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all in all. His sympathetic and social feelings were as yet undeveloped. In such a rude condition, it was only the bond of a firmly-rooted and wide-spread belief-it was only the ascendency of a priestly and governmental order, thus secured—which could keep society from being disorganized. Had skepticism been once let in, religious and political organization would have been weakened, seets and parties would have sprung up prematurely, and the strong check needful to curb the undisciplined passions of men would have been destroyed, civilization would have stopped, and society could no longer have existed. It was only after centuries of theocratic and monarchic rule--after the primeval nomadic mode of life had been long abandoned, and agriculture and commerce had in course of time, by mingling men with each other in peaceful relations, called forth social virtues—that skepticism could safely arise. And then it did arise. We find it first showing itself, in the States of Greece, where popular despots arose and were overthrown, as at Corinth, Sicyon, and Megara ; and where philosophers began to speculate about the first principles of things, as Thales, Xenophanes, and Heraclitus. Thenceforward skepticism increased, until it reached for the time its culmination in the universal doubts of Pyrrho. But it is not in ancient times at all that we are to look for any very prominent manifestation of skepticism. The spirit of doubting and hesitating inquiry was of slow growth, and did not attain to its maturity until monotheism had been established in Europe for more than a thousand years. Not only, therefore, has skepticism not always been essential to progress; not only have some important changes in human opinion as the change from fetichism to polytheism---been accomplished without it; but also, in the first of the three great periods of civilization it did not arise at all, until very late, and was then but a secondary force in the minds of men.
It is in the metaphysical or revolutionary period of modern society, extending from the twelfth century to the present time, that we see the skeptical spirit in full operation. To this stage of human evolution, Mr. Buckle's proposition is applicable without any limitations. The application he has himself given us, with great fulness and detail, in the case of England, France, Spain, and Scotland. In the brief space to which we are here restricted, it would be vain to attempt to add to the profuse and happily chosen illustrations contained in those instructive chapters which our author has principally devoted to this portion of his subject. Nowhere else has the revolutionary period of history been so admirably portrayed. Nowhere else can we find a truer, a juster, a profounder appreciation of the workings of the skeptical spirit. Here we discover no inconsistencies, no errors of statement, vitiating the whole argument. Here Mr. Buckle reveals his wonderful power. Here he draws sure conclusions from well-ascertained data. For there can be no shadow of doubt that in the twelfth century the skeptical spirit had begun to greatly increase its power and extend its influence; that in the sixteenth it had become a mighty civilizing force ; and that in the eighteenth it had penetrated all departments of thought. It was this skeptical spirit which gave rise to the conceptualism of Abelard, the infidelity of Vanini, and the heresy of Wickliffe. It became, as Mr. Buckle remarks, “in physics, the precursor of science; in politics, of liberty; and in theology, of toleration." But for the skepticism in his own mind, Luther could not have become the founder of Protestantism; and but for the skepticism already rife in the minds of others, he could have found no followers. We find skepticism dictating the metaphysics of Descartes and the diplomacy of Richelieu. We find it inciting the English to rebellion against the despotism of the Stuarts, and striving, though vainly, in the wars of the Fronde, to establish political liberty in France. It lay at the foundation of the sensationalism of Locke and the idealism of Berkeley, and was itself at last organized into an independent system by Hume. It was the opening phase of that negative philosophy which, first receiving definite shape in the deism of Herbert and Bolingbroke, ended in the atheism of Diderot and Helvetius. It was the parent of the transcendentalism of Kant and Fichte, the physio-philosophic vagaries of Schelling and Carus, the absolutism of Hegel, and the pantheism of Feuerbach. Carried into science, it paved the way for the immortal discoveries of Lavoisier and Bichat. Wielded by Voltaire, it broke down ecclesiastical power in France; and, in the hands of Rousseau, swept away the vilest of despotisms by the most fearful of revolutions. It roased the Dutch to cast off the yoke of Spain, sent the Puritans to Massachusetts, inspired the Americans in their “ Declaration of Independence," and shaped the fabric of their democratic government. What need of further examples ?
It is the skeptical spirit, advocating liberty in politics, and toleration in religion, which has been at the bottom of every change through which humanity has passed in modern times. Mr. Buckle's law is entirely applicable to the metaphysical period of civilization, and is the key to the explanation of its phenomena.
