. But when he went a step further and undertook to explain the cause of this evolution by the theory of natural selection or the survival of the fit, he passed from positive to hypothetical science.
[* On this point compare Berkeley, Siris, 245-250.]
In my essay on Newman I found it convenient to classify the minds of men figuratively in an inner and an outer group. In the outer group I placed the two extremes of the mystic and the sceptic, and in the inner group the non-mystical religious mind and the non-sceptical scientific mind. These two classes of the inner group differ in their field of interest, the one being concerned with the observation of spiritual states, the other with the observation of material phenomena; but they agree in so far as the former passes from the facts of his spiritual consciousness to the belief in certain causes conceived as mythological beings and known by revelation, while the latter passes from the facts of his material observations to the belief in certain causes conceived as hypotheses and known by inference. Hypotheses, in other words, are merely the mythology, the deus ex machina, of science, and they are eradicated from the scientific mind only by the severest discipline of scepticism, just as mythology is eradicated from the religious mind by genuine mysticism. I am aware of the danger of inculcating such an eradication. As for most men to take away the belief in their gods as known realities would be to put an end to their religion, so, it may be objected, to take away these hypotheses would be to endanger the very foundations of science. Yet, even if scientific hypotheses, in consideration of human frailty, may have their use just as mythologies have their use, I still protest that they are not necessary to scientific discovery, as is proved by the great example of Newton. I believe, though my temerity may only be equalled by my ignorance, that they have oftener introduced confusion into pure science than they have aided in the discovery of new laws or in the broadening of known laws; and I am confirmed in this belief by the present state of biology. Darwin's law of evolution has remained virtually unshaken and has, I suppose, been the instigation of innumerable discoveries; but, so far as I may judge from my limited reading in the subject, Darwin's hypothesis of natural selection and the survival of the fit has on the one hand been seriously and widely questioned as a cause sufficient to account for evolution, and on the other hand has led to speculation to find a substitute for it which in wildness of theorizing and in audacity of credulousness can only be likened to the intricacies of religious scholasticism.
The condemnation of hypothetical science as dangerous to integrity of mind is no new thing. Even in the seventeenth century Joseph Glanvill saw how surely the enthusiasm engendered by the foundation of the Royal Society would lead to vain hypotheses. In his Scepsis Scientifica he sets forth their nature and forestalls Hume's destructive analysis of our notion of causality, with strong warning that the man of science should not "build the Castle of his intellectual security, in the Air of Opinions.... Opinions [he adds, meaning hypotheses] are the Rattles of immature intellects .... Dogmatizing is the great disturber both of our selves and the world without us." In the next age Bolingbroke, in his Essays Addressed to Mr. Pope, argued the question of the limits of human knowledge and the fallacies of hypothetical theorizing with a clearness and penetration which would have made that work one of the bulwarks of English philosophy, were it not for my Lord's disdain of the rules of composition and the tediousness of his endless repetitions, and were it not above all for his own inconsistency in urging the most colossal of all hypotheses, that of universal optimism. In particular he takes up, more than once, the common plea that hypotheses are useful, whether true or not.
It will be urged, perhaps, as decisive in favor of hypotheses [he observes], that they may be of service, and can be of no disservice to us, in our pursuit of knowledge. An hypothesis founded on mere arbitrary assumptions will be a true hypothesis, and therefore of service to philosophy, if it is confirmed by many observations afterwards, and if no one phaenomenon stand in opposition to it. An hypothesis that appears inconsistent with the phaenomena will be soon demonstrated false, and as soon rejected.In reply he shows by example how hypotheses have kept men from the right path of investigation and how they have been maintained (what rich and even ridiculous examples he might have produced from our age) after they have been proved inconsistent with facts and common sense. "The fautors of hypotheses would have us believe that even the detection of their falsehood gives occasion to our improvement in knowledge. But the road to truth does not lie through the precincts of error." Now, it is true that neither Glanvill nor Bolingbroke distinguished between the legitimate use of scientific conjecture and the illegitimate use of hypotheses, but they had chiefly in mind, I think, not the mere formulation of law but the attempt to penetrate into ultimate causes.
The chief fault of hypotheses, however, lies not in the entanglement of pure science among perilous ways and in the lifting up of the scientific imagination to idolatrous worship, as it were, of the chimaera bombinans in vacuo, but in the almost irresistible tendency of the human mind to glide from hypothetical science into what I have called philosophical science, meaning thereby the endeavour to formulate a philosophy of life out of scientific law and hypothesis. An hypothesis may be proclaimed by the man of science as a purely subjective formula for a group of phenomena, and as a confessedly temporary expedient for advancing a little further in the process of bringing our observations under the regularity of law; the man of science may pretend verbally to a purely sceptical attitude towards his transcendental definitions, but in practice this scepticism almost invariably gives way to a feeling that the formula for causes is as real objectively as the law of phenomena which it undertakes to explain, and to a kind of supercilious intolerance for those who maintain the sceptical attitude practically as well as verbally, or for those who build their faith on hypotheses of another sort than his own. Hence the hostility that has constantly existed between those who base their philosophy of life on intuition and the humanities and those who base it upon scientific law and hypothesis. At the very beginning of the modern scientific movement this antagonism made itself felt, and, as religion had then the stronger position in society, took the form of apologetics on the part of science. In what may be called the authorized History of the Royal Society, Bishop Sprat undertook to allay the suspicions that had immediately arisen against the chartered organization of experimental science. With specious sophistry he argued that the "new philosophy" would never encroach on the established system of education in the humanities. He admitted the natural alliance between science and industry against the feudal form of government, but asserted that science in this was only a handmaid of the times.
Nor ought our Gentry [he declares] to be averse from the promoting of Trade, out of any little Jealousy, that thereby they shall debase themselves, and corrupt their Blood: For they are to know, that Trafic and Commerce have given Mankind a higher Degree than any Title of Nobility, even that of Civility and Humanity itself. And at this time especially above all others, they have no reason to despise Trade as below them, when it has so great an influence on the very Government of the World. In former Ages indeed this was not so remarkable.Primarily, however, Sprat, as a prelate in good standing, contended that religion stood in no danger from the deductions of the new philosophy:
I do here, in the beginning, most sincerely declare, that if this Design [of the Royal Society] should in the least diminish the Reverence, that is due to the Doctrine of Jesus Christ, it were so far from deserving Protection, that it ought to be abhorr'd by all the Politic and Prudent; as well as by the devout Part of Christendom....It may seem a little illogical in the good Bishop first to apologize for science as having no finger in Spiritual Things and then to exalt it as a bulwark against atheism, but such an inconsistency is very human, and it is an example of the almost irresistible tendency of the mind to use its own specific form of knowledge as a criterion of all knowledge. The vacillation between apology and presumption introduced by the historian of the Royal Society has persisted to this day, and in essay after essay of Huxley's you will find the modern president of the Society maintaining on one page the self-limitations of positive science and on another page passing from hypothesis to a dogmatic philosophy, here rebuking those who confound the domains of scientific and spiritual law and there proclaiming science as a support of what he deems true religion. Much that he wrote was directed to temporary questions, and to open his volumes may seem even now to breathe the dust of battles fought long ago and rendered meaningless by the advance of time; but in reality, though their outer form may change, the disputes in which he engaged have not yet been settled as he so fondly believed they were, and can never be settled unless a sullen apathy be taken for assent.
