« ElőzőTovább »
thor's lack, though they want somewhat of the assurance and vivacity in which the latter's abound. Yet Mr. Buckle submits important considerations throughout this discussion.
When, however, the negative effects, upon which he descants, are assumed as the whole influence of outward nature upon man's spirit, they are at once connected with an enormous untruth. The foot is a part of the human body, but he who assumes that it is the entire body will include a falsehood even in statements upon the foot's uses that were otherwise just and valuable. Is not outward nature in alliance with man ? Does not every step of his progress owe something to its aid? Does it not come into deep and fruitful intimacies with his spirit? How shallow and unsound to look upon this simply as a hinderance, to be “ triumphed over," to be made a nullity, before civilization fairly begins! Relations of antagonism exist, no doubt; but so do relations of affinity, which are of the greater importance, and, for that reason, of greater subtilty. Only the antagonism, however, does Mr. Buckle perceive, and he states this as the whole. Even this he but half, or less than half, understands. Danger and awe are essential to man, having their honorable place in the economies of his existence; and the elements which bring them are not to be reckoned simply hostile and impoverishing.
We can approve no history of civilization as complete, though profound to the measure of one's wish in other particulars, which considers the aspects of outward nature simply as a block before the wheels; for among the first of civilizing forces is to be named the foodful and productive relationship between man's spirit and the objects about him. It is through this relationship that they become to him symbols, uniting with his soul, first of all, in the consequent production of language. Of this fructifying relationship it is the imagination, to disparage which is an aim with our author, that acts as the medium. Language arises from an imaginative sympathy between the eye and the objects it beholds. The objects about us have, to begin with, relationships with us that are purely physical, and in consequence may excite fear or desire, as they do in animals; but so far they do not even tend to originate speech. But when they impress the
imagination, then is this faculty moved, by another step of action, to symbolize this impression in sound. The simplest name of a physical object is a purely imaginative and artistic result, – imaginative in respect to the impression received, artistic in the shaping and symbolizing of that impression by means of a vocal sign. Suppose some first man, looking on the wide blue stretch of ocean, and uttering the word grand. But what has grand to do with the sea ? The word is not salt nor spacious; you cannot drown in it, nor float upon it; it does not result from any physical relationship of the beholder with the object seen; just as little does it result from any analysis of the sea, or other labor of the understanding. That which mediates between this object and the soul is no other than the imagination, and to this the word answers. Analyze all original naming, and you will find the process invariably the same. Imagination is the word-maker, the articulating, or, as its name signifies, the imaging faculty; and without it man were dumb.
As language begins, so it grows, and so it is continually vitalized. They draw from the fountains of speech, they utter living words, who feel the symbolism of nature; they but half articulate who speak only from custom and the dictionary. To many, their own vernacular is a dead language; to all is it so, in whom words have not connected themselves with the native sources of their life.
But if the simplest naming imply the agency of imagination, mediating between soul and sense, infinitely more so does the second degree of language, namely, the application of physical terms to spiritual facts. Every term, indeed, by which we designate some fact of man's immaterial being, borrows the name of some physical object in passing into speech. Rectitude, straightness, — what connection has rectitude with straight lines? Is it answered, as a person once did answer us, that a just man does not resort to indirect and tortuous courses? We reply, that you are using the word tortuous here in a wholly imaginative sense, and can, by the understanding, trace no jot nor tittle of analogy between this and its physical use. It is not even true, that just men take the shortest course to their ends, - meaning by “shortest course” (which again is an imaginative application of words) those means which consume least time. A robber's way of coming at your purse is far more direct than the laborious approach of an honest man. In fine, the understanding, which Mr. Buckle worships, cannot trace to its origin a single word; no farther can it go than to the Delphos of imagination, and there must implicitly accept oracles. When we say that we are struck by a thought, that an object impresses us, that a person interests, that is, is between or within us, we are proving at once the mind's affinity with outward nature, and its dependence solely on imagination to interpret that affinity...
This has expressions other than language, and of hardly less importance; but one instance must here stand for all. One instance shows clearly enough that it is a sadly poor and partial account of the influence of nature upon civilization, which considers that influence as negative and obstructive only, as belonging strictly only to the history of noncivilization.
