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AN ANALOGY OF THE MORAL AND
WHAT history records is the becoming of man's life, intellectual and moral. The process of the making of his knowledge is precisely analogous to that of the creation or development of his moral life. As man's progress is from ignorance to knowledge, he must, of course, in all his investigations, start from a negative condition, and the ignorance which is at the basis, and affects the premiss from which he sets out, will influence every step of the process; and express itself most forcibly in his conclusions. Starting thus, man proceeds to acquire knowledge by means of observation, the result of which he arranges on hypotheses, which are for the most part the guesses of ignorance. It is evident, therefore, that however logical the deductions he makes, and however correct his observations, he will inevitably be led further and further from the truth. This process. continues until he has arrived at conclusions so repugnant to reason, that the common sense of humanity, expressed in the person of some man whom nature creates for this special function, rejects them, and in so doing overthrows the premiss which was linked to these conclusions, and rectifies the starting-point by filling up the negation contained in it.
This is the way in which all advance in knowledge is made, and it is perhaps best seen in the history of astronomy. Ignorance of the earth's motion (due to the sense-impression of stability) was here the negation in the premiss. With this false thought modifying all his reasonings, man proceeded to make his astronomy by careful and accurate observation of the heavens. The result was the hypotheses of the Ptolemaic system. The epicycles will for ever remain as a monument of the triumph of human skill; they were an excellent piece of intellectual work none the less because they became at length so complicated and involved (as every fresh motion discovered had to be accounted for by a fresh epicycle) that at length man (in the person of Copernicus) threw off the yoke of the conclusion, and in so doing cast out the negation in the premiss-viz., ignorance of the earth's motion. Herein consisted the very excellence of the epicycle astronomy, that by its inexorable logic it so linked the false conclusion with the false premiss, that the rejection of the one involved the rejection of the other: it established, as it were, a dynamic connection between them; so that the force set free by the shaking off the thraldom of the epicycles was available to bring about a belief in the earth's motion. For observe what this force was which had been stored up under the pressure of the Ptolemaic system: it was the resistance of the intellect to the rule of sense. The epicycles were, in fact, an affirmation of the validity of the senseimpression. Reason was at work, indeed, in the making of that system, but she was at work in chains. All her activity was limited by the authority of the sense, which affirmed the stability of the earth. She might speculate, she might invent; but she must obey. In early days she had, indeed, with the hardihood of a child, set that
authority at defiance (Pythagoras is said to have affirmed the motion of the earth), but she was not yet fit for liberty. She had to enter the house of bondage, and gather through centuries of repression the force which was at length to issue in a glorious emancipation. For the triumph of Copernicus was not the mere discovery of the fact of the terrestrial motion, it was the announcement therein made that the tyranny of sense over reason was for ever at an end: he broke the yoke and bade the oppressed intellect go free. And let it be observed, that this deliverance was effected, not for the learned only, who had trodden the toilsome path of the old astronomy, but for the whole human intelligence. The toil had been vicarious, the results were freely communicated to all; only a small fraction of the human intellect was capable of threading the intricacies of the Ptolemaic system, but it was probably easy for the children of the next generation to learn that the earth moved so easy that we might perhaps think no gain had been effected for them, but in reality the gain was incalculable. They had not to break the yoke, they had never come under it. "With a great sum obtained I this freedom," boasts the emancipated philosopher of the Old World. "But I was born free," rejoins the child of the modern age.
But the paramount value of this chapter in the history of human thought lies in the key that it furnishes to the development of man's moral life. That, too, may be said to grow by a process analogous to that of the reductio ad absurdum. Man is made conscious of the ignorance, the "blindness," that is in him by the necessity he is under of working it out in the actions of his life; when the results of this working have become intolerable evils to him, he finds there is no way for him.
to free himself from them but by rectifying the basis of his life and starting afresh.
To trace this process more definitely; as in the making of knowledge, so in the "becoming" of life man starts with a negation latent in his consciousness. Here, in the moral world, we have the "self" corresponding to the sense in the intellectual. It would be no more true to say that at any period man's life expressed nothing but the rule of self, than it would be to affirm that in the pre-scientific periods his intellect was completely subordinated to sense-impressions; and yet we have seen that the free play of reason was, in fact, prevented by the authority of the senses; and in the same way the "self" controlled truly human powers, and will continue to do so until it is dethroned as Copernicus dethroned the sense. Whether this is possible is the question which, above all others, it interests humanity to have answered. As we turn heart-sick from one failure to another of experiments, social, political, benevolent, religious, directed to getting crooked natures to live straight, and observe that all fail through one cause, however variously it may work, viz., the selfishness of man, we ask, Is it possible to cast out this self, this unreasonable tormentor of humanity, that alone prevents us from living a truly human life-a life to which nature points as the only possible blessedness, in a world where everything is created for mutual service, and has its being only in giving—a world in which science in
1 It will be well to bear in mind that when the "self" is spoken of in Mr. Hinton's writings, a negation, not a positive existence, is meant. Self regard is an absence of regard to some of the circunstances that have a claim upon our emotional consciousness. This will make the astronomical analogy the closer. For there it is an ignorance, an absence of knowledge, that is the cause of the false opinion, as here it is the defective emotional apprehension that is the cause of the wrong action. (See Essay on "The Bases of Morals.")
her latest revelation of the correlation of forces seems to echo in another tongue the words of Him who said, "He that loseth his life shall save it unto life eternal"? How glad would be the discovery if we could find, not only that there was a hope of the "self" being cast out of man's life, but that all human history has existed for this very purpose, and that every event in that history has been a necessary part of the process! How joyful, too, if it should appear that this process were near its termination, that the Kingdom of Heaven was "at hand!" The signs of the times can only be read in the light of a parallel experience in another department of man's life, and the more closely we follow up this parallel, the more does the certainty of the issue impress itself upon our convictions. It seems impossible that, after having exhibited the closest resemblance in every feature of their course, the intellectual and moral life of humanity should diverge at this crisis, that the intellect
1 It must not be supposed from this and similar passages that Mr. Hinton entertained extravagant hopes of a sudden change to be brought about in human life, still less of any violent external revolution. If the intensity of his convictions and the clearness of his spiritual vision made the distant view seem near to him, he did not ignore the intervening space of years that must elapse before his prophecy would be fulfilled. He expected that it would take about six generations or two hundred years for the thought of "right," as determined by "service," to leaven the world For this he trusted simply to the ordinary agency by which every truth by degrees permeates society: a small but increasing number of men in each generation would adopt the idea, and cause their children to be guided into the new moral path, which, being easy to tread, though hard to find, would never again be abandoned for the old one. Mr. Hinton did not hope for anything more than that the altruistic idea of right would influence men's actions as widely as does the existing idea, but this, he said, would transform the world. He did not overlook the fact that men's actions are determined by other causes besides the prevalent theory of morals, but this last it was that he chiefly strove to correct, and hoped in so doing, if not to create a new motive power, at least to effect such a redistribution of it through new channels that the moral and social life of man should be to an incalculable extent raised and purified, set free from the artificial badness which now disfigures it.