Certainly Huxley, looking back from his quiet retirement at Eastbourne over his long and belligerent career, might be justified in thinking that victory was altogether the reward of his laborious life. He had had no other regular instruction than what he received for a couple of years in the semi-public school at Ealing of which his father was assistant master, and what he gained from lectures in Sydenham College, London, and at Charing Cross Hospital. In I846, at the age of twenty-one, he was appointed surgeon to H.M.S. Rattlesnake which was bound for a long surveying cruise in the Torres Straits. After four years in the Far East he returned to England, with a large experience in zoological and ethnological work, and with no immediate prospects of advancement. His first experience in London was embittered by governmental delays and neglect, but in 1851 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, receiving the Gold Medal the next year, and in 1854 he was appointed professor of natural history at the School of Mines. After that honours and offers came to him in rapid succession. He could not be tempted to leave London, where he felt himself at the centre of things, but in 1872 he accepted the position of Lord Rector of Aberdeen University, since this office afforded him an opportunity of exerting an influence on national education without giving up his residence in the capital. In 1883 he was chosen president of the Royal Society, and in 1892, in lieu of a title which he would not accept, he was raised to the Privy Council. It is not insignificant of his position in England that, on the occasion of kissing hands with the other Councillors at Osborne, when he snatched an opportunity for obtaining a close view of the Queen, he found Her Majesty's eyes fixed upon himself with the same inquisitiveness.
But the most sensible triumphs were no doubt those that came to him in public as the recognized spokesman of the new philosophy, and of these, two of a personal sort, gained at Oxford, the very citadel of the forces leagued against him, must have been peculiarly sweet. Every one knows of his famous tilt with Wilberforce at the meeting of the British Association at Oxford in 1860. It was just after the publication of The Origin of Species, and the Bishop of Oxford thought it a proper occasion to demolish the rising heresy with argument and ridicule. The lecture-room was crowded, the clergy being massed in the centre of the audience, and the very windows being packed with ladies who encouraged the champion of religion with their fluttering handkerchiefs. The Bishop spoke for an hour, assuring his hearers that there was nothing in the idea of evolution, and then, turning "with a smiling insolence" to Huxley who was sitting on the platform, "begged to know, was it through his grandfather or his grandmother that he claimed his descent from a monkey." At this Huxley is said to have struck his hand upon his knee, and to have exclaimed to his neighbour, "The Lord hath delivered him into mine hands." Then, as the event was described in Macmillan's Magazine, he "slowly and deliberately arose. A slight, tall figure, stern and pale, very quiet and very grave, he stood before us and spoke those tremendous words - words which no one seems sure of now, nor, I think, could remember just after they were spoken, for their meaning took away our breath, though it left us in no doubt as to what it was." According to Huxley's son and biographer the most accurate report of the concluding words is in a letter of John Richard Green:
I asserted - and I repeat - that a man has no reason to be ashamed of having an ape for his grandfather. If there were an ancestor whom I should feel shame in recalling it would rather be a man - a man of restless and versatile intellect - who, not content with an equivocal success in his own sphere of activity, plunges into scientific questions with which he has no real acquaintance, only to obscure them by an aimless rhetoric, and distract the attention of his hearers from the real point at issue by eloquent digressions and skilled appeals to religious prejudice.Again, at another meeting of the British Association at Oxford, in 1894, Huxley appeared as a champion of Darwinism against the insinuations of Lord Salisbury, who, in his speech as president, spoke with delicate irony "of the 'comforting word, evolution,' and, passing to the Weismannian controversy, implied that the diametrically opposed views so frequently expressed nowadays threw the whole process of evolution into doubt."[Professor H. F. Osborn in Transactions of the N. Y. Acad. Sci., vol. xv.] But things were not what they had been. The ready and vociferous applause was for the prophet of Darwinism, and Huxley, instead of repelling sarcasm with invective, now conscious of his triumphant position and of the courtesy due to one who as Prime Minister had only two years before honoured him with the Privy Councillorship, was compelled to veil "an unmistakable and vigorous protest in the most gracious and dignified speech of thanks." It was his last public appearance on any important occasion, a proper and almost majestic conclusion to his long warfare. He died on June 29 of the following year, having just completed his threescore and ten. By his direction three lines from a poem by his wife were inscribed on his tombstone:
Be not afraid, ye waiting hearts that weep;Better, if he could have known them, would have been the words spoken only the other day by the Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge at the great dinner given at the university on the occasion of Darwin's centenary:
I claim as a theologian - and I see representatives of law, music, and letters, and many other sciences and arts present - that only one spirit animates us all, and I should beg that we might be included in the term "naturalists."Now to Huxley more than to any other one man in England is due this victory, seeming to some so complete and final; he more than any other one man stood in the nineteenth century for the triple power of positive and hypothetical science and of philosophical science in the form of naturalism. Of his work in positive science I am incompetent to speak, but I can at least say that it was important enough to give him honourable standing among investigators and to clothe his popular utterances with authority. His great opportunity came with the publication of The Origin of Species when he was thirty-four years old, and for the remaining thirty-six years of his life he was the valiant and aggressive champion of evolution and the Darwinian hypothesis against all comers, whether they were mighty men of the Church or of Parliament. He was, so to speak, the Plato to the Socrates of the new philosophy, applying its premisses to every department of life. His power in this field was conditioned by his knowledge of science and of philosophy, but it depended also on his consummate skill in the use of language. To read his essays, which deal so magnificently with old disputes and forgotten animosities, is to feel - at least a literary man may be pardoned for so feeling--that here is one of the cunning artificers lost to letters, an essayist who, if he had devoted his faculties to the more permanent aspect of truth, might have taken a place among the great masters of literature. Certainly in sarcasm and irony he had no superior, unless it was Matthew Arnold, whom, indeed, he in many superficial respects resembles. He had, no doubt, easy material in the bishops, and the epithet episcopophagous, which he pleasantly coined for himself, tells the story of that contest in a word. Better material yet was afforded by Gladstone when, rushing in where bishops feared to tread, he undertook to uphold the cosmogony of Genesis as scientifically correct. Whatever one's attitude towards philosophical science may be, one can acknowledge a feeling of unreserved glee in seeing that flabby, pretentious intellect pricked and slashed in such masterly fashion. Satire like the following is never old:
In particular, the remarkable disquisition which covers pages 11 to 14 of Mr. Gladstone's last contribution [to the Nineteenth Century, January, 1886] has greatly exercised my mind. Socrates is reported to have said of the works of Heraclitus that he who attempted to comprehend them should be a "Delian swimmer," but that, for his part, what he could understand was so good that he was disposed to believe in the excellence of that which he found unintelligible. In endeavouring to make myself master of Mr. Gladstone's meaning in these pages, I have often been overcome by a feeling analogous to that of Socrates, but not quite the same. That which I do understand has appeared to me so very much the reverse of good, that I have sometimes permitted myself to doubt the value of that which I do not understand.That is the true joy of battle, that keeps the wrangling of ancient days forever young:
Full of the god that urged their burning breast, The heroes thus their mutual warmth express'd.In the case of Huxley himself there is no question of what we understand and what we do not understand. All in his writing is of that peculiarly lucid quality which is an argument in itself, for we are prone to accept the canon that what is clear must be true. Yet there is a distinction. Though, so far as regards the end immediately in view, Huxley is always a master of logical precision, one discovers, in reading him largely, that his ends are not always the same, and that in the total effect of his works there lies concealed an insoluble ambiguity. So it is that, though in one sense his strongest intellectual trait was, as his son says, "an uncompromising passion for truth," yet in the sum of his thinking he was one of the master sophists of the age. And the tracks of his sophistry lead straight to that confusion of positive science and hypothetical science and philosophical science which is, perhaps, the most characteristic mark of the last century.
Agnosticism, according to Huxley's own definition of the word which he invented to sum up his intellectual procedure, is neither scepticism nor dogmatism; it "is not properly described as a 'negative' creed, nor indeed as a creed of any kind, except in so far as it expresses absolute faith in the validity of a principle, which is as much ethical as intellectual,... that it is wrong for a man to say that he is certain of the objective truth of any proposition unless he can produce evidence which logically justifies that certainty." Agnosticism, then, is merely the honest adherence to evidence. Now no state of mind could be more exemplary than that of the agnostic when so defined. It has only one weakness, that, if we could accept their own opinion, it includes all men, and so defines nothing. Huxley, indeed, contrasts the procedure of the agnostic with theology, and declares that "agnosticism can be said to be a stage in its evolution, only as death may be said to be the final stage in the evolution of life." Really, the whole argument, for one so keen as Huxley, is rather naive. Does he suppose that Cardinal Newman, for instance, would admit that his theological hypothesis was any less supported by evidence than the evolutionary hypothesis? As a matter of fact Newman might retort that he had with him the evidence of ages, whereas Huxley was depending at bottom on the evidence of only a few decades of time. The difference between them does not lie in their loyalty or disloyalty to evidence per se, but in the kind of evidence from which they start; nor has Huxley, so far as I know, ever shown, or even seriously tried to show, that the inner evidence which gives us the sense of moral liberty and responsibility, of sin and holiness, is less logically trustworthy than the evidence of the eye and the ear.
That is the weakness of agnosticism as defined by its inventor, but it has a compensating advantage. As actually used by him it is at once a sword of offence and a buckler of safety; permitting the most truculent dogmatism when the errors of an enemy are to be exposed and the most elusive scepticism when the enemy charges in return. Indeed, an agnostic might briefly and not unfairly be defined as a dogmatist in attack and a sceptic in defence, which is but another way of calling him a sophist. With what dexterity Huxley wielded this double weapon may be seen in his use of the great question of scientific law. More than once (e.g., Science and Christian Tradition, p. I34), when certain deductions from the rigid application of law are brought home to him, he takes refuge in a sceptical limitation of law to the mere formulation of objective experience in a world which is ultimately moved by forces beyond the reach of man's perceptive faculties. And against the preacher who rashly invades the scientific field he can declare that "the habitual use of the word 'law,' in the sense of an active thing, is almost a mark of pseudoscience; it characterizes the writings of those who have appropriated the forms of science without knowing anything of its substance." Yet in the same essay, when he opens the attack upon those who would retreat into a region beyond scientific law, he avows boldly "the fundamental axiom of scientific thought," "that there is not, never has been, and never will be, any disorder in nature. The admission of the occurrence of any event which was not the logical consequence of the immediately antecedent events, according to these definite, ascertained, or unascertained rules which we call the 'laws of nature,' would be an act of self-destruction on the part of science." And elsewhere: "We ignore, even as a possibility, the notion of any interference with the order of Nature." Now when we consider that to regard the act of the will which originates the motion of raising the arm as a force in any way contrary to the law of gravitation, is in Huxley's mind an unscientific absurdity (Pseudo-Scientific Realism, passim), that, in other words, life and the world are to him a pure mechanism, and when we consider further that he identifies the claims of science with the desire of truth (Universities: Actual and Ideal, passim), it really should not have seemed to him so grave an error to use the word law for that force which produces the absolute uniformity defined by law. It is Huxley himself in these moments of attack who virtually, if not literally, takes law "in the sense of an active thing," which in his moments of defence he so vigorously repudiates.
