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truths receives additions, while another does not—which is also false.
But this is not all. Our author's argument is not only untenable, but it is irrelevant to the subject in debate. Even if he could establish his point, he would be none the more forward. Startling as this assertion may seem, it is nevertheless indisputable. For if his reasoning hitherto were valid, it would prove merely this—that our knowledge of some subjects advances, while our knowledge of others does not. But Mr. Buckle’s professed object is to show that feeling, as compared with knowledge, is of no account as a civilizing force. To what end, then, does he go so far out of his way in giving us this jumble of ill-digested argument to show the
superiority” of some intellectual acquisitions over others ? This singular aberration results from his confounding truth with feeling, the intellectual with the emotional part of our na
He seems to forget the distinction between knowing in what duty consists, and having the intention to perform it. But it is altogether one thing to wish to do right, and another thing to know what it is right to do, as many a luckless wight finds out to his cost. Farther on, Mr. Buckle recognizes the distinction clearly enough.
It would, however, be rather unfortunate than otherwise for Mr. Buckle's main argument, if he could succeed in showing that “the sole essentials of morality have been known for thousands of years.'
For if it were true that men knew what was right—that they were acquainted with all the laws to which our conduct ought to conform-in ancient times as well as at the present day; and that they have nevertheless advanced in the practice of morality ; we should be obliged to conclude that-as the knowledge has remained stationary -it must have been the development of moral feeling and the increase of good intentions alone which could have occasioned the progress. The contrast is really between moral truths and moral feelings. So that, if Mr. Buckle had succeeded in proving that “moral knowledge" does not advance, and should at the same time succeed in his attempt to prove that “moral feeling” does not improve, he would, if consistent, arrive at the singular result that there has been no improvement at all in the actions of men.
It is quite a relief, on emerging from this labyrinth of baseless assertion and ill-directed argument, to find that our author at least seems to remember his original object,
as he sets himself to work really to show the “superiority of knowledge over feeling, as a civilizing agent. His reasoning is here very plausible, and his illustrations drawn from the history of war and religious persecution are well chosen, and appear at first quite convincing. He tells us that good intentions were of no avail in stopping persecution, because persecutors themselves have generally had the best intentions. The heathen
of Rome, who tortured Catholics, the Catholic Inquisitors of Spain, who tortured Protestants, all meant well enough, he argues—they were very often men of the purest character ; but they did not know that it was wrong for them to interfere with the religious convictions of others. So Mr. Buckle does perceive, after all, that our knowledge of our moral obligations has increased somewhat ! We are no better, he says, than the Inquisitors of old—but we know that religious persecution is wrong, wicked, harmful; while they, in their mistaken zeal, thought it to be right, holy, beneficial. This point he argues admirably; but he does not succeed in absolving religious persecutors from all charge of selfish passion. Indeed, he elsewhere expresses it as his own opinion, that the clergy have been strongly influenced, in their vindictive attempts to destroy or injure those dissenting from their views, by motives of ambitious policy. We have no doubt that such motives have always been of immense power among this class of men, as well as among other classes. But we will not urge this or any similar objection against Mr. Buckle’s grand argument. We will merely call attention to the circumstance that a man's “moral feeling,” his “moral instinct,” his “conscience,” or whatever any one chooses to call it, is a natural faculty. In other words, ethical emotions, being functions of the nervous system, are natural faculties. And we have already shown that the natural faculties of mankind develop. The refutation of Mr. Buckle's first grand argument carries with it the refutation of the second.
III. It carries with it, likewise, the refutation of the third. For the proposition that civilization is regulated, not by the “ stationary agent,” but by intellectual acquirement, can have no value, unless it be proved that moral feeling is the stationary agent. But this cannot be proved. On the contrary, it has been shown that our powers, both moral and intellectual, are continually developing, and that our acquisitions, both moral and intellectual, are constantly increas
ing. The moral element is, then, no more stationary than the intellectual; and thus Mr. Buckle's third grand argument falls to the ground, and with it falls his fundamental law, which is shown to be utterly destitute of any truth whatever.
It may be well to remark, before proceeding further, that rejection of Mr. Buckle's second law is perfectly compatible with acceptance of his first. There is no inconsistency in saying, on the one hand, that moral feeling is a civilizing agency, and on the other hand, that the progress of civilization conforms to the successive transformations of opinion. For the ethical, as well as all the other emotions, enter largely into every opinion-forming process. Though our emotions do not combine into propositions the ideas which are constituent parts of our beliefs, they do none the less, as Mr. Bain has clearly proved,* sway the intellect, as it performs this operation. The emotions accordingly enter into every act of belief, and there can be no complete theory of human opinion which leaves them out of account. Thus our acceptance of Mr. Buckle's first law confirms our rejection of his second, and we see, more clearly than ever, that “the double movement, moral and intellectual, is essential to the very idea of civilization," and that, without including both elements, there can be no complete theory of progress.
