The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 31
When one stands on an eminence viewing a landscape there are generally one or two things that particularly attract him. His neighbour or friend, who is viewing the same sight, is busy noticing some other thing. Is it a scene with land and sea in view? It may be that it is the ship in the distant offing that attracts the one, while the attention of the other is arrested by watching the play of the clouds. This shows our bias. Indeed there is nothing in which it is not shown. Let two photographers take photographs of the same scene or person, and see what a difference there is. The pose, the light, the shade, all are different. And this happens where the medium is the product of the art of the optician; but where the medium is a man's senses or feelings, the distortion, or rather difference in view, is more marked. Even in astronomy the observer has to allow for personal error; that is, every one making an observation has to allow in his calculation for the error necessarily made by him in observing; and this error varies. And if this bias is manifested in ordinary things where only the senses are involved, what does it not become when love of country, early training, habits, feelings, are all factors? This bias, the patriotic bias, the theologic bias, the scientific bias, the political bias, are ever present with us. I have mentioned this tendency to partialness in view to guard myself and you from assuming that the way we examine and report on anything is necessarily accurate, or can be even approximately so. And in to-night taking a glance at the future, this must be especially kept in view. Here hope comes in, and with it a rose-colouring of the ever-distant. To-night I shall attempt to point out the tendencies of the age, so that what our future may be and may not be, and what the goal is, we may the more accurately determine. In doing this, I do not intend to deal with the wide subject of the immortality of man's soul, nor with the existence of a life beyond the present. I would rather confine our attention to the probable future of our world and race. There are many marked tendencies in the present age, and I shall deal with a few in different departments of knowledge, and show how these different departments are becoming as it were interwoven.
- First, the Philosophical
- First, the Scientific
- First, the Moral
- First, the Political
There are at least two marked schools of philosophers. In these two schools there are minor differences, but there are two marked doctrines—the intuitionalists and the Experientalists. It would take up too much time to deal with the doctrine of perception, and of an external universe, and might not be interesting. I shall therefore only give one brief distinction or difference between these two. The intuitionalists assert that every person has certain ideas implanted in him by his very existence, and from the Great First Cause. It is true that these ideas are admittedly for one the idea of a God, or a first cause—the idea of space, the idea of time. The other opposing school assert that these ideas are not innate—not born with a man—that is, not in his mind ready to be developed when his body develops, but that they are the product of experience: that the idea of cause or a first cause is obtained by an observing or nature, and by seeing that everything that exists has an antecedent, or as we often term it a cause, and that we therefore infer a cause to exist for all things—a God. There are others, like Kant, who assign a different origin to the ideas of time and space, vie., that they are the forms of all phenomena of external sense, that the forms pre-exist in the mind, and that we cannot conceive or observe without observing and perceiving in these forms. The experientalists denied both the Kantian and the intuitional view, as I have said, and I have mentioned these two philosophic schools to show how, by a higher law, so to speak, the two have been brought nearer than before. It is true that the experientalists had always against them the appeal to consciousness, and they therefore with this appeal were weakened. Evolution, which is simply extended experientalism, has, however, been introduced, and with it a bridge has been constructed across the chasm that separated the two schools. Evolution and hereditary trans- page 3 mission are now used to explain the produces in consciousness, and to show how they came there. The effect of this in the future, on philosophy, will be most marked, for cerebral psychology, sneered at by Martina, will be closely examined, and though there may be something apart from the bodily organs of the mind, from the white and the grey matter in the nervous centres, still as these are how this mind is shown, is expressed, the instruments—they ought to be closely watched. In the future, therefore, physiology and psychology must go hand in hand, and with them the study of metaphysic, may popularly cease to be looked upon as is very uninteresting and uninviting one. And, indeed, whatever is new in literature in the present day really has its root in some of these philosophic conceptions, and, as I shall show further on, it tinges our science, our morality, and our politics. There are, how ever, two other doctrines that are having, and are still further destined to have, a wide effect are the future; and these are the doctrines of Relativity and Expediency, and may briefly state what they imply. The word that is opposed to relative is absolute. A familiar example may be given, it is said that twice two makes four is absolutely true, that is, that it could under no circumstances be false; but it is said that it is the duty of the State or people to punish a citizen, may be true or false. We may conceive of an occasion in which it might be true of the State's duty, and one in which it might be false. It is only relatively true. Not that this first statement that twice two makes four is held to be an absolute truth; on the contrary, many philosophers hold that it is relative only, and that it is not necessarily true, for that it is comprehended i ts the very definition of number. (See Mill's 'Logic,' vol. I., p. 260.) Again, however, I must refrain from entering on such a vexed question as Necessary Truth. (See Dublin Review,' for a statement opposed to J. Stuart Mill's, &c.) Relativity may, how ever, be defined as that which is only true when the circumstances and times are the same. This doctrine of Relativity has a most important bearing in morals and polities, as I shall hereafter point out; and as Expediency is really involved in it, I shall reserve any remarks till then.
