« AnteriorContinuar »
Mr. Herbert Spencer finds the origin of the sense of justice to self in the egoistic sentiment known as the love or instinct of personal freedom. Carry the analysis one step further back, to the innate demand for personal existence, and, like finding a diamond in a coal-mine, we come upon just that element of absolute, all-pervading, essential rightness for which we might otherwise search in vain.
No wonder, then, that men have almost deified the power they possess of discerning right and wrong, to which they owe in the last resort the possession of themselves. But, unhappily, egoism is easily overdone, and egoism, identifying itself with liberty and duty, is liable to all kinds of mischievous exaggerations and delusions. Conscience comes to be regarded as a special faculty instead of being an ordinary operation of thought directed to special objects. It is ascribed to a divine origin and erected into a test of religion and truth. The chief stress of practical exhortation is laid not upon finding out the right, but upon doing what we believe to be right, very often irrespective of advice, common-sense, and obvious consequences. Nay, men go so far as to assign to conscience a sort of lordship or supremacy over themselves, and so, by a roundabout way, only end at last in doing what they please. Like Arthur, they “reverence their conscience as their king, and, like that excellent but unprosperous monarch, they contrive, with the best intentions in the world, to make a bad business of life. In short, they glorify not the sun which gives the light, but the eye which perceives it, and thus give rise to a reaction against the pretensions, nay, the very existence of conscience, which causes whole volumes of philosophy to be written with barely so much as the mention of its
To redress the balance, recourse must be had to the good genius of philosophy--evolution.
7. The Religious Stage. I have placed this stage last because the association, much more the identification, of religion with morality comes so late in the history of man, that religion has but little to do with the conscience in its elementary state. Among savages, religion can hardly be called moral at all, although the gods might, on the whole, be believed to be on the side of what the tribe thought to be right-subject, however, to the very important qualification that the gods of another tribe held different views. Still, so far as primitive man believed that the gods would visit him with rewards and punishments by an exercise of superhuman power, to that extent there was added to the conscience a feeling of responsibility and solemnity together with an awful imperativeness which must have considerably modified his moral constitution. Moreover, by calling attention to a will external to our own, something was done to counteract the egoistic tendency which I have just described. And so it was that morality did not take final refuge in stoicism until religious belief bad died away.
The truth, of course, is that religion can and does become definitely moral when the human mind rises to a belief in one Almighty God with
whose will righteousness is of necessity identified. How the Hebrew branch of the Semitic family came by this belief (along with other peoples who, however, did not retain it) cannot at present be positively affirmed, but it is of exceeding interest to observe that the earliest idea of the moral will of God is connected with the instinct of self-preservation, to which we have traced the genesis of conscience. What in other races is the voice of tribal opinion condemning murder, is, among the Hebrews, regarded as the voice of God," who at the hand of every man's brother will require the life of man.” In this we see how records, old in themselves, and pointing back to tendencies and traditions lost in the mists of antiquity, identify the primitive rightness with the will of God, by whom first Nature, then man, then the family, then the society, had been established. And thus the will of the Creator has been by degrees definitely set up as the standard of right and wrong fo which men must conform, so that the supreme effort of human morality is breathed in the prayer, “ Thy will be done.” And this accounts for the remarkable fact that the idea of conscience had little or no hold upon the Jewish mind. Modern theology bases religious belief mainly upon a supernatural origin of the conscience and a supernatural revelation as to the conditions of the future life. The Bible, for all practical purposes, has nothing to say about either of them.
To sum up, then, the result of our investigation, the conscience which we now possess is the primitive sense of a rightness due to one's self, resulting from the struggle for existence; extended to others' as men entering into the social state perceived a likeness to themselves in their fellows ; intensified and sanctioned by the urgent pressure of external law in the political state; becoming a law to itself as men became capable of forming abstract notions; and saved from egoism by the Christian development of the Hebrew monotheism.
Now the truth and adequacy of this statemant may be tested in two ways: Is it conformable to what we know to be true of evolution generally ? and is it in harmony with the phenomena presented by the conscience now? It has been impossible to do more than here and there indicate an answer to the second question; but if opportunity offered it would be, I believe, easy to answer it at length by an examination of the operations of conscience in actual practice, and by surveying the conflicting forces, the curious survivals, the metaphysical theories, with which the word conscience is associated. Anyhow, the history of the conscience from an evolutionist point of view remains yet to be written.
But is this theory of its origin in harmony with evolution itself? How far, for instance, are we justified in using such words as “think,” “say,” “feel,” or “law,” “idea,” and “consciousness," in describing the moral condition of primitive man? To this we must reply that the inchoate tendencies and slowly-deepening impressions which finally culminated in the phenomena described by words like the above, present an inward and personal aspect of the nature and progress of evolution which ought not to be overlooked. For the very method and circumstances of man's creation by evolution planted within him a consciousness from which, when acted upon by myriads of slowly-widening experiences, were evolved all the fundamental powers of his moral nature. Let us illustrate this position by the cognate example of the genesis of religious beliefs. These were developed, let us say, either from the worship of ancestors, or (according to the mythological theory) by personifying the operations of Nature. But it seems to me totally impossible that any merely external cause could have produced a belief so primitive, so powerful, so universal, so permanent, and above all so strongly marked by certain original and undeviating characteristics, unless they had been correlated with the consciousness of a creature in whom by the very law of his origin the Spirit of Evolution was always suggesting an unanswerable question : “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth ? declare, if thou hast understanding." Primitive man had enough of philosophy to ask this question, and enough of science to attempt to answer it out of such materials as lay ready to hand; hence it is that speculations as to their own origin are common, if not universal, among savage races. As in religion so in morality. All the external impressions arising out of society, law, utility, and the like, were related to and conditioned by an innate sense of rightness in the individual, wrought in him by the power of evolution itself by which he was created. And thus we arrive at that inward and SPIRITUAL side of evolution to which I have endeavored to call attention, in the belief not only that justice remains yet to be done to it, but also that it contains a reconciling and adjusting element much needed amid the conflicts and misunderstandings of modern thought. But from the further pursuit of this thought I am obliged, however reluctantly, to turn away.-Nineteenth century.