Inevitably this ambiguity of attitude becomes even more perplexed when he applies the notion of scientific law to the deeper problems of life. In one place, for instance, he asserts that "there lies in the nature of things a reason for every moral law, as cogent and as well defined as that which underlies every physical law." But in another place he takes what, from his principles, must be regarded as the opposite point of view: "The notion that the doctrine of evolution can furnish a foundation for morals seems to me to be an illusion"; and again he states roundly that "cosmic nature is no school of virtue, but the headquarters of the enemy of ethical nature." This ambiguity of his position involves not only morals but the fundamental question of spirituality and materialism. In his freer moments of attack he does not hesitate to fling out the most relentless dogmas of materialism. The actuality of the spiritual world, he declares in one of his prefaces, lies entirely within the province of science - that is to say, is amenable to the undeviating operation of mechanical law; "the materials of consciousness are products of cerebral activity," and are "the result of molecular forces"; "we are," by an extension of the Cartesian theory of the lower animals, "conscious automata,... parts of the great series of causes and effects which, in unbroken continuity, composes that which is, and has been, and shall be the sum of existence." That should seem to be the most explicit materialism and necessitarianism; yet hear the same man on the other side! "For my part, I utterly repudiate and anathematize the intruder [this same necessitarianism]. Fact I know; and Law I know; but what is Necessity, save an empty shadow of my own mind's throwing?" In other words, when your enemy talks loosely of miracles and spiritual experiences and supernatural freedom, it is easy to crush him with this bludgeon of an unbroken law of mechanical cause and effect; but when your enemy turns on you and begins to draw disagreeable conclusions from this fatal sequence, it is the part of the skilful fencer to denounce as an empty shadow any connection between such a law and necessity! Further than that, Huxley when hard pressed, instead of abiding manfully by his premisses, was ready to sink into that last sophistry of the scientific mind and deny that there is any distinction between the materialistic and the spiritualistic conception of life. "In itself," he says, "it is of little moment whether we express the phaenomena of matter in terms of spirit; or the phaenomena of spirit in terms of matter." This view he buttresses (Science and Morals) by calmly assuming that St. Augustine and Calvin were at one with him in holding to a fatal determination. Is it necessary to say that St. Augustine and Calvin - whether rightly or wrongly is here not the question - believed in a spiritual power apart from and undetermined by natural law? This power might have its own determinism, but, relatively to natural law, it was spontaneous and incalculable. The difference to philosophy and conduct between holding a spiritual fatalism and holding a mechanical determinism marks the distance between religion and science - or, at least, between the positions of the English bishops and of Huxley. If there is no distinction here, why then all the pother, and what meaning is there in Huxley's cheerful assumption that science was to be the end of the Church and that men of science were to supplant the bishops?
Now these inconsistencies in Huxley are not the result of a progressive change in his views, nor are they infrequent or superficial. They lie at the very foundation of the system of which he was the most distinguished spokesman, and they are more conspicuous in him than in others merely because at any given moment his style is so eminently transparent. They spring, indeed, from a false extension of the procedure of science into a philosophy of naturalism. The fact is simply this: When the matter is squarely faced there can be no science, properly speaking, except in so far as the world appears to us a strictly closed mechanical system, a "block-universe" as William James called it, which contains its end in its beginning and displays the whole in every part. As it has been picturesquely expressed: "Were a single dust-atom destroyed, the universe would collapse." Absolute regularity is the sine qua non of scientific law, and the moment any element of incalculable spontaneity is admitted into the system, that moment the possibility of scientific law is so far excluded: there is no law of the individual or the unpredictable; there is no science of the soul unless man, as Taine says, is no more than "a very simple mechanism which analysis can take to pieces like clockwork." This does not mean that any given law is final and embraces the whole content of phenomena; but it does mean that further knowledge, while it may modify a law or supplant one law by another, still leaves us within the realm of absolute mechanical regularity. Such a closed system is properly called nature; it was clearly conceived and given to philosophy by the great naturalists of the seventeenth century.
Nature, thus conceived as a block-system, is the proper field of positive science, and leads to no embarrassment so long as we do not attempt anything more than the classification of physical phenomena under laws. But there is a tendency in the human mind which draws it almost irresistibly to pass from the formulation of laws to the definition of the force or cause underlying them. This is hypothetical science. Such a procedure already involves a certain violence to scientific evidence, but it does not stop here. Suppose there exists a body of testimony, accumulated through thousands of years, to the effect that a whole world of our inner life lies outside of that block-universe of mechanical determinism: what then is the man of hypothetical science to do? He may deny the validity of any evidence apart from that which leads to scientific law, and having erected this law of mechanical regularity into an active cause governing and controlling the world, he may set it in opposition to the hypothesis of a personal God which Christians have created from the evidence of their inner experience. He may be onesided, but he will be consistent. In this sense, and with a consequence different from what he intended, Frederic Harrison was justified in saying that "agnosticism as a religious philosophy per se rests on an almost total ignoring of history and social evolution." But suppose further that our scholar, having naturally broad interests and sympathies, is still importuned by all that evidence in the moral and political spheres which he could not bring into conformity with his hypothesis: what will he do? In attempting to cling to an hypothesis which is based on the exclusion of half the evidence of life, while at the same time he feels the appeal of the whole range of evidence, he will try to develop that hypothesis into a complete philosophy of life, and in doing so he will necessarily fall into just those inconsistencies which strike us over and over again in Huxley. He will become a victim of that huge self-contradiction which I have called philosophical science.
Now we all know how completely this sophism took possession of England and the world about the middle of the last century. In particular the magnitude of Darwin's work in the field of positive science and the superb simplicity of his explanation of the whole order of existence, including man, as the product of a mechanical law of selection, easily imposed the evolutionary hypothesis as a lawgiver upon education and morals and religion and government. And to the authority of Darwin was added the persuasiveness of Huxley's masterly skill as lecturer and writer. It seemed to the men who heard his voice as if the long obscurity that had involved human destiny was to be rolled away, as if at last the pathway of truth had been found, and the world's great age was about to be renewed. And however we may now see the inconsistencies and feel what in another man might be called the duplicity that underlay Huxley's method of attack and defence, there was enough of the stuff of positive science in his doctrine to give it a certain moral stiffness and intellectual rigour which must always claim our admiration. But with the passage of years a change has come upon philosophical science. The human mind could not long rest content with a system which was so glaringly at war with itself, and indeed there are signs that Huxley himself was not always satisfied with his position. But where lay the way of escape ? These men would not willingly give up the authority which seemed to be derived from the actualities of positive science, yet they began to see that the hypothesis of a block-universe had brought them to an absolute impasse. The history of the intellect since the days of Darwin's supremacy, therefore, has been marked by an attempt to preserve the facts of evolution as the basis of a scientific philosophy, but to alter the evolutionary hypothesis so as to bring it into harmony with the spontaneous part of human nature. The process has widened the distance between positive science and philosophical science; it has introduced a new set of inconsistencies, not to say absurdities, into thought, but it is extremely interesting for the way in which it has finally brought together two currents of the nineteenth century that might have seemed to a superficial observer the very opposites of each other. What appeared in Huxley's time, and still more in the half-century preceding him, to be the very bulwark against those laxer principles and tendencies which may be grouped together as romantic, has gradually thrown off its hard rationalism, until now in our day philosophical science and romanticism are actually merging together and becoming almost indistinguishable. In place of Huxley we have William James and Bergson. The change is significant and worthy of analysis, for the true meaning of a movement is known by its end. So much we may learn from Pragmatism, even while criticizing it.