The doctrine of evolution is not, as I have said before, confined to philosophy. Indeed, it is from science it has been borrowed. Now, by science I understand knowledge obtained through observation and experiment. Of the workings of evolution, of Darwin's and Wallace's researches, of Smidt's, indeed of all naturalists' soul geologists', &c., I need not speak. I might point out only what has happened in geology. The "Neptunists, the Plutonists, the Catastrophists—all have vanished. To understand geology we must be prepared to speak of gradual risings and fallings, the washing down of hills through ages, and not of vast cataclysms in nature. It is true earthquakes and volcanoes have been and left their records behind them, but they have been the exceptions. The evolving process has been the means by which, from a nebulous mass, this planet has risen to its present position. This evolution doctrine has, as it has been the bridge between the opposing schools of philosophy, also become the means of bringing the scientists face to face with the problems of existence. Nothing is so surprising as the rise, within, I might my, the last ten years, of the study of psychology, or of philosophy. This study loss assumed varied phases. With Tyndall it has gone to the question of the first atoms; with others, as to the origin of life—Huxley's Protoplasm—the protein of German chemists and physicists. With others, the union of body and mind has formed the basis of their lectures, articles, and speeches. Almost all admit an evolation. The difficulty lies ha fixing its limits and scope. Had the highest products of genius once a place in the nebulous centre of gas from which the earth arose, or is there a Divine afflatus that influenced every snail distinct, from himself? Has there been an endless progress from is monad to our present state, or what? This is science's problem—the origin of matter and of life. In the discussion of this problem a most marked change has come over the definition of matter. A dead inert substance was once its definition; but on close scrutiny the distinction between organic and inorganic is found as difficult to determine as the origin of either. Possibly the position of Spencer may be after all found the only tenable one, and it is that there is a region unknowable which, with our present faculties, we earl never hope to explore. And thus evolution brings philosophy and science face to face, and shows that to each the same problem is open for solution.
In the future, therefore, we shall find that the ostracised metaphysics will assert their sway, and that the problem of salience and whither will be as interesting as in the Academia where Socrates taught. I have, however, set before you, and very briefly, this doctrine of evolution and its bearing on the present and future of philosophy and science, in order to lead up to more practical matters.
