-PRINCIPLES OF WESTERN CIVILISATION.* [FIRST NOTICE.] Mn. BENJAMIN KIDD has once more written a book which every thoughtful person will have to read, and, what is more, will wish to re.ad. It is now eight years since he made his debut with his first volume, Social Evolution. He was than a completely unknown writer, but the brilliant success of his work, unparalleled in its way since Mr. Buckle's History of Civilisation, forbade his remaining so. As Pope said when Johnson wrote his London anonymously, he was "soon deterre," and was recognised as a new force in thought and letters. Reprinted nine times in the year of its appearance, and many times since, and translated into most of the leading European languages, it has enjoyed a very striking popularity. And it deserved to do so. It was at once arrestingly poetic and philosophic, learned and suggestive ; it dealt with problems interesting and vital to all mankind; above all, it was really original. Nothing is so delightful as a new synthesis of the universe ; in simpler words, a new way of looking at the world, and man's place and prospects in it. Here was a fresh eye taking stock of the position, a new mind pronouncing sentence on it. It was prophetic, it had opinions, and it had the courage of them, even to paradox. To the old aphorism that speech was given to man to enable him to conceal his thoughts Mr. Kidd may be said to have added another, that reason was given him to enable him to retard his own progress. And there is nothing the world enjoys so much as seeing the party which believes itself to have the monopoly of progress proved to be the party of stagnation, and old instincts, and even prejudices, given a philosophic rehabilitation. All this Mr. Kidd's book did to perfection. It treated Mill and Huxley and Spencer not merely as wrong but as hopelessly antiquated, views jeu, blind and obscurantist. But Mr. Ki ld's head was not turned by success which might have turned many heads. For eight years he has remained silent, and has only put out one work, valuable and well- written but of no great bulk, The Control of the Tropics. Now he comes forward again with a considerable work, an instalment, moreover, it should be noted, of something still larger, of a system, that is, of evolutionary philosophy. It will be found to have the same qualities which were so • Principles of Western Civilisation : being tha First Volues of a Solent of Evolutionary Philosophy. By Benjamin Kidd. London : Macmillan and Co.
Ms.] attractive in his first essay, but carried further and to more constructiveness. Evolution has been applied, of course, to
many subjects, and made to bear many meanings. When the infinitely modest, infinitely patient old naturalist at Down— surely, if ever any one deserved the phrase, Non sordidus auclor naturae verique—was quietly observing his worms and his
orchids, and grinding, as he said, general laws out of large collections of facts, he little thought what a stupendous revolution he was introducing into the world. "With such moderate abilities as I possess," said Mr. Darwin, it is truly surprising that I should have influenced to a considerable extent the belief of scientific men on some important points." But Darwin did far more than this. He brought into the moral and mental world as great a change as that introduced by Copernicus into our self-centred little planet. Religion, philosophy, history, law,—there is hardly a region of thought or observation that has not felt his influence, and applied to itself, perhaps too readily, his elastic and ubiquitous formula.
Loosely fitted, it is indeed too easy of application, and its adoption has produced too partial and too hasty conclusions. It is by applying it more scientifically and dispassionately, more rigidly, nay, even ruthlessly, that Mr. Kidd claims to arrive at totally different results from those it has been hitherto supposed to involve, to throw a flood of new light on the past, and still more, to disclose entirely new prospects in the future. For this is the paramount charm of the book.
He looks forward, he "bids us to hope." After all the philoso- phies of Pessimism, his is a philosophy of Optimism. In an age of apparently increasing Materialism, and with the aid of the very calculus which Materialism has been supposed to supply and support, he rehabilitates Idealism, and tells us that in • something barely apprehended by our consciousness, beyond the present horizon and scheme of things, lies the secret, in the long run, even of material success.
Such being his message, his book is singularly fortunate in the opportunity of its birth. We are in a new century, what is more, in a new era. In the eight years since the publica- tion of Social Evolution the old and the new, the nascent and the moribund nations, have clashed once and again in signal and vivid conflict. The Empire of Spain has crumbled at the mere touch of the new young strength of the United States; the German Empire has been felt as not only a European but a world-wide Power; China has been rudely shaken, though possibly into consolidation, by the impact of European forces ; the narrow life and regime of the Boer, with its patriarchal attitude and system of practical, if not nominal, slavery, what- ever may be the ultimate future of South Africa, has vanished for ever; and simultaneously Australia has become one- Federation, and the larger entity, the British Empire, a. working reality :— "Ste on the cumber'd plain, Clearing a stage, Scattering the past about, Comes the new age : Bards make new poems, Thinkers new schools, Statesmen new systems, Critics new rules."