Nor is it difficult, if we regard the material and moral forces from which science and romanticism respectively take their start, to see how these two apparent enemies have come to join hands in a truce if not in an alliance. We do not often stop to reflect on the world of pain and horror which underlies this surface of things on which we move so comfortably. Only now and then some accident, some physical rebellion as it might be called, sets loose the pent-up daemonic powers, and for a moment life is as it would be if in a madhouse the phrensied patients were to break their fetters and overcome their keepers. Each force of nature in itself seems to be limitless in its potential activity, and in so far as it is unchecked or unbalanced by some other force becomes the source of ruin to mankind. Manifestly that orderly subordination which is the condition of our physical well-being depends on some principle of control and balance which is not inherent in the individual forces of nature. Furthermore, if our horror at these calamities, if the physical repugnance that lies always concealed in our breast, have any meaning, it is in the testimony they bear to a certain correspondence on the one hand between our sense of moral evil and the destructive limitlessness of any natural force in itself, and on the other hand between our sense of moral justice and the imposition of order and subordination upon those forces. We are thrust by our emotions into an absolute dualism. Now the point to consider is that pure science deals with these forces in themselves and as unlimited, and without any thought of such human distinctions. A little spark kindles a fire, and instantly the flames sweep over a city, consuming life and property and spreading everywhere destruction and terror. Yet with this terror science has nothing to do; it is concerned with the laws of heat. Again some movement takes place within the earth; the crust on which we walk is rent and shaken, and the helpless human creatures are killed and mutilated as ruthlessly as the ants in their little mound over which we inadvertently stumble. Yet with this hideous fear science has nothing to do; it is concerned with the laws of motion. Nor is the human body itself free from these incursions of uncontrolled energy. One very close to us, one whose fragile beauty has filled us with a long apprehension of love, is seized by a loathsome disease; those lower forms of life which to our vanity we seem to have trampled down in our progress have suddenly risen up like avenging furies and laid their obscene grip on what was dearest and fairest to us. We look on in an agony of suspense, as if in this precious body the very armies of good and evil were at war. Yet all the while the physician watches with impassive, critical eye, studying symptoms, applying remedies, awaiting calmly the results: his very efficacy as a man of science depends on his freedom from those emotions which are tearing at our heartstrings; he is concerned with the laws of parasitic life.
Science is properly the servant of our emotions and of the corresponding sense of dualism, but in its method of work it not only ignores our emotions, but can perform its true service only so long as it ignores them and deals with the pure forces of nature. The error and danger arise when it disdains to be a servant and sets itself up as mistress, raising its means into an end and its procedure into a philosophy. Moved by our importunate consciousness of order and disorder, yet bound in its hypothetical explanation of evolution to consider the forces of nature alone, without the admission of any law of control outside of them, it has come gradually to a conception of the world as an entity containing within itself some force of vitalism, some elan vital, which by its inherent limitlessness is the source of constant creation, making the sum of things actually greater to-day than it was yesterday and, from our human point of view, more orderly. Sheer expansiveness becomes the law of physical life. The acceptance of this hypothesis of an incalculable energy, whose action to-day can in no wise, or only imperfectly, be predicted from its action yesterday, might seem to evict the very possibility of scientific law; but there are two things to consider. In the first place this hypothesis is just an hypothesis and has little or no relation to the actual work of positive science. And in the second place it seduces the scientific mind by seeming to get rid altogether of that dualism which is ignored in scientific procedure. As a matter of fact it merely changes the character of that dualism by setting the two terms apart at the beginning and end of time instead of regarding them as existent together and independent of time.[The middle term between the hypothesis of a purely mechanical evolution and the hypothesis of evolution as conceived by Bergson may be found in the evolutionary monism of Haeckel, which has been beautifully analyzed and demolished by M. Emile Boutroux in his recent work, La Science et la Religion dans la philosophie contemporaine.]
From this rather slippery hypothesis of a universe in the process of continual self-expansion it is but a step to the modern scientific philosophy of human progress as depending, not on any ideal outside of evolution, but as - what shall I say? - as self-causative. Here precisely enters the point of connection between philosophical science and romanticism;* but to understand its full meaning we must look back into the sources of the second member of the alliance.
[This union was clearly foreshadowed in Diderot; it was developed by Comte; hut its great authority could not come until after the work of Darwin. In one of his essays Huxley speaks with scorn of Mr. Frederic Harrison's Positivism. and asks: "What has Comtism to do with the 'New Philosophy' [i.e.. the philosophy of science]?" Mr. Harrison might easily have retorted. In fact when Huxley boasted that the bishops were to be replaced by the "new school of the prophets [i.e., men of science]" as "the only one that can work miracles." and when he acknowledged that" the interests of science and industry are identical," he was merely repeating Comte's early theory of the supplanting of the priest and the soldier by the man of science and the man of business.]Now, in attempting to characterize the historic romanticism of the nineteenth century, the first trait that is forced upon our attention is the note of rebellion from the classics. That hostility between romanticism and classicism is fundamental: we cannot escape it. Greek philosophy, as it touches upon human conduct and as it was handed down to the modern world, was summed up in the Nicomachean Ethics, at the very heart of which lies the classical distinction between the infinite, as the absolute, and the limitless. According to Aristotle the active nature of man is made up of desires, or impulses (epithymiai), which in themselves are incapable of self-restraint and therefore limitless (apeiros gar e tes epithymias physis, Pol., II, 4; the translation of apeirosin Greek generally as "infinite" instead of "limitless" has been the source of endless confusion of ideas). Furthermore this limitlessness is of the very essence of evil, whereas good in itself may be defined as a limit (to gar kakon ton apeiron to d agathon ton peperasmenou), and the aim of conduct is to acquire that golden mean which is nothing other than a certain bound set to the inherent limitlessness of our impulsive or desiring nature. The determination of this bound in each case is the function of reason, which embraces the whole existence of man as an organism in his environment and says to each impulse as it arises, thus far shalt thou go and no further. But as the basis of practical life is the limitless sway of unrelated impulses, reason, to establish its balance and measure, to find, that is, its norm of unity, must look ultimately to some point quite outside of the realm of impulse and nature. Hence the imposition of the theoretical life, as Aristotle calls it, upon the practical - the contemplation of that absolute unity which is unmoved amid all that moves. This unity not of nature is the infinite; it is the very opposite of that limitlessness which is the attribute of nature itself; it is not a state of endless, indefinite expansion, but is on the contrary that state of centralization which has its goal in itself (par auten oudenos ephiesthai telous).