If we pass to the constructive portion of our author's work, our satisfaction will be little more complete. This part assumes, and at first glance seems, to be constructive and affirmative; but is it not really negative ? For if Mr. Buckle say that the intellect is an agent in civilization, he says what everybody knew. If he say that it is an agent of great power and importance, - that it is indispensable, — still he goes not a hair's breadth beyond the present information of all people. What, then, does he teach? Merely that the moral sentiment and imagination are not civilizing forces. With all possible success, he does no more than exclude from our respect some of the grandest powers of man's spirit. Of course, if this be true, we ought to know it, and we owe debts to the writer who gives us the information. But the exact scope of his assertion should be understood: it should be understood that he exhibits no powers of intellect which were previously unknown; he only disparages the uses of other faculties.
Let us now proceed to examine the argument by which he would establish the autocracy of intellect; and we shall find this one of the most luckless pieces of logic ever let slip by an able man. First, he divides the mind, by what he digni. fies, not too modestly, with the name “analysis,” into two departments, intellectual and moral,- or, as he, with his characteristic lugging in of the word laws, chooses to phrase it, into “intellectual laws and moral laws." The adequacy of this division will be better estimated by remembering that he uses the word intellectual in a very limited sense. It does not include imagination; it does not include moral and religious intuition; so that those powers which produced the poetry, the art, the sculptures and greater philosophies of the nations, and, in fine, the broadest and most fertile provinces of man's spiritual expression, with the faculties that preside over them, are ignored altogether by Mr. Buckle's “ analysis.” But let this pass; since to trace all the errors in a single chapter of his work would require a chapter of equal length.
Having thus divided the mind into “two parts,” neither more nor less, our philosopher proceeds to inquire which of these parts has the greater force; for, he says, that which is stronger must be assumed as sole! This assumption is so cool and curious, that the reader shall be pardoned if he hesitate to credit it upon other testimony than the ipsissima verba of the author himself. “As soon,” writes our creator of scientific history, - " as soon as we know the relative energy of these two components, we shall treat them according to our usual manner in the investigation of truth; that is, we shall look at the joint product of their action as obeying the laws of the more powerful agent.” Every word of this quotation should be pondered by those who incline to take our author too seriously. This, he declares, is his “usual method in investigation of truth.” We fear that it is; we fear he does not accuse himself too severely. But what an accusation! Let us apply his law in mechanics. Suppose that A strikes a ball and drives it north with a given degree of force ; B, with half as much force, simultaneously strikes and propels it towards the east; our philosopher assures us, with academic gravity, that the ball will “ obey the laws of the more powerful agent," that is, will proceed due north! The great ball of human society is propelled, so our author argues, more powerfully by intellect than by moral sentiment and
perception ; ergo, moral laws have no effect upon it whatever. This, the reader will perceive, is to establish a science of history. Other historians, Tacitus and Carlyle, botch and bungle; they follow their private notions, whims, and fantasies; but that is now past, other books are opened, and history is no longer to be written on parchment, but upon brass.
So far so good. But now it is to be shown that the moral energy is the weaker of those two into which the mind has been divided. This our author proceeds to do, — or rather, with an inconsequence which is characteristic of him, he no sooner has laid out his ground than he forgets it, and makes an argument that, in parts at least, has no logical relation to it. So here he reasons that moral laws are inoperative in their very nature, rather than that they are less efficacious than intellect. At any rate, this characterizes one half of the argument; for the logic itself has no homogeneity, but fights the one portion against the other.
First, Mr. Buckle reasons that moral laws can have no effect to forward civilization, because moral truths do not increase; they are always and everywhere the same ; and he gives a feeble recital of moral commonplaces to enforce his assertion. Intellectual truths, on the contrary, are ever on the increase. In the provinces of intellect alone is there movement, variation; therefore movement in history must be due to this. Here, therefore, the inferiority of the moral element is argued from the alleged fact that it is absolutely invariable. Our author deems this logic conclusive; assumes that the point is proved, and passes on.
But at the opening of the next chapter he makes a résumé of his previous statement; and by this time he has apparently forgotten what his previous argument was, and urges this point upon grounds not only different, but exactly contrary ; so that his two statements upon the same point threaten each other with nothing less than entire destruction. Here he says that moral feelings are so utterly variable that those of one individual, or one moment, cancel those of another, and leave Nothing as the result. His terms in the two cases vary so far as this, that in one case he speaks of moral “ truths," in the other of moral “ feelings.” This gives to