Mr. Kidd is nothing if not the founder of something like a new school. He claims that the true meaning of evolution has not really been apprehended before, least of all by many who embraced it most eagerly. It was the misfortune, he points out, of Darwin to have for his foremost prophets Huxley and Herbert Spencer, who belpnged essentially to the pre. Darwinian period of knowledge, and never thoroughly shook off their preconceptions. Darwin himself, Wallace, Weiss- mann, Romanes, were far in advance of them. What, then, is the extension or new application of Darwinism which is so fruitful and important ? What is the dividing line between the old and the new thinkers ? Mr. Kidd states it thus When we look at the statement of the law of Natural Selec- tion ss Darwin left it, it may be perceived on reflection that there is a consequence involved in it which is not at first sight apparent. It is evident that the very essence of the principle is that it must act in the manner in which it produces the most effective results. The qualities in favour of which it must in the long run consistently discriminate are those which most effec- tively subserve the interests of the largest majority. Yet thia majority in the processes of life can never be in the present. It is always of necessity the majority which constitutes the long roll of the yet unborn generations."
This is the first general statement of the principle which Mr. Kidd designates that of projected efficiency, the principle
which is the root idea of his book, which he applies again and again with impressive iteration to the explanation alike of the past, the present, and the future. To realise this principle, to act according to it, is and has been life, to ignore it death. That race will survive which looks forward, which sacrifices the present to the future, as the mother sacrifices herself to her child. We have hitherto regarded the struggle for existence as a struggle with contemporary competitors in the present, in which the victor carried off and enjoyed the spoils here and now. That is a very partial view. Each generation must hold its own, but its tenure is limited, and it must be succeeded by a generation equally successful.
Success means success not of individuals, but of aggregates ; not of generations, but of races and types extending over many centuries. The aggregates grow larger and larger, their curves of growth and decay less sharp, their periods longer. Momentary success, the success of a generation, becomes less and less important as the present, to use Mr.
Kidd's expression, passes under the influence of the future, as man takes longer and longer views, and becomes more and more willing to sacrifice the present for the future. For this sacrifice is the condition of success, and to become conscious of this law is to learn how to succeed.
History tells this tale ; indeed, to recognise this law is the explanation of history. Mankind lived at first literally from hand to mouth ; the ancient polities were framed for immediate preservation, for the realisation of the brief success of the hour. The intense avid struggle of the Greek States is re- flected in their brilliant art, the art of the concrete mortal present. But the capital instance in history is the moment at which Christianity was born into the RomanEmpire. Rome had achieved success in the first struggle. In her the ascend- ency of the present, as Mr. Kidd calls it, culminated. She did what the Greek States could not do, crushed her neigh- bours in the struggle. She cleared a stage for the next era.
Into the world of force and conquest, on to the stage cleared by Rome, into a world of definite present worldliness, material- ism, and epicureanism, was born the idea of sacrifice, of "other- worldliness," of standards of conduct beyond the seen and felt. This is how Mr. Kidd reads the birth of Christianity. For evolution must take account of Christianity. If it has survived it is because it was the best, the truest to some great
law of the universe. It cannot be a fancy or fad of success- ful peoples, as it is sometimes thought to be a fad of successful men. Evolution knows and allows no such fads. So intense
is the competition that were it even a harmless ornament it would weight the scale, and its possessor would die out and itself would die with its possessor. What is it, then? It is this saving principle of looking beyond the present. Rome resisted it as long as she could; her resistance and the con- flict are seen alike in her fierce persecutions and in the heresies of the Church, each of which, Mr. Kidd says, was an attempt to bring back the human soul to be once more content with the circle of the present. All the greater phenomena of history, then, down to the end of the Middle Ages—pagan history, the birth of Christianity, the birth of Mahommedanism, the invasion of the barbarians—if looked at in this light., wear a new aspect and reveal a new secret. This secret explains the past and is prophetic of the future. The rise and fall of nations—Egypt, Greece, Rome—the kite-and-crow battles of the Middle Ages, the commercial struggles of later days, the expansion of the white races, and notably of our own,—can they be brought under any general law ? What is their relation to science and to religion? What is to be the future of the world? Is there any answer to these questions ? Mr. Kidd claims that there is :—
" Through unmeasured epochs of time," he writes in a passage of tine eloquence, "there has come down to us the sound of that struggle, still with us, in which the individual and all his powers and interests are being broken to the ends of a social efficiency visibly embodied in the State. But now into the vortex of a vaster struggle, a struggle in which the interests of Society itself are destined to be broken to the ends of an efficiency beyond the furthest limits of its political consciousness, we are about to witness being slowly drawn all the phenomena of Western thought and of Western action, all the content of politics, of philosophy, and of religion in our Western world."
How he deals with the past we have seen ; how he deals with the present and the future must be left to another notice.