And first as to morality; the duties—if there be such—we owe to each other and to ourselves. Now, you see here again exemplified the interdependence of all knowledge. For this doctrine has created, as it were, new duties and new engagements. Take one thing—the necessity of cleanliness, that the search for the origin of life has shown. You page 4 have all heard of the germ theory of disease. It is on this theory that all the action of our Boards of Health, our quarantine, our fumigations, our sewers, is based. That disease exists as life—multiplying, if it has food to feed on—all now admit. This granted, the necessity of cleanliness as the basis of health is put on as scientific foundation. And hence we find that every day brings us discoveries in the science of health, so that in the future we may hope to see disease and death lessened. But this is a small matter, relatively speaking, to a larger question that evolution has opened up. You have heard of the doctrine of hereditary transmission. This is a doctrine not wholly proved yet, but which every day brings some now facts to further establish and see what a bearing this has on morals. This shows that a sin committed brings a punishment, not only on the doer, but on the doer's offspring; and that good done, an intellect trained, emotions cultivated, can be, and are, also transmitted. Nothing, heretofore, had been made plainer than that excess of all kinds vitiated a man's physical nature, and also injured his inlaid. This new doctrine, however, shows that the drunkenness and vice of the parent are manifested in his children and that, as was said long ago, the punishment extends to the third and fourth generation. But as the punishment extends, so does the reward. As O. Wendell Holmes says in one of his works, the New England blood counts for something. That is, the cultured classes' offspring are quicker at learning than the children of those whose minds are untrained. And then the progress; the growth of new organs; the decay of unused organs—and this the evolutionists have proved—see whet a strong bearing this has on morals. It brings up and bridges the other opposing doctrines on this very morality question. You have heard of Owenism. I do not mean it in its socialistic phase, but in the moral doctrines that underlay it. These were usually summed up in the aphorism, "Circumstances make the man." This has been proved fallacious; but if you say circumstances plus hereditary descent, or plan transmitted qualities, I do not know if many would quarrel now-a days with the doctrine. Here again is evolution a bridge. The conscience and circumstances are joined. Morality is from within as well as from without. At one time it was thought, if this doctrine of circumstances influencing conduct—of what may be termed determinism as opposed to freewill—were believed in, that the effect would be most pernicious; but now, plus hereditary descent, it is recognised as a doctrine with no baneful consequences. I read in the Evangelist of this month a statement that from one morally-depraved woman 200 criminals can trace their descent. And in the same paper is a sermon by the Rev. D. Sidey; he at once confesses that hereditary gifts must be recognised. This doctrine has everything to do will moral reform, and forms the strongest argument for the existence of State education and industrial schools. It does not assert that no educated men belong to the criminal class. On the contrary, it asserts that, except men's moral, sentimental nature be trained, the training of the intellect will not alone make them good citizens. But, while this is admitted, the fact that the surrounding's go to form a man's character makes it imperatively necessary that the surroundings should be improved before you can look for healthy moral action. The germ theory of disease teaches us that, if we desire health and the absence of epidemics, we must have cleanliness. So, if we are to expect good deeds, all immoral associations must be removed. If vice and sensuality are the associations of youth, it would be a most improbable thing were our youth not vicious and sensual. And this, I repeat, is one of the strongest possible arguments for State education, and Industrial or Reformatory Schools. There is also another thing that this evolution doctrine as applied to morals has shown, and that is, no man can neglect the training and culture of to moral nature without injury to himself. If a man be wholly given up to the world, the flesh, or the devil, he is so much the less a man, and the evil may not end with himself. And so, if a community or nation gives itself up to the search after one thing, makes Mammon its Goal, e.g., the result will be an injury inflicted on the nation. Habit is everything. The nation Oust has, as its citizens, people whose habits are reverential, prudent, careful, sympathetic, and truthful, is a great nation. It may be poor, have no resources, and be comparatively barren, but if its people are great the nation is great. But, if its people are unreliable, are selfish, are extravagant, no matter what faith they express, or what wealth their country abounds in, the nation is poor. "It is righteousness that exalteth a nation."