The revolt from this essential dualism of classical philosophy began in the seventeenth century. That age was notably a time of confused thinking and of reaching out in many directions. But at its beginning, and always in the background, lay a certain mode of regarding life, the orthodox mode of supernaturalism. On the one side was the great flux of nature, embracing in its endless activity the heart of man and the phenomenal world. "The sea itself," says Bossuet, "has not more waves when it is agitated by the winds than are the diverse thoughts that rise from this abyss without bottom, from this impenetrable mystery of the heart of man." Within this chaos of the human breast sat reason as a kind of king or arbiter, by its command bringing order out of disorder. But reason itself, as understood by the characteristic minds of the age, belonged to nature, and was a sufficient guide only so long as it listened to the voice of a restraining power above and outside of nature. The true division was not between reason and instinct or desire, but between all these together, as forces of nature, and superrational insight. That is to say, the orthodox view of the seventeenth century was the classical dualism which had become involved and obscured in a vast system of Christian mythology and theology. The irremediable fault, default one might say, of the age was that it never attained to a clear and untrammelled definition of the superrational insight upon which its faith was based. Pascal, indeed, approached such a definition when he set the heart over against reason and concupiscence, meaning by heart not so much the desires and emotions, as the contrast with concupiscence plainly shows, but that faculty by which we intuitively apprehend the infinite and eternal. Yet even in Pascal this faculty of intuition was never freed from the bondage of revelation and questionable authority, while in most of his religious contemporaries it was inextricably confused with some external voice of the Bible or the Church. Not many men to-day have the patience to read far in the endless theological literature of that age; and with reason. It is the curse of the Reformation that the search for truth was largely diverted by it into a monstrous and deadening discussion over the particular instrument or institution to which the truth was supposed to be once and for all imparted as a sacred deposit. He who is willing and strong to read those mighty books may be fortified in his own soul by feeling that the tremendous earnestness of this war over authority must have implied, beneath all the battle of words, an equal earnestness over the truth for which the debated authority was supposed to stand. But the actual result of that debate was to weary and bewilder the mind of contemporary men. Gradually the whole question of traditional authority, and with it the higher intuition which had been so obstinately identified with this authority, begins to lose its hold, and in its place comes the new reign of naturalism.
Now naturalism is precisely the denial of any revealed authority or supernatural intuition whatsoever. For the government of the fluctuating element of nature it looks to reason alone, which it recognizes as but another, if higher, aspect of the same nature. Hence the dominant philosophy of the eighteenth century was a rationalism, which in religion denied, or at least minimized, all that is mysterious and escapes the net of logic, and in science regarded the world as a vast machine which can be perfectly expressed in a mathematical equation. Literature followed the lead and became rational and pseudo-classic. I would not exaggerate the regularity of this development, for, after all, the human mind remains always essentially the same and varies only as one or another element comes uppermost. And in particular any comment on the pseudo-classic literature (which in itself has many comfortable excellences) should not fail to distinguish the truly Augustan circle of Butler and Johnson and Reynolds and Goldsmith and Burke, whose humanism, like that of Horace, contained, not so much explicitly as in solution, the higher insight which the philosophy of their age was so busily hiding away. They contained, that is to say, some marks of true classicism as contrasted with pseudo-classicism. Nevertheless the main current of the times was evident enough, and on its surface carried religion and science and literature in a compliant brotherhood.
Johnson and his school belonged essentially to the main rationalistic stream of the age, though in some respects they surpassed it. But by their side there was springing up another school, equally a child of naturalism, but hostile to what may be called the official philosophy. Naturalism acknowledged both the reason and the instincts or emotions as belonging to the nature of man, and thus manifestly left the door open to a revolt against the tyranny of one element of nature over the other. Accordingly, almost with the beginning of rationalism we see springing up, timidly and uncertainly at first, various forms of appeal to pure instinct and unrestrained emotion. This voice of insubordination first became clear and defiant and fully self-conscious in Blake; and the message of Blake, repeated in a hundred various notes, now tender and piercingly sweet, now blurred by strange rumblings of thunderous madness, is everywhere a summons to the perfect freedom of instinct and primitive emotion and a denunciation of the control demanded by reason or by authority of any sort:
Those who restrain desire, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained; and the restrainer or mason usurps its place and governs the unwilling.These epigrams are from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, a book which Swinburne was to rank "as about the greatest produced by the eighteenth century in the line of high poetry and spiritual speculation," and which to Mr. Arthur Symons was an anticipation of Nietzsche: "No one can think and escape Nietzsche; but Nietzsche has come after Blake, and will pass before Blake passes." Now Swinburne and Mr. Symons were indubitably right in seeing in such passages as these the very bible of romanticism, and Blake's place as an expositor of that movement, for England at least, is coming to be generally admitted. But in holding up Blake's revolt against reason as spiritual speculation they, and others, have fallen into the error which, as it seems to me, has made of romanticism the source of endless illusions.
In the field of the imagination the school of Blake at the last carried victory with a high hand over the pseudo-classic and humanistic writers, and the nineteenth century opens upon a world pretty well divided between the quarrelsome twins of rational science and irrational romanticism. In so far as the romantic imagination yields to the self-sufficiency of instinct and emotion it implies a real revolt from rationalism; it is in a way even more hostile to rationalism than the classic use of the imagination, for classicism never involved a rejection of the reason, though it differed from pseudo-classicism by leaving the door open to an intuition above reason. But the peculiar tone of romantic writing comes not so much from the mere revolt against pseudo-classicism as from the illusion that this revolt is a return to spiritual insight. Here I am treading on slippery ground, and it behooves me to walk warily. That all the spiritual aspirations of the nineteenth century were of a bastard birth, only a very ignorant or wilful man would assert. Humanity is larger than any formula, and no age can be limited by a label. In the romantic literature that unfolds from Blake there is much that is simply true, much that is beautiful and magnificent, and there are moments that express the divine awe that belongs to the sudden inflooding of the veritable other-world; but in the most characteristic moods of that literature, when it expresses most perfectly the main current of the age, there will be found, I believe, a deep confusion of ideas which results from assimilating the rebellion of the lower element of our nature with the control that comes from above nature. For the infinite spirit which makes itself known as a restraining check and a law of concentration within the flux of nature, this new aspiration of liberty would substitute the mere endless expansion which ensues upon the denial of any restraint whatsoever; in place of the higher intuition which is above reason it would commit mankind to the lower intuition which is beneath reason. This illusion of the senses has dazzled the human mind in other ages as well as in the present. It shows itself here and there in the classics of antiquity. It developed a special form in the Alexandrian union of Oriental religion and Occidental philosophy, and was thus passed on to the Middle Ages. It can be found in the seventeenth century beside the true insight. It assumes many disguises and is often extremely difficult to distinguish from the supreme disillusion. The very fact that the same word, romantic, is used to designate the wonder of the infinite and the wonder of the limitless shows how easily we merge together these extreme opposites. But the historic romanticism of the nineteenth century, when it strikes its central note, whether it be the morbid egotism of a Beckford, or the religious defalcation of a Newman, or the aestheticism of a Pater, or the dregs of naturalistic pantheism seen in a Fiona Macleod, or the impotent revolt from humanitarian sympathy of a Nietzsche - this romanticism is in its essence a denial of classical dualism and an illusory substitution of the mere limitless expansion of our impulsive nature for that true infinite within the heart of man, which is not of nature and whose voice is heard as the inner check, restraining, centralizing, and forming.