CIVILIZATION AND SCIENCE.'
BY PROFESSOR EMIL DU BOIS-REYMOND,
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF BERLIN.
THE PROGRESS OF AMERICANIZATION.
The answer appears to be easy, and has often been given before. Let us set up the palladium of humanism against that natural science which would subject to dissection our ideals, which contemptuously rejects whatever it cannot bring into the cold light of reason, which would divest history of its profound interest, and would even tear away the veil which adds to the charms of Nature. As humanism rescued man from the prison-house of scholastic theology, so let it enter the lists once more to battle against the new enemy of harmonious culture. The gods and heroes of antiquity, with their immortal fascinations; the myths and stories of the Mediterranean nations, in which, as we might say, is enshrined all that is good and beautiful; the spectacle of a civilization which subsisted, it is true, without natural science, but out of which prominent men rose to a mental greatness hardly ever attained since-it is from the action of such influences as these upon the mind of youth that we can most confidently hope for victory in the struggle with the neo-barbarism which, though as yet its hold upon us is loose, is, from day to day, tightening its iron grasp. It is Hellenism that must ward off from our intellectual frontier the onset of Americanism.
1 An address delivered before the Scientific Lectures Association of Cologue. Translated from the German by J. Fitzgerald, A. M, and carefully revised by the author.
But is it, then, possible to bring our youth into more intimate and more stable contact with classic antiquity than heretofore ? In our old and tried gymnasia have we not most careful provision made for this very thing? What other country can boast of imparting so thorough and so learned a classical education, and that to so large a proportion of its youth, even of the less wealthy classes ? Other enlightened countries of Europe have their eminent university professors, but the profoundly-erudite, unassuming, and hard-working Oberlehrer is a German type, of which the nation may well be proud. Thus not only do we hold the foremost rank in gymnasial education, but we even, in all probability, have reached the limits of the possible ; and were there no other means of staying the decline of German idealism, save by increased study of Latin and Greek in the gymnasia, we could have but little hopes of checking the downward tendency.
It will now seem paradoxical for me to assert that more Latin and Greek certainly will not, but that perhaps a little less of them might, insure this result. In fact, if our gymnasia are not to promote Americanization, instead of counteracting it, I hold that certain reforms of the plan of study are imperatively necessary.
The gymnasial education of the youth of Germany, like the constitution of the army, exerts an enormous influence on German life. The gymnasium has gradually come to possess a simply despotic power over the family. For every educated citizen, therefore, who has himself made the gymnasium course, or who has sons in the gymnasium, it becomes a right and a duty to concern bimself about the organization of those schools. Doubly is it his right to do this if, belonging to a learned profession, he has had opportunities of observing the results of gymnasium education. This is the case with myself. As a professor in the university, not only am I in constant relations with students in the early semesters, and frequently, through my public lectures, with those who are not studying medicine, but also, for upward of twenty-five years, as
examiner for the state and for the Faculty, I have learned more or less accurately the educational standing of some 3,000 young men who had left the first class of the gymnasium from two to four years previously.
But there is a special reason why I should express my views about the organization of gymnasia. In 1869 the rectors and senates of the Prussian universities were invited by the Government to report on the question “ whether and to what extent the pupils of the Realschulen' could be admitted, as well as those of the gymnasia, to the faculty courses of the universities.”
As being at that time Rector of the Berlin University, it fell to my lot to draw up the report of its senate. Not merely as reporter of the senate, but also with the warmth of personal conviction, I pronounced against the admission of the realschulen pupils, and took all pains to inculcate the importance of classical studies, for which nothing else could be substituted. In harmony with the senate, however, I even then insisted that, in taking sides with the gymnasia against the realschulen, one is not bound to look on the former as perfect-i. e., as not susceptible of, or not requiring, reformation in one point or another.
If I had now again to make a report in the same sense, I should find myself embarrassed. My opinion as to the advantages imparted by classical training is unchanged. My objections to making the pupils of the realschulen the peers those of the gymnasia are as strong as ever. But the conviction has ever been growing in me that our present gymnasium education is no sufficient preparation for the study of medicine, nay, that as viewed from a general standing-point, it does not quite perform the task which it has proposed to itself. Hence I could no longer justify the exclusion of the realschulen pupils, at least from the medical classes, unless certain reforms were granted in the gymnasial plan of studies. Inasmuch as formerly, when placed in prominent position, I maintained a different opinion, I consider myself under a sort of obligation publicly to state my change of views, and to give the reasons therefor. Should that report come up for discussion in the course of the debates
the education act, which we suppose will soon be laid before the Parliament, I, for my part, do not wish to be held answerable for it any longer. For the rest, of course I abstain here from an exhaustive discussion of this subject, and purpose simply to indicate in brief the direction in which I should like to see our gymnasial plan of studies modified.
I regret that, in the first place, I have to state an impression which has been steadily growing on me, that the humanistic education of the average medical student is, with us, sadly defective. Such is their unfamiliarity with Latin etymology, such the poverty of their Latin and Greek vocabularies—for instance, many of our medical students, a few years after passing the maturity examination, are unable to trace to their source Greek technical terms—that we can only conclude that
1 Industrial schools.