But in politics, in the practical relatdions of life in a State, these doctrines have a still more marked effect First. Evolution shows that the elevating of the people in the State cannot be accomplished by a quick process. To many the winning of the five points of the Charter was the confining of an immense boon on the nation—would do good to the people—make them better in their actions one to another, and also raise their standard of well-being. But the extension of the suffrage has come, and the elector can vote in secret, but no great change has come with page 5 these. The power of beer, in the last English election, was greater than in any prior election. Bribery is not stamped out. The electors do not elect a man for his honesty and ability. On the contrary, some constituencies rejected the ablest candidates, and elected the least able. The liberal ideas that were to prevail when the mass could vote are found to be now existent. A Tory majority is the consequent of the antecedent ballot. I only cite this as an example, showing that a nation or people change slowly; one does not expect a people to become all at once wise or honest. And no with any radical reform. The change of a Ministry, the change of even a form of government, will not effect much. Some people think, only let a new Constitution be framed, and the country is saved; extravagance will cease, and log-rolling vanish. Alaa! the evil is too deep-seated for a paper Act to reach. Do you imagine, if we abolished all our colonial knights, and there was no such thing as a Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George known in our island, that we should feel any perceptible advantage? Or, if our schools were under a Beard in Wellington, and Provincialism was of the past, that the political atmosphere would be thereby rendered no pure that no possible smoke or mist would ever prevent as enjoying the sweets of sunlight? Surely our hope is not so great as that. That is not what needs change. I do not say but what a Constitution may not be a hindrance to the growth of a people, but I also assert that by evolution the Constitution will alter and adapt itself to the varying circumstances of the people. Do not let his delude ourselves with the notion that if we are misgoverned it is because of our form of government. The New Yorkers have been misgoverned, and once the moral strength of the people was put in action the misgovern were ostracised. It needed no change of constitution. It needed what? Why, the moral tone of the people to be raised sad roused to action. For what, after all, have we in all law to depend on? Is it not on the morality of the people? If our criminal statutes by their enacted punishments shock the sense of justice in the mass, what happens? Juries won't convict. The justice in the soul, as a poet phrases, transcends the written law.
Justice is not settled by legislators and laws—it is in the soul.
Our deeds still travel with us from afar,
And what we have been makes us what we are.
The great man gives an impetus to his age. He pushes it ahead, makes it press onward; but the force he uses, it has been stored up for ages perhaps. Carlyle can trace in himself his grandfather's traits. You cannot expect a man of culture to arise where there has been no education. We do not get our philosophers from Spain, but from Germany. Before a Fichte or a Goethe can arise there must be prior conditions. Scotland is famed for its study of mental science, and hence, considering its population, it has produced re greater number of psychologist and philosophers than any other country. The youth of America, as pointed out by Burke, turned their attention to law more than to theology and medicine, and the American lawyers' works are now text-books in England. The bent of the best students was towards law. Where do we expect to find the highest literary criticism? Why, in Germany. Where in the United Kingdom the best classical scholars? In Oxford and Dublin; and the best mathematicians in Cambridge. These things came not in a day. We sec varieties of plants where there is a great number of the same page 6 kind; so before we can expect a genius there must be a big seed-bed.
But are there diverse social forces working in our midst? And whither tend they? I do not think anyone can overlook the forces that are at the surface, so to speak, of all questions—Individualism and Socialism. Here are the opposing systems. The one founded on rivalry, on competition—the other wishing society to be bound together by mutual affection—by love. The one asserts that the fittest should survive, and that this can best be obtained by a rude freedom and a kind of social warfare. Competition is Individualism's Alpha and Omega. Each must strive for himself—strive to get wealth, to get luxuries, to fulfil greater desires. Socialism, again, wishes to see competition abolished, and war—social and commercial war—at an end. These two questions are at the root of our education questions, our land questions, our poor-rate questions. If Individualism were carried to its legitimate end, as Spencer carries it in his 'Social Statics,' there would be no State education and no State aid to the poor. His reasoning is, that it is the duty of the State to allow Individualism its fullest play, to protect rights, and that by educating a child at the expense of the State a wrong is being done to certain individuals in the State, for something is taken from them not necessary for the protection of their rights.