If romanticism is thus rightly defined, its point of contact with science is easily marked. Those limitless forces which were raised into the scientific hypothesis of a self-evolving, or rather self-creating, universe are the exact counterpart in outer nature of these limitless desires or impulses in the heart which are the substance of the romantic illusion. They find their union in that very modern philosophy of life which may be called indifferently scientific or romantic. As it is concerned with conduct and the inner life rather than with material phenomena, it may be regarded as the offspring of romanticism; as it enjoys its great authority from a supposed connection with the actual discoveries of physical law, and has obtained its precise character from the evolutionary hypothesis, it may with equal propriety be regarded as the bastard offspring of science - as, in a word, the latest form of philosophical science. The keynote of this new philosophy, whether it take one of the many forms of Pragmatism or express itself in the evolutionary language of M. Bergson or conceal itself in the sardonic indifference of the man in the street, is a kind of laisser-faire, a belief that, as the physical world has unrolled itself by its own expansive forces, so human society progresses by some universal instinct, needing no rational and selective guidance, no imposition of moral restraint, no conscious insight.
And mark well, we are here concerned not with an idle question of the schools, but with a very real outcome in conduct. You will find the trace of this philosophy in every department of life. It has remoulded our whole practice of education; and this perhaps is the point where its influence is clearest and where attack may be most successfully directed. Perhaps we do not often stop to consider the relation between the usurpation of purely scientific studies in our college curriculum with the Rousselian notion that education must place no restraint upon the child, but must merely help him to expand in the direction of his emotional instincts; yet in reality that relation is to-day the main factor in shaping our pedagogical theories. Positive science is a noble vocation, but just so sure as it is made in considerable part the basis of education, instead of being treated as a profession, like law or medicine, to be taken up after a general education, just so surely the confusions of philosophical science will follow and claim authority in our schools. The unhampered elective system, which is merely the pedagogical form of the new philosophy of laisser-faire, is in a way anything and everything; but one characteristic and one result of it are omnipresent. It is characterized by a revolt from Greek and Latin, due in part no doubt to such subsidiary causes as the pedantry which laid its paralyzing hand on classical instruction, but due more essentially to the hostility between the classical way of viewing life and the new juncture of romantic and scientific philosophy. The result of the modern system is a laxity of mind in those who have drifted through our institutions from kindergarten to university, a repugnance for good reading, in a word, that lack of real education which is more and more deplored by instructors in school and college.
In politics the spirit of laisser-faire shows itself in the feeling that to be right we need only follow unhesitatingly the clamour of the day; whereas any suppression of a self-assertive movement in favour of a saner ideal already established is denounced as reaction and death. Take, for instance, our attitude towards socialism. Perhaps no comment is more frequently on the lips of the man in the street -- that mysterious arbiter of civilization - than the words: It is bound to come, why strive against it? As a matter of fact socialism, in some very imperfect form, may indeed come, but is by no means bound to come. To say that the whole teaching of history proves its necessity is to forget most of the chapters of that book, and is to fall into the common error of the half-educated who extend their knowledge of one age over all ages. I cannot see much difference between those who accept some form of socialism because by the very definition of Karl Marx it is a "fatal necessity," and those who accepted the old scholastic notion of God, with all its consequences, because by their own definition of God he must exist. The question here, however, is not the goodness or evil of socialism in itself, but the perilous state of any society which for some blind law of evolution surrenders its right to criticize and to determine its own course rationally. "Man," says M. Georges Sorel, the philosopher and for a time one of the leaders of the "syndicalist" branch of socialism in France - "man has genius only in the measure that he does not reflect." And when asked what new form of government should be erected on the ruins of society brought about by the general strike, M. Sorel replied that with such constructive thought for the future we had nothing to do; we had learned from Bergson to trust ourselves implicitly to the blind instinctive forces of nature.
In like manner in regard to female suffrage: we deceive ourselves if we suppose that its admission or rejection will be the result of argument and rational conviction. The power that is bringing it into practical life is the sentiment heard from the mouth of every other man you meet: If the women want it, why, let them have it, And this sentiment finds support in the weary fatalism of the day: It is bound to come whether you like it or not; why resist the irresistible? Again, the question is not whether female suffrage is a good or an evil thing in itself, but the ignoble abdication of judgement in accepting any present tendency as a fatal force which it is useless, if not wrong, to curb.
And so, to pass to quite another field, the laisser-faire of philosophical science is beginning to modify our whole treatment of crime. We no longer punish the criminal as a being responsible for his acts, under the belief that there is in man a voluntary power to shape his own character, but when we punish him at all, we do so apologetically, as if society and not he were the guilty party, and as if his crime were merely one of the products of evolution, like any disease to be cured by fresh air and flattery. I have no desire to enter into the intricacies of the new penology. But I have been impressed by two opinions from very diverse sources. I recall reading in one of the books of that connoisseur of the underworld, the late Josiah Flynt, the remark of a professional burglar to the effect that the only prevention against crime was sure and sharp punishment. And I connect with this observation the recent statement of the Police Commissioner of New York, to the effect that the excess of violence and lawlessness in this city is due to the number of suspended sentences and the general feeling among those criminally disposed that the courts will not convict. Mr. Waldo may have had various reasons for offering such an apology for his department, but it is significant to compare certain statistics of New York with those of London where the older habits of swift and relentless judgement still prevail. In our American city the average annual number of murders for the years 1908-10 was one hundred and seventeen, while the average number of convictions was only twenty-five. In London, with its population of seven million, the average for those years was twenty murders, for which fifteen persons either committed suicide before police action or were convicted.* Among the causes for this alarming disproportion our evolutionary attitude towards crime is certainly not the least effective. In the end this whole philosophy of naturalism, which bids us follow the lead of some blind self-developing instinct, is subject to the rebuke uttered by Bishop Butler long ago: "A late author [Wollaston] of great and deserved reputation says, that to place virtue in following nature, is at best a loose way of talk. And he has reason to say this, if what I think he intends to express, though with great decency, be true, that scarce any other sense can be put upon those words, but acting as any of the several parts, without distinction, of a man's nature happened most to incline him."