It may likewise be well to remark that a discussion of this sort has no immediate bearing on the subject of Christianity. It has been supposed by some persons that Mr. Buckle's entire argument is nothing but a sinister attack upon the Christian religion. We see nothing of the kind in it. Christianity is a system of belief, in which intellectual and moral forces must both coöperace ; and a person, while denying the civilizing agency of the moral element, may with perfect consistency maintain the civilizing agency of that set of opinions, in the formation of which the moral element has had but a partial share. Our author's argument, therefore, is not to be construed into an assault upon Christianity. Confusion necessarily results from mixing questions which should be kept separate.
o See the whole of his admirable work on The Emotions and the Will.
We come now to Mr. Buckle's third* law—that skepticism “has in every department of thought been the invariable preliminary to all the intellectual revolutions through which the human mind has passed," and that “without it there could be no progress, no change, no civilization.”+ In examining this proposition, it is needful, at the outset, to have a clear idea of the nature of skepticism, as understood by Mr. Buckle. The word itself has been variously interpreted : sometimes in a more general sense, as meaning the absolute denial of all dogmas, theories, and beliefs whatever; sometimes in a more special sense, as signifying disbelief in the peculiar doctrines of Christianity. It is in neither of these senses that Mr. Buckle uses the word. He defines skepticism as suspension of judgment, or hesitation in forming or receiving an opinion. A true skeptic, then, would neither believe nor disbelieve any thing at all. He would doubt even bis own doubts. History presents but few instances of a consistent and thorough-going skeptic. Pyrrho and Hume will, however, serve sufficiently well as examples. Skepticism; is not to be confounded with that philosophy which, not content with doubting, absolutely denies. This might be called negative ♡ philosophy, or negativism, in broad distinction from positive || philosophy, which aims at establishing from incontrovertible data a system of results, comprising all that it is in the power of the human mind to know. Negativism and positivism, then, constitute two opposite phases of human thought. As examples of negative thinkers, we have Hobbes, Voltaire, Lessing, and Rousseau ; while as instances of positive thinkers we may cite Bacon, Leibnitz, Newton, and Spencer. Skepticism is identical with neither of these philosophies, though it has some point in common with both. Skepticism, indeed, is not a philosophy at all; it is a no-philosophy-a transition state where, robbed of its belief, the mind rests not, but stays unresting, in dreary incertitude and distressful vacillation, until it finds refuge in belief again.
Bearing in mind this meaning of the word, we can safely proceed to examine the proposition before us. We do not
On the first page of his second volume, Mr. Buckle places this law second in order, and the law just.considered third. But as it is convenient to examine this law in connection with the fourth, we have taken the liberty to alter Mr. Buckle’s arrangement.
† Vol. I., page 328. | Onent ouai, to look about, to inquire. § Negare, to deny. || Ponere, to posit or affirm.
think it altogether probable that Mr. Buckle would, on mature reflection, lay down this law about skepticism as a universal one, operative alike in all stages of progress; but, as he makes no limitations to it in the course of his work, we must discuss it here in relation to the three stages of mental evolution, and see whether or not it is alike applicable to
We shall find, to begin with, that it is not applicable to the theological state. When man first looked upon the wonders of Nature, his untaught imagination gave birth to weird, fantastic shapes innumerable, peopling the air, the streams, the forest, and the mountain-chasm. Just awakened, as it were, to self-consciousness, and feeling his own life thrilling within him, he ascribed that life to everything around him. He looked upon the wide, dark surface of the
many-sounding sea,” and saw there a mighty, restless, earth-upheaving Power, which refinement afterwards
personified, and called Poseidon. Gazing above him on the blue expanse which seemed to encompass the “plain of the earth," he came to recognize there a Divinity of light and warmth, a Devas, a paternal Zeus. When the bright clouds flitted along the sky, it was Hermes driving the celestial cattle to the milking; when the north-wind arose, cold and blustering, it was Boreas, storming in his wrath ; when the stars came out at night, there were countless deities, to whom this primitive man made sacred the days of the week. The changes of the seasons, the ceaselessly recurring death and resurrection of Nature, were typified in wild legends of Jemsheed and Zohâk, of Osiris and Thammuz, of Siamek and Maneros, of Hylas and Orpheus. The whole universe was thinking, feeling, and willing. Nothing was dead or inert ; all things were endowed with life and activity. From this came sacrifices, shrines and temples, oracles, and sacerdotal orders. It would be difficult to find any traces of skepticism in all this. Belief then reigned alone in the human mind, and doubt found no place there. As long as the phenomenal was as yet harder to comprehend and more difficult to control than the unseen and unexplored world that lay beyond it, skepticism was impossible. Not only was it impossible, but it would have been harmful. For the primitive man was barbarous, treacherous, revengeful.* His selfish instincts were as yet
• Spencer's Social Statics, pp. 409-413.