Socialism again asserts it to be the duty of men to aid the weak and that a man should, out of his substance, give help to the poor and wretched. I have not time to discuss Socialism and Individualism. They are the two moving forces at present of politics. The latter is shaping the political economy of Germany, while the battle is still raging as to which shall conquer in England. Greg is perhaps the type in England of the Individualist political economists and now that S. Mill is dead, few, if any, English political economists speak well of Socialism. And here tames that other doctrine I mentioned—that of expediency in politics. What should the aim of a politician he? Every man who thinks has theories. He has ideas of what is best. Ought he at once to carry his ideas into practice? Or should he recognise that his ideas will be only useful and good when the conditions arise for them? May not a thing he good, but not expedient? Politics is a practical thing, and, being practical, we may not be able to carry out our ideas in practice. This is what is termed the doctrine of expediency. It may in the abstract in our opinion be right to do so and so, but is it expedient? This is just saying we must look at all the surroundings before we attempt to carry out our ideal. We must allow for growth, for evolution. Free unrestricted commerce is good for a people, but ought Custom-houses at once to be swept away? May there not be other and more evils attendant on direct taxation than those attendant on a custom-tax and a restricted trade? This is how political questions must be approached; and yet we need not sacrifice our ideal. For example, we may hold a firm conviction that all unrestricted monopoly of land is bad, and yet be not surrendering our ideal when we attempt to palliate the evil by making the monopolists numerous instead of few; or we may imagine that the training of the feudal system to the belief in the sacredness of the soil, has been so long, has borne such fruits, that the State-leasing system may be impossible for ages to Come. Take yet another example—direct versus indirect taxation. When we look at the question from one point of view, we shall find that, in theory, a man ought to pay taxes in accordance: first, with the safety guaranteed to his person, and then: to his property, by the State—a sort of poll-tax and property tax. But the property men, under the indirect system, pay little or nothing; if absentees, almost nothing. This is not fair, not equitable, unjust; but can we change it? "Of all debts," says Emerson, "men are least willing to pay the taxes. . . Everywhere they think they get their money's worth except for these." And until you get the people to understand taxation and the theory of government, your may be doing less injustice by indirect taxation than you would by direct taxation. This is the expediency doctrine, and with it, "What are the duties of the State?" comes up. Is the duty of the State limited, as Spencer limits it—to the giving of the like liberty to everyone—each to enjoy the most perfect liberty so long as he does not infringe on his neighbour? The answer is given. This is the Utopia for which we should strive; but in the meantime the goal is distant—evolution is recognised—and we must hare benevolent institutions and hospitals supported by the State, and State schools, and universities, and museums, and rates, and taxes, and Custom-houses. A policeocracy is not yet the highest form of Government. As there was a time when a State Church did good, but that time has passed, so in the future the time will come when the State school is as unknown as the State Church. Here, again, a recognition of this ever-present Protean-like doctrine—evolution. In every shape it comes up.
I have briefly sketched what effect it has had, and is having, on philosophy. I have shown what science must now meet, and how moral doctrines are being shaped by it; and in polities I have hinted how the questions that call for the thoughts and votes of the electors must now be dealt with. In this I page 7 may appear to have dealt with the present rather than with the future. But I believe that the only true prophecy nowadays of what will be is the statement of what is. This, again, you see is just evolution. I do not care to deal with the theological aspect of that question, because I believe, if true, that theology will discover that it is not opposed to its doctrines. Indeed many clergymen admit evolution in a modified way already. But this doctrine cannot fail to have a most important bearing on all our social Life. It may weaken our notions of spirit; but as Emerson says, "Fear not the new generalisation. Does the fact look crass and material, threatening to degrade the theory of spirit? Resist it not; it goes to refine and raise the theory of matter just as much." Matter, a dead, inert substance, becomes a mass containing the potentiality of life—nay, of the highest possible intellectual life. Matter and spirit are not changed; they are made one. I do not therefore fear any evil effect from this doctrine. Indeed, if true, it would prevent all investigation, all thought, all science, were we to assert that it could possibly be hurtful. It may not be expedient to preach it as a gospel; but there is little danger of that kind of preaching spreading. Men most have something more emotional, more stirring. Still this evolution doctrine is not without its goodness. First it states that where there are wants there will be supplies. Are people subject to accidents, the strong to sickness, the young to death? What are