But the metaphysical state is not a permanent one. It constitutes a transition from that primitive belief which was the offspring of man's early endeavors to compass and explain the Infinite about him, to that new belief which is founded on a long and thorough investigation into the laws of the natural world. Giving up as hopeless all search for the undiscoverable, all striving to know the unknowable, science contents itself with finding out that which lies within our reach. But it was not in the
perceiving the inadequacy and incongruity of his old belief
, to pass at once to the new. No one can reject an old system of opinions, which has shaped his thoughts and guided his actions in the past, and then take up a new system, to shape his thoughts and guide his actions in the future, without going through an intermediate state of painful and wearisome doubt. As with the individual, so with the race. The skeptical period could not but intervene. It was only after countless attempts to explore the dark and dangerous region of the Infinite had all proved futile—it was only after successive theories had all been weighed in the balance, and found wanting—that man could come at last, to repose in the calm spirit and sure methods of scientific inquiry. Before this must necessarily have come that tumultuous season of doubt and denial, of discord and revolution, in which the skeptical spirit reigned supreme. The rottenness of old institutions, forms and dogmas, had to be exposed before they could be given up. Then the barrenness of doubt had to make itself felt before it could be supplanted by knowledge. It was not until Hume, by carrying skepticism to its uttermost extent, had shown its unsatisfactory character and vain results, that the germs of scientific method, implanted by Bacon and Descartes, could develop and bear fruit in the positive philosophy of Comte.
As the metaphysical period is but a transition from the theological to the positive, it only remains to show that skepticism is peculiar to it, being a transition from belief to knowledge. We have here very few facts to guide us in an inductive investigation, since the positive era is only now commencing. But, if we consider the state of human thought at the present day on the various subjects of scientific research, we shall find that in the most advanced departments skepticism no longer finds a place. Astronomers long ago gave over doubting and asking questions of each other about the fact of the earth's motion. It was the skepticism of Copernicus and Galileo that overthrew the old notion of its fixity ; but that skepticism speedily issued in positive certainty. Whether a man believes or disbelieves in the motion of the earth, is now a mere matter of knowledge or ignorance. There is no place for doubt, no room for difference of opinion. So with all demonstrated facts and laws. A truth once established remains forever a truth. · We cannot choose but accept it. And science, as a body of established truths, cannot admit of skepticism.
The past history of science confirms, and its future progress must also confirm, this conclusion, which might be drawn at once from the very nature of thought. When we know as much about the most complex subjects as we now know about the most simple ones, there can be no such thing as doubt at all. “The mystic drama will be sunny clear, and all Nature's processes will be visible to man, as a divine Effluence and Life."'*
We have seen that in the theological stage of human development, skepticism did not exist ; that in the metaphysical stage, it arose and extended its sway over every department of thought; but that, in the positive stage, it is destined to decrease, until it exercises no perceptible influenee.
Corresponding to these three stages of evolution, are the three predominant mental states of belief, doubt, and knowledge. The three great periods into which Comte has divided the . history of civilization might be named with perfect accuracy, the period of credulity, the period of skepticism, and the period of science. Mr. Buckle's law has this much of truth in it; that the skeptical age is the necessary forerunner of the scientific; that in the race, no less than in the individual, doubt must intervene between belief and knowledge.
We shall now briefly consider Mr. Buckle's fourth fundamental law—that “the great enemy of civilization is the protective spirit,” or in other words, “ the notion that society
Lewes' Sea-side Studies, p. 219.
cannot prosper, unless the affairs of life are watched over and protected, at nearly every turn, by the state and the church; the state teaching men what they are to do, and the church teaching them what they are to believe."* Here, as in the foregoing case, Mr. Buckle errs only, in stating his law without any limitations, as if it were a universal one. It cannot be questioned that for several centuries the protective spirit has been extremely prejudicial to progress. The notion that government ought to control the actions and beliefs of men has, when carried into politics, furnished a plea for despotism, and when carried into theology, it has been productive of intolerance and persecution. Mr. Buckle devotes a large portion of his work to the establishment and elucidation of this fact. He shows that government and legislation are incompetent to direct the affairs of men. He shows that politicians have injured trade by interfering with it; that legislators have caused smuggling, with its attendant crimes ; that they have also increased hypocrisy and perjury; and that, by their laws against usury, they have but heightened the evil they sought to prevent. He shows that the protection of literature by Augustus, by Leo X., and by Louis XIV., caused literature to decline.
In each case
66 there was much apparent splendor, immediately succeeded by sudden ruin.”+ The system of protecting literature was carried to its fullest extent by Louis XIV., and nowhere we see more clearly the baneful effects of such a
For the scientific progress which had been so marked in the reign of Louis XIII., stopped forthwith. Descartes and Pascal, Fermat, Gassendi, Riolan, Joubert, and Paré died, and left no successors. Nothing was done in astronomy, in chemistry, in physiology, or in botany. Of mechanical inventions there were none. Even the fine arts soon began to decline; and intellectual decay, the natural consequence of patronage, was seen in every department of thought. So in many other cases: we see the damage entailed by the interference of government. Laws fixing a minimum of wages have caused thousands of laborers to be turned out of employment. Laws regulating marriage have ended in increasing the number of illegitimate births, Laws for the establishment of sanitary supervision have spread disease, and
0 Vol. 11., p. 1.
+ Vol. I., | As in the case of the Spitalfields weavers, in 1773.
§ As in Bavaria.