[* The following statistics from a leading article in the London Nation of March 30, 1912, entitled The Breakdown of American Justice, give a wider range to the question: "Since 1885 there have been some 177,000 murders and homicides in the United States, but under 3000 executions. In 1885 the number of murders was 1808; in 1895 it had risen to 10,500; in 1910 it stood at 8975. In 1885 the number of executions was 108; in 1895 it was 132; in 1910 it was 104. Roughly speaking, Americans are now killing one another at the rate of over 9000 a year. Looking over the statistics of the past seven-and-twenty years, one finds that, while executions have remained virtually stationary, murders and homicides have multiplied five-fold. In 1885 for every murderer executed seventeen murders were committed; in 1895 the proportion was one to seventy-nine; in 1910 it was one to eighty-six. There are, indeed, few crimes of which an American can more safely be guilty. If he commits a murder the odds are more than three to one against his ever being brought to trial; they are more than ten to one against his being sentenced to imprisonment; and, as has been said, they are more than eighty to one against his suffering the extreme penalty of the law. Those are the chances officially ascertained from official statistics, and they apply to the country as a whole and to all its people. But it need hardly be said that if the murderer is a white man the odds in his favour are very much above the statistical average, and very much below them if he is a negro. Only one country in the world, Mexico, exceeds the American record of murders, a record that is proportionally five times as great in the United States as in Australia, more than fourteen times as great as in England and Wales, eight times as great as in Japan, ten times as great as in Canada, and about twenty-five times as great as in Germany.".]In these practical and, perhaps, debatable applications we may seem to have got far away from the man whom I upheld as the typical spokesman of philosophical science. In fact the rational hypothesis of evolution as proclaimed by Huxley was, superficially considered, the very opposite of the confessedly anti-rational hypothesis that lends authority to the doctrine of moral laisser-faire. Nevertheless their parentage is certain, and even in Huxley hints of the derived philosophy are not infrequent.
In education, though Huxley's interests were too broad and in some respects too literary to permit a harsh condemnation of the humanities, yet all his energy was devoted to introducing science into the curriculum of the universities and schools. No doubt his action was justifiable to a certain extent and redounded to the genuine profit of pure science; but it had also the negative result at least of starting that transformation which has made of our classrooms a nursery for the sophisms of philosophical science. He was convinced that the sciences in themselves are sufficient for a liberal education, and on occasion he was ready to commend a foundation which made "no provision for 'mere literary instruction and education,'" meaning by this "the ordinary classical course of our schools and universities." Biology, he thought, included really the whole philosophy of life; and education he limited to "instruction of the intellect in the laws of nature." If there was apparent liberality in his extension of these laws of nature to include "not merely things and their forces, but men and their ways," there was also in it the germ of a mischievous ambiguity.
In matters political Huxley's practical sense of affairs kept his judgement clearer, and I do not know that there is anything in his writings which contradicts his expressed fear and dislike of "regimentation and individualism - enforced Socialism and Anarchy." He has ringing words of rebuke for the whole policy of drifting (see, for instance, his letter of March 2I, 1886, to a Member of Parliament). Yet the real tendency of his ideas comes out plainly enough in his attitude towards female suffrage. He was himself strongly opposed to the admission of women into politics, holding for biological reasons a sharp distinction between the spheres of the two sexes. Nevertheless, when he came to deal directly with the emancipation of women his method was that of the man in the street. "Let them have a fair field," he said, "but let them understand, as the necessary correlative, that they are to have no favour. Let nature alone sit high above the lists, 'rain influence and judge the prize.'"
The new romantic philosophy of evolution as a continuous process of self-creation had scarcely arisen to perturb the rationalism of Huxley, and he was too stalwartly intellectual to have succumbed to it even if it had been in the air; yet the outcome of his teaching was that exaltation of science which laid the minds of the next generation open to its alluring seduction. The final influence of his words, if not always his avowed intention, was to establish the new law of progress: Let nature sit high above the lists; which may be interpreted by his own remark on another occasion: "The best way of getting disorder into order [is] to let it alone." Not many lives in the Victorian era were more unselfish than his, not many men pursued truth with a nobler devotion, not many had broader and finer interests; nevertheless, in the end it must be said, sadly and reverently, that his legacy to mankind was confusion of ideas and relaxation of judgement.
We have seen the triumphs of Huxley at Oxford, the seat of his enemies. Let us take leave of this somewhat ungrateful theme by calling up another scene at the same university. In 1864, there was a Diocesan Conference at Oxford. There chanced at this time to be in the neighbourhood a man who was neither priest nor scientist, a man given to absurd freaks of intellectual charlatanry, yet showing at times also such marvellous and sudden penetration into the heart of things as comes only to genius. It was Disraeli. "He lounged into the assembly," so the scene is described by Froude, "in a black velvet shooting-coat and a wide-awake hat, as if he had been accidentally passing through the town.... He began in his usual affected manner, slowly and rather pompously, as if he had nothing to say beyond perfunctory platitudes." And then, turning to the presiding officer, the same Bishop Wilberforce whom four years earlier Huxley had so crushingly rebuked, he uttered one of his enigmatic and unforgettable epigrams: "What is the question now placed before society with a glibness the most astounding? The question is this: Is man an ape or an angel? I, my lord, am on the side of the angels." The audience, not kindly disposed to the speaker, applauded the words as a jest; they were carried the next day over the whole land by the newspapers; they have often been repeated as an example of Disraeli's brilliant but empty wit. I suspect that beneath their surface glitter, and hidden within their metaphor pointed to suit an Oriental taste, these words contain a truth that shall some day break to pieces the new philosophy which Huxley spent his life so devotedly to establish.
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