our Oddfollows' lodges but an organism to meet these? To meet then by independence, not by surrendering a man's manliness, by application for State alms, but by exercising prudence and care to provide for the future. And indeed Spencer contends that social evolution or growth is so strong that had our growth been negatively regulative—that is, if the Government had not interfered, had allowed each to do as he liked, no long as he did not interfere with another's like right—we should have had better railways, better post-offices, better education than the State affords. Whether that be so or not, at any rate it teaches us to look to the future with hope, with a belief that progress is the law of existence, and that, though reforms come slowly, they come surely. And it also impresses on us this fact, that no reform can come per saltem, by a leap, but that the conditions must change. And though it may appear to some to impair a man's individuality and freedom by urging the expediency doctrine, it has really no such aim. What is, as I have already said, the doctrine of expediency, but looking all round a subject? But the duty to battle for the ideally true is not one whit restrained; on the contrary, each one is to fearlessly utter what he believes to be true, and fearlessly strive for what lie believes to be best. He may be wrong, he is not infallible, but it is only by thus uttering and thus striving that his ideas can get sifted, and, if true, carried into execution. I do not believe with those who see only woe and desolation in the future. Bad times may come, reactions will intervene, but our civilisation is not at its meridian. It is rather, as has been said, only at its sunrise—at its dawn. Row popular is education now! Schools everywhere, British associations, science lectures, magazines, newspapers. And will these not have a result? Are we to believe that all this force is wasted, and that its aim—simply because it deals with one or more departments of knowledge, and neglects the region of religion, of faith—is brutal and Godless? It would be strange indeed if this were so—nay, it would be a libel on Nature and on the race. This scientific investigations is a product; and it abs will produce and is producing, changes in our thought and in our manner of looking at things such as we have not yet imagined. And this cost—of what comes of it?—is, perhaps, the only one we have. If we find that education lessens crime; if we discover that the Government of the country where education is most diffused is the most stable; if we find that the finer feelings of mankind are found to have the most scope where you have good schools, good museums, good music, good picture-galleries, plenty of newspapers, and thoughtful magazines,—depend on it these things are good, and not brutal and Godless. For, after all, our test is: By their fruits ye shall know them.
And though we are products, we also are producers. Science may be abroad, culture may be abroad; our duty is to disseminate both. Do not let us do what Buckle (Vol. II., 53) says the Spaniards did "They were satisfied with themselves. They were sure of the accuracy of their own opinions; they were proud of the notions which they inherited, and which they did not wish either to increase or diminish. Being unable to doubt, they were therefore unwilling to inquire. New and beautiful truths, conveyed in the clearest and most attractive language, could produce no effect upon men whose minds were than hardened and enslaved. An unhappy combination of events, working without interruption since the fifth century, had predetermined the national character in a particular direction, and neither statesmen, nor kings, nor legislators could effect aught against it. The seventeenth century was, however, the climax of all. In that age, the Spanish nation fell into a sleep, from which, as a nation, it has never awakened. It was a sleep not of repose, but of death. It was a sleep in page 8 Which the faculties, instead of being rested, were paralysed."
And so we should discuss the present question. Don't let us be afraid to doubt. Let us get facts. Theories are useful. The hypothesis is a necessary adjunct to the investigation. If we remain blind to the present, if we neglect culture, we may retard the evolution of our colony. The country that pays attention to thought is the country that progresses. Germany, not Spain, lends Europe. It was with this ideal brought this subject forward. New truths I had none to tell. I could only draw attention to what was passing around us, in the hope that we might all see that not one thing that comes up in our newspapers, and in our everyday life, but has involved in it something deeper than what appears on the surface; and also in the hope that, seeing this, we might sins to make the world better than we found it, and strive for a future time more glorious than the golden past. This I conceived I could best do by exalting evolution. It is this which gives the fullest play to a man's faculties. It is this which clothes as wills dignity a man. Not one man's life is in vain; not one action but has its result; not one evil seed sown but springs, and with it its crop; and not one good action done but also has its aim.
That nothing walks with nothing walks with aimless feet,
That not one life shall be destroyed,
Or cast as rubbish to the void.
- I announce natural persons to arise;
- I announce Justice triumphant;
- I announce uncompromising liberty and equality.
* * * * * *
I announce splendours and majesties to make all the previous politics of the earth insignificant.